Friday, October 22, 2021

Epochal Events (2) - Destruction of Jerusalem

The first big epochal event after the ministry of Jesus was the Destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus prophesied this event in Mathew 24:1-35. He explained that this disaster would happen within the lifetime of some of his listeners. I have a detailed explanation of this prophecy in Jesus Big Prophecy. This prophecy is not relevant to the season that we are living in now, so using it for that purpose will only create confusion.

Jesus perfect sacrifice on the cross made the animal sacrifices on the temple redundant. When the Jews persisted with the sacrifices after Jesus had died and rose again, they lost their purpose and become an insult to Jesus’ death. God had to bring these sacrifices to an end, so that people would realise that Jesus had done all that needed to be done and that his body had become the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The ministry of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem was also prophesied by Daniel. I give a detailed explanation of his prophecy in Seventy Weeks.

The Destruction of Jerusalem is also prophesied in Revelation 12. John’s revelation warned that the Jewish people would be scattered throughout the world. God would do this to keep them safe during the Times of the Gentiles. I give a detailed explanation of Revelation 12 in an article called the Woman and a Dragon.

The destruction of Jerusalem was an important event, but it is not the only event prophesied in the scriptures. Assuming that all of the book of Revelation is entirely about this event is a mistake.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Epochal Events - End Times (1)

I have listened to the sermons released by a number of churches in Aotearoa NZ and I note that most of them are saying that the Covid Virus is a sign that we are going into the End Times. The problem with this preaching is that the expression End Times does not exist in the scriptures. Looking for scriptures that describe a season/event that is not referred to in the Bible is problematic, because you can easily assume that a particular passage relates to a time period for which it is not relevant. This will lead to a confused understanding of what is happening.

Most of the preachers that I listened to based their sermon on Matthew 24, where they claimed to find signs of the End Times. This is a confusing way of interpreting Jesus’ Big Prophecy, because the expression End Times does not provide a clear way of understanding Jesus’ words.

The Bible describes a number of seasons and epochal events. Some have already occurred and others are still in the future. They are all named fairly clearly and it is also fairly clear which scriptures relate to each season/event. Unless we understand all these seasons/events and how they relate to each other, we will get confused about how and when various scriptural prophecies were fulfilled or will be fulfilled in the future.

Here is a list of some of the key events/seasons described in the scriptures.

  • Return from Exile
  • Messiah
  • Last Days
  • Destruction of Jerusalem
  • Times of the Gentiles
  • Time of Distress
  • Fullness of the Jews
  • Kingdom of God
  • Short Season
  • Last Day
  • Appearance of Jesus (Parousia).
  • Final Judgment
  • New Heavens and New Earth
We need to understand them and be clear about which of the various prophetic scriptures relate to each one. Rather than vaguely looking for so-called End Times scriptures, we should be looking for scriptures that apply to particular biblical events/seasons. Gathering prophetic scriptures and claiming that they refer to the end-times and therefore are relevant now will produce a misleading understanding of what is happening in the world now.

In the next few posts, I will look at some of the seasons listed above in more detail, and clarify which scriptures describe them.

Messiah
Many Old Testament prophecies looked forward to the coming of the promised Messiah (Rescuer). These prophecies were fulfilled when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, was crucified, rose from the dead, and ascended into the presence of God. The coming of Jesus was the most important epochal event in the history of the world. It changed everything on earth.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Witnessing

Jesus commanded his followers to love one another as he loved us. He said that the world would be drawn to him by seeing our love. Being nice to people at the Sunday service and encouraging them is not what Jesus meant by loving one another. True love for one another can only be demonstrated in the rough and tumble of sharing life together in a much fuller way. The fullness of the Spirit can only be experienced in a group of people who love and trust each other.

Preachers tell Christians to be witnesses in their families and workplaces, but leave them feeling guilty because their best efforts mostly fail. Most pastors don’t realise how difficult is the task that they are urging their people to undertake. Pastors mostly function in the church building or offices attached to it. These spaces are controlled by the church and the subject of prayer, so they should be relatively spirit-free. Pastors will be subject to less intense spiritual pressure than the people they are urging to be witnesses.

In contrast, a workplace is often controlled by the spirits that have been given access by the owners or managers, and employees have to abide by the behaviour standards they require. Witnessing against such strong spiritual opposition while applying office rules is extremely hard.

Jesus told his people to go and witness in the home of the person of peace or in public places. The spiritual battle will be less intense under both of these options, because the person of peace will not be controlled by evil spirits. Public places are not subject to such to the direct control by anyone, so the activity of the spiritual powers of evil will have less intense there.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Individualism

Individualism is so pervasive in western culture that we don’t realise how much we have been entrapped by it. We are committed to doing our own thing in our way, with no one telling us what to do.

Jesus worked the other way round. When he sent his disciples to do even the most trivial tasks, he sent them in pairs. He was committed to teaching his disciples to work together with each other. And he reaped the benefit. When they went out in pairs, they were able to preach the gospel, heal the sick and cast out demons, just as he had done.

Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs because he knew they would spur each other on. Together they would have confidence to try things they would not normally do. Too many Christians are ineffective because they are trying to serve God on their own. They would achieve more if they were part of a pair. When Paul had a disagreement with Barnabas, he did not go out again till he had found Silas to work with. And Barnabas went out with Mark (see Power Pairs).

We can only reach our true fulfilment in Jesus if we are part of his body. That can only happen if we are joined together with other members of his body as the fingers are joined to the hand. This joining together cannot be achieved by meeting for an hour on Sundays; it will require the interaction of living life together. For that to happen, the place where we live will have to be determined by our place in the body, not by property values or proximity to good schools.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Discipleship not Preaching

Jesus never suggested that disciples can be trained by sitting and listing to an expert urging them to do things. Listening to sermons rarely changes a person’s behaviour and seldom changes their attitudes or character. The reality is that much modern preaching sets people onto a guilt trip. They are told that they are responsible for sharing the gospel and being witnesses to the world, but they don’t know how to do it. The urgency of the preacher just magnifies their guilt.

Jesus had a different way of training disciples.

  • He took people with him and did the things that he wanted them to do while they were with him observing. Sometimes they would get bold and join in.

  • Afterwards, he explained what he had done and why it was effective.

  • Once they understood his approach, he sent them out in pairs to do what he had shown them how to do.

  • Once these people were confident in doing his work, the pair could split and take two less experienced people out with them to learn how to do Jesus’ work.

Jesus’ method of discipleship frequently multiplied the number of his followers who knew to share the gospel in the same way as he did.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Go not Come

The modern church tells people to come to church at least once a week, ideally on Sunday, for their entire lifetime. It does all the important stuff at the front of the meeting on Sunday. The worship service has become the focal point of all its efforts. If people want to see God at work, they have to come to church to see the Holy Spirit moving through the pastor or guest preacher at the front of the meeting.

Most of the people of the world never see the Holy Spirit working, because they will never go to a church meeting. Putting a church service on television on streaming it on the internet is not witnessing to the world.

In contrast, Jesus told his disciples to go into the world and share the gospel in the way that he had taught them. They expected the people of the world to see what the Holy Spirit was doing amongst them and be drawn to Jesus. The early church always took the gospel into the streets and market places and the Holy Spirit confirmed their words with signs and wonders. This public visibility is why the gospel spread so quickly and the church grew so fast.

The only time when Jesus wants his people to wait is when they lack the power to go. We cannot go into the world without the fulness of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

The church says come.
Jesus says go.
He also said wait;
until you have received power from on high.
If we are not able to go out in his strength, we should wait together and cry out for him to fill us afresh. We should ask him to show us any obstacles that we need to remove. Gathering together to wait for the Holy Spirit is the only reason for not going into the world as Jesus commanded.

In modern life, a Christian is seen as someone who goes to church. Television evangelists tell those who say the sinners prayer with them to find a good church and go to it.

In contrast, Jesus would tell those who choose to follow him to look for someone who will take them with them into the world to teach them how to share the good news.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Pastor Problems

Many Christians are concerned about the increasing number of pastors who are falling from grace, due to broken marriages, accusations of child abuse and abusive behaviour. At the same time, there is growing concern about the hundreds of pastors who have stepped out of the role, because they are unable to cope with the pressures of ministry. Some commentators have suggested that the problem is lack of character and maturity. They suggest that charisma has got pastors into positions of power that their character could not handle. This misses the point.

The reason that pastors are failing or falling is that they are trying to do a job that is impossible, and a role that God never intended a human to do. Even Jesus did not attempt to pastor a church of several hundred people. He focussed on discipling twelve men and a small group of women who supported him. He trained them to do what he did, so that they could each do the same for another small group of people, allowing the movement to rapidly multiply.

The New Testament church was led by teams of elders with complementary gifts and callings. Some were pastors, some were prophets and some were evangelists. These elders replicated their ministry in the people they were discipling, raising up an ever-increasing supply of leaders for the rapidly growing church.

In contrast, the modern church has made an idol of the pastor-leader. It has become so normal to have one person as leader that people find it is hard to imagine a church that does not have one. The common cry in the church is "We need a strong leader". However, this desire for one man to lead is a consequence of the fall. Sinful people have a tendency to choose slavery and domination (1 Samuel 8:6-9), but those who have been redeemed should have the same mindset.

When Jesus ascended, he left his disciples with no one person to be the leader. He had carefully discipled them, and taught them to expect the Holy Spirit, but he deliberately avoided appointing a person to take charge. An attempt by two of the disciples to obtain a position of precedence was strongly challenged by Jesus (Mark 10:35-45). The new church did very well without a single leader.

The New Testament never states that a church should have "a pastor". Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each church. They never left one man to run a church or singled out one elder to be a senior elder or pastor. They "committed them to the Lord in whom they put their trust" (Acts 14:23). In Antioch there were "prophets and teachers", not one pastor.

The pastor-leader is often given a different name: apostle senior pastor, senior leader, but it does not matter what they are called, because the role simply does not exist in the New Testament. Having a paid professional running programs to support the members of the church trains them to be passive and prevents them from doing what Jesus needs them to do.

The most serious consequence of relying on a single leader is dangerous is that it leaves leaders vulnerable during a season of spiritual struggle. When a man is at the top of an authority structure, he becomes the target of concentrated attacks by the spiritual powers of evil. If the church members submit to him, he has tremendous authority. But because he is not under the authority of anyone, he is vulnerable to demonic attack and deception. In most situations where Churches have failed, it is because, they were led by one man or one woman who got side-tracked by the spiritual powers of evil.

Over the last two decades, far too many leaders have fallen into immorality and had to step down from their ministry. This has been painful for them and their families. It has also done tremendous damage to the church and harm to the gospel. The fact that this has happened to so many good people confirms that modern church structures provide inadequate spiritual protection.

The current problem with falling pastors will not be resolved by finding pastors with better character. As long as the church persists with an unbiblical leadership structure, pastors will continue to be vulnerable to spiritual attack, and many will fall from grace.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Jeremiah and Revival

Over the last forty years, I have heard numerous and frequent prophesies that revival in New Zealand was just round the corner. My experience is not unique. Christians all over the western world are hungry for revival and the prophetic websites are full of prophecies that revival is coming and close. But despite all this hype, our hopes have been disappointed.

As I have pondered this problem, I have come to believe that we will not get the revival we are hoping for, because the leaders of the church are unwilling to follow the instructions that Jesus gave about his church should function. There is no sign of that changing, so I now doubt that revival will come in my lifetime.

I have been reading Jeremiah 5-8. It is relevant to our situation, because he was speaking to disappointed people. When troubles came, they had hoped God would rescue them from disaster and defeat, but instead things got worse.

Jeremiah would say something like this to those who are disappointed by lack of revival.

You hoped for things to go well,
but nothing good happens.
You are looking for light,
but you will find only darkness;
hard, cold, and lonely.
You are looking for revival,
but you will experience hostility,
because you have disobeyed God.
You hoped for a time of restoration,
but there was only fear and terror.
Jeremiah explained that God could not rescue the children of Israel from their troubles despite their desperate prayers. Their leaders had ignored the instructions that God had given to them.

The same is true of the modern church. The leaders of the church have ignored the instructions that Jesus gave about his church should function. The main reason our hopes of revival have been disappointed is not God is unwilling or slow to act. The reason for our disappointment is that we have not followed his instructions. It is as simple as that. You cannot ignore God’s wisdom and expect the blessing that it would bring.

A horrifying thing has happened: The prophets prophesy lies, the pastors manage according to their own ideas, and the people love it this way. But what will you do in the end (Jer 5:20-31)?
The leaders know the way of the LORD, the requirements of their God.” But with one accord they have broken off the yoke and torn off the bonds (Jer 5:5).
From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain;
prophets and pastors alike, all practice deceit.
They have treated the brokenness of God’s people as though it were not serious.
They say all will be well, things will be well, when they are not well (Jer 6:14).
They have not heeded God’s words. They rejected his instructions (Jer 6:19).
They don’t listen to him, but they walk in their own wisdom and their own inclinations (Jer 7:24).
Jeremiah worried,
To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed, so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it (Jer 6:10).
Jesus gave his disciples clear instructions about how he wanted his church to operate, and he showed them how to do it. The letters to the churches clarified some issues that were not covered clearly in the gospels. The early church applied Jesus’ instructions and had amazing success in reaching the world. However, once the church was successful, it gave up many of things that Jesus had instructed it to do, and replaced them with some human ideas about how it should operate.

Although, the human way of doing things has rarely given the church the success that it had when it complied with Jesus’ instructions, it has continued to ignore them and continued to follow human ideas about how it should function. Some of these human ways of operating have become so much part of the way the normal church operates that they now seem to be non-negotiable (idols). Most Christians would find it hard to imagine the church without them, but unless we give them up and choose to apply Jesus’ instructions for the church, we will not see the revival that we are longing for.

We make excuses for our lack of success, such as secularist thinking, materialistic culture or social media, but the reality is that sharing the gospel was much harder for the early church than it is for us. The reason for our failure is not due to the hard conditions that we face, but because we don’t apply Jesus’ instructions.

Several human constructs, which are contrary to Jesus’ instructions for the church, make it impossible for God to send revival to the western church. No prophets are challenging them, but these idols will need to be removed before we can experience the fullness of the Kingdom of God.