Sunday, October 31, 2021

Epochal Events (10) Advance of the Gospel

The events that end of the Time of Distress release the Holy Spirit to carry the gospel to the world. The Advance of the Gospel marks the beginning of the next season. Several changes make a rapid advance of the gospel possible.

  • With all constraints gone, the Holy Spirit will be free to do his stuff in a new way.

  • The suffering of the Time of Distress will have purified the church. It will be radical and ready to proclaim the good news.

  • The gospel will be preached in the power of the Spirit. He will accompany the gospel with signs and wonders that confirm the love and power of God (Mark 16:16-17).

  • Christians will have been forced to build strong relationships with each other in order to survive through the Time of Distress. People will be able to see the new commandment being lived out in their neighbourhoods (John 13:34). They will be drawn to Christians loving each other as Jesus loves them.

  • People who have experienced Christian generosity during tough times will have tested this love and proved it is real.

  • Jewish Christians will preach the gospel of the Kingdom with zeal and fervour throughout the world.

  • The nations of the world will have trusted human governments for peace and prosperity. When peace and prosperity are stripped away, and governments go down the gurgler, people will be desperate for a better saviour. Jesus will stand out from the pack.

  • The truncated church will reach its fulness as the barrier between the Jews and Gentiles are broken down.

  • The principalities and powers will be crippled by the collapse of human governments.

The book of Revelation describes the eternal gospel going into the world.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Epochal Events (9) - Seven Seals

The book of Revelation is not a set of signs that the second coming of Jesus is close. It is not a description of events leading up to the second coming of Jesus.

The vision is actually a description of the season when the fullness of the Jews receive the gospel and come to faith in Jesus as Paul prophesied in Romans 11. A key to understanding the vision is given in the prologue.

Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him (Rev 1:7).
This promise speaks of every eye seeing Jesus. Everyone in the world will have the eyes of their hearts opened to see Jesus and accept him as their Saviour and Lord. It will be a spiritual revelation, not an actual seeing. In contrast with many other verses, which speak of people seeing Jesus, this one also includes "those who pierced him". As part of a worldwide revival, the Jews will come to faith in Christ. This is a key theme of the book.

The sealing of the 144,000 in Revelation 7 is also a description of the Jews coming to faith in Jesus. Twelve represents the Jewish people, so a thousand symbolising completion. So 12,000 squared represents the majority of the Jewish people coming to faith in Jesus.

The first four seals that are opened in Revelation 6 are signs that mark the beginning of the Time of Distress during which the Jews come to faith in Jesus. They are not a sign of the second coming of Jesus.

The seals set in train the events which will begin the Time of Distress, leading to the fullness of the Jews and the time when the Kingdom is established. As each seal is opened, an event takes place on the earth.

We should remember that Jesus is the one who opens the seals. Although the events that take place are unpleasant, they will only come when he is ready. The spiritual powers of evil have no authority to bring them to pass. Because they are initiated in heaven, we know that they will bring blessing to God's people.

A seal is a mark of ownership. When something is marked with a seal, it is a guarantee that it is backed by the authority of the owner of the seal. The seven seals describe a series of events that will be used by God to refine and purify his people. Those who truly belong to Jesus will be sifted out. The seals also give the people of the world the opportunity to choose their loyalty. It will be a choice between Jesus and political power.

As each of the first four seals is opened, John sees a horseman ride forth. The horses should not be taken literally; each horseman represents an actor in human history who causes a particular event. These follow on from each other, but they may also overlap each other. The four seals are described more fully in Seven Seals.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Epochal Events (8) - Collapse of Human Political Power

The second event that comes at the end of the Time of Distress is a collapse of the Collapse of Human Government. Human governments collapse under the weight of their failed programs and broken promises. If their rise to power is grand, their collapse will be spectacular. Faith in human government and political power will be destroyed forever.

Human political power is a huge obstacle to the Kingdom, because it undermines God's authority and offers a false salvation. The spread of democracy has increased this faith. Before the Holy Spirit can bring the Kingdom of God to fullness, this widespread trust in human political power must be swept away.

For most of human history, the world has been controlled by kings, emperors and sundry political powers. During the last few centuries, various democratic powers have taken this controlling role. Before the Kingdom of God can come to fullness on earth, this human political power must be undermined. Christian prophets will stop taking political sides and will release the power of the Holy Spirit to bring down human government and political empires throughout the world, opening the way for the release of the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Epochal Events (7) - Fullness of the Jews

The key epochal event that follows the Time of Distress is called the Fullness of Israel (Rom.11:12). Traditionally, this event has been called the "Calling of the Jews". However, "fullness" is the biblical term, so I prefer it.

The Bible is clear that the Jews have not "stumbled beyond salvation" (Rom.11:1-11). They have only been shut out for a time. They will eventually come back under the blessing of God. The Jews will be "grafted into the vine" (11:23) and "saved" (11:26) because their "calling is irrevocable" (11:29). The Fullness of Israel will not just bring blessing to them, it will mean "riches for the world" (11:12) and "life from the dead" (11:15).

The important question is how the Fullness of Israel will come about. The key to this is understanding that their problem is "seeing". Romans tells us that their eyes have been blinded so they cannot see the truth and their hearts have been hardened in part (11:25). To come to salvation, their spiritual eyes will have to be opened.

Zechariah 12:10 speaks of a time when God will pour his spirit out on Israel so that their eyes will be opened and they will see Jesus as he really is. Ezekiel 39:29 says that God will no longer hide his face from Israel, but will pour out his Spirit on the house of Israel. A great outpouring of the Spirit will bring about the Fullness of Israel (not the Second Coming of Jesus).

This will bring about a time of great blessing — "riches to the world" (Romans 11:12). Satan's last authority on earth will be gone, so he will be routed. This is not a change in game plan. The Jews receive salvation like everyone else, by repenting and believing in Jesus (Mat 23:39).

The Fullness of the Jews marks the end of the Time of Distress, which finishes the Times of the Gentiles.

Preachers and Covid Vaccine

After listening online to some of the big-name preachers in Aotearoa NZ, I was surprised at how many of them are sitting on the fence with regard to vaccination against Covid. This is odd, because preachers are usually not shy about telling their listeners what to do.

The standard advice of the preachers is that people should do some research, seek God’s wisdom, and decide for themselves what to do. This is bad advice, because researching the safety and efficacy of a vaccine is a highly technical and complex task. You need to know quite a lot about statistics, genetics and immunology to investigate the vaccine test data and understand how the vaccine functions. I don’t have the knowledge to do this, and I presume that it is beyond the capability of most of those listening to the sermons.

Asking everyone to research the vaccine is foolish, because it pushes them towards people on social media with simple messages that seem easy to understand, when they are probably being misled about a topic that is too technically complex for simple explanations. They end up listening to non-Christian people who sound sure and certain, but they have no way of assessing if what they hear is right or wrong. Finding a voice on social media that you agree with is not the same as serious research.

The reality is that the only way to get to the truth about the safety and efficacy of the Covid vaccine is to trust the experts in the health system, who have the knowledge and experience to assess the information provided by the pharmaceutical companies who developed it.

Preachers expect people to listen to their sermons because they are experts on biblical studies and theology and are skilled in hearing God’s voice, ie trust the experts. They would never tell a person who is concerned about a complex theological issue to do some research on the internet and decide for themselves, yet that is what they are doing with regard to Covid vaccines.

I presume that the experts in the health system did not spend years studying medicine to do evil. If the preachers think that they are dishonest and untrustworthy, despite their years of training and caring for the sick, they should come out openly and say it, rather than making vague insinuations that the people doing the assessment and making the medical recommendations about vaccination have sinister motives.

Telling their listeners to ask God about the vaccine is not very helpful either, because God seems to be telling different people different things. Some are saying that God has told them to have the vaccine, and others are saying that he has told them not to have it. This makes God seem to be confused. The preachers are supposed to be experts on hearing God speak, so they should be able to tell their people what God is saying about the vaccine.

If God wants some people to take the vaccine and others to avoid it, the preachers should be able to discern the criteria that God is using and help their people know which category they are in. Instead, the preachers seem to be leaving their people tossed about in confusion, “and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14).

If preachers want their people to decide for themselves about vaccination, they are not telling them the most important thing that they need to know. The preachers seem to be implying that Christians have a choice between trusting in God and trusting in the vaccine. However, if Christians are going to trust in God for their protection from sickness, they need to know that their pastor and the leaders supporting him have demonstrated the capability to heal the sick people in their church.

If the pastor and other leaders do not have victory over sickness and are not confidently praying for all the sick people they encounter, they have no right to tell people to just trust in God for protection from Covid. God’s protection comes from belonging to a strong body functioning in the gifts of the Spirit. If preachers can only offer vague hopes of healing in case of sickness, they would be more honest to tell their listeners to get vaccinated against Covid.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Epochal Events (6) - Time of Distress

The end of the Times of the Gentiles is marked by a Time of Distress. Daniel was told that multitudes from his nation would receive salvation during a Time of Distress for the nations (Dan 12:2,3). It is also described as a time of wrath (Dan 8:1; 11:36). However, although it is a difficult time, God will also pour out his Spirit during this time. Moreover, because God is merciful, it will be cut short; it is only half a time.

The Time of Distress will be painful for the world, as troubles and tribulations will break out everywhere. The spiritual powers of evil will be angry at losing power, so evil will be rampant.

  • Economies will collapse.
  • Global trade will contract.
  • The division of labour will shrink.
  • Wealth will disappear.
  • Famine and disaster will be widespread.
  • Sickness and disease will be unstoppable.
  • Wars will increase in intensity.
  • Security structures will fall apart.
  • Political power will be concentrated.
  • Police and defence forces may not be paid.
  • Many will desert their posts.
  • Some military leaders will morph into warlords.
  • Violent youths will rampage through towns and cities.
  • Fear and dread will be pervasive.

The distress will build slowly. Initially, governments will hold back the worst effects, so most people will be confident that the good times will return.

The Time of Distress will be a huge disappointment for many Christians, especially those who trust false teachings.

  • People who trust the prosperity gospel will find themselves suffering.

  • Christians hoping for a rapture rescue will find themselves living through troubles.

  • Many Christians see the state of Israel as proof of God’s faithfulness and a sign that the second coming is near. When Israel is invaded by a western nation (not Iran or Russia), they will be disillusioned.

  • Christians who believe in democracy will be shattered when their governments begin to persecute them.

  • Many Christians have trusted the power of the state to maintain peace and order. They will be shocked when their governments begin to persecute Christians.

Most Christians will be totally unprepared for the Time of Distress and will be thrown into confusion and despair. Many will fall away from the faith, and the church will appear to die.

A radical church that has survived underground and prepared below the radar will burst onto the world stage. The people of the world will be totally shocked when they realise that the church is not dead but different and far more powerful.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Epochal Events (4) Times of the Gentiles

The destruction of Jerusalem began a new season that has continued up to the present day. Jesus called this season The Times of the Gentiles, because during this season, the Jewish people would mostly be hostile to the gospel of Jesus.

They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the Times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24).
The defining feature of this season is that Jerusalem will be trampled by the nations. Jerusalem is still being trampled by other nations, and the epochal event that ends this season has not yet occurred, so we are currently living in the Times of the Gentiles. (I have described this season more fully in Times of the Gentiles.)

Paul explains the reason for the Times of the Gentiles in the book of Romans. In Romans 10:21, he describes Israel as a disobedient nation. Although a few have been saved, as a nation, they are shut off from God. They have been hardened (11:25), become enemies of the gospel (11:28) committed to disobedience (11:31) and been broken out of the vine (11:17).

This is the reason why the battle has been so hard for the last two millennia. Part of the team is missing. The church is not complete, so it has not been functioning at full power.

This disobedience has consequences throughout the world. When Jesus died upon the cross, the devil was totally and fully defeated. He was cast out of heaven (Rev 12:13) and can only continue to function on earth if he can deceive people into rejecting the gospel. However, he does have one last legal right on earth. Because Israel has rejected God and lost its protection (Matt 23:39), Satan has had the right to work evil that will affect the Jews. Furthermore, because they had been scattered among the nations, he has been empowered to work in all the nations.

Whenever Satan wants to do great evil in a nation, he incites it to attack the Jews to obtain greater authority to do his work. For example, Satan incited both Hitler and Stalin to attack the Jews. This enabled him to do great evil through them.

The rejection of Israel has also given Satan a legal right to continue working in the world, despite his defeat. Because he has had this freedom to work in the world, the Kingdom has not come to its true fulfilment.

The following notes summarise this season. During the Times of the Gentiles:

  • The people of Israel are scattered among the nations.
  • They will be hostile to the gospel.
  • The church will not reach its full capability.
  • The Holy Spirit is constrained.
  • Satan has a legal right to be active in the world, despite his defeat.
  • The world will be dominated by strong political empires.
  • The Kingdom of God does not come to fulfilment.
The Times of the Gentiles go on much longer than God intended, because:
  • The people of the world continue to put their faith in political power for security and prosperity.

  • Human government is seen as the solution to every problem.

  • The Jews continue to resist the idea that Jesus is their messiah.

  • Christian witness to the Jews has often been defective.

  • Christians have been better at persecuting the Jews than demonstrating God's love for them.

  • Christians have put their faith in political power, military force and economic strength.

  • Most Christians have been unwilling to suffer through times of distress by taking up the cross and following Jesus.

When the Times of the Gentiles end, Satan's last legal authority on earth will be gone. His power to do evil will be severely curtailed, opening the way for a rapid advance of the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately, it will take a Time of Distress to end this season.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Epochal Events (3) Last Days

The Bible teaches that the "last days" are finished. Many readers will find this hard to accept because they confuse the last days (plural) of the Jewish nation with the last day (singular), that glorious day when Jesus will return. The last days were the period of time between the ministry of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

An examination of the Scriptures shows that there are five references to the last days (Acts 2:17; 2 Tim 3:1; Heb 1:2; James 5:3; 2 Pet 3:3) and two referring to the last times (1 Pet 1:20; Jude 18). In four of the seven, the author considered that he was living in the last days. For example, Heb.1:2 states that Jesus ministry on earth was in the "last days". This does not make sense if the last days come just before the Second Coming. However, if this refers to the last days of the Kingdom of Israel before it would be destroyed by the Roman Empire, this makes a great deal of sense.

When we remember that Hebrews, James (1:1), and Peter's letters were written to Jewish Christians and that Timothy was a Jew, this really makes sense; all the references to the last days were in epistles written to the Jews. They would have understood that they were in the last days of their nation.

The Last Days refers to the period between Jesus birth and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 when the Roman Empire would end the Kingdom of Israel, destroy the temple and scatter the Jewish people amongst the nations.

Taking prophecies about the Last Days and applying them to the current season will produce confusion.

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.

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


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 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.