Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Dividing the Church

It is a bit hypocritical for church leaders to complain about the government dividing the church by introducing vaccine mandates and vaccine certificates, given that for the last few hundred years they have allowed the church to be divided by denominational loyalties, and more recently they have chosen a brand/label to distinguish their church from others.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021


Maps are an attempt to describe a three-dimensional earth in two dimensions. I recently saw this interesting map that describes the world from the perspective of the oceans.

Looking at the earth from this perspective, New Zealand is at the centre of the world, but a long way from everywhere.

Saturday, November 20, 2021


Most modern translations of the New Testament use the English word “beast” for the Greek word “therion”. A beast is one of the main characters in John’s vision. The problem is that we do not use the word beast much these days. We speak of animals, but we rarely refer to a beast, so it is hard to understand what John is describing.

I recently read a translation of the New Testament (by NT Wright) that translates therion as “monster”. This immediately rang a bell for me. Every child knows about monsters. They know that they are big powerful and terrifying.

In my Notes on Revelation, I refer to a monster rather than a beast. This makes it easier to get a sense of what John saw.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Notes on Revelation

The book of Revelation is not easy to understand. I believe that some parts of the vision will only become clear when their time of fulfilment is getting closer.

I have been reading and studying the John's vision for more than forty years, and there is still much that I don't understand. However, over time, some parts of the book have become clearer. My Notes on Revelation record the insights that I have discovered over that time. They don't cover everything in Revelation, but the parts that I have come to understand. They are notes; not a polished, detailed study. I will add to them as I get more insights.

Take them as they are, and you might find them helpful.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Faith in Political Power

Modern governments get involved in their people’s lives much more than in the past, but that has been a result of the people piling expectations on their politicians. These days everyone expects the government to do something when troubles occur. Even farmers and business people, who like to claim that they are staunchly independent, put up their hand for government handouts and subsidies when they face a crisis. Increased demands for government intervention in the economy and society inevitably lead to increased power for politicians.

Faith in the power of human government is the reason why there has been such an officious response to the covid crisis. This is what voters expect governments to do. People fear death, so they assume that their government is responsible for eliminating all unnecessary threats to life. When the flu arrived in New Zealand in 1919, the government was disorganised and did very little to prevent its spread. Although the disease spread quickly and thousands died, people just accepted this outcome without complaint, and there was no political fallout.

The situation today is different. The government is expected to deal with every crisis. To get elected, politicians have to be willing to take responsibility for a much wider range of problems, often beyond their capability, so they need much greater powers to deal with them. Our loss of political freedom is the natural outcome of faith in human government, a faith that does not seem to be going away.

Political change is not the solution. The solution is faith in Jesus and the power of the Spirit, not in isolation, but in a body which can do what the government cannot do (more at Being Church).

Friday, November 12, 2021

Losing Side

Democracy gives the majority of people in a nation the power to impose their will on minority groups. That is what they have always done. A democratic government enforcing regulations and laws that a minority do not like is not tyranny; it is just democracy doing what it does.

For most of New Zealand’s history, the government and the church have been on the same side. During the two world wars, conscientious objectors were hounded terribly by the government. They would have felt that they were being persecuted by a tyrannical government, but the church supported the government. When land was being confiscated following the land wars, the Māori people felt they were being persecuted, but the church was silent because Christian farmers wanted the land. Many minority groups have been treated badly in New Zealand. They believed the government was tyrannical, but the church usually said nothing, because it supported the government’s position. These minorities were often vilified, but the church was silent.

Now that the church has become a small minority in Aotearoa NZ, the boot is on the other foot, so it is a bit rich for pastors to call the government tyrannical and autocratic because they do not like its policies. That’s just what happens to minorities in a democracy.

In a democracy, freedom is never absolute, despite what people are saying. The elected government has authority to enforce laws and regulations that limit people’s freedom to do what they like. So, when people participate in a democratic election, they are effectively giving the people elected authority to limit their freedom by telling them what they must do.

Aotearoa NZ has a well-developed decision-making process where groups of public servants employed by various government departments prepare peer-reviewed advice and recommendations for the Cabinet to discuss and decide. The process is controlled by the Cabinet Manual. Government decisions can be challenged before the courts if they are unlawful, so claims that the current government is autocratic and tyrannical are dishonest.

Because we have failed to preach the good news of Jesus effectively, Christians no longer have the numbers to shape the decisions of the NZ Parliament. This means that laws that Christians don't like are inevitable, as Parliament responds to the different views that now shape our culture. If Christians dont like that outcome, instead of complaining about tyranny, they should get on with doing what Jesus called them to do and take the gospel to the nation.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Political Freedom

The pastors talking about tyranny seem to have forgotten that “telling people what to do” is what governments do. Preachers can only give advice and make suggestions. In contrast, the civil government is the one organisation in society that has the authority to use force against people who do not follow its instructions. People who smoke inside a public building can be punished. People who break the speed limit can be fined. The government can tell people when and where they are allowed to fish. It can put limits on the duck shooting season. People who don’t send their children to school can be punished. The government can force people to fight in a war that they don’t support. It can make people pay taxes. It can put limits on the materials and methods that people use to build a house, etc. etc. The nature of a government is that it has a monopoly over the power of coercion.

And this is not new. Governments have always told people what to do. Maori children were told they could not speak their natural language. In 1917, the government told my grandfather that he had do leave his young wife and two infant children behind on an isolated farm and go to fight in France. He had no choice. In 1942, the government told my uncle he must go to Italy to fight int a war. He had no choice about a decision that cost him his life. When I was growing up, young men whose birthday fell on the wrong date were sent to compulsory military training. They had no choice. People are told that they must sell their land to the government so that highways can be built.

Most pastors in New Zealand support democracy (I don’t. See Government of God), but they seem to have forgotten that an election chooses the people who will have the power of government; who will have authority to make people do things. Christians have traditionally been quite happy with that situation because they assume that the people who are forced to do things against their will would mostly be doing things that Christians don’t like.

I note that the churches which are most strident in declaring the government is tyrannical and autocratic are the ones who supported so-called Christian parties that failed to get noticed during the last election. The current Labour government won the election with the greatest majority of any party in the last twenty years (most have been minority governments), so it has the right and the responsibility to govern, including telling people what to do. It has that power of coercion until the next election.

When a crisis occurs, people who have elected a government expect it to solve problems as they arise. Human governments do not have perfect knowledge, so they don’t have perfect solutions for all problems, but the people expect it to do something. Governments that do nothing during a crisis will be punished at the next election, so they usually have a bias towards action.

Some people will not agree with the government’s solutions. Some will not like what the government does to alleviate the crisis. But saying that a government is tyrannical and autocratic because your party was not elected, and you don’t like the policies of the government that was elected is a bit foolish. It is saying that you don’t want the government to do what you elected it to do.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Persecution Complex

Listening to on-line sermons, I detect that some pastors seem to be developing a persecution complex. I wonder if they are frustrated by their failure to bring in the revival that they have been prophesying and are unconsciously looking for an excuse. They can be tempted into believing that the revival has not come because the church is being persecuted by the government. In the current debates, some pastors are using the words tyranny, totalitarian and autocratic to describe government mandates during the Covid crisis. They object to the New Zealand government telling people what they must do and promise that they will stand on behalf of those who are losing their freedom. This looks a little bit like self-inflicted martyrdom.

The reality is that very few adult Christians in western countries like New Zealand are persecuted for their faith. I am sure that some Christian children get a hard time at school, but for adults, freedom of religion is well-entrenched in our culture and in our laws. Many people don’t like Christianity, and a few hate it, but they mostly just ignore the Christians. They express their hostility by ignoring the church as if it is irrelevant to their lives.

The government does not monitor what pastors are preaching to their people. The only way that Christians and pastors can be persecuted here in Aotearoa NZ is by deliberately disobeying laws and government regulations in a very public way. Even then, they are mostly just ignored, as if they were foolish and irrelevant. To get noticed by the government, a pastor has to do something hostile to the government that really stands out.

If the influence of Christianity in our nations continues to decline as fast as it has in the last couple of decades, the influence of the spiritual powers of evil will increase significantly. The time might come when Christians do face persecution for sharing the gospel, but that seems to be a long way away. Pastors who cry “Wolf” now are undermining their credibility for when a real test comes. By talking of autocratic government, totalitarian government and tyranny, they are creating unnecessary fear. If they are really concerned about the direction that society is going, they should be teaching their people how to prepare for the future by forming kingdom communities where they can support each other.

I hope that pastors ranting about taking a stand against a tyrannical government are not encouraging their people to make decisions about their employment that they will come to regret. A person who loses their public-facing job because they refuse to be vaccinated could pay a huge price for very little benefit (they are not being prevented from praying or sharing the gospel or being forced to deny the lordship of Jesus). It does not bring glory to God, and it does not advance the gospel. The pastors who encourage those taking a stand will still have their jobs and will still get paid when the dust settles, while those who take their advice might face a long period of unemployment, dependent on the government that they hate for income.

Jesus told his listeners a parable about counting the full cost before going into a pointless battle. It is advice that should be taken by people who are considering the loss of their employment because they choose to refuse a vaccine. And pastors should make sure they are giving careful advice.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Self-inflicted Martyrdom

Regarding vaccination, Christians are free to choose what to do, but they need to be careful not to take on a martyr complex that is not from God. They should avoid becoming a martyr to a cause that God does not really care about, and that does not bring him glory. They should not confuse hostility from society with persecution for the name of Jesus.

Christians have a tendency to seek martyrdom that is sometimes not very healthy. When I was young, I read the accounts of the martyrs of old and thought it would be noble to die for Jesus. Now I am older and wiser, and have a family whose lives I enjoy, I am not so keen on the idea of martyrdom. I have come to realise that I am a coward and would wimp out if real persecution came. I have also learned to focus on the issues that are really important for the Kingdom of God.

The letter of 1 Peter has really good teaching about Christian suffering. Peter warns that serious followers of Jesus should expect to suffer for him. He explains that when people suffer for Jesus, the glory of the Spirit is on them.

Rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name (1 Peter 4:13,14,16).
However, Peter warns that those who suffer needlessly get no credit for it.
But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it (1 Pet 2:20)?
And also.
If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler/busybody (1 Pet 4:15).
Not many Christians should suffer these days for being a murderer or thief, but we should be careful that we do not fall into the category of meddling or being a busy body. The complicated Greek word Peter uses is “allotriepiskopos”. It means getting involved in something that is not your business or our concern. This can be a temptation for Christians, but it often produces a backlash from rulers and people with power. Those who suffer as a meddler do not carry the glory of the Spirit.

I suspect that standing against vaccination mandates falls into that category. Followers of Jesus who refuse to get vaccinated will not be recognised by society as standing for Jesus. They will just be lumped with a whole lot of angry people who are refusing to get vaccinated, some of whom are perceived to be a bit odd. Jesus will not get glory from their actions, so his glory will not be upon them. What Christians decide to do about vaccination is their business, but they should not assume that they are being persecuted for the name of Jesus, or that they are suffering for him.

In the future, as the world flexes its muscles and the respect and influence of the church declines, there will be plenty of opportunities for some Christians to suffer for the name of Jesus. Christians should be careful that they don’t waste energy suffering over pointless causes that do nothing to advance the gospel, and which will be quickly forgotten. They must be careful not to confuse self-inflicted suffering with suffering for Jesus.

I remember when credit cards were first introduced. Many Christians said that it was the beginning of the mark of the beast and refused to use them. Some said that they were going to make a stand and would never use them, but gradually over time, they quietly got a card and forgot the stand they had made. Their inconvenience and mockery might have been real, but it was not suffering for the name of Jesus.

When Christians with a tendency to martyrdom create their own suffering, they are often motivated by pride rather than love for Jesus. They assume that they are better than other Christians because they are more hardcore and therefore suffer more than others who take it easy. Some do it by pouring out their lives to meet the unreasonable demands of Churched Christians or unreasonable family members. Others do it by joining a cause that leads them to be mocked. Some feel they are persecuted, because they say blunt things that annoy other people. However, self-created martyrdom is not suffering for Jesus.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Epochal Events (13) Jesus Appearance - Final Epochal Event

The short time will be cut short by the Parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ. His appearance will light up the sky from one end to another. Those who believe him will come into his presence.

The Parousia will usher in the final judgment. All people will be raised to stand before Jesus the Judge. Those who belong to him will go to live with him for eternity.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Epochal Events (12) Man of Sin

The coming of the Man of Sin will end the Times of Fulfilment of the Kingdom of God. He is described in 2 Thessalonians 2. This man is not the Beast of Revelation, nor is he the antichrist. He is a man who leads a rebellion against God at the end of the age. He will be destroyed by the Second Coming of Jesus (2 Thes 2:8).

The season ushered by the man of sin is called the "Little Season" or Short Time (Rev 20:3). God will release the spiritual powers of evil for one last time. God is so gracious that he even gives Satan one last chance to repent. However, he will not take this opportunity, and will go out to do evil. This season of evil will be very short, so it is referred to as half a time. It is described more fully at Short Time.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Epochal Events (11) Kingdom of God

The long season after the Time of Distress is the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God. Once the fullness of the Jew's come in, the team is complete. The spiritual powers of evil will have lost their power, so a time of great victory for the church will follow.

Daniel had a vision of the Ancient of Days, God, and one like a son of man coming into his presence (Dan 7:9,13,14). This is the ascension when Jesus entered heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father. He was given a Kingdom that would never end.

Daniel 7:18,22,27 describes a subsequent period when the saints possess the Kingdom. Sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. This is a picture of people of God being given authority to establish his Kingdom. The game plan is still the same. The Kingdom advances rapidly by the proclamation of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Look here for a full description of the Kingdom of God).

In Ephesians 1:9,10, this season is called the Times of Fulfilment. At first glance, this appears to be a reference to the Second Coming. However, the event is the mystery, which God purposed in Christ. In Ephesians 3:10, this mystery is explained as the church achieving victory over rulers and authorities (the mystery is not the Second Coming).

During the season of the Kingdom, all God's promises will be fulfilled. Our mandate to fill the earth and manage it will be completed. Our commission to make disciples of all nations will be successful.

The glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14).
How long will the times of the fulfilment of the Kingdom last? The Bible does not say. However, this is one of the two very long seasons. If the Times of the Gentiles go for 2000 years, the Times of Fulfilment could last at least as long, or longer. This is God's best season, so it is unlikely it will be cut short.

According to Revelation 7:9, there will be a great multitude in heaven, for more than can be counted. The angels have been counted, and there are thousands of millions of them. There will be far more Christians than angels. Currently, there are only about a billion Christians on heaven and on earth, a number equivalent to the population of China (which can be counted). Considerable more time will be required for this great multitude of people to be brought in.

God is a gracious God. By the time that this season is complete, the number of those saved will far exceed the number who have been lost — a far more respectable score.