Posts filed under ‘Belief’
I enjoy writing the meanderings each week because I get to see, right in front of me, what we have been up to. It has also been a good way to fill our family and friends in on what we have been doing too. So here is the 84th installment.
Item one. It was a great first week back in Western Oklahoma and full of things one could only do here. Got to go armadillo hunting for the first time (probably only time) which was an adventure. These little creatures are not good for flower beds, nice grass or any other plant you like to look at. They just rip it all up to get at the roots. So they have to be removed and since I was right here on the “ranch” and I had a shotgun, I got the call. One more task to add to my growing resume.
Item two. Went with friend Yandy Yarbrough to put up a deer feeder which I wrote about already on the Juniper Tree. Yandy works a regular job, is a life time cowboy, both working and rodeo, but what he really loves is hunting. Riding with him in his truck is adventure because he never misses any animal that might be out there, no matter how much light there is. One of the blessings of our life is the young families we get to enjoy relationship with here in Oklahoma. It is so fun to be part of their lives and have a part in encouraging their relationship with the Father.
Item three. We are beginning to settle in here, even though our regular spot is under construction. We are having a cement pad poured to provide stability and a mud free place to park. So we are parked nearby but without all our hookups. It is just fine but we are looking forward to our “new” place. Having these beautiful 100 acres as our Oklahoma home is really a blessing.
Item four. Plans for Summit2 are well underway. November 12-22 are the dates if you want in. email me if you want information. We are responsible for most of the administrative details of this conference and I do some teaching as well. Here are a few summations of summit1 speakers, I wrote after lasts years event: HERE and HERE.
Item five. Jake the dog just barked me up to see a calf hanging out in front of the trailer. Apparently an escapee from one of the pens here on the “ranch”. We went out to try and herd him into one of the stalls in the barn but were unsuccessful. Just another experience I rarely had in my past life.
I leave you with these words from my good friend Steve Grace: I would rather be a poor man serving Jesus than a rich man serving my own means. I would rather be weary fighting the good fight than well rested in my own irrelevant accomplishments. I would rather die for the cause of Christ than live for myself. (Steve Grace)
Yesterday morning I went with one of our young friends, Yandy Yarbrough, isn’t that a great name, to put up a deer feeder. Yandy is the consummate Oklahoma hunter with feeders in half a dozen places around western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle and he loves everything about hunting and it shows in the way he goes about it. His wife Bobbi and daughters Yaleigh and Y’leigh love it too.
Coming from the Pacific Northwest, I knew nothing about deer feeders but I learned yesterday how it works. The feeder has a large hopper, filled with corn or grain that is placed about six feet off the ground. There is a battery or solar powered unit attached to the bottom of the hopper that is started by a timer that turns on twice a day and spins in such a way as to throw the corn in an eight foot or so circle around the feeder. (If you want to know more about it check HERE)
The idea behind a deer feeder is to put it in the very best deer country you can in the feeding pattern of the deer and ”train” the deer to come by the feeder until hunting season and then from your near by deer stand you can have a good chance of bagging the deer of your choice. (in open country like it is out here, you would never get close enough to a deer to shoot it, especially with a bow, so feeders are a popular choice)
I am no expert in hunting from a deer stand, or any other way, so I may not be exact in my description of this method of hunting, but I think I am close.
Because the deer feeder we were putting out yesterday was in an area where there were grazing cattle, we put up a barbed wire fence in a 20 foot or so radius around the feeder to keep the cattle out. The deer can get in because they are agile enough to jump over or go under the fence.
The deer feeder is placed in the very best deer hunting area and it turns on twice a day and feeds the very best corn around a very set area. The goal is to attract the biggest, healthiest, strongest buck deer (male) possible to the feeder on a routine, daily basis for a period of time, until he is acclimated to the area and feels safe. Of course until hunting season opens, he is safe.
While we were doing this task yesterday the Spirit began to speak to me about how all of this was a lot like how we have done church over the years and why so many people have been hurt, stopped coming or had trouble getting in our churches.
Every Sunday morning, for years churches have gathered in the best and prescribed places and served up the finest of “food” targeted at the people who meet the standard we have for that particular church. The goal is to get as many people to come to your particular feeder, and to come routinely, every sunday and eat as much “corn” as they can possibly put away. In fact churches try their best (with, I think, good motives) to get people to eat as much as they can, because there is a belief that the more you eat (know), the better and more fit you will be.
Over time, if you come routinely and faithfully to the church (feeder), take in more spiritual food (corn) then every one else, and you are a male (buck) you can become the most attractive person at the church and great things are expected of you.
As time goes on you begin to feel safe at the church (feeder) and more and more is expected of you. Routinely you are given more and more responsibility and tagged as the person most likely to be a trophy of God’s grace.
Then you make a mistake and hunting season opens. The place you routinely came for the best of food and where you had felt so safe and secure is not so protective. For the deer, the mistake is tripping the motion sensitive camera and having his picture taken. The hunter sees the buck for what he is and starts to figure out how to take him.
For the person who as done all the right things in the “protective environment” of the church one mistake can be deadly. You don’t ever want anyone to see your picture on a camera you didn’t know was there revealing your flaws to everyone who sees the photo. Sometimes eating all the right food, growing stong in the “faith”, passing all the prescribed tests and becoming a trophy of God’s grace can make you more vulnerable than you have ever been. The enemy sits in his “tree stand” ready to pick you off and often the enemy uses the people who were doing the feeding to take you out.
We want our trophies without flaws and like the hunter, looking at the pictures of the bucks at his feeder, churches often pick out the one who has the least imperfections to tag for his trophy. But also like the buck they aren’t often safe.
As we were setting out the feeder in that beautiful setting yesterday, a large herd of black cattle (Angus, I think) came around to see what was going on. These were the ones we were putting up the barbed wire fence for. By the time we were about done there were cattle all around the circular inclosure. It was obvious they wanted in, but our goal was to make sure they didn’t get in and ruin the feeding station for the big bucks we were after. Some of the corn we had scattered around had landed outside the fence and the cattle were eagerly scarfing up any kernel they could find.
The deer could go over or under the fence to get to the feeder but these cows were too big, to clumsy, to fat and besides they had flies all over them and dropped big blobs of poop all over. (deer have very small and orderly poops) We did whatever we could to keep these big, fat, stinky animals away from our deer feeder. They were not the species we were after.
More times than I care to admit, people came around churches I have been part of trying to get some of the corn laying outside the walls. They found that food tastey so they came around eagerly looking for more. It was obvious they were curious to know what was going on. Sometimes what we were up to was so attractive we had people gathered all around the circle trying to get in.
But for whatever, of multiple reasons, they couldn’t jump the fence or get through the gate. Maybe it was they were too needy and we just didn’t have enough corn to fill them up. Perhaps it was the flies, or the smell or the color, or the fact that they were pushy, clumsy or too big to jump the fence. Probably more often than not it was that their poops were not orderly or small but big and plopped all over everything. Maybe they weren’t from the ”species” we were really looking to attract. Whatever, they didn’t get in.
All analogies break down and pushed too hard this one will too. I don’t think churches intentionally shoot their wounded or leave them vulnerable to the enemies arrow but we do it none the less. I don’t think we choose to reject those who are not like us or those who are too needy or messy, but we do it.
I love it that churches everywhere are trying harder than ever to be Kingdom churches, tearing down fences and making their feeders available to everyone. One very attractive church I know about in Washington even shut their feeder down a couple of weeks ago and took their corn out into the community. More than 1400 people left the feeder for a Sunday and without fanfare took corn to those who didn’t all look like them or weren’t as fit as they were and in doing so tore down fences that might have been keeping curious people from dropping by the feeder to see what was going on.
For Kingdom people hunting season is over and our feeders are open to anyone. But we need help understanding the fences we have built around our feeders so we can stop holding others from our tasty corn. It also might help to stop thinking our corn or feeder was better than everyone else’s.
Four years ago or so, my friend and now one of my spiritual fathers Andy Taylor, asked me this question in response to my asking him what I should do about some situation: “what is the Father saying to you?” It was a question that began to change my life, because for the first time I started listening to the voice in my heart instead of the voice in my head. An essential part of the Trinity DNA is to point people to the Father as the source of their direction and decisions rather than handing out advice that may or may not be the will of their Father. It is the right way, even though at times it is easier to dispense or receive advice, rather than to wait for the Father.
But like all good and right things you can sometimes get in the ditch by not recognising there is at least one other important way to hear and move in the Spirit. If we are staying in step with the Spirit we must be, in most circumstances, in relationship with other Family members. The Spirit walk is not to be lived in isolation. Just like we are born naturally into a family, when we are born again spiritually we become part of a Family that is as important as any natural one.
Being part of a Family where you are loved, affirmed, valued, encouraged and free to grow and fail is called a covering. Under the covering of a true spiritual Family you are known as you know, your heart is knit together by the Spirit with others, and just like there is no way to be separated from the love of the Father there is no way to be separated from His true Family either.
Under this covering there is safety. There is freedom. There is failure and there is success. Under the covering there also must be direction. Spiritual families have parents just like natural families do. In a spiritual Family we have fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles and cousins. Sometimes I am as close as a brother to my Family and we relate on that level. I do not know all of my Family equally well and so relate to some more as I do my natural cousins. Sometimes for my spiritual family I serve in the role of a father/mother. And sometimes I am functioning as a son to someone else who is my father/mother.
Fathers and mothers provide direction to a natural family and they must also in the Spiritual family. I am not suggesting they are always telling us what to do, as that would negate the first principle of each Family member hearing The Father for themselves, but where and when there are decisions that in one way or another effect the life of the whole Family, then under the covering there are is a place for the Family fathers and mothers to give direction.
When those of us who serve as fathers and mothers (which in reality we all do at times) refuse to give counsel by hiding behind the first principle of hearing the Father for ourselves, we miss one of the ways the Father uses to move the whole Family in the way He is calling all of us to go and we end up in the ditch, just as we do when we are always depending on others to tell us what to do.
No question, learning to hear the voice of the Father for ourselves is preeminent. Nothing is more important and without an ability to clearly distinguish the Father’s Voice from the myriad of other family members voices that try to give direction, we will end up going from one thing to another without direction or focus and we will end up doing what others think we should do at the expense of doing what the Father wants us to do.
But under the safety of the Family Covering there are times when we need to hear the voice of fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers and even a few cousins, to confirm or affirm what we are hearing the Father say. There is also, in the safety of the covering, a place for our spiritual parents to tell us what they think is best for the whole Family, when one of us is faced with a decision that may affect us all.
Hearing the Father for yourself is essential but counsel from under the covering is a complimentary way to hear Him as well.
Since we are both natural and spiritual beings we have access to both the natural realm and the spiritual realms. (see previous post) Access to the natural is easy because we just do what comes naturally. Access to the spiritual realm does not come naturally so how can we tune into the spiritual dimension?
Deuteronomy 4:29 says if we seek Him (God) with our whole heart and soul, then we will find Him. Are there ways to seek God where He will actually make Himself more fully known? Yes.
God is spirit, Jesus said and so if we want to worship Him we must do so in spirit. (John 4:24). The woman Jesus spoke these words to was focused on the natural aspects of worship, finding God in nature, what religion was right, etc. Jesus was calling her to change her focus from the natural to the spiritual, since as a natural and spiritual person she had access to both. God is not flesh and blood, He is spirit so to connect with Him we must enter the spiritual realm.
To worship Him (relate to Him, have intimate interaction with Him) requires us to use our spiritual side since that is what He is-spirit. As I write these words I am in Washington state. I am a citizen of the United States and my location is in the state of Washington. If you want to talk face to face with me you must come here to Washington. You can read these words but to have a conversation we have to connect here in Washington, that is where I am.
God has told us where He is located and it is in the spiritual realm and those who want a connection with Him must go to where He is.
How do we do that? Remember what God said in Deuteronomy 4? (quoted above) To find Him requires that we seek Him with our whole being. What I think He means is that we must take everything we are and direct it, focus it, point it toward Him. Just focusing our minds toward Him will not get us into a connection with Him. All we can do with our minds is think about Him, rehearse facts about Him, remember past things about Him that are special and unique about Him. Focusing our mind is a good thing to do and one step in the process but since we are body (mind), soul and spirit we must bring our whole being to the pursuit of a connection.
Preparing the soul is a key step in making a connection with the spiritual realm. The Scriptures often speaks of the soul by using the word heart. The heart is the place where spiritual connections take place. The heart is the place where we are most sensitive, real and open to spiritual realities. The heart is where the Spirit of God comes to live when we are born again and receive a new nature, one with a capacity for connecting. So the soul/heart must be prepared for a spiritual connection.
A humble heart, the Bible says God will not despise (Psalm 51). In other words the Father likes humble hearts. Psalm 113 talks about a humble heart that is focused on quiet, spiritual things and not taken up with things we can’t or don’t need to understand. It goes on to say that the heart of a child is the attitude God seekers need to have.
Entering the spirit world requires a humble and quiet heart/soul. Approaching God with a heart consumed with natural worries and philosophical ideas muddies the flow into the spirit. There are things we cannot know with the mind and to try and figure them out keeps the heart from opening into the spiritual.
James writes: draw near to God and He will draw near to you (4:8) We do that, James says, by leaving the cares of the world behind (1-4), submitting our wills to Him (7), and cleansing our hearts (8). We are also to lose the double mindwhen we come, which I think means we must stop arguing with ourselves about whether or not access to the spirit is available to us. Preparation of the heart is essential to entering the spirit realm.
It is from a place of humility that we move into the deeper places of the spirit. We must open the pathways into the heart if we are to experience the fullness of the Father. As we direct our focus toward the Father our hearts enter into agreement with Him and our body (the temple of the Holy Spirit) fulfills it’s most natural function which is to house the presence of the Spirit and that presence filling me up begins to manifestto the entirety of the believer.
Last night at the healing room we spent an hour in worship before we began to pray for the people who came for healing. I could have used more time because I really needed to get myself out of the way last night. I needed to find humility and brokenness by emptying my heart of the stuff of my life. I needed to get in tune with the spiritual side of who I am and to do that required me to be cleansed, to submit my will to His will, to get my heart in tune with His, to put away doubt and release faith. Because I know my Father loves a broken and repentent heart, I spent time moving my spiritual side to that kind of position and by doing so I released the Spirit to take control of all of me, body, soul and spirit.
Making a spiritual connection takes time. Making a natural connection only requires me to know things about my Father, but when I want a spiritual connection I move from knowledge about Him into intimacy with Him and that usually takes more time than I think it will, but when I get there it is really worth the effort.
Sometimes I need to fast from things that I have allowed to be more important than an intimate connection with my Father. Often the pathway I take will start with reading the Word, especially those scriptures that point us to release and withdrawal from the cares of this world. Singing in the Spirit, praying in our prayer language, listening to music, all help to create an environment that is free of distractions. Even getting my posture to a place that shows I am serious about this encounter and that I am truly humbled before Him opens my spirit up to connect with the Spirit.
When I take the time, as we did last night to tune in a connection in the spiritual realm is made and I take my seat in the heavenlies and encounter my Father.
More on tuning into the Spirit, next time.
Our friend Kim and her son Ben have been going through some tough days lately. Ben, a high school senior has a diagnosis of lymphoma and along with our Family have been believing the Father for the manifestation of healing for Ben’s body. A few weeks back Kim, concerned that she was doing everything she could do to see healing take place, asked some of us this question: “if we go ahead and do all this chemo-therapy, doesn’t that show a lack of faith and which will keep God from healing Ben?” My answer to that question was this: “we live in both the natural and the spiritual world and so we want to do everything we can in both worlds to see Ben healed.”
They continue to walk it out in both worlds and the Father is operating to bring healing through both.
We exist in two worlds and we are responsible for our actions in both. We get inspiration, purpose, direction, wisdom and many other things from the Spirit but all of these have to be worked out in the natural world we operate in. This is the way we were created. It is why we are left to live on the planet even though we have a seat in the heavenlies. (see the letter to the Ephesians)
Error comes when we give emphasis to one side over the other. I just came from having coffee with Kelly, a man I knew a little, when I was a pastor here in this area. Kelly had heard me speak the other night and wanted to know how I could go from preaching what I used to preach to now preaching with an emphasis on the fullness of the Spirit. He was wanting to know how I was able to live in both the natural and spiritual worlds after having functioned primarily in only one for so many years.
I use to say things like this: “if you get it right in your mind you will get it right in your life.” This statement, while it contains some truth, is not the whole truth. I was full up on knowledge and had a very good grasp on the truth but I didn’t always get it right in my life. I was not a whole person. I knew the Word but I was not open to the Word the Spirit wanted to implant, moment by moment as I walked through my day.
When we have an extreme emphasis on the rational, natural side of life we tend to have trouble receiving anything from the Spirit. When our focus is solely on study and aquisition of information we are not always conscious of the Holy Spirit speaking, leading or revealing and we miss that moment by moment direction the Spirit wants to give us.
The natural and logical are important dimensions of our life and must be trained and used to function in the natural world but our spiritual senses need training as well so we can receive from our spiritual side as well. Paul prayed that we would be sanctified (made pure) entirely, body, soul and spirit (1Thessalonians 5:23). God never intended us to deny or reject any of these essential parts of our nature. The message of the gospel is redemption, redeeming of our entire being. If our minds are the only thing redeemed we will miss much of what the Father’s intentions for us, are. The Father’s intention for us is that we live in touch with both the natural and the spiritual world.
Because most of my life was lived primarily in touch with the natural world at the expense of the spiritual world I have a lot of ground to cover to catch up. I am not going to get out of touch with my natural side but I am going to give a lot of attention to my spiritual side. I want more and more of the Spirit and will gratefully and boldly take anything and everything He wants to blast me with. However whatever that is must be worked out in the natural.
I plan to do some writing on how we can live out our maximum potential in the Spirit while we walk it out in the natural. Check back, it could be interesting.
Some of the best comments in a long time came in to the Juniper Tree on my last post on the effect of worshipping the written Word while ignoring the other ways the Father speaks to us. One friend said it this way: “I know it because I have read it in His Word, but it goes deeper than that: it is solid in my heart because I have encountered Him, and I have heard His Spirit whispering in my ear.”
There is no substitute for the written Word, I love it, I generally read something from it every day and have for nearly 5 decades. It is like food for a hungry soul that must feed on it to live. But for most of those 5 decades I missed hearing God because of unbelief, hiding behind knowledge.
I was taught that in these “last days” our Father no longer speaks to us the way He did with the apostles and prophets. That He no longer is operating outside of our knowledge of Him or our understanding about Him. My teachers were consistent, faithful to their hermeneutic and had a love for God that was real and hopeful. But they allowed their unbelief to be fogged over by their commitment to wisdom/knowledge over faith.
Unbelief often has an appearance of being a being an approach to life that is careful, scholarly, conservative and skeptical of anything that defies logic and could possibly be faked or flow out of an emotional experience. No one who operates out of that frame of reference calls what they are doing unbelief but it clearly is.
The mission of unbelief is to subject God to the mind and control of His creation. Unbelief questions everything including God’s agenda and His way. Unbelief’s favorite method is to demand proof. If it really is a miracle, unbelief says, then “prove it”.
What is sad and so counter productive for Kingdom advancement is that unbelief is completely unable to represent Jesus in His power and glory. It may sound wise, steady, steeped in conservative and proper Christian behavior but it effectively cuts off what the life of Jesus in us is capable of doing to see His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth (in the same way) as it is in heaven.
One old friend said to me during a discussion (argument) as to whether God was still healing people: “when people start getting out of wheel chairs and walking instead of a few people having their hearing restored, I will believe it”. Well they are getting out of wheel chairs, the dead are being raised and now he wants doctors reports and x-rays to prove it. The issue is not does God heal, the issue is will we believe He heals.
I am aware that there are fakers out there. There are mean people who prey on broken, hurting and hopeless people for their own gain, but this intensive effort to protect ourselves from being fooled is more about unbelief than it is a desire to be wise so we are not deceived.
Fear of deception exists predominately where unbelief has been ruling for a long time. Children believe, new followers of Jesus believe, people who are not followers of Jesus believe! Wisdom does not believe.
It is not for us to put God on trial. He is not subject to our knowledge, our wisdom. When Paul spoke of renewing the mind it was to just such an issue he was speaking. The unrenewed mind demands proof and demands the Creator explain Himself to the created. Prove it God and I’ll believe it. What arrogance, what unbelief.
1Corinthians 13:7 says this Love believes all things. When we encounter the redeeming, freeing, consistent, unconditional agape of the Father it frees us from our protective instinct of unreasonable caution. The apostle Paul takes us further into an understanding of this agape when he writes in Galatians 5: faith finds it greatest expression in love. When fear is driven out by real agape love it opens up the door to the kind of faith that believes the Father’s desire to lovingly reveal Himself extravagantly through miracles. An encounter with the Father’s love is the best method for dismantling unbelief.
The enemy of our souls always comes at us with fear which leads to unbelief which leads to falling back on wisdom which leads to power-less and glory-less lives.
My friend and pastor, Andy says: God is what (knowledge about) He is but Father is who He is (relationship with). Religion is a call to knowledge about God, to aquiring knowledge about what He is which more than not produces fear and unbelief, while an agape relationship with the Father leads to a trust in who He is (our Daddy) and an ability to see with the eyes of the heart and not the proof demanding eyes of our head.
I was raised, trained, schooled, believed, and taught that the Bible was the only way to hear God. To trust any other method of revelation (if there was any other method) was dangerous, suspect and generally untrustworthy. So I did what so many other people do, I worked as hard as I could to master as much of the Bible as I could, so that I could teach others at a high level of competency and not mess up because I didn’t know the truth. Nothing wrong with the process just the result.
If the amount of Bible we know were a protection from messing up then most of us who know the Bible would never mess up. Obviously that is not the case, so what is wrong?
Hearing the Father through the written Word is not an option, it is mandatory. The Bible is limitless, timeless and complete. It is the Living Word of the Creator God. I cannot live without it, anymore than I can live without breathing. Having a relationship with the Father through the Bible is a given.
But ask yourself, “self, how could the early church be so effective in changing their culture and how could they be so united in their efforts to build Kingdom, when they didn’t even have Bibles?” The amazing fruit of the early church couldn’t have been because they had their doctrine squared away and their teachers were “fundamental,” doctrinally pure and went to the right schools to learn the correct theological positions. The whole creed thing that started a few hundred years in, effectively stopped the forward motion of the church.
The more of the Bible we have broken down into doctrinal positions and the more we have become experts in theology and doctrine the less cultural impact we have had and the less united as a Family we have become.
We have more teaching ministries, discipleship tools, multiple media options from which to learn, the best educated preachers, teachers, the finest schools and amazingly gifted writers turning out thousands of really great books. every year. We have so much more ”knowledge” available to us than all of the rest of history combined, and yet the culture could care less about our faith or our knowledge and we who claim to have such squared away doctrine are failing in almost every area of life to live as we know and desire to live.
It seems our increasing lack of effectiveness has come from making aquisition of Bible knowledge the point rather than hearing the Father, the point. When we value the Bible and knowledge over the Holy Spirit it becomes idolatry and does the opposite of what was intended.
The Holy Spirit loves to add to our knowledge things we think we understand. He loves to take what we think we know and reveal what we need to know. Why? Because it is the Holy Spirit that reveals the Word not the other way around.
My friend and pastor, Andy Taylor often says this: “we don’t tie the ends up on our doctrine”. That doesn’t mean we are wishy washy about truth. What it means is that doctrine must be kept elastic by the oil of the Spirit or it will burst. If it is rigid and unmoving it will not yield to the Holy Spirit when He reveals more of the Word to us. Rigid doctrinal wineskins have a way of becoming irrelevant, powerless and finally they break because we are more concerned about preserving what we know at the expense of what the Spirit is revealing.
It has been my experience that the most dangerous heresies have not come from humble people, filled with the Spirit, who allow the Spirit to open up truth and who regularly have their wineskin refilled, but from people who fixate and cling to one doctrine and build monuments around that teaching and proudly tout their position over someone else’s. Heresy almost always comes from making one doctrine the issue and not allowing the Spirit to bring life to that truth.
Every cult, every irrelevant denomination got that way, not from hearing too much, but from not hearing anymore.
There are 8 previous entries in this series on Matthew 24. Since it has been a while since I wrote anything on this subject some of you may want to go back and read a few of the previous posts. This post will focus on the second of three questions the disciples asked Jesus about the future. If you want a little taste of this series before reading today’s post you could start with 24.2. Find it HERE.
Question #2 What will be the sign of your coming? (24:3)
My background as a dispensationalist was not only good for me, because of their deep love for the Scriptures, it also taught me important principles about how to study the Bible and how to evaluate teaching as to its validity or credibility. An unfortunate thing about that training is that it also taught me to read my bias into what I was studying, especially in the area of eschatology. (the study of how the world will end)
A futurist reads this question and immediately decides it is about the second coming of our Savior. They are convinced, through some, in my opinion, incredible leaps of interpretive gymnastics, that the signs Jesus speaks of in Matthew 23-24 are yet to occur and so believe that the return of Jesus is waiting the culmination of these signs.
I have already explained (to my satisfaction) how all of these signs, like wars, earthquakes, famines and the rest were signs that came prior to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. Those signs have been fulfilled. While there may still be wars, earthquakes, famine and all the other disasters mentioned in 24 around today, they are not the “signs” Jesus was talking about. Those are behind us.
When the disciples were listening to Jesus, they were not thinking about the Second Coming of Jesus, in fact at that point they were not even thinking about Jesus death, let alone a second visit to planet earth, some day. So that alone is enough to say they were not asking about the “Second Coming”. (the kind of Second Coming understanding the futurists teach and has been made popular by the Left Behind book series)
When they ask “what will be the sign of Your coming?” what did they mean by this word “coming”? The Jews historic fixation on the coming of the Messiah colored everything in their lives. All of their hopes, dreams, desires, understanding of who they were and what their destiny was, was focused on the Messiah coming and setting up a Kingdom where they would be in control and the Romans would be out of their collective lives. (see for example Matthew 20:20-23)
So their question was directedat finding out when Jesus would come into His Kingdom and take a position of authority and reveal Himself as King.
A Kingdom view of these verses and all the other references to Kingdom, authority, rule, reign, etc are fulfilled in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus to His place on the throne at the right hand of God, the Father. All authority was given to Him both in the heavenlies (spirit world) and on earth. Jesus came into His rightful and authoritative Kingdom at the moment He entered the heavenlies and sat down next to the Father. That took place 2000 years ago in the generation that was alive when these insightful questions were asked.
What else could it mean when Jesus says these words recorded in Matthew 16:28 and Mark 9:1? “There are some of you standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
It seems brilliantly clear to me that some of the people who were sitting right in front of Him, as He spoke on the Mount of Olives, would live to see Him come into His Kingdom. Jesus took His place on the throne 2000 years ago.
And now, as Kingdom people, given “all power and authority” by Jesus, before He went and sat down on His throne, we are, filled with the Spirit, with supernatural wisdom and revelation, in the process of taking back what was lost in the garden, renewing and redeeming this planet through the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom, anticipating the glorious return of our King and Bridegroom Jesus, to a spotless, pure and “made ready” Bride. (Ephesians 5)
Jesus came into His Kingdom 2000 years ago. We are not still waiting signs to tell us He will come into It real soon. He is on the throne right now and we His Kingdom people are establishing His Kingdom by His power and authority.
These posts are a work in progress. I am getting my thoughts in order as I write them here. I want to be real clear that Jesus has already “come into His Kingdom.” He is on His throne. We are not waiting for “signs” to be fulfilled so He can finally have all power and authority. He gave that to us in what we now call the Great Commission (Matthew 28) We await His return, but we do not wait for signs. We await His coming to rule and reign on a planet redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony. (Read Revelation 12:11 with this post in mind)
With all of that in mind we will better understand the answer Jesus gives to Question #2 “What will be the sign of Your coming”. More on His answer in the next post.
I intended to write about the anti-christ as it is spoken about in Matthew 24 but found this article on the subject and it was quite good and helpful I thought it better to reproduce it and the link here. Take time to read it, it is clear, focused and fits nicely with this current series.
You can go directly to the link HERE. Or scroll down to read it. If you don’t read it all at least read the parts I have highlighted.
Identifying the Antichrist
By Joseph Mattera www.josephmattera.org
Much has been made since the end of the nineteenth century regarding the “last days” and identifying the antichrist. During World War II a number of preachers even had scriptures to prove that Adolf Hitler was the antichrist and that they were the last generation. Numerous best-selling books have been written regarding the mark of the beast, the false prophet, and the identity of the antichrist and when he would appear. Every time there is an oil crisis or another war in the Middle East, you can count on preachers like John Hagee to come out with best-selling books regarding this as a sign that we are in the “last days.”
The following points will clearly establish the biblical definition of the antichrist:
I. In 1 John 2:18 the Apostle John said that he was living in the last days when the antichrist would appear.
1. Obviously, “last days” couldn’t refer to the end of the world over 2,000 years ago. Some try to get around this by saying that we are now living in the “last of the last days,” which amounts more to eisogesis than biblical exegesis.
2. Examining other passages dealing with the last days clearly shows that Peter, Paul, John, and others thought they were all living in the last days (Acts 2:16-17; 1 John 2:18; 1 Peter 4:7; 2 Timothy 3:1; Jude 17-19; Revelation 1:1).
A.One can only conclude from this that “last days” was not referring to something thousands of years later but rather it was the “last days” for the Jewish Levitical system of animal sacrifices, and the “last days” for the Jewish nation that was to be destroyed in one generation from the crucifixion. This would then officially inaugurate the new “kingdom age.” (Read Matthew 24:34; Luke 9:27; Hebrews 12:27-28.) Remember: The apostles and the early church were all Jewish believers who were speaking of the judgment of God on the nation of Israel for rejecting Jesus as Messiah.
B. The last days of Israel came in A.D. 70 within one generation of the death of Christ, when the Roman army surrounded Jerusalem and desecrated the holy temple. The abomination of desolation is referred to in Luke 21:20.
II. The Apostle John identifies the antichrist as people who didn’t continue in the church, thus identifying it as the “last hour.” Read 1 John 2:18-19.
III. The Apostle John also identifies the spirit of antichrist loosed in the world as those who don’t confess that Jesus “has come in the flesh.” (Read 1 John 4:2-3.)
1. He was obviously referring to those attempting to bring platonic Gnosticism in the church. Gnosticism, which was a heretical cult that did much damage to the church in the first few centuries, believed that the flesh was evil and that only the spiritual world was good. They even taught that the god of the Old Testament was evil (the god of the flesh who created the natural world and needed animal sacrifices to be appeased), and that the god of the New Testament was good; that true Christianity was really about attempting to get free from the flesh and to live in the spirit.
IV. The antichrist is a false spirit that brings false doctrine into the church; it is not a single person.
1. Never once is the term “antichrist” used in the Book of Revelation or any of the other epistles besides 1 John and 2 John.Yet most writers never refer to the antichrist as a spirit of false doctrine that takes the power and relevancy of Jesus away from the flesh or natural realm.
V. A new kind of Gnosticism has crept into the church during the past 120 years.
1. The church has fled the cities to find a sort of paradise in the suburbs or countryside.
2. The church has just concentrated on spiritual things and abandoned cultural and societal reform, unlike their predecessors in America who started most of the Ivy League colleges and universities with the intent to develop Christians to lead the nation in every realm of life.
3. The Evangelical church has now espoused an escapist theology and is now focused on going to heaven and the rapture than the focus of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, in which Jesus told us to concentrate on His will “on earth as it is in heaven.”
VI. The ironic thing is, those preachers and authors focusing on the “last days,” identifying one man as the antichrist, the rapture, and the mark of the beast, have actually fallen prey to the spirit of antichrist because they take the practical application of the cross of Christ away from the realm of the flesh. That is to say, their escapist teaching is semi-Gnostic because the kingdom cannot be totally applied in the flesh or natural realm.It is almost like saying Jesus Christ has not come in the flesh like 1 John 4:2-4. That is to say, their teaching implies that the cross wasn’t for the reconciliation of the natural created order but just for our eternal spiritual life in heaven. Colossians 1:20 says that Jesus came to reconcile both things in heaven and on earth. Thus, redemption is for the natural realm of the flesh in the created order, not just the spiritual realm in heavenly places.
VII. Best-selling books like the Left Behind series by Tim Lahaye are taking kingdom focus off the earth and into the next world, something totally foreign to the teachings of the apostles and Jesus, who actually prayed in John 17:15: “I pray not that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.” Thus, praying against the rapture mentality!
Unless we rid the church of this new Gnosticism, Christians will continue to live a dualistic life in which they just care about their inward piety and holiness, and leave the stewardship of the planet to the heathen. Dualism is causing the church to separate from the institutions of politics, law, education, economics, science, history, and philosophy, and is the major reason why the cultures in Western Europe and North America are continuing to erode. May the church fulfill its mission and become the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
I trust this has been helpful in this lengthy discussion. I do not know the author and perhaps would not agree with everything he teaches but this article is very clear and I believe correct in its orientation. More on 24 after Camp of Champions is over.
I stated early on in this teaching on Matthew 24 that the futurists take the 3 questions the disciples asked Jesus and combine them into one question. Then they assume this “one” question is about the Second Coming and the end of the world. But we have shown in previous posts that there really are 3 distinct questions and they are not about some time yet in the future but are about the events the disciples, who heard Jesus prophetic words, were going to face in the days ahead.
It is interesting to note that Matthew’s fellow gospel writers record only the first of the three questions in their accounts of this conversation. The first question and the answers are simply about when the temple would be destroyed (Mark 13; Luke 21) The futurists want us to believe the 3 questions are really only one question and refer to a time yet to come. But Mark and Luke include only one question and the answers they record to that question are clearly about the destruction of the temple, an event history has already shown us, has taken place. Is it not fair to assume that all three disciples are writting about the same events?
That Mark and Luke do not include the other questions, but do include Jesus’ answer to the first question in the same way Matthew does, is confirmation that Jesus is answering only the first of the three questions and that all the other things He says would happen took place within the same 40 year period.
One can not understate how important an event it was when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. Jerusalem was the holy city and Mt. Moriah where the temple was situated was the place where Abraham was willing to offer up his son Isaac (Genesis 22:2) It was also the place where God met with David (2Chronicles 3:1) and the place where Solomon built the first temple. It was the place where sacrifice was made for sin and the center of Jewish life and culture. There was no place more important to the men who were listening to Jesus than the temple. Their heritage and every thing sacred to them as Jews was wrapped up in that temple.
But not only did the destruction of the temple destroy their heritage and culture, it also brought to an end the Jewish religious system, the old covenant, replacing it with a new covenant made possible through the death of Jesus, an event that took place shortly after Jesus’ prophesies recorded in 24.
The writer of Hebrews makes it abundantly clear: When God speaks of a new covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and ready to be put aside. (8:13)
It was the destruction of the temple that made the old covenant obsolete and ushered in the New Covenant, a covenant made with better and more lasting promises. Jesus’ death on the cross provided us with a High Priest who made the ultimate, complete and final sacrifice.
The destruction of the temple is the pivotal point of Christian history and the Bible. It is where the Father’s plan makes a big turn and moves from law to grace as the means of salvation. It destroyed a religion of rules and replaced it with a relationship of grace and love.
To suggest that this question, when will these things happen, is pointing to some time yet in the future is to ride right over the most important point in the salvation story and miss the point of these crucial and critical events.
No wonder the enemy wants you to think we are still waiting for these prophesies to be fulfilled!