Posts filed under ‘Jesus’
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.
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.
As we move through Matthew 24 we are looking at the prophesies that Jesus makes to see if they were fulfilled during the 40 years or so that immediately following the time He spoke these words. There are several different prophesies in 24 and I wrote about a number of them in the last post. Even though I will not take the time to do it, it can be shown that all the prophesis of 24 were fulfilled during the time period Jesus said they would and there is no need to be looking at the “signs” of these current times to determine when Jesus will return.
Here are two of the remaining ones that get peoples attention.
A great tribulation: For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occured since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (24:21-22)
Futurist teachers say this time of great tribulation (greater horror than anything the world has ever seen-NLT) will come at a time, yet in the future, just before the end of the world. Christians, especially western Christians, have talked so much about this horrible time it has taken on a life of its own own- known as- The Great Tribulation.
If you know anything at all about the time when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, you know it was the most horrific of times, perhaps not in magnitude (6 million Jews slaughtered by Hitler, the killing of millions in Africa in the 20th and 21st centuries are both larger in number) but certainly no period of time rivals the anguish and suffering of the days that occurred during the Roman siege of Jerusalem and the total destruction of the Temple.
Josephus, (the dude has his own website [HERE] and he is nearly 2000 years old!) perhaps the best historian of that period, tells how the Jews committed unthinkable atrocities to each other, including cannibalism, during the famine I wrote about in the last 24 post. He tells a story of a woman murdering her little boy, cooking and eating him and then arguing with thieves who broke into her house looking for food, as to who would eat the other half.
During the famine Jews swallowed diamonds and other precious stones in hopes of escaping and carrying them to a safe location. The Romans knew about this ploy and captured these men and women and cut open their stomachs and intestines searching for whatever they could find. They ripped open dozens of empty stomachs to find one with a diamond.
Titus put a stop to that kind of torture but the Romans found other ways to massacre Jews. Jewish men, desperate to find food for themselves and their families, would try to escape the city only to be caught by the Romans who would cut off their hands and send them back into the city. Josephus writes that 500 men were whipped, tortured and crucified, everyday. There were so many crosses at the gate of the city they ran out of room. This slaughter continued until there were less than 100,000 Jewish people left in the city and these were led off to captivity in Egypt or given by the Romans as gifts to the leaders of nearby provinces to be used for sport in their coliseums.
When Jerusalem was destroyed it set off the killing of Jews in other regions and countries surrounding Jerusalem. Even places where the hatred of Rome was nearly as great as it was in Israel joined in the frenzied genocide of the Jewish people. You can easily find periods in history where more people have been killed, but the violence during the AD 70 tribulation of the Jewish nation was extreme in its horror.
One of the problems I have long had with The Great Tribulation is attempting to vision how things could be worse then they were during this historical period. We have seen and will continue to see horrible treatment of human beings by other human beings, even treatment as terrible as it was during these days but we will never see a time where the torture will be worse. To suggest there is a tribulation of greater horror than these days, prophesied by Jesus yet to come, is to miss the point.
I was going to write about the anti-Christs too but will add that in later. Can’t stomach any more today.
My point with all of this will be made clear in the days ahead but I need to say this: A Kingdom view of the end of days focuses not on how bad it is or how bad it might get but instead focuses on making ready a victorious Bride for the coming of the Bridegroom and the establishing of an unshakable Kingdom, one rescued life at a time.
The American church especially, has spent so much of it’s time and resources warning people about the perceived horror of The Great Tribulation and visualizing some AntiChrist in every leader they don’t agree with, including the current president of the USA, while ignoring the strategic mission of the Church.
Our mandate is to change the culture by being salt and light, bringing real hope, real healing (especially physical and emotional), real deliverance (there is a war out there) and real freedom by loving people, especially those who “persecute us and say all kinds of ugly stuff about us, which is untrue” (Matthew 5:11)
It doesn’t matter, in fact won’t matter, what any world leader or culture does if the Body of Christ will actually be the Body of Christ. We must stop looking for the return of Jesus and start being Jesus. I am pretty sure the point of His leaving, was so there would be billions of Jesus’ to do the job rather than One.
His Kingdom will come and His will will be done on earth in the same way as it is in heaven, not when Jesus returns or we are jerked out of here but when each one of us, operating by the Spirit in the ”spiritual places” wages war and takes back the territory lost in the garden proclaiming Jesus is Lord to the glory of God, one day at a time, one person at a time, one situation at a time, one location at a time.
Trying to re-fulfill prophesy is a monumental distraction we do not need to waste our time on.
Question #1 When will all this take place? (24:3)
Matthew 23 flows into 24 with, as you know, no chapter break. In vv.1-2 of 24, Jesus repeats again that the Temple was going to be totally demolished. Immediately after His prediction, Jesus and His disciples take a walk up on to the nearby, Mount of Olives (24.1) When Jesus sits down to have a private conversation with his disciples on the hill across from the Temple, they are looking right down on the place they had just left. Mark’s account of this conversation confirms the disciples were facing the Temple when they asked the 3 questions (see 24.3 for content of 3 questions).
So, if you were one of the disciples and your leader has just told you the building at the heart of your whole religious and cultural life is going to be pulverized, what would you want to know? I would want to know when this dramatic and life changing event is going to happen, wouldn’t you?
Now, the futurist teacher assumes the disciples were asking about the end of the world, but that is the third question they ask, not the first. To Jewish boys, like the disciples, their first concern was for the Temple, because destroying the Temple would be such a huge event to them, they had to be wondering if such an event might not be the end of the world. It had to be shocking to them that God’s holy Temple would be destroyed. What would life be without it? To these simple men, whose whole history was wrapped up in the Jewish life and faith, the Temple was as central as anything in their lives. To think of it being destroyed would easily have made them think their whole world was coming to an end.
We will come to questions 2 and 3 another time, but for now let’s answer the first question with the context just described firmly in our minds. When is the Temple (and potentially all of Jerusalem) going to be destroyed?
Have these words of Jesus already come to pass or are we still waiting? To meet Jesus’ time table of the Temple being destroyed within the “generation” of those to whom he was speaking, the Temple would have to be destroyed by AD 70, about 40 years (a generation) after His prophetic statement. Did that happen?
Within 40 years after Jesus declared judgement, 20,000 Roman soldiers, under the command of General Titus, surrounded the city for four months, starving the citizens of Jerusalem. Then the soldiers marched into the city and without mercy slaughtered more than one million Jews. The soldiers set the Temple on fire and took nearly 100,000 Jews into captivity. Nothing much is heard about the Jews for the next 60 years until they attempted one more rebellion against Rome. After 3 years of fighting, the Romans crushed the rebellion, killing another 600,000 Jews. Israel was not recognized as a nation again until 1948.
The Roman soldiers so demolished the Temple that every stone was carried away and the land on which the Temple stood was plowed under until absolutely nothing was left, just as Jesus said it would be!
Jesus’ answer to question one is in 24:34 “I assure you, this generation, will not pass away until all these things take place.” If we take His answer literally and understand a generation to be 40 years, then Jesus’ answer was right on. The Temple was destroyed just as He predicted.
Now, the futurist teachers see all of the events in Matthew 24 happening not in AD 70, but 2,000 plus years (and counting) into our future. They do not accept that the “generation” Jesus declared in both 23:36 and 24:34 is referring to the “generation” alive when Jesus spoke these words. Sometimes they redefine “generation” to mean “race,” as in the Jewish “race”, so they say the Jewish race will not pass away until the end of the world, which we continue to wait for. Futurists must give the word “generation” some other meaning, other than the commonly held 40 year period, if they are to make Jesus’ predictions yet to be fulfilled.
But why would you explain it that way? Why would you not just take a plain, literal explanation of the text? If you have no Left Behind books, no Scofield Bible, no prophetic TV to watch, no dispensational theology to confuse you, and you read Jesus’ words without any coaching and with only history to study, could you or would you see His answer as referring to something yet to take place, now more than 2000 years into the future?
The disciples ask a simple question of Jesus, as they look down on the Temple they were just in, from the hill right across from that building. It is the question I would want answered if I had just heard that the religious and cultural center of my life was to be destroyed.
If you were given a prediction of the total destruction of Washington DC, the White House and all the other monuments in our nations capitol, by a person you considered to be trustworthy and your promised Savior, what would you want to know?
I would want to know “when will all this take place?” and I certainly would not expect the answer I received would be about something totally unrelated and 2000+ years into the future, would you?
I can’t imagine it. Jesus knew exactly what He was speaking about, and everything He prophesied between Matthew 23:36 and 24:34 took place just as He said it would, during the generation that was alive when Jesus spoke the words.
While this blog is not the place to try and speak to all the predictions found in Matthew 23-24, I will attempt over the next post or two to write about some of the other predictions Jesus made that some how have been moved from the 40 year period that followed His speaking them, to a day yet in the future. (if all of the predictions in 24 are already fulfilled we are free to read Daniel 2, 9 and Revelation in a very different way. More on that later.)
If you have read this stuff to this point you might be wondering why you should read on or what my point is. Here is my reason for putting so much of myself into this study and asking you to work hard to understand it: What Jesus predicts in these verses is ugly, negative, vicious and life changing for those who live or die as they go through it. The futurists, of all persuasions, tell us these terrible times are still in our future. Some futurists say the Church will be raptured out before it gets real bad and so find “joy” in the signs of the times. Other futurists predict we will be here for all these events, while some others say we will stay for half or less of the bad days. If we choose to believe their report we spend our time and energy in certain ways.
However if we see these events as already fulfilled in the 40 years immediately after they were predicted, then we are free to live another way, building the Kingdom that will never pass away, the Kingdom that cannot be shaken, the Kingdom given to us by Jesus to advance, until as His Bride we are fully clothed in His righteousness and purity, radiantly displaying to the world the glory of His presence. His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth just as it is in heaven. Why destroy what you have called your Kingdom citizens to advance?
Before I jump into Matthew 24 here is this morning’s Henri Nouwen devo. It has Kingdom all over it:
The opposite of a scarcity mentality is an abundancy mentality. With an abundancy mentality we say: “There is enough for everyone, more than enough: food, knowledge, love … everything.” With this mind-set we give away whatever we have, to whomever we meet. When we see hungry people we give them food. When we meet ignorant people we share our knowledge; when we encounter people in need of love, we offer them friendship and affection and hospitality and introduce them to our family and friends.
When we live with this mind-set, we will see the miracle that what we give away multiplies: food, knowledge, love … everything. There will even be many leftovers.
Now on to 24!
Question #1. When will these things happen?
The disciples ask Jesus three questions in Matthew 24: …Tell us, when will these things happen and what will be the sign of your coming, and (what will be the sign) of the end of the age?
Some translations, maybe even yours (for example the KJV) ends this sentence with the word “world” and in doing so makes the 3 questions into an inquiry about the second coming of Jesus and the end of the world. What happens when the word is translated world is it moves the focus of these questions on to a summary of what the world will be like just before it comes to an end, rather than a “simple” asking of questions related to what Jesus has just spoken about.
But the Greek word aion can also be translated, and in my opinion should be translated, “age“. By translating aion as age, or a period of time, and not world, we are not tempted to move the fulfilment of this text from its first century setting into the 21st century. The ending of an age and the ending of the world are two very different things.
The Kingdom view attempts to read nothing into the text, to not see a summary, but 3 distinct questions about how the current age, the age the disciples were living in when the questions were asked, would end. 1. When will these things happen? 2. What will be the sign of your coming? 3. What about the end of the age?
When we make a decision, to let the text say what it says without adding or summarizing, it frees us to understand the answers Jesus gives to these questions in a very different way than the futurist sees them.
So, first question; When will these things happen? What are “these things”? If you have been taught, like I have the futurist view, we immediately think that “these things” refers to events that will happen right before the second coming of Jesus. But what does the context of Matthew 24 tell us? Many of you have been reading it and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach you, so before you read my answer to the question, ask yourself, what is the context here? What is the conversation about? What is Jesus talking to His disciples about? Take a minute and read the chapter. Start back in chapter 23 and let it lead you into 24.
Jesus is speaking in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The first thing He does is warn the crowd and the disciples to be very careful about the Jewish Temple leadership. You can see this in vv.2-12. Next Jesus turns to His disciples and, with no mincing of words, rips the religious leaders. The flavor of His comments are clear: v.13 … woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. v.14…Woe to you… v.15…Woe to you… v.16 Woe to you blind guides. Jesus is ripping into the Jewish Temple religious leadership (and cultural leaders) with an intensity that can’t be missed. He repeats these same words in vv.23-29.
With even greater intensity, Jesus winds up His beat down in vv.33-36 with a scathing rebuke of these phony and controlling leaders: You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will beat in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the alter. Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. (33-36)
Jesus is passing judgment on a generation of religious leaders who have spilled the blood of “every righteous person, from A-Z, Abel to Zechariah” (in the Hebrew Bible Abel is book 0ne and Zechariah is the last book) Jesus is telling these religious leaders that the blood of every righteous person in their Holy Book, from start to finish is on them.
Typically in the Scriptures a generation was considered to be 40 years. So if we assume that the judgement Jesus is passing is going to come true in a literal sense (why would we not take it literally) then those who heard Jesus speak these words could expect judgment to fall on them. (Jesus began this rebuke and judgment back in Matthew 23 and some of the specifics of the judgement are included there (vv.37-38).
A literal reading of these verses makes it really hard to see this judgment happening at any other time than during the generation (40 years or so) immediately following the speaking of the words.
Question 1. When will these things happen? What things? Answer: These things= vv.33-36 23:37-38) When? Answer: Over the next 40 years or so, from the time they were spoken.
I find it hard to make this text say anything at all about the time we are living in today. How about you?
Almost all prophesy writing of a futurist nature (Left Behind series, Scofield Study Bible, Dispensational theology, popular prophetic writing, etc) moves Jesus’ answers from the 40 years immediately following His speaking to the time we are currently living in. That is really poor hermenuetics (logical guidelines for interpreting historical writings) and there is no reason for it. Let the text and the historical evidence speak for “themselves”!
Next post. Did the words of Jesus in Matthew 24, come true during the next 40 years or so, or are we still waiting for them to happen?
No meanderings this week. I didn’t have time yesterday and we really haven’t done much meandering this last week. Will see what happens next Monday.
When I was preaching regularly (which I miss) I would find myself often being tested, tempted, even attacked in the very area I was studying. Sometimes it was pretty intense. Since I decided to write down what I believe is a more positive, Kingdom view of eschatology (study of last things) I have felt more pressure to not do it than anything I have done recently. Thoughts like, “who really cares what you think?” With each new world crisis comes the inevitable “doesn’t look too positive right now, does it?” or this question “what makes you think you know more than_________?” Fill in the blank with a hundred different names of people who see the end as ugly and negative.
But here is why I am going ahead with it. It is my blog, and I write what is going on in my life and head. No one has to read it if they don’t want to. There seems to be a hunger in people for an authentic Kingdom view of life. Whoever chooses to read it is totally free to be blessed by it, disagree with it, blow it off, embrace it, whatever, so here we go.
There are a lot of views out there about last things. Do a search of words like “end times”, “last things”, “end of the world”, “eschatology” etc and you will find everything from the weird to the complex to the helpful. There are two I will spend most of my time interacting with.
Today’s popular view, that things are winding down to a fateful and horrible end, made the more horrible by a particular individual called the anti-christ, through a miserable 7 years of tribulation, out of which the “church” will be raptured, culminating with a 1000 year earthly reign by King Jesus. That view I will refer to as the futurist view. The view I will contrast with the futurist view is referred to as the partial preterist view. Preterist comes from a Latin word that means roughly “things that are past”. Rather than to use the words partial preterist I will refer to this view as the Kingdom view.
A pretty easy way to define these two understandings of last things is to say the futurist looks at Matthew 24 and Revelation and says most, if not all of the prophesies found there, are yet to be fulfilled. The Kingdom view, as I call it (partial preterist view) sees the prophesies of 24 and Revelation as fulfilled primarily in the past and partially in the future.
As I said in a previous post the Kingdom view is one held by the church for centuries while the future view is a much more recent view of last things. That isn’t all that important but I wanted you to know that what I am going to write about didn’t just show up in recent days, in fact it is the futurist view that is the most recent of the end times scenarios.
As He (Jesus) was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, asking, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)
There are three key questions being asked of Jesus and how we understand the answers Jesus gives to these 3 questions determines how we will understand the end times, the tribulation, the antichrist and how future events will play out.
Jesus answers these 3 questions by talking about people who come along claiming to be the Messiah, about wars, famines, earthquakes, heavy persecution of Christians, and about people who claimed to be followers of Jesus who slip away under pressure. He also speaks about the gospel going out into the world, followed by some really bad things happening and people being taken away.
Futurists look at the way Jesus answers the three questions and come to the conclusion that all the events Jesus speaks of, are going to happen sometime in the future, a future far beyond the days of the disciples to whom Jesus is speaking. In other words the futurist reads what Jesus says and rather than to see what He speaks of as taking place soon after He answers the questions, they vault them over the disciples day and land them, if you believe the futurist, in days yet to come, more likely, they would say, in our immediate future.
The partial preterist view, or Kingdom view as I call it come to very different conclusions, when they study 24. We view Jesus’ answers to these 3 important questions as not yet to be fulfilled but actually finding their fulfillment in a period of time more likely less than 100 years from the time Jesus answered the questions.
You should know that the futurist has all kinds of ways to object to the Kingdom view. I will mention a few of them as we move through Matthew 24. But remember, my goal is not to refute the futurist view. I have lived much of my life under the futurist view and found it very debilitating. No doubt, the enemy tries to get to me by pointing out all the ugly stuff happening in our world today and trying to get me to look at how obvious it appears to others that all the signs point to the end being right around the corner. But there has never been a time in my nearly 59 years when people were not pointing to signs of the times and telling us the end was near. Time to our Father is relative because He neither lives in it nor is He bound by our calendar.
How about another point of view, how about we see if there isn’t a blessed hope that the Kingdom really is without end and that by living out the Gospel of the Kingdom, we really will change the world, and that the Bride really will be beautiful and pure at His coming and that the Body of Christ, really can be made ready and that every knee will bow and confess, not out of fear but out of joy at His coming? How about we take a look at those possibilities? Can’t hurt.
Next question number 1. “When will these things happen?”