Forward Bill and I have known each other for eons… since we both have been in the mind and heart of God from before the world’s foundations. We just hadn’t been formally introduced. That introduction came when we connected online some time ago. We “clicked” immediately. It was not because we shared the same personal or “religious” histories. It was not because we grew up in similar surroundings. It was because we share similar views of the kingdom of God and its outworkings in this present day.
There is a lot of talk about the kingdom in the institutional church these days (for example: Evangelical, Charismatic, and Pentecostal congregations). A lot of talk but very little understanding that leads to transformation. People can understand with their minds but do the grasp the truth with their hearts and souls? Or with a willingness to pack up and leave as Abraham did? To talk and even preach about the Kingdom of God may be mere words leading nowhere. Kingdom preaching does not necessarily mean that Christians will hear the call of God to come away from their settled and comfortable mindsets and embrace a kingdom worldview that radically changes lives.
As Bill points out the house church community has rightly rejected static, unchanging, and lifeless religious structures. But some have not yet heard God’s call to embrace the kingdom. To fully embrace the Kingdom of God in these days is to receive kingdom revelation about God’s work in these last days to embrace a relational family structure of life and ministry.
Families have structure. But their structures are very different from the common institutional ones like the brick box on the corner with the time of services displayed prominently. Family structures are informal, dynamic, and changing as the family journeys through life’s stages.
Structures may change, but the essentials remain. Families, if they are Christians, worship and pray together, share in all the joys and tragedies of life, and have disagreements but also forgiveness and reconciliation. Families grow and have children, training them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And families stay connected on their journeys through life. In it all families have a purpose for living.
Bill clearly outlines how God’s spiritual family is to live and believe. Think about the spiritual family expressed in the early church. What was its purpose? Winning people to Christ, of course. What else? Growing the children of God into maturity in Christ through servant leadership. What else? Crossing cultural and national boundaries in order to accomplish the task Christ gave them. Anything else? Yes, a willingness to suffer for the sake of Christ. What was not their purpose? Anything that would get them side-tracked from the goals of God.
Readers of this book are challenged to take seriously what Jesus has to say about the kingdom and how we are to live and to relate to one another and to our communities. Perhaps that begins today for you—because you have in your hands the right book to explain the kingdom and lead you into a biblical understanding of it.
Bill’s labor of love gives guidance to willing hearts and rebuke to those who compromise the scriptures’ teachings He also confronts several misinterpretations of the scripture in our day, among them Dispensationalism and Dominion Theology.
Filled with relevant quotes and touching personal illustrations, the book gets to the heart of many issues confronting the church today. Bill gives us a comprehensive look at God’s kingdom and its effect on our lives. As he writes later in the book, “The gospel of the kingdom prepares for real life.”
A beginner in Christ can read this book and start his journey with no side-tracks. A seasoned saint can read it and make adjustments and corrections to his journey. We all can read it and share its insights with our families, friends, and neighbors. Packed with scripture and clear teaching from start to finish, Bill’s manuscript is a prime, a theological treatise, and a devotional study all rolled into one. Don’t miss out on the Kingdom of God. Bill’s insights into the kingdom are of inestimable value.
Ray Ashmore, Author
Over the years, my wife, Judy and I have fellow-shipped with all kinds of believers. We love them all. However, we have found very few have a picture of the kingdom that encourages them to live for the Lord in everything they do, including changing diapers. The inspiration and instruction they find at Church on Sunday just doesn’t seem to carry over to the rest of the week. So many settle for a drab spiritual future, seek fulfillment elsewhere, and end up unfulfilled.
My search for more life in Christ began in the 1970’s. I began getting a picture of life in the kingdom of God and found marvelous light. Then, along with Judy, I began studying, receiving, and applying the gospel of the kingdom. Since I was raised Lutheran, I started by reading and studying the Bible, sola scriptura—Scripture only.
My parents and siblings were devout Missouri Synod Lutherans. Our farm house was a home of hospitality, often filled with the laughter of happy people. God was the source and center of our relationships. We prayed at every meal, shared the Word in daily devotions, regularly fellowshipped with other believers, and worked together. We lived worthy of our parents, helped one another, and enjoyed our family and our friends. Through this family and neighborly lifestyle, Messiah Jesus led us to know God our Father and helped us be faithful and loyal to God and one another. Even though we didn’t recognize this as participating in the kingdom; it was. I highly value this rich heritage. My wife, Judy, and I have done our utmost to instill it in our children, Troy and Tara, their spouses and our grandchildren.
As I read the Bible, I had a lot of questions and began reading books on the kingdom. There weren’t many and I soon found out the Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses have very twisted views on the kingdom. Back in 1977, I discovered a gem of a book that helped me begin to see things with kingdom perspective: The Community of the King by Howard Snyder. I still have a well read copy.
I don’t have all the answers, but I have become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven. I treasure the kingdom in my heart.
And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” Matthew 13:52 NASB
Perhaps some of the things I share will help you along the way.
Summary and felt need
Summary–Jesus gives us the kingdomview. When we adopt it, He establishes us in kingdom relationships that fulfill our deepest longings to be useful and productive in the noble things of eternal importance in our day-to-day lives.
This God-help book is written to inspire and encourage believers by showing how we live as working parts of the body of Christ in the kingdom in day-to-day life. We can all get to know God better, grow up, and follow Christ Jesus as our Lord and King as citizen priests in the kingdom. Rather than “getting saved” and just hanging on until we die, we come to “God’s throne of grace to get mercy and find love to help us when we need it” (Hebrews 4:14-16) — today. We look to the future when God and the Lamb upon the Throne will dwell with us on His renewed earth in the kingdom to come (Revelation 21). God brings us into His kingdom by rescuing us from the tyranny of darkness and making us new creatures, created in Christ Jesus to be to His glory. The Holy Spirit reveals Jesus as Savior and King, opens our hearts to the Word, pours God’s love into our hearts and helps us see, walk and work in the kingdom Jesus inaugurated while on earth and rules over from the Jerusalem above. Kingdom relationships fulfill us. They are exemplified in family relationships and motivate us to love one another. God in Christ shares His life with us so we can share it with God, one another, the hurting, and God’s creation. By His power, He will help us do every good thing we decide to do and every work of faith.
Felt need—Believers are aware of the kingdom of God, but don’t know much about it. The average believer on the street has very little knowledge of the Bible and even less about the kingdom. The inspiration and instruction they find at Church on Sunday just doesn’t seem to carry over to the rest of the week. Many are unmotivated and unfulfilled, so they settle for a drab spiritual future and seek fulfillment elsewhere.
Until about 30 years ago, the kingdom of God was seldom mentioned in Christian Churches, except in the Lord’s Prayer. In fact, kingdom had a negative connotation because the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons atrociously distort the Bible and present a very warped view of the kingdom. Today, believers talk and write about the kingdom with little stigma. Because “kingdom” is a new power word, many use it to prop up themselves and their ministries and promote their causes. Not many proclaim more than bits and pieces of the gospel of the kingdom.
Ray Ashmore says, “It’s amazing to me that so many believers spill over with talk about the kingdom, but few know much of what the scriptures really teach about the kingdom—and its radical implications for our personal and corporate lives.”
In response to a request for critique of my manuscript, Wolfgang Simson responded: “I like the Kingdom emphasis in your good book, Bill. I am sure this will help move many housechurch folks more and more into a kingdom first, housechurch second mindset, as this is the other way around with far too many.”
Traditional and organic church believers are seeking inspiration, insight, encouragement and meaning. They will find it in solid teaching and clear presentation of the kingdomview. As the kingdom works like yeast in dough, vast numbers of people are discovering something more than church as usual.
Part 1 How God our Father gives us The Kingdom
Part II Jesus Kingdomview as told by Matthew
- 5 The Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) 6 The Commissioning, Jesus sends out the 12 (Matthew 10) 7 Eight Parables of the Kingdom (Matthew 18) 8 Interpersonal Relationships (Matthew 18) 9 Prophetic Insight for Preparation
Part III Kingdom Relationships
- 10 Glow with the Spirit 11 Walk in the Light 12 Walking Together 13 Gathering Together 14 Israel and The Kingdom of God 15 The Messiah’s Way
Today, I was walking our dog Dash around Quail Lake. Then I saw a mother duck and 7 ducklings coming toward shore. I pointed them out to the little girl and she went over where they were coming and went into the water until it was 2 inches up on her cowboy boots. Mother duck and her ducklings came right up to her and she was thrilled. It was a picture of innocence and peace. That’s how it will be with God and us and His creation on the new earth.
Many, who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior, don’t know this. We have two very different pictures of where and how we will live in eternity.
- The first picture is: When we die we go to heaven and heaven is our eternal home.
- The second: When we die, our spirit goes to heaven. When King Jesus returns, He will resurrect us and give us a glorified body like His. God our Father will give us the kingdom to come and with His Son will live with us on the renewed earth. (Revelations 21) This is the historic Church view and the kingdomview. May all Christians get this second picture
Believers who opt for the first choice generally view salvation in individual terms like, “I’m saved.” Billy Graham was very good at making it that simple and leaving it there. This is the fire insurance, not going to hell, version of salvation. True; when we die, we go to heaven, but incomplete. Since believers have only been taught a small part of the gospel of the kingdom, many get saved and just hang on until they die and go to heaven.
With only a partial picture of eternal life, many envision themselves, after death, as a wispy spirit seated on the edge of a cloud, playing a harp for eternity. Some see Saint Peter as the pearly gate keeper, allowing them to enter heaven on streets of gold. Others humbly imagine they will live in a little log cabin in the backside of heaven. Many see heaven as a kind of floating church service, where they are situated in rows before God on the throne to worship Him forever and ever and ever.
The Bible does tell us: “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” But it does not stop with the four spiritual laws. God’s Word presents a much bigger picture—the kingdomview.
The kingdomview dawns on us as God our Father enlightens the eyes of our hearts to His love. When God rescued us, He seated us in Christ in heaven and established us as working parts of the body of Christ on earth. We serve Christ Jesus as our king by working as priests in the kingdom of God in our day-to-day lives. We come to God’s throne of grace to get mercy and find love to help us.
Now that we have a great High Priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus, God’s Son, let us cling to what we confess. We have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way just as we are, only without sin. So let us come boldly to God’s throne of grace to get mercy and find love to help us when we need it. Hebrews 4:14-16
It takes boldness to approach the throne. Our High Priest gives us the boldness. Christ’s blood makes us right with God and cleanses our conscience so we come near.
Drawing near to God scares people because they still feel guilty. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, natural man has had a guilty conscience. Just as guilt haunted Adam and Eve, it drives mankind to hide from God, or try to get right with Him by rationalizations and religious works.
God gave His First Covenant to hold His people Israel together and to help them come near. Priests offered blood sacrifices and other offerings to atone for sins. These pointed to the New Covenant sacrifice Jesus would make, but religious rituals didn’t cure the guilt. They made the outside clean and left the inside afraid.
People still think up many rules and do many religious works to try to get right with God. The inspired writer of Hebrews presents liberation. The blood of the Messiah brought full deliverance. His perfect sacrifice purged our sin and cleanses our conscience so we can serve God.
But now Christ has made his appearance, a high priest concerned with blessings already won. The tabernacle of which he made use was the greater and more perfect one, the tabernacle not fashioned by any human hand, that is to say, the one which does not belong to this order of creation at all. Moreover, if he has entered the sanctuary once and for all, securing a deliverance which lasts forever, it was his own blood, not that of goats and calves, which was his means of accomplishing this. And indeed, if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled upon those who have suffered defilement hallows them, so as to restore their outward purity, how much more effective will be the blood of Christ, who, by virtue of the eternal spirit which was his, offered himself up to God, as a sacrifice free from all blemish; how much more effective, I say, will be Christ’s blood in cleansing our conscience, so that we turn our backs on actions without any life in them and instead give ourselves up to the service of the living God. Hebrews 9:11-14 Cassirer
As this great revelation sinks into our hearts, we no longer feel the urge to run and hide, or try to get right with God through our own futile rationalizations and religious works. We come to God’s throne of grace to get mercy and find love so we can serve God in spirit and truth.
In this regard, Paul tells us we are free. “The Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother” (Galatians 4:26). This Jerusalem above is in heaven. Heaven is located in the realm of the Spirit, not up in the sky out past the moon, the sun, or the planets. The author of Hebrews presents us with this awe inspiring picture of heaven.
The heavenly Jerusalem
You have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Here are tens of thousands of angels, the whole festival gathering and church of God’s firstborn people with their names written in heaven. Here is the Judge and God of all. Here are the spirits of the righteous who have been perfected. And here is Jesus, who gave us a new covenant with God, and sprinkled blood that has better things to tell than Abel.
See that you don’t refuse to listen to Him who is speaking. If the others didn’t escape when they refused to listen to Him warning them on earth, much less will we if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven. Then His voice shook the earth. But now He has promised: Once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven. The words once more show clearly He will take away what is shaken, seeing He made it, leaving what isn’t shaken as permanent. Since we have received a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let us thank God and so worship in a way that pleases Him, with fear and awe, because our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:22-29
This is where we are seated in Christ Jesus. Spiritually, we see ourselves as part of the general assembly and Church of the firstborn. We also see the spirits of believers who have died—the spirits of the righteous who have been perfected. This heavenly environment is the kingdom of God that is and we are seated in it in Christ Jesus.
In context, the awesome presence of God at Mount Sinai is contrasted with the even more glorious presence of God at Mount Zion. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, Mount Sinai shook with God’s presence. Now He is warning us from Mount Zion in heaven. He will shake everything that can be shaken. We should keep that in mind and listen to God. We have received this kingdom that can’t be shaken. What can be seen will be shaken. The Spirit realm of God cannot be shaken.
This brief overview of heaven points us to the future. The eternal dwelling place God is preparing for us is even more glorious than heaven. At the culmination of God’s plan, He will make a new sky and a new earth filled with His creation. God and the Lamb upon the Throne will dwell with us on His renewed earth in the world to come.
The world to come is not a new concept. It is affirmed in the Gloria Patri doxology many churches utilize. “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” Yes, millions of Christians sing or chant this praise, including “world without end.”
At the conclusion of the Nicene Creed, we say, “and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” His kingdom is and is to come. His will is partially being done and will completely be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus comforted and encouraged His disciples with this Word. “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28b).
The word “regeneration” comes from Greek root words translated “again” and “birth /genesis.” We look forward to the regeneration—the again genesis.
This was revealed to John the Seer. In the book of Revelation he tells us what he sees; the new sky and new earth with new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, made ready as a bride. As you read this revelation God gave him, see yourself as part of the new Jerusalem. With his eyes on this glorious scene, John hears a voice announcing the tabernacle of God among men. Next, he hears Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, speak to him.
The new Jerusalem
– God with us on the new earth
This is the kingdom of God that is to come. It is where we will live for eternity.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down from God in heaven, dressed as a bride, ready to meet her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, say: “Look! God’s home is among the people, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, and there will be no more grief or crying or pain, because the first things have passed away.”
“Look! I am making everything new,” said He who sat on the throne. And He added: “Write this because these words are true and you can trust them.” Then He said to me: “It is done! I am A and Z, the Beginning and the End. To anyone who is thirsty I will give water, that costs nothing, from the spring of the water of life. Be victorious, and you will have these things, and I will be your God and you will be My son.”
“But cowardly, untrustworthy, and abominable people, and those who murder, sin sexually, practice witchcraft, and worship idols, and all liars will find themselves in the lake burning with fire and sulfur: this is the second death.” Revelation 21:1-8
The glory of God coming to earth and dwelling with us is beyond our natural reasoning power and comprehension. What John saw and heard boggles the mind. Reading the Bible from Genesis, when God created the world, through Revelation when God renews the world of His creation and dwells with us, will help it sink in to our hearts and minds.
God opens the vistas of eternal life in His kingdom to us by His Word and His Spirit. Thus we look forward to when King Jesus returns. He will resurrect us and give us a glorified body like His. God our Father will give us the kingdom and with His Son will live with us on the renewed earth. Love will flood our hearts when we see God face to face.
The New Jerusalem will have twelve gates named after the twelve tribes of Israel. God’s people of Israel have been, still are, and will be special to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The wall of the city will have twelve foundation stones named after the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:10-14).
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city. Their glory will shine on us.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city. We, His servants will worship Him and see Him, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night, and they will not need any light of a lamp or of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will be kings forever. Revelation 22:3b-7
The kingdom to come will be on tangible earth. “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21 NIV). Creation includes the sky, the earth, plants, animals, and invertebrates. God’s regeneration touches creation along with His people. The Bible is filled with descriptions of what is to come on the new earth. The prophets saw ahead to this kind of peace with creation.
A wolf will live with a lamb, a leopard will lie down with a goat, a calf, a young lion, and a fattened animal will be together and a little boy will lead them.
A cow will feed with a bear; their young ones will lie down together; a lion will eat straw like a cow.
A nursing child will play over the hole of a cobra; a weaned child put his hand over the opening of a viper.
They will not hurt or destroy anyone on all My holy mountain, for the world will be full of the knowledge of the LORD like the waters covering the sea. Isaiah 11:6-9
God calls you and me into this kingdom and glory. He plants His call deep down in our hearts and it motivates us to walk worthy of Him.
We were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12
The hope of God with us is heart warming. We, in our resurrected and glorified bodies, will see Him face to face. The hope of inheriting eternal life in this kingdom to come environment and culture motivates me a lot more than the thought of sitting on a cloud with a harp for eternity. God loves us so much, has given us so much, and will give us this inheritance. Paul encourages this hope. The inheritance is laid up for us in heaven to come to earth.
We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel. … the hope of the Gospel. … Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:3-5; 23; 27
Hope for eternal life in the world to come is instilled in us as we receive the gospel of the kingdom. It is “the hope of righteousness; the hope of the glory of God.” The gospel of the kingdom encourages believers to sell out for the Lord, even unto death. Just the small portion we have considered should encourage us to: “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1Timothy 6:12a).
God has shown His grace. It brings salvation to all people and trains us to say no to ungodliness and worldly lusts, to use good judgment, and to live right and godly in this world as we look for the blessed One who is our hope, for our great God and Savior Christ Jesus to show Himself in glory. He gave Himself as a payment for us to free us from all wickedness and cleanse us to be His own people, eager to do good works. Titus 2:11-14
A remarkable number of contemporary church leaders are coming forward with the same scriptural view as those of our fathers in the faith. J. Richard Middleton put it this way. “Over the past quarter of a century various evangelical Christian voices have articulated the bold, even startling, theological claim that the eternal destiny of the redeemed consists in the renewal of earthly life, to the exclusion of a disembodied heaven hereafter.”
In his newest book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, N. T. Wright graciously explains the quandaries of modern Christianity. He believes Christians are not against the hope of eternal life on the new earth, they just haven’t been taught about it. Wright is an Anglican leader and a popular author. In February 2008, Time Magazine published a one-page interview promoting the book.
Going back 30 years, Howard Snyder wrote about the same subject. In The Community of the King, first published in 1977, Howard shows how the Church is part of God’s plan to reconcile all things to himself, “things in heaven and things on earth.” “God has a plan and we, the church, are part of it.” His writing is highly valued and quoted because of his balanced kingdom perspective.
Jesus inaugurated the kingdom on earth by being born of a woman as Emanuel–God with us. Messiah Jesus began His public ministry preaching the kingdom with signs following. After His death and resurrection He continued to preach the kingdom until He ascended into heaven.
Up until that time, Jesus was the only one on earth in the kingdom. Then the Father poured out the Holy Spirit on all flesh and brought the kingdom to us in the Spirit. By the Holy Spirit, we are blessed with Christ in us, the hope of glory. Each of us became a temple of the Holy Spirit and together we are the community of the King. Christ Jesus rules as King by His Word and by His Spirit in us. He must rule as King until the last enemy, death, is conquered at the resurrection of the dead.
I look forward to the day Jesus will say to billions of believers including you and me,
Come, you whom My Father blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the time the world was made. Matthew 25:34
Forget the harp and the cloud; look for the kingdom to come. It is the hope of glory.
2 Thy Kingdom Come
My Grandfather, Bill Holtz, was a widowed farmer. He had a heart attack when he was about 65. In the 1960’s rest was the main treatment, so he had to quit farming. My parents invited him into their home. When I would come home on leave from the Air Force, I would ask him, “How are you doing Grandpa?” He would always answer, “I’m doing fine but I’m ready to go anytime the Good Lord is willing to take me.” His view exemplified his faith in Jesus Christ and belief in the resurrection of the dead. He lived a comfortable life into his 90’s saying that.
Grandpa was not afraid of death. Here I was, a young expert with the all the answers. I had not thought about why I wasn’t afraid of death. After hearing his answer several times, I began to look for answers.
In Christianity, we tend to settle for pat answers from our favorite experts. Here we will explore the kingdom of God with God’s Word.
We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from evil.” Jesus is our Savior, our Deliverer. As Martin Luther put it, “But to be saved we know is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil, and to enter into the kingdom of Christ, and to live with Him forever.”
The kingdom came
The Jews were looking for deliverance by the arm of flesh, with the sword. God had delivered the whole nation of Israel from Egypt and gave them the Ten Commandments and the Law to keep them out of bondage. Centuries later they were ruled by Rome; looking for the promised Messiah to come and deliver them from their enemies. Messiah Jesus came to deliver them, but the kingdom He established was not what they expected.
The way God gave His only begotten Son confounded the Jews. Yet, it was as prophesied. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but in very humble surroundings. The angel announced to shepherds, “The Savior, who is Christ the Lord, was born for you today in David’s town.” Those words brought fulfillment of prophecy to Israel and joy to Mary. Old Simeon confirmed Jesus was the Lord’s Messiah, saying, “My eyes have seen your salvation.”
After around 30 years, John the Baptist took on his Elijah task and began preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, announcing the coming Messiah, and preparing His way (Luke 3:4-6; Isaiah 42:1).
When Jesus the Messiah began His ministry, He fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, and the devil tempted Him. Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations and the devil went away from Him. Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. In His hometown, the city of Nazareth, He entered a synagogue on the Sabbath. In this setting He read the scroll from Isaiah 61:1-2 to announce His messianic mission and the consummation of the Jubilee:
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me because –He anointed Me To tell the poor the good news. He sent Me To announce to the prisoners, “You are free,” to the blind, “You will see again.”To free those who are broken down. To announce a season when the Lord welcomes people. Luke 4:18-19
Jesus went about teaching and proclaiming this gospel of the kingdom and healing every kind of disease and sickness among the people. His Words surrounding John 3:16 summarize the gospel of the kingdom. They are seldom quoted because they are fighting Words. These are the surround words for whoever believes: born again, kingdom of God, born of water and the Spirit, wind, Son of Man, only begotten Son, judge, judgment. In politically correct social and religious circles, most of those words are disdained and either carefully avoided or slighted. They are not nice words for people seeking feel good, anything and anyway goes religion; or a God like Santa Claus as J. I. Packer puts it. Please read John 3 about every day until it sinks in.
The twelve disciples accompanied Jesus as He traveled and proclaimed the kingdom with signs following. These men were all under 30 and had been with Jesus less than two years when He sent them out on their first mission trip. Jesus sent these twelve out with the following instructions:
“Don’t go among the Gentiles or into any town of the Samaritans. But go to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach, The kingdom of heaven is here. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out devils. Give these things as you received them—without pay.
“Don’t take any gold, silver, or copper money along in your pockets, and no bag for the way. Don’t take two tunics, or shoes, or a stick—a worker earns his keep.
“When you go into any town or village, look for a person the who is deserving, and stay with him till you leave. When you go into a home, greet it. If the home is deserving, let your peace come on it. But if it’s unworthy, let your peace come back to you. If anyone doesn’t welcome you or listen to what you say, leave that house or town, and shake the dust off you feet. I tell you the truth, on Judgment Day it will be easier for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” Matthew 10:5-15
Jesus instructed His disciples to let peace come or to take it with them. Why? The Jews understood many more of the implications of peace than we do because they had a much richer word for peace—“shalom.” Shalom is the environment of God’s kingdom in which His community of people thrives. This shalom comes to us because God makes things right between Him and us and one another and to an extent His creation; incubating supernatural, harmonious, well being. The disciples were carriers of God’s peace. So are we. In the kingdom, each of us is free to minister to our brothers and sisters in the Lord, to the hurting, and to God’s creation. We can let our peace come upon a home or take it with us.
We thrive in shalom relationships that are described by words derived from the Greek word “koinonia”. Koinonia is translated as communion, community, communication, distribution, fellowship, and partnership. Our actions are identified with “koinoneo.” It is translated as share, communicating and distributing and is closely related to “koinonos” meaning a companion, partner and partaker. Those are the shalom share words of the kingdom. Beloved, let us love God and one another and thrive in shalom.
Our fellowship/koinōnian is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We’re writing this so that our joy may be complete.
This is what we heard Him tell us and we’re telling you: God is Light, and there is nothing dark in Him. If we say we share what He has but live in the dark, we’re lying and not living the truth.
If we live in the light as He is in the light, we have it in fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, washes us clean from every sin. 1 John 1:3b-8
Soon after the twelve returned from their first mission, John the Baptizer was in prison for telling Herod it wasn’t right for Him to have Herodias, his brother’s wife. John sent his disciples to ask the Messiah:
“Are you the One who is coming, or should we look for someone else?”
“Go,” Jesus answered them, “tell John what you hear and see: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor hear the good news, and happy is anyone who doesn’t turn against Me.” Matthew 11:3-6
Jesus did these works in fulfillment of His mission as the promised Messiah. There was no doubt the kingdom of God had come to earth. When John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus spoke to the crowds about him.
“What, then, did you go out for—to see a prophet? Let Me assure you, he’s even more than a prophet. This is the one of whom it is written: ‘I will send My messenger ahead of You to prepare Your way before You.’ I tell you the truth, there never has appeared a woman’s son greater than John the baptizer. Yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John.”
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of the Heavens is being breached and the breachers are possessing it. All the prophets and the Law prophesied up to the time of John, but he (are you willing to accept it?) is the Elijah who has to come. If you can hear, listen. Matthew 11:9-15
With those few words, Jesus gave several major revelations. John was the one sent to prepare the way of the Messiah. He came in the spirit of Elijah. No man born of a woman was greater than John. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon and the prophets were some of the great men of the Old Testament. John was greater. The least in the kingdom of God is greater than John. We are greater because we are new creatures, created in Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is in us.
All major translations of the Bible have missed the meaning of the next sentence Jesus spoke. A typical translation is: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). The idea that the violent can take the kingdom by force is way off. Avram Yehoshua has found the correct translation by thinking like a Jew. Avram provides 55 footnotes, and credits David Bivin for his presentation of the link between Micah 2:13 and Matt. 11:12 in Understanding The Difficult Words of Jesus (Austin, TX: Center for Judaic-Christian Studies, 1984), in which he presented that connection. In his revised edition (2001, pp. 84-87).
Avram begins sharing his insight with this translation of Micah 3:12-13:
And the One breaking open will go up before them and they will break open and they will go through the Gate and they will go out through Him and their King will pass through before them, (with) Yahveh at their head.
With that, the wonderful gospel of the kingdom Jesus was sharing in Matthew 11:12 comes clear. Avram translates it: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of the Heavens is being breached and the breachers are possessing it.” The Breacher has set us free. The King has broken through the tyranny of darkness and leads us into God’s marvelous light. The kingdom is not suffering violence; darkness is. We follow Messiah Jesus into the green pastures of His kingdom.
Blessings already won
We will explore more of Jesus’ teachings and instructions and proclamations of the kingdom in subsequent chapters. Right now, I want to focus on what Jesus accomplished through His life and death and resurrection and ascension into heaven.
But now Christ has made his appearance, a high priest concerned with blessings already won. Hebrews 9:11 Cassirer
The gospel of the kingdom Jesus and his disciples taught is God’s plan for His people and His creation. It begins with blessings already won and motivates us to be what He has made us and bear fruit that does not pass away. Paul summarizes God’s plan in Ephesians 1.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every Spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.
In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1 NASB
Don’t let that go right over your head. When we believe in Jesus, God our Father makes us new creatures and gives us that whole new identity and status in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit. As these blessings dawn on our hearts and enlighten our minds, we find our life in the Messiah. The words in that short portion of God’s Word are pregnant with meaning. They are kingdom words that sum up the gospel of the kingdom and help us see with the kingdomview.
By doing a brief word study, let’s examine the main components of life in the kingdom Paul revealed. This will help the blessings sink in.
Saints–Paul addressed this letter to the saints who are at Ephesus. Saints are people whose Father is God. God is our Father. “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself.” “Saint”strongly indicates consecration to God. Saints are people God has separated from sin, made holy in His sight by the blood of the Lamb and consecrated to Himself in His kingdom. We saints are called to turn away from following our own will and follow Messiah Jesus our King.
If we believe in Messiah Jesus, we are saints in the kingdom. Even if we don’t consider ourselves saints, our Father in heaven does. Some days, we certainly don’t seem holy. We might be grumpy, grim, and caught in sin. What Paul wants us to see is who we are in Christ to lift us out of those ruts. Paul helps us set our sight on the things that are above. He wants us to see ourselves as our Father in heaven sees us—holy in the Messiah. So, Paul greets us as saints and begins by blessing us with grace and shalom.
Grace and Peace–Next, Paul blessed the saints by proclaiming, “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace and peace are integral parts of kingdom life. Grace is undeserved favor with the emphasis on favor. The one who extends grace has something to give to the recipient, who lacks what is needed and lacks the means to acquire it. God didn’t hold back on extending His grace to each one of us. He measured it out in portions proportionate to the gift of His Son. “The gift of the Messiah is the measure after which grace was given to each one of us.” By God’s grace we are saved. Because we are saved, we have peace in Messiah Jesus. He is our Peace—Shalom.
“Grace” is a translation of the Greek “charis.” Charis includes much more than favor. It is the power of every spiritual blessing of God in our lives. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every Spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”When our Father blesses us, He bestows His favor and gifts to us and causes us to prosper according to His word.
We can speak this blessing to God. “Father God, we bless you for you have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Messiah Jesus.”
Chosen–God our Father “chose us” and Jesus our Savior chose us. Theologians call this choosing election. “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you” (John 15:16).
Sons and heirs–God adopted us as sons and made us heirs. “Sons” is the correct translation, but it includes daughters. In the Spirit, there is no distinction. God has made each of us one of His children; He gave us His glorious family heritage and identity; He brought us to know Himself through His Son, by His Word and His Spirit. Please let the Spirit help you soak up your true identity as God’s children.
We have a hard time comprehending and applying that spiritual reality. It resonates in our spirit, but our mind glosses it over. If we allow our spirit to rise above our fleshly outlook, we are transformed by the renewing of our mind to see and follow our Messiah in spirit and in truth. May the glory of it dawn on us and help us see. When what we think is in harmony with the Word and the Spirit, we are on the way to growing up in Messiah Jesus.
By making us His sons and daughters, God our Father has freed us from the confusion and futility of thinking up our identity and lifestyle with our old lower nature and the ways of this world. Our identity is not who the world says we are based on our parents, looks, level of education, job status, who we married, or what we own. God’s Word, revealed in the Bible and brought to life in us by the Holy Spirit, helps us see ourselves as He has made us and as He sees us. He has made us His noble sons and daughters. Seeing ourselves this way is vital to growing up and relating as sons and daughters and heirs of our Father in heaven.
How we see things, how we think, shapes our relationships. If we see God as our Dear Father who loves us dearly, we naturally want to please Him by walking as His noble children. The Holy Spirit quickens the gospel of the kingdom in our hearts to help us know God, know ourselves, and know fellow members of God’s family; in spiritual reality. We are children of God, who have put on Messiah (John 1:12-13). Our Father’s blessing is upon us.
Redemption–Another aspect of adoption is the redemption of our body. Here we look to the future for our full adoption. “Waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23b).
“Redemption” is “The deliverance of the believer from the presence and power of sin, and of his body from bondage to corruption, at the Coming (the Parousia in its inception) of the Lord Jesus.” Redemption demonstrates God’s righteousness. It witnesses to the world and to principalities and powers; God is just and the justifier. Our redemption is to the praise of His glory.
God has gathered us together in one in the Messiah and given us all that is in Him who fills everything in every way. We look forward to the day He gathers up all things in the Messiah. He gives us a part in the initial stage of this gathering process. Messiah Jesus calls us to help gather. He says, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matthew 12:30 KJV).
Gathered together–We are God’s chosen people, gathered together in one in the church, which is the body of Christ. Each of us is part of His supernatural body, which is made up of interdependent members. Messiah gathers nurtures and cherishes His body through each part as each of us works properly.
God’s gathering, reconciling, power flows to us and through us to make us a functioning body. By His Spirit, God in Messiah Jesus shares His noble life with us, helping us share in enduring one another relationships. God our Father has lavished these riches of His grace upon us so we might relate as His holy and blameless children accepted in the Beloved. He has gathered us together in one and given us all that is in the Messiah.
The kingdom to come
This brings us to inheritance. God has made us His children and heirs. The inheritance God gives us is the kingdom of God. As we just read in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit is the earnest and guarantor of that inheritance stored up for us. We look forward to inheriting the kingdom; God with us on the renewed earth, in our glorified bodies. The kingdom is our inheritance and we—the New Jerusalem—the bride, the wife—are Jesus’ inheritance.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Ephesians 1:18-19
Then the King will say to those at His right, “Come, you whom My Father blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the time the world was made. Matthew 25:34
Even though Jesus is ruling as King of the kingdom of God and could rule over us with might and power, He leads us in grace and truth, in and by the Spirit.
With His blood, death, and resurrection, Jesus defeated Satan. But that devil still roams the earth and his demons oppress. Look around. Evil abounds. God has not yet taken dominion over all things. All men have free will and seemingly can shake their fist at God, scoff at Him, deny or ignore Him completely, serve other god’s, and apparently do their own thing with impunity. Christians can be demeaned as being simple minded, slandered as being hypocrites, treated with malice and prejudice in the workplace and in society, ostracized from politically correct society, even tortured and killed.
Mockers come, mocking believers. They don’t seem to remember the popularity and credibility given to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as he raised Spiritism to the status of Transcendental Meditation in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Beatle’s and other celebrities raved about him. He’s dead and gone. Nor do they remember Jimmy Carter’s sister, Ruth Carter Stapleton. She was a popular charismatic teacher in the 1970’s. Shortly after she started spewing New Age teachings, she died of cancer. Look at the latest fad in spirituality. Oprah endorses Eckhart’s New Age new earth baloney, and many buy it. His message is basically: “All ways lead to God; you are simple minded if you don’t trust me and my insight into Spirituality.” He persuades the naïve hedonists. All of this will change. When Jesus returns every knee will bow.
It is written: “As sure as I live,” says the Lord, “everyone will kneel to Me, and every tongue will praise God.” So each of us will have to give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:11-12
On the Day of the Lord, He will take dominion and usher in the kingdom to come. On that Day, God will deliver by crushing adversaries and striking those who hate him. The plan God has for salvation will prevail. In due time, the earth will be rid of every evil and all things will be made right. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken. Through cataclysmic shaking God will tear down everything that can be shaken; every contrary human or spiritual power, spirituality, rule, force, structure, and persuasion that rears its head above God will be obliterated.
Peter tells us the kingdom will come by fire (2 Peter 3). As you read his revelation, remember, God’s fire purifies and reveals; it doesn’t necessarily destroy. The burning bush from which God spoke to Moses didn’t burn up. Sodom and Gomorra did. Also keep in mind the meaning of “destroyed” as Peter uses it in referring to the world at the time of the flood. The flood destroyed the world, yet the earth is still here. Also, keep in mind, our God is a consuming fire. He will reveal all human works with fire.
Salvation is for all who have put their trust in Jesus as their Savior, all of God’s Old and New Covenant people. Salvation is the inheritance God our Father gives us, as is the kingdom and eternal life. We were saved, we are saved and we will be saved. The kingdom of God was and is and is coming. Eternal life begins in the world to come, where God will be with us. We will have eternal life in our glorified bodies in the kingdom of God on the new earth.
God extends His salvation to all of His natural creation. The ultimate outcome of God’s kingdom come is life superior to the life of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God will be with us. The whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. There will be billions of us. We will have glorified bodies, but we won’t be fruitful and multiply. Our petitions in the Lord’s Prayer will be fully answered, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
When Christ completes salvation by abolishing the last enemy—death—by the resurrection of the dead, He will hand over the kingdom to the God and Father (1 Corinthians 15).
3 New Creatures in Christ
Last night I was feeling bad. I had a Recluse spider bite on my leg that just kept on hurting. My elbow had a knot on it that just kept hurting. My throat was sore. My head hurt. We have all had one of those days.
Judy recommended an Epson Salt bath. We drew hot water and put in lots of Epson Salt. I soaked and lollygagged in the water for about a half hour. It felt good. It felt real good. You have to be 70 to know. Then I went to bed and slept a solid 7 hours. I feel good.
That was good. The glorious blessing of the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit is much better; it endures forever. Paul tells about it in his letter to Titus. Through regeneration we are born again of water and of Spirit. In this virtually instantaneous process, God our Father makes us new creatures and establishes us in kingdom relationships.
“Regeneration,” in Titus, is the same word Jesus used when He spoke of coming again (Matthew 19:28). There, it applied to the again genesis of heaven and earth and mankind and all creation. Here it applies to us when we are saved. When we turn to Jesus, God regenerates us and gives us new birth as new creatures. At Jesus’ second coming we will receive our glorified bodies. Even though our body will die unless Jesus returns before then, our inner being is alive unto God. Through regeneration, God saves us and gives us new birth and new life in prolog to life in the world to come.
In the following brief portion of God’s Word, Paul explains what we were, reveals what God has made us, and exhorts us to be busy with good works.
Once we too were foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to many kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in wickedness and jealousy, being hated and hating one another.
But when God our Savior showed how kind He is and how He loves us, He saved us, not because of any good works we did but because He was merciful. He saved us by the washing in which the Holy Spirit gives us a new birth and a new life. He poured a rich measure of this Spirit on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, to justify us by a gift of his undeserved love so that we might become heirs in keeping with the hope of everlasting life. You can depend on this statement.
And I want you to insist on these things so that those who believe in God have their minds on being busy with good works. This is good, and it helps other people. Titus 3:3-8
This Scripture begins with a stark look at our sorry state prior to being saved. “Once we too were foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to many kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in wickedness and jealousy, being hated and hating one another.” Being foolish, we were dead to God. A fool is one who says, “There is no God.” Sin was ruling over our dying bodies. The tyranny of darkness had full sway in our lives and we spent our lives in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. Those are pretty harsh words. Yet they are true. The world runs on malice and envy. Pagans are hateful and they hate one another. The thin venier of enlightened political correctness doesn’t hide this truth.
Paul graciously tells us, “Once you were.” He was seeing what God has made us. Because of His kindness and love and mercy, God regenerated and renewed us. God our Savior saved us. By His grace He saved us, not because of our deeds but according to His mercy. “He saved us by the washing in which the Holy Spirit gives us a new birth and a new life.”
Once we were dead to God. Now we are new creatures. Jesus clearly stated we must be born of water and the Spirit in order to see and to enter the kingdom. Born, in John 3, comes from a Greek word that means procreate, figuratively, to regenerate. The water there and washing here in Titus is with the water of life.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. Revelation 22:17
Why did God do this? “… to justify us by a gift of his undeserved love so that we might become heirs in keeping with the hope of everlasting life.” He justified us and brought us to life in His kingdom that is and is to come so we might become heirs. As His heirs, We look forward to inheriting the kingdom to come. We hope for eternal life in the kingdom to come, God with us and we in our glorified bodies, living on the renewed earth. Thus God made us new creatures fit for kingdom relationships.
And so from now on we don’t think of anyone only as a human being. Once we thought of Christ only as a man, but not now anymore. So if anyone is in Christ, he is a new being. The old things have passed away. They have become new.
But God has done it all. When we were His enemies, through Christ He made us His friends and gave us the work of making friends of enemies. In Christ, God was getting rid of the enmity between Himself and the people of the world by not counting their sins against them, and He has put into our hands the message how God and man are made friends again. 2 Corinthians 5:16-19
God justifies us
Because Jesus died in our stead, God our Father forgives our sins and reckons His righteousness to our account. That is justification. The book of Romans is an especially good place to learn more about how God justifies us. From chapter 3 through 5, Paul teaches justification. We were guilty of sin, but because of His grace God sent His Son as the sacrificial Lamb in our behalf. Because of the blood of the Lamb, He acquitted us and declared us not only not guilty, but right with Him. His decree and ruling of justification enables us new creatures to see, think, feel and function as new, free and clean, creatures.
Still, believers have trouble seeing themselves righteous in God’s sight. Over the years, I have seen people do all kinds of things to get right, be right and stay right with God. None of our own efforts can make us right with God. Even our faith is not of ourselves. It is a gift from God. He has made us righteous, justified by His decree. We receive this by the faith He puts in our hearts.
Prior to elaborating on justification Paul tells us, “the righteous man shall live by faith.” The simple definition of faith is trust. We trust God and His Word above others and ourselves. When we don’t fully comprehend, we still trust God. In fact, we “live by faith.”
I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is God’s power to save everyone who believes it, the Jew first and also the Greek. It reveals God’s righteousness as being by faith and for faith, as the Bible says: The righteous will live by faith. Romans 1:16-17
God as Judge declares us righteous and we live, trusting Him and His way of making us righteous.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26 RSV
All have sinned and are without God’s glory. Before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve were clothed with God’s glory. After sin, they were naked and afraid of God. In Romans 1, Paul explained how this lack of glory deteriorated even further and people exchanged the glory of God for their favorite idol image. Idolatry is a terrible affront to God our creator. He made man and clothed him in His glory to honor and glorify Him. When people turn from the glory of God to their own ways and worship images of their own creation it demonstrates their utter contempt for God.
The Jewish leaders believed they were right with God because they obeyed the Law so they rejected Messiah Jesus. Paul denounced that as false pride, but he didn’t say forget the Law. “Do we then by faith cancel the Law? Never! We uphold the Law” (Romans 3:31). We uphold the Law because God has made us new creatures and He empowers us to serve in the new way of the Spirit. Paul goes on to explain to the Jews and to us. “If you work, your pay isn’t considered a gift but a debt. … Faith is counted as righteousness.” (Romans 4:4, 5b).
Through justification, we have peace with God. The truth of justification is implanted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit in the washing of regeneration. Our guilt is washed away. We have shalom with God. This gives us the guts to be to His glory, even when we suffer. We have hope because the Holy Spirit poured God’s love into our hearts.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5 RSV
Here, Paul emphasizes hope of the glory of God. When we see the glory of God, He will have made all things right and He will have changed our mortal bodies into glorified bodies and we will know Him as He has know us. This hope doesn’t disappoint, because the Holy Spirit poured God’s love into our hearts. Paul taught on love and concluded: “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Jesus was raised because of our justification. In other words, His death accomplished God’s purpose—justification. Through His death He defeated the devil and broke the power of evil. He was raised because His mission was accomplished. His life insures this. Just a few verses later, Paul explains God’s grace is to rule.
Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21 RSV
God sanctifies us
Unlike justification which is God’s once and for all decree of our righteousness before Him, sanctification begins with God making us holy and continues as He helps us live holy. In Hebrews 9 we saw how Jesus shedding His blood set us free from sin and guilt. That was justification. God counts us as His saints because of sanctification. He has separated us from sin, made us holy in His sight by the death of the Lamb and consecrated to Himself in His kingdom. Sanctification deals with holiness. In the Old Testament God set apart people, animals and things for Himself. He gave ordinances on the cleansing necessary to make people and things holy to Him. The same Hebrew word meaning to sanctify also means to be holy. In God’s economy, Christ Jesus is our sanctification.
He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 RSV
Through justification God cures our guilt for our sin. Through sanctification God makes us holy to live holy. In Hebrews 10:10, we see: “Doing God’s will, Jesus Christ sacrificed His body only once and so made us holy.”
Jesus Christ sacrificed His body and so made us holy. The Holy Spirit testifies to this. What has been promised by His Word through Ezekiel has come. By His Spirit, God has replaced our old disobedient and obstinate heart of stone with a heart of flesh. He has and put His laws on our heart and written them on our mind. He does not remember our sins. These promises were made to Israel and are only partially fulfilled. We look forward to the day when the people of the nation of Israel come to the Lord for salvation and again become His people. Now, with the blood of Jesus we can go into the holy place by the new, living way, the way of His body. He is our great Priest.
Paul teaches sanctification in Romans 6 through 8. Central to his teaching is our union with Messiah Jesus. In God’s Word we will see next, he tells us how God relates with us. He asks believers including you and me: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus by our baptism share in His death?”
He then tells us water baptism as a prophetic sign of regeneration. In water baptism, we prophetically participate in Jesus’ death and burial and declare we will rise as He did. Our old self was nailed with Him to the cross to “to stop our sinful body and keep us from serving sin any longer.” That changes how we see ourselves. Because we are in Christ Jesus, we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin and living for God. He freed us from sin and made us servants of righteousness.
The Law came to multiply sin, but where there was much sin, God’s gift of love was so much greater that, as sin ruled in its deadly way, so His grace is to rule, giving a righteousness by which we live forever through our Lord Jesus Christ.
What does it mean? Should be go on sinning so that God may love us all the more? Certainly not! We died to sin. How can we live in it any longer?
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus by our baptism share in His death? Sharing in His death by our baptism, we were buried with Him so, that as the Father’s glory raised Christ from the dead we too will live a new life. If we were united with Him to die as He did, then we’ll also rise as He did. We know our old self was nailed with Him to the cross to stop our sinful body and keep us from serving sin any longer. When we’re dead, we’re free from sin. But if we died with Christ, we believe we’ll also live with Him because we know that Christ, risen from the dead, will not die again. Death has no hold on Him any more. When He died, He died to sin once, never to die again, and the life He lives He lives for God. So you too, because you are in Christ Jesus, think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God.
Then sin should no longer rule in your dying bodies and make you do what they wish. Don’t let sin keep on using your organs as tools for doing wrong. But as people who have come back from the dead and live, give yourselves to God, and let God use your organs as tools for doing what is right. Sin will never rule over you, because you are not under the Law but under God’s undeserved love.
What then? Are we going to sin because we are not under the Law but under God’s love? Certainly not! Don’t you know if you give yourselves to anyone to obey him as slaves, you are his slaves? Either you are the slaves of sin and will die, or you obey God and become righteous. But thank God! Although you once were slaves of sin, you have heartily obeyed the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted. Freed from sin, you were made the servants of righteousness. I talk to you in a human way because you are naturally weak. But, just as you once let uncleanness and wickedness use your organs as slaves to do wrong, so now let righteousness use your organs as slaves in order to live holy. Romans 5:20-6:19 emphasis added
Living as servants of righteousness is living holy–sanctified. That is still a challenge. We know Jesus died for our sins and God raised Him from the dead. We can also reckon ourselves dead to sin and living for God, freed from sin by God’s grace. If you haven’t identified yourself that way, now you can. It’s better than the futility of trying to work up enough human strength of character to overcome sin and live holy. Our old nature doesn’t have that strength. So, God made us dead to sin and gave us the power to kill what is left of the deeds of our old carnal self so we can let righteousness use our organs as slaves in order to live holy.
God our Father created us in the Messiah, justified and sanctified us so we can relate in the new way of the Spirit. This is the basis of kingdom relationships.
In water baptism, we confirm we are dead sin and free to serve God in the new way of the Spirit. Through the Messiah’s body at the cross, we died to the religious jot and tittle of the Law. This is part of what God has made us by giving us new birth and new life in Messiah Jesus. The Holy Spirit helps each of us discover the glory and freedom of this new life as new creatures. We should encourage and comfort one another with this good news of God’s grace.
When you were slaves of sin, you weren’t free to serve righteousness as your master. What was your advantage then in doing the things that make you blush now? Why, they end in death. But now that you’ve been made free from sin and servants of God, your advantage is that you live holy and finally have everlasting life. Sin pays off with death, but God gives everlasting life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Or don’t you know my fellow Christians —I’m speaking to people who know the Law—that you have to obey the Law only as long as you live? The Law, for example, binds a married woman to her husband while he is living, but if her husband dies, the Law doesn’t bind her to her husband any more. So, while her husband is living, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man. But if her husband dies, she is free and no longer bound by the Law, and so she’s no adulteress if she marries another man.
So you too, my fellow Christians have through Christ’s body died to the Law to marry Another—Him who rose from the dead so that we will produce good things for God. While we were living in the flesh, the Law stirred the sinful lusts in our organs into action to produce the fruit for Death. But now that we have died to the Law which bound us, we are freed from it, not to serve in the old way under the Law but in the new way of the Spirit. Romans 6:20-7:6 emphasis added
Through regeneration, we new creatures are free to serve in the new way of the Spirit. The old way to serve God was to obey the Law, right down to the last dot and tittle of the Hebrew words. Serving in the new way of the Spirit, we uphold the Law and fulfill its demands because we serve righteousness.
The Law was written on tablets of stone. The Ten Commandments were and still are God’s will for us to honor Him and live in a civilized community. However, His Old Covenant people did not receive it well. It was as though their hearts were made of stone—hard, disobedient and obstinate. By the time Jesus inaugurated the kingdom the Scribes and Pharisees had expanded the Law through their own wisdom and made it onerous for God’s people. They were the experts; God’s people were the dummies. In their legalistic adherence to the Law, they found legal loopholes to justify their own ungodly behavior. Jesus pronounced woe upon them for rejecting Him.
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.”
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” Matthew 23:13-15
In this context, Jesus continued describing their ungodly behavior regarding their oaths, their blindness to justice, mercy and faithfulness, their robbery and self-indulgence, their inward hypocrisy and lawlessness and their heritage of murdering God’s prophets.
God has freed us from the dot and tittle of the Law and such perversions of the Law. Since we have through Christ’s body died to the Law, the power of our flesh has been broken. Until God our Father made us new creatures, created in Christ Jesus, the Law stirred our flesh to produce the fruit for Death. The Law not only revealed sin; it aroused our sinful passions. The Law said, “Thou shalt not.” Our flesh said, “Oh really! I want to taste the pleasure of doing the forbidden. How far can I go and still be within the Law?” Thus, the Law stirred our flesh and we produced the fruit for Death. We have been freed from the trap of sowing to our flesh and of our flesh reaping destruction.
That’s the gist of the remainder of Romans 7 and the first part of chapter 8 where Paul explores more of the characteristics of the Law, unregenerate man’s struggle with sin and the blessings of regeneration through which God sets us free. First, Paul speaks of himself as he would have been prior to the Law. Then, he views his state as he was while serving the Law even to persecuting believers. At the end of chapter 7, he transitions to the view of his regenerated, born again, status and in chapter 8 he applies the blessings of sanctification to all who have been born again to new life in Christ Jesus.
But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. …
Therefore did that which is good /the Law become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. …
Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:8, 13, 24-25
Concluding the bondages of the old self with that ray-of-hope, Paul elaborates on how the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the law of sin and death. He then encourages us to live a sanctified life while looking forward to the Day Jesus resurrects or regenerates us and gives us a glorified body.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you. Romans 8:1-11RSV
We don’t have to live according to the flesh. If by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the body, we live. We can do it, for we are sons of God. We didn’t receive the spirit of slaves to make us feel afraid; we received the Spirit of adoption, Who moves us to call, “Abba! Father!” Paul tells the blessings and obligations of salvation.
So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh–for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:12-17 RSV
We look forward to being glorified. In the mean time, the whole creation groans in travail as a mother in child birth and we groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies. The Holy Spirit is our first taste of life in the world to come and the Spirit intercedes for us with.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:18-27
We, with creation, look forward to being glorified with Jesus at the regeneration. We can do this with confidence, for God has called, justified and glorified us.
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
“For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:28-39 RSV
What does God glorified us mean here? We know it doesn’t mean He gave us a glorified body. We await the redemption of our body. Some say it means we will be glorified, but that’s not how the Scripture states it. God has regenerated us and given us the earnest of the Spirit as we await glorification, not only for ourselves but for all God’s creation.
God has glorified us in the sense that He has made us the temple of the Holy Spirit. “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16)?
God has glorified us in the sense that His Spirit and His glory rests on us. “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Peter 4:14).
The Word doesn’t say we are changed from nothing to glory; rather, we reflect the Lord’s glory and are changed from glory to glory to be like Him. “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. And all of us, reflecting the Lord’s glory in our unveiled faces, are changed from glory to glory to be like Him, as we expect it from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
After sin, Adam and Eve were without God’s glory and knew they were naked. In the kingdom to come, God will clothe us with His glory. Having put on our glorified body, we will not be found naked.
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 2 Corinthians 5:1-5
Through the blessings of the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Spirit, God has made us new and clean and able to enter the kingdom that is. At the final regeneration, the Lord Jesus Christ will give us a glorified body and God our Father will give us the kingdom that is to come.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. Philippians 3:20-21
4 Knowing God
I know whom I have believed. 2 Timothy 1:12 KJV
Can we know God? Yes! The God who created the heavens and the earth and loved the world so much He gave His only begotten Son says, “Come. Get to know me.”
Shortly before Jesus was crucified, He told His disciples about knowing God.
“I go to prepare a place for you. And when I have gone and prepared a place for you, I’ll come again and take you home with Me so you’ll be where I am. You know the way to the place where I’m going.”
“Lord, we don’t know where You’re going,” Thomas said to Him. “So how can we know the way?”
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” Jesus answered him. “No one comes to the Father except by Me. If you have learned to know Me, you’ll know My Father too. From now on you know Him and have seen Him.” John 14:6-7
About 50 years later, John wrote:
Dear friends, let us love one another because love comes from God and everyone who loves is God’s child and knows God. He who doesn’t love hasn’t learned to know God, because God is love. God has shown us His love by sending His only-begotten Son into the world for us to live through Him. This is love, not that we loved god but that He loved us and sent His Son to pay for our sins. Dear friends, if that’s how God loved us, then we should love one another. Nobody has ever seen God. If we love one another, God lives in us, and His love has accomplished in us what He wants. This is how we know we live in Him and He in us: He has given us some of His Spirit.
His love has accomplished what He wants when we can look ahead confidently to the Day of Judgment because we are what He is in this world. Such love isn’t terrified, but the finest love throws out terror. We are terrified by punishment, and if we’re terrified, our love isn’t at its best.
We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he’s a liar. If anyone doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen, he can’t love God whom he hasn’t seen. And this is the order He gave us: If you love God, love your brother. 1 John 4:7-21
Since God is Spirit, we can’t see Him with our natural eyes or hear Him with our natural ears. So, God sent His Spirit to enlighten the eyes of our hearts and ears to hear. The Holy Spirit reveals Jesus and Jesus reveals the Father and we believe in God and get to know Him by obeying our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
But God, who is rich in mercy, loved us with such a great love. He made us who were dead in sins alive with Christ. [You are saved by a gift of His grace.] And since we are in Christ Jesus, He raised us with Him and had us sit with Him in heaven to show in the coming ages the immeasurable riches of His love by being kind to us in Christ Jesus. You are saved by a gift of grace which you get by faith. You didn’t do it. It is God’s gift. It isn’t because of anything you have done, or you might boast. He has made us what we are, creating us in Christ Jesus to do good works, in which God long ago planned for us to live. Ephesians 2:4-10
That short portion of God’s Word tells us how we can know God. God made us alive in the realm of the Spirit. He created us in Christ Jesus. By His grace He saved us and gave us faith. God’s Word is inspired by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit helps us get to know Him. Thus, we trust God and place our reliance in Him. God pours His love into our hearts and we love Him and if we love God we obey Him and we know we know God if we obey Him.
Man’s deep seated longing to know God leads people to all kinds of ideas. Many are outright error. Is the God we believe in like Santa Clause? Is He a figment of an altered state of mind? Is He like the god of the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses or the New Age adherents? Is He a feel good about yourself in your depraved state kind of god, an anything goes type of god? Is He a god to whom all roads lead?
Paul urges us to stick with sound doctrine and stay away from strange teachings(Romans 16:17). What he and the other apostles taught is summarized in statements of belief. The firm, unwavering proclamation of what they taught is summarized in the Apostles Creed, which originated with the apostles and was formally written and endorsed about 300 years after Jesus ascended into heaven. Its purpose was to thwart contrary views threatening the faith. This declaration of what they believed cut through erroneous teachings of that day as it does to this day. Believers in liturgical churches speak it forth. This is what I believe.
The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Like the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed is a statement of belief. It was composed and adopted not many years after the Apostles Creed to unequivocally declare Jesus is God. This proclamation emphasizing the divinity of Jesus is based on sound doctrine.
The Nicene Creed
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
These Creeds are not in the Bible, but they are biblical. They summarize the essence of the gospel of the kingdom. If more believers knew, confessed and believed them, fewer believers would go off into never never la la land and more believers would get to know God better.
How little children come to know God
Children raised by godly parents are greatly blessed. It is natural for children to love and trust their parents. Children who are loved and secure trust the teaching of their parents about Jesus Christ. Jesus says we must become like children to enter the kingdom of God.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is really the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child and had him stand in front of them. “I tell you the truth,” He said to them, “if you don’t change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. If you become humble like this little child, you are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And if you welcome a child like this in my name, you welcome me.”
“If anyone leads into sin one of these little ones who believe in Me, it would be better for him to have a big millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the lake where it’s deep. Woe to the world because it tempts people to sin! Temptations to sin must come, but woe to that man who tempts others to sin!” Matthew 18:1-7
Let’s pause and reflect on this for a bit. In the setting, Jesus was speaking to Jews. He called a little child from their midst. Although God loves and would have urchins come to Him, this child was not a rebellious urchin. The child was humble. God-fearing parents had raised this child. Jews spoke highly of God to their children and spoke godly blessings to them at least weekly in their own homes during their observance of the Sabbath. They also taught their little children about the good and bad behavior of the people of Israel and encouraged and disciplined them to choose good behavior. So, this little child knew about God, knew his or her heritage and honored, trusted and obeyed his or her parents.
Little children are curious, open to new ideas, have a very active imagination and are creative. They trust and obey their parents. Jesus said “these little ones who believe in me.” He also said, “if you don’t change.” When we are converted, we change and become like humble and obedient little children and enter the kingdom of God and come to know Him.
God our Father helps us get to know Him through our natural heritage and roots. His love builds families. He loves us in and through our natural families and connected families. The very words, family and patriotism are derived from the Greek word “pater.” Pater is translated Father and patria as family or clan. Paul says our Pater in heaven is the Pater from whom every group on heaven and earth gets the name patria. As we live as His children, we get to know Him better.
For this reason I kneel before the ‘Father’ from whom every group in heaven and on earth gets the name of ‘family’ and ask Him, as He is rich in glory, to give you this; that His Spirit will inwardly strengthen you with power, Christ will live in your hearts by faith, and you will be firmly rooted and built up in love, so that you and all the holy people can grasp how broad and long and high and deep love is, and know how Christ loves us—more than we can know–and so you will be filled with all that is in God. Now to Him who by the power working in us can do far, far more than anything we ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all ages forever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21
Timothy was blessed with a mother and grandmother who knew God. Paul wrote to him, “I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5).
From my earliest recollection, I have known the Lord. I was extraordinarily blessed because I was born to parents who knew our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My Missouri Synod Lutheran parents started and ended each day with family prayer. We went to Church every Sunday. Mom and dad often spoke highly of God to one another and to my three sisters and brother. What they believed took. I could feel God’s love through the gentle touch and hugs of my mother. I could see my heavenly Father’s character through my earthly father’s character, especially his reverence of God and reliance on the Bible for the truth. Even though I couldn’t say what it was then, I could feel God’s love pour into my heart by His Spirit. I especially felt wonderful joy when singing hymn praises and praying. God conveyed His love to me through my parents, siblings and extended family. It felt real good to know God.
From my observations, I think the majority of believers came to believe in the Lord by believing the gospel their parents taught them in word and deed. An ad hock survey I observed bears this out. One time around the year 2000, Judy and I were at a conference in Colorado Springs with about 4,000 fired up believers. The speaker asked for a show of hands on how they first believed, or got saved. Was in through the gospel Billy Graham preached at one of his crusades? About 10 hands came up. Was it at any other kind of Christian Crusade or Conference? About 10 hands came up. Was it by hearing the gospel your pastor preached? About 100 more hands came up. Was it by being led to the Lord by someone you knew other than your parents? Around 500 hands came up. Was it by believing the gospel one or both of your parents taught? About 3,000 hands came up.
My wife, Judy, was not as blessed. She was born and raised by a mother who didn’t want to be a Lutheran and a father who did. She was baptized Lutheran as an infant and confirmed after taking confirmation classes. She had studied the Bible and the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed in these classes and knew about God. In 1965, we were married in the Lutheran Church in which she was confirmed.
In 1973, Judy came to know the Lord. When she shares how she got saved, she says it started with seeing I was not afraid of death and she was. She wasn’t afraid of physical death. She was afraid of eternal spiritual death. Judy decided to take a Bible class to find out about God. There were no openings. But, there was an opening in the Kennedy Evangelism Explosion group in our Lutheran Church. She joined it. She studied and discussed the material. In a few weeks, she came to know the Lord. We raised our children to know the Lord.
The way Judy came to the Lord illustrates two things. Knowledge of scripture is not the same as believing in and knowing God and it is hard for adults to come to know the Lord. Some don’t even want to see or hear about God. Many of those who get saved never come to know the Lord. Those of us who are blessed to know God love, trust and obey Him.
How adults come to know God
Adults come to know God by hearing the gospel of the kingdom, believing in Jesus, being converted and obeying God. By hearing, the Bible means to read or hear and accept what Jesus says and what the Bible states. By His grace, God enables unbelievers to come to know Him through even a small piece of the gospel of the kingdom.
The parable of the sower and the seed gives us the big picture. In this parable, Jesus is the sower and the seed is the gospel of the kingdom. In the economy of the kingdom, the sower spreads the seed around liberally. Much of it is wasted. Jesus shows us four types of reception to the gospel of the kingdom. In the first two, the seed is wasted. In the third, the seed takes and the plant grows but doesn’t produce. In the forth type of reception, seed that takes hold in good ground produces 100, 60, 30 times as much as was sown. Jesus builds His Church through this kind of multiplication.
The people who come to know God are the fourth type. They obey and they produce more seed. There is a lot of meat in this parable for us believers as well as unbelievers to consider. In it, we find the essence of knowing God.
That same day Jesus left the house and sat down by the Sea of Galilee. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat. He sat in the boat while the entire crowd stood on the shore. Then he used stories as illustrations to tell them many things. He said,
“Listen! A farmer went to plant seed. Some seeds were planted along the road, and birds came and devoured them. Other seeds were planted on rocky ground, where there was little soil. The plants sprouted quickly because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, they were scorched. They withered because their roots weren’t deep enough. Other seeds were planted among thornbushes, and the thornbushes grew up and choked them. But other seeds were planted on good ground and produced grain. They produced one hundred, sixty, or thirty times as much as was planted. Let the person who has ears listen!’
‘The disciples asked him, “Why do you use stories as illustrations when you speak to people?”
Jesus answered, “Knowledge about the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you. But it has not been given to the crowd. Those who understand these mysteries will be given more knowledge, and they will excel in understanding them. However, some people don’t understand these mysteries. Even what they understand will be taken away from them. This is why I speak to them this way. They see, but they’re blind. They hear, but they don’t listen. They don’t even try to understand. So they make Isaiah’s prophecy come true:”
“You will hear clearly but never understand. You will see clearly but never comprehend. These people have become close-minded and hard of hearing. They have shut their eyes so that their eyes never see. Their ears never hear. Their minds never understand. And they never return to me for healing!”
“Blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear. I can guarantee this truth: Many prophets and many of God’s people longed to see what you see but didn’t see it, to hear what you hear but didn’t hear it.”
“Listen to what the story about the farmer means. Someone hears the word about the kingdom but doesn’t understand it. The evil one comes at once and snatches away what was planted in him. This is what the seed planted along the road illustrates. The seed planted on rocky ground is the person who hears the word and accepts it at once with joy. Since he doesn’t have any root, he lasts only a little while. When suffering or persecution comes along because of the word, he immediately falls from faith. The seed planted among thornbushes is another person who hears the word. But the worries of life and the deceitful pleasures of riches choke the word so that it can’t produce anything. But the seed planted on good ground is the person who hears and understands the word. This type produces crops. They produce one hundred, sixty, or thirty times as much as was planted.” Matthew 13:1-23
Jesus explains “the word about the kingdom.” We can learn a lot by considering the four types of reception by people who hear the gospel of the kingdom. First are those who hear but don’t understand. Next are those in whom the Word doesn’t take root. They believe as long as it is convenient. As soon as the Word brings them trouble or persecution, they stop believing. Next are those overtaken by the worries of the world and the deceitful pleasure of riches. Finally we come to those who continue to hear and understand the Word and so go on producing good things. These know the Lord.
Seed planted along the road—God have mercy. Some people are so hard-hearted they can’t respond to the gospel of the kingdom. It’s no wonder some don’t understand. We give the evil one plenty of ways to snatch what was planted in them.
In the first place, what is planted is primarily a watered down version of the gospel of salvation. It may contain a pitifully portion of the gospel of the kingdom. Very little of the gospel of the kingdom is taught and most Christians are scripturally illiterate.
Second, pagans are turned off by Christians living like pagans. Tolerance of sin in our midst makes it hard for pagans to hear the gospel of the kingdom. It obfuscates the need for a Savior. It is no wonder unbelievers can’t see any reason to believe in the anything goes and all ways lead to god.
Third, many people don’t understand the gospel of the kingdom because they are affronted, alienated and confused and by judgmental and legalistic Christians. Such Christians on the one hand say, “Jesus loves you.” On the other hand their attitude says, “Your actions are evil, you are evil and you are on the road to hell. Have a great life.”
Seed planted on rocky ground—Those in whom the Word doesn’t take root because the soil is shallow only believe as long as it is convenient. As soon as the Word brings them trouble or persecution, they stop believing Jesus didn’t mince words when He said people would fall away when trouble and persecution came (Matthew 24).
The believers of the first three centuries were scorned, distained, abused, persecuted, crucified, thrown to lions and used for torches. Many fell away under duress as many do today. Thank God for those in whom the gospel of the took and who continued believing.
Seed planted among thornbushes—Thornbushes abound in the world. “The seed planted among thornbushes is another person who hears the word. But the worries of life and the deceitful pleasures of riches choke the word so that it can’t produce anything.” When the Word is choked, we do it our way and become useless and unproductive in the kingdom of God.
Seed planted on good ground—Last, Jesus tells us about those who continue to hear and understand the gospel of the kingdom and so go on producing good things. Those that stuck with the Lord produced 100, 60, 30 times as much as was sown. By 313 AD, early believers had evangelized the people of the Roman Empire. Around 20 million believers were loyal and faithful to Messiah Jesus. Jesus builds His Church through this kind of multiplication.
When the Word is productive in our lives, we are faithful and loyal to King Jesus and adopt His way. As the Word takes hold in our lives, we get to know God better and better and we become more useful and productive in the kingdom of God. Our hearts are soft, not hard like a road. Our love is deep, not shallow. Troubles and persecution will not deter us from following Messiah Jesus. By the Holy Spirit the gospel of the kingdom takes root and motivates us. The worries and cares of the world and the deceit of riches are impotent in our lives and do not choke the Word. We obey Jesus commands because we love Him and we live in His love.
Our obedience is a sure sign we know Christ. John reveals we know we know Christ when we obey Him.
We are sure that we know Christ if we obey his commandments. The person who says, “I know him,” but doesn’t obey his commandments is a liar. The truth isn’t in that person. But whoever obeys what Christ says is the kind of person in whom God’s love is perfected. That’s how we know we are in Christ. Those who say that they live in him must live the same way he lived. 1 John 2:3-6
Jesus had a kingdomview. He got it from His Father. He walked on this earth, gave us the example with His life and preached the kingdom from the beginning to the end of His earthly ministry. He proclaimed much of His worldview in Sermon on the Mount, in parables and in the commissioning of His disciples and asked His Father to send the Holy Spirit to help us get it.
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—the Five Books of Moses present the Old Testament worldview. Jesus sums up His kingdomview in five central messages in Mathew:
- The Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)
- The commissioning, Jesus sends out the 12 (Matthew 10)
- 8 Parables of the Kingdom (Matthew 13)
- Interpersonal relationships (Matthew 18)
- Prophetic insight for preparation (Matthew 24-25)
Jesus exhorts and encourages His hearers, including us, to see the kingdom, orient our hearts to the kingdom, receive the blessing of the kingdom and do the works of the kingdom. These messages are core gospel of the kingdom scripture and with all God’s Word are profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction unto righteousness.
Both John the Baptist and Jesus introduced the gospel of the kingdom by exhorting their hearers to repent. “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). What did that mean to the hearers? What does it mean to us?
I found a great explanation of repentance in a book written by Albert Schweitzer and published in German in 1905: The Mystery of the Kingdom of God—The secret of Jesus’ Messiahship and passion, A. & C. Black, LTD., London 1925.
Albert was a noted scientist who also had a doctorate in theology. The following quote is from the English translation published in 1925. The words don’t flow as smooth as those originated in English but Schweitzer’s definition and explanation of repentance is excellent.
Jesus taught repentance as a preparation for the coming of the Kingdom. … It [repentance] is not merely a recovery which stands in retrospective relation with a sinful condition in the past, but also—it is a moral renewal in the prospect of the accomplishment of universal perfection in the future.
Schweitzer goes on to explain repentance in expectation of the coming kingdom is “moral renovation in the prospect of the Day of the Lord.” He presents an example from the following prophesy from Isaiah.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Isaiah 1:16-17 RSV
He explains further,
It is precisely this Old Testament conception of repentance, with its emphasis upon the new moral life, which one must have in mind in order to understand aright the Synoptical repentance. Both have a forward vision, both are dominated by the thought of a condition of perfection which God will bring to pass through the Judgment. This, in the Prophetic view, is the Day of the Lord; in the synoptic it is the dawn of the Kingdom. pages 94-97
I like Schweitzer’s insight. He does use some $40.00 dollar words but provides the additional meaning inherent in repentance—moral renewal. Both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant have a forward vision of perfection that motivates righteous behavior—repentance in expectation of the Kingdom. That insight will help us understand and apply Jesus’ Word.
Just after John the Baptist was imprisoned; Jesus went up a mountain near the Lake of Galilee in early summer and taught His disciples and a multitude the relational character of the kingdom in what is called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). This Sermon is one of the ways He fulfilled His mission to tell the poor the good news, to announce freedom to prisoners and sight to the blind, to free those who are broken down (Luke 4:18).
His audience was primarily Jews. They were poor in possessions and in spirit, prisoners, blind and broken down, far from God and His purpose for them. God had Moses announce their purpose at Mount Sinai: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to Me. And now, if you will listen closely to Me and keep My covenant, among all the nations you will be a treasure to Me although the whole world is mine. You will be a kingdom of priests and a holy people to Me. Tell Israel that” (Exodus 19:4-6). They were to be salt and light among all the nations.
Jesus reminded His audience of Jews of their mission, urged moral renewal and reaffirmed their hope for universal perfection in the future.
One of the reasons I write is to help us see we can live the way Jesus proclaimed on the Mount. God our Father has created us to be to the praise of His glory. We can be His way because of what God has done and is doing. By the Spirit, we can follow Jesus and adopt the Beatitudes. When we do, our attitudes and actions reflect kingdom relationship with Messiah Jesus. He laid down His life for us. He is the Lamb upon the throne. He is the Good Shepherd. He leaves it up to us to follow Him or not.
Message I—The Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)
Jesus began this Sermon with the Beatitudes.
- Blessed are those who are poor in spirit—they have the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are those who mourn—they will be comforted.
- Blessed are those who are gentle—they will own the land.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst to be righteous—they will be satisfied.
- Blessed are those who are merciful—they will find mercy.
- Blessed are those whose hearts are pure—they will see God.
- Blessed are those who make peace—they will be called God’s sons.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing right—they have the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, lie and tell only evil about you on account of Me. Rejoice and be glad because you have a great reward in heaven. That’s how they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:3-12
Years ago, I heard Jill Jackson aptly describe the root of the barriers to fellowship with God and one another as the Me Attitudes. In the Beatitudes, Messiah Jesus is telling us how it is in the kingdom of God. We are to undergo moral renewal and adopt the Be Attitudes of the kingdom, but we’ve got a lot of Me Attitudes of our old nature.
In the vernacular of the culture of the world, some say the Beatitudes and Sermon are a value system. Some go so far as to call them part of a Christian value system. Think about this. A value system is man made. It carries the idea we decide for ourselves how to live. The teachings of Jesus are not a value system. We didn’t think them up. They stand as a declaration of how it is in the kingdom of God, whether we agree with them or not. We are to be loyal and faithful to Messiah Jesus and live just as He lived. Pagans settle for value systems and follow their own way. Believers have Jesus’ kingdomview and follow Jesus as King.
With the Beatitudes, Messiah Jesus introduced the kingdomview and the heart we should have as His disciples. We should feel as poor as the destitute rather than rich in our own moral power to serve God. Jesus says the poor have the kingdom of God. We have pondered how this can be. In Romans, Paul graphically showed us how to mourn over our wretched sinful state prior to God saving us. But he didn’t stay in that state. Rather, he was comforted by God’s grace and encouraged to look forward to the things that are to come. In Thessalonians, He told us about gentleness and meekness. “Blessed are the meek,” as the KJV puts it. Paul characterized himself like a mother nursing her child and like a father urging his children to live worthy of God. We would do well to read and do our utmost to adopt all of the Beatitudes in our hearts.
Explaining the implementation of the Beatitudes, Jesus begins His Sermon by encouraging His hearers, including us, to be salty salt and light on a lampstand—righteous.
Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the world. If salt loses its taste, how will it be made salty again? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by people.”
“You are the light of the world. A town can’t be hid when it’s built on a hill. And you don’t light a lamp and put it under the peck measure but on the lampstand, where it gives light to everybody in the house. So let your light shine before people that they may see the good you do and praise your Father in heaven.”
Schweitzer wrote: “The new morality, which detects the spirit beneath the letter of the Law, makes one meet for the Kingdom of God.” He is on the right track about the spirit beneath the letter of the Law. But it is not what makes one meet for the kingdom of God. God makes us meet for the kingdom. We considered how God brings us into His kingdom in the preceding chapters of this book. The Law motivates people to think up ways to get around it. The Spirit makes us alive to God, able to see the spiritual intent behind the Law and empowered to live righteous.
Matthew 5:17-21 “Don’t think that I came to set aside the Law or the prophets. I didn’t come to set them aside but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, till heaven and earth pass away, not an i or the dot of an i of the Law will pass away till everything is done. Anyone, then who sets aside one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But anyone who does and teaches what they say will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness is much better than that of the Bible scholars and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:21-26 “You have heard that long ago the people were told: ‘Don’t murder. Whoever murders must answer for it in court.”
“But I tell you, anyone who is angry with his brother must answer for it in court. Anyone who calls his brother an ‘empty-head’ must go before the highest court. Anyone who calls him a ‘fool’ must go into hellfire.”
“So if you’re bringing your gift to the altar and remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First make up with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
“If someone wants to sue you, be quick to make up with him while you are still on the way with him, or your accuser will hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will be put in prison. I tell you the truth, you will never get out until you pay the last cent.”
Matthew 5:27-32 “You have heard it was said: ‘Don’t commit adultery.’
“But I tell you, anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose a part of your body than to have all of it thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose a part of your body than to have all of it go to hell.”
“It was said: ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a divorce paper.’ But I tell you, anyone who divorces his wife, except for her being sexually unfaithful, makes her a partner in adultery. And also the man who marries the divorced woman is living in adultery.”
Matthew 5:33-37 “Again, you have heard that long ago the people were told: ‘Don’t make false promises.”
“But I tell you, don’t swear at all, not by heaven—it is God’s throne; or by the earth—it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem—it is the city of the great King. And don’t swear by your head, because you can’t make one hair white or black. Just say, ‘Yes, yes; no, no.’ Anything more comes from the evil one.”
Matthew 5:38-48 “You have heard it was said: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’
“But I tell you, don’t oppose an evil man. If anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other cheek to him. If anyone wants to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat too. If anyone makes you go one mile, go two miles with him. If anyone asks you for anything, give it to him, and when anyone wants to borrow from you, don’t turn away.”
“You have heard it was said: ‘Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.”
“But I tell you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way you will show you are sons of your Father in heaven. He makes His sun rise on people whether they are bad or good and lets rain fall on them whether they do right or wrong.
“If you love those who love you, what’s your reward? Don’t tax collectors do that too? If you treat only your brother kindly, are you doing anything extraordinary? Don’t the people of the world do that too? Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Jesus had very strong words for the religious leaders of the Jews because they were more concerned with building their own reputation than pleasing the Lord. Here He is addressing the multitude and has given them the beattitudes. Thus, they can see pleasing the Father is much more than Pharisaical show and blow. We who trust in Messiah Jesus and love and obey Him can see, understand and apply what He says. Christians who are not born again can’t unless they come to repentance and apply all of John 3, especially, “If anyone isn’t born from above, he can’t see God’s kingdom.”
Matthew 6:1-4“Be careful not to do your good works before people to be seen by them. If you do, your Father in heaven will not reward you. So when you give to the poor, don’t blow your horn, as hypocrites do in the synagogs and on the streets to be praised by people. I tell you, that’s really all the reward they’ll get. When you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your giving may be secret. Then your Father, who sees what is secret, will reward you.”
Matthew 6:5-15 “When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites, who like to stand praying in synagogs and on street corners in order to be seen by people. I tell you, that’s really all the reward they’ll get. But when you pray, go into your own room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is with you when you’re alone, and your Father, who sees what is secret, will reward you.
“When you pray, don’t say meaningless words, like pagans, who think they’ll be heard if they talk a lot.
“This is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven—May Your name be kept holy. Your kingdom come, and Your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t bring us into temptation. But deliver us from evil. You are the King who rules with power and glory forever. Amen.”
“If you forgive the sins of others, your Father in heaven will forgive you. But if you don’t forgive the sins of others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Matthew 6:16-18“When you fast, don’t look sad like hypocrites. They disfigure their faces to show people they are fasting. I tell you, that’s really all the reward they’ll get. But when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that nobody will see you fasting except your Father, who is with you when you’re alone. And your Father, who sees what is secret, will reward you.”
Saints, sanctified, holy ones read what Jesus tells us about money. A lot of money causes more grief than a lack of money. I can say that because my wife and I live in between. If we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, money becomes a tool, not a goal.
Matthew 6:19-24 “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy them and thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where no moth or rust destroys them and no thieves break in and steal.”
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.”
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, you have light for your whole body. But if your eye is bad, you whole body will be dark. How dark it is when the light in you is dark!”
“Nobody can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other or be loyal to the one and despise the other. You can’t serve God and money.”
Matthew 6:25-34 “So I tell you, don’t worry about what you’ll eat or drink to keep alive or what you’ll wear on your bodies. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”
“Look at the birds in the air. They don’t sow or cut grain or gather anything into barns; but your Father in heaven feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?”
“And why worry about clothes? See how the flowers grow in the field, and learn from them. They don’t work and they don’t spin. Yet, I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory didn’t dress like one of th4eses. If that’s how God dresses the grass in the field, which lives today and tomorrow is thrown into a stove, how much more certainly will He put clothes on you—you who trust Him so little?”
“Don’t worry, then, and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or, ‘What are we going to wear?’ The people of the world run after all these things. Your Father in heaven knows you need them all. Strive above all to live under God’s rule and according to His righteousness, and you’ll get all these other things too.”
“So, don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Jesus comes down hard on judging others. The measure we use will be used for us. If we judge with malice, envy and hatred and exact punishment, we are in big trouble. On the other hand, we are to judge righteous judgement (John 5:30; 7:24). Right here in this sermon Jesus tells us to exercise righteous judgment. We are to see evil in people and avoid it, not punish them. We are to see clearly enough to take the splinter out of our brothers eye (7:5) and judge if someone is a dog or a swine (Matthew 7:6) or a falses prophet (7:15) by what they do (7:16).
Matthew 7:1-5 “Don’t judge, so that you will not be judged. The way you judge others, you’ll be judged, and the measure you measure with will be used for you.
“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you have that log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first throw the log out of your own eye. Then you’ll see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:6“Don‘t give anything holy to the dogs or throw your pearls to the pigs, or they’ll trample them under their feet and then turn and tear you to pieces.”
Our Father in heaven loves us and wants us to pray for what we need, obey the Golden Rule and go through the narrow gate.
Matthew 7:7-11“Ask, and it will be given to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Anyone who asks receives; anyone who searches finds; and anyone who knocks, the door will be opened for him.”
“If your son asks you for bread, will any of you give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish; will you give him a snake? Now if you, bad as you are, know enough to give your children good gifts, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?”
Matthew 7:12“Do for others everything you want them to do for you. That is the Law and the prophets.”
Matthew 7:13-14“Go through the narrow gate. The gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction and many are going that way. But the gate is small, and the way is narrow, that leads to life, and only a few are finding it.”
Matthew 7:15-23 “Beware of false prophets. They come to you dressed like sheep, but in their hearts they’re greedy wolves.”
“You will know them by what they do. Can we pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? No, every good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, or a bad tree good fruit. Any tree that doesn’t bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you will know them by what they do.”
“Not everyone who calls Me Lord, Lord, will get into the kingdom of heaven, only he who does what My Father in heaven wants. Many will say to Me on that Day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out devils in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will tell them frankly, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you who are so busy doing wrong.”
In conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains His intent in sharing His kingdomview. He was showing the multitude and us how to build a solid foundation for life.
Matthew 7:24-29 “Anyone who hears and does what I say is like a man who had the sense to build his house on a rock. The torrents came, the winds blew, and they dashed against that house. But it didn’t go down, because its foundation was on the rock.”
“Everyone who hears what I say but doesn’t do it is like a man who was so foolish he built his house on sand. The rains poured down, the torrents came, the winds blew, and it went down with a big crash.”
When Jesus finished speaking, the crowds were amazed at His teaching. He taught them with authority and not like their Bible scholars.
Message 2 The commissioning, Jesus sends out the 12 (Matthew 10)
When Jesus sent out the 12, He gave them authority. With that, He gave them specific instructions answering who, what, where, why and how for their itinerant teaching mission and signs and wonders ministry. He concluded with a statement of the dire consequences in store for anyone who doesn’t welcome His servants or listen to the gospel of the kingdom. As we read this, we see how it is in kingdom work. As we ponder it, we find applications in our own lives.
Matthew 10:1-15 Jesus called His twelve disciples and gave them authority to drive out unclean spirits and heal every disease and sickness.
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, Zebedee’s son, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas, the man from Kerioth, who betrayed Him.
Jesus sent these twelve out with the following instructions: “Don’t go among the Gentiles or into any town of the Samaritans. But go to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach, ‘The kingdom of heaven is here.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out devils. Give these things as you received them—without pay.”
“Don’t take any gold, silver, or copper money along in your pockets, and no bag for the way. Don’t take two tunics, or shoes or a stick—a worker earns his keep.”
“When you go into any town or village, look for a person there who is deserving, and stay with him till you leave. When you go into a home, greet it. If the home is deserving, let your peace come on it. But if it’s unworthy, let your peace come back to you. If anyone doesn’t welcome you or listen to what you say, leave that house or town and shake the dust off your feet. I tell you the truth, on Judgment Day it will be easier for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”
Jesus instructed the 12 to preach, “The kingdom of heaven is here.” The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are synonymous. The Jews had a reverent fear of uttering the name, “God.” So they substituted “heaven” to convey the meaning. Matthew followed this protocol.
Next in the commissioning, Jesus gives His disciples a broader view with a realistic appraisal of the adversity and the adversary they will face; then encourages them. He tells them, “don’t worry” the Holy Spirit will help you. He concludes with, “Let me assure you, before you have gone through all the towns of Israel, the Son of Man will come.” He came at His resurrection from the dead, at Pentecost and at the judgment of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and He will come on the Last Day.
Matthew 10:16-23 “You see, I’m sending you like sheep among wolves. So be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves. Be on your guard against men, because they’ll hand you over to their courts and whip you in their places of worship. On My account you’ll be dragged before governors and kings to testify to them and to the nations. But when they hand you over to the authorities, don’t worry how you’ll speak or what you’ll say. When the time comes, you’ll be told what to say. It isn’t you speaking but your Father’s Spirit speaking through you.”
“A brother will betray his brother to death, and a father his child. Children will turn against their parents and kill them. Everybody will hate you because of My name. But be faithful to the end, and you will be saved. When they hunt you in one town, flee to another. Let Me assure you, before you have gone through all the towns of Israel, the Son of Man will come.”
Last in the commissioning, Jesus tells His disciples, “don’t be afraid,” … “don’t be afraid of those who kill the body and can’t kill the soul.” He encourages them by giving eternal perspective to keep going when the going gets tough. He concludes with, “Anyone who will give one of these little ones just a cup of cold water because he is My disciple, I tell you, will certainly not lose his reward.”
Matthew 10:24-42 “A pupil isn’t above his teacher, or a slave above his master. A pupil should be satisfied to share his teacher’s lot and a slave to share his master’s. If the master of the house was called Beelzebul, how much more certainly the members of his household! So, don’t be afraid of them.”
“All that’s covered will be uncovered, and all that’s hidden will be known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight: and what you hear whispered in your ear, preach from the housetops. Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body and can’t kill the soul, but fear Him who can destroy soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a cent? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission. As for you, even the hairs on your head are all counted. So don’t be afraid. You’re worth more than many sparrows. Whoever will confess Me before other people, him will I confess before My Father in heaven. Whoever will deny Me before others, him will I deny before My Father in heaven.”
“Don’t think that I came to bring peace to the earth. I didn’t come to bring peace but a sword. I came to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those in his own home. If you love father or mother more than Me, you’re not worthy of Me; and if you love son or daughter more than Me, you’re not worthy of Me. If you don’t take your cross and follow Me, you’re not worthy of Me. If you find your life, you’ll lose it, but if you lose your life for Me, you’ll find it.”
“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes Me; and anyone who welcomes Me welcomes Him who sent Me. Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will get a prophet’s reward. Anyone who welcomes a righteous man because he is righteous will get a righteous man’s reward. Anyone who will give one of these little ones just a cup of cold water because he is My disciple, I tell you, will certainly not lose his reward.”
Message 3—Eight Parables of the Kingdom (Matthew 13)
Jesus proclaimed the Sermon on the Mount near the Lake of Galilee, near Capernaum. Now, from a boat in the Lake of Galilee He brings a message to the multitude and to His disciples. As we saw in the previous chapter on Knowing God, the seed planted was the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 13:1-23). In the middle of this first of eight parables, Jesus told His disciples: “You are given the privilege to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven,” He answered, “but it isn’t given to the others” (Matthew 13:11).
The secrets or mysteries of the kingdom of heaven were not readily apparent to the Jews because they only had Old Testament perspective and they didn’t have the Holy Spirit in them or upon them. None were new, born again, creatures. After Jesus presented the parable of the sower, the disciples asked Him to explain. “You don’t understand this parable,” He said to them. “Then how will you understand any parables” (Mark 4:13). Then He proceeded to explain the parable, which He also did for the next parable—the wheat and the tares. When He told seven of the parables, He asked His disciples, “Do you understand all this?”
“Yes,” they answered.
With that, Jesus gave the disciples the eighth parable. “And so every Bible student trained for the kingdom of heaven,” He told them, “is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new things and old” (Matthew 13:51-52).
When we believe the gospel of the kingdom, we have the huge and precious advantage of being filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit opens the eyes of our hearts to the kingdom and opens what Jesus told to our understanding. Thus, we can store up treasure from both the Old and the New Testament. Like a householder, we can go get it, bring it out and put it to good use. With that perspective, we will consider the remaining six parables of the kingdom we find in Matthew 13.
Matthew 13:24-30 Jesus pictured it to them another way: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while people were sleeping his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. When the wheat came up and formed kernels, then the weeds showed up too.”
The owner’s slaves came to him and asked him, “Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?”
“Do you want us to go and pull them out?” the slaves asked him.
“No,” He said, “if you pull out the weeds, you may pull up the wheat with them. Let both grow together till the harvest. When the grain is cut, I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first, and tie them in bundles to be burned, but bring the wheat into my barn.”
In the first parable, Jesus spoke of seed as the gospel of the kingdom being sown and illustrated types of reception to it. Here Jesus differentiates between good seed and weed seed, between a man who sowed good seed and an enemy who sowed weeds, between wheat and weeds that look like wheat. God sends his rain on the just and the unjust. He lets his people and those who are not his people live on the earth. At the harvest, the weeds will be burned and the wheat taken into His barn—the new Jerusalem.
Matthew 13:31-32 He pictured it to them another way: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed a man took and sowed in his field. It’s the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown, it’s the largest of the garden plants: it becomes a tree big enough for the birds to come and nest in its branches.”
Jesus uses the illustration of a mustard seed to tell us the kingdom of God would start small but when it is grown it will be big. The kingdom of God started small with only Jesus on earth. From the day of Pentecost it grew rapidly. Within 250 years the Church in the kingdom grew to around 20 million believers. There are over 1 billion citizens of the kingdom living on earth today. How did this happen? How does a seed grow?
Matthew 13:33He pictured it to them another way: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast a woman took and mixed into a bushel of flour till it was all fermented.”
Just as yeast cannot be seen in flower dough we cannot see the kingdom with our natural eyes. Yet as the yeast permeates the dough the kingdom permeates the entire world.
Matthew 13:34-35 Jesus used parables to tell the crowds all these things. He wouldn’t tell them anything without a parable, so that what the prophet said would come true:
“I will open My mouth to speak in parables, I will tell what has been hidden since the world was made.”
Matthew 13:36-43 When Jesus had dismissed the people and gone into the house, His disciples came to Him and said, “Tell us what the parable of the weeds in the field means.”
“The sower who sows the good seed,” He answered, “is the Son of Man. The field is the world. The good seed are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world. The reapers are the angels. As the weeds are gathered and burned, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will take out of His kingdom those who do wrong and all who lead others to do wrong, and will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and grind their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. If you have ears, listen!”
The field is the world. Both the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the devil are allowed to grow together in the world until harvest. Then, the sons of the devil will be removed and the sons of the kingdom left behind—to shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom.
The sons of the devil are removed from the world. Those left behind are the righteous, not the wicked and unsaved as dispensationalists teach. Furthermore, this is picture of the judgment day, the Day of the Lord, not some interim step such as their rapture doctrine states. In the end, the righteous will live on the regenerated earth, not high in the sky in the great bye and bye forever and ever as dispensationists teach.
The deception of the dispensational doctrine is astounding. This doctrine denies Jesus is ruling as King right now and maintains that the gifts of the Spirit left when the 12 apostles died. It presents the dispensation of grace for gentiles and the Law for Jews as the alternative. Originators of this doctrine held that the Sermon on the Mount pertained to the kingdom of God to come and thus did not apply to Christians. Rather, it would apply to those left behind—the Jews and the wicked. Adherents hold that the kingdom will not begin until their doctrine of the Millennial Kingdom kicks in and Jesus begins ruling as King after they are raptured. In the mean time, the Church is all we have. Thus, they encourage people to forget the kingdom and just hang on until the rapture. Jesus didn’t. Rather, He encouraged us to find the kingdom.
Matthew 13:44 The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field. When a man found it, he buried it again and was so delighted with it he went and sold everything he had and bought that field.”
Discovering Jesus as the King who rules by the Spirit is treasure. The kingdom to come will be even more delightful. Both are worth everything we have. In this next parable, Jesus shows the kingdom is worth selling out for.
Matthew 13:45 “Here’s another picture of the kingdom of heaven: A dealer was looking for fine pearls. When he found a very expensive pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.”
The gospel of the kingdom isn’t good news for the wicked. Jesus didn’t minimize the final judgment or the agony of everlasting total separation from God.
Matthew 13:47-50 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake, and it gathered all kinds of fish. When it was full they pulled it on the shore, sat down, and picked out the good fish and put them in containers but threw the bad ones away. So it will be at the end of the world. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and grind their teeth.”
In the parable of good seed and weed seed, the sower told his servants to let the tares grow with the wheat, then be separated. In this parable Jesus uses the example of good fish and bad fish in the lake. God will have His angels separate the wicked from the righteous and throw the wicked into the fire.
Message 4—Interpersonal relationships (Matthew 18)
This message full of kingdom perspective and instructions was for the disciples and is for us. Later, Jesus gave these disciples as gifts to the Church as apostles. Seeing and relating with others in accord with this message was basic training for their future role. God has made all believers kin—His children and heirs. Here, Jesus tells us how to relate as kin. He calls us to righteous interpersonal relationships. May we all know and adopt His kingdom way.
Matthew 18:1-14 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is really the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child and had him stand in front of them. “I tell you the truth,” He said to them, “if you don’t change and become like little children, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven. If you become humble like this little child, you are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And if you welcome a child like this in My name, you welcome Me.”
“If anyone leads into sin one of these little ones who believe in Me, it would be better for him to have a big millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the lake where it’s deep. Woe to the world because it tempts people to sin! Temptations to sin must come, but woe to that man who tempts others to sin!
“If your hand or your foot makes you sin, cut if off and throw it away. It is better for you to go into life without one hand or one foot than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the everlasting fire. If your eye makes you sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to go into life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hellfire.”
“Be careful not to despise one of these little ones. I tell you their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father in heaven.”
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go and look for the sheep that’s wandering away? And if he finds it, I tell you he’s certainly more delighted with it than with the ninety-nine that didn’t get lost. So you Father in heaven doesn’t want one of these little ones to be lost!”
In our American culture, political correctness demands tolerance and inclusiveness. If we are truly tolerant, we overlook evil, sinful, hurtful behavior. If we are truly inclusive, we are big enough to accommodate any persuasion. Inclusiveness also means employers should look the other way on sexual preference. The world wants us to socially accept child molesters, murderers and terrorists.
Here, Jesus does not advocate tolerance. Rather, He says, “If your brother sins against you, go, and when you’re alone with him, show him how he is wrong.” A brother is a fellow believer. We take being hurt by pagans in stride. But when a believer sins against us it hurts. Jesus doesn’t say to ignore the hurt. Rather, we are to show the wrong and be willing to involve more people if necessary. Forgiveness is not optional.
Matthew 18:15-22 “If your brother sins against you, go, and when you’re alone with him, show him how he is wrong. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two with you so that you have two or three witnesses for everything. If he won’t listen to them, tell it to the church. But if he won’t even listen to the church, treat him like a pagan and a tax collector. I tell you the truth, whatever you don’t forgive on earth will not be forgiven in heaven, and whatever you forgive on earth will be forgiven in heaven.
“Again I tell you, if two of you here on earth agree to ask for anything, My Father in heaven will certainly do it for you. Where two or three have come together to be with Me, there I am among them.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked Him, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive my brother who sins against me? Seven times?”
“I tell you,” Jesus answered him, “not seven times but seventy times seven times.”
Because we sin, forgiveness is essential for harmonious relationships with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. This should not be taken lightly for there are both temporal and eternal consequences to unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is a basic sin. It along with other sins can be the cause of sickness. Basis gospel of the kingdom is God forgives and restores the repentant.
Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the Church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. James 5:14-15
Forgiveness is a big issue. There are a number of things we should consider about it. First of all, God does not tell us to keep going back for more hurt. I have found it best to avoid brothers or sisters in the Lord as well as pagans that have a knack for saying or doing things that hurt.
Next, the sage advice, “forgive and forget,” is not in the Bible. We are commanded to forgive, not forgive and forget. God forgets our sins because of the blood of Jesus. But we are not God. Our brain is wired to recall sins against us. We can’t forget them. But, when they come up we can stay in forgiveness, without any bondage to the need for revenge or retaliation. Unforgiveness only causes bitterness which festers in our soul and body. A special instruction from God’s Word helps me forgive, especially when it is a pagan who did the wrong.
Don’t pay back evil for evil. Be concerned with things that everybody considers noble. As much as you can, live in peace with everybody. Don’t take revenge, dear friend, but let God punish, because the Bible says: I alone have the right to avenge. I will pay back, says the Lord. No, If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. If you do this, you’ll heap burning coals on his head. Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil with good. Romans 12:17-21
We can forgive and still receive justice through our local secular government. Call the police if the hurt someone has or is causing you is illegal.
If you do right, you don’t have to be afraid of those who rule, but only if you do wrong. Would you like to live without being afraid of you government? Do what is right, and it will praise you. It is god’s servant to help you. If you do wrong, you should be afraid, because the government doesn’t carry a sword without a purpose. It is god’s servant, and avenger, who must punish anyone doing wrong. You must obey, then, not only because God punishes wrong but also because your conscience tells you to obey. Romans 13:3-5
Concluding this parable, Jesus shows the king is willing to forgive. God is gracious. We also see that the king will not forgive the unforgiving. God is just. Jesus also illustrates repentance in this parable. Repentance “is not merely a recovery which stands in retrospective relation with a sinful condition in the past, but also—it is a moral renewal in the prospect of the accomplishment of universal perfection in the future.”
Matthew 18:23-35 That is why the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began to do so, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents. But he couldn’t pay it, and so the master ordered him, his wife, his children, and all he had to be sold to pay the debt. Then the slave got down on his knees and bowing low before him, begged: “Be patient with me and I’ll pay you everything.”
The master felt sorry for his slave, freed him, and canceled his debt. But when that slave went away, he found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denari. He grabbed him and started to choke him. “Pay what you owe,” he said.
Then his fellow slave got down on his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you.” But he refused and went and put him in prison till he would pay what he owed.
When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they felt very sad and went and told their master the whole story.
Then his master sent for him. “You wicked slave!” he said to him. “I canceled all you owed me, because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have treated your fellow slave as mercifully as I treated you?” His master was so angry he handed him over to the torturers till he would pay all he owed him.
“That is what My Father in heaven will do to you if each of you will not heartily forgive his brother.”
May we hear and do what Jesus says. “Anyone who hears and does what I say is like a man who had the sense to build his house on a rock.” (Matthew 7:24).
Let us tell the truth with love and in every way grow up into Him who is the Head—Christ. He makes the whole body fit together, unites it by every contact with its support, and to the extent that each part is working He makes the body grow and builds it up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16
The last of Jesus’ central kingdom messages is called The Olivet Discourse because His disciples came to Him with questions at the Mount of Olives. The Discourse is Jesus’ answer to their questions about the future. The events that aroused their questions began on Palm Sunday. Jesus gave this message to His disciples shortly before He was crucified. For context, let me briefly overview Matthew 21-23.
Matthew 21 begins with the royal welcome Jesus received when He came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey on what we call Palm Sunday.
This happened so that what the prophet said would come true: Tell the daughter of Zion, “Look! Your King is coming to you, gentle, riding on a donkey and a colt of a donkey.” Matthew 21:5
Much of the crowd followed Jesus to the temple. Money changers and merchants had set up shop right in the temple. Jesus drove them out because they were making His Father’s house a den of thieves. Then He healed the blind and lame who came to Him.
The following day He went back to the temple and was confronted by the ruling priests and elders who questioned His authority to do these things.
Jesus answered them, “I will ask you a question. And if you answer Me, I’ll tell you by what authority I’m doing theses things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven or from men?”
They argued among themselves, “If we say, From heaven, He will ask us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say ‘From Men,’ we’re afraid of the people: they all think John is a prophet.” Matthew 21:24-26
They wouldn’t answer. Jesus responded by teaching the crowd and the leaders with the parable of the Two Sons—one said he wouldn’t but did, the other said he would and didn’t. He asked the leaders,
“Which of the two did what the father wanted?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom ahead of you. John came to you in a righteous way, but you didn’t believe him; the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. But even when you had seen that, you didn’t change your minds and believe him.” Matthew 21:31-32.
He followed with the parable of the Wicked Tenants who killed the heir of the owner of the vineyard to get it. He concluded: “That is why I tell you, God’s kingdom will be taken away from you and be given to a people who will do its works” (Matthew 21:43). The ruling priests and Pharisees wanted to grab Him but were concerned about what the crowd would do.
Jesus told another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding for his son” (Matthew 22:2). The invited guests rebuffed the invitation and mistreated and murdered his slaves. “The king got angry, sent his soldiers, and they killed those murderers and burned their city” (Matthew 22:7). Then the king sent his slaves to gather guests from where the roads leave the city and the wedding hall was filled.
In 70 A.D, less than 40 years after Jesus told that parable, the soldiers of Rome killed everyone remaining in Jerusalem and utterly destroyed the temple and the city.
The Pharisees went and tried to trap Jesus with the question about paying tax to Caesar. “Give Caesar what is Caesars,” He told them, “and God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21b).
The Sadducees tried a question about a man who died childless and the widow being married by the brothers. They didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead.
“You’re wrong,” Jesus answered them. “You don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power. When the dead rise, men and women don’t marry but are like angels in heaven. About the dead rising—didn’t you read what God told you: Didn’t you read what God told you: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He’s not the God of the dead but of the living.” Matthew 22:29-32).
Then one of the Pharisees tested Jesus by asking,
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus answered him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your life, and with all you mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The next is like it: Love your neighbor like yourself. All the Law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40
Jesus put an end to their attempts to trap Him with their questions by asking,
“What do you think of the promised Savior? Whose Son is He?
“David’s,” they answered.
He asked them, “Then how an David by the Spirit call Him Lord? He says, The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right till I put your enemies under Your feet.’ Now, If David calls Him Lord, how can He be his Son?”
Nobody could answer Him, and after that nobody dared to ask Him another question. Matthew 22:41-46
After that, Jesus warned the crowd and His disciples, “Don’t do what they do, because they don’t do what they say” (Matthew 23:3). Then He pronounced woes upon the leaders. Woe for locking people out of the kingdom. Woe for making converts twice as fit for hell as they are. Woe for swearing facetiously. Woe for legalistic tithing to the neglect of being just, merciful and trustworthy. Woe for looking clean on the outside but inside being filled with greed and lust. Woe for intent to kill prophets like their fathers did. He concluded:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you murder the prophets and stone those sent to you! How often I wanted to bring your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you didn’t want to! Now your house will be left to you a deserted place. I tell you, you will not see Me again till you say, ‘Blessed is He who is coming in the Lord’s name.” Matthew 23:37-39).
Three days later the religious leaders had their revenge. After they had a mock trial, they turned Jesus over to Pilate who questioned Him and found no fault in Him. By then the leaders had the crowd in frenzy. Pilate attempted to set Jesus free by offering to free Barabbas or Jesus. The crowd chose Barabbas. Pilate washed his hands of the whole affair and the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25). Pilate yielded to them, had Jesus scourged and handed Him over to be crucified. Within 40 years, Jerusalem was left a deserted place.
Message V—The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25)
Now we have a pretty good idea where this is going. We’ll have a better understanding as we find Jesus’ answers to the three questions put to Him by His disciples after they left the temple.
When Jesus walked out of the temple and was going away, His disciples came to show Him the buildings of the temple. “You see all these things?” Jesus asked them. “I tell you the truth; not a stone will be left on another here but will be torn down.”
When He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, His disciples came to Him alone, saying, “Tell us, when will this be and how can we tell when You’re coming back and the world will come to an end?” Matthew 24:1-3
The disciples had just pointed out the magnificence of Herod’s Temple to Jesus and He had told them, “not a stone will be left on another.” Now they rapid fire three questions. Regarding the destruction of the temple, “when will this be?” Regarding the second coming, “how can we tell when You’re coming back?” The final question: How can we tell when “the world will come to an end?”
Regarding the destruction of the temple, “when will this be?” Jesus tells them:
“Be careful not to let anyone deceive you,” Jesus answered them. “Many will come using My name, and saying, ‘I am the promised Christ,’ and will deceive many.”
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you don’t get alarmed. It must happen, but that’s not the end yet. Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in different places. But all theses are only the first pains.”
“Then they will hand you over to those who will make you suffer, and they will kill you, and all nations will hate you on account of My name. Then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and lead many people astray. And because there will be more and more wickedness, the love of most people will turn cold. But endure to the end, and you will be saved.
“This gospel of the Kingdom must be preached all over the world so that all nations hear the truth, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:4-14
Many false Messiahs did come. Israel was under bondage to Rome. Militant political protesters rose up as Messiahs to liberate the people. Many zealous but deceived people followed these false Christs to their deaths. Wars, famines and earthquakes happened. Jesus told His disciples not to be deceived by the violence they would see and experience. These would be the first pains as in the pains a mother experiences prior to giving birth to a child. They characterize events occurring in 33-70 A.D.
Jesus now gives the disciples the sign of the destruction of Jerusalem, the abomination of desolation.
“When you see what the prophet Daniel told about, the abomination laying waste the land and standing in the holy place (anyone who reads this should understand it), then if you’re in Judea, flee to the hills. If you’re on the roof, don’t come down to get things in your house. If you’re in the field, don’t turn back to get your garment.”
“Woe to the women who in those days are expecting babies or nursing them. Pray that it may not be winter or a Sabbath when you flee. It will be a time of great misery such as hasn’t been from the beginning of the world till now and never will be again. And if that time had not been cut short, nobody would be saved. But that time will be cut short for the sake of those whom He has chosen.” Matthew 24:15-22
Sam Storms explains the abomination in his article, Matthew 24 and the Olivet Discourse–Part I. “The reader of the book of Daniel would understand. Daniel 8:13; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11. The first abomination took place in 168 B.C. when the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes slaughtered 40,000 Jews, sacrificed a pig on the alter of burnt offering and plundered the temple. Jesus is warning of the second abomination prophesied in Daniel 12:11.” You can read the entire article at his website: http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com
The abomination signals that the first pains are over and now the destruction begins. God’s judgment against Israel is described. Jesus provides survival instructions to his disciples for unprecedented tribulation. It was a time of great misery that took place between 66 and 70 A.D. Historians tell us Jews who had converted fled from Jerusalem in droves prior to its destruction. Jesus’ apostles surely saw this coming and warned the believers.
“If anyone tells you then,” ‘Look, here is Christ!’, or, ‘There He is!’ don’t believe it, because false Christs and false prophets will come and do great miracles and wonders to deceive if possible even those whom God has chosen. You see, I’ve told you this before it happens. So when you’re told, ‘There He is in the wilderness,’ don’t go out; or, Here He is in the inner rooms,’ don’t believe it. The Son of Man will come like the lightening that flashes from the east to the west.—Where the dead body is, there the vultures will gather” Matthew 24:22-28
Again, Jesus warns His disciples not to be caught up in the frenzy of religious zealots. “I’ve told you this before it happens.”
There is much controversy over what we are to understand from the last two sentences above. In order to get to the truth, let’s look at the insight Dr. Sam Storms brings to the subject. Sam is a seasoned gift to the Church that has worked his way through a lot of bad teaching. He received his M.Th. from one of bastions of dispensationalism, Dallas Theological Seminary. He lost a lot of friends when he abandoned that teaching. Sam has a knack reducing scholarly ideas and explanations to language I can readily understand.
In three extensive articles on Matthew 24, Sam thoroughly presents and documents the primary interpretations of current scholars and his own. These complete articles are readily available at his website.
For this explanation, Sam quotes Gentry, “The direction of this judgment coming of Christ in Matthew 24:27 apparently reflects the Roman armies marching toward Jerusalem from an easterly direction. Josephus’s record of the march of the Roman armies through Israel shows they wreak havoc on Jerusalem by approaching it from the east.
“The enigmatic saying about vultures is probably referring to the Roman eagle found on the ensign at the head of every Roman legion. If this be the case, it is the Roman ‘eagle’ (vulture) that gathers over the corpse of Jerusalem to pick it clean.”
Now we come to three verses that have stirred up all kinds of theories and doctrines. Jesus has just finished answering His disciples question about when the destruction of the temple will occur. Now Jesus tells them:
“29 Right after the misery of that time the sun will turn dark, the moon will stop shining, the starts will be falling from the sky, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. 30 Then the sign announcing the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all people on earth will mourn when they see the son of Man coming on the clouds in the sky with power and great glory. 31 And with a loud trumpet call He will send out His angels [messengers], and they will gather His chosen ones from the north, south, east, and west, from one end of the sky to the other.”
“32 Learn this lesson from a fig tree: When its branch gets tender and grows leaves, you know summer is near. 33 So also when you see all these things, you know that He is near, at your door.
“34 I tell you the truth, these people [this generation] will not pass away till all this happens. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but what I say will not pass away.”Matthew 24:29-35
Again, from Sam Storms: “Here it appears that Jesus says his second coming will occur ‘immediately after’ the tribulation just described.”… “The problem is this: if vv. 15-28 refers to the events of 70 a.d., why didn’t Jesus return at that time?”…
R. T. France represents a growing number of scholars (N. T. Wright, Peter Walker, Kenneth Gentry among others) who insist that vv. 29-31 do not refer at all to the second coming of Christ at the end of age but rather to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 a.d. …
Thus, according to this view, Jesus does not address the issue of his second coming at the end of history until v. 36. Therefore, “all these things” (v. 34) which must take place before “this generation” (v. 34) passes away refers to everything described in vv. 4-31, i.e., events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 a.d. …
Still at the center of attention is the question the disciples had asked Jesus back in v. 3. a) When will “these things” be, i.e., the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple as prophesied in 23:35-36, 38; 24:2? b) When will you return and consummate the age? The disciples thought the two events would be simultaneous. Jesus says, “No, the destruction of Jerusalem will be in your lifetime. I’ll even give you a sign that will warn you of its nearness. But the day of my second coming will not be preceded by signs. It will come only after a period of delay of undetermined duration. Everyone of this present generation will be aware of when Jerusalem will fall, but not even I know when the second coming will occur.”
In summary, Jesus says: “I want you to be alerted to the approach of Jerusalem’s destruction. Here is how you can know when its fall is impending. It will as surely follow the Abomination of Desolation as summer follows the budding of figs. But, on the other hand, when it comes to the timing and proximity of my return and the end of the age, not even I know when that day will occur.”
Matthew 24:35 (Mk. 13:31) records Jesus’ words: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” Most commentators have given scant attention to the significance of this statement in its context, simply assuming that our Lord had in mind the destruction /collapse of the space-time cosmos at the close of history. However, Crispin H. T. Fletcher-Louis has put forth a compelling argument “that ‘by heaven and earth’ is meant the Jerusalem temple and the Torah constitution at the center of which the former stands. … [Thus the phrase ‘heaven and earth shall pass away’ refers] to the imminent end to the social, religious and economic structure of Israel’s covenant relationship with God with the attendant destruction of the temple” (“The Destruction of the Temple and the Relativization of the Old Covenant: Mark 13:31 and Matthew 5:18,” in Eschatology in Bible & Theology: Evangelical Essays at the Dawn of a New Millennium, edited by Kent E. Brower & Mark W. Elliott [Downers Grove: IVP, 1997], 146).
Regarding the second coming, “how can we tell when You’re coming back?”
“No one knows about that day or hour, not the angels in heaven, not even the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36
Whereas the parable of the fig tree makes it possible to know the nearness of Jerusalem’s fall, nothing will help you fix the date or proximity of Christ’s return. Here, then, is our Lord’s answer to the second half of the disciples’ question (v. 3). “That day” (v. 36) refers to the second coming at the end of human history.”
“When the Son of Man comes, it will be like the time of Noah. In the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, and men and women were marrying till the Noah went into the ark. They learned nothing till the flood came and swept them away. That’s how it will be when the Son of Man comes.”
“Then there will be two men in the field—one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at a mill—one will be taken and the other left.” Matthew 24:37-41
Peter paid attention to what Jesus told. Earlier, we studied 2 Peter 3 where he provided context for the second coming and judgment. There he taught how surprised people were when Noah’s flood destroyed the world then how the earth would be destroyed and regenerated when the Son of Man comes. Revelations 18 describes the fall of great Babylon. Totally hedonistic people will be buying and selling luxury items including slaves and the souls of men right up to the last minute.
“Watch, then, because you don’t know which day your Lord is coming. You know if the owner of a house had known what time of the night the burglar was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let anyone break into his house. You too get ready, because the Son of Man is coming when you don’t expect Him.”
“Now, who is the faithful and sensible slave whom the Master has put in charge of his servants to give them their food at the right time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds doing this when he comes. I tell you, he will certainly put him in charge of all his property. But if that slave is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying a long time,’ and starts to beat his fellow slaves and eats and drinks with the drunkards, the master of that slave will come one day when he’s not expecting him and at a time he doesn’t know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. There they will grind their teeth.” Matthew 24:45-51
The last three parables Jesus told (Matthew 25)
Here, Jesus concludes the Olivet discourse to His disciples with three teaching parables of the kingdom answering the last 2 questions in verse 24:3. “How can we tell when You’re coming back and the world will come to an end.”
In the following Bridegroom parable answers the question about when He is coming back. His answer is we can’t. Jesus shows the stark consequences of coasting along and relying on others to do for us what needs to be done. We are to be prepared and alert.
The foolish five forgot to bring extra oil, and the wise five couldn’t share their personal supply with the others because there wasn’t enough for everyone. This point in the parable is a reminder that each person believes in Jesus for himself or herself. You can’t believe for someone else. A wife can’t believe for her husband. A parent can’t believe for a child. A person can’t believe for his friend or neighbor. Each individual person needs to be ready for Jesus to return, and no one else can prepare another person for that day.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten girls who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The foolish girls brought their lamps, but they took no extra oil. The wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. But the bridegroom delayed, and so they all dozed off to sleep.
“At midnight there was a shout: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out and meet him!’ Then all those girls woke up and got their lamps ready.
“But the foolish asked the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil. Our lamps are going out.’
“The wise girls answered, ‘There will never be enough for us and for you. Better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’
“While they were away buying it, the bridegroom came, and the girls who were ready went with him to the wedding, and the door was shut.”
“Later the other girls also came and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us!’
“I tell you the truth he answered them, ‘I don’t know You.’
“Keep awake, then, because you don’t know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:1-13
In this next parable, Jesus shows the kingdom is like a man going on a trip. He gives His servants resources to use. Jesus made it clear to His disciples they should make good use of the resources of the kingdom. God in the Messiah has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. He calls us to put His blessings to good use. This parable also pictures judgment day in the kingdom.
“It’s like a man going on a trip. He called his slaves and put his money in their hands. He gave one man $10,000, another $4,000, and another $2,000, each according to his ability. Then he left.”
“The one who got $10,000 immediately went and put it into business and made another $10,000. The one who had $4,000 did the same and made another $4,000. But the one who got $2,000 went and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”
“After a long time the master of those slaves came and had them give an account. The one who got $10,000 came and brought another $10, 000. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you let me have $10,000. See, I’ve made another $10,000.”
“Well done, good and faithful slave!’ his master answered him. ‘You proved you could be trusted with a little. I will put you in charge of something big. Come and be happy with your master.’
“The one who got $4,000 come and said, ‘Master, you let me have $4,000. See, I’ve made another $4,000.’
‘“Well done, good and faithful slave!’ his master answered him. ‘You proved you could be trusted with a little. I will put you in charge of something big. Come and be happy with your master.’
“Then came also the one who got $2,000. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I found out you’re a hard man. You get grain where you didn’t sow and you gather where you didn’t scatter. I was afraid, so I went and hid your $2,000 in the ground. There’s your money!’
“You wicked and lazy slave!’ his master answered him. ‘You knew I get grain where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? Then you should have invested my money with the bankers, and when I came back, I could have gotten my money back withy interest. Take the $2,000 away from him, and give it to the one who has $10,000. Whoever has anything will receive, and so he will have more and more. And from him who doesn’t have what he should have, even what he has will be taken away. Throw this good-for-nothing slave out into the dark where there will be crying and grinding of teeth.” Matthew 25:14-30
Jesus teaches us to love one another and do for others what we would have them do for us. In this teaching parable about the last judgment and eternal life, whatever we did for one of His brothers or sisters, we did for Him. What we did will be gloriously rewarded with the inheritance our Father gives us—eternal life in the kingdom to come.
“When the Son of man comes in His glory and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His throne of glory. And all nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and He will have the sheep stand at His right but the goats at His left.”
“Then the King will say to those at His right, ‘Come, you whom My Father blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the time the world was made. I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me a drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me into your homes; naked, and you gave Me something to wear; sick, and you looked after Me; in prison, and you visited Me.”
“Then the righteous will ask Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You a drink? When did we see You a stranger and take you into our homes, or naked and give You something to wear? When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?”
“And the King will answer them, ‘Let Me assure you, anything you did for one of My brothers here, however humble, you did for Me.”
“Then He will say to those at His left, ‘Go away from Me, you cursed ones, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; thirsty, and you didn’t give Me a drink; a stranger, and you didn’t take Me into you homes; naked, and you didn’t give Me anything to wear; sick and in prison, and you didn’t look after Me.”
“Then they, too, will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t help You?”
“Then He will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you didn’t do for one of these, however humble, you didn’t do for Me.”
“Then these will go away to everlasting punishment, but the righteous to everlasting life.” Matthew 25:31-46
One of the major ways we do for our brothers and sisters is by serving family members. Then the circle broadens to those we know or are personally acquainted with, especially our family of believers. “So whenever we have a chance, let us do good to everybody but especially to our family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). The Church includes all believers everywhere. Our family of believers is composed of the people we know and love and share our lives with. They mostly live near where we live, but some live over there on the other side of the world.
I look forward to the day Jesus will say to billions of believers including you and me, “Come, you whom My Father blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the time the world was made” (Matthew 25:34).
Part II—Kingdom Relationships
7 Glow with the Spirit
Don’t be backward in zeal. Glow with the Spirit. Serve the Lord. Romans 12:11
As we draw nearer and get to know God better, we glow with the Spirit. This inner glow is a reflection of the glory of God.
Depending on its context, “glory” can mean the splendor, radiance, power and majesty of God or it can mean the renown of God. In this chapter, we will start out with the light of knowing God’s shining glory. Then, we will see how God exhibits His glory in and through us to His glory.
In the Old Covenant, God first revealed Himself to Moses as fire in a burning bush that didn’t burn up, then in the in the lightening and thunder and light at Mount Sinai, then He led Moses and the children to the promised land as a cloud by day and a fire by night.
Two months after God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, God gave Moses His Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-20). The LORD came down in a fire. The mountain smoked and shook and there was the blast of a trumpet. This little glimpse of God’s glory caused the people to tremble (Exodus 19:16-24).
In this awesome setting, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the rules of the Old Covenant (Exodus 20-31). Moses stayed up there for 40 days. When he came down, the people had made a golden calf to worship. God was very angry and almost destroyed the people. Moses threw down the 10 Commandments and the stone tables broke. Moses interceded for the people and God relented. After the people repented, Moses asked the Lord God almighty to show him His glory. “You can’t see My face,” He [God] added, “because a man can’t see My face and live” (Exodus 33:20). God placed Moses in the cleft of a rock and gave him a partial glimpse of His glory. God’s glory is so powerful that a full jolt of it would vaporize our human body.
Even the shadow of God’s radiant glory is awe inspiring. Just a partial experience of God’s presence made Moses glow with God’s glory. When he came down from the mountain with the second set of the Ten Commandments, his face was so bright with God’s glory the Israelites pleaded with him to put a sack over it. “But Aaron and all the other Israelites looked at Moses and saw the skin of Moses’ face shining and were afraid to come near him” (Exodus 34:29-30). Moses calmed down Aaron and the leaders and spoke to them. “When Moses finished talking to them, he put a veil over his face” (Exodus 34:33).
The glory of God is all around us. We just can’t see it with our natural eyes. Holy men of God spoke and wrote of God and the things of God in terms of glorious light. It is hard to distinguish when they spoke metaphorically or literally.
God created light. He is the source of light. God is light. He has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. God is a consuming fire. In the upper room, Jesus baptized with the Spirit and with fire. Just as the fire didn’t burn the bush, it didn’t burn off the hair of the disciples it descended upon. If it had, today instead of Holy Rollers, we would have bald rollers.
God’s glory showed forth as He created the heavens and the earth. In Genesis 1:3 there was light. In Genesis 1:14-19 God created the sun and the moon. What do you think that light in verse 3 was? Then, think about this. God created the sun. He obviously has more power and light than what He has created.
Visible light is only a 1% of the light spectrum, which is called electromagnetic radiation. On a scale by frequency and energy, the spectrum starts at radio and TV waves, microwave, radar and infrared light at lower frequencies than visible light waves. At frequencies above visible light, radiation is categorized as ultraviolet light, x-rays and finally gamma rays. The sun and nuclear power plants emit gamma rays. High energy radiation can burn up organic matter instantly like a nuclear bomb or gradually like the radium once used to light watch numbers.
All matter emits light. Matter is something we can see because it has mass and volume. Think about this from basic physics. The atom is a basic unit of matter. All matter is composed of atoms and molecules. Every atom has at least one electron rotating around its nucleus. Each electron is emitting light energy we can’t see. The things we see are made of things we can’t see. God created them. Creation shines with God’s glory (Romans 1:19-20).
Paul contrasts the glory God revealed to His Old Covenant people with the glory of the New Covenant. In the Old, God’s glory was external. In the New, God’s glory is both external and internal.
The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. And all of us, reflecting the Lord’s glory in our unveiled faces, are changed from glory to glory to be like Him, as we expect it from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
We, reflecting the Lord’s glory, are changed from glory to glory. As new creatures, we reflect the Lord’s glory. We glow brighter and brighter as we draw nearer and nearer to the Lord.
In the next chapter of Corinthians, Paul explains this glorious blessing of the New Covenant. He tells us he proclaims the light of gospel of the glory of Christ and God “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4, 6).
Messiah Jesus enables us to come into the presence of our heavenly Father in “the new, living way He opened for us through the curtain, the way of His body” (Hebrews 10:20). God in Messiah Jesus has opened the gates of the Jerusalem above and brought us into His presence. As we have seen in previous chapters, He has made us holy and blameless before Himself, accepted in the Beloved. Going through the gates of the Jerusalem above and coming into God’s presence in the Spirit is glorious. We come into His glorious presence in the Spirit. He has called us, made us righteous and glorified us. “And those whom He made righteous He glorified” (Romans 8:30).
Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to God. Neither shall we if we do not listen to Him. We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Everything of the world will be shaken. With that in mind, we are urged to offer to God acceptable service with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:25-29).
Jesus was raised by the Father’s glory. “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus by our baptism share in His death? Sharing in His death by our baptism, we were buried with Him so that as the Father’s glory raised Christ from the dead we too will live a new life” (Romans 6:3-4).
When the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, they were sore afraid. That means they were thinking “Go feet go.” Why? They got a glimpse of the glory of God.
At the mount of transfiguration, the three apostles were astounded. Why? They got a glimpse of the glory of God.
When Jesus confronted Paul at his conversion, he was knocked off his high horse to the ground and blinded. Why? He got a jolt of the glory of God.
Paul instructed Timothy: “… do what you are ordered, without spot or blame, till our Lord Jesus Christ appears. At His own right time God will show Him to us—He, the blessed and only ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone cannot die, who lives in a light to which no one can come near, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To Him be honor and power forever. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:14-16).
When Jesus returns, the new Jerusalem will not require sun or moon for light. God and the Lamb will light up the whole city (Revelation 21:22-23). “But the world will be filled with a knowledge of the Lord’s glory as the water fills the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 13:43 KJV).
Thinking on all of this fills me with a sense of awe for God.
Our Father is glorified through us
God our Father is glorified in and through us when we bear fruit motivated by love. Jesus walked in love. He told His disciples to love one another:
You glorify My Father when you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Stay in My love. If you obey My commandments, you’ll stay in My love, as I have obeyed My Father’s commandments and stay in His love. I told you this so that My joy will be in you and your joy will be full. This is what I order you to do: Love one another as I have loved you. John 15:8-13
The Spirit produces the fruits of the presence of Christ in us and through us. What the Spirit produces makes for harmonious relationships in the kingdom of God. As we grow up into the Messiah, more and more of our thoughts, emotions, motivation and actions are in accord with the love God pours into our new creature hearts.
Judy and I know a man who loves with that kind of love. He is so full of God’s love he can’t contain it. It oozes out of his pores. He glows with the Spirit.
When we were first getting acquainted many years ago, I had some very rough edges. God gave me prophetic insight about the sorry condition of His people and sorry teachings that violated God’s Word and thwarted Jesus’ leading. During a conversation I would occasionally burst out with a short but harsh tirade about a blatant error being promoted in books, on TV and in our gatherings, Leonard’s light would dim. He wouldn’t say anything to me, but I could see I was grieving his heart. It convicted me and helped me get back to the gentle nature God gave me as a farm boy and use better ways to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom.
The gospel of the kingdom prepares us for real life. In real life, we need a lot of help from God, especially to walk in love. Just going about our life with family, friends and co-workers often presents challenges. Children get sick and cranky. We have a spat with our spouse. Friends turn out not to be friends. Co-workers connive on ways to make us look bad. Our trusted Christian leaders teach error or their atrocious hidden sins are revealed. On top of that, the devil is still running around loose and his evil forces are arrayed against us.
Love breaks in. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For the joy that was set before Him Jesus endured the cross. God has rescued us from the tyranny of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. With His death and resurrection Jesus conquered Satan and broke his power, but He didn’t remove him from the earth and we still need to resist the devil. He hates. We love. Faith works by love. Love is to the glory of God. When we love, we reflect God’s glory.
It takes a lot of love to live in this world and God pours it into our hearts by His Spirit. It also takes power and God empowers us with His Spirit. Jesus asked the Father to send another helper and the Father sent the Holy Spirit to help us. He helps us with His gifts. They are manifestations of the kingdom we need today to help us overcome darkness and evil. When Jesus returns, He will overcome every enemy that causes us sorrow and pain (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).
In the mean time the Lord confirms the gospel of the kingdom with signs and wonders to ease the sorrow and pain and give us the guts to preserver.
Signs and wonders
The Holy Spirit works signs and wonders to help us and to give others a hand up. Messiah Jesus is our example. He preached the gospel of the kingdom and ministered with signs and wonders through which God bore witness that Jesus is the Messiah and the gospel of the kingdom is true (Matthew 4:23; Hebrews 2:1-4).
Messiah Jesus sent the 72 and gave them the authority and power to do the same (Luke 10:9). When He commissioned the apostles, He also told them about the power of the kingdom that would work in ordinary believers (Mark 16:15-20).
Paul preached the gospel of the kingdom to non-Jewish nations with signs following (Romans 15:15-19).
Glow and flow with the Spirit
If we ordinary believers glow with the Spirit, we flow in the Spirit—to the glory of God.
Thinking about the Spirit of God working in their lives, scares a lot of believers completely away from even considering God working through them. Other are put off by excessive doctrines of Pentecostals and Charismatics. Never the less, if they believe in Messiah Jesus, God works through both the put off and the Pentecostals and Charismatics.
As we have seen in previous chapters, all who believe in Jesus for salvation have been born again and baptized in the Spirit. The only way we can believe in Jesus is by the unction of the Holy Spirit. If we are saved, we have been regenerated and regeneration includes being born again and baptized with the Spirit.
With that perspective, we will see how to flow in the Spirit. Paul explains about the gifts of the Spirit.
Now gifts are given to different persons but by the same Spirit. Ways of serving are assigned to them but by the same Lord. Powers are given to them, but the same God works everything in all people. Now, the Spirit shows Himself to each one to make him useful. The Spirit gives one person the word of wisdom. To another the same Spirit gives the word of knowledge. To another the same Spirit gives faith. To another the same Spirit gives the gifts of healing. Another can work miracles. Another can speak God’s Word. To another discerning of spirits. Another can talk other languages. Another can tell the meaning of languages. One and the same Spirit works all these things and gives as He wishes to each in his own way. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
Consider this. Have you ever misplaced or lost something and tried to think where it might be and looked and looked for it and couldn’t find it? After exhausting your memory, have you asked God to help you find it? Did you suddenly see where it was in your minds-eye or think where it was? If you have had a similar experience, knowing where it was was the gift of knowledge. This is how the Holy Spirit works the revelatory gifts of the Spirit in us. We don’t know how we know, but we know. “The wind blows where it pleases and you hear the sound of it, but you don’t know where it’s coming from or where it’s going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
Flowingin the Holy Spirit is kind of like flying by the seat of your pants. Why does a mother or father sooth a feverish child by gently caressing the child’s forehead? Why does that help? Believers keep being filled by the Spirit and minister the gifts of the Spirit without identifying them as such.
We do hear what the Spirit is saying, even though we don’t know exactly how. Sometimes we look at someone in a store or on the street or in a home and we know where they lost something of themselves or we see them encountering a dangerous situation or we see them doing something for the Lord. Sometimes we are in a gathering and we know just where the Holy Spirit is leading.
When Jesus was talking to the Samaritan women, He knew she had had many husbands—the gift of knowledge. What He did with that information was a word of wisdom.
Here’s another example. We had just moved to Grand Island and were getting the unpacking completed when our 6 year old daughter Tara came and said “Sam is missing.”
This was a crisis. Sam was our favorite cat. With all of the doors being opened and closed, he had slipped away. Now he was in a strange city in an unfamiliar neighborhood and had never slept a night in our new home. We went out and called for him. We walked around the neighborhood calling for him. It was getting dark, so we came in. What should we do? Tara said, “Let’s ask God to bring Sam home.” So we prayed. When we finished praying Tara said, “Let’s let Sam in.” So Judy and I swallowed hard and went to the door with Tara. We opened the door and just as she expected Sam came in. That was the gift of faith.
In about the same time frame a friend of ours, Gene Boone, was ministering to a small gathering of about 40 believers. One was twisted sideways and had a hump shoulder. Gene asked her if she would like prayer. She said, “Yes.” Then Gene had the lady sit down in a chair and asked her to extend her legs straight out. One was about four inches shorter than the other. Then he laughed with joy and asked the children to come near and see what God would do. Our son Troy and Tara went near with the other children. He asked the Father to bring healing and wholeness to her and said, “Leg grow out.” The leg grew out. As it grew out, her back straightened and the hump went away. He took her hand and she stood up straight and tall. That was working a miracle.
When our children were still at home with us and one was sick, we would anoint that one with oil and ask God to bring healing. What ever was wrong we would command to be right. For instance, “Pain go,” or “Fever go!” Then we would put our hands on them and bless them. For instance: “May our Father in heaven bless you with healing and health and wellbeing a give you a good nights sleep, in Jesus name.” When they were healed, it was a manifestation of the gift of healing.
Years ago, Chuck Flynn put his hands on me and said, “You are a householder and you will bring forth out of your treasure things old and new. Go forth and speak the creative word of prophecy.” That was the word of knowledge and a personal word of prophecy.
One time, Judy and I gathered with other believers at a church to hear a guest speaker. After preaching, he invited people to come forward for personal prayer and ministry. The pastor, the guest speaker and a student of the guest speaker were laying hands on people and praying for them. One of the first people to approach the student was our friend Larry Lichti. He told the student he knew the sin he was in and asked him to step aside with him. When they we in a private area, Larry told the student a spirit was causing him to read and look at pornography. Larry requested him not to minister to the people and the student complied. After the gathering, Larry explained the situation to the pastor and guest speaker with the student and the he repented. Then Larry commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man and it did. Detecting and identifying the spirit was the gift of discernment or discerning of spirits. Casting out the spirit was the gift of faith. The way Larry handled the situation without disrupting the gathering and unduly embarrassing the student was the word of wisdom.
Back in 1975, Judy and I were devout Missouri Synod Lutherans. We were participating in an evangelism outreach through our church. This is where we met a charismatic couple, Jim and Diane Nelson. We knew there was something different about them and always tuned our ear to their conversations. Eventually, we asked them what God was doing in their lives and they shared with us about what they called the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
That was a lot to take in and being sola scriptoria Bible believers, we studied the Bible to find the truth about this. Within a few weeks, we were convinced this was for us today. Our friends took us to a home fellowship group and prayed for us to receive the filling of the Holy Spirit. We did. However, we didn’t speak in tongues that night because we didn’t know how to move in the Spirit.
A short time later, we bought a book entitled Tongues, How to get it How to give it by Don Basham. I read it one night and began speaking in tongues as the Holy Spirit gave utterance. The next day, Judy did the same. She later recognized that she had been speaking in tongues before reading the book, but she didn’t think that was what she was doing. We both speak in tongues and move in the Spirit and thank our Father in heaven for pouring out the Holy Spirit for all to drink.
Paul taught, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful” (1 Corinthians 14:14 RSV). That is a big tip on how to speak in tongues. Most of us think of what we are going to speak and then say it. Since we always use our mind to talk, using our spirit to talk is a step of faith. Think of it this way. When Peter walked on the water, he did the walking and God did the holding up. Peter knew he couldn’t walk on water in the natural, so each step he took was a step of trust in God. When our spirit prays, the Holy Spirit provides the syllables, words and another language and we provide the air and vocal cords. We do the talking as God holds us up. Our mind is not productive. In fact, it is counterproductive. Our mind is thinking, wait, this isn’t natural. What will people think? What if what I say sounds like gibberish? If we wait for the other language to pop into our mind before we begin speaking, we will never speak in tongues. Walking in the kingdom of God is risky. It takes trust in God. But speaking in tongues doesn’t take any more faith than trusting God for our salvation.
So our part is taking a breath, using our vocal cords and moving our mouth to whisper, speak or sing. God’s part is providing the utterance by the Holy Spirit quickening our spirit. Paul taught, “I will pray with my spirit, and I will pray with my mind. I will sing psalms with my spirit, and I will sing psalms with my mind” (1 Corinthians 14:15). That is a good way to pray, because the unction of the Holy Spirit to our spirit for praying with our spirit carries over to praying with our mind and visa versa. We all need building up and praying in tongues does it. We would all do well to speak in tongues.
But you, dear friend, building yourselves up on your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love, as you look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you everlasting life. Jude verse 20-21
Praying in the Holy Spirit is different from praying with our minds. It is praying in tongues. Even a good Lutheran commentary bears this out.
Don’t be backward in zeal. Glow with the Spirit. Serve the Lord
As God gave me His gift of charis for every one of you, I tell you, don’t think too highly of yourselves, but take a sane view of yourselves, everyone according to the amount of faith God gave you. We have many parts in one body, and these parts don’t all do the same thing. In the same way, many as we are, we are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. We have gifts that are different according to what His love gave us.
If you can prophesy do it according to the faith you have.
If you can serve, then serve.
If you can teach, teach.
If you can encourage, encourage.
If you share, be generous.
If you manage anything, do it eagerly.
If you help people in need, do it cheerfully.
Hate evil; cling to what is good.
Love one another tenderly as fellow Christians.
Outdo one another in showing respect.
Don’t be backward in zeal.
Glow with the Spirit.
Serve the Lord. Romans 12:3-11
8 Walk in the Light
Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, since light produces everything good and righteous and true. Ephesians 5:8-9
God enables us to live as children of light, participating in Kingdom relationships that fulfill our deepest longings to be useful and productive in the noble things of eternal importance on this earth today. They are exemplified in family relationships and motivate us to show our love for one another. God considers something as mundane as changing a baby’s diaper as ministry of the first order.
So, what does God want you and me to do? By His Word and by the Holy Spirit’s tug of love in our hearts, Messiah Jesus gives us moment to moment and year to year direction for our lives. He is sharing His life with us so we can share it with God, one another, the hurting, and God’s creation. By His power, He will help us do every good thing we decide to do and every work of faith.
God is not afraid to give us our hearts desires. He has given us the inheritance and He is forming Messiah in us. Just as He planned, He enables us to grow up in all ways into our Messiah and do the work He sets before us. He calls us to serve Him as thinking beings, to share from the heart willingly, to let His peace rule in our hearts.
God gives us plenty of room to grow up in all ways into the Messiah. He guides and directs us by His grace and truth and love working in our hearts and in the hearts of those who love us. Relationships built through partaking and sharing help us make decisions. By blessing us with every spiritual blessing in heaven, God motivates and empowers us to spend the life, gifts and resources He has given us for good. God in Messiah shares His life with us, enabling us to partake and participate. Thus, we build.
As we partake of His love, life, and character, we get to know Him better and He empowers us to share His life as life-givers to people we love. Thus, God’s power works mightily within us, shaping our identity, relationships, character, lifestyle, and work of service. To the extent each of us is working—partaking and participating—Messiah makes the Body grow and builds it up in love.
Live as people whom God has called
The first three chapters of Ephesians sum up the God’s blessings and His plan for us. In the rest of Ephesians, Paul shows we are called by God to live as people whom God has called should live and explains how to be to the glory of God our Father. When we do live as God’s sons and daughters and relate in the oneness, the unity, the harmony of the Spirit, we bring glory to Him in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all ages forever.
Now to Him who by the power working in us can do far, far more than anything we ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all ages forever. Amen.
So I, a prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live as people whom God has called should live. Ephesians
Be humble and gentle in every way, be patient and lovingly bear with one another. Do your best to keep the oneness of the Spirit by living together in peace: one body and one Spirit—even as you have been called to share one hope—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over us all, works through us all, and lives in us all. Ephesians 3:20-4:6
What? “One God and Father of all, rules over us all, works through us all, and lives in us all.” The kingdom of God has come. Our heavenly Father created us to thrive in harmonious relationships. He instilled within us deep yearning to share our life with those we love. The Holy Spirit helps us do that, as we serve Messiah Jesus as Lord. He is the One who makes it possible for us to be humble and gentle in every way, to be patient and lovingly bear with one another—to keep the oneness of the Spirit. As we walk in this mode, we love our neighbor as our self. And, we get to live in the mutually supportive environment of those who do their best to keep the oneness of the Spirit by living together in peace—God’s shalom.
The life of Christ flows to us and through us and He makes the body grow. Such sharing begins in the home and naturally extends to those around us, in our homes and in society. As we partake of His life and participate with one another, we come to His perfection. So that we “in every way grow up into Him who is the Head—Christ. He makes the whole body fit together, unites it by every contact with its support, and to the extent that each part is working He makes the body grow and builds it up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).
In the rest of Ephesians, Paul shows how we are to walk worthy. He concludes his exhortation by urging us to put on God’s whole armor so we can stand against the devil’s tricky ways. We will ponder each of these facets of relationship in the remainder of this chapter.
Walking as sons and heirs worthy of God’s calling is a lifestyle. Adopting and living this lifestyle is the primary way we serve as God’s workers. Paul shows us how to live in this mode. He begins by exhorting us not to live like the people of this world.
So I tell you and call on you in the Lord not to live any more like the people of the world. Their minds are set on worthless things. Their understanding is darkened. Their ignorance and their closed minds have made them strangers to the life God gives. Having lost their sense of right and wrong, they’ve given themselves up to a life of lust to practice every kind of vice with greed. Ephesians 4:17-19
Most of God’s people in America hold to a mixture of God’s truth and pagan values. So, we live in the midst of a pluralistic world, ensnared in darkness. The worldly, whether they are churched or un-churched, expect us to blend in and not make them uncomfortable. They want us to conform to their ways so they can enjoy darkness. They are uncomfortable with salt and light. If we give in to the pressure to conform and put a basket over our light, we take on the yoke of world cultures. The pagan worldview is popular and virtually unrestrained.
In, What Ever Became of Sin, Dr. Karl Menninger traces resistance to the word, “sin,” in America. He then shows that without moral restrainers, sin rapidly spread through our culture and brought bondage.
Incorporating world values and ways into our own way of life presents the forces of darkness with big openings to capture and spoil us. We need restoration to relationship in the kingdom of God. We are as exiles, strangers and pilgrims in this world and we need to help one another be free from worldly ways—especially if they are our ways. .
We are to walk as Jesus walked—in love, grace and truth, in the power of the Holy Spirit. He had presence, the presence of the Holy Spirit. He walked among the tainted without becoming tainted. People instinctively knew He was a noble person. Those who opposed Him feared Him. Those who were hurting knew He would help them. Those who sought Him knew He loved them. Where He walked, He brought grace and truth. He always did His Fathers will. Now, He leads us in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God.
Paul contrasts the ways of the world with God’s way. He boldly exhorts us to become forsake the worlds ways, become new in the spirit of our minds and put on the new self (Ephesians 4:20-5:7). His instructions on how to imitate God as His dear children are very clear. Please let me elaborate on several.
Forgive–“Forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.” When we hurt one another, it hurts worse than if the world hurts us. We are not surprised to be tyrannized by the world. But we should not have to expect to be tyrannized by fellow believers. We do, because the values of our old self ensnare us and we tend to be as ruthless as the world.
I am sorry for every time I have wounded instead of loving. Please forgive any Christian or me for wounding you. And forgive those of the world for wounding you. God enables us to forgive. Forgiveness is the only remedy for hostility. Forgiveness is a big step in getting to know the Messiah so well that we put on the new self, which is created to be like God, righteous and holy in truth.
As God’s dear children, we are to try to be like Him and live in love, as Christ loved us. When we do, we walk worthy of the God’s calling. But, living as God’s dear children is not easy. Our natural old self-inclinations are always ready to cause us to slip, flounder, and fall. On top of that, people who encourage our old self attitudes surround us.
Sexual sins–“Sexual sins, anything unclean, or greed shouldn’t even be mentioned among you.” Sexual immorality is sexual intercourse outside of marriage. It is a very disruptive and self-destructive sin. It causes drastic damage to the soul mind, emotions, will and subconscious and is an affront to God (1Corinthians 6:15-20).
When people gratify their flesh in sexual sin, they deprive themselves of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. That doesn’t mean God is done with them. It does mean they are sowing to the flesh and of the flesh reaping corruption (Galatians 6:8). They damage their souls by indulging in shallow, exploitative, relationships that predispose them to more of the same. No wonder so many people are alone and lonely. There is great need for fellow believers to encourage them to believe God can rescue them from the tyranny of darkness and help them walk in the light.
When a man and a woman join in sexual intercourse, they become one flesh. God made this a wonderful intermingling of body and soul—mind, emotions, will, and subconscious—in marriage (Hebrews 13:4). He created man and woman to bond for life. What very few realize is something I learned from reading John and Paula Sandford’s books. When a man joins himself with a woman outside of marriage, there is still an intermingling of body and soul! This mingles any evil spirits that cling to the soul. More sexual partners bring more intermingling. This pollutes the mind, emotions, will, and subconscious. Worse yet, it corrupts the body of Christ and causes alienation with God. No wonder so many people are so disoriented, confused and joyless.
Still, there is hope. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, including sexual sin. If you have been or are indulging your flesh in such sin, repent and ask God for forgiveness. He will forgive and restore you to fellowship. We all need to repent. That is, change our minds from self-justifying values and attitudes and turn toward God to adopt God’s truth as our mindset. When we turn from sins to godliness in a true 180-degree turn, we walk worthy of the vocation to which we are called. If we confess our sins and repent, God forgives.
Greed–Paul lumps greed in the same category as sexual sins and anything unclean. How can that be? It flies in the face of American capitalism, where greed is one of the main motivations. It flies in the face of consumerism where we buy anything we want.
“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires that drown them in destruction and ruin. Love of money is a root of all evils, and some people eager to get rich, have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with much pain” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Yet, all too often, we try to cover sins up with rationalizations and high sounding words.
Shun–Paul urges us not to mix with people who claim to be Christians but live like the world.
In my letter I wrote you not to mix with those who live in sexual sin. I didn’t mean you should altogether keep away from people who live in sexual sin in this world, from those who are greedy, who rob, or worship idols; then you would have to get out of this world. But now I write you: Don’t mix with anyone who calls himself a Christian but lives in sexual sin or is greedy, worships idols, slanders, gets drunk or robs. Don’t even eat with such a person.
Is it my business to judge those who are outside the church? God judges those who are outside. Shouldn’t you judge those who are inside the church? Put the wicked man away from you. 1 Corinthians 5:9-12
“Don’t even eat with such a person.” That instruction indicates a personal level of fellowship and requires much grace in application. The Jews limited themselves to eating with kin, friends and covenant partners. If we are not family, friends or acquaintances who frequently eat together, how could not eating with such a person make any difference?
Take the utmost care, about the manner in which you lead your lives, not as fools but as wise men, making the most of the time granted to you for these are evil days. And that being so, do not allow yourselves to lose you good sense, but come to understand instead what is the will of the Lord. Ephesians 5:15-17 Cassier
Walking worthy in family
Serving one another in godly family relationships is ministry of the first order. Godly family relationships reflect and are a major part of body of Christ relationships in which we are built up together. When family relationships are harmonious, they bring glory to God.
We have all things in the Messiah to share with other family members in our homes. Godly families orient us to be other-directed caregivers. Family members also teach us to share His life with guests in our homes. Then, it becomes natural to share with our neighbors. Sharing begins with mutual submission. “As you respect Christ, submit to one another” (Ephesians 5:21).
Mutually submitting to one another as we submit to Messiah does wonders for relationships. This instruction applies to each of us individually and to the other. Over the years, much distortion and bad teaching has given submission a bad taste. So let’s take a minute for more perspective.
Note first and foremost, we are to submit to one another. God does not want us to unilaterally submit to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. If a church leader is teaching submission according to God’s Word he or she should humbly submit to the least amongst us. Second, submission has nothing to do with servitude. It has everything to do with love and grace.
Our family relationships are meant to help us grow in grace and truth, in accord with the two commandments Jesus presented to sum up all the Law and the prophets. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your life, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The next is like it: Love your neighbor like yourself” (Matthew 22:37 -39). If we love the Lord our God, we obey Him. If we obey Him, we love our neighbor as ourselves.
Covenant marriage is meant to taste of, nurture, and reflect our love for the Lord. By pouring His love into our hearts, God enables us to lay down our life for our mate and so participate in the creation and sustenance of a home filled with His glorious light.
Marriage love is mutually rewarding now and will be rewarded through eternity. Troubles do not quench such love. They develop godly character. The fire of the Holy Spirit vaporizes our dross and replaces it with love that repents, forgives, and serves to the building of a home.
Such love is painful at the times it shines bright light on inner darkness we vainly try to hide from God and our spouse. But, it makes our relationship tingle with healthy transparency. In the light, little things do not get a chance to escalate into distrust, resentment, hatred, jealousy, or other selfishness that fractures relationship. Facing and resolving our problems together is the way we grow up in the Messiah in a bond of love. We can walk in this light because God has rescued us from the tyranny of darkness and transferred us into His marvelous light.
Still, husbands and wives have ample opportunity to find out how tough and challenging it is to live in peace. “Be humble and gentle in every way, be patient and lovingly bear with one another. Do your best to keep the oneness of the Spirit by living in peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3). Applying that instruction does wonders for marriage. We are at our best when we are humble, gentle and patient. These love qualities help us stick together, put up with one another and be built up together toward Messiah.
You who are wives must submit to your husbands, just as though you were rendering submission to the Lord. The husband is the head set over his wife, just as Christ is the Head over the church: it is He who brings salvation to his body. And indeed, as the Church submits herself to Christ, so you who are wives must submit yourselves to your husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24 Cassirer
Husband, you act as the head, set over your wife by loving and edifying her—tenderly cherishing, nurturing, providing for, and protecting her as Christ loved the church.
You husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it to make it holy by washing it clean with water by the Word, to have the Church stand before Him as something wonderful, without a spot or wrinkle or anything like that; yes, it should be holy and without a fault. This is how husbands should love their wives, like their own bodies. A man who loves his wife is loving himself. Nobody ever hated his own body. Everybody feeds it and treats it tenderly, as Christ does the Church because we are parts of His body. This is why a man will leave his father and mother and live with his wife, and the two will be one flesh. There’s a great truth hidden here—I mean that of Christ and the church. But every one of you, too, love your wife as you love yourself. And a wife should respect her husband. Ephesians 5:25-33
Our family life should be worthy of God’s calling. God plans for us to be a supportive clan that thrives on doing good for one another. Family is like a micro-body of Christ, where love is shown in word and deed. Our husband and wife marriage covenant relationship is congruent with God’s Messiah and Church relationship. Following the Messiah is the way to build a godly home.
And a wife should respect her husband. Wives need love. Husbands need respect. There is an excellent book I recommend on this subject. Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs by Emerson Eggerichs.
God blessed me with a wonderful Proverbs 19 wife, who helped me establish a godly family.
Parents, the best thing we can do for our children is to be faithful to our Messiah Jesus, to God’s Word, and to one another. We teach by example of our relationships. Our devotion to God is shown by our devotion to our spouse and our children. As we grow up into Messiah, we do our best to facilitate each other’s love, fulfillment and worth.
God plans for parents to serve their children by loving them in word and deed. When we lay down our lives to nurture each family member, we are as life givers to each other. Children thrive in God’s koinonia environment–in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
This nurture is primarily relational but includes feeding, clothing, even changing diapers. Through our personal ministry to our children, they get to know the Lord and learn to relate in koinonia.
A godly mother’s hugs and soothing words are special ministry, beyond anything an unbeliever can muster. They encompass her children with a soft glow of love. Love is so vital that babies deprived of it die. Think of the sting a mother takes out of a wound. With her mothering she makes it better, whether it’s a toddler’s owie, an adolescent’s shattered expectation, or an adult’s heartache. That’s ministry!
Fathers, we bear the ultimate responsibility to help our children get to know the Lord and relate in fellowship with the Lord and one another. In order to do that, we must do our utmost to be faithful to the Lord (1 John 1:6-7; 2:3-6).
Our children trust us. How we nurture them, greatly influences how they see our Father in heaven. Whether we are good parents or not our children look up to us. “Parents are the glory of their children” (Proverbs 17:6b).
As we walk in love and help our children to love they willingly obey us. Our children don’t just naturally love. They are by nature self-centered. Our children must be taught to love. If we learn to be obedient to our Father in heaven and His Word, we have a rich heritage to convey to our children. In addition to living a godly lifestyle, we can bless our children by loving them and teaching them to obey because they love.
Telling our children we love them is very important. When we verbalize our love, we also share the inheritance God has given us with them. As we tell them of our love, we can also speak a blessing to them. This can begin with something as simple as thanking God for His blessing during our table and evening prayers. Or when we tuck our children in at night, speaking a blessing like: “We love you and God loves you. The Lord bless you with life and health and well-being.”
The nurture of a godly family helps children grow up in the Messiah. By learning to obey godly parents, they learn to share, to lay down their lives for those that they love. If we parents love, discipline, and nurture our children in the way of the Lord, our work of service becomes very rewarding. If we are harsh or unfair or unfaithful, we are in danger of making our children angry with us and with the Lord. “And you fathers, don’t make your children angry, but raise them by letting the Lord train and correct them” (Ephesians 6:4). May we love so our children learn of the love and grace and glory of the Lord and find it to be true by family and life experience.
Child, you are a blessing to your parents and grandparents and you can continue to be a blessing to them. If you love your parents, you obey your parents and God’s shalom is upon you. (Ephesians 6:1-3; Proverbs 17:6a; 23:24; Colossians 3:20)
Our heavenly Father, from whom every group in heaven and on earth gets the name of family, has blessed us with the ability to enjoy harmonious family relationships. They are the primary setting for the calling to which we are called. As we love and nurture one another, we bear fruit that doesn’t pass away. Beyond that, godly family relationships are essential to civilized society.
Walking worthy at work
What do citizens of the kingdom of God do at work? According to God’s plan, we become increasingly useful and productive as we partake of the divine nature and mature in the character traits supporting harmonious relationships (2 Peter 1).
These traits make us excellent workers in what we do for a living. We know who we are in Christ. We are other-directed caregivers. We work well in society. We relate well with fellow believers. We are excellent family people. We think as people of destiny. These qualities make us good workers.
In the work we do for a living, we are to serve eagerly, as we would serve the Lord and not merely men (Ephesians 6:5-9).
Our primary vocation is to be to God’s glory. To the extent each of us serves in that kingdom mode, we bear fruit that doesn’t pass away. Sometimes this way is hard and it is often without instant earthly reward. But for the long haul, God’s plan is far better than anything man can conceive. If we walk in His way, our lives make a difference. We defer to one another out of reverent obedience to Messiah Jesus. And, the light of knowing Jesus shines forth in this dark and tyrannical world.
Stand Tall in the Messiah
We can live as citizens of the kingdom of God, worthy of the gospel of Christ as Paul exhorts:
But live as citizens worthy of the good news of Christ, so that, whether I come to see you or stay away, I will hear you are standing firm, one in spirit, and fighting side by side like one man for the faith in the good news. Don’t let your enemies frighten you in any way. This is how you prove that they will be destroyed and you will be saved, and this proof is from God. It is given to you to be for Christ, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for Him as you have the same struggle you once saw me have and now hear that I have. Philippians 1:27-30
10 Gathering Together
Participation is inherent in God ordained gatherings in both the Old and New Testament. God gave His people Israel a natural affinity for community and reinforced it with the Law, the Sabbath, and seven feasts. Paul told the holy and faithful fellow believers in Christ at Colossae: These have been a shadow of things to come.
Then nobody should say you are wrong in what you eat or drink or do on a festival, on the first of the month, or on a Sabbath. These have been a shadow of the coming things, but the real things are in Christ. Colossians 2:16-17
Jesus didn’t establish a new setting for the Lord’s Supper; He changed the Passover Feast of the Old Covenant into our feast we call the Lord’s Supper—the prophetic sign of the New Covenant. All believers can join our feast in their homes with family and friends in their traditional church or in organic church; even the un-churched can participate.
One of my favorite portions of God’s Word has immense implications about how we should relate as we gather together. It is from the book before Matthew.
You said, “It’s so disappointing to serve God. What did we get whenever we did what He wanted and walked in mourning before the LORD of armies? According to our experience people are happier if they forget about God, more successful if they do wrong. Yes, you can challenge God and get away with it.”
Then those who respected the LORD talked to one another. And the LORD was interested and listened. And a record was kept to remind Him of those who respect the LORD and think highly of His name. “They will be Mine,” says the LORD of armies, “on that day when I act they will be My precious possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then you will again see the difference between a righteous person and a wicked person, one who serves God and one who doesn’t.”
“You see, the day will come, burning like a furnace, and all who defy God and all who do wrong will be straw. The coming day will burn them” says the LORD of armies, “leaving no root or branch of them.”
“But for you who respect My name there will rise the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings. You will go out and frolic like calves let out of their barn.” Malachi 3: 14-4:2
Quasi and lukewarm Christians and pagans say much about God. They frequently share their disdain for God and His people. Somehow they feel more secure when they can get someone to agree with them that, “you can challenge God and get away with it.”
Why is it believers say so little about God to one another? Is it because we feel more like spectators than participants? When a bunch of Jews got together, “those who respected the LORD talked to one another.” It wasn’t group participation. Sitting in pews and listening to a preacher talk to all of us, reciting readings together or singing a songs out of a Hymnal together is group participation. Conversation is two way, one another, in community.
Group participation is better than no participation. I am not proposing we stop “going to church.” Our Legacy Church heritage is entrenched as the way to gather together. Some believers are completely satisfied with the status quo and have no desire for one another participation. Others are not as satisfied. They yearn for and are involved in in-depth one another relationships and sharing but can’t imagine themselves not “going to church” on Sunday. Some have had all they can stand of the pulpit and the pew and want one another communication. God is so full of grace; He accommodates each group. But, He is leading many into greener pastures. By the Spirit, The Good Shepherd is calling His sheep out of the corral into the green pastures of His kingdom.
In the life of a healthy Legacy Church, much unstructured participation naturally occurs. Brothers and sisters in the Lord visit with one another before and after the services. If someone is sick or in a crisis, fellow believers readily pray for them and come to their aid. By interacting in boards, committees, clubs, and groups, many get to know each other well enough to invite them into their homes. When we were in Legacy churches Judy and I did. Today we purposely join in our homes with others to fellowship in the Lord,speaking highly of the Lord to one another. For the last 30 years, God has connected us with like minded believers. We pray and God connects us with His people. I call these God connections.
God is connecting more and more of His people and gathering them in unstructured settings. Many continue attending regular church. In America, about 10% of Christians gather together in Organic House Church. Half of them also attend regular church services. Here we find a great opportunity. We can encourage believers in structured church to gather together informally in communion and those in organic house church to join together in communion.
Informal settings are conducive to fellowship. Fellow members of the body of Christ join with those who respect the LORD and talk to one another. Having friends over for dinner often leads to prayer and share times, Bible studies, Dinners for Eight, Koinonia Dinners, Simple Church, House Church, Organic Church and other forms of fellowship in the Lord. What the forms are called is not very important. Communion is.
When we enter into communion, we talk to one another, remembering Jesus’ death till He comes. “Then those who respected the LORD talked to one another. And the LORD was interested and listened.” How can we help but enter into communion?
The Laws governing participation
We can learn much from the Laws God gave Israel governing participation. When He established Covenant with Israel, He required His people to remember Him by partaking in Sabbaths and Feasts. He gave each father responsibility to lead his household in the Sabbath and the Feasts. The father stood before his family recognizing our Father in heaven, our Pater who established patria—family and community.
Sabbath began every Friday night and ended Saturday at sundown. In each family home the father began by blessing his family with the blessing Aaron first pronounced to God’s people after the exodus from Egypt.
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let His face shine on you and be merciful to you!
The LORD look kindly at you and give you shalom! Numbers 6:24-26
Next, the husband would bless his wife by personalizing God’s Word. In the New Covenant his blessing would be something like this: “You come from the LORD. You are far more precious than jewels. You dress in strength and nobility.” And the father to a son: “May you shine as bright light in this world.” And the father to a daughter: “May your radiance come from within.”
God commanded His people Israel to celebrate seven annual feasts that lasted up to seven days. These were festivals of dedication and rejoicing before the LORD for blessings He bestowed upon them. They were celebrations of community shalom in the LORD. The Feast of Passover in conjunction with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Shelters, Booths) required a family trip to Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16). Can you imagine thousands and thousands of Jews traveling and gathering for a week of celebration? Mary and Joseph didn’t even miss Jesus for a day when they were on the way home from a Passover festival. After a day, they started looking for Him among friends and relatives.
These feasts were signs commemorating God in their lives. Israelites took animals and produce from their fields to offer to the LORD and traveled with their families to Jerusalem.
The most reverent supper gathering was the annual Passover supper. It was patterned to bring to remembrance the Israelites’ common heritage in the Lord. Special focus was given to the reenactment of the first Passover supper as when He delivered them from Egyptian bondage. Bread was blessed, broken, and shared. A lamb was butchered, cooked and eaten. Godly one another communication thrived. Can’t you just see a bunch of joyful Jews conversing with all of their facial expressions and body gestures? It was rich fellowship. At the end of the supper, all stood and a thanksgiving toast was presented to the Lord.
This feast merged with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a celebration that went on for seven days. Israel rejoiced with one another before the LORD. There was participation.
People learn by participating. In his book, Organic Leadership, Neil Cole instructs how to mentor leaders. He recommends one-on-one training because it accommodates each pace of learning. Then he shares how people learn in different ways: Visual, Audio, Kinetic—Movement, Verbal feedback. God taught and reinforced His way with His people Israel in all of those ways.
All Israel identified as the community of the LORD. Sabbath, Feast and chaburah celebrations taught, commemorated and reinforced His way with His people through prophetic symbols and one another interaction. They were also a shadow of the real things to come.
The promised Messiah came
Although the significance was largely lost on the Israelites, Passover was also a prophetic sign of their Messiah coming to deliver them from the tyranny of darkness. The Sabbath and the Feasts had been a shadow of the coming things. “Then nobody should say you are wrong in what you eat or drink or do on a festival, on the first of the month, or on a Sabbath. These have been a shadow of the coming things, but the real things are in Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17). They came.
Jesus didn’t establish a new setting for the Lord’s Supper; He changed the Passover Feast of the Old Covenant into a Feast we call the Lord’s Supper and made it the prophetic sign of the New Covenant.
Then came the day of the festival of bread without yeast, when the Passover lamb had to be killed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go, get the Passover ready for us to eat.”…
When the hour had come, He and the apostles lay down for the meal. “I have very much longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” He said to them. “I tell you, I will not eat it again till it comes true in God’s kingdom.” Then He was handed a cup, and He gave thanks. “Take this,” He said “and share it.”
“I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the product of the vine till God’s kingdom comes.”
Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this to remember Me.”
He did the same with the cup when the supper was over, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood poured out for you.” Luke 22:7-8, 14-20
Jesus fulfilled the Passover supper with His life–body and blood, death and resurrection.
Our Passover Lamb was sacrificed; it is Christ. 1 Corinthians 5:7
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:16 KJV
Fifty days after Passover came the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was poured out, Peter told the Jews,
“Then all the people of Israel should know it’s true that God made Him Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”
When the people heard this, they felt crushed. They asked Peter and the other apostles, “Fellow Jews, what should we do?”
Peter answered them. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven and you will be given the Holy Spirit. What is promised belongs to you, to your children, and to all who are far away, all whom the Lord our God will call.”
He said much more to warn them. “Let yourselves be saved from these crooked people,” He urged them. Those who accepted what he said were baptized. And that day about three thousand persons were added.
They were loyal to what the apostles taught in their fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in praying. Awe came on everybody—the apostles were doing many wonders and miracles. All who believed were together and shared everything with one another. They would sell their lands and other property and distribute the money to anyone as he needed it. All were one at heart as they went to the temple regularly every day. They had their meals in their homes and ate their food with glad and simple hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Acts 2:36-47
- The kingdom came
- The Holy Spirit was poured out
- Agape began
The kingdom came. God made Jesus “Lord and Messiah.” Lord here in Acts 2 and throughout the Acts and the Epistles is virtually synonymous with King. Lord was used to convey the meaning of King without using the word “King.” This is the reality John shares:
Grace and peace to you from Him who is and was and is coming, from the seven spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the Witness whom we can trust, the First of the dead to live again, and the One who rules over the kings of the world.
To Him who loves us and by His blood has freed us from our sins and has made us a kingdom and priests serving His God and Father—to Him be glory and power forever. Amen. Revelation 1:4-6
The Holy Spirit was poured out. The kingdom came by the Holy Spirit. Jews who believed in Jesus were made new creatures in Christ by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. God our Father made these born again Jews His children and heirs, and citizen priests of the kingdom that is and is to come. We have seen Jesus said the least in the kingdom is greater than John the baptizer. The least were filled with the Holy Spirit and called into marvelous light. So are we.
You are a chosen people, priests of a King, a holy nation, a people saved to be His own and to tell of the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9
This marvelous light is the only environment in which we can celebrate communion in the fellowship our Messiah desires. In this marvelous light, we open our hearts wide to Messiah Jesus and one another.
The Holy Spirit has brought us to life and consciousness in the environment of the marvelous light Messiah shines on us. By His grace, God has cleansed us by the blood of the Lamb and given us His promised inheritance. He has made us His children, accepted in the Beloved, and given us the Holy Spirit. By the blood of the Lamb, He has made us holy and blameless before Himself. Thus, He empowers us to live in the light as He is in the light.
Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, since light produces everything good and righteous and true. Ephesians 5:8-9
How we respond to the quickening of the Spirit determines how deeply we participate in the kingdom of God in the Spirit today. As we live in the light as Jesus is in the light we walk worthy of our King—in righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Spirit.
God’s kingdom is not eating and drinking but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17
Agape began. Agape is a Greek word translated many ways. In Jude verse 12 the KJV puts agape as “feasts of charity.” In language of today, we say feasts of love. For agape, believers met in their homes. In The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis counts agape as a selfless love, a love that was passionately committed to the well-being of the other.
All were one at heart as they went to the temple regularly every day. They had their meals in their homes and ate their food with glad and simple hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47
Paul had to straighten up the church in Corinth about a man whose wickedness they tolerated in their midst. In his exhortation to them he refers to the celebration of agape calling it “our festival.”
It isn’t good for you to feel proud. Don’t you know a little yeast ferments the whole dough? Get rid of the old yeast in order to be a new dough, as you are really free from the old yeast, because our Passover Lamb was sacrificed; it is Christ. Let us, then, celebrate our festival, not with old yeast, not with any yeast of vice and wickedness, but with the sweet bread of purity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
The focus of our festival is Messiah Jesus. He reveals the Father and brings us together in the oneness of the Spirit. Knowing Messiah Jesus and God the Father is eternal life (John 17:3). We come together before Jesus our Savior and King in this know relationship.
Agape is an environment. These believers were not one hour on Sunday church Christians. They were 24/7 believers, who thrived in harmonious community relationship. They put their love into action and made it real, walking in good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 KJV).
Right after Pentecost the apostles proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom every day from house to house (Acts 5:42). Peter first ministered to the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:23-27). Paul and Silas met with the believers at Lydia’s house (Acts 16:40). Paul proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20). We are free to celebrate agape in our homes.
All believers can participate. No Law prevents traditional or organic house church believers from celebrating home communion. Many organic church brothers and sisters gather in a communion meal. Even the un-churched can participate in home communion. We all need to relate in agape.
How is it then brethren when you come together?
The ideal gathering of believers is a communion supper hosted in a home–agape. The Jews of the first Covenant celebrated each Sabbath in their homes. After the last temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. they also began observing Passover in their homes. Jesus celebrated communion with 12 disciples. Agape was a house to house gathering. Celebrating communion in our homes is much more conducive to participation than the more structured settings we expect in traditional churches.
How is it then, brethren? When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 1 Corinthians 14:26 KJV
Every one participates. Every one hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. This one another way of sharing is very edifying. We get to share what the Lord has laid up in our hearts. This fellowship in Christ Jesus builds us up in our faith, tightens up our relationship with one another and honors Christ Jesus. Judy and I would like to be in this flow of the Spirit all of the time, especially when we come together with our brothers and sisters in the Lord in communion with Him.
The Spirit causes living water to flow out from our innermost being. Out of the abundance of our hearts, we make melody in our hearts to the Lord. It flows forth in tongues and interpretation, prophesy, psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, spoken or sung. As we participate in this mode, the Holy Spirit brings forth an orderly divine flow. The Spirit quickens this in the deepest areas of our innermost being. This divinely inspired flow is beyond our rational minds. The Holy Spirit quickens deep, heartfelt thoughts, perceptions, and feelings, revealing God’s presence in us and with us.
The Holy Spirit inspires this flow of ministry by quickening our spiritual senses—Spirit to spirit. In order for us to be aware of this divine flow, we must zealously partake and participate. It is very easy to quench the Spirit. We are more comfortable with our rational sensuousness. So we must willfully enter into the flow of the Spirit, letting the Spirit change us from glory to glory to by like Messiah Jesus. When we do, the fragrance of knowing the Lord comes forth.
We often end up blessing one another and ministering the Spirit. Celebrating Communion in word and in deed brings restoration of the signs and wonders our risen Messiah Jesus prophesied would prove He had risen (Mark 16:9-19).
God ordains each of us to open our hearts and partake so deeply of His life that we are changed from glory to glory to be like Him. As we partake, the Messiah is formed in us, enabling us to relate in Him and for Him, till He comes.
When we come together, we are seated with Christ in heavenly places—the presence of the Father (Hebrews 12). These places are not light years away. Yet, we see indistinctly because our body is human. The Spirit reveals Messiah Jesus, and He reveals the Father. But our natural bodies resist the revelation. When He comes back and changes us, we will see Him face to face in our glorified body. In the mean time, we can see and hear our Messiah as the Holy Spirit warms our hearts with a taste of the glory to be revealed.
In this setting, the Holy Spirit helps us spontaneously partake of our Messiah’s life and share it with one another. The veil that was over our hearts has been lifted away and we know God the Father and His Son by the Spirit. In the Spirit, there are no more natural, social, or religious barriers to communion. For, we are all one in the Messiah. Faith, hope, and agape motivate us to bear fruit that doesn’t pass away. As we grow up in love Messiah “makes the body grow and builds it up in love.” The Spirit flows with fewer and fewer impediments as we partake and participate, with the kindness and courtesy of love, with the sweet bread of purity and truth.
Messiah Jesus builds as we participate
The gospel of the kingdom is being proclaimed and more and more believers are setting their eyes on the things above instead of the on who is standing on the platform in front of the sanctuary. When we focus is on Church people participation is stifled. When we focus on God our Father and His Son, Messiah Jesus at His right hand, ruling as King of the kingdom of God, human obstacles to participation can’t prevail. In the kingdom of God, participation thrives.
Communion focuses us on Christ Jesus and our restored relationships in Him. In communion, we remember the Lord’s death till He comes. We are truly blessed to be able to come together and participate in this in-depth communion with the Father, His Son Jesus the Messiah, and one another—in the oneness of the Spirit.
Paul shows the prophetic and spiritual depth of communion. It is a wonderful blessing. But, partaking in an unworthy way is detrimental to health and life (1 Corinthians 11:23-32).
Communion is both a fearful and a joyful privilege of coming into God’s presence with one another in Christ. No darkness can remain before His glorious holiness. Our old nature fears such light. So, the deeds of our old man must be brought to the cross—made dead, so that our new creature is all that is alive. We take the deeds of our old man to the cross by confessing, repenting and being forgiven.
The emphasis is not so much being dead to sin as it is being alive unto God. By His Spirit, the Lord is changing us from glory to glory to be like His firstborn Son. Yet, we often overlook the examining part and thus do not discern the Lord’s body. That is why many are sick and ailing and a number are dead.
The term “Eucharist” has a wonderful meaning, much of which is lost to us today. We call Communion Eucharist because of thanksgiving. In the God serving Israelite culture, Passover supper was the height of thanksgiving celebration. The Hebrew word for joyous thanksgiving was “b’rakhah.” B’rakhah means both blessing and thanksgiving. God blesses; we joyfully thank Him; this blesses Him—b’rakhah. The Jews began a blessing with “Praised be you, Adonai,” then went on to describe the specific reason for praising God at that moment. The Greek word for the thanksgiving side of b’rakhah is “eucharistia.” That’s how we come to call Communion Eucharist—for thanksgiving. This comes out best in the way Mathew tells communion.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it. He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take and eat. This is My body”
Then He took a cup and gave thanks. He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant, poured out for all to forgive their sins.
“I tell you, I will not drink again of this product of the vine till that day when I drink it with you in a new way in My father’s kingdom.”
Then they sang a hymn. Matthew 26:26-30a
With Jesus, we look forward to the Day He will drink of the fruit of the vine at the wedding feast of the Lamb. What did they sing? William Beck speculates they sang Psalms 115 to 118. Stern says since it was the Seder, a praise must have been sung. The Hebrew word for praise is “Hallel.” The Hallel is either Psalms 113 to 118 or 136. Psalms 113 begins:
Praise the LORD! Praise Him, O servants of the LORD, praise the LORD’s name!
Bless the LORD’s name from now and forever!
From the rising of the sun to its going down praise the LORD’s name!
The LORD is high above all nations and His glory above the skies.
Who is like the LORD our God, seated on His high throne? …
Singing such praises gives Eucharist even more meaning and stirs the flow of the Spirit.
As we grow in our glorious New Covenant blessings we learn to flow in the Spirit as God’s sons and daughters. In this ongoing process, we learn that the Holy Spirit brings forth different revelations, but not in the same get together. When we come together, the Holy Spirit soon reveals the general gist of the communion flow. We learn to tell if what we are prompted to share is with the flow or aside from it. If what we have is an aside from the flow, it will keep for the appropriate time and place. The same goes for questions and discussions.
Agape relationships are the most important thing in life and are the basis of life in the kingdom of God. Jesus put participation in agape relationships above all commandments. Love your neighbor (Mark 12:29-34).
11 Israel and the kingdom of God
The subject of Israel and the kingdom of God is extremely controversial. I approach it with this perspective. Jesus the Messiah is the only Savior and Deliverer. The Israelites of the Old Covenant who trusted God, the Jews who trusted in Messiah Jesus and Jews who trust in Messiah Jesus are saved. The gospel of the kingdom must be proclaimed to Jews and Gentiles.
I am for Jews and not against them. I support the nation of Israel in the same way I support American and all free countries. I am also for our brothers and sisters in the Lord who are Palestinians.
To bring more insight and clarity to this subject, we will look to God’s Word and His way and address mans ways in light of it.
The way of the LORD
We gain the kingdomview of Israel and the kingdom of God when we focus on the real things in Messiah. As we saw in the previous chapter, the Sabbath and the Feasts were a shadow of the coming things. “But the real things are in the Messiah.” The real things came and are to come.
On the Day of Pentecost, the kingdom came in the Holy Spirit. For the first time in history, believers were regenerated and filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter told the Jews the way of entrance into the kingdom. He proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom with grace and truth.
In Acts 3, we see Peter and John going to the temple, where they encountered a lame man and healed him by the power of God.
As he clung to Peter and John, all the people came running together to them in Solomon’s Porch, as it was called. They were dumfounded.
When Peter saw the people, he said to them, “Men of Israel, why are you wondering about this, or why are you staring at us as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered and denied before Pilate when he had decided to let Him go. You denied the holy and righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you. You killed the Author of life. But God raised Him from the dead—we’re witnesses of that. His name, because we believe in it, made this man strong whom you see and know. The faith that Jesus works has given him this perfect health right in front of all of you.”
“And now, fellow Jews, I know that like your rulers you didn’t know what you were doing, but in this way God did what He predicted by all the prophets—His Messiah had to suffer. Repent then, and turn, to have your sins wiped out that a time may come when the Lord refreshes you and sends Jesus, whom He appointed to be your Savior and whom heaven had to receive until the time when everything will be restored, as God said long ago by His holy prophets.”
“Moses said: The Lord our God will raise one of your people to be a Prophet to you like me. Listen to everything He tells you. And destroy anyone among the people who will not listen to that Prophet. Samuel and all the other prophets after him, as many as have spoken told about these days. You are the heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with our fathers when He said to Abraham. And in your Descendant all the people on earth will be blessed. Now that God has given His Servant, He sent Him first to you to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” Acts 3:11-26
The religious leaders couldn’t let this go because many of their followers were turning to Messiah Jesus. On the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 souls were added. Now another 5,000 men were added to the kingdom of God. Counting these men’s families, that would be about 20,000 more new believers. So, they arrested Peter and John and put them in prison until the next day, when they had the two stand before them.
“By what power or name did you do this?” they asked.
Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. “Rulers of the people and elders,” he said to them, “if we’re questioned today about helping a cripple, how he was made well, all of you and all the people of Israel should know this man stands healthy before you by the name of Jesus the Messiah from Nazareth, whom you crucified but God raised from the dead. He is the Stone rejected by you builders and has become the Cornerstone. No one else can save us, because in all the world there is only one name given us by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:7b-12
This way of salvation is the only way of the LORD for both the Jew and the non-Jew. “No one else can save us, because in all the world there is only one name given us by which we must be saved.” That’s not hard to understand. Man makes it hard. Christians and Jews hold many different views of the way of salvation, of Israel and of the kingdom of God.
We can come to a better understanding of God’s plan of salvation for the Jew and the non-Jew by seeing He has made us His temple. “Temple” is a kingdom word that draws our attention to the real things in the Messiah. God’s temple building plan overcame prejudice and animosity between believing Jews and Gentiles, the circumcised and the uncircumcised.
Remember then, physically you once were Gentiles, and those who call themselves “circumcised” (which is physical and done by human hands) called you “uncircumcised.” You were then without the Messiah, excluded from being citizens of Israel and strangers to the covenants that had the promise. You had no hope or God in the world.
Once you were far away, but now in Messiah Jesus the blood of the Messiah has brought you near. He is our Shalom: In His flesh He has made the Jew and the non-Jew one by breaking down the wall of enmity that kept them apart and by putting away the Law with its rules and regulations, in order to make the Jew and the non-Jew in Himself one new man (so making shalom) and to make both in one body friends with God by His cross, on which He killed the enmity. And He came with the good news of shalom to you who were far away and to us who were near, since by one Spirit He enables both to come to one Father.
Then you are no longer foreigners or strangers but fellow citizens, a part of God’s holy people and members of His family. You are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and Christ Jesus Himself is the Cornerstone. In Him the whole building is fitted together and grows to be a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you too are built up with the others to be God’s home in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:11-22
Jesus killed the enmity by making the believing Jew and non-Jew one. So it should overcome our differences and promote loyalty and kinship before God. Regardless of our ethnic, institutional and national heritage, God established, shapes and sustains harmonious community relationship with Himself and one another in the Messiah. “In Him the whole building is fitted together and grows to be a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you too are built up with the others to be God’s home in the Spirit.”
In our unsaved state, we Gentiles were without Messiah, excluded from being citizens of Israel and strangers to the covenants that had the promise. We had no hope or God in the world. On the other hand, the Jews were citizens of Israel even though they were ruled by Rome. God gave their forefathers the covenants that had the promise.
We have been blessed in Abraham’s Descendent—Messiah Jesus. By His grace, God our Father has made us His children and enables us to come to Him in the new way of the Spirit. We belong to the Messiah and are Abraham’s descendants and heirs of the blessing God promised. The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob is our God and Father. We listen to and follow God our Father in faith relationship in the Messiah. Messiah Jesus has come and established the New Covenant. In Messiah Jesus we are one.
God has made us what we are. In Messiah Jesus, He made us one new man. In this one new man, Messiah Jesus, He made us fellow citizens of the kingdom, a part of God’s holy people and members of His family. Father, Son, Messiah, son, daughter, children, heirs and brethren are a few of the kingdom words expressing this relationship. We are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and Messiah Jesus is the Cornerstone. In Messiah Jesus we are fitted together and grow to be a holy temple in the Lord.
This gives new covenant meaning to the word “temple.” God has gathered us together in one new man, Messiah Jesus, and made us His temple home in the Spirit. Jesus referred to His body as a temple. Paul tells us our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16)?
The veil preventing access to the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem was torn in two when Jesus died.
But Jesus called out loud again and gave up His spirit. Just then the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth was shaken, the rocks were split, the graves were opened, and many bodies of the holy people asleep in death were brought back to life: they came out of the graves and after He had risen went into the holy city, where many saw them. Matthew 27:50-54
In Hebrews, we find the significance.
The first covenant had its regulations for worship and the earthly holy place. …
But the Messiah came as a High Priest of the good things that have come: He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by human hands (that is, not a part of our created world). And He didn’t use the blood of goats and calves but through His own blood He entered only once into the Holy of Holies and paid a price that frees us forever.
Brethren, with the blood of Jesus we can now boldly go into the holy place by the new, living way He opened for us through the curtain, the way of His body [flesh], and we have a great Priest in charge of God’s family. Let us then come near God, sincere in our hearts and convinced in our faith, because our hearts were sprinkled to take away our guilty feelings, and our bodies were washed with clean water. Hebrews 9:1, 11-12; 10:19-22
By sacrificing His body, Messiah Jesus opened the new living way into this realm. “He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by human hands.” From that day forth, neither the temple nor Judaism was needed. “Our Passover Lamb was sacrificed; it is the Messiah” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Great numbers of Jews trusted in Messiah Jesus and entered the heavenly Jerusalem.
But God, who is rich in mercy, loved us with such a great love. He made us who were dead in sins alive with the Messiah. (Your are saved by a gift of His grace.) And since we are in Christ Jesus, He raised us with Him and had us sit with Him in heaven to show in the coming ages the immeasurable riches of His love by being kind to us in Messiah Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7 Also see Hebrews 12:18-24
Locked out of the kingdom
The majority of Jews did not repent and turn to Messiah Jesus. The religious rulers of the people and elders successfully locked them out of the kingdom. Just prior to His crucifixion, Jesus told them: “Woe to you Bible experts and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You won’t come into it yourselves, and when others try to come in, you won’t let them” (Matthew 23:13).
Obviously, Jesus wanted to lead the people into the kingdom. Many balked. So the question, what is God’s plan for Israel? Even though he was called to minister to the Gentiles, Paul had heart for his kinsmen. He devoted an extensive portion of Romans to this subject.
I’m telling the truth in the Messiah, I’m not lying , as my conscience by the Holy Spirit assures me, when I say I have a great sorrow and in my heart a pain that never leaves me. I could wish myself cut off from Messiah and damned for my fellow Jews, my own flesh and blood. They are the people of Israel. They were made God’s family. They have the glory, the covenant, the Law, the worship, and the promises. They have the ancestors, and from them according to His body came Messiah, who is God over everything, blessed forever. Amen
It doesn’t mean God failed to do what He said. Not all who are descended from Israel are the real Israel, and not all who are descended from Abraham are for that reason his real children. No, Isaac’s children will be called your descendants. This means children born in a natural way are not God’s children. Only the children he had because God promised them are counted his descendants. Romans 9:1-8
Not all Israel are the real Israel. Only the Israelites of the Old Covenant who trusted God, the Jews who trusted in Messiah Jesus as Peter and the apostles urged and Jews who now trust in Messiah Jesus are the real Israel.
There is an Israel within Israel. There is a spiritually elect remnant within the physicalnation. John Murray sums up: “The purpose of this distinction is to show that the covenantal promise of God did not have respect to Israel after the flesh but to this true Israel and that, therefore, the unbelief and rejection of ethnic Israel as a whole in no way interfered with the fulfillment of God’s covenant purpose and promise. The word of God, therefore, has not been violated. Sam Storms—The Church, Israel, and “Replacement” Theology—Part I http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/the-church-israel-and-replacement-theology-part-i/
Righteousness was not given because of works but by believing. The majority of Jews were so entrenched in works they would not accept Jesus as the Messiah. They regarded themselves right and were looking for a King with a sword to deliver them from Rome.
Non-Jewish people who didn’t search for righteousness found a righteousness we get by believing, while Israel, pursuing a Law with its righteousness, didn’t find it. Why? They didn’t try to get it by faith but thought they could get it by works. They stumbled over the stumbling block, as the Bible says: I’m putting in Zion a Stone they will stumble over and a Rock they will fall over. But if you believe in Him, you will not be disappointed. Romans 9:30b-33
Israelites that do not trust in Messiah Jesus for salvation don’t understand and have not submitted to God’s righteousness.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God is to save the Israelites. I can testify they are zealous for God but don’t understand. Not knowing the righteousness God gives, and trying to set up their own, they haven’t submitted to God’s righteousness. You see, the Messiah is the end of the Law to give righteousness to everyone who believes. Romans 10:1-4
“The Messiah is the end of the Law to give righteousness to everyone who believes.” He ended Judaism and sacrifices.
Paul continues his explanation of the salvations of Israel by showing God’s grace. There is a remnant God has chosen by His grace. The others, God has given a spirit of deep sleep.
So I ask, “Has God rejected His people?” Certainly not—I’m an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham and of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He chose long ago. Or don’t you know what the bible says in the story of Elijah when he pleads with God against Israel: Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me. But what did God answer him? I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not knelt to Baal. So there is right now, too, a remnant God has chosen by His grace. But if He was moved only by His grace, it couldn’t have been due to what they have done; otherwise it wouldn’t be His unearned love anymore.
What does it mean? Israel didn’t get what it wanted, but those whom God chose did get it.
And the minds of the others were dulled, as the Bible says: God has given them a spirit of deep sleep, eyes that should not see, and ears that should not hear, and so it has been until this day.
And David says: Let their table be a snare and a trap to make them fall and get what they deserve. Let their eyes turn dark so they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.
Did they stumble, I ask, to be lost altogether? Certainly not! By their error salvation has come to the non-Jews to make the Jews jealous. And if their error made the world rich and their loss made the non-Jews rich, how much more certainly will that happen when their full number comes in! Now, I am speaking to you non-Jews. As I am sent to the non-Jews, I glorify my work. Perhaps I can make my fellow Jews jealous and save some of them. When God rejects them, the world is reconciled to God; when God accepts them, what can it mean but that the dead will live? Romans 11:9-15
“When God accepts them, what can it mean but that the dead will live?” Let’s not let that last statement go by without further thought. Rather, let us consider it in light of the regeneration. Jesus comforted and encouraged His disciples with this Word. “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28b).
Next, Paul tells us God’s plan with the Olive Tree picture of salvation. The natural branches dating back at least to Jacob, who God renamed Israel, are faithful Israel. The grafted in branches are us Gentile believers in Messiah Jesus. The broken off branches are people of Israel who did not trust in God for salvation in the past and those who do not trust in Messiah Jesus today. God will graft Jews who trust in Jesus back into the Olive Tree.
If the first handful of dough is holy, so is the whole dough. If the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches have been broken off, and you, a wild olive, have been grafted in among them, and the rich sap from the root of the olive tree nourishes you too, don’t brag of being more than the other branches. If you brag, remember you don’t support the root, but the root supports you. “Branches were cut off,” you will say, “to graft me in.” Right! They were broken off because they didn’t believe, but you stand by believing. Don’t feel proud but be afraid. If God didn’t spare the natural branches, He will not spare you. Now see how kind and how severe God can be—severe to those who fell but kind to you if you cling to His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.
And if the others will no more refuse to believe, they will be grafted in, because God can graft them in again. You have been cut from an olive tree that grows wild and have been unnaturally grafted into a cultivated olive; how much more likely it is that these natural branches will be grafted back into their own olive tree! Romans 11:16-24
The minds of a part of the Jews were dulled as they are today.
To keep you believers from thinking too well of yourselves, my brethren, I want you to know this secret truth: The minds of a part of the Jews were dulled until the full number of the non-Jews comes in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as the Bible says: The Savior will come from Zion. He will get rid of ungodliness in Jacob. And this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins. God’s rule in telling the good news is to treat them as His enemies to help you. But He chose them, and so He loves them on account of their father. God never changes His mind when He gives anything or calls anyone. Once you disobeyed God, but now that the Jews have disobeyed, He has been merciful to you. So they also have disobeyed now that when you enjoy His mercy, they may have it too. You see, God has put all people in a prison of disobedience in order to be merciful to all.
How deep are God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge, how impossible it is to find out His decisions and trace His ways! Who has found out how the Lord thinks? Or who has become His adviser? Or who has fist given Him something for which he must be paid back? Everything is from Him, by Him, and for Him. To Him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:25-36
“Everything is from Him.” He is the creator of all things, including mankind. Everything is “by Him.” All revelation and creativity is by Him. Everything is “for Him.” He is redeeming all things to Himself. “To Him be glory forever. Amen.”
This ticklish subject is well considered by Sam Storms. The complete mine book explaining it can be found at his website. Here I present excerpts of the main questions and answers.
… The point is that the patriarchs did not seek in the physical land of Canaan their everlasting possession. The focal point of the OT land promise was on land, to be sure, but on the heavenly land (Heb. 11:16) of the new earth with its central feature, the New Jerusalem.
Abraham, the one to whom the land of Canaan was originally promised, is said to receive the fulfillment of that promise, not in geographic Canaan, but in the heavenly Jerusalem. Abraham is heir, not merely of Canaan, but of the world! Indeed, according to Heb. 11:9-10, it was Abraham’s expectation of permanent and perfect blessing in the heavenly city that enabled him to submit patiently to the inconvenience and disappointments during his pilgrimage in Canaan.
Look also at Heb. 11:13-16. The patriarchs themselves “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (v. 13). They died without receiving the promise, having only seen it from afar. Their hope was not focused on any this-earthly-inheritance, but, as v. 16 indicates, on “a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” F. F. Bruce sums it up well by noting that, according to v. 16,
their true homeland was not on earth at all. The better country on which they had set their hearts was the heavenly country. The earthly Canaan and the earthly Jerusalem were but temporary object-lessons pointing to the saints’ everlasting rest, the well-founded city of God. 305
The Abrahamic land promise, as well as prophecies such as Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 32:15; 35:2,7,10; 11:9, which speak of a restoration of the cosmos, are to be fulfilled on the new earth in the new creation, not on a millennial earth in the old one. …
Finally, we come now to the current nation of Israel and its claim to possession of the land in which it dwells. I can do no better here than to quote the words of John Piper in a sermon he preached on Romans 11. His comments deserve a wide hearing:
The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel. In other words, the promises cannot be demanded by anyone just because he is Jewish. Jewish ethnicity has a place in God’s plan, but it is not enough to secure anything. It does not in itself qualify a person to be an heir of the promise to Abraham and his offspring. Romans 9:8 says it clearly: “It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” Being born Jewish does not make one an heir of the promise—neither the promise of the Land nor any other promise.
Be careful not to infer from this that Gentile nations (like Arabs) have the right to molest Israel. God’s judgments on Israel do not sanction human sin against Israel. Israel still has human rights among nations even when she forfeits her present divine right to the Land. Remember that nations which gloated over her divine discipline were punished by God (Isaiah 10:5-13; Joel 3:2).
So the promise to Abraham that his descendants will inherit the Land does not mean that all Jews inherit that promise. It will come finally to the true Israel, the Israel that keeps covenant and obeys her God.
Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land, but they and we should seek a peaceful settlement not based on present divine rights, but on international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility.
[Therefore] . . . we should not give blanket approval to Jewish or to Palestinian actions. We should approve or denounce according to Biblical standards of justice and mercy among peoples. We should encourage our representatives to seek a just settlement that takes the historical and social claims of both peoples into account. Neither should be allowed to sway the judgments of justice by a present divine claim to the land. . . .
Therefore Jewish believers in Jesus and Gentile believers will inherit the Land. And the easiest way to see this is to see that we will inherit the world which includes the Land. Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians will not quibble over the real estate of the Promised Land because the entire new heavens and the new earth will be ours. 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” All followers of Christ, and only followers of Christ, will inherit the earth, including the Land.
In the face of God’s Word, man introduces his ways. The ways both Christians and unbelieving Jews view Israel and the kingdom of God are distorted by many ill conceived and windy teachings promoted by both Christians and Israelis. We saw some of these errors in context above. Here we will address more in order to comprehend God’s plan for the Jews and our role in it.
Christian teachings tend to go from one extreme to another. They began with role reversal of Jews and non-Jews in the early church. The gospel of the kingdom went first to the Jews, then to the non-Jews. Jesus was a Jew. The twelve apostles were Jews and the hub of the early church was in Jerusalem.
Jews who trusted Messiah Jesus as their Savior believed what He said about the destruction of Jerusalem was going to be destroyed and got out in the preceding years. The remaining Jews were starved and slaughtered and Jerusalem was leveled to rubble. Persecution spread to the entire Jewish population in Roman territory. Jews were scattered to all nations.
Eventually, Roman persecution was adopted by Christians. Within 150 years, non-Jewish believers persecuted Jewish believers to such an extent they took over the church. By the seventh century, Jewish people who came to faith in the Messiah were required to denounce their Jewish ancestry and heritage before they could be baptized. Anti-Semitism has pervaded Christian relationship with Jews ever since. Only a few “Messianic Jews” have come to believe in Messiah Jesus. We Christians who are to make Jews jealous of what we have in the Messiah have failed in our mission. It is no wonder they have turned to Zionism.
Zionism has more influence in Israelis’ lives than God or Judaism. Secular Jews are the majority. They are like the pagans of Paul’s time; without God in the world. Jews find their meaning and purpose in Jewish kinship, possession of Jerusalem and militant national pride—Zionism. Zionism is the worldview of God’s Old Testament Kingdom of Israel applied to the natural and ethnic Nation of Israel today.
Israelis are primarily secular. Most do not pay any attention to Orthodox Judaism or its leaders. The religious establishment in Israel is under the woes pronounced to their forefathers by Jesus for rejecting the kingdom of God and denying Him as the promised Messiah. Because of their rebellion against God, the temple and Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. Israel’s only hope is to turn to Messiah Jesus, the doctrines of Dispensational Christian Zionists not withstanding.
Dispensational theology sharply contrasts Israel and the church; providing one plan of salvation for the Jews and a different one for the church. I bring up Dispensational Christian Zionists here because they mislead many Christians and puzzle the Jews. Dispensationalists want us to adopt Christian Zionism because they have a vested interest: their wild rapture and Messianic kingdom doctrines depend on a third temple being built and utilized for sacrifice by the Jews.
On the one hand, these so called friends of Israel have influenced American Christians by urging them to support Zionism. On the other hand, they prevent proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom to Jew and Gentile alike. According to them, the kingdom of God does not begin until Jesus returns and sets up the Millennial Kingdom—after they are raptured. Thus, they do not proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. Rather, they teach grace. Get saved and hang on until you die or are raptured.
According to their doctrine, Jews won’t be able to “get saved” until Jesus begins reigning as King during the Millennium. Scofield, Lindsay, LaHaye, Robertson, Hagee and many TV preachers relegate Jews to kind of sort of observing the Old Covenant and muddling along like they are. Before the status quo changes, sacrifices must be reinstituted at the Third Temple, which Christian Zionists will fund and the Jews will build. After the abomination of desolation and the big slaughter, Jesus will reign upon His Throne. If that doesn’t happen, their doctrine is false. That’s why Christian Zionists are so fervent and zealous to have the Jews build the third temple.
In their view, “The present age of the Church is an intercalation (my note: intercalation is a big word for artificial insertion) into the revealed calendar or program of God as that program was foreseen by the prophets of old. Such, indeed, is the precise character of the present age” (Systematic Theology, 4:40). Don’t you just love being a part of a parenthesis or an intercalation?
Dispensationalists have this in common with secular Jews; they don’t believe Jesus the Messiah is ruling as King. They believe they will be raptured to the New Jerusalem and orbit around earth while Jesus is here on earth reigning as King. For them, there in no reason to preach the gospel of the kingdom. The rapture is the sugar coating on their deleterious dispensational pill. It’s no wonder the “progressive dispensationalists” are attempting to distance themselves from such views.
Vast numbers of Baptists, Pentecostals and Charismatics accept the “rapture” doctrine hook, line and sinker. They get it from the only Bible they consider to be true, the black King James Scofield Bible. Strang, the publisher of Charisma Magazine proudly publishes John Hagee. These Charismatics must not know that while dispensationalists bring us the rapture theory, they reject the gifts of the Spirit. According to them our parenthesis or intercalation church gets by on its own power.
Can you see how dispensationalism is detrimental to Jews and to believers?
The conclusion of the matter
John the Seer tells us that in the kingdom that is to come there will be a city. Its gates will honor the twelve tribes of Israel.
He carried me in spirit on a large and high mountain and showed me the holy city of Jerusalem coming down from God in heaven. … It has a large, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. … And the wall of the city has twelve foundation stones, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Revelation 21:10, 12, 14.
12 The Messiah’s Way
In 1978, God gave me a dream about our call to build the Messiah’s Way instead of man’s way. Now, years later, I can see much progress in the restoration of the Church and additions to the Church in the Messiah’s Way. The fact He revealed something to me in a dream merely shows my age, while all revelation reflects His grace. “Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17 KJV).
A highway—In this dream, I saw a straight and level paved highway with a bridge out. People were driving up to the bridge, getting out of their cars, and crossing a small stream by walking across on a plank. Then, they walked on down the road on the far side. A culvert was lying beside the bridge that was out. I asked some bystanders, “Why don’t you have the culvert put in?” They said, “The engineer won’t let us.”
The interpretation—The next morning, I prayed and sought the Lord for the meaning. The dream is about the Church and in the kingdom of God. The Messiah’s way is the way of salvation in the kingdom of God. He has called us to build the highway as Isaiah prophesied. The highway is the way we walk when we obey Messiah Jesus, our King. He calls us to enter into harmonious, communion relationship with God and one another and to bring others into this fellowship. When we build the highway according to His plan, we continue to make ready the way of the Lord in accord with the Elijah task John the Baptist took on.
The bridge that is out indicates a barrier to our fellowship with God and one another. Primarily in this dream, the people are God’s firstborn people, the body of Christ in the kingdom of God and those who are in need of salvation. Over the years, the Holy Spirit has led me to also see the people as Jews in need of salvation.
The plank indicates we are hindered, but not incapacitated. The engineer is man standing in the way of God’s plan. We cannot serve God and man.
We partially fellowship with and minister to God, one another, the hurting and His creation. But our service is not nearly what God has planned. We still detour around the barrier instead of putting in the culvert, because the engineer—man—won’t let us bridge the gap. This relational barrier continues because we only partially, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
Messiah Jesus our King calls us absolute attention and wholehearted allegiance as He leads us to do our part in God’s plan for His kingdom.
The Messiah’s Way
The way of salvation—The first who believed in Messiah Jesus as their Savior and King were called the Way. Prior to his conversion, Paul persecuted the Way. “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women” (Acts 22:4 NKJV). A search of the New King James Version of the Bible yields five additional references to the Way: Acts 9:2; 19:9; 19:23; 24:14, 22. We seldom use the term today, probably because there was a cult called the Way. Never the less it is a Biblical term for believers and we can adopt it to identify ourselves.
God’s plan for His highway—With this perspective, let’s turn to the Word to find God’s plan for His highway. By His Spirit, He inspired its revelation in this Word to Isaiah:
Go through, go through the gates,
prepare a way for the people.
Heap up and build a highway.
Clear away the stones.
Raise a flag for the people.
The LORD announces to the most distant part of the world:
“Tell the daughter of Zion.
“Look, your salvation is coming.
See, His reward is with Him,
and what He has earned goes ahead of Him.
They will be called the holy people, whom the LORD redeemed,
and you will be called ‘Sought’ and ‘A-City-Not-Forsaken.”’ Isaiah 62:10-12
This prophetic message God gave Isaiah encompasses God’s plan for His people in Isaiah’s time and our time. The prophets of old saw the way of salvation. John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord. His message was a paraphrase from Isaiah 40:3-5. Jesus announced His ministry quoting Isaiah 58:6 and 61:1-2. Messiah Jesus inaugurated the way in the kingdom of God. He calls us to this Elijah task. We will consider the implications of this Word from Isaiah in this chapter.
Go through, go through the gates—The gates here are the gates the forces holding the Jews captive in Babylon. Essentially, the Babylonian system holds them captive in Israel and around the world today. We Gentiles were held captive by the gates of hell. God set us free when we turned to Jesus.
God has rescued us from the forces of darkness. What God has taken from them, they want back. These evil forces want to kill, steal and destroy.
Our cultural climates didn’t just happen to deteriorate. They were and are influenced by a spiritual atmosphere of tyrannical forces. These forces are dedicated to destroying our fellowship with God and one another. The kingdom of darkness is full of tricky and dirty fighters against the kingdom of light.
Our societies are full of wounded people in bondage to wickedness and oppression. Without God given truth and godly character, we experience the same wounds. To whatever extent we have bought into humanism and clung to old self-attitudes, we sow to the wind and reap a whirlwind (Hosea 8:7).
God’s way is far better. If we live His way, our righteousness will go ahead of us and His glory will protect us from behind (Isaiah 58).
The gates of hell will not overpower the Church. God the Father opened Peter’s eyes to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus told Peter:
“Blessed are you, Simon, son of John,” Jesus answered him, “‘because no flesh and blood, but My Father in heaven has revealed this to you. I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the forces of hell will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Anything you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and anything you free on earth will be freed in heaven.” Matthew 16:17-19
God has rescued us from the forces of hell—the gates of Hades KJV. We who believe in and follow Messiah Jesus thank the Father, who made us “fit to share everything the holy people have in the light.”
He rescued us from the tyranny of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, who paid the ransom to forgive our sins and set us free. Colossians 1:12b-14
Jesus wants us to walk in the light to such an extent that unsaved people can see the Light and go through the gates with us. As we saw in chapter 7, we fulfill this mission when we walk worthy of the vocation to which we are called (Ephesians 4).
Prepare a way for the people. Heap up and build a highway—The building progress in just the last 50 years is very encouraging. Judy and I have benefited from many of the building moves of the Spirit. We were raised Lutheran, so we know we are saved by grace and the Bible is the truth. And, we have their example of godliness and neighborliness. We know and have fellowshipped with believers from the Holiness movement. They bring the emphasis that God our Father has made us holy and Jesus leads us to live holy. We know and fellowship with charismatics from many denominations. They emphasize that God poured out His Spirit on all flesh and gave the gifts of the Spirit to all who partake. We helped some of the Jesus people get to know Jesus the Messiah better. We know God reaches the rebellious and the unreachable and fires them up with His love and His Spirit. We have seen God bring restoration of the role of evangelists, pastors, teachers, prophets and apostles to the church. We join with friends in Organic House Church, so we experience in-depth one another relationship before the Lord.
The plank is still there—God has poured out His Spirit to restore His people to His way. His people have built on the highway in reformation, revival and renewal and brought much restoration. But, we, the Church including all believers, have a long way to go. The plank is still there.
The bridge is still out and the culvert needs to be put in—The Church needs to understand it is in the kingdom of God and boldly proclaim and reflect the gospel of the kingdom. Messiah is giving us apostles and prophets to show us how to put in the culvert and build His way. Much rebuilding and repair must take place to make the highway a place of freedom in the Spirit. As this happens, we will experience more and more righteousness, peace and joy.
We can prepare the way—By His grace, God has given each of us the privilege and the power to help build this highway according to His glorious plan. In order to help the unsaved get on and travel with us on the highway it must be straight and level. Valleys must be raised. Mountains and hills lowered; all obstacles to godly relationship in the Messiah flattened. As we are changed from glory to glory to be like the Lord He guides us on this mission.
God encourages us to prepare the way—God sentprophets to the Israelites to encourage them. We can draw courage from God’s Word from Isaiah.
It will be said:
Heap up, heap up dirt, and build a highway.
Prepare the way.
Take the stumbling blocks out of the way for My people.
Here is what the high and lofty One says,
He who lives forever and whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place
and am also with the crushed and humble in spirit
to revive the spirit of the humble
and the hearts of those who are crushed.” Isaiah 57:13b-15
In the New Covenant, God calls us to work in this world with our eyes on Him. “Now if you were raised with Christ, be eager for the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right of God. Keep your mind on things above, not on earthly things. You see, you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your Life, appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1–4).
One of my favorite ways to help me follow that instruction is to meditate on Hebrews 12. The author of Hebrews has just recounted the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel and the prophets. Now, he is moved by the Holy Spirit to exhort us to follow their example. He encourages us with a comprehensive picture of the kingdom mentality we are to adopt and the life we are to live.
Encouraged bythe witness of the Old Testament heroes of faith we are exhorted to run with endurance looking to Jesus as our example. We are to accept the Lord’s training and discipline, take hold, stand firm and march on. We are to try hard to live in peace with everybody and to be holy. We see Jesus, “He must rule as King till He puts all enemies under His feet. The last enemy He will get rid of is death” (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).
Now then, with all these witnesses around us like a cloud, let us get rid of every burden and the sin we easily fall into and with endurance run the race laid out before us, looking to Jesus, who gives us our faith from start to finish. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, thinking nothing of its shame, and sat down at the right of God’s throne.
Think of how sinners opposed Him and He endured it. It will help you not to get tired and give up. In your struggle against sin you haven’t yet resisted till blood has flowed. And you have forgotten the encouragement spoken to you as sons: My son, don’t think lightly of the Lord’s training or give up when He correct you. The Lord corrects whom He loves, and He whips everyone He accepts as a son.
What you endure is to correct you. God is treating you as His sons. Is there a son whom his father doesn’t correct? All sons are corrected; if you’re not corrected, you’re no sons but bastards. Furthermore, our natural father used to correct us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we much more submit to the Father of spirits and live? They corrected us for a short time, as it seemed best to them. But, He corrects us for our good, to have us share His holiness. While we’re being corrected, it always seems unpleasant and painful. But after we’ve been trained, correction gives us the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
And so, if your hands are letting go, take a firm hold; if you feel weak in your knees, stand firm; and march on without wavering. Then a cripple will not be turned away but be made well.
Try hard to live in peace with everybody and to be holy. Without holiness nobody will see the Lord. See that no one loses God’s love, that no root with bitter fruit grows up to trouble you and so defiles all of you, that nobody lives in sexual sin or is unholy like Esau, who for one meal sold his inheritance rights as firstborn. You know that later, when he wanted to get the blessing, he was rejected. He had no chance to change his mind although he begged for it with tears.
You didn’t come to anything you could touch, to a blazing fire, darkness, gloom, a storm, the blast of a trumpet, or the speaking of a voice. Those who heard that begged to be told no more, because they couldn’t endure the order that was given: Even an animal, if it touches the mountain, must be stoned. And the sight was so terrible Moses said, “I am terrified and trembling.”
No, you have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Here are tens of thousands of angels, the whole festival gathering and Church of God’s firstborn people with their names written in heaven. Here is the Judge and God of all. Here are the spirits of the righteous who have been perfected. And here is Jesus, who gave us a new covenant with God, and the sprinkled blood that has better things to tell than Abel.
See that you don’t refuse to listen to Him who is speaking. If the others didn’t escape when they refused to listen to Him warning them on earth, much less will we if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven. Then His voice shook the earth. But now He has promised: Once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven. The words once more show clearly He will take away what is shaken, seeing He made it, leaving what isn’t shaken as permanent. Since we have received a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let us thank God and so worship in a way that pleases Him, with fear and awe, because our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12
Road construction equipment—We are fighting in a spiritual war between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. In order to stand against the devil’s tricky ways and hold our ground, we need to join together with fellow believers, put on the whole armor of God and walk in the light.
God gives us His armor so we can stand the gaff and successfully live as people whom He has called should live. Thus we can take the stumbling blocks out of the way for God’s people.
Paul instructs us how to equip ourselves to prepare the way for the Lord and make the paths straight for Him. The whole armor of God is equipment we are to use to fill every ravine and cut down every mountain, make the crooked straight and the rough roads smooth.
Stand, then, with truth as a belt fastened around your waist, with righteousness covering you as a breastplate, and with shoes on your feet, ready to bring the good news of peace. Besides all these, take faith as the shield with which you can put out all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take salvation as your helmet, and the Spirit’s sword, which is God’s Word.
Pray at all times in the Spirit, using every kind of prayer. Be alert and keep at it continually as you pray for all the holy people. Ephesians 6:14-18
The gospel of the kingdom prepares us for the real life struggles we must be face and overcome. Jesus warned of adversities from without and within.
We are shod with shoes in readiness to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. The “get saved and hang on until you die or are raptured” message won’t do. The Lord confirms the gospel of the kingdom with signs and wonders. “Men of Israel, listen to what I have to say: Jesus from Nazareth—God showed you who the Man is by doing miracles, startling wonders and signs through Him among you, as you know” (Acts 2:22).
Prophetically we are similar to the Jews who came back to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity to rebuild the temple and the walls of Jerusalem. They built with a natural sword in one hand. We build with spiritual armor.
When our enemies heard that we knew about their plans and that God had made them fail, we all went back to the wall, each to his job. From then on half of my men worked and the other half held the spears, shields, bows, and body armor. And the officers stood behind all the people of Judah who built the wall. The laborers who were carrying the loads did the work with one hand and with the other held their weapon and each builder had his sword fastened to his side. The man who blew the trumpet was with me. I told the nobles, the leaders, and the rest of the people, “There’s so much work to be done in different places that we are separated far from one another on the wall. Wherever you hear the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” Nehemiah 4:15-20
The weapons of the Jews were for letting of blood; ours are spiritual.
Of course, we’re living in the flesh, but we’re not fighting in a fleshly way. The weapons we fight with are not those of the flesh but have the power before God to tear down fortresses. With them we tear down arguments and everything raising its proud head against the knowledge of God and make every opposing thought a prisoner and have it obey the Messiah. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
The forces of darkness attempt to captivate us with high-sounding words that lead us to accept and possibly adopt the ways of this world. When we cave in to the values of the world, we build with wood, hay or straw. As we build, we can either yield to our enemies or we can put on the whole armor and build the Messiah’s way.
God has called and empowered us to prepare the way of salvation for the people. We do that by living as citizens of the kingdom, acting as priests in the kingdom and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. As John the Baptist, quoting Isaiah 40:3-5, proclaimed, “All people must see how God saves them.”
This is what the prophet Isaiah had said in his book:
A voice will be calling in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way for the Lord;
Make the paths straight for Him,
Every ravine must be filled,
And every mountain and hill must be cut down.
The crooked must be made straight
And the rough roads smooth.
All people must see how God saves them.” Luke 3:4-6
Every ravine must be filled.
Ravines are voids in the way of salvation. Many ravines remain in Christianity. The forces of darkness put up many barriers to free passage in the kingdom of God. Most of Christianity is impeded by ravines and mountains. I’m looking forward to hearing the prophets show us how to put in the culvert and build the highway in accord with God’s plan. And, I’m looking forward to the apostles helping us work together to do it. They will help us understand, relate and act in accord with God’s plan of salvation.
Lack of equipping for ministry—A primary ravine to be filled is the lack of equipping all believers for ministry. Each of us is a priest in the kingdom and a vital working part of the body of the Messiah. As priests, we need to pray and bless and walk in integrity following our King and proclaiming His kingdom in word and deed. In the body of Christ, to the extent that each part is working Christ makes the body grow and builds it up in love.
Little gospel of the kingdom—Another ravine is the void of clear proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom. During His 3 years of ministry on this earth, Jesus preached the kingdom in word and in power and taught the relational characteristics and heart attitudes of the kingdom. Yet, even with the help of the Holy Spirit, seeing the big picture of the kingdom of God is difficult. Consequently, the Church either focuses on itself, sings about the King and neglects His kingdom or focuses on its own kingdom gives lip service to the kingdom of God and preempts the King.
Shallow kinship and community—The next ravine is shallow kinship. Forty thousand divisions in Christianity make it difficult to see other believers as kin. It is easier to relate as fellow citizens of the kingdom, sons and daughters of our Father God. How we treat each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord reflects our identity as God’s family. Our Shepherd also holds sheep accountable for mistreating sheep.
And as for you, My sheep, the Lord GOD says this: “I will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goad. Is it not enough for you to feed on the best pasture, must you trample on the rest? You drink clear water, must you make what is left muddy with your feet? So My sheep have to eat what your feet have trampled on and drink what your4 feet have made muddy. So the Lord GOD says this: Look! I, even I will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. You with your flanks and shoulders push away all the weak animals and gore them with your horns till you have scattered them far and wide. Therefore I will rescue My flock so that they will no more be a prey, and I will judge between one sheep and another.
I will raise up one shepherd over them, My Servant David, who will feed them. He will feed them and be their Shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and My Servant David will be the Ruler among them. I the LORD say so. I will make a covenant of peace with them and remove the wild beast from the land so that people will live safely even in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. I will make them a blessing all around My hill. I will make the rain come down in its season: there will be showers of blessing. Ezekiel 34:17-26
Mountains and hills that must be cut down
Mountains are huge barriers to free travel on the way of salvation. Human beings love to build their own kingdoms. These become mountains of human impediment to freedom in the Spirit. The devil and his forces work through people to build mountains of impairment. These mountains must be flattened.
The clergy over laity mentality is the primary mountain to be lowered. Centuries of the clergy over laity views and practices are engrained within us. This must change. Each of us needs to see ourselves as a minister, saint and priest. Apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists are given by the Messiah to equip us for ministry, not do it for us. Since we want church our way, we look to them as ministers and ourselves as recipients and audience. It is a rarity to find a local church where Christians truly regard one another as ministers and expect each other to minister.
Our Shepherd detests clergy power over His people and calls His leaders to be servants and slaves to those they serve.
A few days prior to His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples the kingdom way of serving:
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and bowed before Him to ask Him for something.
“What do you want?” He asked her.
She told Him, “Promise that one of my two sons will sit at Your right and the other at Your left in Your kingdom.”
“You don’t know what you’re asking,” Jesus answered. “Can you drink the cup I’m going to drink?”
“We can,” they told Him.
“You’ll drink My cup,” He told them. “But sitting at My right and left is something I can give only to those for whom My Father prepared it.”
When the other ten heard about it, they got angry with James and John. Jesus called them and said: “You know the rulers of the nations are lords over them, and their great men are tyrants over them. But among you it’s different. Anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for all people.” Matthew 20:23-25
A kingdom man by the name of Ray Ashmore lends stark insight into this:
When the Old Testament prophets preached, what did they receive?
When Jesus Christ preached, what did He receive?
When the apostles of our Lord preached, what did they receive?
When Christians in the first centuries preached, what did they receive?
When the reformers preached, what did they receive?
When preachers today preach, what do they receive?
Ezekiel prophesied God will put an end to self serving clergy.
And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, [but] you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because [there was] no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching [for them].”
“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: [as] I live, says the Lord GOD, surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because [there was] no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock—therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I [am] against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them. Ezekiel 34:1-10 NKJV
The mountain of dispensationalism is a huge obstacle in the way of salvation, especially for the Jews and for Americans. Dispensationalists believe the kingdom of God is coming, but they don’t believe Jesus is ruling as King today. For them, Jesus will not begin ruling as King until after the rapture. They also divide the way of salvation in two, one way for Gentiles, another for Jews. For them, the Gentile Church age began at Pentecost and ends at the rapture. They believe that since the Jews rejected Jesus as King, the promises given to Israel in the Old Testament were never fulfilled. So God has put them aside until the Church has been raptured and the temple rebuilt so God can fulfill His promises to them. Because of this doctrine, Dispensationalists are the leading proponents of Christian Zionism.
Dispensationalism conflicts with the doctrines of all Legacy Protestant churches. Think. How were the Jews saved after Pentecost? Dispensationalists believe Jews need to live under the Law now and during and through the Millennium, whereas Gentiles are saved by grace. They believe they will be in the New Jerusalem above while Messiah Jesus establishes the kingdom and rules as king during the Millennium.
Scofield says being rapturedis the blessed hope of the Church. Our hope of glory is that at the second coming of Jesus we, in our glorified bodies will thrive eternally in the kingdom of God, God with us on the new earth.
The marketing of erroneous doctrine can lend credibility and celebrity status to the authors and promoters. Tim Lahaye continues to popularize the rapture theory with fiction. Rather than make his non-fiction treatment of the rapture seem fictional, it apparently increases his credibility as an expert theologian. Actually, he probably borrowed the marketing concept from Ron Hubbard, the guru of Scientology. Hubbard’s organization continues to popularize his ungodly views with fiction. If you can sell it to enough people, it must be true. This smells like the wisdom of the world to me.
Not many Christians know this: Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Dispensationalists have one thing in common. Their originators were and many of their perpetrators are Freemasons. No wonder there is so much darkness in their teachings.
Dominion theology—This is another mountain that stops many on the Way. It pervades and perverts Christianity. Its roots are in the clergy over laity class distinction. Dominion began in earnest when the Church allied itself with the sword of the Roman Emperor Constantine in 313 A.D. The Crusades ran on it. The early Catholic Church is the first example of Dominionism gone bad. Their stance took the sword and the world into the dark ages.
Dominionism is God’s kingdom with man in charge. The essential Bible passage dominionists use to validate their extreme teachings is Genesis 1:28. “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
If you look closely at the passage, you will see God is telling Adam and Eve to rule over creation; not mankind. God gave this instruction prior to the fall. His creation was good. He put man in charge of it as a husbandman, steward and caretaker. Adam and Eve walked with God. God ruled mankind.
Dominionism is attractive to many because it presents the idea of ruling as kings on this earth today. It is based on the idea leaders should rule as kings. They get it from the King James rendering of Revelation 1:6: “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him [be] glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
Let’s pause here and look at this. In the New American Standard Bible the same passage is translated this way: “And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6).
There is a huge difference between kings and kingdoms. Kings rule; kingdoms serve. Earthly kings, whether secular or Christian do not give the glory and the dominion to our God and Father forever and ever.
When we look at this in context of the Old Testament, the meaning becomes even clearer. After delivering them from Egypt and giving the 10 Commandments, God told His Old Covenant people He would make them a kingdom and priests.
And now, if you will listen closely to Me and keep My covenant, among all the nations you will be a treasure to Me although the whole world is Mine. You will be a kingdom of priests and holy people to Me. Tell Israel that. Exodus 19:5-6
Over 100 years ago, Albert Schweitzer put it this way: “Earthly rule, because it depends upon force, is an emanation of the power of ungodliness. Authority in the Kingdom of God, where the power of this world is destroyed, signifies emanation from the divine power. Only he can be the bearer of such authority who has kept himself free from the contamination of earthly rule. To allot it to such as have prepared themselves through suffering is God’s affair and his alone, MK10:39-40.” Schweitzer, Albert, Dr. Theology, The Mystery of the Kingdom of God—The secret of Jesus’ Messiahship and passion A. & C. Black, LTD., London Written in German 1905, translated to English 1925, page 77.
People who want to be kings and lord it over the people prefer the King James Version that says they are kings. Paul had sarcastic words for immature believers with a similar view:
Does anyone see anything special in you? What do you have that wasn’t given to you? And if it was given to you, why do you brag as if it hadn’t been given to you?
So you’re already satisfied! You’ve already become rich! You’ve become kings without us! I only wish you had become kings—we would like to be kings with you. 1 Corinthians 4:7-8
Dominion theology often sounds like sound gospel of the kingdom truth. Proponents use kingdom terms to make merchandise of their followers. The Latter Rain teaching of the Manifested sons of God and the Shepherding movement of the 70’s were in-your-face dominion. The Kingdom Now, Reconstruction and Restoration movements of today have a common goal. They want to bring civil government under their control so they can impose Christianity on all people. Constantine did that and the result was pagan Christianity. The Catholic Church did that and the result was the dark ages. The Crusaders brought Christianity to pagans with the sword.
Third Wave is dressed up Dominionism. Their movement is self named by Peter Wagner after three waves of the Holy Spirit. The first wave was the Pentecostal movement. The second wave was the Charismatic movement. The third wave is predominantly charismatic with the addition of the restoration of apostolic authority and inherent dominion teaching promoting apostolic rule over man. Thus, it is also known as the apostolic movement. Their preoccupation with Christian Nationalism makes them bedfellows with Dispensationalists. This is ironic because true blue dispensationalists are anti-charismatic.
Third wave leaders tend to be more scholarly in their approach than charismatics; many are know as Dr. so and so. The doctorates are mostly awarded to each other through the non-academic schools established by fellow Apostles, or self awarded. They are also known as and Apostle so and so. By using the word “apostle” as a title, they show their disregard for the Bible. “Apostle” was never used as a title, only as a function. It wasn’t Apostle Paul. It was Paul an apostle with a small “a.”
For a reality check, remember there are only 12 foundational apostles recognized in the New Jerusalem that is to come. “The wall of the city had 12 foundations. The 12 names of the 12 apostles of the lamb were written on them” (Revelation 21:14). The equippers Jesus gives are gifts to us, not celebrities, not rulers given power to take dominion over us, not solo ministers. The equippers are ordinary people given to know, love and equip us for ministry.
A very even handed yet thorough and biblical dismantling of the windy doctrines of the apostolic movement was written by Dr. Stephen Crosby. He examines the Third Wave Apostolic movement and its emphasis on apostolic authority, spiritual covering, loyalty, honor, submission, and government and points wanderers back to the Way. Authority, Accountability, and the Apostolic Movement by Stephen Crosby, WinePress Group P.O. Box 428, Enumclaw, WA 98022
Christian Nationalism is an inherent part of Dominionism and Dispensationalism. It is a combination of radical Christian religion and zealous Nationalism. Nationalism is rabid devotion to country, wherein citizens find their identity, ego and purpose above God.
By embracing Nationalism, Christians err in two ways. First of all, they glorify their nation above God. They don’t know, forget or disregard the fact that, along with our examples of faith, they are strangers and sojourners on this earth.
All these died in faith without getting what was promised. But they saw it far ahead and welcomed it, and they confessed they were strangers who had no permanent home on earth. Those who talk this way sow they’re looking for a country of their own. If their hearts had been in the country they left, they could have found an opportunity to go back. Instead, they were longing for a better country—I mean heaven. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, because He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13-16
Dear friends, I urge you, as guests and strangers in theis world: Refuse to do what the body wants, because its appetites fight against the soul. Live a noble life among the people of the world, that instead of accusing you of doing wrong, they may see the good you do and glorify God when He visits them. 1 Peter 2:11-12
Secondly, they don’t know, forget or disregard the fact that, as Jesus told Pilate prior to His crucifixion, His kingdom is not of this world.
“My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus answered. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight to keep Me from being handed to the Jews. But no My kingdom is not of this world.”
“Then You are a king?” Pilate asked Him.
“Yes, I am a king!” Jesus answered. “I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who lives in the truth listens to Me.” John 18:36-38
Yet, Christian Nationalists work to establish His kingdom in this world. Dr. Ray Ashmore offers this sobering insight:
What do the crusaders who seek to mobilize the church against the increasing homosexual agenda really want us to do? I believe that they, with perhaps good but misplaced intentions, want us to pay attention to the “results” and ignore the “cause.” …
We see in this chapter of Romans the sin that arises when God’s people substituted the material creation for the manifest glory of God. We point the finger at the sinful behavior and judge it to be the cause of cultural decline historically and even in present day societies. But look at the text carefully. Just what was the cause of God’s judgment? Was it increased homosexual sin? No. That behavior was the result. God removed His hand of restraint because those who knew God did not continue to glorify Him. After all, why were we created? The people instead glorified the blessings and creations of God, misusing and abusing them, rather than giving priority to the Creator and His will for their lives. …
When these spokespersons for God speak words that turn us away from our first responsibilities, they focus our attention on results rather than causes and on symptoms rather than the “disease.” In effect, they create words and prophecies that are, speaking euphemistically, “misleading.” …
My friend, I am tired of hearing these calls to misplaced prayer and cultural action. And I’m burdened by the intense grieving of the Holy Spirit who longs for Christ’s church to return to true spiritual obedience and the teachings of scripture.
Think about this: if God displayed His displeasure in mankind’s history with those who knew Him through His creation and yet rejected Him, how much more will He manifest His displeasure against those who’ve know Him through revelation in the scriptures and then turned away; turned to material and fleshly idols and to churchy cadavers with no true life inside? …
One more thing to remember about this: When we demonize the unsaved rather than give witness to Christ’s redeeming grace, we rend the scriptures of their true meaning. John 3:16 never said this: “for God so despised the world that He gave His only begotten Son. . .”
The tithe mountain—The last major mountain we will consider here is the tithe. The tithe teaching puts millions and millions of dollars at the disposal of the other mountains. Tithing was an Old Covenant requirement for God’s people to whom He gave the land of Israel. God divided His people into 12 tribes and the tithe supported the tribe of Levi. The entire tithe was given from the fruits of the land God gave the Israelites. Food grains and livestock were tithed. No money was given. Think about this. The tithe supported one of the 12 tribes and honored the LORD. The priests tithed 1/10 of the tithe to the LORD. Only partial tithing is taught today. Christians tithe to about one minister per 100 people. Somebody is getting fat.
In fact, most Dominion Apostles and many Pastors adamantly teach tithing to fund their operation. Some do observe the tithe of the tithe. What the do after the service is go to the collection counting room and take the money and throw it up in the air. Whatever stays up is the LORD’s.
Seriously, tithing is not of the New Covenant, only giving and sharing are required in obedience to King Jesus.
For a scholastic and objective theological dismantling of tithing teaching, see what Dr. Earl Kelley writes. Tithing is Not a Christian Doctrine, www.shouldthechurchteachtithing.com, accessed 5/27/2009
Clear away the stones
The way of salvation is to be free of stones. These stones are smaller obstacles than hills and valleys. They are stumbling stones that deter and can destroy koinonia relationship.Two types of stumbling stones are sin and conformity to the world. Jesus shows us the grave consequences of sin and warns us to watch ourselves.
“Temptations to sin are sure to come,” Jesus told His disciples, “but woe to him through whom they come. It would be better for him to have a big millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the lake than to lead one of these little ones into sin. Watch yourselves.” Luke 17:1-3a
In the very next breath, Jesus exhorts us to be full of grace when dealing with sin in another’s life:
“If your brother sins, correct him; and if he’s sorry, forgive him. Even if he sins against you seven times in one day and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I’m sorry,’ forgive him” Luke 17:3b-4
We are to judge ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:31) and recognize and repent of our own sins (1 John 1). If we all did that, all of the stones would be cleared away.
Some brothers and sisters are not aware of their sin or are aware but ensnared beyond their own strength to be freed. In such cases, we are instructed to clear away the stones, but always with the log and speck attitude (Matthew 7:1-5).
Notice, Jesus limits such relational transactions to those we know personally. The objective is to rid the sin and restore the sinner to harmonious relationship, as a rescuer, never as an oppressor. For, God always forgives, reconciles, and restores the repentant.
The Messiah’s Way
With this in mind we’re always praying for you that our God will make you worthy of His calling and by His power accomplish every good thing you decide to do and every work of faith, so as to glorify the name of the Lord Jesus among you, and you in Him, according to the love of our God and Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 NIV
Unless otherwise identified, Bible quotations are taken from The Holy Bible An American Translation, by William F. Beck, © 1976, Mrs. William F. Beck. Used by permission. Other Bible quotations as noted.
I published the Kingdom Relationships book in 2011. I give all who trust in Messiah Jesus as their Lord and Savior permission to edit, copy, reprint, post on the web and share all or any part of this book, with or without credit as author. Bill Bremer