54. Salvation and Judgment

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Stone and Mountain

I want to begin today by looking again at two scriptures we have seen before:

Now it will come about that In the last days
The mountain of the house of the LORD
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it (Isa 2:2).

You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands …But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth (Dan 2:34-35).

This Stone and Mountain are very important: Jesus taught about it, and so did the apostles. The Stone is Jesus and the Mountain is His kingdom; the house of the Lord is God’s people. The kingdom is manifest (or demonstrated) through the church as God’s people, not through the institution called ‘church’.

The kingdom of God is going to fill the earth, in our time. As we have seen, tares have been sown into the church in terms of false doctrine which has put that off to another time or another people.

There has only ever been one people of God: people of faith. Faith is the key: it is not about being born into a Christian family. It was never even about being born into a Jewish family: you were not of the true Israel unless you had faith. It really wasn’t a national thing, as we will see.

‘Two sides of the same coin’

When God comes in righteousness, He often comes in judgment as well as in salvation: they are two sides of the same coin.

‘Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne (Kingdom); Lovingkindness and truth go before You’ (Ps 89:14).

lumberjack-199694_640

“The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt 3:10-12).

  • The Flood brought salvation for Noah and his family, but judgment for the world.
  • In the Exodus, in the crossing of the Red Sea, there was salvation for Israel, but judgment for Egypt as all their army was swept away.
  • At the Cross there is salvation for believers, and it is open to everyone. But if you do not receive it, there is judgment.
  • In fact in all Jesus’ comings – and there are many comings of Jesus, ending with his Last Coming – there is both salvation and judgment.

Speaking of that Stone again:

This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” and,  “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”;  for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed (1 Peter 2:7-8).

The Stone, we know, was Jesus. Those builders who rejected Him were the Jewish people at the time. Not all of them rejected Him of course: the earliest church was made up of Jewish believers. But for those who did reject Him, those are strong words. ‘Doom’, like ‘woe’ in Matthew 23, is a covenant word.

No peaceful co-existence

Jesus ascended back up to heaven in around the year AD 30. The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple happened in AD 70. That 40-year period was a generation in which the old covenant people co-existed with the new covenant people. It was not a peaceful co-existence. Saul, before he met Jesus and became Paul, was sent out by the Jewish leaders to persecute Christians. They were trying to stamp out what they saw as heresy. Later on, in every city where (as Paul) he went to preach, he spoke to the Jewish people there first as God’s people and inheritors of God’s promises. When he showed them that these could only be received in Christ, most of them persecuted him, though some believed. That is why he was beaten and stoned.

So in this period the Old Covenant (with its Natural Country, City and Temple) was still in existence alongside the New Covenant (with its Spiritual Country, City and Temple). Much of the New Testament was written from the perspective of the persecution which arose because of this.

In particular, the whole of the book of Revelation was written about the covenant judgments (‘doom’) that were to come at the end of this period, the consequences of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah and their persecution of the church. It was written to provide comfort to those Christians who were suffering that intense persecution, to reassure them that God had a plan in it and that it would come to an end. It was not written about ‘the end of the world’. We need to get that out of our thinking, and then look at these scriptures for what they actually say.

That is a process we will begin in the next post. I want to look at the whole passage which leads up to the disciples’ question in Matthew 24, because that is essential if we are to properly understand the answers that Jesus gave them.

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Pictures to share with you

Here are some pictures that I really like. I don’t necessarily want to say a lot about them, I’ll just share them with you.

Can you imagine the Lion up in heaven, going ‘What are they up to now?’. It’s a good thing God has a great sense of humour. Even when He corrects us, He does it with a smile on His face.

This next one was an advertisement for a conference, I think. It reminded me of a scripture: Hosea 11:10 They will walk after the LORD, He will roar like a lion; Indeed He will roar And His sons will come trembling…

53. Breaking off the Greek Mindset

Mike Parsons

Last time I shared with you a couple of tables relating to the Greek (Western) and Hebrew (Eastern) mindsets. In this post I want to look just a little more closely at the contrast between them, and then I would like to pray for God to reveal where we are being robbed by our Western way of looking at things, and break it off us.

Separation vs unity

Here is the first of those tables again:

Greek Mentality

Hebrew Mentality

The goal of salvation is to escape this world and go to God’s dwelling place in heaven The goal of salvation is to prepare a place fit for God’s dwelling here, among His people
The kingdom of God exists in heaven, not upon the earth The kingdom of God is God’s reign among people here on earth
Jesus is coming to take us away from this world Jesus is coming to reign over us and through us in this world
Message: “Get your ticket now, or you might miss the train!” Message: “The kingdom of God is coming! Get ready to serve the King and manifest the kingdom.”

Let’s take these one line at a time.

In our Greek understanding, the goal of salvation is to escape this world and go to God’s dwelling place in heaven. So everything is focussed on what will be: very little about what is now. In Hebrew thought, the goal of salvation is to prepare a place fit for God’s dwelling here, among His people. He wants His kingdom to come on earth.

Linked with that, where does the kingdom of God exist? The Greek view says it is in heaven, not on the earth, whereas the Hebrew view is that the kingdom of God is God’s reign among people here upon the earth.

So is Jesus coming in order to take us away from this world? No, Jesus is coming to reign over and through us in this world. We need to focus on God’s kingdom being ‘now’, not separating it out. “Get your ticket now or you might miss the train”: that may have been what we were told, but do we really want to carry on presenting the gospel that way?

And then: “Now you have your ticket, just hold on tight. In the end Jesus will come and rescue you”, rather than what Jesus preached: “The Kingdom of God is coming! It’s right here, right now! Get ready to serve the King and manifest the kingdom”.

Do you see how each misunderstanding arises from the previous one? Once you begin to go down the route prescribed by Western thought, you find there is more and more separation becoming entrenched in your thinking, and less and less of an understanding of the unity of God’s purpose.

Form vs purpose

If we look at the second table, we can see how this works out in practice:

Greek mindset

Hebrew mindset

Form Function
What I do How I do it
Secular/Religious Unified
Heavenly/Earthly Dual
Knowledge Experience
What I know Who I know
Works Grace
Creed Deed
Analyse Live – Be and Do

The Greek mindset looks at the form of something. For example, let’s take a tree. It has roots, a trunk, branches, leaves – that is what I mean by looking at its form. In the Hebrew way of thinking, it is more about what it is for. What is the purpose of a tree? To bear fruit. They are really not interested in the fact that it might have roots, a trunk, branches and leaves. Does it bear fruit? If not, it is of no value at all. Remember how Jesus cursed the fig tree that was not producing any fruit? It is the difference between an actual, practical outworking and just a mental, theoretical understanding.

So: Greek: what I do; Hebrew: how I do it. We can do lots of things from the wrong motive – but we know that God looks on the heart.

Greek thinking separates out our religious life from our secular life. Family, work, school, friendships on the one hand; and church on the other. But God wants His kingdom to be flowing through all of our lives, with no separation. There is no secular for us. Our lives are a whole, they are unified, and we bring the kingdom of God into everything.

In Greek thinking, the heavenly was separated from the earthly. There was no overlap. Bill Johnson wrote a book called ‘When Heaven Invades Earth’. Bottom line is, that is impossible in Greek thinking. But for us, we can live in both places: we live in the realms of heaven, and we bring that spiritual realm into our lives on earth, at the same time: not in the future but now.

‘Knowledge’ to the Greek mind is information. But to the Hebrew, you cannot know anything without experiencing it. It is all about knowledge through spiritual encounter. If all I am doing in this blog is imparting information to you, we are missing the mark. That is why from time to time I also include praying for you, which gives you the opportunity to encounter Him through the Holy Spirit and experience the reality of His truth for yourself (of course you can always pray these things through even when I don’t specifically include a prayer).

It’s not what you know, but who you know! We know God, but it is perfectly possible to read the Bible from cover to cover and have all the information, but never actually know Him. We need to encounter everything in the Word of God for ourselves.

Works, or grace. A creed or the deed. Stating what you believe, or actually living that way? Faith without works is absolutely dead. Jesus said, “If I do not do the works that my Father does, don’t believe me” (John 10:37). You don’t hear too many sermons on that verse.

We don’t analyse: we live. It is about who we are and what we do. God Himself says He is the I AM.

I want to pray now. If you think you may have any mindsets, any of the Greek way of thinking, we want to break that off right now.

[If you would like to hear an audio version of this prayer, click here.]

Father, I pray that the power of Your Holy Spirit will come.
Break any deception off our mindsets
Any way in which we have come under false doctrines,
False teachings, mindsets of the enemy,
Greek thinking that would cause us to separate our lives out.

I come, Lord, with the sword of Your Spirit,
To break that off our mindsets right now
In Jesus’ Name.
To be loosed from any control that the enemy has had over us
Through traditions of men and demonic doctrines
That put things into the future instead of the present;
That put things into heaven instead of on earth;
That have separated us out;
That have caused us to believe and not do.

I break those mindsets right now.

I break any doctrines over us that would hinder Your church
From pursuing and seeing the kingdom of God fill the earth
As it is in heaven.
Holy Spirit, come and reveal to anyone reading this
Anything which is a hindrance, an obstacle, a stumbling block
To our being able to fulfil our destiny as God’s people.
I pray that You would send gathering angels into our lives
To gather any stumbling blocks from us.
Gather them from our mind, gather them from our heart,
So that we believe and stand on the truth of Your Word
That through kingdom and covenant,
You are going to fill the earth with Your kingdom.
You are going to come back for a victorious, overcoming church
That has risen above every other thing.
Because ‘of the increase of Your kingdom there is no end’.

Empower us with the power of Your Holy Spirit
To take Your kingdom
And manifest Your kingdom through our lives,
Every day of our lives:
In work, in home, in our neighbourhood.
That we would manifest Your kingdom in power and authority
Doing the works that Jesus did.

I loose us from everything that would hinder us
From that fulfilment of Your purposes for our lives
In Jesus’ Name.

Amen.

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52. Wheat and Tares

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott
 –

We have been considering the disciples’ question about Jesus’ return and the end of the age. It is essential to view all this through covenant eyes. God has always worked through covenants with men, and every time it was men who broke them. But they were all fulfilled in Jesus: every promise God ever made finds its ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’ in Him. There are not two covenants in operation in our day, just one. And it is one which we cannot break, because it was not made with us, but with Jesus.

AD 70

We have seen that Jesus’ answer in Matthew 24 (at least up to verse 34, but probably the whole chapter) refers to the end of the Old Covenant age and the destruction of Jerusalem, especially its temple. “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place”. AD 70 would have been the end of that generation of disciples Jesus was talking to. The main fulfilment of all those prophetic words happened in that period. That is not to say that we cannot see further examples of them in our day – and throughout church history – but we are not waiting for them to happen as signs of the end. The end that Jesus was talking about already came.

We looked briefly at the decline and revival of the church over the centuries, how the Holy Spirit began to break back in once the scriptures were available in the common language again. I would encourage you to read the ‘God’s Generals’ series of books by Roberts Liardon, and see how God began to restore truth to the church through some amazing godly men and women. But as God sowed wheat, the enemy also sowed tares. Tares look just like wheat, and you can only tell the difference because tares don’t produce a harvest. So in the very period when God was working in revival and power, we also see the birth of Darwinism, Marxism, humanistic philosophy – false systems of belief sown into the world. And not only into the world – into the church too. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Science all started around this time. Some of them looked like the truth, and people are still deceived by them today.

False doctrines

In 1826 the Brethren movement rejected the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and put back the purposes of God for another 80 years. In rejecting the truth, they also embraced deception, as often happens. And the enemy was able to use this to sow in false teaching and false doctrines which have plagued the church ever since. This is what God is starting to challenge and remove so that we can regain a true perspective of His kingdom.

What were some of those things?

  • Dispensationalism. Separating up scripture into particular periods of time in which God works in different ways. That breaks up the continuity of scripture and prevents people seeing the whole picture of God’s plan and purposes through the ages.
  • Cessationism: The belief that gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for now, that they stopped in the New Testament when the last apostle died.
  • Pre-Millennialism: Jesus was going to come back before the Millennium. Up to that time the only people who taught that were the Jesuits. No-one else believed it. Now it is prevalent among large sections of the church.
  • The Rapture: God would come for His people in a ‘secret rapture’, take them and leave everyone else behind. That doctrine only arose in this same period. And now it is the subject of a whole series of best-selling Christian books and accepted without question by much of the church as being what the Bible teaches.
  • Seven Years of Tribulation on the earth: this belief only started to appear at this time.
  • The separation of Israel and the church.

This was all so insidious that it spread like wildfire. The Schofield Bible came out of all this, robbing the church of authority by promoting an eschatology of defeat and rescue rather than of victory and of the increase of God’s kingdom to fill the earth. All of a sudden it was maintenance, put the walls up, protect your beliefs, have nothing to do with the world. The Brethren church was so exclusive you were not even allowed into their meetings unless you could prove that you came from another Brethren Assembly. I was brought up in this, and when I got baptised in the Spirit, God just challenged my whole theology. I have had to re-examine everything I believed: even now I have to be continually open for God to show me the truth.

Greek and Hebrew mindsets

The background to this is that there is a difference between the Greek and the Hebrew mindset. We have briefly touched on that before. Let’s be clear, I am not talking about reading scripture in the Greek and Hebrew languages, but about our way of looking at things when we approach scripture. Here are a couple of tables I often use to illustrate some of that:

Greek Mentality

Hebrew Mentality

The goal of salvation is to escape this world and go to God’s dwelling place in heaven The goal of salvation is to prepare a place fit for God’s dwelling here, among His people
The kingdom of God exists in heaven, not upon the earth The kingdom of God is God’s reign among people here on earth
Jesus is coming to take us away from this world Jesus is coming to reign over us and through us in this world
Message: “Get your ticket now, or you might miss the train!” Message: “The kingdom of God is coming! Get ready to serve the King and manifest the kingdom.”

Greek mindset

Hebrew mindset

Form Function
What I do How I do it
Secular/Religious Unified
Heavenly/Earthly Dual
Knowledge Experience
What I know Who I know
Works Grace
Creed Deed
Analyse Live – Be and Do

You will recognise many of the approaches in the left hand columns. They sum up how most of us have been taught, and have affected how we view everything. God is removing stumbling blocks, and we are going to find that the Greek mindset is increasingly going to be challenged.

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51. Leaven In The Lump

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott –

In this post we are going to begin by looking at some very familiar scriptures. We have been taught that they speak about the days we are living in, as the return of Jesus gets ever closer. But, understanding covenant thinking and covenant language, are they in fact referring to a future time, or are they a description of the days in which they were written? Are they yet to be fulfilled, or has it already happened? What should we be expecting?

The persecuted church

We need to understand to whom these things were written. The whole New Testament was written to a church under persecution from the Jews and the Romans, often working together. Persecution designed to coerce the believers into denying the truth and go back to their old way of thinking.

  • But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim 4:1).

That scripture is nothing to do with the times before Jesus’ return. That deception is intended to get us to think that in our days things will get worse and worse – and just to accept it as normal, instead of expecting to see the Kingdom expanding (and it really is, just as Jesus actually promised). No, this is talking about the persecution that was going on in the first century church.

In the last days

  • But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come… holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these… these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith (2 Tim 3:1, 5, 7)

If  you do not know when the last days are, you will not be able to interpret this passage properly. This gives rise to a whole lot of confusion, stirred up by the enemy, so that we will be misled about what to expect. The religious spirit will try to get us to accept and believe things which will block our blessing. After all, how can the Kingdom of God fill the earth if everything is going to be so miserable?

  • At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many (Matt 24:10-11)

It already happened.

Antichrist

So what about the Antichrist? Is he not to come to power before Jesus returns?

  • Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us… (1 John 2:18-19).
  • Many false prophets have gone out into the world… this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world (1 John 4:1,3). The word ‘spirit is not in the original Greek. It has been added by the translators. The actual text simply says ‘this is the antichrist which you heard is coming and is now in the world’ (see it here on Biblegateway.com).
  • For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist (2 John 7:7).

These are the only three scriptures that actually mention the antichrist. They interpret each other. And they all, without exception, say it has already happened.

1 John 2:18 is pretty clear: the time he was writing in was the last hour. We have already seen that in Matthew 24:11, Jesus was talking about things that would happen during the lifetimes of His disciples. That time came to a close in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem, an event which saw the fulfillment of all the prophecies of which we have been speaking.

If you read Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the letters to the churches in Asia, you will find that all this evidence of the antichrist at work was already there. They were already dealing with all the false words which had been sown in, and all the false teachers that had gone out from among the believers.

If you are looking for that one person to arise at the ‘end of the age’ and do all this evil, you are going to be looking in vain. It has already happened.

Legalism and licence

Legalism and licence were two parts of that antichrist spirit. The church has had a continual battle with those who would bring it back under the law. It has also had trouble from those who say sin is not important – you can do what you like because grace will cover it. But those battles are nothing new: look at these passages from Galatians and Revelation:

  • You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Gal 3:1-2).
  • But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols (Rev 2:20).

Separation of leaders from laity was another aspect of legalism. That was the teaching of the Nicolaitans. God hates that because it takes all responsibility away from us as believers but it was all around in that first century church. It was what Jesus called ‘the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod’ – religious and political manipulation of the church – working its way through the whole lump (Mark 8:15).

The enemy intended to undermine God’s kingdom purposes for His people by these means. And he enjoyed a good measure of success in bringing us to a place of powerlessness, of ineffectiveness and irrelevance.

Church history

Think about the whole history of the church, about Constantine making Christianity an established religion; the translation of scripture into the dead Latin language that only the priests could read; the dark ages and the rise of Islam; Christendom; the crusades; the Holy Roman Empire – the light was almost extinguished.

Then the Holy Spirit began to break through. The Word was translated into everyday language. That led to revelation of truth that had long been forgotten: the Reformation;  justification by faith; believers’ baptism, Quakers, Moravians, Wesley and Whitfield, revival and restoration, Pentecostals, the faith movement, healing, charismatics, apostolic understanding – in the 20th century there was more revelation restored than in the whole of the previous 18 centuries. The pace is accelerating. God is restoring truth, bringing back light.

What will happen in our century? Who knows? Discipleship, doing the works of Jesus, the greater works? The Spirit and the Word coming together again, as they were in the early church, and as Smith Wigglesworth prophesied? Restoration of all things, the Kingdom of God filling the earth? Early rain, latter rain?

One thing is certain: we cannot continue living and operating at the level we have been. We must go higher.

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