179. Sealed Up Until the End of Time

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Information or revelation?

Through the centuries there has been a battle for truth: we have an enemy who does not want the church even to know about the supernatural, much less experience it! At the Constantinople council in 553 there was a lot of argument about what should and should not be included in the canon of scripture. Many books were removed at that time, and some wanted to throw out even the books of James, Peter, and Jude (all with a lot of the supernatural in them). Centuries later, even Martin Luther was unhappy with Hebrews, James and Peter.

During the dark ages, when people could not read the Bible, a lot of truth was lost. God has been restoring that truth over the last 1000 years, and there is ongoing revelation of truth. Please do not just accept everything I say, do not be satisfied with just information but go and seek God and get revelation for yourself. He often speaks to me through science fiction films, so He can speak to you through anything; just check that it lines up with who God is, His character and nature and the overall tenor of scripture. Examine things to see whether they are true (rather than to prove they are not)!

Now these (Bereans) were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so (Acts 17:11).

Sealed up

Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever (Dan 12:3).

God wants us to have insight. We need to have understanding, which only comes through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. God has spoken to us as a church about being like the sons of Issachar, understanding the times.

But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase (Dan 12:4).

The revelation that Daniel was bringing in that book was to be sealed up, so that the full understanding of it would not be available until the end of time. I believe now is that time, when people are freely travelling back and forth all over the earth, taking this knowledge everywhere. Because of modern technology, and especially the internet, knowledge is available now like never before.

He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time. Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand” (Dan 12:9-10).

We are now in the days where God is refining and purifying so that Jesus can come back for a church without spot or blemish. We are in a time where God is doing things He has never done before.

Normalcy bias

Many people don’t believe that. The technical term is ‘normalcy bias’, defined as ‘a tendency to underestimate coming disaster, its effects and consequences’. Basically it means people are in denial, not wanting to accept that anything will be significantly different from the way it has always been. If something has never happened up to now, we assume it never will, and act accordingly.

But things are going to change drastically. It will be nothing like it is now.

The effects and consequences of what is coming are beyond most people’s understanding. God is now starting to open and unveil the books to show us those things so that we can be ready and prepared. That is what the Prophetic Timetable is about, God saying “Be prepared for what is coming”.

There is going to come a shaking of all the world’s systems. God will be behind it, but the enemy will be involved in the process. It will take place whether we are ready for it or not.

If God says something is going to happen, I want to be ready. Then, when it does, I will be in position to be used in God’s purposes to fulfil what He wants from His church, to raise her up above all the systems of the world, to provide the answers they do not have and so desperately need.

Something new

Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? (Isa 43:19).

The implication of that question is that we might well not be aware of it. We always have to be looking out for the new thing God is doing – He rarely stays still for long. We must be prepared for change. When we sing ‘Strip everything away’, we must be prepared for Him to do just that. When we pray Psalm 139:23-24, we should expect God to show us what is in our lives so that he can change it.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12).

This is not primarily talking about the Bible, but about Jesus, the living Word of God (who created and holds everything together by the word of His power). He is living, active, and sharp; piercing, dividing and judging so that we can be restored to wholeness (nothing missing and nothing broken) and come back to God’s original intent and purposes.

Let’s cooperate, by presenting ourselves to Him. Let’s give Him permission, opening up our hearts to let Him in. Let’s allow God to do what He wants to do. Let’s pursue Him with everything we have. Let’s desire with all the desire of our heart that we will become one with Him (1Cor 6:17). That is the level of intimacy He wants.

He will remove every obstacle, every stumbling block and every chain even right down to stripping out all the impurities in our DNA so that we can be changed into the image of Jesus. So let’s be willing, open our hearts and let him transform us so that we can be ready for what is to come.

Strip everything away
‘Til all I have is You
Undo the veils
So all I see is You

I will pursue You
I will pursue Your presence

Open my eyes
Search me inside
I can’t live without Your presence
I can’t live without Your presence

I’m pressing into You
So do not pass me by
I’m breaking through the boundaries
I will not be denied

I will pursue You
I will pursue Your presence

(‘Pursuit’ – Daniel Bashta)

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80. Characteristics of the Joshua Generation (#16-20)

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott 

God is raising up a Joshua Generation in our day: a generation who will enter into their inheritance and enable others to do the same. We have been looking at some of the defining characteristics of such a generation and considering to what extent those characteristics can be seen in our own lives.

16. The Joshua Generation will be obedient to God’s direction.

Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go (Joshua 1:7).

We know our God, and love Him; and because of that we want to serve Him. We want to do everything He is calling us to do, and to do it out of our love, our passion and our desire for Him.

But we do need to be careful: with greater revelation comes greater responsibility. We cannot mess around with what God shows us. Ananias and Sapphira situations will take place again, and we should not be surprised if people who lie to the Holy Spirit drop dead as a result. If we are to operate in the fullness of God’s power in the coming days, then the level of holiness required of us is going to go up, off the scale. That is both because of the level of revelation we are beginning to enter into and because of the kind of people we need to be.

For those who hear, but turn back (rather than being ‘careful to do’), there is a danger – and we need to be aware of it. To avoid the danger, we must be ready to do all that God is calling us to do.

Yet not out of fear, but out of love.

17. The Joshua Generation will be prosperous and successful.

You see, if we are able to meditate and obtain that revelation from God, and if we are careful to do the things that God reveals to us, it will give us success. This generation are willing to press in and receive. We will learn to overcome and we will learn to prosper.

Prospering is not just about financial things: the word means ‘to succeed to the highest level’. And we need to succeed to the highest level in the spiritual as well as in the natural realm. If we are receiving wisdom and revelation to the highest level, then as a result of that we will be prosperous and successful. Everything around us may be falling apart, and it will do so when the world’s systems crash, but we need to be able to operate in God’s systems, in God’s kingdom.

The financial system is just one example of this, in which we may well need to learn to do miracles and to multiply things as Jesus did. Jesus told Peter to find a coin in a fish’s mouth to pay their taxes. There may be occasions when we too can do something like that and supernaturally find finance. And we must stop saying, ‘Oh, but that was Jesus’. Everything Jesus did, He did as a model for what we should do. He said we would do the things He did, and greater things (John 14:12).

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1:8).

18. The Joshua Generation will know that they walk with God.

We need to walk with God as our daily lifestyle.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9).

When we are walking on the path that God has prepared for us, when we are walking in our destiny, then we know God is with us. And we need to know what is our destiny, what is written on our scroll: and if we do not know, then we can ask God to show us.

Psalm 23 is a key to this lifestyle of walking with God, to finding those green pastures, those quiet waters. And we need to know that even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death – which is just daily life, really – that God is with us all the way. His rod and His staff (His word and His Spirit), they comfort us. He anoints us; our cup overflows. I want to encourage you to get hold of this psalm, to meditate on it and draw out the truth from it; because God is with us, and His goodness and mercy and lovingkindness will follow us, and will be identifying features of the way we live our lives.

19. The Joshua Generation will be equipped to prepare provisions, to live by faith.

Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, “Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it” (Joshua 1:11).

We have to be able to teach people to live under the provision of God. Each one of us is responsible to possess our own inheritance. We each need to be equipped with the weapons we will need, the revelation we need, the lifestyle we need. God will provide everything we need to take the land, to take possession of all that He intends for us and has promised to us. We need to know how to access that provision, to take hold of it for ourselves, and to teach others to do the same.

20. The Joshua Generation will equip the people to be consecrated (or sanctified) –  set apart, dedicated and holy.

Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5).

This is where many of us are in the process. When Israel were at Gilgal they dealt with the things from the past, embraced fresh revelation of the truths they had lost sight of, and were set apart for the purposes of God for their generation.

Do you want to hear ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’? Do you want it said of you that, like David, you served the purpose of God in your generation? I do. I want to serve the purpose of God in this generation that I am called to be part of, and I believe that God wants to raise up a whole people who desire to do the same.

Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.

We are halfway through this mini-series on the Joshua Generation.
Let’s remember the questions we are asking:

  • Are you ready to be part of the Joshua generation?
  • Are you ready to be equipped by the Joshua generation?

If so, I urge you to get hold of these things and press in.
And over the next few weeks, we will look at the next 20 characteristics and begin to press into those too.

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74. God’s Kingdom Fills the Earth

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

Resurrection

We have been looking at the Millennium, or thousand years, and I just want to clear up one more point from that passage in Revelation, and then sum up what we have said.

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years (Rev 20:4-6).

What is this ‘first resurrection’? Well we know Jesus was resurrected, and His was a physical resurrection. As a result of the fall there was spiritual death and physical death. The consequence of Jesus’ physical resurrection was a spiritual resurrection for us. We have been resurrected spiritually, and that spiritual resurrection deals with the spiritual death.

It is signified in our baptism: …having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead (Col 2:12).

Even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:5). We have been made alive with Christ: a spiritual resurrection.

That is the ‘first resurrection’. It deals with the spiritual death, so we can be born again, and come back into life; the second resurrection (when everybody gets resurrected) deals with physical death, which also came as a result of the fall.

And here is an interesting passage. It is only a couple of sentences in the Gospel narrative, but it must have caused quite a stir:

The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. (Matt 27:52)

So at that time there was an actual physical resurrection of all those Old Testament saints who came back to life.And don’t imagine that they then died again – what happened was that Jesus led them into heaven, and that is where they are now. They ‘came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years’.

The rule of Christ is now

Let’s wrap this up. We are a kingdom of priests, and the millennial rule is now. In heaven, and on earth – because we can live in both places, as we have begun to understand. We bring heaven to earth through our lives and the kingdom of God is manifested on the earth through us.

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD (1 Peter 2:9).

… And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood 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. (Rev 1:5-6).

The reign of Christ began at His ascension, and continues until all things are subdued under his feet. The return of Christ and the bodily resurrection of all men will occur after (or post-) the millennium: that is to say it will happen after the period in which we now live, the period in which Jesus rules in heaven and on earth through His people.

This is really what we need to have faith in. We need to be expecting these things to take place, and expecting ourselves to be part of the process of bringing them about. “But indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD” (Num 14:21). That is what we want – and how will the earth be filled? Through us.

For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14). People will know about the glory. It will not just be a few people going around glowing a bit. God’s glory will be clearly demonstrated for all to see.

Remember how in Daniel 2:35 the Stone [Jesus] that struck the statue [the kingdoms of the world] became a great mountain [God’s kingdom] and filled the whole earth. The earth will be filled with glory, and that will happen before Jesus will return:

…That He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time (Act 3:20-21)

mount-everest-276995_640Now 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).

These are the last days (and have been ever since Jesus first came). God’s kingdom is already established as the chief kingdom, because we know that Jesus is above all rule.  His kingdom is already above every other kingdom. The nations have been streaming to it throughout church history, and we want to see that prophecy completely and finally fulfilled.

I believe we are called to be a Joshua generation. The Joshua generation will raise up and prepare the following (and final) generation to receive their full inheritance and to usher in the end time harvest, ready for Jesus’ return.

We are fast approaching the end of this series on God’s Prophetic Timetable. It is based around the series I taught in Freedom Church during the spring and summer of 2011, and lays the groundwork for some of our more recent teaching both on this blog and elsewhere. The audio of those original sessions is available on our Apostolic Resources website. As we have noted elsewhere, some of the views we held at the time have been challenged by God in the intervening period but these blog posts (particularly #64-67) have been updated to reflect those changes (the audio recordings, of course, have not).

In the closing posts of this series I want to look at 40 characteristics that mark out that Joshua generation, because many of us will be part of it.

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73. A literal 1000 years?

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

Scripture teaches us that Satan is bound for a thousand years. In this short post I just want to look more closely at that figure and consider whether it is literal or symbolic.

cattle-20527_1280To do that, let’s look at some examples of how the Bible uses it in other places.

For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps 50:10).

So are the cattle on the 1001st hill not His? Clearly this is not a literal 1000 hills, it is just a big number – in fact it means all of them.

For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night (Ps 90:4).

Are a literal thousand years exactly like a day to God in heaven, or is it really saying that heavenly things are eternal whilst earthly things are temporal (and temporary)?

And it is the same with this scripture: He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations (Ps 105:8). If that is literal, you are in trouble if you are part of the 1001st generation! Will the 1001st generation miss out on His covenant blessings? Will His word no longer be operating? That is not what it means at all.

You might think I am deliberately picking references to the number 1000 and 1000 years which are not literal. But I cannot find even one Old Testament reference to a literal 1000 years, nor did Jesus ever teach about it or even mention it. There is nothing in the epistles to indicate that there would be a significant period of a literal 1000 years. We have one short passage in Revelation 20, and people have built up a massive theology around it being a literal 1000 years when there is nothing else in scripture to back it up.

The conclusion has to be that the number 1000 is symbolic. It is made up of 10x10x10, and 10 is the number of fullness. The ‘thousand years’ is the whole of this period we are living in. And when everything is fulfilled, Jesus will return.

Related article from Jonathan Welton: A literal new heaven and new earth

72. Bound For A Thousand Years

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott 

We saw last time how important it is that our faith is in victory, in overcoming, in seeing God’s kingdom fill the earth.

A theology of victory

Kingdom and Covenant theology is a theology of victory. More and more people are starting to realise this because of the nature of what God is saying prophetically in these days. If you are someone who believes Jesus is going to come and rescue us, you are going to struggle to reconcile what God is saying with that belief. How does it fit? It doesn’t: Jesus is not going to come and rescue us: we are going to be victorious.

In succeeding periods of church history, people tended to hold different views on the book of Revelation. I want briefly to make it clear how we see things.

Firstly, Revelation is a  historical book which deals with God’s covenant judgment on Israel and Jerusalem.

Also, Revelation illustrates the triumph of the church through history, overcoming all persecution.

Soon… the time is near… quickly

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place (Rev 1:1).

I’m sorry, 2000 years later is not ‘soon’. Now I know that for God, everything can be now. Bur this was not written for God, it was written for people to read and be encouraged and comforted in the midst of the persecution they were facing. It would have been very poor comfort to say that judgment was coming soon, if in fact it was going to take centuries. The book of Revelation was written before AD 70 to servants of God who were alive at the time. It was written about events which would soon take place. And what soon took place was the destruction of Jerusalem. John repeats it, so there can be no mistake: ‘the time is near’.

‘Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near’ (Rev 1:3).

Again, at the end of the book, Jesus says:

“And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book… Yes, I am coming quickly” (Rev 22:7, 20). And Jesus came quickly: within a few years of this being written, He came in judgment upon Jerusalem and it was destroyed.

Bound for a thousand years

While we are considering Revelation, I also just want to look at the only scriptures in the Bible which actually mention a thousand-year reign.

dragon-253540_640Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time (Rev 20:1-3).

So here we see that for a thousand years Satan is bound and not able to deceive, and then is released. It continues:

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years’ (Rev 20:4-6).

When we read ‘the beast and his image’ we immediately think it must be future. But if you think about the beast and his image in terms of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, you will read this in a different light. It has already happened. And this is not a bodily resurrection – the scripture specifically says it was the souls of people which came alive. So this has happened before a bodily resurrection, not after. If Jesus had already returned, there would already have been a bodily resurrection, and that is not the case.

‘Priests of God… will reign with Him for a thousand years’: we know the language about being a royal priesthood belongs to us. So this is talking about us, and it is talking about something which happens on the earth.

We have already seen that Satan was bound (Rev 20:2). When is or was that? Look at Matt 12:28-29: ‘But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house’. All deliverance that we see today is on the basis that the strong man is already bound. Otherwise we would not be able to cast demons out.

If Satan were not bound, we would not be able to do what we are doing right now. If he were deceiving the nations, no-one would be getting saved. Remember the Great Commission: Jesus sent his followers out into the whole world to disciple the nations. It is possible for us to do that because Satan is bound and not able to deceive them. His power is limited.

In John 12:31 Jesus said Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (my emphasis). And in Luke 10:17-18, ‘The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning”’. It already happened.

Jesus first bound Satan in the wilderness, when He did what Adam had failed to do in overcoming temptation. Then He went further, in releasing authority on His disciples to go out and minister because of that. The fact that the disciples were ministering in kingdom power showed that Satan had no authority any longer. But then Jesus went on to actually conquer death: the wilderness had dealt with spiritual death, the cross dealt with physical death.

‘When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him’ (Col 2:15).

And if Satan is bound now, then the thousand years, the Millennium, must also be now. That is what the scripture says: he is bound, and remains bound for a thousand years. So we are living in the time right now when God’s kingdom is active on earth, because Satan is bound. It is not an exact, literal 1000 years.

Satan will be loosed. That will be just before the end. I believe there will then be an increase in Satan’s power, because we are going to have to overcome him. Warfare will be much more open, but God’s church will be raised up in light, as the mountain of the house of the Lord.

And that church will be victorious.

Related articles from others

71. Defeat? Or Victory?

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott 

In the past couple of posts we have briefly sketched some of the widely-held views about the Millennium. So what did the early church believe about the scriptures we have been considering? And what has the church believed through the centuries?

Persecution

Up to AD 70 most of the focus of teaching was preparing believers to live in that persecution leading up to Jesus’ coming in judgment upon Jerusalem. Initially, then, the prevailing conditions were persecution by Jews. After AD 70 persecution continued, but it was persecution by the Romans. The church took on a Jewish apocalyptical view of a literal kingdom on earth. Some thought that the kingdom might be before Jesus returned; some thought it might be after. It was still a very difficult time, and they were looking for Jesus to come and do something.

Political control

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
“Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin” by I, Jean-Christophe BENOIST. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons (see below)

A major change happened for the church with the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine in 310 AD – and not all of it good. The church was now accepted by the political authorities, and it was OK to be a Christian. But the church was also controlled by those political authorities, so that Greek thinking and Greek influence began to pervade it. At this time the prevailing view was amillennial: the old interpretation (which had made a lot of sense under persecution) seemed not to relate so well to the changed conditions, so people began to interpret things in a less literal way, and say it must all be spiritual. You can see the Greek mindset having its influence in that distinction.

Political control continued into the medieval period, 596-1517 AD, as church and state started to mix together. Politically motivated and powerful popes, the crusades, the Holy Roman Empire, the whole idea of Christendom: all these arose during this time. The church was used by those in power to exercise control. Hardly anybody could read the Bible for themselves because it was available only in a not-very-accurate Latin translation, and that meant the priests had control of the whole system. Postmillennial theology became the norm. Their expectation was that things would get better, that the church would increase to fill the world  – but to achieve that they expected to use the sword, and to compel people to become Christians by killing those who would not comply. The preaching of the gospel was certainly not done in a way we would recognise today.

Reformation and revivals

After that came the Reformation (1517-1648). The truth began to be restored to the church and people began to question both the spiritual and the political authority of the Roman establishment. They continued to hold a postmillennial view, still expected things to get better, and saw the restoration of truth as part of that process.

Charles_g_finneyThen we come to a period where the Holy Spirit was poured out in revivals in both England and America: Wesley and Whitfield and so on in the UK; the First and Second Great Awakenings in the USA with Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney (photo) and others. Those revivalists were predominantly postmillennialists: they believed that Jesus would be coming back after the church had succeeded in its mission. Maybe that was because they saw the church actually succeeding; they saw revivals in which many thousands were saved and the work of the Holy Spirit was very obvious.

Tares sown in

But from 1826-50, so much that was negative began to be sown in, as we have seen. The tares were sown into the world, with the rise of cults and so on; and in the church the leaven of dispensational teaching and false doctrine began to spread and permeate everything.

From 1909, when the Scofield Bible was published and so many people read it and adopted the dispensational premillennialist views it reflected, the predominant mindset became very pessimistic. There was a great deal of scientific and philosophical attack on Christian belief, Darwinism began to become generally accepted, and two World Wars seemed to indicate that far from getting better, things were getting much worse.

A whole generation which had been impacted by the Welsh revival saw its young men wiped out in the First World War. And even after the Second World War, the pessimism continued into Cold War, a period of intense uncertainty in which nuclear destruction looked to be a distinct possibility. So much went into print at that time identifying Russia as the Beast or the Antichrist or whatever – and now those books are completely obsolete.

It didn’t stop the same thing happening with the Common Market in Europe, which was supposed to be the twelve heads of the Beast coming out of the sea in Revelation – and how many nations are there in the EU now? Then it was going to be Saddam Hussein. Well, he is no longer around either. North Korea next…?

All this material was written by authors looking at the prevailing conditions and trying to interpret them using biblical prophecy; looking at events in the world and imposing that onto Scripture, instead of the other way around. When we read biblical prophecy, we want to allow it to tell us what is (or was) going to happen. We do not want to interpret it from looking at the newspapers or the television news.

Renewal

Around 1960 there was a turning point, the charismatic renewal movement, when the Holy Spirit was poured out across the churches. That has led on to the whole prophetic movement, and the restoration of prophetic and apostolic ministry. With that has come fresh revelation – and a fresh challenge. It has caused warfare within the church, because when you challenge a status quo which is dominated by the enemy you get Jezebel spirits and all kinds of demonic activity being stirred up. They do not like the truth being preached when they have had things their own way for so long.

We need to preach the truth. The truth is that the kingdom of God is going to fill the earth. The truth is that Jesus is going to come back for a victorious church. The devil would just love us to believe that we are going to be defeated, because then our faith would be in that defeat.

But our faith is in victory, in overcoming, in seeing God’s kingdom fill the earth.

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Image of the Emperor Constantine
Attribution: “Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin” by I, Jean-Christophe BENOIST.
Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin.jpg

67. Why Complicate It?

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott 

Important note: as with several previous posts, we have changed our view of these things in the light of further revelation from God. We now see the whole of Matthew 24 as a warning about the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, and the book of Revelation as having been written to encourage believers undergoing persecution. Most, if not all, of the book of Revelation is now history. Some notable scholars even see Revelation 21 as having been already fulfilled (see Her Gates Will Never be Shut by Brad Jersak).

Below is the original post, mostly as originally published, but with some amendments in the second paragraph about ‘eternal punishment’ and ‘restorative justice’ which we made a while ago.

The Great White Throne

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds (Rev 20:12-13).

God will take into account the actual deeds of those He judges. Whatever that looks like, and however it has been portrayed to us in the past, it is not about ‘eternal punishment’. He is fair and just, and His justice is always restorative, not retributive.

New heavens and a new earth

If you are a believer, and you have faith, you are not going to the lake of fire. But there will be a judgment for believers, as we saw last time. We will have to give an account of where the record of our lives fails to match up to the scroll God wrote for us, but there is no condemnation for believers. Still we must be careful how we live, maintaining holy conduct and godliness, as Peter writes:

galaxies-597905_640But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:10-13).

‘The elements will melt with intense heat’: this is what I meant when I said before that Jesus will not come back and stand on the earth. There will be no earth – His coming will burn it up.

Materialism? Forget it, it is all going to go. Even if you have some favourite places on the earth (and I have some I really love), you need to know, it is all going to go. But in the age to come, the new heavens and the new earth are going to be so much better than this one. Nothing but righteousness dwells there. He is righteousness. And please notice: He comes to dwell with us, we don’t go to Him.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away (Rev 21:1-4).

All that sense of loss we were talking about last time, of weeping because we messed up and didn’t do all that God had planned for us – He is going to wipe it all away.

There won’t be any sea. All of you who love the sea – sorry! The sea represents division, which is why there won’t be any. And there will not be any night. So all of you who like to sleep – sorry! Night won’t exist in the age to come. No darkness, the whole universe will be light because God is light and He will fill the universe:

In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 21:25-27).

We can hasten His coming by our holy conduct and godliness, because it is not a fixed hour. Our response can hasten or delay Him. That is why we must be ready to bow the knee in surrender, ready to see His kingdom fill the earth.

This is what God is calling us to.

Search the scriptures

I know that much I have taught in recent posts is not the accepted understanding of this subject. Please, take time to search out the scriptures like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) to see if this is so. Search with a positive attitude, not a negative one (to prove it isn’t so). Ask God about it.

I was brought up to believe much that I have now come to see as lies and deception. When I got baptised in the Spirit, God started talking to me about covenant and the kingdom of God and over time I have had to change my understanding. I have studied all of this closely, in fact on my bookshelves I have books written from almost every point of view. I haven’t just accepted the first new idea that came along. I know how deceptive the enemy is.

God’s revelation of what He is doing just doesn’t fit with what is so often taught. And you will see, if you are honest and if you look at what Jesus said, that all prophecy has to be interpreted in the light of Jesus, and in the light of His teaching.

What Jesus said was: last day, day of resurrection and judgment. Simple. Why complicate it?

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66. Scroll Of Destiny

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott 

Important note: as with the two previous posts, we need to let you know that we have changed our view of these things in the light of further revelation from God. We now see the whole of Matthew 24 as a warning about the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

References to ‘the end of the age’ are always about AD 70 and not to ‘the end of the world’.

Our interpretation of the word ‘judgment’ is now more about delivering a verdict (“This is Me, and this is not”) than passing sentence; about God giving people an opportunity to change, rather than about Him handing out punishment. He really is Love, and Love really does keep no record of wrongs.

But it remains true that our work will be tested with fire.

Below is the post as originally written.

On the last day, the first people to be taken will be the unbelievers, swiftly followed by the believers. If that is news to you, it is probably best to read our previous post before embarking on this one.

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming… For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (Matt 24:42, 44).

Understanding Thessalonians

We have looked before at some of the misunderstandings which can arise from reading Thessalonians carelessly. When he writes to them about the last day, Paul is responding to a particular question which is vexing the church there. They understand very well what will happen to the believers who are alive when Jesus returns, but what about those who have died? Will they miss out?

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thes 4:13-18).

‘By the word of the Lord’ – this is not Paul’s interpretation, this is what he has received directly from Him. It is all going to happen in the same instant, and as I have said before, there will be lots of noise. His coming will be very obvious. The dead in Christ will be resurrected, and then the living believers will join them in meeting the Lord – and in the air, not on the earth. Paul offers comfort, says not to be frightened or concerned about all this. Alive or dead, you will be with Him in the age to come. All at the same time.

He says the same thing to the Corinthians:

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Cor 15:51-52).

Some will be alive, some dead, but all will be changed in a moment. All of us will receive our eternal, immortal bodies. These are bodies like those Adam and Eve had when they were created, when they had their spirit on the outside of them. The glory of God manifested on the outside. Skin was only added later when they sinned, and not animal skins: skin. Skin was not needed before that – I can’t go into all that here, but you can ask God to show you.

Resurrection and judgment

For everyone, believers included, the last day is the day of resurrection and judgment. The day of separation: wheat from the tares, sheep from the goats (Matt 25:31-46). There will be judgment for unbelievers, and we will look at that next time. But there will also be judgment for believers.

‘For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know’ (Matt 24:44-50).

At the end of the age, what will we be found doing when He comes? The servant found doing as his master commanded was put in charge of all his possessions. Here (and in other parables) there is a scale of rewards.

But what happens to the unfaithful servant? His master will return and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 24:51). Jesus says this again in Matt 25:30 ‘Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’.

This is not ‘hell’ – you don’t get dark flames.

But there will be dimensions close to the throne, and dimensions far away. The weeping and gnashing of teeth is when we realise we have let God down. When we see how much we have missed – or done in our own strength. I have been there, in the heavenly realms, at that judgment seat. There was a good deal of weeping and gnashing of teeth for me, when I saw all that I had missed. The good news is that we don’t have to wait until we die or until Jesus comes: we can all go there now, and get this dealt with. Again, you may need to ask God about that.

Paul says, For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God… So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God (Rom 14:10,12).

Scroll of Destiny

ScrollThis judgment is not about sin. Sin is covered by the cross and by the blood of Jesus. This is about our life. This is about our scroll of destiny. Look at Psalm 139: everything that was written, all the vast sum of the thoughts of God that are written about us. What are we going to do about that? Are we going to fulfil that or not? We are going to have to give an account of whether our scroll matches up with the scroll of our life that God has written for us.

‘But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire‘ (1 Cor 3:10-15).

Paul is writing here about that same judgment for believers. It is a fiery place, a consuming fire. The true quality of our life will be on trial. Let’s get it sorted now, and we will be able to claim our reward. That reward consists of the things we will be doing in the age to come, in the new heavens and the new earth. Awesome things. It consists of responsibilities that God will entrust to us, because we have been faithful here.

But if someone’s work is burned up when tried with fire, he will suffer loss. This is not a long darkness – he can be assured he will be saved, but ‘through fire’. Fire purifies – that is its purpose. Even if we have messed up, we are still saved. There is no fear here. If you are a believer, and you have faith, you are not going to a fiery place for eternity. But there will be a judgment.

Misunderstanding Thessalonians

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

1 and 2 Thessalonians are books which are very often misinterpreted. In the main teaching on the blog we will come back to them to see what they do have to say about the end of the age, but in this extra post I want to deal with some common misconceptions. Those commonly arise from failing to understand the original purpose of these letters, which was to encourage the believers in the midst of persecution.

1 Thess 1:6 ‘You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit’. So even as they were birthed, the gospel was received with tribulation, that is to say persecution from the Jews and Romans.

1 Thess 1:10 ‘and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come’. ‘Wrath’ is a covenant word, expressing a consequence of breaking covenant. It was to be manifested in judgment on Jerusalem in AD 70.

1 Thess 2:2 ‘but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition’. Every place Paul went, the Jews opposed him, stirred up opposition, incited the crowd to stone him or got him thrown into prison.

1 Thess 2:14 ‘For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews’. The bottom line is, intense persecution was going on.

If you were a believer, wouldn’t you be asking why? Asking when it would end? Whether you would survive? The Gentile churches did not have the underlying knowledge of the Old Testament which Jewish believers enjoyed, so they did not understand covenant, or what the consequences would be for the perpetrators of their sufferings. Paul fills them in:

1 Thess 2:15-16 ‘who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost’. Paul is saying, ‘hang on in there, judgment is coming on those who are persecuting you. It will not go on for ever’.

1 Thess 3:4 For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know’. So right from the first they were already telling them this was coming – this was no gospel preaching through rose-coloured spectacles.

2 Thess 1:4, 6-7: ‘therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire’. God is going to repay, and relieve your sufferings. Not at the end of the world: this is speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem – remember what we have said about the sign of Jesus in heaven.

2 Thess 2:1-2 ‘Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come’. Still not the end of the world, still the judgment on the persecutors. If the church is still living under persecution from the Jews, Paul argues, then covenant judgment hasn’t come yet – but it is coming.

2 Thess 2:3 ‘Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction’. Apostasy came before the destruction of Jerusalem. This is what Jesus talked about in Matt 24:9. It was a tough time:

Matt 24:9-12 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 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. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.

1 Thess 5:1-3 ‘Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly’. They had no need of anything to be written (but Paul still wrote it). We live in a different age, and have been badly instructed and taught, so maybe we do!

1 Thess 5:9 ‘For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’. As we said earlier in this post, believers were not destined for wrath, which was why they were told to flee when they saw the ‘abomination of desolation‘ in the holy place. The historian Josephus tells us that all the Christians did exactly that, so that although 1.1 million people died in the siege and fall of Jerusalem, none of them were Christians.

1 Thess 5:23 ‘Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’. We cannot take that as His coming at the end of the age: after all, many who have read that scripture (indeed all of those to whom it was originally written) have since died, so their body was certainly not preserved until the end of the age. Paul is talking to that same generation which Jesus prophesied to, between AD30 and AD70, and the coming is His coming in covenant judgment upon Jerusalem.

I hope that is all clear for you – or even better, that it raises some questions that prompt you to begin looking into these things for yourself.

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63. Grafted Back In

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Grafted in

tree-357583_640I mentioned a couple of posts back that Romans 11 tells us what it will be like when the ‘times of the Gentiles’ (Luke 21:24) have been fulfilled. It speaks of an olive tree which represents God’s covenant and that Abrahamic covenant people. Israel was cut off, and Gentiles were grafted in – to that same olive tree – and then Israel will be grafted back in. But they will only be grafted back into that olive tree the same way the rest of us are: by faith in Christ.

Being part of the covenant people is not automatic for all Jews. It never was. It never will be. Scripture is absolutely clear about that:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants’ (Rom 9:6-8).

The covenant promise for the people of God to fill the earth has not failed. It has been fulfilled. Just being naturally descended from Israel did not make anyone an inheritor of the promises. You always had to come through the promise made to Abraham. We are all God’s children through faith, like Abraham. You have to have faith to be classed as sons of Abraham.

Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham (Gal 3:7).

All one in Christ

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise (Gal 3:28-29).

That is the New Covenant. We are all one in Christ. There is no separation or division of anything anymore: we are one in Christ. We are heirs according to the promise. We are the fulfilment of that promise. Everyone can come into that promise: Jew or Gentile. We come by faith in Christ; to be the people of God; to see the kingdom of God fill the earth. We are going to be part of that filling the earth. ‘But indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD’ (Num 14:21).

Daniel says, “I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints…” (the horn is a symbol of authority again) “…and overpowering them…” (Dan 7:21).This is not going to happen at the end. We are not going to be overpowered by anything or anyone.

We are going to win: look at the end of the book, it is we who overcome; we are more than conquerors. And so Daniel goes on:

“Until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favour of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom” (Dan 7:22).

The judgment on Jerusalem and the Old Covenant system was when the saints took full possession of the kingdom. And Jesus is going to stay in heaven until we get the job done (Acts 3:21), fulfilling all the promises of God and outworking it.

Chief of the mountains

Look at this scripture; it is the same promise as we have seen before in Isaiah 2, this time in Micah:

And it will come about in the last days that the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains.  It will be raised above the hills, and the peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD…” (Micah 4:1-2).

They will come because we have the answers. When the world’s systems fail, the church will rise up in authority and power. We will have the answers that bring salvation, healing, protection, provision, deliverance and blessing. We will operate the kingdom of God. As we seek first the kingdom of God, everything else will be added to us. That is our inheritance as God’s people: to fulfil the promises made to Adam, Noah and Abraham.

Through Jesus, we are that people. That is why it is so critical that we preach the gospel, so that everyone can come and be part of that people, through faith in Christ.

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