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.

Related articles from others

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

70. Millennium? What Millennium? (Part 2)

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

Last time, we saw how important it is to know what we are expecting when Jesus returns. In light of that, we began looking at the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth (or not). In this post I want to give you a little more understanding of the three main views people hold on this, and next time we can go on to look at what the church has believed over the centuries.

Premillennialism

Jesus will return to set up a literal 1000-year kingdom on earth, in Jerusalem – and re-establish the whole Old Covenant sacrificial system. My immediate question is: why? Why would He want to set up sacrifices again when He is the sacrifice? Once and for all, it says (1 Pet 3:18, Heb 9:28). So to me that now seems like a really strange way of thinking – but I used to think that way, because that is what I was taught. I didn’t even know there was any other way. Every book I ever read said that was the way. Until God started to speak to me about the kingdom, and how the kingdom needed to come; until I began to look for it myself; and that is what really changed things for me.

Premillennialists teach that there will be a series of key events that occur before the millennial rule of Christ on earth. These events include the secret rapture of the church and a seven-year time of tribulation. They hold various opinions about when the rapture will occur, and these can be summed up as pre-tribulation, post-tribulation, or mid-tribulation. Whereas we have seen that the Great Tribulation has already occurred, and that Jesus said there would never be another one like it. We have also seen that the rapture was not at all what we thought it was. newspaper-412441_640One of the problems with the premillenialist position is that there is a tendency to interpret things not in light of what the Bible says, but in light of history, current events, and the news on TV and in the papers. They contend that they hold to a literal interpretation of prophecy and scripture, whereas in fact they are very selective in what they believe literally, and actually have a very symbolic interpretation of what they see as things to come.

For them, the kingdom is future, and a literal 1000 years on earth with Christ. The book of Revelation is seen as also mostly future.

Amillennialism

Amillennialism is the belief that there is no literal millennium.

It teaches that there is no future millennial earthly rule of Christ. Amillennialists tend to have an allegorical interpretation and non-literal approach to prophecy. For them, the events mentioned in the book of Revelation reveal that the situation in the world will continue to worsen before Christ returns. Christ will one day return to rescue the church. He will not be coming to establish a millennial rule on earth but to usher in the age to come. This view can often seem very pessimistic, because it does not see prophecy being literally fulfilled on earth, so all the promises of God are just spiritualised, and do not actually relate to our present reality.

For them, the kingdom is present now – but only in heaven. The book of Revelation is being played out presently in the church age, and the events it portrays happen in every age, throughout history.

Postmillennialism

Jesus returns after His people rule spiritually on earth. The 1000 years is not a literal figure, it simply represents a long period of time.

Postmillennial theology teaches that the Church will be triumphant as a result of the gospel impacting the world. After this, Christ will return, and believers will then enter the eternal state, or the age to come. When the church has finished its task, to see God’s kingdom come and fill the earth, then Jesus will return and we will enter the age to come.

In this view, the kingdom is present and will expand to fill the earth before Christ’s return. The prophetic promises of God are expected to have all been fulfilled by then.

The book of Revelation is mostly historical – talking about the destruction of Jerusalem – but continues to be applicable to the church triumphing over persecution, and overcoming, throughout history.

This view seems to me to be in line with what Jesus taught. As we have seen, He said He was coming on the Last Day, the day of resurrection and judgment – and our guiding principle must be to interpret everything through what Jesus said.

[Editor’s note: if you are looking for a fuller discussion of pre-, a- and post-millenialism, there is probably none better than Martin Scott’s series of podcasts and accompanying notes which you can find here (though we don’t see totally eye-to-eye with him on everything). And if you are planning a long journey or otherwise have a couple of hours to spare, you might be interested to download, listen to or watch this roundtable discussion between leading American exponents of each of these views, hosted by John Piper’s Desiring God Ministries.]

69. Millennium? What Millennium?

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb 11:1 NASB).

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (NKJV).

It is really important for us to know what is to come, because if we do not know we cannot have faith in it. Everything we do, we need to do by faith.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4).

The mandate we have is to bring God’s kingdom rule from heaven to earth. It is the same mandate as when Jesus came ‘to destroy the works of the evil one’ (1 John 3:8).  We are overcomers; we are conquerors, because we have the authority of God’s kingdom. So in everything that we are going to have to face; in whatever spiritual warfare that is going to take place; in every arena in which we are going to have to defeat the enemy; in all that battle we have an overcomer’s mantle, because we are born again. Our identity is that of an overcomer. But how is that victory going to be won? It is won through our faith.

That means it is really important that we know what our prophetic expectation is, that we know what we believe God is going to do in the future. If we believe it is going to be defeat, then our faith is going to be in seeing and experiencing defeat. If we believe it is going to be victory, then our faith will be in that victory; and it will be possible for that victory to be outworked in us. Our faith is the substance of that victory; our faith is what will bring it into reality.

Victory consists in fulfilling God’s original intention, which is to see His kingdom filling the earth (Gen 1:28). For man to subdue and rule over it, and bring God’s kingdom: as it is in heaven, so it is on earth. That is quite an expectation, and if that is what we actually are to expect, then we really do need to know.

Pre-, A-, Post- or Pan-?

That brings me to the question of the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ.

Now there is a good deal of confusion over this in the body of Christ, many different teachings going around, many different ideas we are likely to hear. If we can get some clarity on it, we will be able to have faith in what is coming. So let me just sum up for you the main strands of teaching and then in coming posts we will begin to look at them in a little more detail:

  • Pre-millennial – ‘before’. Jesus is going to return before a period of time called a millennium (which the Latin word for 1000 years).
  • A-millennial – ‘non-’. There isn’t actually a millennium at all, and the term is normally understood by those who hold this view to be symbolic of the church age.
  • Post-millennial – ‘after’. Jesus is going to come back after a period of His kingdom being on earth.
  • Pan-millennial – ‘all’. Or, “Who cares? It will all work out in the end”. This seems to be the camp of those who are unwilling to nail their colours to the mast. Some are unsure, but maybe some are just unwilling to be honest, because they know that if they come out and say what they really believe about this, they are likely get a lot of flak.

In the USA especially, if church leaders and prominent Christian people come out and say that they don’t actually believe in a premillennial return of Jesus, they are likely to find themselves under attack from other Christians. The internet is full of articles and comments from ‘heresy-hunters’ basically just running them down because they have dared to say what they believe. As we have seen before, that premillennial view has pervaded the church like leaven, and a lot of the church don’t even know there is another way of seeing things, or if they do, they don’t understand how that other way could possibly make any sense.

Whereas in fact the church believed something quite different for centuries. And some of us do so today.

Related articles from others

68. As He Is, So Are We

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott –

When Jesus comes back, He is coming for His bride, the church. So this scripture is talking about us:

That He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Eph 5:27).

And since each of us are part of that bride, we have to be ready. That is why we are experiencing a season of purification and refining in our lives. For some of us, we may well have been here before. But we have a sense that God is doing something at a deeper level this time. God is removing stumbling blocks, He is removing all the idols we have in our lives. We are praying Psalm 139, ‘Search me O God, and know my heart’. And it is so that He can make us into that holy church that Jesus can inhabit in fullness, releasing His power onto the earth.

Confidence

Now, what does it take to be ready? There are some scriptures in the first letter of John that I want to look at:

By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world (1 John 4:17).

So we can have confidence, because ‘as He is, so also are we in this world’. As Jesus is: not as He was, but as He is now. He is enthroned in heaven: and we are outworking that kingdom, that enthronement, here on the earth. Our confidence comes from knowing that He is on the throne. His position as King is what gives us the confidence to outwork that kingdom, here in our lives, on earth.

‘Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming’ (1 John 2:28).

There is a relationship here: we abide in Him and He in us. It is an intimate relationship. And when He appears, as long as we are remaining in that relationship of intimacy, hearing and obeying His voice daily, doing the things we see the Father doing, then of course we will greet Him with confidence. It would be terrible to flinch away from Him when He comes in glory, not to be able to look at Him because we are ashamed of the way we have been living. If we stay close to Him now, we can have confidence when He comes.

Like Him

‘Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure’ (1 John 3:2-3).

So when Jesus actually appears, we will be like Him. We will be transformed. We will have a new resurrection body, and be transformed into an eternal being. In His resurrection body Jesus was able to appear to His disciples, walk through walls, eat a fish supper. We will be just like that: ‘we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.’ But because we have this hope, we also need to purify ourselves, just as He is pure. So we do have some work to do.

Baggage

When we see Him, we do not want to be carrying all the baggage that we might presently be going around with. We have an opportunity, right now, to be purified. We can allow Jesus to refine us, to prepare us to meet Him. All that holds us back and weighs us down, we have an opportunity to get it sorted out ahead of time.

I want to be properly prepared to meet Him face to face. I have my life here and now to work on that. And how do I make myself ready? I just surrender to Him. I allow Him to do whatever he wants to do in me. It is not something I have to somehow try to rack my brains and get all figured out. I just have to give Him my life on a daily basis. I need to present myself as a living sacrifice. I need to reckon myself dead to sin and alive to Him. I need to be crucified with Christ so that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. My flesh no longer determines what I do.

Anointed One

‘Christ’ is not Jesus’ surname, remember. Whenever the word ‘Christ’ is used in scripture it refers to the anointing he carries. When it says ‘Jesus’, it is referring to the person of Jesus; when it says ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’, it is giving Him His full title and emphasising His lordship. So each time we read about Jesus in scripture, the name(s) used to describe Him emphasise what aspect we particularly need to understand about Him.

So it is Christ, the Anointed One and His anointing, who lives in me. I have been crucified – past tense – but I need to outwork that in a daily relationship, by presenting myself as a living sacrifice before God. I have written about how we do that in an earlier post. This may be stating the obvious, but the thing about a living sacrifice is that it is actually alive. I present myself on a daily basis, so that my life can be used for His kingdom purposes, so that I can be pure as He is pure.

That is how He would like me to be; how He would like all of us to be. How we need to be, because He is coming.

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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.

65. Left Behind?

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Important note: as with the previous post, our view of this has moved on some since this was first written.

There is nothing in what Jesus says in Matthew 24 that we would now see as referring to the ‘last day’.

Below is the original post, largely as first published. Most of our comments about the ‘rapture’ still stand, but we would no longer apply Matthew 24:40-41 to the ‘last day’ at all, but (as with everything else in this chapter) to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

As we have seen, the Last Day is just that – the last day, and there are no more days after it. It is also the day of resurrection, and the day of judgment.

“He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48).

We could be the generation which sees that last day. That is why removing stumbling blocks and being purified by fire is so important for us right now: we need to be ready, we need to be prepared to face judgment.

Holy and blameless

This is how Paul describes the church as she will be at that time: …that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Eph 5:27).

Holy and blameless? He has some work to do, then. That is what this purifying is for. We must heed the warnings. He will suddenly come to His temple, purifying and refining like fullers soap. We can fall on the Rock and be broken, or if we choose to remain stubborn and rebellious, the Rock can fall on us and we will be crushed (Matt 21:44).

Jesus wants to come back to a church which demonstrates the kingdom in fullness, a church which does what Adam and Eve would have done if they had not sinned: a church which subdues and overcomes (Gen 1:28).

Coming with the clouds

How is He going to come on that last day?

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).

Jesus levitated before their eyes, in a cloud of glory (we are not talking about a fluffy white cloud here). That cloud is the same cloud He will return with: a cloud of witnesses. Nowhere does it say He will set foot again on the earth. In fact, as we shall see another time, there will be no earth for Him to set foot upon. We will not need to be gazing intently into the sky in order to see His coming. His coming will be visible, sudden, glorious and noisy. There is no ‘secret rapture’ here.

The rapture of the saints

‘There’s a talking donkey in Shrek, and a talking donkey in the Bible (Num 22:28), so that makes Shrek more biblical than Left Behind‘ (Benjamin L. Corey).

The whole idea of a secret rapture of the saints is just not there in the word of God.

At all.

The word ‘rapture’, by the way, is just from a Greek word meaning ‘caught up’. But a whole demonic doctrine has been built up around this concept, and has infiltrated the church like leaven – and you can easily tell it is demonic because it robs the church of power and effectiveness. It teaches a secret taking away of the church to be with Jesus and then everyone else being taken to judgment at some time later. The actual length of time between the two may vary, depending on the eschatology. But it means the church is expecting rescue, not victory.

What does scripture say?

Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left (Matt 24:40-41).

But who is taken first, and who is left? This is a trick question, so watch out!
Let’s allow the Bible to interpret itself:

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’  But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’ (Matt 13:24-30). 

…and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age (Matt 13:39-40)

So what Jesus taught was that the first people to be gathered up and taken at the end of the age would be the tares. It would be sudden, it would happen in the midst of normal life…

And you would want to be ‘left behind’.

All scripture quotations are taken from the NASB.