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.

64. The End Of The Age

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott  

Important note: our view of this has moved on some since this post was first written.

We would now say that the disciples’ questions were really about just one event and that the ‘end of the age’ Jesus is speaking of is the end of the Old Covenant age and the ‘age to come’ is the New Covenant age. This means that Jesus is not changing the subject from Matt 24:34 onwards.

‘Like the days of Noah’ is a description of the times leading up to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. However, there is still an application of this for us, as the enemy continues to seek to destroy the seed even today.

There is nothing in what Jesus says about the ‘last day’ in Matthew 24 (or in John 6:40) that we would now see as referring to the last day of history. The ‘last day’ is the end of the Old Covenant age.

Below is the original post, as first published.

We have seen that in Matthew 24, the disciples asked Jesus about three specific things:

Mount_of_Olives_(before_1899)
Mount of Olives (before 1899). Public domain.

As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3).

In recent posts we have looked at how Jesus answered the first two of these. From verse 34 onwards He is talking about the end of the age.

And the first thing to say is that no-one knows when that will be. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah” (Matt 24:36-37).

So if you come across any books, blogs or articles telling you when it is going to be, don’t even bother with them. There is nothing and no-one that can tell you. And Jesus says that not even the Son knows. Now of course Jesus knows, but as the Word of God He has not revealed it anywhere, not the exact day and the hour.

We are not supposed to know the specific time, and there is a reason for that.

“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).

Every single believer, from that time on, needs to live as if it is the last day. It could happen today. Then we will be ready. Jesus told the story of the wise and foolish virgins to illustrate that point; the parable of the talents, too. He wanted to warn us not to be found to have wasted our talents when the Master comes. We need to be prepared; we need to live in readiness not in complacency.

What we are permitted to know is what the times will be like when that day comes. It will be like the days of Noah, and we have already seen how that involved Nephilim, widespread evil, and pollution of the human DNA. Those times will come again, and the church must face them with authority and power.

“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).

Jesus said there would be a day of resurrection and judgment for everyone. When? On what He called ‘the last day’.

“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).

Now there is something fundamental we need to understand about the last day: it is the last day. There are no days after it. So when Jesus comes and raises people from the dead, that is the end. There are not 7 years afterwards, not 3½ years, and not 1000 years. The clue is in the name: it is the last day.

Time itself stops.

And this also emphasises why Jesus will remain in heaven until every prophecy has been fulfilled, and does not come to fulfil them. There is no time for anything to be fulfilled after the last day.

‘…and 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’ (Acts 3:20-21).

I know that is not what is taught: the fulfilment of prophetic promises is routinely put off to a different age, or a different people. The truth is that the church has access to all the promises in order to see to it that the kingdom fills the earth. The alternative is the eschatology of defeat and failure we have looked at before, which only robs us of our position of power.

Here is another scripture which talks about the end in similar terms:

‘For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death’ (1 Cor 15:22-26).

The end is the end. At that point Jesus hands over the kingdom to God the Father. No more kingdom, no 1000 year rule, just the end. This scripture expressly tells us there is no more rule, authority or power after the end. They are all abolished. Jesus reigns until then, and He reigns through us.

Death too is abolished when Jesus comes, and everyone goes on to eternity, with or without Jesus.

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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61. The Sun Will Be Darkened

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott 

Salvation and judgment

Look at what the Jewish crowd said when Pilate was trying to get them to release Jesus instead of Barabbas: “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” (Matt 27:25). Now that is a very serious thing to say; and it is what happened. As we have seen, the counterpart of salvation is judgment. The blood of Jesus brings salvation for us but judgment upon those who did not accept Him.

The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was the culmination of God’s judgment upon that generation. “The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand” (Deut 28:49). We have been looking at that over the past couple of weeks, and seeing what scripture really has to say about it.

Darkened Sun

eclipse-32823_640Here is another much misunderstood verse: “But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matt 24:29). You can already guess what I am about to say about that: it is covenant language and needs to be understood in terms of covenant judgment. People look to see this literally fulfilled. It was not, will not be, and was never intended to be. Let the Bible interpret itself.

And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come’ (Acts 2:19).

Even here, in the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit being fulfilled, an amazing time of blessing, associated with it was judgment.

Government

To get insight into what sun, moon and stars mean, let us look at Genesis. The sun and moon were created by God for a specific purpose, stated in this scripture: to govern.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;  God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night’ (Gen 1:14, 16). They were signs representing government.

“I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me…” (Gen 37:9).

Joseph’s family understood that the sun, moon and stars spoke of government:  He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?” (Gen 37:10).

Egypt, Babylon, Jerusalem

Nor is this prophecy about darkened sun, moon and stars unique in the Bible, as you might suppose:

And when I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you and will set darkness on your land,” declares the Lord GOD.  “I will also trouble the hearts of many peoples when I bring your destruction among the nations, into lands which you have not known (Ezekiel 32:7-9).  

That is a prophecy about the fall of the Egyptian civilisation, about the end of a system of government.  Although it might sound like the end of the world, it is not. It is just the end for them.

The same language is used of the fall of Babylon:

Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light (Isaiah 13:9-10).

And here in Matthew 24:29, it is the fall of Jerusalem and of the old covenant system. This was prophesied in Zechariah 14:2-9:

For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered… In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle… In that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to the LORD… And the LORD will be king over all the earth.

Not also a literal splitting of the Mount of Olives: this is all about the destruction of Jerusalem and Jesus coming in judgment. The mountain speaks of authority. Remember, in all this we have to let the Bible interpret itself, and not project onto it what we think could happen in our own time.

The light of Israel was to be extinguished, the old covenant nation would cease to exist, and the old covenant system would come to an end. The partition wall between Jews and Gentiles would be removed: the mountains of Jerusalem and its walls which symbolise this division between the old and the new were to come down. This is what Paul had to say about it:

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross (Eph 2:14-16).

This was the end of the ‘one nation, one city, one temple’ wineskin. Today, there is one people of God: those who have faith in Christ Jesus.

60. The Abomination of Desolation

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

‘Has not… until now, nor ever will’

Can we put aside everything we may have been taught and read afresh what Jesus actually said?

For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will (Matt 24:21).

Until when? Until ‘now’. That is to say, until the generation to whom Jesus was speaking. The Great Tribulation was about to begin right then. So if you are looking for a Great Tribulation still to come, you are going to be disappointed. At least, ‘disappointed’ is not really the right word; in fact you are going to be blessed, because it is not going to happen. Jesus was quite categorical about that: ‘nor ever will’. The Great Tribulation culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem, and its like will never occur again. It is history.

For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather (Matt 24:27-28). Again, this is covenant language. These things are not literal: corpses and vultures are the language of judgment. It is Jerusalem being described as a corpse where the vultures gathered for the pickings. Flashes of lightning are also covenant language, speaking of the Son of Man coming in judgment.

Desolation

Luke 21:20-22 is the parallel passage to this:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.

"Siege of JerusalemfiMap" by User:Barosaurus Lentus - self-made based on[1]. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Siege_of_JerusalemfiMap.PNG#mediaviewer/File:Siege_of_JerusalemfiMap.PNG
“Siege of JerusalemfiMap” by User:Barosaurus Lentus – self-made based on[1]. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Armies, desolation (the house being left desolate, Matt 23:38). When believers saw these things, they were to flee to the mountains. Christians actually did do this. If you read Josephus, the Jewish historian, and his account of the Roman-Jewish wars, he says that all the Christians left Jerusalem when they saw the ‘abomination of desolation’ come.  That was because they understood exactly what Jesus was talking about in these warnings, and they did what He said to do. These were days of vengeance that God was bringing on those who rejected Jesus, on those who rejected the Stone. It was not intended to fall upon those who believed in Him, so they were warned to get out of Jerusalem, and stay out. It was good advice. The ‘things which are written’ (Luke 21:22) about God’s vengeance were all to be fulfilled at that time.

Abomination

Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains (Matt 24:15-16).

That refers to a passage in Daniel which said, ‘and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate…’ (Dan 9:27). That took place in AD 68, when the Idumeans (Edomites) broke into Jerusalem and cut the throats of 7000 priests in the Temple. Blood ran out of the Temple in rivers. This is when the Christians fled, because Jesus had warned them to expect to witness an abomination in the holy place, and to run when they saw it.

I know I am laying out lots of scripture here. Firstly I know we might have lots of questions so I want to give a really firm scriptural basis for seeing things this way. And secondly, believe me, we will need to know the scriptures because if we talk to other Christians about this it will be a challenge for many of them. We will need to be really clear in explaining what we believe and why we believe it, not only so that they can be persuaded, but so that we cannot be led astray.

Times of the Gentiles

So finally for today, let’s go back to Luke 21:23-24 (the parallel passage again). Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Are we living in the times of the Gentiles now? Yes we are. So Jerusalem is still being trampled underfoot by Gentiles? Yes. That may be a bit of a theological struggle for some. Romans chapter 11 is where we can read about what will happen when the times of the Gentiles is fulfilled, but it is not yet.

59. The Great Tribulation: History or still to come?

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott  

History. (Read more…)

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