263. The Word of God

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

God spoke

“…the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:21).

In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter tells his audience that God has already spoken about the restoration of all things in the past. So who were those prophets He spoke through, what did He say and when did He say it? And if these things were spoken, were they also written down, and if so, where?

  • In the 39 books which we call the Old Testament? Or the 24 books of the Hebrew Tanakh? Or the Talmud or Rabbinical writings?
  • Is it only the Bible that records what God spoke by His holy prophets? Are there other written records of what the prophets said?
  • What about the Apocryphal books which were once included in our Bible? What about other Jewish mystical writings such as the Talmud, Targum, Midrash and Zohar?

Those are the kinds of questions which go through my mind when I read something like that.

In His Son

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son… (Heb 1:1-2).

That is where we are. We actually do not need a prophet to speak to us anymore, because we have Jesus to speak to us. The Father can speak to us. The Holy Spirit can speak to us. And they can speak to us directly, they do not need a prophet to be a mediator.

When He spoke to prophets who lived 3000 years or so ago, He spoke to them in the context of their own society and way of life. If we simply read what they wrote, it might not mean the same to us (especially if we don’t speak their language). We need God the Holy Spirit to speak to us so that, whether we have it in writing or not, He can say it in a way appropriate for us and apply it to our situation today.

If we will learn to hear God’s voice and discern what He is saying, we may find He has much more to say than we ever thought. He speaks to me in all kinds of ways, not just through scripture. If He speaks to me through a sci-fi film, is that less valid than Him speaking to me through the Bible?

Truth and opinion

I often find I have more questions than answers! That is because I now recognise that many things I thought I knew were only assumptions, or other people’s opinions. My understanding was framed by what I was taught about how God spoke and what the Bible meant. But in the process of God renewing my mind, He began to challenge me on some of these things.

Jesus is the Truth. So wherever there is truth, it must be from Jesus. Whether it is in a movie, or a book, or music, or some other creative work, it must be Jesus. The conclusions people draw, or the way they interpret that truth, that is not necessarily Jesus. We cannot assume that just because one part within it rings true, that everything in it is true. The Holy Spirit will give us that discernment. We can find truth in many things, truth that we might miss if we believe the only way we can receive truth is through the Bible.

The Bible

So where does the Bible (and other ‘scripture’) fit into the picture of what will be restored? Where does the Bible fit into our lives? Is it a manual for living or an introduction to a living, loving relationship with Jesus, the Living Word? Is everything that is recorded in the Bible inspired by God? What do we mean by ‘inspired’? Is all of the Bible inerrant and infallible as we may have been told?

I understand that posing such questions risks causing offence. I am not setting out to deliberately offend but I do want to challenge our view of the Bible as the ‘word of God’. Everything God has ever said, through anyone or anything, is the word of God. But it is not a book. Nowhere in the Bible does it call itself ‘the word of God’ but it does call Jesus Himself the Word:

In the beginning was the Word [Gk: logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

Perhaps we have been taught that the Greek word logos means the written word, the Bible, and the Greek word rhema means the spoken words of Jesus, recorded in the Bible, or the words the Holy Spirit speaks to you when you read the Bible. Logos and rhema do not mean that. They were the normal, everyday terms for written word and spoken word and that is all.

The early believers did not even have a Bible when those words were used. The books contained in our Bible were not originally part of a collection of writings at all. They were letters, or books of history, prophecy, or poetry and so on. And some of the books that were included in the first ‘canon of scripture’ have since been discarded.

Evangelicalism

No one lives without influence. Everyone’s mind is framed by their belief systems. In the process of the deconstruction and renewal of my mind, God showed me that one of the pillars of so-called ‘truth’ that framed my beliefs was evangelicalism.

This is a belief system which teaches that the Bible does not merely contain the word of God, but that every word of it is the word of God. Scripture therefore carries the full authority of God: every single statement of the Bible calls for instant, unqualified and unrestricted acceptance. In fact many evangelical churches hold to the doctrine of Sola scriptura (Latin: by scripture alone): the Christian scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith and practice.

Ironically, you will not find any of that in the Bible. It is not there because it is a man-made doctrine. Not only does the Bible never call itself ‘the word of God’, it does not claim to be inerrant, infallible or the only authoritative guide for us either. The emphasis on following the Bible only arose because no one taught us that we really could have an intimate face-to-face relationship with Jesus in which He could speak to us personally. Jesus is the One we are supposed to listen to and follow, not a book.

In reality, not everything in the Bible applies to us.

Much of the Old Testament and law only applied to Jewish people and converts, or to the specific people being addressed, not to us in the new covenant. Much of the New Testament was written to address the events of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the end of the old covenant system. Paul wrote letters to certain churches in circumstances we do not face today. Some passages only make sense in their own cultural context – though I was brought up in a church which had a stock of head coverings at the door for women thoughtless enough to come without one (1 Cor: 11:5-8).

The Living Word

Jesus never promised a book, but a relationship with Himself, with His Father and with the Holy Spirit of Truth. Everything we read in the Bible needs to be interpreted by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. There is some universal truth within it which is awesome, revealing the loving nature and character of the Father. The Holy Spirit will show us that universal truth and how it is to be applied to our lives.

The Living Word, Jesus, can interpret the written word, speak directly to us daily and bring truth to us even if it is completely out of the context it was originally written in. He did that when He came – and we can read about it in the Bible! How many times in the Sermon on the Mount did He say “You have heard it said… but I say…”? He still does it today.

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259. Clothed with Glory

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott  

“And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

Jesus was talking about the coming Pentecost and the first step of the Holy Spirit leading us into ‘the freedom of the glory of the children of God’, re-clothing us with the glory Adam and Eve displayed. That was to be the beginning of the process and our transformation was intended to continue, but many have become stuck or even refused to go there! We must embrace that truth, and the reality of spiritual gifts, but see it as just one step along the road to fully restored sonship and the authority that goes with it.

For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.  I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace,’ declares the Lord of hosts (Haggai 2:6-7, 9).

For Israel, under the old covenant, the house they were expecting to be filled with glory was the Temple. And when Jesus came to the Temple, He came with the glory of God again. But He was rejected by the religious leaders and when He left the Temple for the last time (in Matthew chapters 23-24) He left it desolate, that is, without the glory. In the new covenant we understand that we are the house, and we are to be filled with glory.

And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:26-29).

Our bodies are a house of God, and we are part of this ‘mountain of the house of the Lord’ which is being restored by fire. The fire of God is not something we need to be afraid of. His fire is His love, and it only consumes the worthless, temporary things we have created on our DIY pathway. His fire is necessary to restoration – we cannot restore anything by the self-help methods which compromised God’s original intent and purpose in the first place.

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

When God displays His sons to the world, when we are fully restored to positions of sonship, raised up and seated in authority in the heavenly realms, people will be drawn to the glory they see restored in us. What will that look like?

Transfiguration

And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him (Matt 17:2-3).

Moses represents the Law and Elijah the Prophets. Everything in the old covenant was there to honour Jesus as he appeared in the full blaze of the glory of sonship. If that happened to Jesus, it can happen to us.

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!” (Matt 17:5).

An extra phrase was added to the first time the Father affirmed Jesus as His Son: now He is saying “listen to Him!” So when we know our position, when God speaks that affirmation over us, creation will know to listen to us. Creation is looking for the revealing of the sons of God; it will listen and respond to us when we stand in that restored place of authority.

Mystic glimpses

At various times in history, God has given a few people mystic glimpses of mankind’s original state and of His original intention for us. In 1820, Anne Catherine Emmerich had an extensive and very vivid personal revelation in which she described Adam and Eve as clothed in light.

“They were like two unspeakably noble and beautiful children, perfectly luminous and clothed with beams of light as with a veil. From Adam’s mouth I saw issuing a broad stream of glittering light, and upon his forehead was an expression of great majesty. Around his mouth played a sunbeam, but there was none around Eve’s. I saw Adam’s heart very much the same as in men of the present day, but his breast was surrounded by rays of light. In the middle of his heart, I saw a sparkling halo of glory1.”

In 1882, Luisa Piccarreta encountered Jesus, who explained that in creating man, He placed him in the sun of the Divine Will. This was a garment of shining light, whose rays covered his body in a way that honoured him and rendered him beautiful. When Adam lost his garments of innocence he used material things to cover himself. Jesus’ earthly garments were taken from Him before He was crucified. “He did not take on other garments upon His Resurrection. Instead His Humanity was dressed with the shining garment of the sun of the Supreme Will… The Divine Will, while it is life, is also man’s true garment of Creation2.”

Though figuratively “naked,” because their knowledge of their premortal state had been taken away by a “veil of forgetfulness,” Adam and Eve had come to Eden nonetheless “trailing clouds of glory.” While the couple, as yet, were free from transgression, they could stand “naked” in God’s presence without shame, being “clothed with purity” in what early commentators called “garments of light” or “garments of contentment.” In one source, Eve describes her appearance by saying: “I was decked out like a bride, and I reclined in a wedding-chamber of light3.”

Such testimonies are designed to motivate us to pursue our restoration in light, not to settle for less than God intended and to reconnect with the eternity that has been placed in our hearts. Hebrew tradition and many rabbinical writings talk about the loss of innocence and glory in terms of light being removed. My own encounters with light and talking to Adam revealed the same truth. It is the Father’s desire for us to be restored to the light of our identity and glory as His sons. The more we realise and – in relationship – get to know the truth of who we are, the more we will begin to shine.

References

1 The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations, vol 1 – Anne Catherine Emmerich, quoted in Frank Rega’s blog post referenced below.
2 Were Adam and Eve originally clothed in garments of light? – blog post by Frank Rega
3 The Nakedness and the Clothing of Adam and EveJeffrey M. Bradshaw.

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246. Gnashing Teeth and Goats

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Recent posts on ‘hell’ have prompted questioning among our readers. That was their purpose – not to stir up controversy for the sake of it but to encourage us all to examine our beliefs about this subject and where those beliefs have come from.

We have looked at the occasions on which the actual word appears in English translations of the Bible, and then in the last post I shared with you the series of encounters with God which led me down this route in the first place. But we promised that before we move on we would also examine the passages where the word itself does not appear, but ‘the Bible clearly says’ that some people go to a place of eternal torture when they die.

Weeping, Gnashing of Teeth and Outer Darkness

“Weeping and gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness! That is obviously a reference to suffering eternal physical torture in hell.”

Is that so?

Look at what happened leading up to Stephen being martyred in Acts 7:54: his accusers (members of the Sanhedrin) became furious and gnashed their teeth at him. Weeping and gnashing of teeth was an expression not of tormented pain and anguish, but of rage.

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them (Matt 21:45). The only reason they did not seize Jesus then and there was because they were afraid of the public outcry.

It was not the general mass of humanity that Jesus was speaking of when He talked about gnashing of teeth and the outer darkness in Matt 8:12, 13:42, 13:50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30 and Luke 13:28. It was this group of self-righteous individuals who would find themselves outside the covenant they were so sure was their birthright. In that ‘outer darkness’, having failed to heed Jesus’ warnings, they would respond with defiant anger.

Sheep and goats

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Matt 25:46).

To be fair, you can understand why people tell us ‘the Bible clearly says…’. Our English Bibles certainly seem to. But we need to look at the Greek words used by the original writers of the New Testament books.

Firstly, what do we understand by ‘punishment’? Kolasis is the word used here, and it means ‘correction’, not ‘retribution’. Greek had a word for retributive punishment, timoria, which is never used of God in the New Testament. God’s discipline is always restorative.

Secondly, the Greek language had no word for ‘eternal’. They could have invented one if they had wished to: the language was exceptionally well-suited to building new words from component parts. They did not need the word because they did not have the concept. The root of the word used here, aionios, is ‘age’. For Greek speakers, an aion could mean a lifetime, a generation, or a longer period of time – but always of finite length. So not never-ending, not forever and ever, not eternal.

“Ah, but the same word appears in both halves of this sentence, and since ‘eternal life’ is everlasting, then the punishment must be, too.”

That depends on what aspect of the life we focus on when we read ‘eternal’. Surely it is not primarily the length, but the quality. The life being promised is the-God-kind-of-life: and the punishment therefore is the-God-kind-of-punishment: restorative and corrective, not retributive.

There are other reasons to treat this passage with caution, too. The sheep and goats in the parable are nations, not individuals. The criterion for escaping ‘eternal punishment’ is good works, not faith in Jesus. So if you are prepared to assert that whole nations will be sent to heaven or hell – based on their works, not on faith – then you can reasonably use this passage to argue your case for an ‘eternal hell’. So far I have not come across anyone in any theological stream who is prepared to do so.

“The eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels? That’s clear enough.”

The more I consider this phrase, the more I am inclined to Chuck Crisco’s view that it refers to ‘the accuser and his messengers’, which is a perfectly valid translation of the Greek words used. The Law, the religious system and those who fought to preserve it were heading for the fires of the Temple Mount and Gehenna at the end of the Old Covenant age (aion) in the destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Rome (AD70).

But if that is a step too far for some, let’s consider the purpose of fire. The Greek word is pur, from which we get words like ‘pure’ and ‘purify’. Jesus came baptising with the Holy Spirit and with fire and Paul said that everyone’s work will be tested with fire. I believe we will all go through the fires of purification to restore us to our original design and identity as sons by removing anything that distorts that image. We can engage with that fire now, or wait until we die (I advise option 1). There is a fire which awaits everyone who has not gone through it already but it is for purifying and correcting, not for destroying. It is the consuming fire of God’s passionate love. And my testimony is that even those who did not accept Jesus while alive will still get to choose when they experience that fire after death.

So what was Jesus’ point in this story of sheep and goats? ‘Brothers’ was a term used by Jews to refer exclusively to other Jews. Again (as throughout these chapters of Matthew’s gospel) I would suggest that in His love He was setting out a warning to the religious-yet-unbelieving Jews, especially the leaders, who instead of serving ‘the least of these my brothers’ (the believing Jews) would imprison and kill them instead.

Lazarus and the rich man

We touched on this before, and for an in-depth look into this parable we recommend Brad Jersak’s analysis in Hell in a Handbasket.

The context of Luke 16 is all about wealth and true riches. In the verses immediately preceding this parable Luke tells us that the Pharisees were lovers of money. Jesus is not offering a treatise on the afterlife, but a warning about putting your trust in riches and failing to help the poor. Jesus quite literally means that the rich and poor of that age will see a reversal of fortunes in the next.  Losing your soul for temporal gain is the cost of materialism and the results of living a DIY self-righteous life (Matt 16:26).

Abraham’s bosom is not a biblical phrase but a mythological or cultural one found in the Babylonian Talmud. Jesus is using a culturally accepted idea as the background for his story.

Aspects of the story make a crass literalism awkward: how does the rich man communicate with Abraham across the chasm? Does everyone there have a direct line to the patriarch? Does someone being incinerated in a furnace care about thirst? Are these literal flames? And since hades precedes the resurrection of the body, do we have literal tongues with which to feel thirst? Is this also the literal Abraham? Do the millions in his care take turns snuggling with him? Or is his bosom big enough to contain us all at once? How big he must be! And so on into implausibility. Taking the parable seriously means we mustn’t take it so literally. (Brad Jerzak – Why The Lake of Fire, Tormented Lazarus & Gnashing Teeth Can’t Conjure Up Eternal Torture).

Do we think that when we are in heaven we will be able to see our loved ones in ‘hell’, talk to them but offer them no hope, yet be happy with that?

Eternal destruction, away from the presence

… when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thess 1:7b-9).

If you believe in hell as eternal conscious torment, the word ‘destruction’ does not work for you. If you believe in the annihilation of the wicked, the combination of ‘eternal’ and ‘destruction’ makes no sense. However you look at it, we need to delve deeper.

The words in bold are all poor translations: diké (translated penalty) means justice, judicial hearing, legal decision; the related word ekdikesis (translated retribution) means that which arises out of justice; aionion (eternal) we know means pertaining to the age; olethros (destruction) means the state of being lost, lostness; apo (translated away from and from) does indeed mean from, but in the sense of coming out of or coming from and not separated from. Matthew DiStefano points out that the phrase Eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord (olethron aionion apo prosopou tou Kyriou) in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 mirrors exactly that in Acts 3:19: Times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (kairoi anapsyxeos apo prosopou tou Kyriou). No one translates that ‘times of refreshing away from the presence of the Lord’.

So Paul was encouraging the Thessalonians that there was a judicial decision about to come from the Presence of the Lord which would have a consequence for those who were persecuting them: it would involve a state of lostness pertaining to the age. Or you can read it as God’s consuming-fire-presence delivering a justice that totally ruins their lostness.

This is not about some future end of the world event or afterlife experience but what Jesus prophesied would occur in that generation (and did occur in AD70) – but even then, God’s justice is always restorative for everyone.

The Lake of Fire

Four verses mention the lake of fire in the Bible, all in Revelation 19 and 20. Revelation is an apocalyptic book, symbolic and cryptic in nature, the only one of its kind in the New Testament but very common in Jewish and Greek literature. Only those ‘in the know’ and immersed in the culture in which it is written will fully understand the symbolism. Symbols can represent multiple concepts. One thing is certain: apocalyptic literature is never intended to be read literally.

We can get clues about some of the symbols because they also appear in the book of Daniel, including the beast being cast into the blazing fire (Dan 7:11). Just as Daniel’s beasts were figurative, representing various nations, so too is the lake of burning sulphur figurative. The book of Revelation is not a prophecy for the far distant future but was an immediate warning to first-century Israel that just as Sodom and Gomorrah fell in fiery destruction, so too the Jewish religious system was in danger of ending in the same manner.

The ‘book of life‘ mentioned is a commonly understood concept in the Jewish tradition and refers back to the law where according to the Talmud this book is opened every Jewish new year on Rosh Hashanah.

In Revelation 20:14, we see Death and Hades thrown into the lake of fire. Here the lake of fire may well represent God’s (completed) triumph over evil, sin, the grave and death through the power of the cross. Many of the early church Fathers saw the lake of fire as a spiritual place where everyone in humanity was purged of their unbelief and sins so that they could eventually believe in God. I believe it is fed by the river of fire which flows from God’s throne.

And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev 20:10).

Forever and ever is a poor translation of to the ages of ages. Brimstone (Greek: theios, closely related to the word for ‘God’) was regarded as having power to heal and purify. Basanizo (translated torment) is ‘testing with a touchstone’ (in other scriptures it is translated as tossed or battered by waves, straining at the oars of a boat, and being in labour while giving birth).

Conclusion

Enough! No matter how many objections we address, how many scriptures we dig into, we know that some will not be persuaded. These posts are really not intended for them but for those who discover that God is already on their case – and even they will probably come up with other verses or passages not included in this brief survey. There are far more comprehensive treatments of the subject elsewhere; we have referenced some of them in the text and below. But ultimately all of us are going to need to go to God, in whatever way we know how, and hear what He has to say to us about the questions we have.

Fire and passion

We can all experience the fire and passion of God’s love today for ourselves. Let’s not hide from it or try to avoid it.

Son, it is time for everyone to embrace the fire
to experience deeper love
and the purification that My consuming fiery love brings.

Son, call on Me to stoke the fires
and increase the intensity of the heat
to reveal hearts, minds and motives. 

So I call for the purification of fire.
I call for the fire of love to penetrate the hardest, darkest areas of our hearts.
I call for the refiner’s fire to burn away the dross of self.
I call for the light to shine, to expose the things hidden because of shame.
I call for love’s overcoming power to reveal and break every chain tethering God’s people to the DIY path.
I call for the passion of God’s heart to be revealed in His wrath directed towards all brokenness and lost identity.

Let the consuming fire of God’s love burn in our hearts and minds to restore us to true sonship.

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234. Revolution of Love

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott

Turning the law on its head

Whenever God does something new, it challenges what already exists, because we are so familiar with the old ways of thinking and doing things.

When Jesus came defying all the religious norms, He was rejected by the religious people and institutions of His time. He brought a radical new perspective, completely reinterpreting Old Testament scripture and revealing the truth behind it. He said things like “the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath”, turning the external law on its head, making it into something that was to be used for people rather than to control or restrict them. Religion is all about keeping people restricted and under control, so this was never going to go down well with the religious elite. They quickly decided to do away with Him because they realised that the future of the whole religious system they depended on was under threat.

In the Sermon on the Mount, again and again He said “You have heard that it was said… but I say to you…”, shifting the focus from external religious observance to what really goes on in our hearts. True, He did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, He came to fulfil them – but in a totally unexpected way, in the context of relationship – love – rather than in legalism and religious duty. For religious people, brought up to keep every little rule and regulation, to be told that the most important thing was to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength cut to the heart of everything they had ever known.

His new values and new ideals of the kingdom challenged all those external legalistic perspectives. This was a revolution of love, where the King came to serve and not be served, demonstrating an entirely new model of leadership and authority which had nothing to do with hierarchy and control.

Jesus gave the Pharisees, Sadducees and Teachers of the Law every opportunity to lay their preconceived notions aside and follow Him, yet most of them could not get past being offended and threatened by His demolition of the foundations of their world. Ultimately, those religious structures were swept away in AD70, and those who were determined to defend them met with a violent end at the hands of the Roman army. It cost them their lives, whilst those who had embraced the new and become disciples heeded Jesus’ warning and left the city.

New wineskins for new wine

But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved (Matt 9:16-17).

The old order was coming to an end. There was to be something new, something different from the old religious ritual of bringing sacrifices into the Temple. This issue of new wineskins for new wine is one we have touched on before and need to be continually aware of because in the religious mindset there is a deep-seated tendency to revert to the old wineskin.

The Old Covenant wineskin was one temple, in one city, in one nation; one king, one earthly priesthood from one tribe (Levites) and one High Priest from one family (Aaron’s).

Such a mediatorial system prevents people accessing God for themselves: only the priests could enter the tabernacle and only the High Priest could go into the Holy of Holies, and that only once a year. It encourages a ‘top-down’ model of leadership which is the exact opposite of Jesus’ own servant-hearted example. This is still operating today wherever we see division into clergy and laity, and in a more subtle form where family members inherit religious positions from generation to generation. If people are artificially restricted, it will hinder them from fulfilling their destiny.

David’s tabernacle

One person in the Old Testament caught a glimpse of the new, and as a forerunner he adopted it ahead of time, at least for a while. In David’s tabernacle there was open access to the arc of the covenant and the Presence of God in worship, and when you read what they did in those days it is an amazing thing when you consider what the Law prescribed. I have never really understood how they could go back to putting God in a box – perhaps it is proof of the strength of that religious mindset again – but the fact is, they soon reverted to the cycle of sacrifice and ritual in a brand new temple.

Heavenly royal priests

In the new covenant, we are all heavenly royal priests. Every individual one of us is a new wineskin, a house of God and a gateway of heaven. We operate from heaven, and we are the nation, city and temple. God is in us and we are in Him. In the old covenant the Holy Spirit came upon prophets, priests and kings but now He dwells within us. We all have access as priests of the heavenly order of Melchizedek, not of an earthly Aaronic order: when the old covenant was made obsolete all the former priestly functions and roles came to an end with it.

Each of us has a destiny, an earthly and a heavenly outworking of God’s kingdom and His government. Every one of us is a reflection of the four faces of God, the kingly, prophetic, priestly and apostolic, expressed and outworked in the proportions appropriate to fulfilling that destiny.

A heavenly blueprint

We are a new wineskin in a corporate sense too. Individuals can come together around a heavenly blueprint as living stones, being built up together on a foundation that reflects heaven’s government: foundational servant leadership which releases people into their destiny rather than imposing mediatorial coverings, restricting access to God and to the realms of heaven.

…having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the capstone (Eph 2:20).

Ekklesia

“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church [ekklesia]; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:18-19).

I increasingly use the Greek word ‘ekklesia’ because the English word ‘church’ carries so much baggage in our thinking. The structures and institutions of what is known as ‘church’ are mainly man-made constructions based on old wineskins. They tend to look like the old covenant rather than the new. And this is not just a side-swipe at established denominations and streams – even in independent churches like Freedom we have done the same in the past: none of us knew any better.

Today Jesus is building His ekklesia with living stones of all shapes and sizes. Therefore all local ekklesias will be different, depending on the living stones built into it using the blueprint God gives. We cannot produce a formula or a template which we just duplicate. In the next post we will look at the characteristics of a new order ekklesia, but for now let’s just agree on this: anything which does not have a foundation which is a reflection of what is in heaven is an old wineskin.

This blog post is adapted from Mike’s teaching in the ‘Engaging God‘ subscription programme. Find out more…

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201. Flavours and Colours


Mike Parsons

with Jeremy Westcott – 

You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. (Matt. 5:13)

We are supposed to be different. If our lives are like everyone else’s, if we compromise and become just like the world, applying the world’s standards, it is like being completely tasteless and trampled underfoot. We cannot have kingdom authority operating in our lives if we operate according to the world’s system and values.

We must put God first and do it His way.

Saline

Salt was a very important substance in bible times. It was very precious and quite costly. In fact, the English word ‘salary’ derives from the fact that sometimes the Roman army was paid with salt.  If you have ever been in hospital and had a saline drip, you will know that a certain level of salt is essential in your body.

Flavour

Can flavorless food be eaten without salt? (Job 6:6)

Salt brings out flavour. Our lives are supposed to be appetizing and appealing to others. God’s flavours include love, joy, peace, mercy, grace, faith, humility, and power. Those things will flavour the world around us as we live them out.

Covenant

You shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings, you shall offer salt. (Lev. 2:13)

Salt also speaks of covenant life. God has always dealt with men through covenants, life and death agreements that He made. It was literally an exchange of life, but men could never keep their side of the deal.

We now live in the New Covenant, a covenant Father God made with Jesus, His Son – and Jesus is able to keep covenant. Through Him, we come into relationship with God, we promise our lives to be given to Him and He promises all His resources are made available to us. Our lives need to reflect the salt of God’s covenant blessings.

Authority and wisdom

 Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the rule over Israel forever to David, and His sons by a covenant of salt? (2 Chron. 13:5)

We are here to be the head and not the tail. We are supposed to be over and not under the circumstances of life. We are to rule and bring God’s kingdom blessings and rule through it. That will be of benefit not just for our own lives, but for all those who come into our sphere of influence.

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders; making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech, always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to respond to each person. (Col. 4:5-6)

This means that the way we speak, how we approach people, and how we interact with them should reflect the flavours of God. God wants to guide us in what to say, and the attitudes to have so that we will know how to respond to each person in a way that will attract them, not drive them away.

Applied

Salt was also a means of preserving food from corruption. Salt helped meat last longer. It was a disinfectant from disease. It was used on dung piles to purify, and as fertilizer to help produce fruitfulness.

Salt has many uses, but it has to be applied. If you do not apply it, it is of no use at all. We must be applied to the world to be able to influence and transform it as ambassadors of heaven. We cannot do it if we stay inside our buildings. We have to do it today in the work place, this evening in our home, at all times and in all our relationships.

It cannot be something we switch on and off. If we truly are salt, if we ‘have salt within ourselves’ (see Mark 9:50), then we will be salty all the time. Wherever we are we are to be salt.

Light

We are also to be light.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:14-16).

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1John 1:5-7)

If we come to Him Who is light, everything we carry with and in us will be brought into that place of light. If you bring a light into a dark room, you can then see what is in it. Light will expose what is darkness, both in us and in the world, so that we can deal with those things.

We have renounced secret and shameful ways… in the sight of God. (1Cor 4:2,6)

We do not have to hide in God’s light and in His presence. We can be free to be real and open because we know He loves us. His light is only there to bring us into more light. It is not there to expose us and make us feel bad, but rather enable us to live in truth.

Our relationships with others will be lived out in the light: vulnerable, open and accountable. That is what discipleship is. It is walking in the light with other people who share the same common family, God’s family. God wants us to live open lives, not hidden ones, so that our lives are a demonstration, showing where the path is to real life. When other people see how we live, and how our relationships work, they will be drawn to want the same thing for themselves.

Judgment

This is the judgment: that light has entered the world, and men have preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil (John 3:19).

Jesus was the perfect example of light shining in the darkness. People should be able to see the light in our lives just like they saw Jesus’s light. That light throws everything into sharp contrast, and demands a decision from those who see by it. Will they choose good or evil, right or wrong?

Transfigured

The more we come to reflect God’s glory, and the more He works through us, the lighter our lives become; the more we can actually bring light into darkness. We can be one of those God-colours that changes the way the world looks (see Matt 5:14 MSG)..

And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light (Matt. 17:2).

You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. (1Thess 5:5)

I believe that what happened in the transfiguration is going to happen to those people who walk with God, who pursue and work through the transformation which He desires (‘transformation’ is the same word that is translated ‘transfigured’ in that scripture). The light strand missing from our DNA will be restored. Literally we will be glowing with light, looking visibly different from other people. God wants us to be a frequency of radiation of light. It is an explosion of the light that comes from God. Since God is light and we are His sons, this is simply our true nature as sons of light being manifested.

And the whole of creation is longing and waiting in eager expectation for the day those sons are revealed (Rom 8:19).

Before sin came into the world and darkness came, the universe was full of life and light. It will be like that again when we shine like the stars and like the sun. That is God’s desire. Light never stops lighting, and salt never stops seasoning. Let our lives reflect a different kingdom, and we will see that kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.

Soundtrack: Salt of the Earth – Wildwood Kin (via Spotify)

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Salt and spoon on wooden background image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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197. Citizens of Another Kingdom

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).

In prison, Paul described himself as ‘an ambassador in chains’ for the gospel (see Eph. 6:19-20). God has called His people to be ambassadors in this world for Him, to proclaim His kingdom and to encourage people to be reconciled to Him in relationship. I say ‘in relationship’ because, through the cross, God in Christ has already done everything necessary to reconcile all people to Him. But if they continue to see themselves as estranged from Him they will not enjoy the kind of relationship He desires to have with them as His sons.

Dictionaries define the word ‘ambassador’ as

  • ‘a diplomatic official of the highest rank appointed and accredited as a representative in residence by one government or sovereign to another’
  • ‘an authorized messenger or representative’
  • ‘an agent, an apostolic delegate, messenger, minister, or emissary’.

Our citizenship is in heaven

He has rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).

We have been taken out of one kingdom and transferred into another. We are now under the authority of God’s kingdom.

For our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20).

Our citizenship is not of the country of our birth or residence. Though that might be true in the natural sense, spiritually we are citizens of heaven. This means we are connected to heaven and our authority comes from heaven.  We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom but living on the earth.

If you were of the world, the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you (John 15:19).

Jesus has chosen us as His representatives out of the world, so we are not tied to the restrictions of this realm. The kingdom of heaven is a spiritual realm, a higher authority than the natural realm. It has more and greater dimensions of authority and power than this realm. In fact, this physical realm is held together by the power that comes from that spiritual realm.

This temporal realm had a beginning and will have an end. Once we come into eternity, everything that is wrapped up in this time will be left in this time. Sin will be left in this time. There will be no more remembrance of it in eternity. But we are already of eternity: though we live in this natural realm, we are constantly connected to that realm of heaven.

Ambassadors of heaven

As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (John 17:18)

Jesus is talking to the Father about his disciples, about us. We have been sent on a mission. We are gateways of heaven on earth, bringing heaven to earth. We come to administer that kingdom in this natural realm. When we lay hands on someone and see a miracle, we are bringing what is in heaven (complete health and healing) to the earth through the power and authority flowing through us as ambassadors of that kingdom.

We take our orders and get our authority from heaven. Our protection and our provision come from heaven. We live by the laws of heaven, the economy and the political system of heaven.  Certainly we need to honour those in authority over us in the natural realm, right up until it conflicts with the authority of heaven. Then, we defer to that higher authority.

Consider the British Ambassador in a foreign country. The embassy is considered British soil and is protected by British troops. The ambassador and staff take their orders from London, and represent British interests, operating under British rules and culture. They are in constant contact with the home country. They do not operate from personal opinions but on orders from home. That is exactly what God is calling us to do.

The whole church is an embassy, and our individual lives are an embassy: foreign soil to this world, protected by heaven. We have authority, but only as we act on orders from heaven (and not earth). As citizens of heaven, each of us has a sphere of kingdom authority to exercise. In and around our lives we have authority to rule over our circumstances, situations, and the place that God has put us in, representing one kingdom (heaven) in another kingdom (earth).

New services and systems

Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould… (Romans 12:2 Phillips).

We are not to be influenced by earthly culture, society and customs, but rather we are to influence them and transform them. In the UK, our National Health Service is excellent as far as it goes, but as Christians we have (and can administer) a new health service. Our health service comes from heaven.

We enjoy and administer new economic and financial services. We sow into God’s kingdom and He blesses us, honours us, and multiplies it back. We then have more than enough for all our needs, with an abundance for every good deed He calls us to do (see 2 Cor 9:6-12).

We have a new education system. We are not limited to what our minds can understand. We are connected to the source of all knowledge, the omnipotent, omniscient God, who is in heaven and in us. We have all the education we need because it comes from the source of life. We can receive revelation, prophetic information, and have a heads-up on every situation because we are connected to a realm which sees the future as clearly as the present and the past.  The spiritual realm is not limited by time and space like this natural world.

We are to be a new society. That means new attitudes, new ideas, a new culture, new behaviours, new abilities, and new powers.

We have supernatural abilities, even beyond anything imagined by Marvel comic book writers. We can look into the hearts of men and see what is there; we can lay hands on the sick and see them recover; we can work all kinds of other miracles. We have authority over nature. Jesus wants us doing everything He did, and more (see John 14:12). We have the supernatural power of heaven at our disposal. The kingdom (and our ambassadorship) is of a supernatural realm, operating in this natural one.

Sown into this world

Jesus presented another parable to them saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seeds in his field… The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one” (Matt. 13:24, 37-38).

Every believer is a son of the kingdom and has been sown into this world to produce the fruit of the kingdom and to bring God’s rule to earth. We are not just here to influence the world, but to colonise it. When the Pilgrim Fathers went to America they extended the government of Britain to America. The church is a colony of heaven on earth, and so too is each of our lives.

But we do not control, manipulate or force people into accepting the kingdom we represent. This is not medieval Christendom, with its forced conversions (often at sword-point). We bring and demonstrate the good news. As sons of the kingdom, we bring the fruit of that kingdom so that people will want to be engaged with the God that they see through us.

He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches” (Matt. 13:31).

The kingdom started really small, with Jesus. By the time Jesus ascended back into heaven, there were still only about 500 disciples. Yet the kingdom did not stay small, and the church now has a substantial presence in most nations of the world. In the early centuries, the number of Christians to non-Christians was 1 to 350. Today it is 1 to 6. The kingdom is advancing and growing.

He spoke another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened” (Matt. 13:33).

We are to permeate the whole world with the good news of the gospel of Jesus. We bring a message of good news that God is not counting anyone’s trespasses against them and we demonstrate that message by how we live. We are called to influence the world, to restore it to its original condition and ownership.

That is why we have to be good ambassadors.

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Equipping a Joshua Generation of supernatural sons of God to live according to the order of Melchizedek

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187. New Dimensions of Authority and Power

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

We are reviewing some characteristics of the Joshua generation, as we consider what they have to teach us about taking up our inheritance.

21.The Joshua Generation will free the next generation from the reproach and effects of past generations into new revelation of past activities.

Now when they had finished circumcising all the nation, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you…”(Joshua 5:8-9)

Paul tells us:

…circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter… (Rom 2:29)
and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ (Col 2:11).

The reproach – shame, disgrace, blame, disapproval, disappointment – of our past lives has been removed. We are no longer held back by our old identity of slave, orphan, victim, sinner, useless, hopeless, failure. We are free to minister and disciple in our new identity as sons not slaves. As slaves, we could only disciple people into slavery; as sons, we can disciple people into sonship, ready to take possession of their inheritance.

Covenant relationship

Circumcision was a sign of their covenant relationship with God, in which their hearts were set apart for Him. Circumcision of our hearts is a sign that the old has gone and the new has come; a sign of our sonship and identity; a sign that we have a new home, land and inheritance. The old nature of self and selfishness is cut away, and in covenant we exchange our ‘old’ for all His ‘new’.

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).

That represents what God did for us in the New Covenant, when we entered in to what Jesus accomplished through the cross.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:1-2).

Step into a different dimension

Let’s make a choice to cross the Jordan into the place of covenant exchange. It is one thing to consecrate ourselves and say,‘Yes, I am going to cross’: quite another to actually cross over. We have that opportunity now to step into a different dimension. Jesus opened up heaven so that we could come through the veil and present ourselves to Him, our High Priest. We may find it helpful to do something physical, by taking a literal step forwards, while spiritually we enter into where the cross is active.

I would encourage you to speak these words out, and take a step forwards, as a demonstration of what you are doing in coming to the place of covenant exchange with God. See, in front of you now there is a river in flood. But God has sent angels to hold back that water. As you look, there is dry land appearing, a way for you to walk across.

I step in through the veil of Jesus through the way of the cross
I step into the realm of your government
I present myself to you, Jesus my High Priest, to circumcise my heart
I come to trade on the brazen altar of covenant exchange.

I exchange my sin for your righteousness
I exchange my rejection for your acceptance
I exchange my guilt for your forgiveness
I exchange my sickness for your health
I exchange my old life for your new life.

I exchange my old identity for your new identity
I exchange my old name for your new name
I exchange my old nature for your new nature
I exchange my old bondage for your new freedom
I exchange my old records for your new record
I exchange my past for your future.

I exchange my darkness for your light
I exchange my weakness for your strength
I exchange my thoughts for your thoughts
I exchange my character for your character
I exchange my ways for your ways.

I step back into this realm forgiven, cleansed, and clothed with righteousness
I am empowered for transformation to manifest your glory, bringing heaven to earth through my life
My heart is circumcised, my life is consecrated and set apart for your kingdom purposes

I receive your healing and wholeness
I receive your adoption, acceptance and affirmation as a son.
I am a son, ready to take possession of my inheritance.

We are God’s children. We are His people. We have stepped across that water today. Old things will go; new things are coming. We are taking possession of what belongs to us: new dimensions of authority and power.

Twelve stones

Let’s mark this down as an important day. Israel took twelve stones from the river bed and set them up on the bank of the Jordan so that they would remember how they crossed over from the old into the new. Whenever the enemy comes to us to say ‘You’re a slave’, we can remind him of this day when we crossed over; that we are no longer slaves, but sons.

So now let’s act, think, and behave like mature sons, operating in the fullness of our inheritance.

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Are you part of the Joshua Generation?

We developed this just for you:

Engaging God on the Heavenly Pathways of Relationship and Responsibility
Equipping a Joshua Generation of supernatural sons of God to live according to the order of Melchizedek

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