286. Unconditional Love in Action

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

Two Covenants

We live in a new age, in a New Covenant that Jesus made with the Father. We and all mankind are included in it. Jesus warned his disciples of the religious and political spirit that would be like leaven, yet my experience, through the churches and movements in which I have been involved, is that our understanding of the New Covenant has invariably been tainted with Old Covenant concepts.

Unconditional love requires absolutely no sacrifices or offerings but an Old Covenant mindset always requires something: it requires our obedience, our obligation, our duty – which are all dead works and none of them have any value whatsoever before God. The Father does not require them (and actually He never did, which may be a shock to a lot of people. I will come back to that!).

Operating under an Old Covenant works-based performance-orientated mindset towards God will wear us out; we will never be at rest if we think we have to earn His love and favour. There is no guilt, shame or condemnation within unconditional love: they are just religious concepts which will keep us coming back for more religion.

Foundations

The book of Hebrews is almost entirely about the differences between the two covenants. It was written to people who were so accustomed to the Old Covenant ways of thinking that they were in danger of missing out on the benefits of the New. And Hebrews 6:1-2 are very misunderstood verses. I totally misunderstood them for most of my life and taught the concepts they contain as foundations of the New Covenant.

What that passage actually says is this:

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and about the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2).

So the Old Covenant was immature, and the New Covenant will bring us to maturity, but only if we don’t lay another Old Covenant foundation. What is that Old Covenant foundation? Repentance from dead works, faith towards God, instructions about washings (baptisms), laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. All those things are Old Covenant understandings and mindsets which have nothing to do with the New Covenant. And yet most of those things are what we habitually teach: repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection and judgment. Those subjects are part of most churches’ foundation courses (they were certainly the basis of ours).

So when I used to read Hebrews 6:1-2, I just thought the writer was enumerating the elementary principles of Jesus that we needed to lay – but in reality they were exactly the opposite of that. Now I realise that these were the very foundations that the writer advises us not to lay again in the New Covenant! It is so important that we do not mix covenants by embracing Old Covenant understandings. Let’s not lay that Old Covenant foundation in the New Covenant: the only foundation of the new covenant is love.

The completeness of the fulfilled promise

Look at the passage again in the Mirror Bible:

Consequently, as difficult as it may seem, you ought to divorce yourselves from sentimental attachment to the pre-figuring doctrine of the Messiah, which was designed to carry us like a vessel over the ocean of prophetic dispensation into the completeness of the fulfilled promise. A mind shift from attempts to impress God by your behaviour to faith righteousness in Christ is fundamental. There is no life left in the old system: it is dead and gone – you have to move on. All the Jewish teachings about ceremonial washings (baptisms), laying on of hands (in order to identify with the slain animal as a sacrifice) and all teachings pertaining to a sin consciousness, including the final resurrection of the dead in order to face judgment, are no longer relevant. [All of these types and shadows were concluded and fulfilled in Christ, their living substance. His resurrection bears testimony to the judgment that he faced on humanity’s behalf and the freedom from an obstructive consciousness of sin that he now proclaims.] (Hebrews 6:1-2 Mirror).

‘The completeness of the fulfilled promise’ – that is Jesus. He is the fulfilment of every promise and covenant: everything is fulfilled in him. He is the conclusion, the completeness of everything that God said, to bring us into the reality of that today. And yet for most of my life I unknowingly tried to live in that same Old Covenant system by doing the very things that I should have left behind. If only the children of God, right throughout the world, would come into a revelation of this reality: that we would not have a sin consciousness but a righteousness consciousness instead!

The Law of Moses

Every church I have ever been in has always focused on sin. But we know that the more we try not to do something, the harder it is not to do it. That is why the Law was ineffective. It is impossible to keep the Law: Jesus made that very clear. And if you failed in one thing, you failed in it all. From the very beginning of the birth of the church, the religious spirit, operating in the Judaizers, tried to get believers back under the Law of Moses (and is still pursuing the same agenda today). But as I mentioned earlier, the whole Old Covenant system of sacrifices and offerings associated with the Law, which was instituted by Moses, was never God’s idea.

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17).

“What are your many sacrifices to Me?” says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats.” (Isaiah 1:11).

For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them on the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Jeremiah 7:22).

If God accepted their sacrifices and offerings, and if He accepts ours, it is only because He accepts us!

And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant which I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put My laws upon their hearts, and write them on their mind,” He then says, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will no longer remember.” Now where there is forgiveness of these things, an offering for sin is no longer required. (Hebrews 10:15-18).

The Mirror Bible again:

So when Jesus, the Messiah, arrives as the fulfilment of all the types and shadows, he quotes Psalm 40:6-8, and says, “In sacrifices and offerings God takes no pleasure; but you have ordained my incarnation! None of the prescribed offerings and sacrifices, including burnt offerings and sin offerings were your request…”
Having said what he did in the above quote, that the prescribed offerings and sacrifices were neither his desire nor delight, he condemned the entire sacrificial system upheld by the law. (These only served to sustain a sin-consciousness and was of no redemptive benefit to anyone.)
Also by saying, “I am commissioned to fulfil your will,” he announces the final closure of the first in order to introduce the second. (Grace replaces the law; innocence supersedes sin-consciousness.) (Hebrews 10:5-6, 8-9).

Mankind is declared innocent. You are innocent. Let that sink in.

The verdict of the judge, in light of the victory of Jesus through the cross, is that all mankind is innocent, not guilty, justified and righteous. That is unconditional love in action; and that is God in action. The cross was an amazing love transaction that dealt with the legal consequences of mankind’s lost identity. Jesus conquered sin and death with love. Love released full and total, unconditional forgiveness.

Forgiveness is as unconditional as love; no works are required.

This series of blog posts on ‘Unconditional Love’ are adapted excerpts from Mike’s teaching and notes from our monthly Patreon Group Zooms. Scroll down to watch the video of the talk it comes from.
Better still, become a patron and join us live for the next one – they are normally on the second Sunday of each month at 7pm UK time..

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285. God is Love… BUT

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

God is Love

God is love and that love is unconditional. The ministry entrusted to us is to share the good news of the unconditional love, inclusion and reconciliation that God has already brought about in Jesus! That message will enable people to come into a reality in which they experience that love and grasp the fact that they are already reconciled to God; that God loves them and He holds nothing against them.

Yet much of our preaching of the ‘gospel’, particularly in an evangelical setting, has been the opposite of that. It has been a message of exclusion and very much works-based, in fear of avoiding punishment rather than entering into love.  And what I have understood and experienced is that love can only be unconditional. That means that for God to love you, there are no conditions that you have to fulfil. None.

For a moment, stop and embrace that. If you can just grasp that one truth in an experiential way, it will transform your life as it has transformed mine.

God is unconditional love and therefore He loves all his children equally. No matter what you have done, where you have come from, or what has happened to you, God loves you. He is not angry with you, or disappointed with you. He loves you.

But…

Many people obviously accept that God is love because the Bible says so, but there is always a ‘but’. Why is that ‘but’ there? Because it is too good to be true for an independent, alienated mind to accept – and many of us have been alienated or separated from God within our own minds because of our religious programming.

“Yes, God is love, but He is also holy.” How many times have I heard that? As if His holiness contradicts His love!
“Yes, God is love, but He is also righteous.” As if His righteousness contradicts His love!
“Yes, God is love, but He is also just.” As if His justice contradicts His love!

All these are all religiously-programmed statements that I used to believe, because I had never experienced the contrary. I had never experienced the truth, so that made it easy to believe the lies.

“Yes, God is love, but He is also a judge.” As if that makes Him what? A bad judge? A judge who is going to find us guilty? Love never finds us guilty because love keeps no record of wrongs (I Corinthians 13:5), so how can He find us guilty?

“Yes, God is love, but He cannot look upon sin.” By ‘sin’ they normally mean certain behaviours, but in reality, sin is lost identity. Well, if God cannot look upon sin, if God cannot look at a lost world, how could Jesus ever have come? And God is not just looking at this world, He is engaged within each and every person to bring us all into the reality of our relationship and inclusion in Christ. So the fact is that we have already been reconciled in Christ, we have already been made righteous in Christ, we have already been made holy in Christ. We didn’t need to do anything, He did it all!

Religion always adds a ‘but’, but none of those ‘buts’ contradicts the fact that God is love, other than in the false religious doctrines that create a god who seems to be two-faced, a god who in the Old Testament seems to be angry and needs to be appeased in some way but in the New Testament seems to be loving – though even in the New Testament there seems to be wrath and anger.

In reality, the word translated ‘wrath’ can equally well be rendered as ‘passion.’ God is passionate about anything that hinders our coming into relationship with Him. He is passionate about making available that relationship for us and therefore His wrath is going to be poured out on anything that hinders our coming into relationship; not the kind of ‘wrath’ that we have tended to believe, but rather God passionately outworking His love to bring about change and transformation for our good.

Religion twists

So that religious deception alters and denigrates God’s character and makes love able and willing to punish us – not to discipline or correct us, but to bring retribution upon us. What loving Father would ever eternally punish His children like that! These religious concepts have created a god that people find it difficult to trust, a god who says he loves us and yet threatens to torment us forever if we don’t do things the way he wants us to do them.

None of that is the reality of who God is. Religion twists God’s holiness and righteousness through a wrong understanding of the concepts of judgment and justice. This deception is what creates this false ‘hell’ narrative in which such a god would torture his children eternally. No, God will love His children eternally, and will never stop and never give up until they experience that love. Yes, His love is a purifying, refining fire, a consuming fire: it will consume every hindrance and objection and anything that comes in the way of us entering into the depth of unconditional love.

So holiness, righteousness, judgment and justice do not contradict unconditional love:

Holiness expresses it
Righteousness reveals it
Judgment is its result
And justice enforces it.

Justice brings about the judgment – and the judgment that has been made by God on behalf of the whole of humanity, the whole of mankind, the whole of creation, is…

“Not guilty!”

This series of blog posts on ‘Unconditional Love’ are adapted excerpts from Mike’s teaching in our monthly Patreon Group Zooms. Scroll down to watch the video of the talk it comes from.
Become a patron and join us live for the next one – they are normally on the second Sunday of each month.

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283. Love Wins

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

We saw last time that God’s love to us is unconditional, and that when we are able to truly experience that unconditional love for ourselves, then our love towards other people can also be unconditional.

Should I?

Notice that I do not say that our love ‘should’ be unconditional. On my journey God has really challenged me about that word and I am trying to eliminate it from my vocabulary. I do not want to do things because I ‘should’ do them. Who said I should do them? Did God say I ‘should’ do them? If so, what is the consequence of not doing them? That implies a condition: if I do not do what God wants me to do, then what will He do?

I should go to church; I should pray; I should read my Bible; I should witness: God challenged me over these things. Obedience: should I be obedient? Of course I should! Why would I not want to be obedient to God? But He challenged me on it and showed me that my thinking around that issue was old covenant thinking because obedience implies that there is a ‘law’ of some kind to be obeyed. God does not want us to obey Him, He wants us to have a relationship with Him in which we share heart to heart and in which we cooperate with one another. Then, of course, we only would want to do the things that we see the Father doing, not because we ‘should’ but because it is the desire of our heart to be in relationship with God who loves us in such a wonderful way.

So then do I have an obligation or do I have a duty to do certain things? Am I trying to please God by the way I live? If I am, then again I am operating in an old covenant mindset. That again was something the Father said to me: “Are you trying to please me?” and of course I said “yes” because I was! He said, “Well, you’re already pleasing to Me. Why are you trying to be something you already are?” and I realized how my mind had been conditioned with ‘should’.

God really wants us to be in a deep, intimate relationship in which heart to heart sharing reveals how we can be – and then we can move away from all the doing. Religion revels in doing. Trying to please God, trying to be obedient, trying to love other people and trying to do the things God wants us to do: we get worn out trying. So why not just rest and just be? He is happy to accept us as we are but we are often less happy to think we are acceptable the way we are because we have been conditioned to think we need to change.

Change

Now, I do want to change, because I want to be more like Him. But do I think I have to change to be acceptable to Him? No, because I am loved unconditionally. So my motive for wanting to change is a positive one, not a negative. I love to be like Him who I behold, so if I am face to face with Him, living in the light of His presence, then that will transform me and change me without me trying.

Years ago I was very systematic in how I approached (and taught) things because that is the way I am wired. However, recently I have become much less systematic and much more relational, so that rather than trying to fix myself, or renew my mind, or sort myself out, or deal with my DNA, genetic lines or generational lines, I just let the Father deal with it. He sets the agenda of what He wants to deal with when He wants to deal with it and I just have to agree with Him and cooperate with Him. Most of the time that means just getting out of the way. I remember He shocked me one day when I was questioning some things about changing and He said “I don’t require your help, just your surrender.” That was a huge challenge because I wanted to help. I wanted to do something, but that again is just the programming that makes love conditional: we are programmed to think we have to do something.

Circle of conversation

But if we are ‘living loved’ then we can be fully secure in our identity within the relationship that we have within the perichoresis – the circle of the conversation that Father, Son and Spirit (who are family) are having about us all the time. They are having a conversation about you right now, and that conversation is good. They are smiling and enjoying talking about you; because they are talking about who they know you to be, rather than who you think you are. We tend to think that God may think something about us or know something about us that we would not want anyone else to know; well, He does – He knows everything about us and He loves us unconditionally!

Maturity

The Father said one day, “I’ve laid a true foundation that can carry the weight of all mankind so all can become fully mature sons of God.” That intrigued me.  All mankind can become fully mature sons, not just some, because God is so unconditionally loving that He leaves nobody out of the ‘all’.

Then the Father said, “The ages to come are to be times of wonder and awe, where I will take my sons on an amazing journey of creative discovery”. I believe we are on a journey to discover just how creative we are: we know that we are co-heirs but how much do we know that we are co-creators and what that creative ability will be?

And the Father said, “Knowing the depth, height, breadth and length of my unconditional love multi-dimensionally is what this age is designed to accomplish. There are 12 ages of man and 12 ages within each age: all are opportunities to become mature sons in relationship and responsibility.” I am not going to go into that statement because I have only delved into it a little bit myself. I am aware that God does things in cycles and seasons but it is not that one ends and another begins, they are more overlapping processes which will bring us to a state of maturity as sons. So look out for all the amazing things that are coming!

“The ascent of man is a slow process from a creative perspective, hindered by the false images of me that religion has made.” So we really need to know what God is really like, who He really is: otherwise we are filtering Him through what we think He is like.

Religious veils

“Revealing just how good I AM is has not been easy, as all that I do to unveil the truth of love is being twisted into lies and deception.” Now I have discovered this myself when I have been talking to people who really want to pick an argument. Online, particularly, some people twist what you say; and even if you go back to them with “I didn’t say that, and I didn’t mean that”, they carry on insisting you did, no matter what. In the end I just gave up doing that. Now I discern when someone is genuinely asking a question from those who just want to pick an argument or a fight. The reason they are trying to pick a fight with you in the first place is because of their own understanding of what you might believe. In reality I do not want to be labelled with a one particular set of beliefs because that is so limiting and restricting. God wants to open up a whole different understanding of Him so that we really know how good He is and do not get caught up by deception.

And the Father said, “Religion has placed dark veils over the eyes of so many (even those who don’t believe anything, it’s the same deception) so they can’t see Us as pure love, only wanting to do good by blessing everyone and everything.” So there are people who are religious, and they have a whole load of religious veils, and then there are people who don’t believe in anything and are atheists – and they have a veil as well! But the nature of God is to want to bless everyone and everything and bring about good in their lives. That is how good God is.

Love wins

“Even the attempts to show the extent and power of Our consuming fiery love that reaches beyond the grave has been twisted into a chamber of horrors, the hell illusion and delusion.” So when people experience what they call hell, it is because they are conditioned to think they know what fire means. Between 2005 and 2010 I went into that fiery place about four or five times and each time I described it as ‘hell’ because I had no other reference point. A supernaturally dimensional reality where there is fire and there seem to be a whole lot of people who are unhappy there – what else was I supposed to think?

That conditioning can be really strong: on my journey of enlightenment and deconstruction that was probably one of the hardest things for God to challenge and to break. Although He told me what the nature of that fire was, I really did not believe it until I went there again and He showed me – not only what was going on there, but also what I could do about it – which then totally changed my whole understanding.

The Father said “Son, we will never give up on even one of those who are Our sons as We cannot deny Ourselves.” God cannot deny Himself because He is love. “Love cannot and will not fail as We will never give up and cannot be denied or resisted forever.

“Love wins.”

This series of blog posts on ‘Unconditional Love’ are excerpted from Mike’s teaching in our monthly Patreon Group Zooms. Scroll down to watch the video of the talk it comes from.
Become a patron and join us live for the next one! They are normally hed on the second Sunday of each month.

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277. On Earth as in Heaven

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

We are living in a key time to engage and move forward as the sons of God. In the global shift which has begun to take place, we have a window of opportunity to step into our sonship and not shrink back. Let’s press in and begin to affect our communities, outwork the kingdom, see heaven established on earth and demonstrate what God is really like. That is what the whole world really needs: they need to meet the true God, their loving Father. Then they will discover that as His children they too have a destiny to fulfil; that they too have been called for a time such as this.

Cities of refuge

Several years ago, when God wanted to get my attention to what He was doing on the earth, He used a biblical term I would recognise, ‘cities of refuge’. As I began to ask Him what He meant by ‘cities of refuge’, whether they were literal cities, or figurative, or representative of something, He then started to talk to me using the term ‘embassies of heaven’ instead.

A city of refuge was a safe place where individuals could go if they were being pursued for something, somewhere they could be safe from fear. There is an aspect to what God is doing which reflects that: whatever is going on in the world, we do not have to live under any sense of fear when we are living under the government of heaven on earth. But ‘embassies of heaven’ added another dimension to it: an embassy is a place where an ambassador lives and operates, a representative of one country living in another. If we are ambassadors of heaven, living in an embassy of heaven, then we represent heaven; and that piece of territory, even though it is on the earth, lives under the laws of heaven rather than the laws of earth.

Ambassadors of heaven

Each of us is an ambassador who represents heaven. We are of the order of Melchizedek, the royal priesthood of heavenly priests and kings who carry heavenly authority in government and then operate as oracles and legislators on earth.

As we open our gateway to heaven and invite the presence of God within us, heaven flows through us as rivers of living water from our innermost being and we begin to outwork our identity as sons and a reflection of God on earth. We become oracles: we carry the heart of God and express it in creative ways, just as Jesus did. This is how people can see what a relationship with God is like, outworked in and through each of us.

We will outwork that heavenly government through our own lives: firstly as individuals but also then corporately, with others who are called to a particular place, territory, region, people group or other sphere of influence. So those who share a particular mandate, blueprint, calling or destiny will begin to build relationally together, seeking to establish things ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ together and to represent heaven on earth together.

Real relationship, real connection

We are not necessarily talking about literal, physical cities but we are talking about real relationship and real connection. Many people are in the early stages of this, but not many are yet connecting at a relational level with others who share the same clear blueprint and mandate for a specific purpose which would enable them to establish a foundation of heavenly government together.

If we have a blueprint for an embassy of heaven, it will need to be established in a very different way to ‘church’. People are beginning to talk about ‘ekklesia’ instead of ‘church’, but we can still find ourselves creating from our own understanding of what we think it should look like. It is more than a change of terminology. An ekklesia will have a very clear heavenly mandate and probably not look like anything we would recognise as ‘church’ when it gathers. We have to be open for a deconstruction of our understanding of what ekklesia is, reflecting something which is more heavenly and less earthly.

Our experience at Freedom Church

Much of what we have tried to do is still a mixture of the old and the new. Here at Freedom, we attempted to transition ten years ago, with the best of intentions and to the extent of the knowledge we then had. The principles were right but we lacked the maturity of revelation and character, personality and identity that were needed. So once again we have now deconstructed everything in order to rebuild according to a new pattern that God will give. Although we have not been able to meet, even in homes, because of the Covid-19 restrictions, we have been continuing relational connection with a view to establishing something built upon a more relational foundation than we had before. Throughout this time, we continue to minister to our community through Freedom Community Alliance, which is itself an expression of heaven on earth, although it looks nothing like the religious version of ‘ministry’ that you might expect.

Please understand that I really do not want to create a pattern here that other people try to copy: that would be following the same franchise model that the church usually adopts (though we might call it a denomination, or perhaps a stream). Each ekklesia needs to be individual and personalised to the people God calls to establish it and function within it, with a blueprint which may be different to any other.

Connect in relationship

So God is beginning to position people individually to begin to connect in relationship. Those relationships will form the foundation of an embassy or ekklesia and when those relationships are strong enough He will add to them. For the moment, they are very small and very scattered. But if they have the foundation both personally and corporately in God and have a clear blueprint that they are pursuing, not trying to do things in their own understanding, then they have the potential to grow very quickly.

God is preparing them out of sight, just as Joseph was prepared in the dungeon then suddenly raised up to be second in charge of a whole nation, with a God-given strategy to ‘save the world’. I guarantee that plenty of people in Egypt were unhappy about Joseph taking 20% of their harvest in the plentiful years because they did not understand why he was doing it. A lot of what God is doing is still in the deconstruction phase and people do not necessarily understand it at this time (to the religious, it must appear alarming and extremely threatening). I have been prophesying for years – or really, declaring and decreeing – that there would be times of great shaking that would cause people to lose faith in the established norms and to pursue new things. That is happening today: people’s trust in the systems they have followed all their lives (both worldly and religious) is being shaken.

After God’s heart

Whilst I do not personally know of anything that really looks like heaven yet, there are certainly precursors who are carrying aspects of it and are pursuing it. You, too, are called to establish things on earth as they are in heaven. God is calling you as a man or woman after His heart to serve His purpose in this generation. Do not disqualify yourself from that, be willing to embrace it. I encourage you, engage with God for yourself to find out more about how He sees you and what He has in mind for you. Begin to believe about yourself what He believes about you, and prepare to arise and take your place in the heavens and on the earth.

Related ‘Sons Arise!’ posts

This article is based on material taken from several sources:
Mike answering a question in Mystic Mentoring, Monday 11th January 2021 US Pacific,
being interviewed by Gil Hodges on Kingdom Talks (2020) and
his contribution to our Sons Arise – On Earth as in Heaven conference (2018).

SoundTrack: The track below was created by Samuel Lane (SML Music) for the ‘On Earth as in Heaven’ conference to facilitate gathering blueprints and mandates to outwork our destinies in creation and beyond. Click on the image to stream it via Soundcloud.

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273. Sons Invested and Enthroned

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

A sound from heaven

For several years now, the Father has been releasing a sound from heaven designed to connect to the deep desire within us all for both relationship and responsibility. It is represented within much of the music being performed by Christian musicians in recent times but it is not itself necessarily a sound audible to the natural ear. Some have heard it in the spirit and responded already, but that sound frequency continues to intensify, encouraging all His children to be spiritually open and sensitive and to resonate with it. Let it penetrate as deep calls to deep to awaken your sonship. As you become aware of it, learn to rest and relax in it, to be immersed in His presence in it and to resonate with His intention for your life as that is conveyed to you in the sound.

Revealed sons

The Father has been calling us as His children to come and take our places in heaven; to find and fulfil our heavenly roles so that we can bring heaven to earth through our lives. All His children have a destiny that involves our inheritance and birthright so that we can all be mature sons of God, revealed out of heaven into the earth. He is always giving us opportunity to come to Him to obtain a deeper revelation of our identity, position and authority.

All of us are seated in heavenly places in Christ (Eph 2:6), but few are actively functioning from that position. We are called to a new level of sonship, to access the assemblies and councils of heaven and take up our governmental roles. We can be involved in the decision-making of heavenly government. No-one ever told me that! I thought that God did all the heavenly part and that He would tell me what He wanted me to do on earth. But then He invited me into heaven and I discovered that I had a part to play in establishing things there as well as in outworking them on the earth. We get to be involved in the ‘as it is in heaven’; the more we get involved, the more authority we receive and the more responsibility we carry. The mantles are prepared and the scrolls are ready: all that is needed is for us to accept responsibility as sons and be willing to pursue maturity.

Sometimes we need the old ways to stop working before we will even begin considering the new ones. At that point it can seem like nothing is working while we learn how to operate in the new. If that is you, you are not alone. Right now, we are all learning that. We are all in a transition period between what we have been used to, an old way of doing things, and the new way God is revealing.

Creation is groaning

Investiture, succession, enthronement, coronation: God gave me those four words many years ago. They describe the process of a king coming into the fullness of his power and authority. We are invested with authority as sons of God but for there to be succession the old king has to either die or abdicate. The old king in this context is our soul, in the sense that it has been controlling our lives (which was never its intended purpose). Then we can take up our throne(s) in heaven (enthronement) and be recognised by creation as the sons we truly are (coronation).

Creation is groaning in its bondage to corruption and decay (Rom 8:22). That groan demands an answer and we, the sons of God, are the only ones who can supply it. We are called to administrate and oversee the fruitfulness and increase which come from the face-to-face restored innocence of relationship, not the decay and death which are the consequences of independence.

Living in dual realms

Living in dual realms is the key. At a certain point in my process, I became aware that although my soul and spirit were engaging heaven together daily in a visionary cognitive experience, I was still stepping in through the veil and stepping back out again each time; I was visiting but not inhabiting and living in dual realms. I spent two years going in and out of heaven every day, learning about thrones, mountains and courts and at the end of that God took me through a four month period which led to my surrender. I surrendered my soul’s right to rule in my life; my soul and spirit were separated and reintegrated; and from that experience in 2012 until now, my spirit has been in the realm of heaven and I have learned to connect with that realm and flow from it all the time.

That separation and reintegration of my soul and spirit took place when I entered into the dark cloud of His Presence. You can read what I have written before on this blog about my dark cloud experience but we will look at it again in coming posts. It was a difficult process for me, because a forerunner goes through extremes to establish a way which makes it easier for others who follow. Easier, not easy: it is never going to be easy because the soul has been ruling for most of our lives. Our surrender has to be genuine, and in order to count the cost and enter into it freely, we need to understand what the consequences are. He will be in the process with us and will walk us through it but He cannot do it for us, nor make us surrender against our will. We have to choose.

Pursue and choose

We can be proactive. God had to manoeuvre me into a position where I was faced with making the choice (one way or the other), but once you know the choice is there to be made, then you can choose when to make it. That is why I share about it and teach about it. You can pursue it if you want to. You can ask God to take you into the place where you can surrender and then learn to operate in dual realms. The process for you may be different than it was for me, but the principle will be the same: your soul needs to surrender. Whatever that looks like for you, your soul and spirit will be separated from the control the soul has on the spirit so that they can then be reconnected to flow from the inside out, the spirit to the soul, and not the outside in.

Will you accept God’s call and actively take your place of heavenly government? Your new covenant inheritance gives you access to an open heaven through the torn veil: do not let the veils of the old religious restrictions limit the full scope of your sonship. The call is not just to keep ascending but to dwell in dual realms, consistently functioning in heaven and on earth as responsible, mature sons. Until that happens, and new order ekklesias and embassies of heaven multiply on the earth, the true mountain of the house of the Lord will remain in the shadow of the religious systems of men.

Note: this post and the two which will follow it are drawn from Mike’s teaching in the Sons Arise! Into the Dark Cloud intensive, the Sons Arise! Invested and Enthroned conference and our Engaging God subscription programme.

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266. A Happy Eschatology

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

The restoration of all things is not a one-off event but a continual process that God does with us, in us and through us as His sons. I believe that as co-heirs we are involved in, and carry responsibility for, the restoration of all things; in particular for the restoration of creation.

What I thought I knew

How the Bible frames our understanding of the future will greatly influence what we believe about our sonship and what is possible in restoration. Our expectations of the future will also determine what we believe about the part we can play in it.

If we believe that God is going to destroy the heavens and the earth with fire, as many do, that will inevitably affect how we see our responsibility to steward the planet and its resources. If we believe in a defeatist, rapture ‘rescue of the church’ into heaven, then there will be little point in looking for the kingdom to fill the earth in victory.

We often have confirmation bias: we already know what the Bible says, so when we read it, it just confirms what we already know. More study will not fix this. Only face-to-face encounters with God Himself can get us free from that biased view. Some of my encounters with God have been traumatic: for about 5 years it seemed like every time I thought I knew something, I would have an encounter with God which totally challenged what I thought I knew.

Religion continues to misrepresent God; but He is looking to undo the damage that religion has done to our perception of Him so that we will see Him as He really is, as Jesus revealed Him to be. Only the lens of love will enable us to see the true nature of God and how that underlies the restoration of all things. God desires restoration, and all His desires are birthed in love. Love causes restoration.

Happy endings?

When we use love as our plumb line it is easier to decide which doctrinal truths and theological positions are aligned with God being love and which are the man-made deceptions of a religious mindset. If we are to participate fully in the restoration of all things and the expansion of God’s kingdom as sons, we will want to embrace an eschatology which allows for creation being set free from corruption within that restoration: this is variously called a happy, realised, fulfilled or covenant eschatology.

Many of the positions people take are paradoxical or even contradictory, but they all use the Bible to prove that they are right. So did I! Now I have to own up and say ‘Sorry, I got it wrong’. Revelation is progressive, and I was only going on the revelation that I had (and of course, others are only going on the revelation they have too). God does not mind that along our journey we may have believed a whole variety of delusions, illusions, lies and deceptions. Still, He wants us to know Him; and in knowing Him He wants us to have the revelation of unveiled truth, so that truth can set us free.

Three streams

In conversation with God, He told me that there are three streams coming together. At present, there are a handful of people who flow with two of those streams, and even fewer who embrace all three. For now, each is mostly blind to the direction that the others are coming from but they will merge in the flow of the restoration of all things.

  • The Christian Universalists are travelling towards both a realised eschatology and an open heaven mystical flow.
  • The mystics are travelling towards a realised eschatology and universal restoration.
  • The realised eschatologists are travelling towards the mystical and the restoration of all things position.

Most eschatological systems have far from happy endings, involving expectations of fearful judgment, doom, gloom, destruction and failure for mankind and the rest of creation. In ‘happy eschatology’, prophecies of doom and gloom, judgment and destruction are seen as already fulfilled, leading to a restorative period in which all things can be restored. The future is positive and filled with possibilities of increase and blessing.

No fear for the future

When looking to our Bibles to see what the future holds, there are a number of factors we need to bear in mind:

  • all the events of the New Testament were future to the Old Testament writers
  • everything Jesus prophesied was future to those He was speaking to at the time, but
  • what was future to Old Testament writers, to Jesus’ first century listeners and to New Testament writers may not be future to us today – it may have already occurred.

There is no fear for the future based on Biblical prophecy when the prophesied events are already in the past for us. All biblical references to the end, the last days, the end times, the last hour and soon to take place refer not to the destruction of the world, but to the end of the old covenant age. This was the ‘end’ that Jesus prophesied would occur in the generation to which He was speaking.

To us, in the 21st century:

  • The prophesied end is past, not future.
  • The end of the old heavens and earth (i.e. the old covenant system of laws, temple and sacrifice) is past, not future.
  • The new heavens and the new earth (the new covenant) is present, not future.
  • The great tribulation is past, not future (this does not mean that there will never be any tribulation again throughout history, merely that any tribulation experienced will not be a fulfilment of this specific Bible prophecy).
  • The end of the age is past, not future.
  • Judgment and resurrection are past, not future.
  • The lake of fire is past, not future.

Revelation and Daniel

Most of the difficulties people encounter today with the book of Revelation and Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy come from trying to make them fit current (or future) events.

In reality, Revelation is John’s first-hand account of a heavenly encounter. He was shown the events Jesus spoke about, recorded in Luke 21 and Matthew 24, which happened in that generation just as He said they would.

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

Revelation is full of such time references which should clue us in to the immediacy of the time frame:

  • tachus means quickly, all at once, with all speed, without delay.
  • engys means “at hand, near”
  • mello means “about to, on the point or verge of”

Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy also happened in that generation (including the 70th week). Daniel connected the eschatological time of the “end” with events such as the desolation of the temple, the resurrection, the tribulation, the coming of the Son of Man and the arrival of the kingdom. All those events would take place when the city and temple were destroyed or “when the power of the holy people would be completely shattered”; “all these things” (not just some of them) would be fulfilled together (see the consummation scenes in Dan. 12:1-7; Dan. 7:13-14, 18, 27; 9:24-27).

The period of restoration of all things

  • As in the days of Noah’ happened in that generation
  • Believers fled from Jerusalem to the mountains in that generation
  • The judgment and resurrection happened in that generation
  • The kingdom was established in that generation

“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt 24:34).

That generation ended in 70 AD with the destruction of the temple and the very end of the old covenant. The period of the restoration of all things began in that generation… and continues in the new covenant age in which we live.

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This post is based in part on Mike’s introduction to ‘Happy Eschatology’ from our intensive ‘The Restoration of All Things held in June 2019. A lively discussion session ensued!

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 whatever has been written, 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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For interest: The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978):
“Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God’s written Word.”

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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 Putting Hell Back in the 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 – Putting Hell Back in the Handbasket).

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 echoes 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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