James Patrick’s Blog

January 30, 2019

Prophecy of warning and blessing for Great Britain, 25 November 2018 (by Chris Wickland)

Filed under: Prophecy — alabastertheology @ 6:37 pm
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This prophetic word warns of the great shaking that will cause the separation of the United Kingdom from the European Union, to destroy manmade institutions including church denominations, and to restore the UK and its church to fulfil its destiny.

chris wickland

[Sunday evening sermon at Living Word Church, Lee-on-the-Solent – audio recording, titles added in transcript]

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Right, I am about to record what I am saying.  I feel that the Lord is wanting me to prophesy something.  You see, really I am a prophet in a pastor’s clothing, so that really is my primary function, and most of you will never really get to see that much, but there we go.

EU Council and Theresa May’s Brexit Deal

Something has happened today which is very significant for us as Britons.  The European treaty thing has gone through that they have agreed for their side of things on the Brexit deal and I don’t think God is very happy.  This is what I must declare.  I am just going to say it out loud.  You see, when prophets of old would speak, they would not even necessarily go to the nations they spoke to, but they spoke to them because they were releasing the word of the Lord, and word of the Lord will do what He will do.  Unfortunately, I have to say this over our government and over our country:

“MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.  God has numbered your kingdom and finished it.  You are weighed in the balances and found wanting.  Your kingdom is divided and has been given to another.”  [Daniel 5:25-28]

I just feel God is really not pleased with what has happened this week and what is about to happen.  I have had, over the years, many dreams, many visions for about twenty-odd years about what is about to come to this land.  And unfortunately, what has happened now has just triggered it, because God led this country to come out of something that He was not happy we were even in to start with.  People voted for that.  Not only did people vote for that, but He moved people by His Spirit to come out.  And yet people who think they are better and know more than the plans and purposes of God have tried to intervene and tried to stop what God has decreed must happen.  And because man has put his hatchet on the line, and because man has tried to sabotage the engine of what God was trying to do, God has unfortunately had to bring down the axe of his judgement, and unfortunately it is going to bring a separation from us from Europe, whether we like it or not.  But unfortunately, it is going to be costly and it is going to bring our nation to a place of humility.

Humbling Nation and Church

You see, God cannot heal our land until our land has been humbled.  “Unless my people humble themselves and pray… then I will not heal their land” [2Chronicles 7:14].  And this land must now come through a time of humbling.  This land must come to a place where it will call out to the Lord its God.

“It is a nation that is proud.  It is a nation that has become arrogant.  It is a nation that has thrown aside my laws and my precepts and thrown aside my Word and thrown aside my people, and thrown aside my church.  My church has forsaken my ways.  My church has forsaken my laws and my precepts and my holy Word.  They have moved to the left when they should have always been in my Kingdom.  They should have been teaching the Kingdom, but instead they taught the precepts and the doctrines and the philosophies of man.”

“And because of this, I must humble my church as well.  There are those that are following me, and they are following me with all their heart.  I don’t speak to them.  I speak to the church that takes my Word and brings mixture to it, and brings worldliness to it, and brings worldly philosophies and worldly ideologies to my Word.  No more!”

Humbling Government Institutions

“This country is going to humbled, and unfortunately the institutions which hold this country up are now going to have to topple.  The things that this country feels that it has sure foundations I am now going to take away”, says the Lord. “And I will tear away the veil of lasciviousness so this country will finally wake up and look up and see that I alone am God, and I will save all who call upon the name of the Lord.”

But if I feel God is saying, “Enough is enough.  They have had their time.  ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’  You have had your time.  You have had your chance.  You have had your warnings.  But you refused to listen, and you refused to relent, and you refused to repent.  And now, I do not want to do what I now have to do, but you chose this.  You chose to not follow me.  You chose to not follow the voice of the people.  You chose not to follow the leading of my people.  You chose not to follow the leading of my prophets.”

“And I am speaking now to the Government.  They have heard the voice of the prophets.  They have heard the prayers of the saints that have gone up for this land.  They know the petitions of my people, and they have ignored them.  And I tell you now, you will not ignore the voice of my prophets in this land anymore.  You will now come to a time of humility, and you will be humbled,” says the Lord.

“But I have plans for this nation.  Yes, she must be humbled, but I will bandage up her wounds.  I will take care of her, and I will raise her up, and I will look after her, and all of those that call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  And I will bring this country into the plans and purposes that I have for it.  And I have plans to prosper this country; I do not have plans to harm her.”

“But know this: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’  You have chosen to do it your way, and this night, the kingdom will be taken from you.”

Call to Watch and Pray

“But know this, my people, that my plans, my purposes, and the heart of the church praying for revival is now coming about.  But you need to hang on, and you need to hang on tight, because everything is going to be shaken, and all which can be shaken will be shaken.  And I will shake the hearts of man.  I will shake the institutions of man.  I will shake the churches of man.  I will shake everything, so that all that is left is pure and is holy and is righteous and gives glory to my name.”

“And this land will be called great again, not because of the greatness of man, but because of the greatness of my Spirit that sweeps this nation as this nation in humility says, ‘Sorry, Lord, we’re sorry; we repent, Lord.’  When this country, like it did once before in the Second World War, when they came to days of prayer and they humbled themselves and said, ‘God, we cannot do this, we need You to intervene!’, I intervened,” says the Lord.  “Those days will come again.  Those churches will be filled.  And again, my people will cry out, and the people of this land will cry out, and they will say, ‘Save us from what is happening!’  And I will hear their prayers, and I will bring my salvation,” says the Lord.  “Not just salvation of spirit, but salvation of your physical bodies.  I will save you from what is coming.”

“And the church at large, she is happy-go-lucky.  She sees the news, she sees the signs of the times, and she is blind to that which is right in front of her.  She is blind, and when this tidal wave comes, and it has now began, when this tidal wave hits this coast, she will go, ‘Well we never knew, we never saw this coming; God, why did you let this happen?’  And I say to you, church, I told you, I warned you.  You saw it in the papers, you saw it on the news.  You could not have been blind to it.  You knew it was coming.  Even if you didn’t listen to my prophets, you knew that it was coming.  But you chose to ignore it, you chose to brush it under the carpet.”

God’s Motivation

“And sadly, first, judgement must come to the house of the Lord [1Peter 4:17].  But I only judge that I may raise you up, that I may bless you, that I may help you to walk in the things that I have for you.  I am going to do great things in this land.  But I am sorry for what you are about to see come upon this nation.  I am sorry for what is about to happen to your government.  I am sorry about what is about to happen to the institutionalised church.  I am sorry about what is going to happen to your economic systems.”

“But I do this so that I may bring revival.  I do this that I may bring life to this dying country.  I do it that I may bring sanity to the insanity of this nation.  I do it that I may bring light to the darkness.  I do it that I may bring fruitfulness where there is barrenness.  Do not look with the eyes of man, and the eyes of mammon.  But look with the eyes of the Spirit, and see what I am about to do is a glorious thing and a great thing, for it will glorify me,” says the Lord.  “But it will humble man.”


No More Frivolity

So, in the light of, of that, one of the things that we need to do…  You see, I have been teaching on purpose for a while now about equipping the church about her walking in a place of faith, about walking in a place of intimacy in the things of God, about meditating on Scripture, about getting deeper and deeper into the things of God.  Because, if I had said two years ago what I know is coming, most people would run for the hills, most people would be frightened, most people would be terrified.  God doesn’t want His people in tumult and in terror.  He wants His people to be in a place of being stood on the foundation and rock solid.

And I am telling you now, everything is going to shake.  Yes, there will be some that will stumble, but you will get back up again.  But what is coming is going to shake us.  And this is why we cannot play around with this [tapping his Bible] any more.  We can’t do this anymore.  We can’t play around with the silliness of man any more.  We can’t do it.

And I tell you the truth, the day has now arrived where all of our nonsense is over.  Because you will look around and go, ‘But, but, but this,’ and ‘But that’.  It will mean nothing tomorrow.  It will mean nothing.  Because the only thing that matters is this [pointing to the pages of the Bible].  The only thing that matters is the kingdom of God.  The only thing that matters is that we are of a kingdom that cannot be shaken [Hebrews 12:28].  That is the only thing that matters.  It is the only thing.

‘What about my new hairdo?  Or what about my new car that I wanted to buy?  What about that mortgage I wanted to take out?  What about this, and what about that?’  Leave it!  Leave it!  Focus on the things of the kingdom.  Focus on the things of God.  Because unfortunately the time has now come.  And our days of frivolity, our days of just coasting in Christianity, our days of taking it easy and sunbathing in the glory of God is over.  It is over.

Holiness of the King

We are now coming into a new season, and it is a season of power.  But you see, when God pours out His power, there comes with it a season of responsibility.  I remember a pastor friend of mine.  He was around… he is still alive now, and he is in his 80s.  And he was, when he was a very young lad – so probably about fifteen, sixteen – his pastor had been in the Welsh Revival with Evan Roberts.  And so, he would ask him questions about the Welsh Revival.  And he said, “So, you know, what did you do all day?  I mean, how was it you were just stuck on the floor for hours?  What were you doing in there?”  Because back in those days they didn’t have smoke machines and lights and real awesome things going on, you know.  They just had a hymn, a thing, and that was it.  He said, “What did you do?”  He said, “Well, well really, when the holiness of God turned up,” he said, “you went to the floor, and you stayed there.  And you didn’t move.  You wouldn’t dare move.”

And you know, some of us are going, ‘Do I really want to see that in the church?  Do I really want to see that?’  I remember years ago, I said to God, “O Lord, send revival!  Send revival!”  And the Holy Spirit said to me so clearly, He said, “There will come a day when you will wish you had never prayed it.”  Because when you see the holiness of God, when you are in the presence of God in the flesh, the flesh in its current state cannot cope with the power and the presence of Almighty God.  When Isaiah was in the presence of God, he was like [bowing his head], “Woe is me, for I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips!” And when the presence of God comes back to the church, it will be unendurable.  But it will be glorious!  Oh, it will be glorious.  And when you see the power of God moving…

And it is not dependent on a man’s name on a billboard.  It is not down to the great evangelist.  It is not down to Great So-and-so and Brother This and Sister That.  It is a time for our egos to be burned up.  It is a time to put that nonsense aside.  It is a time to put away all the ‘I want to be a great minister in the things of the kingdom of God, I want to have my name etched in the annals of history’.  Forget it!  Because we are not here for us.  But we are here to serve the purposes of the King.  That is all we are here for.  We are here to serve our glorious, mighty, mighty King.

Dream of Fire on the Coastlands

I remember one of the first dreams that God ever gave me was:

I was walking down the south coast, and I saw this big hurricane-type thing, tornado thing, coming in off the, out of the sea and onto the land.  And on the land were all these beach huts just arched around the south coast.  And this column of wind turned into a column of fire, and it just [clapping his hands together] smashed into all these beach huts.  And these beach huts were all the ministries and all the churches and all the institutions that were built in the name of Jesus but were actually built in the name and for the glory of man.  And [clapping his hands together] one by one by one, they were disintegrated and vaporised by the heat of God’s power and God’s glory.  And I ran for my life, and I could feel the searing heat of this fire burning across my face as I had to get away from it, as it was consuming everything that was not of God.  All those ministries that claim to be of God, all of those churches that claim to be of God, He just burned them all up – [clapping his hands together] bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.  And then eventually, there was this house made of stone, down the end of the shore, and the cloud of God’s glory came down and descended upon it.  And the house was disappeared in all of this fire.  But then the fire lifted, and I was taken inside this house.  And as I was inside the house – it looked like a building like this sort of size [gesturing to his own surroundings] – and all the walls were encrusted in gems and gold and silver, because God had purified His church.  And it was the glory of God that purified His church.  You see, every single piece of diamond, every crustation of semi-precious stones and precious stones in the wall, is His people, that were all purified and set on display by the power and the glory and the majesty of God.

Grace, Holiness and Unity

And God is coming back to town, and He wants His church back.  And He is taking the hands of man off that which belongs to Him.  He is taking the hands of man off that which is sacred, and that which is holy.  God is bringing holiness back to the church again.  The days of running into church like the Flappers from the ‘40s, where we are just like, ‘Haha, I am just going to be exuberant, and like this, and I am just going to say it, and I am transgender! And all these things!’  When they come into the presence of Almighty God they will fall to their knees, and cry out, ‘Woe is me, I am before a holy God!’  And God will change them, God will save them, God will set them free.  And the lies and the philosophies of man will be dealt with, with a punishing blow.

We serve a wonderful God.  Jesus loves us.  The message of grace we have had for the last twenty years is a powerful, beautiful message.  But everything comes in seasons.  And the season that we have to move into now, because of the severity of what we are coming into, is…  We will always be under God’s grace, but we are moving into a new season, a season of holiness.  It is not just about the holiness of God.  It is about our holiness.  It is about us being separated to God.  It is about us learning to love one another, and accept one another, and not judge one another.  That we do all things in the light of His glory, and in the light of the revelation of Christ, and not our ideas.  You see, when you behold the glory of God, when you behold the vision of Christ, when you behold God in such a way that you know Him like that, when you look at yourself and you look at others, everything that you are pales into insignificance compared to Him.  And therefore, you are in no place to judge another believer.  You are all in this together.

And you see, this is the irony, is this will be what will unite His church.  This is all prophetic.  You see, this church is a Methodist church.  But it won’t be soon.  There are Church of Englands out there, there are Pentecostal churches, there are charismatic churches out there, there are Baptist churches out there, but there won’t be soon.  There will just be ‘the Church’.  Because all of those things will be torn down.  The Methodist symbol will be ripped down.  The Church of England will be ripped down.  The Pentecostals, we’ll rip it all down, because we are all in this together, because we all worship and serve the same God.  And as a sign of the times, of the end of days, the prayer of John 17 will finally come to pass, when Jesus said, “I pray that my people will be one, even as We are one”.

And we will see a new Church rise up.  We will see, from the destruction of all that we hold dear around us, from the destruction of what even we thought was Christian, as it all falls to the ground and lies doomed in ashes, then we see that building where the glory of God came on it, and then raised.  We see this wonderful, wonderful, beautiful, purified Church in resplendent glory, sharing and shining with the glory that He has given to His Church.  Because Jesus says, “The glory, Lord, that You have given to me, I give to them”.  And we are going to be a glorious Church.

The Great Lurch

And this will be the thing that will make us one.  We will be one people.  There will be none of this – ‘Oh, it’s that church’, or ‘Oh I go this church,’ or ‘My church is better than your church’ – there will be none of that.  Because we will all have the same enemy, we will all have the same fears, we will all have the same problems, and we can only pull through this together.  And this will be a time, a great lurch, as this country breaks free from Europe.  Because God is going to do it whether we like it or not.  And unfortunately, the way it is going to be done is going to be costly to us.  But as our nation lurches to one side and everyone falls over, and things start to shake, as we get up and rise up again, we will realise that as Christians, we cannot afford to do things by ourselves.  The day of wanting to build a name for myself, or you know, be the next Kathryn Kuhlman, or whatever it is, are over.  There is no time for this anymore.  There is no time for celebrities anymore.  Everything that we know will be gone.  The pop idols, all of that, will be meaningless.  Nothing.  Gone.  The only thing that will be idolised in this country will be that which should be idolised, and that is the name of Jesus.  Only He will be idolised in these upcoming days.

It is going to be a glorious time, church.  It is going to be glorious.  But it is going to be difficult, because of the things that we put our trust in.  Even things that we don’t know we put our trust in.  God wants us to trust in Him with all of our hearts.  And He wants us to love Him with all of our mind, all of our spirit, all of our soul, and all of our energies.  God is not judging us tonight.  He is not judging His church.  But He is warning us.  But He is also encouraging us.  Good things are coming.  Really good things are coming.

But a time of great shaking has now begun on our nation.  And you see, God does not want His people walking around like headless chickens, going [squawking] ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!’  No, He wants His people to, when the world is going, ‘What is going on around here?’ – and I am telling you, everything will lurch.  You know, what I see in my mind’s eye is:  Everything lurches so hard and so quick.  Buildings are cracking and splitting and things are coming tumbling down, and people are running in panic, wondering what is going on.  The institutions of this land are now going to topple.  And everyone is going to wonder what on earth is going on.  And the only people that should have it together is going to be us.  They are going to look to us, and it is like it says in Isaiah.  It says, many people will come to the Jew and grab a hold of him and say, you know, ‘You have the ways of salvation; you know the way of salvation – tell me! show me!’  [Isaiah 2:3; 4:1; Zechariah 8:20-23]  And that is what is going to happen.  But if you and I are running around like headless chickens, like everybody else…

You can’t say you didn’t know this was coming.  You can’t say that you weren’t warned.  You cannot say it.  You cannot, in good conscience, in your heart of hearts, say, ‘Well, you know, I just, I never knew that was ever going to happen.  I just never thought it was going to happen in my lifetime.’  Because you know, deep down in here.  You’ve known it.  You’ve all in this room, everybody has known it.  And you knew that the clock was ticking away – tick, tick, tick.  Everybody in this room knew it.  You might not have realised it was going to be coming so quick.  But this has been a long time coming.  A long time coming.  And I believe God has been gracious to our nation by holding it off as long as He could.  But it is here now, and it is here to stay.

A Heart For Britain

And this whole country is going to be a new country.  And it is going to be built on the back of prayer.  This nation is not going to be built on the back of labourers, or the cleverness or the wisdom of man, or the economies of man.  This country will be built on the back of the prayers of the saints.  It will be a united church that will bring about this nation’s rising again.  It will be on the back of this church.  This nation… You see, God loves this nation.  People have a heart for Israel, and rightly so.  But people lack a heart for their own country, and for their own people.  And God would have you know that He has a heart for this country.  He has a love for this country.  He has given our nation history that you should be proud of, a heritage of spirituality that has lasted nearly thousands of years in this country.  You should be proud of it.  God has an agenda and a plan and a purpose for this seemingly small and insignificant country.  And God has not forgotten this country.  God has a plan for this country.  There have been many great prophecies over this country.  This country is significant to the affairs of Israel in the future.  God has a plan.

But God wants you to see this land as also as your promised land.  God wants you to see this land as your heritage, your fair and green and pleasant land.  He wants you to get a heart and a hunger for this nation again.  Don’t look at it for all the filth, but look at it for what she once was, and what she could be again.  Look at it with the eyes of the Spirit.  Look at it and go, ‘Lord, this is what we contend for in the Spirit!  This is what we yearn for!  This is what we cry out for!  This is what we pray for, Lord God, that You would make this ancient land thrum with the energy of Your Spirit again, Lord God, as the people are praying and the people are praising and the people are worshipping, and there are churches from the top of this land to the very bottom of this land, Lord God, where people are singing and crying out and praying to You, and the land is full of little fires, all over the place, so the whole country is like a burning torch at night, as this whole nation thrums with the very glory of God.’

“You might say, ‘This is a load of rubbish!’  Well, I would say to you,” says the Lord, “read your history.  Read your history.  I have done it before.  And it stands to reason, if I have done it before, I will do it again.  For I am unchanging,” says the Lord.  “I am the same yesterday, and I am the same today.  I am the Rock, and I changeth not.  If I did it two hundred years ago, I will do it again.  But I am going to do it in greater measure.  Why?  Because there is more at stake.  There are more people.  I am going to give my church such a heart for the souls of this nation, that I am going to birth a spirit of intercession on my people.  But it will be an unnatural spirit of intercession, unnatural for your human body, in that I will enable you to do things in the Spirit that your physical body would not allow you to do.  You will have endurance that the physical body could not endure.  This will be a supernatural empowering of my people to pray for this nation.”

God is going to do some outlandish and crazy things!  The things that He is about to do in this nation, what we are going to do, this is how it is going to be:  In twenty years’ time, we are going to look back and go, ‘Man, we were clueless.  We just had no idea.  We thought we were clever.  We knew nothing.  We knew nothing!  We had no idea that God could do the things that He does now.’  Our God is a good God.  Amen?  [“Amen!”]  He has got a plan.  He has got a hope for us.  Hallelujah.  Glory be to God.

Praise you, Jesus.  Lord, we praise you, Lord, that You have a heart for this nation, Lord God.  You love this nation, Jesus.  You love this green and pleasant land.  You love this place.  You love the heritage she has for You, Lord Jesus.  You love, Lord God, the fact that this nation had communities of people that just prayed and worshipped and adored You.  You love the fact that the whole of the nation came together in prayer, Lord God, from the evil might of the Germans, Lord God.  You came, Lord Jesus, and You delivered us.  You love this land, and we praise You for it, Jesus.  We give You all the praise, and we give You all the glory.  And we pray, O God, let us not be a fearful people, but let us be a triumphant, victorious, brave and strong people.”  O glory, glory, glory, glory, glory.

Muslims and Persecution

God would also say this:  “There will come a persecution, but I will not permit it to get out of hand.  You will get persecution, and it will come from the Muslims, but I will not let it get out of hand.  I will protect my people, because all that which is shaken will be shaken.  You see, as the church provokes my people Israel to jealousy, you will be provoking Muslims to jealousy.  You will be provoking them with the reality that your God is real and theirs is not, and they will hate you for it.  But I will turn many to come to know me.  For I am going to tell you this:  I am going to break the back of Islam in this country.  I am going to break its back, that it will be a weak, feeble religion.  But I am going to do glorious things through those people.  I am going to do glorious things through those people.  But also, church, this is going to be a difficult time, because public opinion is going to move away from the Muslims.  At the moment, everyone loves them.  But the time is coming when public opinion will despise them.  And you see, my church, you have got to be very careful, because you are not allowed to judge or despise anybody.  But you must love all of mankind, and you must help the Muslim, as much as you would help the Englishman, as much as you would help the Jew.  You must help them.  When times of difficulty arise, you must help them!  But in doing that, you may incur the wrath of your own country.  You have a choice: you either go with your country and incur my wrath, or you do the right thing and you may incur the wrath of your people.”

For the Joy Set Before Us…

“These are going to be difficult times, but they are going to be the best of times.  It is going to be known as the golden age of the Church, when the Church comes into her fulness.  You are going to see things…  Well, put it this way, there is no reference point to what you are coming into, no reference point at all.  You will look back at ancient revivals and you will not find what you are looking for, because there is no reference point.  What is coming is so far beyond anything you have experienced or anything you have ever touched, seen or read or known about, that the revivals of the past will not be your reference point.  You will be in the deep end, just as much as they were, but you won’t drown.”

Hallelujah.  So be encouraged.  Be blessed, and forewarned.  You are prepared.  You are God’s Bride.  He loves you.  He delights in you, and He loves you.  Guys, He loves us so much.  He knows that He has brought a heavy word to us.  But what is coming…  You see, Jesus set His face like flint.  He knew what was coming.  But He looked beyond that, because He knew the joys of what was soon to come after that.  And that is how we as the Church need to be – set our faces like flint at what is about to come, but look to the joy of what is over the top of that.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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March 22, 2010

Winds of Doctrine in the 60’s AD (Winds of Doctrine #5)

We find evidence of these particular false teachings in Paul’s ‘prison epistles’, Philippians, Ephesians, and Colossians (all evidently written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome around AD62), as well as in the epistle to the Hebrews (probably written to believers in Israel in the mid-60’s), the epistle of Jude and second epistle of Peter (written in the mid-60’s also), and here in 1 Timothy.  Philippi is the farthest of these churches from Israel, and unlike Ephesus, had very little Jewish influence (there was no synagogue building when Paul first arrived – Acts 16:13).  However Paul specifically warned the Philippians against Jewish false teachers, quite possibly claiming to be believers, who continued to boast in their Jewishness and obedience to the Law (Php 1:27-30; 3:2‑9) [though there is no evidence that they were still trying to argue that Gentiles needed to be circumcised, as in Galatia 15 years earlier].  Colossians also seems to reveal a pressure against the church from a Jewish direction, because Paul specifically highlights that he only has three fellow workers in his Gentile mission who have a Jewish background (Col 4:10-11), and also rebukes the church in Colossae for accepting Jewish teachings about festivals and Sabbaths, visions of angels, and commandments about abstaining (Col 2:16‑23).  The Colossian church was in danger of being ‘taken captive’ through philosophy and human traditions (2:8), being told they were ‘incomplete’, ‘indebted’ to obey the decrees of the Mosaic Law, and ‘inferior’ to the angelic authorities (2:9‑10; 2:13‑14; 1:16‑17 & 2:15, 18; 3:1‑4).  It seems similar issues are being addressed in Ephesians also (1:20‑23; 2:6, 14‑16; 3:10).

Similarly in 2 Peter, false teachers are introducing destructive heresies by unSpiritual interpretations of Scripture (2Pet 1:20–2:1).  They appear to be people from within the church who have adopted these winds of doctrine (2Pet 2:20‑22; Jude 1:4, 12, 22‑23; cf. Eph 4:14), and are unhealthily fixated on angelic beings (2Pet 2:4, 10‑12; Jude 1:6, 8‑10).  Unlike in Colossae, where the Law of Moses was being used to try to restrain fleshly indulgence (Col 2:23), in the epistles of Peter and Jude it seems that the apostasising believers were actually advocating immoral licentiousness in the name of ‘grace’, hence the reference to Sodom and Gomorrah (2Pet 1:4, 9; 2:2, 6‑10, 13‑14, 18‑19; 3:3; Jude 1:4, 7, 18).

There is evidently also a specific claim made by these false teachers that there will be no coming judgement on the Jewish nation, despite Jesus’ clear warnings about this (e.g. Luke 21:12‑24).  The common misunderstanding of the Early Church that Jesus’ coming would coincide with the destruction of Jerusalem in that generation (e.g. Matt 24:2‑3; see my post on Luke’s clarification of Matthew) would explain why Peter and Jude both emphasise imminent judgement as well as the soon return of Jesus (2Pet 2:4, 5, 6, 9; 3:2‑13; Jude 1:5, 6, 7, 14‑15, 21).  In the last decade of the Jewish nation before its destruction in AD70, nationalistic fervour was on the rise among Jews everywhere, believing that this was the time when they would throw off Roman oppression and regain their territory and independence.  Hebrews was written specifically to Jewish believers who seem to have forgotten their initial willingness to surrender their own lands trusting in an inheritance after Jesus’ return (Heb 3:7–4:11; 10:32–11:16; see my post on Hebrews).  The call to all Jews across the Roman empire, and particularly in Israel, was [as it is in our generation also] that if all Jews return to the Law of Moses and temple worship, Messiah will come and re-establish Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel.  The pressure was clearly on Jewish believers in Jesus also, to return to the Levitical priesthood and sacrificial system, and the writer to the Hebrews warns them not to turn away from the greater reality of Messiah’s priesthood and sacrifice (Heb 2:17–3:1; 4:14–5:10; 6:20–10:22; 13:10‑16), nor to ignore the coming ‘shaking’ (Heb 10:26‑27; 12:16‑29).  In Gentile areas, this fervour about an imminent coming age of peace and prosperity would probably have led certain groups of Jewish Christians, who knew the prophets’ words about all nations coming to worship the God of Israel, to twist the message of grace into a license for continued indulgence (Jude 1:4), because Gentiles had no need to obey the Jewish Law – what better way to ‘convert’ the Gentiles to follow the Jewish Messiah (2Pet 2:18‑20; Php 3:18‑20).  The prophets also spoke of Israel receiving the wealth of the nations, which may be reflected in the greedy motivation of Jewish Christian false teachers apparently teaching whatever people wanted to hear in order to be paid more (2Pet 2:14‑15; Jude 1:11; cf. 2Tim 4:3‑4).

Perhaps the biggest doctrinal problem of this decade, though, involved the identity and nature of Jesus.  Hebrews 1 and 2 give clear evidence that many Jewish believers had come to view Jesus not as simply a holy man, nor as the unique Son of God, but as a sort of hybrid or intermediate angelic being – most likely as the ‘Angel of the Lord’ who acts and speaks as God Himself in many passage of the Old Testament (see Jude 1:5 with the best reading ‘Jesus’, compared with Exod 13:18, 21; 14:19‑20, 24‑30; 23:20‑23; 24:9‑11; 32:34–33:3; Num 14:14‑15, 20‑23, 35).  Although it is probably correct that the ‘Angel of the Lord’ was indeed Jesus in His pre-incarnate form (cf. Acts 7:35‑40), the writer to the Hebrews has to address misconceptions that follow from this, particularly equating Jesus with other angelic powers, and failing to recognise that this ‘angel’ or ‘messenger’ is in fact the divine Son of God Himself.  Paul similarly had to emphasise the exaltation of Jesus over all angelic powers in his letters written around the same time (e.g. Eph 1:20‑22; 3:9‑12; 4:10; Col 1:15‑20; 2:2‑4, 9‑10, 15; Php 2:6‑11; 3:20‑21).  Peter emphasised Jesus’ divine humanity (2Pet 1:16‑19; 2:1), and Jude similarly accuses the Jewish Christian false teachers of ‘denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ’ (Jude 1:4‑6).  He chooses to quote from the book of 1 Enoch, a favourite (non-canonical) text of these false teachers, in order to turn it against them by making them the ‘ungodly’ who will be judged by Jesus Himself, ‘the Lord’ who is returning with His holy ten thousands.  [This explains why Jude would quote from 1 Enoch – he is not affirming its authority, but using it rhetorically against those who do.]

October 27, 2009

Promised Land in the New Testament – summary [I&NC #14]

One of the possible ways of reading the numerous Old Testament prophecies about a Jewish return from exile is to see it all as having happened already in the return from exile in Babylon [see  the first post in this series].  Jesus arrived over five hundred years after that return, so His teaching and the teaching of His apostles, contained in the New Testament, should reveal to us whether or not they considered those prophecies of return to have already been fulfilled.  As will be clear below, they actually not only believed the nation of Israel to be still in a condition of spiritual ‘exile’ that denied them secure and permanent dwelling in the land, but they also knew that the Jewish people would again be cast into exile.  This exile to all nations (not just Assyria, or Babylon) would be a far greater exile than the first one, but even this one would eventually be finished.  To fulfil His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God would finally bring the Jewish people back to the land of promise very shortly before the return of Jesus.

1.  The conquest of the land under Joshua was not the ultimate fulfilment of the inheritance promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Paul clearly taught that the Law of Moses had actually made the Jewish people ‘slaves’ to sin, and as slaves rather than sons they were not permitted to inherit (Rom 7:1‑25; Gal 3:23–4:7; 4:21‑31).  Hebrews taught further that if Joshua had given the Israelites ‘rest’ in their land, David would hardly have written to a later generation warning them that rebellion would disqualify them from entering God’s ‘rest’ (Heb 4:1‑11).

2.  Even in Jesus’ generation the nation was considered to be in an ongoing condition of exile.

Jesus taught His people using parables in order to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah that the nation would “keep on hearing and will not understand… keep on seeing and will not perceive” (Mat 13:13‑15; cf. 11:5).  Isaiah was told that his prophetic task was to harden the eyes, ears and hearts of the Jewish nation until the fulfilment of the curse of exile (Isa 6:9‑13; cf. 32:1‑4; 34:16–35:6).

3.  Jesus decreed another greater exile on the Jewish nation, a final one that would complete God’s judgement against the sins of all previous generations of Israel.

In fulfilment of Malachi’s prophecy to the Levites of his generation after the Babylonian Exile (Mal 3:1‑6), Jesus arrived four hundred years later as the appointed judge of the nation.  In response to their sin and hard-heartedness He delivered the verdict that the nation was unforgivable (Mat 12:31‑45; 23:1‑28).  To prove that they were more wicked than any previous generation, He would send them further messengers whom they would persecute, and therefore God would be justified in bringing on that generation the complete punishment for the sins of both them and all their fathers (Mat 23:29‑36; Luke 11:49‑51; cf. Isa 65:1‑7; Jer 16:10‑18; Rom 10:20-21).  When there is a complete judgement visited on the nation for all the blood of the prophets shed from the foundation of the world, there can never be another such punishment meted out again (Isa 51:17‑22).

4.  Evangelism amongst Jewish communities will not be completed until Jesus’ return.

Although seventy disciples were sent out in pairs to prepare for Jesus’ arrival in a town during His ministry (Luke 10:1‑17), Jesus also sent out the Twelve with a specific commission to the Jews (Luke 9:1‑10; Mat 10:11‑42), because they will be given authority over the twelve tribes of Israel when Jesus returns (Luke 22:28‑30).  Their commission, therefore, while similar to that of the seventy, concerned specifically Jewish communities (Mat 10:5‑6, 23), within and presumably beyond the land of Israel also.  They were told that this specific focus for preaching the Gospel would not finish “until the Son of Man comes”, a phrase Matthew linked closely to the Second Coming (24:3, 27‑44; 25:31‑46).  This was also explained as being the result of Jewish hard-heartedness and persecution in city after city of Israel, and Jesus’ intention was to clarify to His followers that the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” in exile (cf. Eze 34:11‑16) would not all be ‘found’ until the time of His own return.

5.  Gentile control over Jerusalem will come to an end when the “times of the Gentiles” are fulfilled.

Whereas Matthew recorded Jesus’ teachings about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 and the Second Coming without differentiating them (Matthew 24:1–25:46; esp. 24:3), Luke recorded them separately, the Second Coming in 17:20‑37, and the imminent destruction of Jerusalem and exile in 21:5‑36.  Therefore Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and captivity and exile of the Jewish people (Luke 21:20‑24) has already happened and evidently continued until modern times.  Despite the obvious severity of the judgement Jesus decreed, He did explicitly declare that at a certain point Gentiles would no longer ‘trample under foot’ the city of Jerusalem (21:24; cf. Isa 63:17‑19), which must indicate that Jews will eventually regain control over Jerusalem.  The “times of the Gentiles” may be a reference to that period during which Gentiles control Jerusalem, but it would be better to understand it as the times in which Gentiles are the focus of God’s commission to His Church, which is suggested by the word “fulfilled”.  In the latter case, Jesus would be teaching that Jewish repossession of Jerusalem will coincide with the culmination of mission to the Gentiles.

6.  Israel’s national repentance will be prompted specifically by the reception of the gospel by all other nations.

Jesus taught that “the end will come” at the point when His witnesses have brought “this gospel of the kingdom” throughout “the whole inhabited earth” and “to all the nations” (Mat 24:14), which could be said to be the ‘fulfilment’ of the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24).  He then instructed His witnesses to go from Jerusalem “even to the remotest part of the earth”, making “disciples of all the nations… even to the end of the age”, and in the context He was implying that only then would the kingdom be restored to Israel (Acts 1:6‑8; Mat 28:19‑20).  Paul explained this further, writing that Israel has been hardened temporarily “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in”; then because of jealousy at the mercy shown to all nations, Israel would soften and “thus all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:11‑15, 25‑27, 30‑31).  Jesus indicated that this would be brought about particularly through the ministry of another prophet like Elijah at whose word the nation would turn back to God, ‘restoring all things’ (Mat 17:10‑11; cf. Mal 4:5‑6).  It is unlikely that this prophet is described in Revelation 11, where the two witnesses prophesy judgement against the nations, not salvation to Israel.  Although imagery is used from the ministries of Elijah and Moses, both prophets of judgement against unbelieving Gentiles and Jews, it is more likely that these two prophetic ‘olive branches’ are the Jewish and Gentile portions of the Church who are then resurrected as Jesus returns (Rev 11:4, 11‑13; cf. 13:7; Rom 11:17; Zec 3:8–4:6).

7.  Israel will be living in Judaea and Jerusalem when as a nation they welcome Jesus’ return as their Messiah.

Jesus regularly used the ‘fig tree’ as an image of the nation of Israel (represented by its leadership), to describe its fruitlessness (Luke 13:6‑9), its withering (Mark 11:12‑27), its destruction when dry (Luke 23:27‑31), and finally its softening and fresh leaves indicating His imminent return (Mat 24:32‑33).  ‘Sitting under one’s own fig tree’ was a common metaphor for being permanently at ‘rest’ in the land, particularly after exile (Mic 4:1‑4; Zec 3:8‑10; John 1:47‑51), so the images of softening and leaves coming out imply the beginnings of repentance and dwelling in the land respectively.  However Jesus also prophesied this explicitly:  In the ‘great tribulation’ immediately before His return, Jesus said that the believers living in Judaea would find travel on the Sabbath particularly difficult (Mat 24:15‑20, 29‑30).  Not only that, but He prophesied to ‘Jerusalem’ (both the city and symbol for the nation) at the very end of His public ministry that “from now on you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mat 23:39; cf. Luke 13:33-35).  Following the exile of the Jewish nation, the ‘desolation’ of Jerusalem’s ‘house’ (Mat 23:38; cf. Lev 26:31‑35; Isa 49:14‑21; 62:4), the nation would again see Jesus when as a nation they could welcome Him as their Messiah (cf. Mat 21:9).  In fact, for the sake of these ‘elect’, He will shorten the days of their ‘great tribulation’ (Mark 13:14‑20).  Peter also taught that national repentance was a condition for Jesus’ return (Acts 3:19‑21).

8.  Nevertheless, secure and permanent inheritance of the land for Israel will not be possible until Jesus returns, initiating the resurrection and restoration of all things.

Using a parable, Jesus taught His disciples that only on His return as King would He distribute territories within His kingdom to them in reward for faithful service (Luke 19:11‑28; cf. 22:28‑30).  When asked about the timing of the kingdom being restored to Israel, He acknowledged His Father’s plan to do this, but instructed His disciples to focus first on mission to all nations (Acts 1:6‑8).  Jews in the Early Church, including Barnabas, Stephen and the writer to the Hebrews, modelled and taught that in this age they must not expect to be able to hold on to their property within the land of Israel (Acts 4:32‑37; 7:4‑6; Heb 4:1‑11; 10:34).  Rather, they were to live by faith, whether they left their land to bring the good news of salvation inheritance to other nations also, or whether they chose to remain in their ‘promised land’ but live as if they were foreigners, ‘strangers and exiles’.  Choosing to return to other countries for the sake of security was not a valid option (Heb 11:15), but rather they needed to persevere by looking forward to their ‘better, permanent possession’ in that very land, in the form of a city and country being prepared by God and soon to be delivered from heaven (Heb 11:8‑16; Rev 21:10, 24‑27).  Paul associated the fulfilment of Israel’s promised gift of land with the salvation of all nations (Rom 9:4; 11:26‑29; cf. Zec 2:6-12).  He therefore recognised that Jewish and Gentile believers, as both natural and adopted ‘sons of God’, would inherit their apportioned lands at the same time, freeing all of creation from its slavery to corruption (Gal 3:23–4:8; Rom 4:11‑17; 8:14‑22).  This inheritance by every nation of lands bestowed from heaven by God is a large-scale fulfilment of what will happen at the same time on a small scale with each of us inheriting ‘heavenly’ resurrection bodies (Acts 17:26 with Deut 32:8‑9; Rom 8:18‑25; 1 Cor 15:42‑49; 2 Cor 5:1‑5). Thus ‘all things’ will be restored (Acts 3:21; Mat 17:11).

In summary of New Testament teaching, the promise of land inheritance made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and spoken about by the prophets has not yet ever been properly fulfilled.  This was because God chose to use the Law of Moses to harden the Israelites in their sin, making them unable with uncircumcised hearts to inherit as ‘sons of Abraham’.  Moses taught that God would personally atone for Israel, and reconcile them to Himself by making them jealous of His favour on the nations.  Jesus then came as the ‘seed of Abraham’ bringing blessing: fulfilling the powerless Law by becoming a curse for Israel, and dying to atone for the sin of Jew and Gentile alike, reversing the disobedience and death of Adam.  His resurrection is both the object of faith, by which all can be declared righteous, and the content of our hope.  Jesus declared the Jewish nation of His own generation to be unforgivable, decreeing that within a generation they would enter into an exile that would complete God’s punishment for all previous rejection of His messengers.  Witness to scattered Jews must continue, but their full repentance and inheritance would not happen before every nation on earth had also received the good news of salvation (resurrection, deliverance and inheritance).  At the end of the age God will begin restoring Israel to her land and softening her heart towards Him, using a prophet like Elijah, and even more importantly the jealousy provoked by seeing all nations accept her Messiah.  In the midst of the ‘great tribulation’ that follows the fulfilment of the times of the Gentiles, Jewish believers in the land will undergo persecution, but will be delivered by their returning King whom they will welcome as a whole nation.  The faithful from previous generations will return with Jesus, met by surviving believers joining them from the earth in a visible imitation of Jesus’ own ascension, and all will receive their resurrection bodies with Jesus.  After destroying the enemies of His people, Jesus will establish His kingdom on earth from Jerusalem.  Within this worldwide kingdom, the Twelve disciples will rule over Israel in their land, and Gentile believers will rule over every nation across the earth, each in its own territory as apportioned by Jesus [the new ‘Joshua’].  In this way all creation will be released into the glorious freedom of the ‘sons of God’.

September 17, 2009

Promised Land in the Gospels, part two [I&NC #7]

In the first post on Promised Land in the Gospels, we considered Jesus’ teaching about ongoing mission to Israel throughout this age, and His metaphor of the fig tree to describe Israel.  Here we focus on Jesus’ eschatological discourses, and on His condemnation of His generation to their final great exile to all nations that would finish just before their final restoration to their land.

Matthew 24:15-31; Luke 21:24 – The explanation of the ‘parable of the fig tree’ in the previous post is actually confirmed more explicitly by other teaching in the same so-called ‘eschatological discourse’ Jesus spoke while sitting with His four disciples opposite the Temple.  While this discourse is notorious for difficulties of interpretation, there are some points in it that would seem to be fairly clear.  Mark 13 does little more than summarise Matthew 24 with the inclusion of 10:17-18, but Luke 21 makes some more deliberate alterations, clarifying certain aspects of timing that Matthew had conflated when he grouped together all of Jesus’ eschatological teachings.

In Matthew 24:3 the disciples ask Jesus not only when the destruction of the Temple would happen, but also what would be the signs of His second coming.  The following teaching can therefore be interpreted as applying either to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 or to the Great Tribulation immediately preceding Jesus’ return, or to both.  Matthew seemed to associate the two events, but his main focus was clearly on what would happen immediately before Jesus’ return (as shown by the addition of other eschatological teaching after this discourse in 24:36–25:46).  The mention in 24:14 of the conclusion of mission to the Gentiles, after which “the end will come”, is followed by a warning to Jewish believers [cf. 24:20] living in Judea to flee when they see the prophesied desecration of the ‘holy place’.  This will be the start of “a great tribulation” unequalled since creation, and never to be exceeded again, and immediately after this tribulation there will be signs in the heavens and Jesus will return in glory.  This prophesied flight from Judaea is therefore unmistakeably situated within the days immediately preceding Jesus’ return at the end of the present age, in accordance with Zechariah 14:5.  The implication is obvious, therefore, that in those final days of the Great Tribulation there will again be Jewish believers in Judaea who have to flee from the desecration and persecution of the prophesied ‘man of lawlessness’ who has set up his throne in Jerusalem (cf. 2 Thes 2:1-12).

Luke, on the other hand, had in his research come to a clearer understanding of the distinction in Jesus’ prophecies between the imminent judgement on Jerusalem and Israel, and His more distant coming in glory, perhaps because he recognised through participation in Paul’s missionary journeys (e.g. Acts 20:1-6) that it would take longer than one generation for every nation to be reached with the gospel (cf. Mat 24:14).  He also recognised that Jesus had spoken clearly of the imminent judgement against Jerusalem using very similar language to his prophecies of the end of the age (cf. Mat 22:7; Luke 13:34-35; 17:22-25; 19:41-44; 23:28-30), which explains why Matthew had failed to differentiate them.  Luke therefore chose to separate the two prophecies about fleeing Jerusalem that Matthew had conflated, and recorded Jesus’ prophecy of the Great Tribulation flight [described above] earlier, in Luke 17:26-35.  That way the first century flight could be described in its proper setting in response to the disciples’ specific question about the destruction of the Temple, which did indeed come to pass shortly after the believers fled to Pella beyond the Jordan (Luke 21:7-24).  In 21:20‑24, therefore, Luke avoids speaking of this “great distress” of destruction and exile as never to be equalled again, because he knows that the Great Tribulation at the end of the age will be even worse.  Similarly, he leaves out what Matthew includes about the completion of mission to the Gentiles, because that will only happen at the end of the age.  Interestingly, though, in 21:24 Luke does show his clear understanding of the duration of this mission which he terms the “times of the Gentiles”, when he records Jesus’ prophecy that the exile of Israel and Gentile control of Jerusalem (“trampled under foot”) will surely finish before the end of the age that is summarised in 21:25-28.  The return of exiled Jews from captivity, and their recapture of Jerusalem from Gentile occupation, will coincide with that period of time, immediately preceding the signs in the heavens and return of Jesus, in which the gospel proclamation to all nations (“the times of the Gentiles”) reaches a completion.  Thus the situation described in Matthew 24, of Jewish believers again having to flee from Judaea during a time of tribulation, will be possible because the Jews will have returned to the land of Israel and to Jerusalem at the end of the age.

The best explanation for the return of the Jewish nation to the land of Israel at the end of the age, shortly before the return of Jesus, is that the land covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob remains in effect, and is approaching its complete fulfilment when Jesus returns.

Matthew 23:29-39 – Jesus grieved regularly over the hard-heartedness of Jerusalem, which epitomised what history showed from the time of Abel – that unregenerate people, even those of the chosen nation, always reject those who testify to the truth.  As Stephen preached [see coming 2nd post on Acts], both Joseph and Moses were rejected by their brethren despite being saviours, and Moses was assured by God that the people would continue to be rebellious after his death, bringing on themselves the judgement of exile (Deut 31:16-29).  Throughout the history of Israel in the land, the nation rebelled time and again after the death of righteous leaders (cf. Jdg 2:6-23), murdering prophets sent to them even within the temple itself (2 Chr 24:15-22), and in each case the judgement was oppression within their own land and exile from it.  Jeremiah the prophet, at the end of the Israelite monarchy, appealed to the people to circumcise their hearts and listen to God’s words, but exile was unavoidable (Jer 4:1-27).

According to prophecy, a remnant later returned from Babylon, and some wondered if this was the final permanent restoration that Moses and the prophets had foreseen.  Haggai knew, however, that still to come was a shaking of all nations who would then come and fill God’s temple with glory, establishing lasting peace (Hag 2:6-9).  Zechariah similarly prophesied that many nations would join themselves to the Lord and become His people, and only then would He “inherit Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem” (Zec 2:6-13).  Malachi observed that the priests in the restored Temple were still rebelling against the Mosaic covenant that defined their role within God’s people, and warned them that corrupting that covenant would still bring on them the curse of exile (Mal 2:1-8).  However, as the final prophet in Israel for 400 years, he gave the nation an assurance that God would at least permit this ‘second Temple’ to remain until the time of the coming Messiah, the ‘messenger of the covenant’ who would test the priesthood intensely and bring on evildoers the severe judgement of exile, leaving ‘neither root nor branch’ (Mal 3:1–4:1).  Before the Messiah’s judgement, there would be a forerunner prophet, one like Elijah, who would give the nation a chance to repent, or else the land would be struck with the curse of exile (Mal 3:1; 4:5-6).

True to His word, God sent John the Baptist, a prophet like Elijah (Luke 1:16-17; Mat 17:10-13), to announce the coming of the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus very clearly prophesied in Matthew 17:10-11 that there will be another forerunner prophet like Elijah sent at the end of the age to the Jewish nation, at whose words the nation will turn back to God in repentance ready to welcome their returning Messiah and the ‘restoration of all things’ (cf. Acts 3:21).  The first time ‘Elijah’ came to turn the hearts of fathers and children to each other, his prophesied rejection resulted in the land being struck with the curse of exile (cf. Mal 4:5-6); the second time the forerunner prophet will appear, at the end of the age, his message of reconciliation will be received by the whole nation, opening up the heavens again in a national and worldwide revival (James 5:17-18; cf. “all flesh” in Acts 2:17-21).  Because the Jewish nation have become counted among the ‘elect’, the Lord Himself will cut short the days of their oppression and vindicate His people (Mat 24:21-22; Mark 13:19‑20).

Fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy, Jesus indeed tested the priesthood intensely.  However the priest-led nation of His day had not changed their rebellious hearts, and knowing that they would do to Him what they had done to John, Jesus proclaimed His terrible verdict more than once over the leaders and thus the nation as a whole (Luke 11:39‑52; 13:32-35; Mat 23:1-39).  He set His face towards Jerusalem for the final journey of His ministry, knowing He too must be rejected there by the entire gathered leadership of that generation of Israel (cf. Mat 27:25).  Their blasphemy against His ministry, despite recognising it to be in the power of the prophesied Holy Spirit of the new covenant, was a sin that could no more be forgiven or atoned for – exile was now unavoidable (Mat 12:22‑45).

Jesus’ parable about his generation in Matthew 12:43-45 must be back-translated into Aramaic from Greek to be properly understood, because the word adamah can mean ‘the man’ in Aramaicised Hebrew or ‘land’ in biblical Hebrew.  Here Jesus is speaking of how the ‘unclean spirit’ of the Jewish nation [contrast ‘demon’ in 12:22-28] went out of their ‘land’ into exile in Babylon (‘waterless places seeking rest’).  However when it returned to its own land, it brought with it seven spirits more wicked than itself, and became worse even than the generation that had been exiled to Babylon.  ‘Seven spirits’ is an allusion to the seven wicked nations that God drove out before Israel under Joshua, leaving the land ‘unoccupied, swept and put in order’ (see Jos 24:11-13).  [Credit for this observation goes to Arkan Zaki.]  God Himself had come down to see if the prophets’ reports of wickedness were true, just as in the time of Abraham (Gen 18:20-21).  He saw that they were indeed worse than the generation that had been sent into exile in Babylon, so there would be no forgiveness for this generation even if they were to ask for it.

Not only that, but God had hardened that generation of the Jewish nation [forty years is God’s view of a ‘generation’ – Num 14:26‑35; 32:13‑15; Jdg 2:7‑19; 3:11, 30] so severely that the many Messiah-believing prophets and apostles and scribes He would send to the nation in the following four decades of God’s patience (Rom 9:18-22) would also be persecuted; such was God’s intention, that this generation would fully match every previous ungodly generation of their fathers (Mat 23:32).  In this way God could justly condemn that generation of Jews for “the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world” (Luke 11:50-51), and pour out His uttermost wrath on the rebellion of His people (1 Thes 2:16).  The exile that would result would be the most complete exile of their national history, and the destruction the Jewish people would experience among the nations would be paying her ‘double’ for both her own sins and the sins of previous generations (Isa 65:1‑7; Jer 16:18; Isa 40:2; cf. Rom 10:20-21).  They would drink from the cup of God’s anger, and drain it to its dregs, but when the Jewish nation had not even one person among them to stand up and be their leader, He would declare to them, “Behold, I have taken out of your hand … the cup of my anger; you will never drink it again” (Isa 51:17-22) – something that could not be said after the first return from exile in Babylon (cf. Isa 11:10-12).

God had promised that He would not destroy all of them (Isa 65:8-10; Jer 31:35‑37), but would leave a remnant in all the countries where He banished them.  This remnant would have to be persuaded to return to their land, first by ‘fishermen’ and then by ‘hunters’ (Jer 16:14-18), but the time would surely come when Jerusalem would no longer be trampled under foot by the Gentiles (Luke 21:24).  Even in His verdict of the uttermost wrath upon Jerusalem and the nation, Jesus still spoke of hope – there would be a time after the desolation of the land, when Jerusalem would “see” her Messiah returning and once more say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Jesus is first recorded prophesying this on His way to Jerusalem from Galilee (Luke 13:31-35), but even while the crowds shouted out these words as He approached the city (Luke 19:37-38), He wept over it again because they ‘did not recognise’ who it was who came to them; “the things which make for peace… have been hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:41-44).  Matthew therefore records Jesus saying this once more to conclude His last public appearance to the nation in Jerusalem, when He passed His final verdict of judgement on the Jewish leaders – “from now on you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mat 23:39).

Although Jesus declared judgement over Jerusalem as representative of the Jewish nation [‘Jerusalem’ is only ever used as a metonym for the Jewish nation when they are dwelling in their land; cf. Isa 49:8-22], he also promised that she will see her Messiah return and welcome Him, and it is implied that this will happen after the nation is restored from exile (“your house is being left to you desolate … until” – Mat 23:38-39; cf. Dan 9:16-19).  Both the prophecy that ‘Jerusalem’ will welcome Her returning Messiah, and the conclusion of exile implied by the reversal of Jerusalem’s inability to see her Messiah (cf. Isa 54:4-8), indicate that Israel will again settle in her land.  The best explanation for this is that the eternal land covenant made with Abraham and the descendants of Jacob will be fulfilled at the end of this age.

September 15, 2009

Jesus is taking back His unfaithful Bride!

Filed under: Prophecy — alabastertheology @ 10:15 am
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I interrupt this series of posts on Israel and the New Covenant to bring you breaking news:

With deep conviction and great joy I announce to you that revival is about to sweep through the Church in this nation.  The sign of this will be that Peter Andre will take back Katie Price to be his wife, just as Hosea took back his beloved yet adulterous wife Gomer as a sign to the people of Israel (Hosea chapters 1 and 3).  God will turn the heart of Jesus’ Bride back to Him, and there will be joy such as this nation has never seen in its history.

Ginny Burgin announced to her local church in Sheffield back in May 1997 that God was doing an unseen work in the heart of the nation of England.  As a sign of this, she prophesied that the nation would suddenly turn to mourning, and the whole nation would put flowers in their cities.  On the morning that Princess Diana died, Ginny received the second part of the prophecy: “as fast as that mourning went through the nation, joy will go through this nation”.  [For further information, see Terry Virgo’s blog <<www.janga.biz/terryvirgoblog/?p=66>>; Andy Moyle’s blog <<www.adventuresofachurchplanter.com/blog/index.php?blogId=1&op=Default&postCategoryId=4>> (16 Oct 2008, 09:52); and a collection of prophetic words from many sources <<propheticanointing.tripod.com/id13.html>>.]

Within days, there will be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit across this land, and wives will turn back to their husbands in churches up and down the country as evidence that the Bride of Messiah is turning back to her betrothed Husband, Jesus.  The name of Jesus will again be spoken with honour, and churches will be filled to overflowing – prepare for standing room only.  Church leaders will need to work closely together so that those who are unable to fit into one church can be directed to another church down the road.  Just as when Jesus commanded Peter and Andrew to let down their nets for a catch (Luke 5:1-11), the catch of people will be so large that our nets will break if we do not look to our neighbouring churches for help.  This is not a time to look out for our own interests; the time has come to stand shoulder to shoulder as believers in this nation and across the nations, calling on the name of Jesus our Lord with purified lips (Zephaniah 3:9).

This revival will spill over to many nations, and is the time of ‘latter rains’ of the Holy Spirit spoken of by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:23-29).  This is the great final revival of this age, and will bring the ‘fulness of the nations’ into God’s storehouse (Romans 11:25; Luke 21:24), completing the great commission Jesus gave to His apostles (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:7-8).  Just as the Church’s first experience of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost with the sign of tongues was in order that they might go to all nations with the good news, so we must recognise that this last outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church is given to equip her with the resources needed to go to all nations.  This calls for wisdom, determination and sacrifice on the part of every believer and every church in this nation.

Finally, this revival should be understood as the cry going out across the earth to awaken the sleeping Church – “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him.” (Matthew 25:6)  The return of Jesus to the earth is imminent, and like Israel in Egypt, the Church will rise up with power and confidence to proclaim the judgements of the Almighty God over the whole earth.  It is time for God’s people of every nation to come into their inheritance, so He is raising up a prophetic people, made up of Jews and Gentiles, as a testimony to rulers and authorities that His anointed Messiah Jesus has been seated as King over all the world (Psalm 2; Ephesians 3:4-12).  Jesus is coming for His Bride, and He will let nothing and no-one stand in His way.  May the Word of the Lord be fulfilled quickly in our day.

August 27, 2009

Heirs of Abraham’s promise of land [Israel & New Covenant #2]

Filed under: Prophecy — alabastertheology @ 10:29 pm
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The ‘eternal’ land covenant made with Abraham was reissued to Isaac, to Jacob/Israel, to the patriarchs of the twelve tribes in Egypt, and to their ethnic descendants whom God promises will never be permanently rejected.  The promise of land, therefore, is a cheque made payable specifically to the ethnically Jewish people, whether or not this particular generation is permitted to cash it in.

Genesis 15:6-21 – As a reward for his faith, Abram was promised the land of the Amorites as a permanent possession, confirmed by God through a highly unusual covenant ceremony in which God promised it unilaterally, without any conditional requirements for Abram.  The closest parallel is Jeremiah 34:17-20 where passing between the carcasses is a self-curse if the covenant should be broken.  Effectively God is saying that if the descendants of Abram are denied their promised land, God Himself will be slaughtered to atone for His broken covenant.

Genesis 26:2-5 – When Isaac trusted God and in obedience did not leave the land of promise in a time of famine, God reaffirmed the land covenant of his father with him also.

Genesis 35:9-12 – When God officially changed Jacob’s name to Israel, he reaffirmed with him the covenant promises made to Abraham and Isaac of both descendants and land.

Genesis 50:24-25 – Joseph reminded his brothers that God would surely bring the children of Jacob / Israel up out of Egypt and bring them into the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Deuteronomy 9:4-6 – God explicitly warned Israel not to assume that they deserved His gift of the land of Canaan; He drove out the other nations for their wickedness, and He granted the land to Israel despite their stubborn rebellion, to confirm His promise to the Patriarchs.

Deuteronomy 11:21–12:1 – At the beginning and end of this passage God clarified that his promise of land to the Patriarchs and their descendants (Israel) will endure “as long as the heavens remain above the earth”, and “as long as you live on the earth”.  This was despite his warning that if they broke the commandments He was giving them, they themselves would perish quickly from the good land being given them.

Deuteronomy 30:1-5 – The endurance of the promise beyond exile from the land is made explicit here, where God promised that when the people return to their God, He would bring them back to possess the land which their fathers possessed, and multiply them even more than their fathers.

Jeremiah 29:10-14; 30:3 – At the start of the Babylonian exile, Jeremiah wrote to the exiles promising that after seventy years God would fulfil His promise to bring them back to the land from whence they were sent into exile.  30:3 makes it explicit that this promise is the gift of the land to their forefathers.

Jeremiah 31:1-14, 35-40 – After declaring to the distant nations that He would again gather His scattered flock Israel, ransoming them and returning them to their land, God declared that only if the laws of physics are overturned, or the universe is measured, will Israel cease to be a nation before God for all their sin (cf. Jer 33:19-26).

August 26, 2009

Interpretation of Old Testament prophecy [Israel & New Covenant #1]

Filed under: Prophecy — alabastertheology @ 7:37 pm
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Peter declared that “no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” (2 Pet 1:20).  The standard view in the Church today is probably precisely the opposite – ‘every prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation’.  Nowhere is this more true than in discussions on the subject of the place of Israel today.  Political, religious and historical factors converge in a huge storm of controversy, and at the centre is the question of prophecy.

Christians know that God predicts the future, because the whole New Testament insists that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were entirely the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy (Mat 26:56; Acts 2:23; Rom 1:1-4; 1 Cor 15:1-4; Heb 1:1-2; etc.).  Jesus believed that all the Old Testament Scriptures were about Him (John 5:37‑47), and after His resurrection He met with His disciples and opened their minds to understand how the Scriptures spoke about Him (Luke 24:25‑27, 44‑47).  This was the good news they proclaimed with such wisdom and authority that the Jewish leaders recognised they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:10‑13; 6:9‑10), and they also taught this message to Jews throughout the known world (Gal 2:7‑9).  Paul received the same insight into the ‘mystery’ of the gospel purely by personal revelation from Jesus; he was not taught it by the disciples, but they recognised that it had truly been given to him by Jesus in order for him to take this message also to the Gentiles (Gal 1:15–2:10; Eph 3:2‑11).

Since that time, the understanding has been almost entirely lost, of how the Old Testament Scriptures themselves “are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Messiah Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15).  New Testament writers frequently mention aspects of the interpretation of the Old Testament shown to them by Jesus, but without their bigger picture we are left trying to piece together just a handful of the most important jigsaw pieces.  Neither educated nor uneducated believers are now able to interpret the entire vision of the gospel through the Old Testament (Isa 29:11‑12; 42:18‑21); all of us who are waiting for the Second Coming have fallen asleep to the prophecies we hold (Mat 25:1‑13; cf. 5:14‑18; 1 Sam 3:1‑4, 21).  However we can be encouraged that in the days just before Jesus returns to restore all things, “the deaf will hear words of a book, and … the eyes of the blind will see” (Isa 29:17‑18; 43:8‑10; cf. Dan 12:1‑4).

There is no doubt that the Old Testament speaks a huge amount about Jewish people returning from exile to the land promised to Abraham.  However Christians interpret these prophecies in many different ways: (1) they were all fulfilled in the return from Babylon around 500BC; (2) they are being fulfilled today in the return of Jews to the modern state of Israel; (3) they will be fulfilled at some point in the future; (4) they are fulfilled metaphorically / spiritually by the Church; or (5) they will not be fulfilled because God is doing something else now.  Sometimes people apply a combination of these approaches to different prophecies, but ultimately it is all seen as a matter of one’s own interpretation.

One thing Christians do agree on, however, is that any interpretations must be consistent with the New Testament writings; there are verses suggesting that parts of the Old Testament are now ‘obsolete’ (Heb 8:13), and as no-one is really sure which parts are obsolete, it is safer to stick closely to the New Testament.  On the issue of the modern state of Israel, then, one of the most controversial questions is whether the promises of land apply to Jews today.  A common position taken by Christians is that the New Testament does not reaffirm the promise of land found in the Old Testament, and therefore we must assume it is no longer in effect since Jesus ‘fulfilled’ everything.

My intention in this next series of posts is to address this question of prophecy, particularly as it relates to Israel (i.e. the Jewish people) in the time of the new covenant.  I will look at to whom exactly the promise of land was made, what parts of the Old Testament were actually made obsolete by the new covenant, what the New Testament does not say about the promise of land being revoked, what the New Testament does say about the land covenant in detail (Gospels, Acts, Romans, Hebrews), what this teaching means practically for Jews, Palestinians and believers in the land of Israel today, and then how Moses and all the prophets teach exactly the same understanding of Messiah and His return as it relates to the Jewish people and the promised land.  I urge you as you read to examine the Scriptures for yourself to see whether these things are actually so (cf. Acts 17:11‑12).  May the Holy Spirit give us understanding as we consider the wonderful mystery of the gospel.

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