The Spiritual Kingdom

Before Jesus ascended into heaven He spent 40 Days talking to people about the kingdom of God. Imagine that! 40 days of listening to the resurrected Christ talk about His kingdom.

One of the greatest hindrances to the kingdom advancing is the idea that it hasn’t come yet. People who believe this usually say that in order to believe the kingdom has fully arrived you have to spiritualize everything. The problem with that argument is that when you read the New Testament you find that everything has been spiritualized. Here are some verses that show us that just about everything in the Kingdom is invisible and spiritual:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” Matthew 5:21-22

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 1 Corinthians 6:19

even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… Ephesians 2:5-6

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

These are just a few verses that show that the kingdom of God is spiritual and invisible. The whole book of Revelation is like this. Some scholars believe that Revelation is John’s version of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (mentioned in Matt 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21).

Trying to interpret Revelation literally will cause you to interject things from our time period, when it was written to people who lived in the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago and the cultural background is people with Old Testament Jewish roots, so the imagery is full of things Old Testament Jews would be familiar with.

If you interpret Revelation literally you’ll think that the New Jerusalem is some magical place that is way out in the future somewhere. When it’s actually a spiritual picture (an allegory) of life in the New Covenant with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Grace and peace multiplied 2u.

The end of kingdoms

One of the greatest proofs that the Bible is true and that God is not a myth is the fact that world ruling kingdoms are no more. In Haggai 2:22 God said that He was going to “destroy the thrones of kingdoms and shatter the power of the kingdoms of the nations.” Before Christ came many kings and kingdoms ruled the world throughout the centuries. In fact, there was always a kingdom that ruled the earth.

OT prophets spoke of a time when all kingdoms would be laid low and that the most powerful kingdom would be the one God’s Christ would set up.

History shows us that the greatest empire was the Roman Empire. After that earthly kingdoms would never be as great again. Their power diminished as the kingdom of Heaven invaded and advanced. Today powerful empires are not even a conversation, but they are a history lesson. The most prominent kingdom on earth now is England, which is far from ruling the world.

The Gospel (good news) of the kingdom is that we have a King who rules in love and extends grace and mercy even to those who call themselves His enemies. We all have been invited to belong to this Kingdom. All we have to do is except His invitation. The good news is that this kingdom continues forever and ever and will never be defeated (Isaiah 9).

The kingdom of heaven is viewed as a spiritual city called the New Jerusalem (Hebrews 11-12, Revelation 21-22). It is inside of the hearts of those who have faith in the King and the evidence of this Kingdom is seen in how its citizens live life on earth- with love, joy, peace, hope, faith, authority, humility, etc.

Following Christ means to be part of His Kingdom. It doesn’t mean being a member of a church. Though church is an expression of this kingdom, it is not all it entails. In fact, the majority of the Kingdom should be seen in the secular world as we transform the cultures of earth to be more like heaven’s culture, which is a culture of faith, hope and love.

As we do this we will see “His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Say yes to King Jesus and be part of His everlasting kingdom!

Does God still heal?

It’s always easy to criticize people for taking risks that we ourselves are not willing to take. In Christianity one area we see this more than any is the topic of healing. People who have never participated in healing ministry often criticize those that do. The main criticism we hear is, “If they had the gift of healing then everyone they pray for would be healed.” Then they go on and mention how Jesus and the apostles healed everyone.

First, to say a person who has the gift of healing should heal everyone that comes to them is like saying a person with the teaching gift should perfectly understand the whole Bible. We all know that people who teach the Bible grow more in their gifting the more they study and the more they practice. Why don’t we apply that to all the gifts. We seem to approach the supernatural gifts with this legalistic idea that if someone has one of those gifts they can’t make any mistakes and they must have a perfect record.

This way of thinking leaves no room for Matthew 7:7 which says, “·Ask [Keep asking], and ·God will give [L it will be given]to you. ·Search [Seek; Keep seeking] , and you will find. ·Knock [Keep knocking] , and the door will open for you.” (The Expanded Bible)

Every time we pray for someone to be healed we are knocking at that door. Instead of criticizing those who pursue spiritual gifts we should humble ourselves and learn from them and realize they are stepping out in areas that take great courage. We should also be encouraged to follow in their steps because we’re all called to go after the gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1). Paul says we should “eagerly desire/ be zealous for spiritual gifts” (The Expanded Bible).

Some people have no desire to walk in the gifts and they criticize others because it makes them feel better about their lack of spiritual zeal. That’s cowardly, and there’s no room for cowards in the kingdom of God.

Don’t be a coward. Be childlike. Jesus said unless we become like little children we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. When a child sees another child with a cool toy they want to play too. When we see someone going after spiritual gifts we should want to play too and when we don’t see the door opening we should keep knocking knowing that eventually it will.

Lastly, always remember you have to grow in the gifts, whether teaching or prophesying or healing, we receive these things in seed form and God wants us to water them and create a culture inside our hearts for these things to blossom. Just trust that the Spirit will distribute to you as much as He wishes (1 Cor 12:11). We don’t actually decide how much of the gift we get, but we decide how much risk to take and how much we will trust. All glory to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

Grace and peace 2u

Heaven inside us

This morning I woke up and like I do every morning, I made myself some delicious coffee. Then I ran into a huge problem. When I went to grab the half and half out of the fridge I couldn’t find it. This is tragic for a person who drinks about as much creamer as I do coffee. All kinds of thoughts started running through my mind: the first one was, “Where did my wife put the half n half?” Sidenote: I’m working on not blaming her every time I can’t find something. I start frantically looking through the fridge thinking, “She just bought more yesterday. Where is it?!” I’m trying to stay calm. I have to figure this out because it’s like 4:15am and I can’t go wake her up. 

Then suddenly a thought came to mind: the half n half I was looking for ran out yesterday and maybe she bought one that wasn’t the exact same brand as the one I was looking for. As soon as that thought came into my mind I found what I was looking for. I had to let go of what I thought I was searching for and open my eyes. Kind of like how Paul says, “If anyone wants to be wise let him become a fool so that he can be wise.” 

I want to share a few scriptures this morning to reveal the goodness of God and the awesomeness of living in His kingdom and in the New covenant. Before I get into it I want to say that many of us are like Old Testament saints who looked off into the distance for hope to come. Many of us are waiting for the kingdom of heaven to fall from the sky in a visible way. Jesus said “The kingdom does not come in ways that can be observed, but the kingdom is within you.” That’s what I want to draw your attention to this morning. Heaven inside of us who believe. 

Psalm 20:1-2 says

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion! – Psalm 20:1-2. 

Here, help from God is seen as coming from somewhere. Help is seen coming from His sanctuary, from Zion. David is praying that God would send help from heaven. In essence that is what Zion is. Zion is the dwelling place of God. In the OT Jerusalem was called Zion because God’s presence was there. It was not the physical city that made Jerusalem Zion, but God in her. 

Now look at what Ephesians 3:20 says:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, – Ephesians 3:20

This is beyond amazing! In the Psalms we see David crying out to God for help from heaven. Now God says He will help us according to the power that is in us. Why would he say that? Because…

I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:2-4

Zion has come down out of heaven and is inside of us who believe. This is why Hebrews 12:22 says “you have come to mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” 

Some might ask, well it says there will be no more tears, death, or pain. To that I say, in the New covenant we don’t define our lives by these things. And if we truly walk in the New Covenant and dwell in the city death is no more. Jesus said whoever believes in Him will never die. Tears are wiped away and pain is taken away because we now have the Holy Spirit to comfort us. That’s the power at work in us. It’s beyond what we can imagine! If we are not experiencing these things it doesn’t mean they’re not a reality. If we base our belief on what we experience, we bring God down to our level. There’s always more in store for us. 

Paul said in Romans 14:17 that the kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. There’s no mention of tears, death or pain. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever be sad or hurt. It means that in those times God will comfort you with His presence in you and you can have supernatural peace and joy when most people would have despair. That’s what it looks like to live in the New covenant city, the New Jerusalem and what it means to be a child of God. I hope you are blessed by reading this. Grace and peace 2u. 

The Spiritual Kingdom of heaven on earth: The New Jerusalem 

In the last blog I mentioned that there are  clues in the Bible about the New Jerusalem that point to its reality as a present, spritual reality and not an explanation of eternity in heaven. Heavenly things are mentioned, but I believe they’re allegorical for the kingdom of heaven on earth. 

Before jumping into Revelation 21-22 I want to take a quick look at Ezekiel’s vision of the restoration. Something to keep in mind is that Ezekiel’s vision parallels John’s vision (Revelation) in many ways. Ultimately, they were both shown prophetic visions of Jerusalem’s destruction and the New covenant city, the New Jerusalem. In chapter 40 Exekiel is shown “a structure resembling a city” (verse2). Then in verse 5 he explains it as a temple. 

It’s strange that a temple structure would resemble a city. Was he seeing a temple, or was it a city? I think but was both. The city is the new temple. When you look at art you have to take a step back to see the full picture. That’s how you properly interpret biblical visions, which are given to us like artwork. All the following details and measurements mentioned by Exekiel may have meaning, but for the sake of understanding the visions as a whole, I’m not going to focus on that now because the measurements are not the main point. 

The main point is that the city is the new temple, meaning the New Jerusalem is now God’s dwelling place on earth and no longer the physical city with the physical temple. 

In Him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:22 (CSB)

In the last blog I wrote about the millennium (“1000 year” reign) and how it is figurative. There are aspects of the New Jerusalem that help us see that it is also a figurative spiritual reality. 

I probably will not cover everything in this blog, but we’ll go through Revelation 21-22 to look at the aspects of the New Jerusalem to see how we are living this out on a daily basis. That is, those who surrender to Jesus and seek to advance His kingdom daily. 

In Revelation 21:1 John writes that he saw “a new heaven and a new earth.” In order to understand this statement correctly you have to put yourself in the shoes of an ancient Jewish person. To ancient Jews, “heaven and earth” was an idiom for the temple (here’s more info on that 

If heaven and earth (aka the Jerusalem temple) had passed away, what then would be the new heaven and earth, the new temple? If you study it out you’ll find that in Jewish literature, the temple was the place where heaven and earth came together. Well, now heaven and earth come together in the children of God, the church who are individually called the temple of the Holy Spirit in the NT and the church corporately is also called God’s dwelling place in the spirit as the above verse states. 

John says that he saw the New Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven from God.” To me, that’s a picture of something gradually taking place. It wasn’t past tense, but present tense. I believe there’s a reason it was shown to John in this way. It’s like the leaven Jesus mentioned in Matthew 13 that works itself through a batch of dough until the whole thing is leavened. The leaven is the kingdom of God, the dough is the world being transformed by it. The kingdom of heaven is advancing and has been since the days of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:12). I believe it will continue to advance until the final day when Jesus does come and set His feet on the earth and summon all of the dead to awaken for judgment. Some will be resurrected to eternal life, some to eternal judgment. 

I do not think this is something that will happen imminently (any day) because I know that Jesus will return for a bride who is ready and I believe the world will be as close to heaven as it can possibly be. Jesus’ instruction for us to pray “…on earth as it is in heaven” was not just a fancy prayer. I believe that’s what He really wants, it’s what He had in the beginning and He will have it again. I’m not saying the world will be a perfect place, but the Bible tells us that the “world will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” This may sound crazy, but faith is crazy. If what we’re believing for doesn’t seem totally impossible we need to widen our perspective and realize who our God is. Jesus said, “what’s impossible with man is possible with God.” 

That’s it for now. We’ll pick up this discussion over the weekend or early next week. Grace and peace 2u.

If not the last days, what days are these? Part II: the question of the millennium 

Imagine attending a forty day conference with the resurrected Christ as the guest speaker. That would be amazing, right? The topic of discussion for the whole conference? The kingdom of God (or heaven) So, what is the kingdom of God? Commentary from the ESV study Bible says this: 

The “kingdom of God” means not an earthly political or military kingdom but the present spiritually directed reign of God, gradually transforming individual lives and entire cultures through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

With this explanation in mind I must say that the most damage done to the kingdom of God does not come directly from the devil, but through Christians who have the wrong understanding of the kingdom. Imagine an earthly kingdom that was impenetrable by enemy forces. It had a wall so high and so thick that enemies wouldn’t dare to try and invade. This kingdom has a military ten times more powerful than any other in terms of weaponry and skill in war. A kingdom this powerful could only be stopped by people inside its walls. 

I’m not saying that the kingdom of God can ever be stopped, but what I am saying is that the advancement of the kingdom slows down when believers take on wrong mindsets about it. The Jews in Jesus’ day had the wrong mindset about the kingdom. They envisioned the Messiah as a political king who would come and defeat the Roman army and deliver them from Rome’s oppression. They had David in mind, and since the Messiah was called the “son of David” they thought it meant He would bring the same sort of military advancement that David brought. 

Jesus did not come to defeat Rome. He came to defeat Satan, sin and death

In our day many believers have the idea that right before Jesus comes the world will get so evil that He will have to come and rapture His people, destroy darkness and set up His throne in Jerusalem where He will reign for 1000 literal years. Then the final judgment will come and then the New Jerusalem will come down from heaven ushering in the eternal state of the new heavens and the new earth. 

The mistake Jews in Jesus’ day made is the same mistake I think we are making today. That is, believing that the kingdom will come in a way that is visible to the eye. Jesus directly addressed this issue in Luke 17:20-21:

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” – Luke 17:20-21

When John says in Revelation that he saw the New Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven from God” people imagine a physical thing taking place, but that’s not how the kingdom is. We can dive into this by looking at a few different points:

  • The 1000 year reign 

First of all we must understand that the number 1000 is rarely used literally in the Bible unless it involves counting money or other possessions (as in Genesis 20:16). It often symbolizes a large quantity or the whole of something, like in Psalm 50:10 where it says God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Literally speaking, God owns the cattle on all the hills. Another example is in Psalm 84 that says a day with the Lord is better than a thousand elsewhere. A day with Him is really better than eternity elsewhere. 

The next thing we must understand is the nature of the thousand years. It says in Revelation 20 that during the thousand years Satan is bound and imprisoned, and that the saints reign with Christ. It’s also called the “first resurrection.” 

What it doesn’t say is that there will be any type of “golden age” or fairytale-like peace on earth. We must remember that peace is not the absence of evil, but the presence of Jesus. 

Looking at these characteristics of the thousand years we can better understand what is going on. When it says that Satan is bound it mentions that he is bound so that he “might not deceive the nations any longer” (ESV). The ESV is the only version I’ve found that says it this way and I’ve researched it and this is what the original Greek also says. 

What does it mean that he might not deceive the nations? Well, I think it means that Satan is bound up by anyone who believes he’s bound. When you consider the fact of how the gospel has been spreading across the earth for 2000 years this makes sense. In the news we hear about how bad ISIS, but the reality of heaven is that more muslims are coming to Christ today than ever before! Matthew 16:19 explains it perfectly:

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.” –NASB

When a person acts in faith and confronts evil forces by binding them, Jesus says that binding is past tense for that person. Think about it from opposite perspective. What if He said, “…whatever you do not bind on earth will not have been bound in heaven…” That puts this idea into perspective. Jesus bound Satan, but it’s our job to keep him bound and to keep the seal on the pit he’s in. 

You mean I have to actually take action??  Yes. This is why prayer and the spread of the gospel is so important and so much more powerful than we know. People, cities and nations are greatly impacted by the prayers and actions of the saints. 

  • The first resurrection 

I mentioned earlier that part of the nature of the thousand years is that it is called the “first resurrection.” Jesus clearly defines the two resurrections in John 5:25, 28-29. He says: 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live… Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. John 5:25, 28-29

The first part of this passage is about salvation. That hour is now, when spiritually dead people hear the voice of Jesus through His disciples and they come to life spiritually. This is the “first resurrection” where people come to life spiritually and reign with Christ. The second part is about the final judgment when people will come out of their graves and stand before God to face judgment also explained in Revelation 20. 

Revelation 21-22 explain the New Jerusalem. I believe the New Jerusalem is God’s prophetic explanation of the church and the kingdom of heaven. There are certain elements of the New Jerusalem that give us clues that it is not a description of eternity in heaven, but an allegory of life in the kingdom of heaven on earth. For this blog I think I’ve covered enough and will write another blog totally focused on the New Jerusalem. Grace and peace 2u.

Stay tuned…

If not the last days, what days are these? Part 1

Often, when I tell people that we are not living in the last days the first question they ask is, “Then what days are we living in?” That really is a great question and it shows a desire to know and understand what God is up to. First, we must understand where the term “last days” originates. It comes from the NT. One of the major passages with this term is Hebrews 1:1-2:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 

From this passage we understand that the term “last days” was used to explain the time when Jesus walked the earth. The questions then must be asked, if the last days were 2000 years ago, are we still in the last days? When did the last days begin and when do they end? 

There’s another term that we have to understand and that is the one found in Matthew 24:30 where it says Jesus will be seen “coming with the clouds.” That terminology originates with the prophets. Isaiah said, 

An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. – Isaiah 19:1

God never literally rode into Egypt on a cloud. This was a prophecy of Egypt being defeated, which was revealed in a deeper way through Jeremiah in chapter 46 of his book. God used the Babylonian army to bring down Egypt at that time. When God wanted to bring judgment on a nation for its evil He would raise up an army of another nation to go in and destroy the evil nation. His “coming” was with the armies He raised up. 

In Leviticus 26:31-32 God warns the Jews that if they continue in rebellion He himself would devastate the land and lay their cities waste (check out my blog titled “Why God is misunderstood” for background on how the Jews ended up in the most undesirable type of covenant, which brought their destruction). 

When most people read passages in the Bible declaring the destruction of cities (like Zephaniah 1) they make the mistake of assuming that God is declaring the end of the world. The reason why is God often used words like, “I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth.” In both the Old and New Testaments English translators chose poor wording. The original language read “land” instead of earth, especially when a specific city is mentioned. This changes the perspective on many passages in the entire bible that deal with the destruction of cities. 

One very important thing to consider is that when John wrote Revelation he only used the word “cosmos” (or world) 3 times. However, he used the term “land” (translated as “earth”) over 60 times. However, in the gospel of John there’s a switch and “cosmos” (whole world) is used instead of “land” because Jesus is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the entire world. 

There’s actually not one passage in the Bible that declares the destruction of the entire planet

With this background information we can clearly see that Revelation is not about the end of the entire world, but about the end of the world of the Old Covenant. I say that because when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD the temple and all the elements of old covenant worship were also destroyed. 

The “last days” mentioned in the New Testament were not about the last days of the world, but about the last days of the Old covenant world. During the time the NT was written both the old covenant and the new covenant were being walked out. As long as the temple was still standing the old covenant would continue to make it difficult for early Christians to fully engage in the new covenant. 

The solution for such a problem was for the temple to be destroyed. At the time of Jerusalem’s destruction and the destruction of the temple the Jews in Jerusalem had become so corrupt that the historian Josephus said if God hadn’t destroyed them, the earth would’ve opened up and swallowed them. Part of the wickedness of the people was that they assumed they were righteous because of the temple, which was a wonder of the world at that time. History shows us that the temple had become a major hindrance. 

The NT was completed just before the total destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and the religious system of Judaism altogether. The records of the priests were destroyed, so there’s no way to know who can rightfully be priests. There’s no way back to that old system. This is the meaning of the term the “last days.” The writer of Hebrews wrote this about the Old Covenant:

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8:13

It vanished away when Jesus rode in with the Roman army and destroyed the city and the temple. The way it happened is very similar to the way God came with the Babylonians and destroyed the temple in the Old Testament. 

With the temple and the corrupt religious system that crucified Christ completely out of the way, we now have the New Covenant, the New Jerusalem, the kingdom of heaven on earth. 

The second part of this message will cover the topic of the New Jerusalem and the kingdom of heaven and how it operates and advances. 

Two good sources on this topic are: “Raptureless” by Jonathan Welton and “The Last Days according to Jesus” by RC Sproul. 

Stay tuned…