UNDERSTANDING THE TIMES – Part 2

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We, the disciples of Jesus Christ, are Kingdom expanders, not nation builders. The gospel’s proclamation and the exercise of Jesus’ divine power through the Holy Spirit contributes to the continuing increase of Jesus’ Kingdom. Kingdom expansion is not dependent on human political power or military might.

 

There is a thought-provoking dialog between Jesus and His disciples before his betrayal.

“And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, “Nothing.” Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.” So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35–38

Concerning the occasion of Jesus’ betrayal, we read,

“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:10–11)

“But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52–53)

Why did Jesus instruct the disciples to purchase swords and then rebuke Peter for using the sword? Once again, I think that Jesus was setting up His disciples for a teachable moment. He only needed one sword and an over-eager follower like Peter to make His point. His Kingdom would not grow through human might, whether it be military might or the power of the ballot box.

Today, here in the USA, I observe Christians trying to build a Christian nation through the ballot box’s might. This focus is not the priority of this era for the Body of Christ. The USA is a modern democracy designed to be neutral regarding religion. The founding values of the USA are not unique to Christianity. Many of the first settlers were fleeing nation-states and state religions that persecuted them for their faith and not bowing to state-enforced Church authority.

Individual Christian citizens within a democracy should faithfully exercise their responsibilities as citizens. They should seek to make their democratic systems the best they can be. Jesus’ priority for His Body is not to create Christian nations. Jesus’ prime concern for His Body is that they increase His Kingdom’s population. The Christian community represents a wide diversity of political worldviews and priorities. There is a myriad of political issues about which to be passionate in every nation. Individual Christians should follow their unique political passions as they engage in the political process. A follower of Jesus must not assume that all believers should agree with them, demonize those who disagree, and couch the democratic process in terms of spiritual warfare. That is manipulative and unfair to the democratic political process and is quite arrogant. The local Body of Christ must not become a PAC (Political Action Committee).

In this age, the Kingdom priority for the Body of Christ is the global expansion of Jesus’ kingdom through the gospel’s proclamation and the demonstration of His power.

The following verses inform my understanding of the end of this age. Other references often attributed to the end of this age refer to the Old Covenant era’s end. The “last days” referred to in Jesus’ day and the pre 70 AD church relates to the Old Covenant’s last days. Jesus came to legally fulfill the Old Covenant through His earthy life, His death on the cross, His resurrection, and His ascension to the throne of heaven. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD ended the Old Covenant ritual’s earthly practice.

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17)

On the occasion of Jesus’ ascension into heaven, following his post-resurrection earthly ministry, two angels (presumably) make an important announcement about Jesus’ return to earth.

“And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10–11)

The Apostles Paul predicts a day in the future when there will be a significant change affecting both living believers and those believers who have previously died.

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52)

Looking forward to this event, Paul reminds believers of their spiritual citizenship.

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”  (Philippians 3:20–21)

Paul describes that future day with these words.

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)

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The Greek word translated here as “caught up” is sometimes translated as “raptured,” but that is not the term’s meaning.

Theologian Harold Eberle writes,

6D90DA16-29BA-4D78-905C-956A1FB6E273“It says we will be “caught up” to “meet” the Lord in the air. This same term “meet” (apantesis, in Greek) is used when Paul was traveling to Rome:                                            “And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and the Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage when he entered Rome.”        (Acts 28:15-16)                                                                   Similarly, the word “meet” is used twice in the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13). There we read how five wise virgins went out to “meet” the bridegroom. They did not go with him to fly away to another location. Rather they met and welcomed him.                                                                                                                 It is in this same sense that Christians will meet the Lord in the air—not to fly away with Him—but to welcome Him and then accompany Him back down to earth. In other words, Jesus is truly coming back to earth.”                                                                                                  Victorious Eschatology – Worldcast Publications, Yakima, WA © 2006 (pp. 306-307)

At the end of this era, Jesus returns to earth, joined by all His followers from this era. Supernaturally transformed for life in the new age, His disciples accompany Him back to the planet. Significant events mark the end of this age and the age to come.

“But now Christ is risen from the dead and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”               (1 Corinthians 15:20–28)

When Jesus returns to earth, He will reign until all He subdues all His enemies. He accomplishes this by ending all delegated rule (arche), authority (exousia), and power (dunamis) on the earth. Even in the age to come, Jesus’ priority is not to make earthly nations “Christian.” It is to solidify His Kingdom. Jesus’ heart motivation is to prepare His kingdom as a purified offering of worship to His Father.

This exercise of royal authority by Jesus, the incarnate Son of Man and Son of God, is the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 8:6.

“You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.”

This authority has entitled humanity has since its creation. Humankind has never completely fulfilled this mandate. Once Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, establishes Himself as the supreme leader on the earth, He will offer “all-things-subjected” to His Father.

 


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