#9 ~ The Workers of the Kingdom

#9 ~ The Workers of the Kingdom

Have you ever had a job where it did not seem that that the work was divided equally?
Have you noticed in church that some people seem to be doing a lot of work while others do hardly anything at all?  How do these situations make you feel?

Note:  Everybody took the bait on these opening questions.  Everyone in the class had some story about some slacker at work that got away with something that they felt was wrong, or they told about how they were working harder than others, having to do the job of someone else, etc.  It was the perfect setup.

Matthew 19:16-22 ~ The Rich Young Ruler.  Where else have we heard Jesus use this phrase to sell everything you have?  See Matthew 13:44-45.  Where else has Jesus used the phrase “treasure in heaven”?  See Matthew 6:19-21.  What is the point that Jesus was making to this man?

Matthew 19:23-30 ~ What are we going to get?  After seeing how the rich young ruler left without following Jesus, this prompts Peter to ask the question.  The twelve disciples had left everything to follow this Man.  Jesus states that the twelve disciples have very special positions in the Kingdom of Heaven, and this is corroborated by Luke 22:28-30.  Jesus states that anyone who has left behind anything for His name will receive 100 times that plus eternal life.  Then Jesus has a “but” statement.  But many who are first will be last and the last will be first.  The disciples were the first.  No one could be earlier than them in following the Messiah as the gospel of the kingdom began to be preached, see Luke 16:16.  Based on this passage, do you think the twelve disciples will have a special place above everyone else in the Kingdom of Heaven?

Matthew 20:1-16 ~ The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.  Do you think it’s fair that no matter how hard or long you work, that everyone gets the exact same payment?  Can you relate to those who are grumbling about having done more work than the others?  What were the terms under which you entered the Kingdom of Heaven?  What did God originally promise to you when you repented of your sins?  Why do you think we get jealous when we see someone else get more than we think they deserve?  On judgment day, what do you think it will be like to be one of the twelve disciples and be required to wait until everyone else gets their reward first before getting your reward?

Matthew 18:1-4, 19:13-15 ~ Become like little children.  When we humble ourselves and repent, should we make a deal with God about which position we want in the Kingdom of Heaven?  Arguing about position is contrary to the Kingdom of Heaven itself.  When Peter says, “What will we get?”, Jesus affirms that they will have special places, but quickly reproves the notion that some will have more than others.  Jesus tells this parable to show that everyone is getting paid the same.  There are other passages that speak of rewards and crowns, but here in this passage, Jesus is correcting those who want to place themselves above others and forget that God can be generous to whom He wants to be generous.  Wanting position in the Kingdom of Heaven is trying to control the generosity of God.

Matthew 20:17-19 ~ Jesus as the Lowest Servant.  Jesus predicts His death as He has before, see Matthew 16:21-23.

Matthew 20:20-23 ~ The Request of the Sons of Thunder.  Why this request now?  Could it be that the disciples only heard the part about sitting on twelve thrones and forgot about the part where everyone is getting paid the same?  We should commend them for acting on faith that this Kingdom of Heaven is real.  Why do you think this request was made?  What does the response of Jesus show about the Kingdom of Heaven?

Matthew 20:24-28 ~ Greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven.  How does Jesus explain greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven?  Should a worker for the Kingdom of Heaven grumble or complain?  Do you complain about things in our church when you think it’s not fair?  Did Jesus complain as He was laying down His life?  Since Jesus was the Lowest Servant, He gets to be the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is contradictory to lay your life down as a servant for the Kingdom counting it as nothing and to brag about yourself at the same time.  If you are concerned about your position in the Kingdom of Heaven, your mind is not focused on the Kingdom of Heaven at all.  Our focus should be on the work to be done in the here and now.  We should be making ourselves servants of everyone around us.  Once we place ourselves lower than those around us, making ourselves their servants, then we are fit for the Kingdom of Heaven.  We will have no problem with everyone getting paid the same once we understand that we are God’s servants and He sets the terms of work, rewards, and positions.  He decides it all.

Terminology.  Let’s look at the terms used in this passage which seem to be equitable.  Matthew 19:14, “To such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.”  Matthew 19:16, ”Have eternal life.”  Matthew 19:17, “Enter life.”  Matthew 19:21, “Have treasure in heaven.”  Matthew 19:23, “Enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”  Matthew 19:25, “Enter the Kingdom of God.”  Matthew 19:25, “Be saved.”  Matthew 19:28, “In the new world” or “In the regeneration.”  Matthew 19:29, “Inherit eternal life.”  What terms are not here that we use frequently?  Note: I was looking for answers like “get saved”, “ask Jesus into your heart”, “become a Christian”

John 3:1-21 Terminology.  Now let’s look at the terms used interchangeably in this passage.  John 3:3, “Be born again” and “See the Kingdom of God.”  John 3:5, “Born of the Spirit” and “Enter the Kingdom of God.”  John 3:15, “Have eternal life.”  John 3:16, “Have everlasting life.”  John 3:17, “Be saved.”  John 3:18, “Not condemned.”  Why do you think we shy away from using the term “enter the Kingdom of Heaven” in our Christian talk?

The Kingdom work in the here and now.  This parable and others suggest that we work for the Kingdom of Heaven in the here and now, yet our rewards are future.  There is a future aspect to this Kingdom of Heaven while the work is being done by faith without being able to see it.  The present aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven shows that we have the power to work for Christ.  Matthew 12:28 and Luke 11:20 show that Christ and those who followed Christ cast out demons by the power of the Kingdom of God.  As the devil is held in check, being bound by Jesus Christ as we minister, we do the work of the Kingdom of God.  The church should be the place where we serve each other in love, counting everyone else as being more important than we are.  It should not bother us to place others as being more important than ourselves.  If God decides to be generous to everyone around us, we should only rejoice for them, not be jealous for our own sakes.

The Kingdom of Heaven is backward to the kingdoms of this world.  It is a foreign concept to us.  No matter how hard or for how long you work, everyone gets paid the same.  There are no grudges or unforgiveness in the Kingdom of Heaven either.  Everyone is treated equally, and nobody begrudges anybody about anything.  We all exist peacefully with no jealousy.  We all serve and never ask the question, “What am I going to get?”

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

P.S.  My friend suggested that I teach a series of lessons on the parables of Jesus as they related to the Kingdom of Heaven.  He felt they could be used to help strengthen our church for evangelism.  I knew there would be no curriculum that would teach these lessons the way I felt they should be taught.  So I asked God to give me the lessons He wanted me to teach.

I sat at my kitchen table for 2-3 hours one morning.  These lessons came very slowly.  I would pray and ask God, “What is the first lesson?”  After about 15 minutes, I would have the scripture passages that I believed God wanted me to teach.  Then I would spend 15-20 more minutes of praying and asking for God’s direction about the next lesson.  When I was done, I had 16 lessons from God’s word.

When I got to this lesson, I couldn’t believe it.  I said, “God, am I really going to teach this?”  God’s response was, “It’s right here in the word of God.”  I still paused.  I said again, “God, am I really going to teach this lesson to the class?”  God said, “Yes, it’s right there in my word.”

To teach people that no matter how hard you work for the Kingdom of Heaven that you will get paid (rewarded) the exact same as those that do very little seemed to be a very non-motivational lesson.  I hope you understand why a true servant is not focused on the reward comparison at all.

Posted in Bible, Parables, Parables of Jesus, The Gospel of Matthew, The Kingdom of God, The Kingdom of Heaven, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Psalm 90-91 in light of current Pandemic

Psalm 90-91 ~ A Prayer of Moses, the Man of God

I”m still working full time, but I’m not nearly as occupied with church now that we are essentially shut down.  What should churches be doing right now?  Some are claiming Psalm 90-91.  Is this applicable?  During what would have been our small group last Wednesday (which was cancelled), God gave me this lesson.  Maybe I’ll get to teach it in person one day.  Who knows?  But here it is for all of you.  Note:  This is basically an outline.  If I did teach this I would need to come up with some discussion questions and “fill in the skeleton” a bit, so to speak.

A Prayer of Moses, the Man of God

Psalm 90 has many interesting truths to it. Would it help us to understand this psalm better if we examined the context in which it was written? Let’s look at the truths and compare them to the circumstances that were occurring in the nation of Israel as Moses led them in the wilderness.

Psalm 90
I. The Eternality of God, Psalm 90:1-4
–A. God has always been and always will be
–B. Time is different for God
–C. God is the reason for our mortality
II. The Mortality of Mankind
–A. Our destruction comes from God, Psalm 90:5-6
–B. Our sinfulness is known to God, Psalm 90:7-8
–C. Knowing our mortality gives us wisdom, Psalm 90:9-12
–>>1. Wisdom will allow us to be satisfied with God, Psalm 90:13-14
–>>2. Wisdom will allow us to see the work that God has been doing through affliction, 90:15-16
–>>3. The beauty of God will be upon us, Psalm 90:17

Since this was written by Moses, we should study this in context. The Israelites were sojourners in the wilderness. They did not have permanent homes of their own. All they had was God for a dwelling place. At different points in the wilderness, the Israelites were rebellious and sinful which provoked God’s wrath in the form of a plague. The mortality of mankind was on display as God would strike down thousands in one day. “Carried away like a flood” or “cut down like grass” is how God would treat the sinful Israelites during these times of His wrath. In spite of this affliction, the children of Israel could be the beautiful people of God if they understood their mortality in light of God’s eternality.

Since Psalm 90 and 91 have no division between them, they are most likely one psalm. The subject matter continues. In Psalm 90, the focus was on God. In Psalm 91, the focus is on the ideal person who trusts God in the midst of the very same set of circumstances that were described in Psalm 90.

Psalm 91
III. The person who trusts in God, Psalm 91:1-4

IV. Things that the LORD protects them from, Psalm 91:5-10
–A. Snare of the bird trapper
–B. Deadly pestilence
–C. Terror by night
–D. Arrows by day
–E. Pestilence in darkness
–F. Destruction that lays waste at noon
–G. Evil or plague

V. Protection that the LORD provides
–A. They are under the shadow of His wings, Psalm 91:1-4
–B. Plagues not allowed near them, Psalm 91:7, 10
–C. Angelic protection, Psalm 91:11-12
–D. Walking unharmed through danger, Psalm 91:13
–E. Personal relationship with God, Psalm 91:14-16

VI. The Seven Plagues which came upon Israel which led Moses to write this prayer
–A. Numbers 11:1-3 ~ Taberah. This means burning. This plague came because of complaining.
–B. Numbers 11:4-35 ~ Kibroth-hattaavah. This means The Graves of Craving. This plague came because of lustfulness. The children of Israel wanted different food than the food God was providing for them. God told them what they were doing was sinful, then He gave them the food they wanted, then struck dead all those who went out to eat, Psalm 78:30-31, 106:14-15.
–C. Numbers 12 ~ Plague of leprosy. Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses. This plague came because of speaking against the leader that God had chosen.
–D. Numbers 14:36-38 ~ Plague upon the ten unfaithful spies. This plague came because of fear instead of trusting God. The ten spies and the rest of the congregation were afraid that their children would die from the giants in the land. God spared their children and as a sure sign that those ten spies were judged they were all struck dead at the same time, but Joshua and Caleb lived, see also Psalm 95:8-11, Nehemiah 9:17.
–E. Numbers 16 ~ Korah’s rebellion. This plague came because of rebellion against God’s chosen leader. This time there was an attempt to usurp the authority of Moses and Aaron. The emphasis is on the position that Aaron was given by God as high priest. There were three main ways God’s plague was executed. The first instance was that the earth opened up and swallowed the dwelling places of Dathan, Abiram, and Korah. Moses warned everyone to get away from their tents to give them time to repent. No one had to die since God gave them opportunity to leave, but they did not repent. The second instance was the men who wanted to burn incense at the tabernacle were burned. God had ordered that only priests, Aaron and his sons, could burn incense at the tabernacle. Nevertheless, 250 men tried to take this authority upon themselves. The glory of the LORD appeared there and God commanded Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from those men because He would consume them. At first God was going to consume the entire congregation but Moses and Aaron interceded for them. Just after the earth opened up and swallowed the tents of those three, fire came out from the glory of the LORD at the tabernacle and it consumed those 250 men, Psalm 106:16-18. The third instance was on the following day after those events. The congregation began grumbling against Moses and Aaron blaming them for the deaths of the people the day before. A plague arising from the wrath of God began in the camp. Aaron himself had to offer up incense to appease God putting himself between the still living Israelites and those that the plague had struck dead. Standing in between the dead and the living, Aaron made atonement for the children of Israel and stopped the plague. This was a demonstration showing how God was satisfied with the intercession of Aaron as the high priest.
–F. Numbers 21:4-9 ~ The fiery serpents. This plague came because of impatience which resulted in complaining and speaking against the leadership. The LORD sent fiery serpents which caused the people to repent. Instead of taking the plague away, God made a way for anyone to be healed in the midst of the plague.
–G. Numbers 25 ~ The plague of Baal-peor. This plague came because the children of Israel were committing sexual sin with the Moabites openly in the midst of the congregation. As 24,000 were being struck dead, the people involved in this sin were unrepentant. Zimri and Cozbi were leaders in each of their clans within Israel and Moab respectively. It seems that their union was an attempt to take control of the leadership and have Israelites and Moabites look to them for leadership and for an example. Their statement was that this sin would now be accepted in Israel. Other Israelites seemed upset that this was happening as they were weeping, but Phinehas boldly took action and struck them both dead, Psalm 106:28-31.
–H. These seven plagues came because of complaining, gluttony, lack of faith, rebellion, fearfulness, impatience, and fornication, see I Corinthians 10:5-11, Jude 5, 16. The reason why these plagues stayed away from this category of people in Psalm 90-91 is because of the LORD’s protection, but also because these people kept themselves from these particular sins.

I don’t know why the Coronavirus is plaguing the earth right now. Observing Psalm 90-91 in context shows that the reason why these plagues were not coming upon a certain group of people is because of the nature of the plagues in the wilderness. The children of Israel would begin sinning as a people and the LORD would send a plague (His wrath) to correct them. Those that were not in sin would not suffer the plague because there was no need to correct them.

To use Psalm 90-91 as proof that those that belong to God will never suffer the effects of a plague is a conclusion that cannot be universally supported. Paul had an infirmity in the flesh as well as Timothy, see II Corinthians 12:8-9, I Timothy 5:23. Lazarus grew sick and died so that God might be glorified, John 11:1-4. There is a general principle that God protects His people. Sometimes God will spare His people from the effects of a disease or sickness. But for Christians to be foolish in the midst of a global pandemic because they think that God must always protect us is not wise. The original context of Psalm 90-91 is that of God striking those within Israel that were complaining or in some other sin, but those that trusted in God were not touched with that particular plague.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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#8 ~ The Kingdom is a Place of Forgiveness

I asked the class what they thought of the following quotes.  Do you agree or disagree with them.  The majority of the class readily agreed with all of them.  Read to the end to see why this may not be a good thing.

Quotes:
-How to forgive 101:  Every morning when you wake up say this, “Lord I forgive _______, because I want to. Not because they deserve it but because I don’t deserve to carry around this burden for them. Thank you for forgiving me and helping me to let go of my unforgiveness. Please do your work on their heart. In Jesus name, amen.”

-It took me a long time to understand what it means to forgive someone.  I always wondered how I could forgive someone who chose to hurt me?  But after a lot of soul searching, I realized that forgiveness isn’t about accepting or excusing their behavior… it’s about letting it go and preventing their behavior from destroying my heart.

-The hardest thing in life is to forgive. But hate is self-destructive. If you hate somebody you’re not hurting the person you hate, you’re hurting yourself. Forgiveness is healing.

-Unforgiveness is like having weeds in the garden of our soul. Weeds grow and reproduce until an entire garden is destroyed. If you want a garden of love, joy, and peace in your heart, you must get rid of all the weeds.

Matthew 18:15-35 ~ The passage we are studying is in the same context as the passage we studied last week.  The one sheep goes astray, and the Son of Man is concerned about seeking and saving that which was lost.  People must repent and become like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 18:15-20 ~ If your brother sins against you.  This passage is about reconciliation.  Compare verse 15 with Matthew 5:23-24.  What do these two passages have in common?  What are some of the differences?

Note:  In the class we spent quite a bit of time examining the differences between these two passages.  If you want to study Biblical forgiveness and reconciliation, I suggest you do this.  Very insightful.

If your brother has something against you, or if your brother has sinned against you, either way, seek reconciliation.  It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, seek reconciliation.  The follower of Jesus Christ will always look to make a relationship right, even before they come to worship God.  The passage then details how to handle a situation where someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ does not want reconciliation.  The second step is to take additional witnesses because of Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15.  The authority that Israel had to put people to death has now been transferred to the church.  But the consequences are to either forgive sins or withhold the forgiveness of sins by considering that person to be outside of the church.  The statement is quite stark:  If they do not want reconciliation, then they are not a part of the church.  I Corinthians 5 documents how Paul expected the Corinthians to put this teaching of Jesus into practice.  II Corinthians 2:5-11 shows how the recipient of this discipline was welcomed back into the church after he repented.  In II Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul invokes this language of “two or three witnesses” to demonstrate the seriousness of his third visit.  What if there is an issue between two people and one person claims, “But I don’t have a problem, it’s the other person who has the problem?”

Note:  This question is a live wire because I have heard Christians say this.

Matthew 18:21-22 ~ How many times?  Peter asks a generous question.  How many times do we have to forgive?  What about the person who is just sinning over and over again?  They say they are sorry, but they do it again.  What do we think about people like this?  Jesus said something very similar in Luke 17:3-5.  In this passage it states that if he repents seven times each day you must keep forgiving him.  Immediately after this the apostles asked the Lord to increase their faith.

Matthew 18:23-35 ~ The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant or the Parable of the King Who Forgives.  Let’s look at the amount of money being discussed here.  Most commentaries will say that a talent is a year’s wage or more.  To say that someone owed 10,000 talents was essentially a debt that would take at least 10,000 years to pay off by working from dusk until dawn every single day.  In essence, this debt could never be paid back in a lifetime.  When the servant asked for mercy stating that he would pay everything back, the King knew that there was no way this servant could pay it back.  But the King had mercy because He is merciful, not because He wanted His money back.  The merciful King wipes away the entire debt.

Yet there was another debt.  The servant that had just been forgiven had someone who owed him.  This amount is 100 denarii.  A denarius was a day’s wage.  This debt could be paid back by working for 100 days, a reasonable commitment.  While 100 denarii is a substantial amount, maybe $10,000-$20,000, because we have the backstory of the Merciful King, it pales in comparison.  What if we started the story in Matthew 18:28-30?  What if all we saw were two people on the street and one of them owed this significant amount of money to someone else and they had been patient over a period of five years?  He finally had enough.  I’ve been patient with you, and I have every right to have you thrown in jail.  Enough is enough!  This would have been a common sight in those days, and even today we see this same occurrence in our court systems.  If we started the story there, the servant would seem completely justified in his actions.

For the follower of Jesus Christ, the story does not start there, but starts with the Merciful King.  God has forgiven a mountain of debt that we could never repay.  The consequences of our lies, gossip, evil thoughts, etc. could never be undone by 10,000 lifetimes.  We could never pay back God for His forgiveness.  He forgives because He is merciful.  Yet we walk down the street (figuratively speaking) and tell someone else, “You owe me.  You owe me an apology.  You owe me an explanation.  You owe me money.  You hurt my feelings.  You took advantage of me.” 

Compare Matthew 18:35 with Matthew 6:9-15.  Look specifically at Matthew 6:14-15.  What do these two passages have in common?  What are the differences in these two passages?  What about the person who says, “They don’t deserve forgiveness because they haven’t repented yet.”?  Or “That person is not a Christian and there is no way they will ever repent so I’m not going to bother.”?  Read Luke 23:33-34.

Luke 7:36-50 ~ The Parable of the Creditor.  Our failure to recognize the amount of debt we have incurred with God will result in very little love for our Lord.  When we understand the full extent of our sin, then we understand how great God’s love is for us, then we should have a great love for Him.  This love for Him is demonstrated by forgiving others.  If we fail to forgive others, we exclude ourselves from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Note:  We closed this time by asking the question of ourselves: How often do we sin against God?  How often do we want God to be merciful to us?  Now apply that to how merciful we are to others.  We constantly sin against our heavenly Father.  We want that constant mercy and forgiveness.  But how often we withhold it from others!

The quotes above fail to recognize the mountain of debt against God.  The focus of these quotes is about ourselves.  The quotes imply that we forgive because it’s best for us.  When we say, “They don’t deserve my forgiveness,” it’s implied that we do deserve God’s forgiveness.  If we have received a forgiveness that we do not deserve, we are commanded to offer a forgiveness that they do not deserve, not because it’s best for us, but because we have already received forgiveness from a Merciful God.

The Kingdom of Heaven is a place of forgiveness.  We live in a present reality of forgiveness because we know this place is a reality.  We know that one day those who forgive will gain entrance to this amazing place.  We can’t see it with our eyes, but we forgive by faith.  The church should be this place of forgiveness where we do not hold grudges against each other.  It should be a sweet place.

This statement that the Kingdom of Heaven being a place of forgiveness is a little bit misleading.  The Kingdom of Heaven is Forgiveness Itself.  I put the word “place” in there to help us make earthly sense of it.  But really, the Kingdom of Heaven IS forgiveness.  Wherever, whenever we forgive, the Kingdom is present.  This is why it is important to see the Kingdom of Heaven present in the ministry of Jesus Christ.  He had power to forgive people of their sins, and this is before He went to the cross, see Matthew 9:2.  In Matthew 9:2, the Kingdom of Heaven was present as He not only healed, but forgave.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

Posted in Bible, Parables, Parables of Jesus, The Gospel of Matthew, The Kingdom of God, The Kingdom of Heaven | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Where Is Europe Heading?

I won’t be teaching twice this Sunday.  That’s been the norm lately.  But now coronavirus has changed a few things.  In my spare time, I typed this up.  Watching and Waiting is the quarterly newsletter put out by Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony.  The following article by David McMillan was featured in Volume 29, No. 13, January-March 2019.

I wanted to make this available because there is a surge in the view that the Roman Empire was not the fourth beast of Daniel 7 and that there will be no revived Roman Empire.  People who criticize this view look at the European Union and see the end times Empire that will persecute Israel as being centered in the Middle East, specifically in countries like Iran, Iraq, and Syria.  My view is very close to the view of this article.  The Roman Empire was not confined to Europe, but was basically the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  This revived Roman Empire will be just that, not just Europe.  I have a couple of disagreements, such as I believe that the ten horns represent countries or nations and not just regions.  Overall, though, there are a lot of things that I believe are spot on in this article.  I like the term “Mediterranean Union” that is used just one time.  Check it out and see what you think.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:19

-The Orange Mailman

P.S.  There are a couple of typos, but those were in the text so I have tried to keep this in its original form as much as possible.

Where is Europe Heading?

(Part 1) – Geographically

By David McMillan

It seems that everyone has something to say about the future of Europe; but I want you to make no mistake that God also has much to say about what lies ahead for the European Union because this is a major theme in the prophetic Scriptures.

There are some who will want us to believe that we have no way of knowing what will happen in the future before the Saviour comes again.  However, that is not the teaching of the Word of God.  Because just as the Bible clearly foretold the details of Christ’s first coming, it also foretells the details of His second coming.  In fact the Bible foretells the second coming of Christ in even greater detail than His first coming.

Peter stated, ‘We have also a more sure word of prophecy: whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place’ (2 Peter 1:19).  It is clear that God by His Word has given us a light to guide us through the events of this dark end-time age and he exhorts us to take heed to these Prophecies.  In other words, we are not to ignore them and explain them away but rather we are to study them diligently and listen to them carefully.

So let us consider what the Scriptures reveal about the future of Europe.  Where is Europe heading?  What will current events lead to?  What are we to look for in the European Union in future days?  These are not questions where we are left in the dark with regards to the answer.  They are subjects upon which God has spoken and upon which much help and light is to be found in the Prophecies relating to the end-time.

We want to look in four parts at the question, where is Europe heading?  In this article we want firstly to think about where Europe in heading Geographically.

The Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is well known today as a holiday destination.  It is interesting that the word Mediterranean literally means ‘the centre of the earth.’  It is also important to realise that the Mediterranean Sea joins together the three continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa and the reality is that all three will be a part of the Union of nations, now known as the European Union, before the Saviour comes again.

It is especially important to understand that the Mediterranean Sea is the centre of the Biblical earth.  In the past all the great events of the Bible took place around its shores.

As it was in the past so it will be again in the future because all the great events of the end-time will also take place around its shores.

The name Mediterranean is not found in the Word of God but the same Sea is spoken of by other names and titles.  In the prophecy of Daniel we are told about the place of the Mediterranean Sea in the events of the end-time: ‘Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.  And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another’ (Daniel 7:2-3).  John also speaks about the Mediterranean Sea when he said, ‘And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea.’ (Revelation 13:1).  So here we have two noted prophetical witnesses, one from the Old Testament and the other from the New Testament, and they both establish that the Mediterranean Sea has a very important part to play in the events that will lead up to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Daniel describes the Mediterranean as ‘the Great Sea’ and in the Old Testament the Great Sea is a name or a title for the Mediterranean.  That can be established beyond dispute for us by the book of Numbers.  ‘And as for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border’ (Numbers 34:6).  Israel’s western border is ‘the Great Sea’ or what we know today as the Mediterranean Sea.

What Daniel saw in his vision of the Mediterranean Sea was four great beasts arising from it; and those four beasts represent the four great Gentile Empires of ‘the Times of the Gentiles’ (Luke 21:24).  Those four Empires are: the Babylonian, the Medes and the Persians, the Greeks, and the Roman.  Why did Daniel see those beasts arising out of the Mediterranean Sea?  It is because those four great Gentile Kingdoms arose out of the region around the Mediterranean Sea.

The Prophetic and Roman Earth
The last of those Empires, the Roman Empire, is the most significant because it covered the largest area and its borders extended to every shore of the Mediterranean Sea.  So it is important to understand that this is a vital area geographically in the Bible because this is an important area prophetically.  It is known to Bible teachers as the Prophetic Earth because it is the area where the prophecies of the end-time will be fulfilled.  It is also known as the Roman Earth because it is the area that was covered and ruled over by the Roman Empire.

Revival of the Roman Empire
In the details relating to the first advent of the Saviour we are told, ‘And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed’ (Luke 2:1).  Let me point out that the word ‘world’ that is used in this verse is not kosmos referring to the whole globe.  It is the word oikoumene that speaks of the Roman world or the Roman Empire; the part of the earth that Caesar had jurisdiction over.  So it is clear that this is a vital area in the study of the Scriptures especially the study of the prophetic Scriptures.  It is important to be familiar with this area and its significance and we want you watch carefully this region of the earth; because this is the region in which the Old Roman Empire will be revived in the form of the European Union.  When this Union reaches its final formation, all around the Mediterranean Sea, it will be divided up in to ten regions (not ten nations).  Those ten regions are set forth in the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image and the ten horns of the fourth beast that Daniel saw in his night vision (Daniel 2:41-42 and Daniel 7:7).  This is something that was never fulfilled in the old Roman Empire so it is yet to be fulfilled at the time still future to us.  It is also in that region that the events of the end-time will develop and unfold because just as the Roman Empire was on the earth when the Saviour came the first time, so it will be dominating the earth when He comes again the Second Time.

The Future Capital of Europe
The main centres of European government toady are in Strasburg and Brussels but that will not be so in the future because there is coming a day when the future capital of the Union will be located in modern-day Iraq.  This change of capital for Europe is revealed in Zechariah 5:10-11 where the prophet tell us, ‘Then said I to the angel that talked with me, whither do these bear the ephah?  And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.’  The Prophet foretells that the future capital of the Mediterranean Union geographically will be located in Shinar or Babylon.  The Prophet is here foretelling the removing of the trade centre (trade is represented by the ephah) to this new location in the Middle East.  Remember that Daniel tell us that the vessels of the Lord’s house were carried to Shinar by the King of Babylon (Daniel 1:2).  That leaves us in no doubt that Babylon and Shinar are one and the same place.

The esteemed first Secretary of the SGAT, Mr George H Fromow, often said, ‘Babylon is Babylon on the Euphrates not Rome on the Tiber.”  How important it is, in our understanding of these Scriptures and the events of which they speak, to see that they refer to actual Shinar and actual Babylon.

The Name Iraq
It is interesting that the name Iraq was given to that region by the British when they ruled there between 1920 and 1932.  The name came from the Scriptures and from an ancient city in that region named Erech.  The Book of Genesis, when speaking about the Kingdom of Nimrod, tells us, ‘And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar’ (Genesis 10:10).  The name Erech in this verse should be noted carefully because the modern name of Iraq is derived from it.

Bible Events in the Past
As you think of the region of Shinar or Iraq keep in mind that many prominent Bible events took place there in the past.  The story of the building of the Tower of Babel took place in Iraq.  We are told in Genesis that they built the Tower on ‘a plain in the land of Shinar’ (Genesis 11:2).

Also, Abraham was born and brought up in Iraq or Babylon.  Stephen, in his great sermon recorded in Acts, tells us of Abraham, ‘The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia’ (Acts 7:2).  Mesopotamia means ‘the land between the rivers’ (the Biblical rivers of Tigris and Euphrates) and it is another name for that region.  That means that Abraham was an Iraqi or a Babylonian and he was saved in that heathen land – and when the Lord commanded him to ‘get out of thy country’ (Genesis 12:1), it was Shinar or Iraq that the Lord was commanding him to leave.

In addition remember that Daniel, as a teenager, was carried to Shinar at the same time as King Jehoiakim and the vessels of the Lord’s house.  They were all carried to Babylon together by King Nebuchadnezzar.  Then some year later Daniel was promoted to the position of Prime Minister of Babylon.

The city of Nineveh which was the ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire was also in this area of the earth.  The Bible records that Jonah the Prophet was sent to preach a message of Judgment to that great city.  That means that the Lord sent Jonah as a Missionary to Shinar or Iraq.  Just think of the animosity between Israel and Iraq today.  Do you think that any Jewish Prophet today would want to go and preach to the Iraqis?  So you can see why Jonah ran away!  And as you think of the story of Jonah remember that God was merciful to Nineveh and it experienced one of the greatest revivals in history as the whole city ‘turned from their evil way’ (Jonah 3:10).  In this region that experienced a great spiritual revival there is going to be a great material revival at the time of the end as spoken of in Zechariah 5 and Revelation 18.

Future Events
It is clear that Iraq, as it is now known, has been the scene of many great Bible events in the past.  Just as this area has been prominent in God’s purposes in the past so it will be again the future.  The Genesis record of the Tower of Babel tells us, ‘and they left off to build the city’ (Genesis 11:8).  The verse suggests that at some time in the future that work would be taken up again and completed.  That is what we expect to see as a major part of the future development of the Union of nations.

As you watch for the signs of the end-time approaching you need to watch Iraq.  Keep your eyes on that area of the earth, because the rebuilding of Iraq and especially the rebuilding of the city of Babylon will be a clear sign that, ‘the coming of the Lord draweth nigh’ (James 5:8).  In a future day Babylon will be the capital of the European Union.

(In the next issue of Watching and Waiting we intend to look at where Europe is heading Financially.)

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#7 ~ The Kingdom Is for the Lost

#7 ~ The Kingdom Is for the Lost

Have you ever been lost? What are some things that we celebrate?
How do you relate to non-Christians? How do you think you come across to them?

The disciples must have been thinking about this “Kingdom of Heaven” quite a bit. In Mark 9:33-34, which may have been the same setting that we are going to read in Matthew 18:1-4, the disciples were arguing about who was to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. We should not overlook the fact that they believed in the reality of this Kingdom of Heaven because they were coming to Jesus asking questions about it. Based on their questions, though, it seems that some of the basic teachings of the Kingdom of Heaven were foreign concepts to them. This should be no wonder to us, because all we know is this world and the kingdoms of this world. They really are foreign concepts to all of us. See also Luke 9:46-48, Luke 22:24-27.

Matthew 18:1-4 ~ Little children are the greatest? The response of Jesus shows that the Kingdom of Heaven is not like the kingdoms of this world at all. The one who had no say, the one who was the least would be the greatest. In fact, unless each person is converted and humbles themselves, they will not even enter the Kingdom of Heaven. How can you be thinking about how great you would be while humbling yourself? The point of Jesus is that this type of thinking must be turned around, converted, before you can even enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In the context of what Jesus has been teaching, the point is that you must repent. Turn from your sins. Humble yourself. Once you do that you will not be arguing about who will be the greatest.

Matthew 18:10-14 ~ Jesus came for the lost. In this parable, Jesus is trying to convey to His disciples that the real rejoicing occurs when sinners are found and converted, when they humble themselves and repent. If the whole mission of Jesus was to come to seek and save that which was lost, how well is our church fulfilling the mission of Jesus? Which sheep out of the 100 was the greatest? Which one received the most attention? What does verse 14 teach us about the will of the Father?

Note: This was good discussion amongst a group of people who have been at the same church for a long time. The focus is not on the sheep who have been in the fold the longest, or on those who have never went astray. The focus is on the one who needed to be brought back.

Luke 15:1-2 ~ Jesus continues to eat and drink with sinners. The Pharisees have a big problem with the people that Jesus associated with. He already had the title of Friend of Sinners that we saw back in Matthew 11:19. Why do you think this was difficult for the Pharisees to accept?

Luke 15:3-7 ~ The Parable of the Lost Sheep. The parable is essentially the same as in Matthew 18:11-14, but the context is slightly different. How does this parable show the heart of Jesus as the Good Shepherd? What are some of the differences between the two passages? When was the last time you called someone to rejoice over the repentance of someone else?

Isaiah 53:6 ~ People are like lost sheep. How does this passage portray us?

Luke 15:8-10 ~ The Parable of the Lost Coin. In this parable, the person doing the seeking is a woman. It seems that the household riches have been entrusted to her. A drachma was a day’s wage. Think about how much you earn in a day’s work, and then think about this woman being entrusted with 10 days’ wages. One of them gets lost. This is not a little sum of money. It would be like losing a $100 bill or your cell phone. You would notify neighbors asking them to keep an eye out for it. You would search the whole house. When it is finally found, you would experience a huge sense of relief. Do we have this same sense of urgency when we realize that people are lost?

Luke 15:11-16 ~ The Parable of the Lost Son. Instead of a sheep that gets lost, or a coin that gets lost, Jesus chose a willfully disobedient son to portray something lost in this parable. How would you feel about someone who took advantage of a relative in this way?

Luke 15:17-19 ~ The Repentance of the Lost Son. Is there some selfishness in the reasoning of the lost son? If someone who had stolen half your goods came back and was asking forgiveness, how would you react? Do you think the son had some reservations about how he would be received?

Luke 15:20-24 ~ The Reception of the Father. How does the father receive his lost son? Where else have we seen celebration language like this?

Note: In the other parables we see wedding banquet language in relation to the Kingdom of Heaven.

This would be a great story if it ended there. It doesn’t end there, and self-righteous people are the reason why. Jesus has an additional part to this story to demonstrate how two people who seem to be in the same family can be at odds over how to welcome lost people into the family.

Luke 15:25-32 ~ The Older Brother. What do the actions of the older brother show how he felt about his younger brother? What do the words of the older brother show about his focus? Look at the words of the father in verse 31 and ask, was it enough for the older brother to be with his father, to belong to his father, and have everything that he had? Is it difficult to rejoice for someone else and not want anything for yourself? What was the last thing you complained about here at Evanston and what does it reveal about your heart?

What are the two things we must do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? (Repent and believe the gospel). Did the older brother see his need for repentance? See verse 29. Do you come across as self-righteous to non-Christians? How are you doing at seeking out the lost? When someone repents, how are you doing at celebrating?

Lyrics: There Were Ninety and Nine by Elizabeth Cecilia Clephane (1868)
1 There were ninety and nine that safely lay
in the shelter of the fold,
but one was out on the hills away,
far off from the gates of gold —
away on the mountains wild and bare,
away from the tender Shepherd’s care,
away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

2 “Lord, thou hast here thy ninety and nine;
are they not enough for thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer:
“This of mine has wandered away from me,
and although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find my sheep,
I go to the desert to find my sheep.”

3 But none of the ransomed ever knew
how deep were the waters crossed;
nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed thro’
ere he found his sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert he heard its cry —
sick and helpless, and ready to die,
sick and helpless, and ready to die.

4 “Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way
that mark out the mountain’s track?”
“They were shed for one who had gone astray
ere the Shepherd could bring him back.”
“Lord, whence are thy hands so rent and torn?”
“They’re pierced tonight by many a thorn,
they’re pierced tonight by many a thorn.”

5 But all thro’ the mountains, thunder-riv’n,
and up from the rocky steep,
there arose a glad cry to the gate of heav’n,
“Rejoice! I have found my sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back his own!
Rejoice, for the Lord brings back his own!”

If the Kingdom of Heaven is for the lost, how should we organize our church services and ministries?

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

P.S. Unless you understand that you are lost, you will never repent and believe the gospel. Unless you understand that you are lost, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If we are to reach this world for Jesus Christ and preach about the Kingdom of Heaven, we must put this at the forefront of our message. We are lost. Christ came for the lost, not the righteous.

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#6 ~ Doubts about the Kingdom

#6 ~ Doubts about the Kingdom

If I remember correctly, I started this session by asking how many people know that they are saved? Everybody in the class raised their hands. Then I asked how many had ever had doubts about their salvation. Almost everybody raised their hands. Then of course you can identify with John the Baptist as he later had doubts about Jesus as the Messiah.

John 3:22-30 ~ John the Baptist affirms the ministry of Jesus. For a significant period of time, the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus were contemporary. John’s mission was to point to Jesus that He might increase. Here is that familiar wedding banquet language that we have seen before. How confident does John the Baptist seem about Jesus being the One?

Matthew 11:1-6 ~ John the Baptist doubts the ministry of Jesus. This passage teaches us several things. First, not every disciple of John the Baptist left John to follow Jesus. Some still considered themselves disciples of John and not disciples of Jesus. Second, John had doubts about the identity of Jesus. Why might this be? What does Jesus offer as the proof for His ministry? Note that Luke 7:11-23 includes more information including that someone had just been raised from the dead which prompted the disciples of John the Baptist to go to him in prison with a report; and the fact that many people had just been healed that very day.

Matthew 11:7-11 ~ Jesus affirms the ministry of John the Baptist. The crowd witnessed these disciples of John the Baptist as they questioned Jesus. As they were departing, Jesus addresses the crowd concerning the ministry of John the Baptist. Many of them had gone out to hear John preach. He asks them why they went out there. It seems that Jesus liked to joke around since He suggests two ridiculous reasons why they might have gone out there. {Jesus asks if they had gone out to see someone in fine clothes. Take a look at magazines today and look at what type of clothes they wear. If you want to see someone in fine clothes, you are not heading out to the desert because John wore camel hair.} He finally gets around to asking if they went out to see a prophet. The answer is yes. Jesus quotes Malachi 3:1 in reference to John the Baptist. Jesus also had no problem praising John the Baptist.

Matthew 11:12-15 ~ The significance of John the Baptist. Jesus gives us the dividing line between the prophets and the law and the preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven. Now with the Kingdom of Heaven being preached, some type of reaction was demanded. The language here is not passive, but aggressive. You must seize it forcefully. It is not enough to sit there and do nothing. See also Luke 16:16-17.

Note: All of the dispensational models need to include this. Whatever your position, whatever kind of chart you make, you must apply Matthew 11:12-15 to your position on how the different covenants or dispensations fit together. The law and the prophets were only until John, but most of these models end them at the cross. When you come across something in scripture, instead of a long, complicated explanation as to why your chart is right and this passage is wrong, adjust your chart.

The Kingdom of Heaven was something that was actively occurring with the ministry of John the Baptist and in the ministry of Jesus Christ. There is no way around the language of Matthew 11:12 and Luke 16:16. He was healing to show the power of the Kingdom of Heaven was present with Him. In fact, all of His miracles served to demonstrate this. He was forgiving sins to show the presence of the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 12:28 is quite specific.

Matthew 11:16-19 ~ The parable of the children in the marketplace. Jesus has a little parable for those who sat through the ministry of John the Baptist and His own ministry without repenting. Children in the marketplace with flutes or other musical instruments would look to entertain, possibly for a bit of extra money. If people were not in the mood for something happy, like a dancing song, then they would switch to a sad song, or a funeral dirge in hopes of people being moved to tears, possibly being reminded of a sad time in their life. Some days, the people just sat there through the happy and the sad so they had this saying they would call to each other on days like that. Jesus compares His generation that sat through the ministry of John the Baptist and His own ministry with no reaction to those people in the marketplace. John the Baptist was quite the serious preacher. Jesus seems to be the exact opposite. He would eat and drink with sinful people like tax collectors. This got Him a reputation as “Friend of sinners.” This may have been why John the Baptist seemed to doubt His ministry. John predicted fiery judgment when the Coming One arrived, see Matthew 3:10-12. When Jesus came, there was no fiery judgment, but a lot of eating and drinking. Do you know people that it seems impossible to get some kind of reaction out of them? They have heard the serious preacher. They have been to the outreach event designed to get them to eat and drink while they hear the gospel. They sit there like a bump on a log with no repentance.

Matthew 14:1-12 ~ The death of John the Baptist. I include this mainly for continuity.

Matthew 16:24-28 ~ A death sentence for following Jesus. If Jesus is the Messiah, why is He promising a death sentence for anyone who follows Him? If you saw someone carrying a cross in the days of Jesus, there would only be one reason why: they were on their way to their own death. Instead of trying to avoid this death sentence, Jesus says that if you try to save your life, you will lose it. The word translated lose is really a much harsher word in the Greek usually meaning to destroy or to perish. Apollumi is a compound word from apo (separation) and olethros (destruction). Here are two examples as to how Matthew uses the word. Matthew 2:13, “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy (apollumi) Him.” Matthew 10:28, “And fear not them which kill (apokteino) the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy (apollumi) both soul and body in hell.” What Jesus is truly saying here is that if you take up your cross for your own death, you will save your life, but if you try to save your life, you will end up destroying yourself. Only by marching to your own death sentence to you avoid the destruction of death.

Matthew 17:1-13 ~ The dual nature of Elijah. The transfiguration which the three disciples witnessed prompted a conversation about the person of Elijah. The disciples know what the scribes are saying, but they want to know what Jesus would say. Jesus affirms that the scribes are correct, “Elijah truly shall first come and restore all things.” But, Jesus says that Elijah has come already. So which is it? Will Elijah come in the future? Or has Elijah already come in the past? This points us to the dual nature of prophecy. Sometimes, prophecy cannot be nailed down to one generation. Did John the Baptist restore all things? Is there an Elijah in the future that will come and restore all things? What are these things that he will restore? See Malachi 4:5-6.

Two opposing points of view. In one corner, we have Dispensationalism. This was popularized by C. I. Scofield and the publication of the Scofield Study Bible. What follows is a summary of this position in regards to the Kingdom of Heaven. When Jesus presented His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount concerning the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom had only been announced as at hand. “At hand is never a positive affirmation that the person or things said to be at hand will immediately appear, but only that no known or predicted event must intervene. When Christ appeared to the Jewish people, the net thing, in the order of revelation as it then stood, should have been the setting up of the Davidic kingdom.” Therefore the Sermon on the Mount applies to the Kingdom of Heaven, whenever it will be established here on the earth, meaning strictly future. The Sermon on the Mount has no application to the church, but only a moral application to Christians (page 999-1000 notes). It is only after the rejection of the message of the Kingdom of Heaven that the parables of the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 13 apply to the church. Up until this point, “The O.T. prophets saw in one blended vision the rejection and crucifixion of the King, … and also His glory as David’s Son.” Only here in Matthew 13 did Christ reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. These parables show the Kingdom of Heaven existing in mystery form until the end of the age, which we know to be the church. Only then at the second coming of Christ will the Kingdom of Heaven come and be present here on the earth. The church does not currently have the power of the Kingdom of Heaven present.

In the other corner we have Catholicism and even Reformed Theology. The Catholic Church teaches the Kingdom of Heaven as referring solely to the church. They insist that Israelites had perverted the meaning of the kingdom so severely that when Christ came He was correcting their view concerning the kingdom when He announced it as at hand. The Kingdom of God means the ruling of God in our hearts. The seed and initial gathering of this kingdom is the Church, founded by Christ to preach the gospel of Christ and bring Christ’s own means of salvation to the world through the sacraments. The Kingdom was enshrined in the Church and they began to speak of the church as the Kingdom of God. The Church is the divine institution whereby we may make sure of attaining the spirit of Christ and so win the ultimate Kingdom of God where He reigns without end in the New Jerusalem.

For those who may have guessed, I do not ascribe to either one of these positions. The Kingdom of Heaven was present in the person of Jesus Christ. His disciples participated in the ministry of the Kingdom of Heaven. The church (see lesson #16 when I finally post it) also participates in the ministry of the Kingdom of Heaven). Yet the reign of Christ is not yet fully manifested as we know it will be. That does not mean that the Sermon on the Mount does not apply to the church. Those disciples that sat there listening to the Sermon on the Mount are both Israel and the church. They repented and entered the Kingdom of Heaven by faith.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

Posted in Bible, Eschatology, Parables, Parables of Jesus, Prophecy, The Gospel of Matthew, The Kingdom of God, The Kingdom of Heaven | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#5 ~ The Power and Value of the Kingdom

#5 ~ The Power and Value of the Kingdom

John the Baptist and Jesus came preaching, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” They never explained what was meant by this kingdom. But can we understand it from His teachings?

Matthew 5:2-12 ~ The Beatitudes. Matthew places the Sermon on the Mount toward the beginning of his gospel. These teachings should give us some insight as to what Jesus meant since He speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven, although it never seems like He fully explains it. Jesus pronounces a series of blessings upon a category of people that we know to be His chosen. One of these blessings is that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to these people.

From the other blessings we can get a picture of what this Kingdom of Heaven might be like. Each beatitude puts the characteristic of the people first, then the characteristic of the kingdom second. We can overlap them to get a composite picture of each. The people that will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven are: Poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungering after righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and persecuted. The Kingdom of Heaven can be seen to be:
Verse 3: The Kingdom of Heaven.
Verse 4: In this kingdom people are comforted.
Verse 5: It is here on the earth (read Psalm 37 in its entirety).
Verse 6: In this kingdom people will be filled and satisfied.
Verse 7: In this kingdom people will obtain mercy.
Verse 8: In this kingdom people will see God.
Verse 9: In this kingdom the citizens will be called the children of God.
Verse 10: The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to these people.
Verses 11-12: It is a place of great reward. Note that the reward is currently in heaven, but this kingdom seems to be here on earth. See Matthew 16:27 and Revelation 22:12 for more.

Matthew 5:13-16 ~ The role of “The Blessed” while they are here on the earth. Jesus gives His followers instruction on how they are to influence the world around them. You are the salt of the earth, the flavor of the whole earth. You are what makes the world taste good. You are the light of the world. You are what allows people to see anything that would bring glory to God. Without you shining your light, the world is in darkness. Currently the Father is in heaven, but His followers (the ones to whom the kingdom belongs) are here on earth.

Matthew 5:17-20 ~ Kingdom continuity. It is true that John the Baptist and Jesus began a new thing with the preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven. However, this ministry will be a fulfillment of the law and the prophets. The subsequent passage explains how the righteousness of the Kingdom of Heaven is a matter of the heart rather than following the letter of the law.

Matthew 6:9-15 ~ The Lord’s Prayer. This may surprise you but the Lord’s Prayer which we pray has insight into the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven. What does verse 10 teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven? What do verses 14-15 teach us about those who will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven?

Matthew 6:33 ~ Seek first. The surrounding verses give a wide variety of things that people seek after. Food, clothing, treasures, money, all these things are second in comparison to the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

As mentioned before, Matthew includes seven parables of the Kingdom of Heaven all together in Matthew 13. We covered the first parable in a lesson focused on the Preaching of the Kingdom. We covered the second and seventh in a lesson focused on events concerning the end of the age. This leaves 3, 4, 5, and 6 which we will learn about in this lesson.

Matthew 13:31-32 ~ The parable of the mustard seed. The things that stand out here are the before and after picture of the mustard seed. Before, it is the smallest of all seeds. After, it is the greatest of the herbs, or greater than the herbs. It may seem insignificant now, but after it will be the greatest of all. If we correlate this with the beatitudes, what insights can we gain into being a peacemaker, showing mercy, forgiving others, and being meek?

Matthew 13:33 ~ The parable of the leaven. Jesus again wants to point out contrast. The leaven that would have been used would have been quite small. The amount of wheat flour was three measures, or three satons [which each saton is three gallons]. A bushel is a little over nine gallons, so think of a bushel. So this is nine gallons of wheat flour, probably the mixture which precedes dough. This little bit of leaven is taken and “hidden” in it, which it then in turn permeates the entire batch. How does the transforming power of the leaven relate to the beatitudes and the Kingdom of Heaven?

Note: I disagree with those who say that leaven must always refer to something evil in scripture. I worked in a bakery so I understand the power of leaven or yeast over the dough. A good baker mixes the ingredients first leaving the yeast out. Only after the dough is formed is the yeast added. The yeast permeates the already formed lump of dough.

Luke 13:18-21 ~ A Common Theme. It would make sense if these two parables had a common theme since they appear together in two different places. In both parables there is something seemingly insignificant which proves to be powerful enough to change the circumstances all around it. The tiny mustard seed becomes a full tree in which birds can nest. The leaven changes the entire lump of wheat to become edible bread. A good baker is relying on this little insignificant piece of leaven to make the entire batch of bread to be delicious. What we think of as insignificant in the here and now is powerful enough to transform. Forgiveness, mercy, meekness, and other such qualities the world despises, but they are the Kingdom of Heaven. These seem small now, but they will transform and be powerful in the end. If these two parables have the same basic interpretation, why did Jesus give them both to us?

Many times things are grouped in sevens in the scriptures. These groups of seven can also be broken into four and three. The seven seals in Revelation can be broken into the first four which each have colored horses with riders while the last three do not. With the seven trumpets, the first four are directed at the earth, sea, and trees while the last three each have a woe associated with it. Here in Matthew 13, the first four parables are spoken in the hearing of the multitude. After Jesus sends the multitude away, He gives the last three parables only to His disciples.

Matthew 13:44 ~ The Parable of the Hidden Treasure. In this parable the focus is on the knowledge that one person has while most others are ignorant of the value of this piece of land. He knows the treasure is there and is willing to do anything to gain it. He is joyfully selling everything because he knows in the end he will be rich. The value of this land is underestimated by everyone else. The actions by the one purchasing the land cannot be rationally explained to anyone else because they do not understand the value of the land.

Matthew 13:45-46 ~ The Parable of the Pearl. Like the last parable, the focus is on the knowledge of the merchant. He is in search of fine pearls and seems to have a knowledge that others do not have. Once he finds the one, he knows what to do. Why did Jesus give us two parables with the same meaning?

Matthew 8:18-22, Luke 14:25-35 ~ The Kingdom of Heaven before all. Do we really sell all that we have for the Kingdom of Heaven? These two passages portray a purposeful apprehension of discipleship. You leave behind everything and everyone. You take up your cross which was a death sentence.

Note: I presented to the class another interpretation for the parable of the Pearl (or merchant depending on what commentary you read). Some believe the merchant represents Christ who leaves heaven (sells everything) to purchase the church. They believe that the church is the pearl of great price, not the Kingdom of Heaven as I do. I am disagreeing with none other than Isaac Watts. If you read his classic hymn, Laden With Guilt and Full of Fears you see in the second stanza that he portrays the merchant as divinely wise reflecting this other interpretation of the parable. I stand by this simple interpretation that we as disciples are called to value the Kingdom of Heaven above all things. This is the thing for which we forsake all others. Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven.

I gave the example of someone calling people together to sell everything in their entire home to summon enough cash to purchase a field. It would make no sense for him to be selling couches, beds, furniture, appliances, etc. Why is he offering a discount on all of this stuff? The truth is that he needs the cash to purchase a field. Everyone else is left scratching their heads as to why he took this radical action. He sold everything? To buy that empty lot over there? It just sounds crazy. Until they find out he is now a millionaire.

To the world it makes no sense for us to value the Kingdom of Heaven above all things. We must place God’s Kingdom before this world and all of its pleasures. That is the interpretation of these parables that I hold.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

Posted in Parables, Parables of Jesus, The Kingdom of God, The Kingdom of Heaven, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Chris White

Fellow Prewrather, and podcaster, Chris White, took a 4 year hiatus but is back in action.  He blogs about the end times, specifically pointing out arguments and counter arguments for differing rapture positions.  It seems that he has returned with a fresh new energy for getting information out to all of us.  Note that if you scroll down through his blog, there will be essentially a 4 year jump in the dates.  Here is a link:

https://conspiracyclothes.com/nowheretorun/

The reason I noticed this is I got a pingback for my blog from his.  (I made that confused look that my wife likes to make fun of.)  I got over to his blog and saw the link, listened to the corresponding podcast, and realized he posted the link to provide his listeners with more information that he did not have time to delve into.

The article on my blog that he references is Revelation 14:14-16 Pictures the Rapture.  I had been putting forth this idea on different forums that I participate in and wanted one central post where all of the information could be found by anyone who wanted to read on this subject.  I had searched and had not found any article or any person who had something like what I envisioned.  So this post that I wrote took a lot of time and was motivated by faith.  Since that time many people have supported this idea that I have set forth in the article.  One of the subjects that I discuss is the parallel language between Revelation 14:14-16 and the parable of the wheat and the tares.

Chris White’s podcast has mainly to do with the parable of the wheat and the tares and the idea that this is the resurrection and rapture because of the resurrection language used in Matthew 13:43 which parallels Daniel 12:1-3.  I examine this as well in my article but my main focus is the language of Revelation 14:14-16.  In the final two minutes of his podcast Chris sent his readers/listeners to “The Orange Mailman which I highly recommend.  It’s one of the best Bible prophecy blogs on the internet.”

If you want to hear this high praise, or better yet, hear a podcast on how Matthew 24-25 cannot consistently support pretrib throughout the entire passage, and how Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 (The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares) must refer to the resurrection and rapture which occur after the time of tribulation because of the Daniel 12:1-3 parallel, then take a stroll over to this podcast right here.

Thanks for the hat tip, Chris.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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#4 ~ The Harvest of the Kingdom (Judgment Day)

#4 – March 24th ~ The Harvest of the Kingdom (Judgment Day)

It should come as no surprise that the Kingdom of Heaven comes with an aspect of judgment. John the Baptist and Jesus have been using language that suggests judgment and punishment. Verses that we have already covered include Matthew 3:10-12, 8:12, 10:15. As we are looking at the seven parables of the kingdom of heaven located in Matthew 13, we see that two of them have the interpretation that the judgment will occur at the end of the age. Before we get to these two parables, though, let’s look at language that Jesus has been using about Judgment Day, or The Day of Judgment.

It seems that the phrase “The Day of Judgment” originated with Jesus. There are hints of it in the old testament scriptures, but the phrase “The Day of Judgment” simply does not appear there. Some scriptures that are worth noting are Psalm 76:8-9, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Daniel 7:10, Malachi 3:5, but especially Psalm 96:12-13 echoed by Psalm 98:8-9 (which Psalm 92-99 seems to be one grand psalm portraying the coming of the Messiah). John and Jesus introduced the preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven and along with that there is this event that Jesus terms The Day of Judgment. Matthew uses the phrase the most, but it is also used by Mark, Peter, John, and Jude, see Matthew 10:15, 11:22, 11:24, 12:36, Mark 6:11, II Peter 2:9, 3:7, I John 4:17, and Jude 6. Paul has a very close equivalent worth mentioning found in Acts 17:31. Before we get to the parables, let’s look at two key passages in which Jesus uses this language.

Matthew 11:20-24 ~ Jesus condemns Galilee. For context, this is after the twelve disciples go forth from town to town preaching the gospel. Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were all located on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. These towns have had ample time and evidence to repent at the presence of the Son of God. Jesus describes a future judgment when cities which had experienced past destruction from God will be present as well. Tyre and Sidon had twice experienced God’s judgment. Isaiah 23 had foretold a destruction which came to pass in 722BC. Ezekiel 26-28 details a complete destruction which occurred at the hands of both Nebuchadnezzar II (a 13 year siege from 586BC-573BC) and Alexander the Great (332BC then later by Antigonus in 315BC). Sodom had experienced the wrath of God in Genesis 19. Given the wide time span here, how is it possible that all these cities will be present together on The Day of Judgment? Is it fair that Sodom was already punished by God but still must face The Day of Judgment? For those who want to study the cross reference of Ezekiel 26-28, there is a parallel language that Jesus uses to the language of Ezekiel. Tyre (Tyrus) was exalted to heaven, Ezekiel 28:12-19, but will be cast down to the lower parts of the earth, Ezekiel 26:19-21. Capernaum also was exalted to heaven but will be brought down to hades, or the realm of the dead.

Note: In the class it was generally agreed upon that the only way for all of these generations to experience judgment day together was the resurrection.

Matthew 12:38-45 ~ The Witnesses on The Day of Judgment. The cities that Jesus mentioned in the previous passage were recipients of God’s wrath. In this passage, the men of Nineveh escaped judgment because they repented. They will “rise in judgment” alongside the present generation to whom Jesus was speaking. They play the role of condemning the generation of Jesus. The Queen of the South refers to the Queen of Sheba which story is told in I Kings 10. She came from another country to seek out this king that God had set on the throne. The people of Capernaum didn’t have to travel anywhere, but instead the Son of God came to them. Jonah didn’t do one miracle, yet Nineveh repented. The Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon and rearranged her entire kingdom to find out the truth. The people of Galilee heard Jesus speak and witnessed countless miracles yet were not repentant.

Based on these two passages, what will The Day of Judgment be like? How does Jesus describe it?

In the class I led an activity. I gave three different sheets of paper with facts on them about a certain person. The first person was someone who had lived in Nineveh and had repented at the preaching of Jonah. I asked them a series of questions like, “So you don’t know very much about God?” “Yet you heard this Jonah person preaching to repent, is that right?” “Why did you repent?” The responses were something like, “I thought this God might give us a second chance. I heard we were going to be destroyed.”

The second one was the Queen of Sheba. I asked questions like, “So you lived in a faraway land and traveled all that way? Why did you make that long journey?” “Didn’t that take a lot of time and effort to travel all that distance?” “What did you find once you got there?” “Did you feel your journey was worth that long trip?”

The third one was a person who lived during the days of Jesus but had never repented. “So you know who Jesus of Nazareth is?” “Did you ever witness a miracle?” “Have you ever heard Him preach?” “What was the message that you heard?” And of course, “Why didn’t you ever repent?” The answers were something like, “Yes, I saw a miracle. Yes, I heard Him say that we needed to repent.” “I never thought it was that serious of an issue.”

Then I turned to the man from Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba. What do you have to say about this person? Both of you went through repentance or traveling a great distance to hear the truth. This person had the Truth walking through their own neighborhood and never repented. Is there any reason to withhold judgment?

Matthew 13:24-30 ~ The Parable of the Tares. This parable has some things in common with John’s parable of the threshing floor. In John’s parable the separation was between the grain and chaff on the wheat. Here the separation is between wheat and tares. The tares are darnell which is fake wheat. In both parables there is a gathering of the wheat into the barn. There is also a burning of what is thrown away, whether chaff or tares. Does it seem reasonable to apply this parable to The Day of Judgment about which Jesus has been speaking?

Note: There is a clear connection between the preaching of John the Baptist and that of Jesus. They were both prophesying a judgment by fire, or about The Day of Judgment.

Matthew 13:36-43 ~ The Explanation of the Parable. Jesus defines each symbol. (Note: This is a SS lesson designed to get people to search the scriptures for the answers.)
The Man who sowed good seed –
The field –
The good seed –
The tares –
The enemy –
The harvest –
The reapers –

What is the destination of the wicked? What is the destination of the righteous?
Note that we have encountered resurrection language twice in these passages. The men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South will “rise up” as in a resurrection. Here the righteous shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father, which would be the kingdom of heaven. Compare this with Daniel 12:2-3. This parable should give us great hope as far as our destination at the end of the age.

This parable seems to solve the problem of whether the kingdom of heaven was present during the ministry of Jesus or if Jesus was speaking of a kingdom that was completely in the future. The kingdom work is in the here and now in the field. Yet the kingdom is not completely pure. The judgment will occur at the end of the age and will include the righteous inheriting the earth while the wicked are cast out. The people of faith sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven but the wicked get thrown out into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The answer to the question of whether the kingdom of heaven is present or future is yes.

Matthew 13:47-50 ~ The Parable of the Dragnet. We have another parable of the kingdom of heaven which occurs at the end of the age. This parable was designed for the fishing village in which Jesus was living and the surrounding area. At least four of the disciples of Jesus were fishermen. This would have been a familiar sight to anyone living on the Sea of Galilee. Jewish fishermen practiced the Jewish law and separated the clean from the unclean creatures, see Leviticus 11:9-12. Gentile fishermen did not do this, therefore Jewish fishermen had a larger clientele. Simon, Andrew, John, and James had walked away from a very lucrative business to follow Jesus of Nazareth. The good get gathered into vessels akin to the wheat being gathered into the barn. The bad are thrown away and the interpretation here is the same: they are thrown into a furnace of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Again, the righteous (also termed the just) get to remain while the wicked are thrown out.

We are living during a time when the wicked and the righteous live side by side. How should these two parables affect our daily living? How should this future event affect our daily living? Have you ever had a time when you wished God’s judgment would come now? Do you think someone has wished God’s judgment on you? Is there anyone that you love that will experience God’s judgment on The Day of Judgment? How do you feel in the here and now knowing that some of your family and friends will be thrown out into the outer darkness? If you are called as a witness against someone that you love on the Day of Judgment, will you be able to say that you warned them? Based on everything we have studied today, what will the Kingdom of Heaven be like?

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

Posted in Day of Judgment, Eschatology, Judgment Day, Parables, Parables of Jesus, The Kingdom of God, The Kingdom of Heaven | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Riddle

A riddle in the classic style. If you know the answer, instead of typing it in the comments, please like or share the post. Thanks.

I cut off the head
of Lahmi’s brother.
Wrapped in a cloth
to wait for another.
Served with holy bread
to my new owner.
He took me to Gath
like a crazy loner.
Wielded by a man
who liked to sing.
Cut off the corner
of the robe of a king.
Can you be brought
to say my name?
If the answer is yes
you win the game.

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