Prophetic Insights

Key to Zion

16 August 2011

"Some Christians are very fond of the term 'Zion' as a name for the Church," wrote the Messianic "father" and scholar, David Baron of England, in the late 1800s. "They may be surprised to learn that 'Zion' in the Hebrew means a 'desert', 'barrenness', or, as it is translated in Isaiah 25.5 'a dry place'. " (1)

Today, in the Church, the term "Zion" continues to have a particular kind of currency...most usually it suggests some form or other of "triumphalism" or "gloriousness"? But David Baron's understanding leads us along an entirely different, salutary pathway...especially so far as prophecy and eschatology are concerned. In fact, it is a key to understanding life for Israel and the Church in the Last Days.

For example, in considering that text (Ro 11.26) which must be both seminal and central to any serious and bona fide study of final events, the picture painted for us indeed ends gloriously, but it is essentially grim.

"And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, 'The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob'."

(Note: Paul here quotes Isaiah 59.20-21, which reads, "And he will come to Zion as Redeemer..."? The most complete picture of the Lord's Second Coming is portrayed in both passages read together. He first of all comes "to" Zion, to Israel...and thence "from" Zion, to the nations!)

But what of this place He comes to? It is Jerusalem...rendered a "scorched earth" having been fought over and "strangled" right up to the hour of uttermost extremity, when Israel's Messiah intervenes to save (spiritually and physically) His beloved Jewish People.

"And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy...when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of a spirit of judgement and by a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and a shining flaming fire by night." (Isa 4.3-5)

"And I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls." (Joel 2.30-32)

"Therefore because of you (rulers who abhor justice, priests who teach for hire, prophets who divine for money) Zion shall be ploughed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins...It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains...and peoples shall flow to it...and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and for evermore." (Mic 3.12 - 4.7)

This is the consistent testimony of the Prophets in Scripture...the prophetic and eschatological template, if you will. That beloved Israel (accompanied by the Church) will pilgrim through a final, brief Passion before entering into her Resurrection (2), "raised from the dead" by returning Messiah, Himself "the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep"! (1 Co 15.20-23)

"Ho Ariel, Ariel, the city where David encamped...I will encamp against you round about, and will besiege you with towers...then deep from the earth you shall speak, from low in the dust your words shall come; your voice shall come from the ground like the voice of a ghost...and in an instant, suddenly, you will be visited by the Lord of hosts with thunder and with earthquake and great noise." (Isa 29.1-7)

"Behold, the Lord will lay waste the earth and make it desolate...The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws...For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten...Then the moon will be confounded, and the sun ashamed; for the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before his elders he will manifest his glory." (Isa 24)

"These are the words which the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah...'Why has every face turned pale? Alas! that day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it.' " (Jer 30.4-7)

"And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people (Daniel's) shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake." (Da 12.1-3)

"For lo, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall upon the that day I will raise up the booth of David ('throne' - Isa 16.5) that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old." (Am 9.9-11)

"I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle...his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem." (Zec 14.1-4)

I suspect that the term "Zion" only has triumphalist connotations for most Western Christians today for two reasons:

(i) Because "success" is their supreme goal... (idol?).

(ii) Because of its association with contemporary "Zionism", and its connection with the current State of Israel's "success" story.

Both expectations are to end in disappointment and disillusionment. The Church is not going to be triumphantly "raptured" prior to the time of great tribulation; nor is it going to succeed and take "dominion" over the whole earth immediately before the 2nd Coming.

The Church, along with Israel (people, nation and State), is going to plunge into the depths of the profoundest turmoil, adversity and difficulty, to there be chastened, preserved and finally rescued by our Lord Jesus Christ. He will return to a Zion made barren by and in His absence...but transformed by His presence into the earth's most exalted and beautiful city.

Any eschatology which rests on any other hope is false (a deception), and therefore will prove to be worse than no hope at all.

Until The King returns, Zion will be "barren"; by the eve of The Day it will have become a "desert"...along with most of the Middle East! But when He is enthroned, Zion will again be "David's fortress"...a place of utmost triumph and glory.

Why is it that the Church arrogantly persists in its totally selfish belief and expectation, that it will enter into its glory before The King enters into His? Such a view beggars belief ,and betrays a modern "gospel" which is all about our reward, and not at all about His!

"His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth. Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King." (Ps 48.2)

"It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it..." (Mic 4.1)

"On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: 'Do not fear, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.' " (Zep 3.16-18)

All hail, King Jesus! Come, Lord Jesus!

(1) "Israel's Present and Future" by David Baron (Morgan & Scott, London 1891)

(2) "And when they (my two witnesses) have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends from the bottomless pit will make war upon them and conquer them and kill them...But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up (lit. 'resurrected') on their feet." (Rev 11.7&11)

A Fiery Furnace

29 July 2011

(The series of five essays which immediately precedes this message may be read in "The Tribulation Church" at

The vehement contention of the last of the Last Days is going to threaten existence itself. It is going to push both Israel and the Church to the brink of the abyss of destruction. Therefore, any person (Jew or Christian especially) who actually believes that life on earth will be "business as usual" during this epoch, is either ignorant or crazy...or both!

That is why God is crying out for a revolution in and of the Church. In the days of our "infancy" (Ac 15), the leaders of the Christian Community miraculously embraced and implemented one such revolution, when they "legislated" for Gentiles to become Believers without first of all "converting" to Judaism. This was a monumental paradigm shift. Had these people been unwilling or incapable of making such a massive alteration, it is not unthinkable that Christianity would have remained a little Jewish Sect, which vanished in the inferno of the 69-70AD Roman siege of Jerusalem.

By the 1500s the Gospel was sinking into a quagmire of unbiblical dogma and religious culture. Fortunately, there were those then capable of being spiritually and intellectually stretched beyond measure and "overturned". These began to espouse an expression of Christianity in which the dispensation of the grace of God was not exclusively tied to and thus ordered and limited by a "professional" priesthood and its "legal" sacraments (i.e. "religious ceremony or act regarded as outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace").

Praise God for the shock waves the formidable, German Reformer, Martin Luther, broadsided into the "establishment" when he dared to believe and teach that "a poor serving girl, if she has the Holy Spirit, is as well able to understand the Scriptures as the Pope himself."

Similarly, as the calendar ticked over into the 20th C, there were believers who "got over" themselves and refused to panic when the Holy Spirit moved His Gifts out of the ecclesiastical museum, put them back on the front-burner, and turned up the heat to "high"!

The end of The End is the enthronement of Heaven's King for this planet, which will take place on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The challenges to existence itself during this season will therefore have their focus and locus in Israel...people, nation and State. Here are some of the reasons why:

(1) God has ordained that His Son, our King, will return to the acclamation of a believing, Jewish Jerusalem.

"For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.' " (Mt 23.39)

This passage of Matthew 23.37-39, contains three distinct prophecies from our Lord Jesus Christ. Two (His rejection by Jewish Jerusalem, and His abandonment of the city and its Temple to destruction and ruin) have already been plainly, and before the eyes of the whole world, fulfilled. The third will likewise be effected. But this will take place in the midst of horrendous, catastrophic conflict (which has been foreshadowed in WW2 and the Holocaust).

At the root of this lies (not only murderous, demonic anti-Semitism) but also "the prince of this world's" utter and complete hatred of the true King. (1) Jesus' enthronement means the devil's dethronement...and he will fight for his own existence, caring for the existence of no one else, not even God! This is no light matter to be addressed by a couple of cutesy-pie choruses, a franchised message, and a pot-luck dinner. It will require a revolution of and in the Church, according to Matthew 21.13, Mark 11.17 and Luke 19.46.

Israel's very existence is again about to be contested and threatened to the uttermost...and with her, existence itself on earth! "How can this possibly be?" I hear you dry-mouthedly enquire.

In the 1930s, a singular, Reformed theologian in Germany went toe-to-toe with the "antichrist" Hitler. His name was Karl Barth (1886-1968). Reflecting later upon this awful (and extremely prophetic) period of history, he wrote (2) that any denial of Israel was "a denial of Jesus Christ and therefore finally, of God Himself...The man who is ashamed of Israel, is ashamed of Jesus Christ and therefore of his own existence."

At present, among those who are sympathetic and supportive of God's Jewish People and the State of Israel, there is a call for the Church to return to its "Jewish Roots"? If this means anything other than a renewed cleaving unto Jesus Himself as the true root of the ancient Olive Tree (into which we "wild olive" shoots have been "grafted" - Ro 11) then the call is bunkum and hocus-pocus.

"If the root is holy, so are the branches." (Ro 11.16)

"The root of Jesse shall come, he who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles hope." (Ro 15.12)

"Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered." (Rev 5.5)

"I the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star." (Rev 22.16)

This biblically famed picture of the Olive Tree-Israel-Church, commands Christian love for the Jewish People, ancient and modern. Why? Because they have only ever existed, and exist today, upheld in His Covenant with Abraham, by the Root who "is the same yesterday and today and for ever." (Jn 8.58, Heb 13.8)

That is why one such as Karl Barth can assert that the Lord Jesus "the Servant of God who came from Israel", and Jesus, the "Saviour of all peoples", are "two realities inseparable from each other...for the whole of history, indeed for all eternity. Israel is nothing apart from Jesus Christ...Jesus Christ would not be Jesus Christ apart from Israel."

That is why he even more strongly (perhaps for some, shockingly?) can insist, "Anyone who is in principle hostile to the Jews, must also be seen as in principle an enemy of Jesus Christ." (3)

Who, if not the Church, is going to labour in prayer to oppose the "great red dragon" who has already sought to "devour" the "male child (who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron)", brought forth by the "woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars"?

Who, if not the Church, is going to pray for this "woman", still fiercely pursued by the dragon who continues to pour "water like a river out of his sweep her away with the flood"? (Rev 12)

(2) God has gathered His beloved Jewish People into The Land to be saved..."but only as through fire". (1 Co 3.15) The Messianic scholar, David Baron (1855-1926, England) plainly foresees these events in his exposition of Ezekiel 22.17-22: "It is clear that there is a time of purging by fiery judgement awaiting Israel after their return to their land, which will immediately precede their national conversion and the revelation to them of the Messiah, whom, as a nation, they have so long rejected."

The issue of Jesus our King's return, is the issue of the presence of a believing Jewish Community in Jerusalem. And the issue of just such a Company, spiritually awakened and restored unto Jesus, is the issue of remnant-Israel being present in The Land...even as "all the nations of the earth" circle for "the kill"!

satan and his nations will view Jerusalem (and The Land too!) as a vessel of final destruction. But God's grace is to triumph and will make this instrument of apparent death like unto the "burning fiery furnace" of Daniel 3 - to be sure, stoked by "Nebuchadnezzar" (4) - but wherein walks "the Son of God" their Saviour (v25) who "chastises every son whom he receives". (Heb 12.6)

"So all Israel will be saved...the Deliverer will come from (and 'to' according to Isaiah 59.20-21) Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob." (Ro 11.26-27)

"And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, every one who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgement and by a spirit of burning." (Isa 4.3-4)

"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child." (Zec 12.10)

Who, if not the Church, will toil and go "up into the breaches" (rent by Jewish apostasy and satan's jealous hatred) or build up "a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the Lord"? (Eze 13.5)

Who, if not the Church, is that "man" who will "build up the wall and stand in the breach" before God "for the land", that He "should not destroy it?" (Eze 22.30)

There is really nothing anywhere at this time within the local church movement, which even faintly or vaguely approximates the kind of prayer-engine and intercessory commitment which the days now breaking over us (and intimated above) so completely and totally require.

The revolution required of and in the Church is nothing other than the most radical and unconditional transition from all of the many and various "churches" (family-focused, seeker-friendly, revival, youth-oriented etc etc) to being "a house of prayer".

And this House will be simple and profound; obvious and mysterious! In the Last Hour, the Tribulation Church will give the first, the greatest portion and the best of its prayer (and substance!) for the salvation of "all Israel"...because that is the issue of the glory of God,

"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen." (Ro 11.36)

It is the issue of the Parousia of the King,

"The Deliverer will come from (& to) Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins." (Isa 59.20, Ro 11.26-27)

And it is the issue of the consummation of this Age (Mt 13.39),

"Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean...for if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?" (Ro 11.12&15)

The Last Church will be empowered to "forget itself and be itself", and step out of the frantic and competitive "grace queue", because of the promises of these verses immediately above. God's promises are clearly and unequivocally that Israel's "full inclusion" will mean yet greater enrichment by grace for the Gentiles; their "acceptance" will unlock ultimate revival (during which raising the dead becomes commonplace!) for the world.

The Church as "a house of prayer" is not only God's "ark" for survival through the last of these Last Days..."life together" constructed and maintained through worship and intercession. It will also be the prayer-vehicle whereby God ensures the dispensation of His power to preserve through extreme chastening unto total salvation, every son and daughter of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob alive upon the face of the earth at the time.

Such is our Lord Jesus Christ's agenda. If it fails to become our personal and corporate vision and task, then we risk reducing ourselves to the role of culpable bystander and witness to history's (and even existence's) ultimate moment of crisis and divine intervention.

"The distant sounds of our Master's chariots are already heard," says the Messianic "father", David Baron, "and Jesus Christ is coming quickly to render to every man according to his work.

"Who will be up and doing? Who will rise to the Lord's help against the mighty? Who by their prayers and substance will help to carry the gospel message to poor scattered Israel?"

(1) "And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth." (Rev 12.4) "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt...for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." (Mt 2.13)

(2) "Dogmatics in Outline" by Karl Barth (Harper & Row, NY 1959)

(3) As the Apostle Peter expounds (1 Pe 2.6-7), Jesus is both the "founding" and the "finishing" stone of God's House. It defies all logic, and sanity itself, to accept one completely crucial building block, and reject the other?

(4) Nebuchadnezzar, who invaded Judah, captured Jerusalem, and destroyed it and the Temple.


Go Out Quickly

1 April 2011

"Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city...Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." (Lk 14.21-24)

"Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe...Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision." (Joel 3.13-14)

"The harvest is the end of the age." (Mt 13.39)

During the night of 21/2/11, I dreamt that I was in a house full of the so-called "dregs of society", who were nevertheless diligently labouring to put all that was wrong with their lives, right. As they were doing this, from time-to-time, the whole building shuddered under repeated blows from an external, hostile and very powerful force.

What I was "seeing" is the Church in the Last Days. As The Day nears, the "gates/governors of hell" will hurl themselves against and upon the Church with increasing fury and frustration, but "will not overcome" what is truly built upon the Rock that will not roll. (Mt 7.24, 16.17-18, 1 Co 10.4, 1 Pe 2 6-7)

Meanwhile, God's great work of salvation will go on uninterrupted...intensifying in power and widening in scope.

I anticipate history's final Great Awakening...the centrepiece of which will be the salvation of "all Israel". (Ro 11.26)

As in the 18th C's First Great Awakening, this last revival will eclipse and engulf the Church. In it the Church (its dogmas, culture and structures) must learn to really and truly serve the purposes of God, or risk being swept aside and out of the way by this final, tidal wave of saving grace.

In the "Cambuslang Revival" (in the 1740s on the outskirts of Glasgow) the Presbyterian kirk (church) there was literally besieged by multitudes, unfathomably drawn by God beneath the sound of the Gospel. Observers reported that the preacher's words "came with a dint (like blows)" on the ears of the hearers, who felt their hearts "turn hot and overboil in tears".

Those present testified that they "had occasion to converse with many who had been awakened...some who had been very wicked and scandalous, but now wonderfully chang'd...very rude and boisterous before, they now had the mildness of the Lamb about them."

Crowds (the lowest estimate!) of "upwards of thirty thousand" were gathered. The full significance of this can only really be grasped when we recall that the population of nearby Glasgow at that time was "estimated by the magistrates" to be 17,034.

The (later famous) Presbyterian preacher, John Erskine, wrote of the "Cambuslang Revival", "It is to be hoped that this Work will not only go through our Land in the Length of it and the Breadth of it, but spread from Kingdom to Kingdom, till all the Kingdoms of the Earth shall become the Kingdom of God and of His Christ."

This is the spiritual paradigm which we must now embrace for this approaching season when the Church (as we have hitherto known it) is going to be either eclipsed or collapsed. As the Lord Jesus predicts with absolute accuracy, "The harvest is the end (consummation) of the age, and the harvesters are angels." (Mt 13.39)

Here is envisioned an ordained period when God Himself overshadows, not merely this or that church building or meeting house, but whole towns and regions whose citizens are suddenly and mysteriously awakened to the realities of God, sin and salvation. It will be a time when those determined to become Christians will outstrip the Church's capacity to cope, and our very best work of gathering, discipling and pastor-ing will have to be augmented by the holy angels themselves..."ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation." (Heb 1.14)

This should not be a notion which seems peculiar or exaggerated to us. It is a plain promise of God, which has in a measure already been experienced in days gone by...such as the First Great Awakening. Very great crowds regularly assembled in towns for no visible or obvious reason in England during the 1700s. No one knew why, until the Anglican revivalist, John Wesley rose his horse in and preached the Gospel to the multitude, drawn together days before he ever even decided to head in their particular direction.

In 1738, Wesley wrote of his new found vocation "field preaching", "I could scarcely reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields...I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church. What marvel the devil does not like field preaching. Neither do I. I love a commodious room, a soft cushion, a handsome pulpit. But where is my zeal, if I do not trample all these underfoot in order to save one more soul?"

200 years later, in Scotland, during the "Lewis Awakening", the revivalist Duncan Campbell testified, "Only God can make a community God-conscious."

The report of this later outpouring of grace and salvation, which was sent to the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, advised its ministers, "The presence of God was in homes, meadows, even public roads. A supreme feature of this God-sent revival was an awareness of the fear of God. Seventy-five percent were gloriously saved before meetings."

Ministers in that district quickly learnt to sleep fully clothed and sitting upright in their chairs. They expected to be woken during the night by whole families made anxious by the presence of God, and seeking peace through putting their trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Farmers collapsed into freshly-turned dirt furrows, struck down by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, even as they trudged behind their plough horses.

This is how it is going to be before the 2nd Coming...and more so! The last, Last Days will be typified by a great falling away from God (2 Th 2.3)...but a much greater gathering to Him through Jesus. It's time to get ready!

"But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." (Ro 5.20)

"Make a road for the Lord through the wilderness; make him a straight, smooth road through the desert. Fill the valleys; level the hills; straighten the crooked paths and smooth off the rough spots on the road. The glory of the Lord will be seen by all mankind together." (Isa 40.3-4)

Get Low

29 March 2011

"For promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge; he puts down one, and sets up another." (Ps 75.6-7)

"Therefore no other trees by the waters are ever to tower proudly on high, lifting their tops above the thick foliage." (Eze 31.14)

"He has put down the mighty from their seats." (Lk 1.52)

"For whosoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted." (Lk 14.11)

"Everyone that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted." (Lk 18.14)

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." (1 Pe 5.6)

From time-to-time, the call and warning goes out to the Church for people to get down low before the Lord...especially leaders. Some heed; some do not. As a consequence, some (like Pharaoh's baker in Genesis 40) disappear.

You see, Christian leaders together are God's hedge around His Vineyard. It is not for individual trees to determine their position or height, or to exalt themselves over others. The position and height of the trees will determine the hedge's strength, and thus its capacity to safeguard Christ's Flock. God and God alone constructs and maintains His hedge.

"A certain man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge about it." (Mk 12.1)

"I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up." (Isa 5.5)

"Whoso breaks a hedge, a serpent shall bite him." (Ecc 10.8)

It should not come as some kind of devastating surprise if, from time-to-time, the Husbandman turns His pruning blade upon the hedge to purge it, and tame it, and thus strengthen it...especially immediately prior to harvest!

Once again, God is calling upon leaders of the Church, in every part of the world, to "get low", because His blade is out and about to prune His Vineyard's hedge!

It's time most assuredly to "get low"...sort yourself out, so He does not have to. Get off self-appointed and self-constructed platforms before He adjusts and corrects the situation. Graciously pre-empt Him by putting your own sword right through the heart of "my destiny".

(How some Christians and their leaders salivate over the demise of a politician they love to "hate", or a captain of capitalism they covertly envy. But, when the shoe is on the other foot?)

If this be the Last Hour, then the stakes are higher than they have ever been throughout the whole of Church History. "The boar out of the wood" and "the wild beast of the field" are ever-circling the Vineyard, looking for a faulty or weak point, so that they can break through to "waste and devour"! (Ps 80.13) But God is ever seeking those who will strengthen the hedge, and "stand in the gap" before Him, for His Vineyard. (Eze 22.30)

And He will surely obtain something much, much better than the "foolish" leaders of Ezekiel's day...crafty creatures, patrolling the ruins they've "built", in spite of their star-billing in the latest, greatest prophetical circus. And precisely because they are nothing more than foundation-less "apostles" and "blind" seers, they are failing in their pre-eminent and supreme responsibility to go up "to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the that it will stand in the battle on the day of the Lord."

Thus, His hand will be against such leaders, and they "will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house." (Eze 13)

And though their names once adorned glossy, glittering brochures, bill-boards and dvd clips, God's People may look and look, and search high and low for them, but "though you look with care where he used to be, he will not be found." (Ps 37.10)

It's time to "get low"!

"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Pr 16.18)

"A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honour." (Pr 29.23)

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." (Pr 11.2)

Observing the Overwhelming

4 March 2011

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Mt 5.17)

"Jesus Christ the the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 Jn 2.1-2 & 1 Pe 2.24)

I want to make these observations, following the earthquake which overwhelmed Christchurch at 12.51 on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 22, 2011. I predicate my comments with the Apostle Paul's self-effacing disclaimer, "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord." (1 Co 7.12)

(It might be worth considering nevertheless, that the Church has seen fit to include this particular portion of Paul's writings, within the Canon of inspired Scripture!)

(1) Every earthquake, no matter how great or small, should provoke all Christians to remember that we live on a still-cooling planet, and on top of its very thin "crust"...a jigsaw of rocks which is slowly and endlessly being rearranged. Beneath this casing, there are incomprehensibly high temperatures and unbelievably massive pressures...constantly in a state of flux and activity.

Rather than blaming or attributing an earthquake to God, we could always drop to our knees and give thanks to the Creator, that this planet has not before now blown itself into tiny fragments of space dust, as a result of the heat (about 5,500 degrees C), and the pressure (around 5 million times greater than our surface, atmospheric pressure) of the solid fireball which is our world's inner and outer core. (Our atmosphere catches fire and becomes a "firestorm" at a mere 800 degrees C.)

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed." (La 3.22)

"(Jesus) is the image of the invisible God...For by him all things were him all things hold together." (Col 1.15-17 & Jn 1.3)

"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining (upholding) all things by his powerful word." (Heb 1.3)

In the light of Creation's physical reality, we should perhaps be amazed at the infrequency of major earthquakes in New Zealand. After all, we have chosen to dwell in a country on the margins of two colliding tectonic plates, where around 14,000 earthquakes can be recorded in a year!

(2) Not only is an earthquake always a salutary reminder of how fragile and tenuous life on earth really is, and how untameable and unpredictable Creation's power. It is also a sign of just how desperately and urgently we need the Parousia of Christ our Lord and Saviour. For it will only be when Jesus physically returns to this world to reign from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, that mankind and nature will finally be completely set free from the destruction of the "law of sin and death". (Ro 8.2)

"The creation waits with eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed." (Ro 8.19-22)

"I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people...The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox." (Isa 65.17-19 & 25)

"At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Lk 21.27-28)

"Christ...will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." (Heb 9.28)

(3) It is also vital never to forget, that Jesus Himself unambiguously foretold that life here on earth immediately before His return would be turbulent - disturbed and disturbing.

"Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." (Lk 21.26-27)

"For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equaled again...for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened." (Mt 24.21-22)

(4) While it must never be automatically (legalistically?) assumed that God is the author and cause of every calamity and disaster, nevertheless His great wisdom and power enable Him to bring forth good out of that which appears to us to be entirely awful. ..even evil!

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." (Ge 50.20)

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes." (Ro 8.28)

"Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." (Heb 12.26-29)

(5) Now... I want to say at this point, that I have been appalled and disheartened by the speaking of some people who claim to be "Christian prophets"! Why is it, that at any time of tragedy and calamity, there is always a sudden proliferation of such people...self-proclaimed and self-appointed oracles for the hour? Why is their prophesying so hasty (frenzied)? Why are their oracles so unbiblical, and even contrary to both the Words and the Spirit of the New Covenant?

I urge all such people to be silent for sufficient time to ponder anew the infallibly true words of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ in Matthew 12.36 and 24.23-25,

"But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless (idle, unprofitable) word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

"At that time...false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time."

(6) The "judgement of God" is an important and integral part of the New Covenant. However, it is expressed and experienced entirely differently from the Old Covenant. Judgement in the Old was almost entirely about the preserving at all costs of one nation, Israel, in existence. This was an imperative for God, so that in the "fullness of time" (Gal 4.4) there would be a "family" for Israel's Messiah and the world's Redeemer to be born into.

In the New, God's interest in Israel's ongoing existence is still one ultimate concern. But His judgement is now almost entirely about the instruction and correction of individuals (via the "law" of consequences...sowing and reaping! Gal 6.7-8) for their salvation. It is a life-time's process, in which He constantly labours for the greatest good of both the individual and the many. No one is expendable. There is no tolerable or acceptable level of collateral damage in the Kingdom of God or the Church. No one dies from so-called "friendly fire"!

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (Jn 3.17)

"Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines (chastens and trains) us for our good, so that we may share in his holiness." (Heb 12.7-11)

There may well be those "Christian" individuals whose lack of education or personalities move them to "prophesy" according to and under the Old Covenant. They ought to be fully aware that the Lord would be justified if He corrected them (for correction we all undoubtedly constantly need!) according to that Covenant they are speaking and acting out of. (Deut 13.1-5 & 18.20)

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Mt 7.1-2)

"Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes." (1 Co 4.5)

In this regard, never ever, ever forget that the hands of the Lord which may rest upon us to chasten and correct according to the New Covenant, are themselves wounded with "the print of the nails". (Jn 20.25)

(7) The Lord Jesus Christ Himself perfectly and definitively utters His verdict, concerning this vital and challenging issue...God's judgement under the New Covenant,

"Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them - do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." (Lk 13.1-5)

According to Dr. William Barclay (1907-78 and Professor of Divinity at Glasgow University), the Lord Jesus in our text "utterly denied" the automatic connection of sin and suffering, "in the case of the individual person". Dr. Barclay called this a "cruel and heartbreaking doctrine"!

In this passage, the Lord is plainly stating that those who were killed in the (fortification) tower collapse in SiIoam, were no better nor worse than those who did not die. But in the same breath, He is also prophesying that unless His hearers receive him as Messiah, they too will perish in a comparable disaster. (His tragic warning and prediction was graphically fulfilled in the Roman sack of Jerusalem in 70AD, when the great city's walls were smashed down and its buildings flattened by the Empire's relentless killing-machine.)

Dr. Barclay continues his exposition thus: "It means that we cannot say that individual suffering and sin are inevitably connected, but we can say that national sin and suffering are so connected. The nation which chooses the wrong ways will in the end suffer for it.

"But the individual is in a very different case. (He) is not an isolated unit, and is often caught up in a situation which he did not make; his suffering is often not his fault; but the nation is a unit and chooses its own policy and will reap the fruit of it."

(E.g. Hitler's Germany. All Germans - not just the Nazis - suffered through their country's bloody and bitter defeat!)

"It is always dangerous," concludes Dr. Barclay, "to attribute human suffering to human sin; but it is always safe to say that the nation which rebels against God is on the way to disaster."

(8) A disaster of the magnitude of Christchurch's, absolutely roars at us to listen to "hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev 2.7)...and to our beloved Aotearoa-New Zealand. In this regard it is absolutely essential that we first of all honour God, by obeying His Word, the Bible,

"Give everyone what you owe him ...if respect then, respect; if honour, then honour." (Ro 13.7)

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves." (Ro 12.10)

Now is the time to honour Him by honouring the apostles and prophets and elders of the Church in Christchurch. As those who are in other places, we should press our faces and our mouths into the dust, and earnestly pray for these, our companions "in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus" (Rev 1.9), that they may clearly see His face and hear His voice, in the midst of the tumult and horror and loss.

For it is to such as these that God our Saviour will speak. And it will be through their hearing that we, all together, will obtain national succour, instruction and (if need be?) correction ...even chastening!

"Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." (1 Sa 3.9)

"But the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper." (1 Ki 19.11-13)

Let us pray!

First Things First

2 February 2011

"There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favouritism." (Ro 2.9-11)

"These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel...I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves...When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." (Mt 10.5-23)

We know that the foundational Apostles did not complete their original and primary mission of "going through the cities of Israel", for the Son of Man did not return from Heaven during their earthly lives. Similarly, we know that the Church's endeavours to accomplish this apostolic task were violently interrupted and postponed by the Roman Army's destruction of Jerusalem in the late 60s. The siege left absolutely everything in ruins...including the city's seminal, Jewish-Christian Church, which was the mission's launching-pad. (Ac 15 Gal 1.18 & 2.1-2)

Rabbi Chaim Potok writes ("Wanderings - Chaim Potok's History of the Jews" Fawcett Crest NY 1978), "Jerusalem lay silent beneath a long, deadly night. The Jewish state came to an end. The Sanhedrin was abolished. The high priesthood ceased to exist. The Sadducean party disappeared. The Romans would not permit the temple to be rebuilt...From the hilltops of Judea one could see the hollow ruins of Jerusalem, ghostly in the summer sun and embowered with weeds and wild flowers after the winter rains."

Nevertheless, this was not to be the conclusion of the matter. Matthew 10.23b, contains three crucial points of prophecy (and implies a fourth) which the Church is bound to address ahead of all other concerns during these Last Days. They are:

1) The Lord Jesus Christ is going to return into this world from Heaven, to complete and perfect His great work of salvation, which was initiated upon The Cross. (Ac 3.20-21 & Heb 9.28)

2) A great awakening to Jesus as Messiah will sweep through The Land of Israel (city by city, and town by own) immediately before the 2nd Coming. (Jer 31.34)

3) This authentically national revival will be pushed through to its perfect completion ("all Israel will be saved"), literally by the Lord Himself, present in The Land. (Zec 14.4)

4) The Church's pre-eminent responsibility before God in these climactic days will be to "never cease crying aloud, day or night"; to "keep the Lord in remembrance"; to "take no rest, nor let Him rest neither, till He has restored Jerusalem, (and) spread her fame over all the earth." (Is 62.6-7)

(The Church will only succeed in fulfilling this its final calling, by conceding and submitting to God's Biblical principle that we are to be concerned for "the Jew first"...and also by actually believing in practice that by toiling in prayer for a great awakening of the Jews, the Church will herself obtain "greater riches"; even "life from the dead"? Ro 11.11-16 )

One very great and compelling reason why we ought to strongly apprehend that we are deeply, deeply into the End Times, is the objective fact and reality that God has already historically reignited and propelled forward the stalled Matthew 10.23 apostolic assignment. This He did in the late 1960s...precisely and exactly 19 centuries after its "suspension"! (See Footnote)

This rekindling occurred immediately after the 1967 Middle East Six-Day War with its "impossible" Israeli victory, and the consequent reunification of Jerusalem under Jewish jurisdiction and stewardship. And it has been made manifest and evident in the Messianic Movement in The Land...the first genuinely indigenous Jewish expression of faith in Jesus of Nazareth, since the days of the first Apostles. This Movement (which boasts at the very least 120 congregations today) is now actively fulfilling the Lord's original "through the cities of Israel" mandate. This great work of evangelization, which the Lord has re-commenced through these Israeli worshippers of Jesus, He will complete upon and by His return.

Each of these consequent prophetical events is clearly mapped and spelt-out for us in Psalm 122:

a) (Verse 3) Jerusalem is reunited and thus reconnected to its destiny to be "a city that is closely compacted together...where people come together in unity". (Between 1948 and 1967, east Jerusalem was controlled by Jordan.)

b) (Verse 4) Then, the whole nation is restored to worshipping God, when "the tribes of the Lord, (go up) to praise the name ('thou shalt call his name Jesus') of the Lord."

c) (Verse 5) And then, finally "there the thrones of judgement stand"...and are occupied by the Son of David and His 12 Apostles.

"Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Mt 19.28)

My message here unmasks erroneous beliefs and activities...and also demands alteration and correction:

i) Are our Christian expectations Biblically ordered? Are we actually committed to proclaiming the Gospel of God's soon-coming King, or some trumped-up, Gentile-ish non-gospel of personal fulfillment, private enrichment, and self-aggrandizement?

Is His promised return really our "blessed (highest) hope"? (Tit 2.13) And are we actually "intensely watching for and expecting" His reappearance and parousia? (1 Co 1.7 Php 3.20)

ii) If we are in fact waiting for the 2nd our disposition passive or active? Insofar as I've never once seen anyone lethargically drifting closer to God, similarly Christian "agnosticism" (on this subject!) and a general torpidity ("Wake me when He's back"!) is not going to draw the King of kings down out of Heaven. In fact the Apostle Peter exhorts us to not only "look forward to the day of God", but also to exercise ourselves and "speed its everything possible to hasten its coming"! (2 Pe 3.12)

iii) The major way in which we can now "hasten" Jesus' return is by throwing our primary prayer-weight in behind the Israeli Messianic Movement's evangelization of The Land. (This ought to be supplemented by financial and moral support!) They alone I believe have the apostolic mandate to fulfill the Lord's "through the cities of Israel' prophetic decree. It is not just that they could do with the Gentile Church's help, or deserve our assistance...both spiritual and material.

We really do need to get it into our heads, that when we favour beloved Israel ahead of ourselves, we are more like unto God who has said to the Jews, "To you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you." (Ac 3.26) And similarly, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you (the Jews)." (Ac 13.46)

Historically the Church's anti-Semitism has clothed us with shame and public humiliation. But these Last Days hold for us a second chance to truly put things right and honour ("respect by giving preference and precedence to" Ro 12.10) those whom God first called "my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself." (Isa 43.20)

By so honouring and preferring Israel we may yet throw off the dirty rags of our long-term religious ignorance and racism, and discover ourselves clothed anew with "much greater riches" of grace; even "life from the dead"...fiery, unending Spirit of Messiah revival, during which the raising of the dead becomes almost commonplace (Ro 11.11-16); culminating in The Day of Jesus' return when "the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." (1 Co 15.52)

Our choice is really quite stark. We can go on relentlessly and perpetually pushing and shoving our spiritually obese, Western selves to the head of God's blessing queue. Or we can freely choose to step back, to prayerfully lose our place in the line, and thereby create grace-space for our older, Jewish brothers and sisters, "the lost sheep of Israel". (Mt 10.6)

We have absolutely nothing to lose; in fact, more than we can presently imagine to gain. In the 1800s, the Scottish Presbyterian "missionary" to the Jews, Dr. Andrew Bonar, unequivocally asserted that when Christians stretch out a hand of care and benediction to Israel, "unspeakable blessings" are drawn down upon the Church.

David Baron (1855-1926 scholarly Jewish Believer and friend of Theodore Herzl, the "father" of modern Israel) wrote, "The work of conversion (of the Jews) is always a work which only the power of God can accomplish."

"But that does not mean," he said, "that the Church of Christ is to fold her hands as she has done for many centuries, and do next to nothing."

Above all things, according to David Baron (who co-founded the "Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel" in London in the late 1800s) the Church's disposition towards Israel should be "an attitude of prayer".

"Let there be the heart's desire and believing prayer unto God for Israel that they may be saved...The distant sounds of our Master's chariots are already heard, and Jesus Christ is coming quickly to render to every man according to his work...Who will rise to the Lord's help against the mighty? Who by their prayers and substance will help to carry the gospel message to poor scattered Israel?"

"Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations...And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child...On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity." (Zec 12.2-3 & 10, 13.1)

"Coming up to them at that very moment, she (a prophetess, Anna) gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem." (Lk 2.38)

FOOTNOTE: It is no coincidence that the late 1960s were a time of tremendous restoration for God's beloved Israel...especially the genesis of the modern, indigenous Messianic Movement. One of the ways in which the Lord reveals Himself in history is by symmetry of times and seasons. According to Rabbi C. Potok, "Recent scholarship has recovered some wispy fragments from the lives, movements, and settlement patterns of people in the ancient world that seem to place Abraham between the years 2000 and 1900 BCE."

The 1960s BC?

"He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers." (Lk 1.54-55)

Rising From The Dead

21 December 2010

"There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells." (Ps 46.4)

Two "streams" of Christianity were flowing in Britain in the 7th C. In 664 they collided, fatally, in Northumbria at the Synod of Whitby. One suppressed the other. The one which disappeared and has largely run underground for the past 13 centuries, is to be resurrected and become the Church of the Last Days.

Salvation through the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ reached Britain whilst it was part of the Roman Empire. When Caesar's Legions withdrew in the early 400s, evangelization continued, but not from the European Church with its headquarters in Rome. It was, in truth, converted by the 4th C Church of the Desert Fathers and Mothers from Egypt.

Much is made today, by some, of so-called Celtic Christianity, and its impact on Ireland, Scotland and the north of England from the 400s to the 600s. Modern scholars are substantially agreed, that there was in fact no such thing. What did exist was an expression of devotion to Jesus in that region which owed its existence and allegiance (not to the corridors of power in Rome), but to the extempore, holy abandonment of the desert hermitages of Egypt.

(This point-of-view should be completely unsurprising, as the "descendants" of Egypt's Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers "wandered" north and west, to finally settle out on the extreme, western islands of Ireland. They believed absolutely that they had come to the end of the world, and by so doing they were hastening the return of Jesus who had promised, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Mt 24.14)

During that time, Christianity had developed there isolated from Europe (with its "rising power and growing organisation of Rome"), and not tied and tangled in the apron-strings of the State, and its political power and military might. The Celtic Church was a "loosely compacted" community of faith which drew its strength (not from bishops and their princely patrons), but essentially from prayer houses. It was an authentic "house of prayer"! (Mt 21.13)

In so many respects, Celtic society had come by the 7th C to strongly resemble Egypt in the 4th and 5th Cs where, "There is no town or village which is not surrounded by hermitages as if by walls."

At the Synod of Whitby, King Oswiu (in the tradition of the Emperor Constantine) presided over the assembly of Roman and Celtic clerics and monks. The items on the agenda were relatively minor (e.g. the "true" date of Easter celebrations?). The real issue was uniformity and conformity. The king judged, and found in favour of the followers of Rome. The Celtic contemplatives were commanded to conform. Some who did not were put to the sword...scalped!

What was knowingly driven underground that day was a manifestation and demonstration of Christianity which believed that prayer (unceasing public adoration of God and intercession for the whole human race) was the Church's foundational task and main event. It was a mode of faith which depended upon communities of men and women of prayer, living in simplicity, purity and submission... (poverty, chastity and obedience). It eschewed bishops (papal edicts and excommunications) on be-jewelled thrones, propped up by local war-lords and robber barons.

900 years later, this "stream" of intercession was driven even deeper underground and further into hiding, during the reformation of the English Church, which took place (yet again!) at the point of a king's sword. Henry VIII had no qualms whatsoever in pursuing and prosecuting his vision of church, employing kangaroo-courts, bribed witnesses and the state executioner's lethal arts. It is a matter of plain historical record, that the contemplatives and their prayer houses received the most brutal and the bloodiest treatment at the hands of the king and his over-eager, lick-spittle lieutenants. (Their reward usually being the property which had once belonged to the suppressed prayer houses!)

Why were they especially target-ed?

Because the devil and his followers know that it's just so much easier to subvert and divert a church built on a foundation of reason (intellectual assent), and secular (corporate?) organisation and power. An authentic "house of prayer" Church should be an altogether different and more difficult nut for the antichrist to crack!

The Desert Father upon his face is hard at work. The Desert Father tilling the soil, is deep in prayer. The ravens feed him. His applause is the deafening silence of the wilderness. His success is to hear huge drops of rain begin to plough, hissing, into the dust of Carmel...three and a half years drought-dried. You cannot threaten him with demotion, for he already jealously occupies "the lowest place". (Lk 14.10) You cannot threaten a Desert Father with excommunication, because he already lives "outside the camp"! (Heb 13.13) His greatest ambition is martyrdom.

What power the visible Church has today, is largely dependant upon the use of force! That's why it has so little influence upon the surrounding societies it is charged with leavening. It usually maintains order largely and ultimately through threats and sanctions. The Church cannot be powerful (dynamic) by using force...and also be influential! One inevitably negates the other.

In the Western Church today, the king no longer fires off drunken knights to decapitate "foul, turbulent, meddlesome" priests. We've stopped setting fire to heretics with tar-soaked faggots and gunpowder. But we have certainly devised a thousand different ways to oh, so subtly and craftily rid ourselves of a "troublesome" Elijah...a "depressing" Jeremiah...a "plotting" Amos. But whether it's done with a sword or a discrete phone call, a word in the right's still force, which is not influence. Force drives; influence evokes, awakens and calls forth.

"Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope." (Mt 12.18-21)

The Church of Constantine, Oswiu and Henry VIII may impress the world with its flash, velvet gloves...but inside lurk steel fists. The Desert Abbas and Ammas are unimpressive creatures to look at...tatterdemalion, starvelings and ragamuffins! Weirdos and half bonkers maybe? But they carried and guarded in their hearts the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ...unalloyed, undiluted, unedited.

"A brother said to (the Desert Father) Poeman, 'If I see my brother sin is it really right not to tell anyone about it?' He said, 'When we cover our brother's sin, God covers our sin. When we tell people about our brother's guilt, God does the same with ours.' "

"A demoniac, frothing terribly at the mouth, struck an old hermit on the jaw, and he turned the other cheek. This humility tortured the demon like flames, and drove him out there and then."

"A hermit was asked, 'What is humility?' He said, 'It is if you forgive a brother who has wronged you before he is sorry.' "

"A monk was told that his father had died. He said to the messenger, 'Do not blaspheme. My Father cannot die.' "

("The Desert Fathers" Transl. by Benedicta Ward. Penguin Books 2003)

In the Last Days, the State will universally turn against the Church and Israel. The "king" will no longer be an ally and protector...but our adversary and persecutor. Our habitation is again going to be the desert and the wilderness...for some literally; for others figuratively.

"Therefore I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor ('trouble') a door of hope." (Hos 2.14-15)

"The people who survive the sword will find favour in the desert; I will come to give rest to Israel." (Jer 31.2)

"I will bring you into the desert of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgement upon you...I will take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me." (Eze 20.35-38)

"Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover?" (SS 8.5)

"In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.' This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: 'A voice of one calling in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him.' " (Mt 3.1-3)

At the end and consummation of this grace and salvation Age, the Church of the Desert (the "house of prayer" Church) will be reconstituted and reasserted over the Church of the Corridors of Power...and this of absolute necessity. Pharaoh's battalions were destroyed when they tried to pursue God's People into the wastelands. Rebels were "overthrown...their bodies scattered over the desert." (1 Co 10.5) But the very environment which ruined these, proved to be the place of Israel's preservation and salvation. There really is "nothing new under the sun". The knee-prints of the Desert Fathers and Mothers have been preserved for us "on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come". Let us go out to meet them there!

"Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." (Ps 95.6)

"I met a traveller from the
holy desert, Honeycomb, beggarbread eater,
lean from drinking rain
that lies in the windprints of rocks."
(Thomas Merton, hermit, 20th C)

"The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach." (Rev 12.14)

Signs on the Earth

3 December 2010

"In the last days, God says...I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below." (Ac 2.17&19)

"I have sold even the word that commands me to sell all and give to the poor." (Desert Father, 4th C)

"What is Christianity without the Cross?" (Desert Father, 21st C)

During the 4th C, one of the greatest religious revolutions and movements ever experienced by the Church, took place. Up until that time Christianity had by-and-large been an urban and local church-based phenomenon and event. But during the 300s, in an occurrence comparable to spontaneous combustion, men and women who loved Jesus as their God and Saviour, sold all their possessions, gave away everything they had to the poor, and followed Him out into the nearest wilderness or desert. (Mt 19.21) There they sought to approach "light unapproachable", and interceded for the salvation of the human race. One of the most "popular" assembly points for these radical disciples was the desert of Egypt. Some lived alone in caves, not unlike wild animals; others gathered themselves into communities. They became known as the Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers. Reports of their Gospel lifestyle and ministries range from the poignant, to the extremely other-worldly. For example:

"A hermit said, The monk's cell is the furnace in Babylon in which the three children found the Son of God. It is the pillar of cloud out of which God spoke to Moses."

"A hermit was asked how it was that some people said they had seen angels. He answered, Blessed is he who always sees his own sins."

"A hermit said, If anyone says, 'Forgive me', and humbles himself, he burns up the demons that tempt him."

It is not an exaggeration, nor is it extravagant to say that the pattern for this particular kind of Christian life (contemplative), forged by these men and women so long ago out in civilisation's wastelands, has undergirded and upheld the Church for the past (close to) 2000 years.

Right now, this incredibly antique (and yet still influential) Move of God is experiencing an extraordinary revival, in precisely the same location where it was originally born. This Revival has been picked up on by TIME magazine, and Britain's "Sunday Times" newspaper which describes it as "a remarkable renaissance".

The English journalist and author, William Dalrymple, in his book "From The Holy Mountain" (Henry Holt & Coy, NYC), reports that one of the Egyptian monasteries which he visited "is bursting with young monks".

"The same is true of many of the Egyptian monasteries...there has been a massive revival of monasticism in Egypt, and many ancient ruins, abandoned for hundreds of years, are being brought back into use."

Remarkably, one of the major influences in this Revival did actually live for a number of years in caves which had originally been occupied by Desert Fathers in the 4th C. From his cave, Abouna Matta Al-Meskeen (Father Matthew the Poor, 1919-2006) moved into a crumbling monastery cared for by "six frail old it has 130" active brethren.

Father Matthew has written: "Prayer is my food and my drink, my outfit and my armour whether by night or by day"...and..."For as much as our hearts are pure, God finds His rest in us."

(Most interestingly, I understand that Father Matthew was in his turn profoundly impacted by an earlier, mysterious Desert Father. Abdel Messieh (Slave of Christ) appeared in the Nile Valley during the 1930s where he lived to pray in a cave. He mysteriously disappeared in 1965, during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem!)

So, what meaneth this?

Well, in my own mind this phenomenon of revival and restoration is clearly an earthly sign (Ac 2.17&19), which powerfully makes (at least) these two prophetic points:

1) One of the major reasons for the original flight of the Desert Fathers and Mothers into the desert, was the (unwelcome for them) incorporation of the Church into the political, social and cultural Establishment of the Roman Empire, under the Emperor Constantine. Overnight, martyrdom ceased being the chief benchmark for Christian discipleship...and was replaced by doctrinal "orthodoxy", moral and social respectability, and the "christianization" and idolization of the pleasures and treasures of this world.

The Egyptian monastic Revival is a frank rebuke to contemporary Western Christianity, drowning as it is in the mephitic stew of a "gospel" of material prosperity, cutesy-pie seeker-friendliness, and the carnal pursuit of sensual and supernatural experience!

Christianity cannot be reduced to a shopping list of human needs and desires. It only prospers when it exists to please its Founder alone. Why should a Church be permitted to go on existing, when it does not truly live exclusively for our Head?

2) I do not believe that the Western (especially the Protestant) Church as it is presently constituted will be able to survive the Last Days, because (contrary to what is generally portrayed) it is actually founded on reason...which expresses itself in individualism, and endless sermonizing and organizing. It also lethally and tragically confuses emotionalism with authentic spiritual experience.

Our Lord Jesus Christ plainly stated, "My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers." (Mt 21.13)

(His statement clearly begs the question...If the Church is not a "house of prayer", what will it become? A place which is over-archingly concerned about wealth and power, above everything else?)

God's House on earth (Eph 2.19-22) must be built on faith...which always and consistently expresses itself first and foremost in relational prayer, which is unceasing. The Egyptian Revival is an eschatological sign (concerning the 2nd Coming), which warns us against treating prayer as the curtain-raiser, before the main event. Whereas prayer (especially in the Last Days) has to be the main event...which also then inspires every good work, and through which God's grace is supplied to make each Godly assignment and enterprise possible and accomplishable.

"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." (Lk 18.1)

"When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Lk 18.8)

"Pray without ceasing." (1 Th 5.17)

"They said that on Saturday evening Arsenius used to turn his back to the setting sun and stretch out his hands toward heaven and pray until, at dawn on Sunday, the rising sun lit up his face, and then he sat down again." (Desert Father, 4th C)

"Prayer is the highest achievement of which the human person is capable." (Edith Stein, Carmelite martyr, 1891-1942)

"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world." (Karl Barth, Reformed theologian, 1886-1968)

So far as the two prophetic signs identified in this essay are concerned, I doubt very much if anything of any genuine significance can now be done to reverse the deeply ingrained trend of Item One.

However, Item Two must not be ignored or refused. The whole Church has to become, in some way, shape or form, a House of Prayer if it is going to survive at all, and fulfill its destiny in the Last Days. This is obviously not about suddenly upping-sticks and charging off to become Coptic Christians in the deserts of Egypt.

But it is most certainly about growing where we have been planted. It is about turning today's Church onto its head, so that what is presently peripheral (prayer), becomes foundational. It is about marginalizing the current religious culture of power, fame and fortune...and subsequent lickety-spit, stopwatch-timed, performance-"liturgies". It is about thirsting for and then fully surrendering to the Holy Spirit of "earnest prayer, entreaty and supplication". For it is He whose gracious and powerful influence is going to save all Israel in history's extreme and final clock-tick. (Zech 12.10 & Ro 11.26) Similarly, it will be His final, prayer-driven bending of the Church into conformity with His sovereign will, which finally and ultimately saves us too.

We do not need to wait for guidance and permission from some glitteringly successful sage from elsewhere, before we transform the Church of Aotearoa into a House of Prayer. We need only to drop bone-crunchingly onto our knees, and there call out like little children,

"Holy Spirit, prompt us
When we kneel to pray;
Nearer come, and teach us
What we ought to say."

(William Henry Parker 1845-1929)

God help us all if we find this too challenging or inconvenient...and prefer the effortlessness of charging off all together to yet another jazzy conference, where overseas' ministry celebrities leave us once more with ringing ears and empty pockets?

"These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." (Isa 56.7)

"If anyone wants to pray, the demons try to interrupt the prayer, for they know that prayer is the only thing that hinders them." (Desert Father, 4th C)

"All you need is a piece of bread and enough covering for the body. The less you have, the less you have to distract you from God. Do you understand?" (Desert Father, 21st C)

Elijah's Tears

18 November 2010

"His sip is never bigger than one tear-drop!"

In an eastern European shtetl (a small town with a predominantly Jewish population), lived a little boy who was fascinated by Elijah's annual "visit" to his family's Passover celebration. During the meal, he it was who was sent to open the door of their home for the Prophet. But what intrigued him most of all, was the fifth glass of wine upon their Pesach table...Elijah's cup.

"Why grandmother," he asked, "does Elijah not drink any of the wine from his glass? Does he really come to visit us at our table?"

"Oh, my darling boy," his grandmother replied, "the Prophet does visit us, and he really does drink from the cup. But his sip is never bigger than one tear-drop!"

I really appreciate this story, because it captures perfectly for me, the essence of "the spirit of Elijah"...and is so very different to, and at odds with what poses and parades as such today. All too often, contemporary "Elijahs" - both ministries and individuals claiming this role - are loud and proud; over-blown with too grand a sense of their own fitness and omniscience.

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." (Ps 126.5-6)

The "spirit of Elijah" is not about ministry success by any and every means - no matter how divorced from sacred Scripture or parodying (feeble imitation) worldly ways, values and contrivances. The Prophet's unction is all and entirely about reaping according to weeping; revival according to repentance; fruitfulness according to cross-bearing.

"See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and plant." (Jer 1.10)

"Elisha stared at him with a fixed gaze until Hazael felt ashamed. Then the man of God began to weep. 'Why is my lord weeping?' asked Hazael. 'Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites.' " (2 Ki 8.11-12)

Understanding this, the truth and reality of the "spirit of Elijah", is of ultimate importance in these Last Days, because:

"See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes." (Mal 4.5)

"For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear." (Mt 11.13-15)

My own expectation is that immediately before the Lord Jesus returns to reign over all of the nations, the Church will be called out and upon to carry Elijah's mantle of "power", but will only be able to do this to the extent and by the measure that we have imbibed, and been suffused and mastered by the Prophet's "spirit"...his heart and essence. The core of this is authentic, cross-bearing broken-ness, which expresses itself in unfeigned, limpid, tearful humility.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." (Php 2.3)

Like their God and Saviour, the Crucified, both Elijah and John the Baptist were men "of sorrows, and familiar with suffering" (Isa 53.3); similarly "despised and rejected by men". Such a prophetic life and profile stands in marked, stark contradiction to what is generally applauded and rewarded today...glory and gold; fame and fortune. Unlike so many contemporary, self-appointed oracles, Elijah and John were not spiritual bully-boys, bragging and crowing and posturing over the size of their ministries and bank balances!

("Fame is like a river," said 16th C English parliamentarian and philosopher, Francis Bacon, "that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things heavy and solid.")

But Elijah is fashioned in the wastelands and margins of this world (and the Church). He is always being prepared in the knowledge that Carmel and Jordan's crowds will surely throng, and soon enough flock off, to be replaced by Jezebel and Herod, all "red in tooth and claw", baying and slavering for revenge and punishment.

This friends, is the real world of ministry...unlike the fantasy land of glittering conferences, glossy magazines, and slick TV "church"! None survive the reality (nor deserve to), unless the flesh is first "broken upon the wheel" of God's kindly dealings.

As the great 16th C Spanish Church reformer, Juan de Yepes Alvarez, so plainly himself lived and taught, "(Jesus) totally stripped and annihilated as though dissolved into nothingness...(did) purge all guilt and unite humanity to God...From this, truly spiritual souls may come to understand the mystery of Christ as the door and the way to union with God, and so realize that their union with God will be the more intimate, and the work they accomplish the greater, the more they annihilate themselves in their sensory as well as their spiritual parts for the sake of God...(Such a life) does not, therefore, consist in spiritual refreshment, delights, and feelings, but in the living death on the cross."

"So he (Elijah) did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land." (1 Ki 17.5-7)

"And the child (John) grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel." (Lk 1.80)

"I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." (Jn 21.18)

Wake Up, Church

28 October 2010

"Only those who saw these things with their own eyes will believe with what delight the Germans performed these operations; how glad they were when they succeeded in killing a child with only three or four blows; with what satisfaction they pushed the corpse into the mother's arms!"

So testified a Holocaust survivor at the Nuremberg war-crime trials. In his "magisterial and eloquent" tome, "A History of the Jews" (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1987), the English historian Paul Johnson, writes, "No Jew was too young to die.

"All women arriving at the death camps were shaved to the skin, the hair packed up and sent to Germany. If a breast-fed baby was a nuisance during the shaving, a guard simply smashed its head against the wall."

To recall such horrors ought realistically to be completely and utterly unbearable...even beyond us! But recall them and then stare unblinking and unflinching into the black abyss of Hitler's Germany we must, if the Church is to grasp the enormity of the task God sets before us in these Last Days!

The abominations of the Holocaust were perpetrated by Hitler and his Nazis, the German People, and the depraved disease of widespread European anti-Semitism! But none of these (although totally responsible) were the root cause or fountainhead of this awfulness. The source and crux was (and is) an ancient evil spirit called "antichrist". (1 Jo 2.18 & 22, 4.3; 2 Jo 7) This demon exists to try to replace God's Messiah Jesus, as Head of the Church, and to oppose Him becoming King over all of the nations.

It is "antichrist's" opposition to Jesus' return and enthronement on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which most concerns us in this essay. (Although we ought to also be profoundly exercised about this spirit's ongoing, stealthy subversion of Jesus' Lordship over His Church!)

Throughout the Old Testament, this demon constantly tried to take Israel out of existence (E.g. Haman the Agagite's planned massacre.), believing that if he could destroy Messiah's birth-family, he could prevent his nativity and His incarnation. Ever since the Lord Jesus' redeeming death on the Cross, physical resurrection from the grave, bodily ascension into Heaven, and His sending of the Holy Spirit to create the Church..."antichrist" has toiled relentlessly and unceasingly. To what end?

For the utter annihilation of God's People, Israel. Why? Because he has accurately identified the key which will unlock history; the catalytic event which will precipitate Heaven's release of Messiah to return to this earth and this world as its rightful Ruler...King of kings and Lord of lords.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.' " (Mt 23.37-39)

At the heart and epicentre of the promised Last Days', global awakening of God's Jewish People to Jesus as Israel's Messiah, and the world's Redeemer and Saviour, there will be a unique and vital presence in the Old City of Jerusalem. This Fellowship of Jewish Saints will not only miraculously survive the horrors of the prophet Zechariah's predicted siege (12.2-3, 14.2), but their Holy Spirit-ignited and fuelled intercession will in fact be that prayer which "releases" the King to come back.

"And that He may send to you the Christ, the Messiah, who was designated and appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive and retain until the time for the complete restoration of all that God spoke by the mouth of all His holy prophets from ages past - from the most ancient time in the memory of man." (Acts 3.20-21 Amplified Bible)

We must understand this! The object of every persecution and pogrom over the past 2000 years, up to and including the Nazi' Holocaust, has ever been the complete destruction of the Jewish Race, including Jerusalem's Jewish Saints and intercessors, and thus their ultimate Messiah-calling and Millennium-inaugurating prayer. As the peerless, erudite Jewish prophet Art Katz (1929-2007), has already so penetratingly spelt out,

"Their (Israel's) salvation is the issue of the Kingdom. Their redemption is the issue of the release of the King to come and to inhabit their city (Jerusalem) and to rule from the throne of David and bring the law of God out to the nations through the redeemed People."

The seed for this ultimate prayer of which I speak, is already planted in the ground in the Land of Israel. It exists in the form of the Messianic Movement, which now desperately needs and deserves support (along with all of God's beloved Jewish People throughout the world); most especially to be hedged about, interceded for, and blest by unrelenting and unyielding prayer.

By whom? Well, so far as I am able to see, there is really only one People capable of such intercession...and that's us, the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Tragically, in general terms I would have to say that the Body of Christ at present is not only ill-prepared for this holy task, but also appears indifferent to the responsibility's some instances, even blinded to its existence.

At best, there are here and there pockets of sincere and Godly concern which is expressed in prayer for the continued military and political and economic success and expansion of the State of Israel. There is no prominent recognition of the bone-chilling reality presently stalking the stage of history, and the corridors of power. Make no mistake, "antichrist' is going to "go down"...but you can be sure, it will be with "all guns blazing"! Long after Germany clearly understood it had completely lost WW2, the SS continued to murder Jewish People...utter and complete demonic insanity and lunacy.

And that's exactly what Israel (State and People) will continue to battle against right up until The Day when all of earth's inhabitants witness the arrival of "a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True", and who is followed by "the armies of heaven...riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean." (Rev 19.11-16)

If not the Church, then who is going to consistently and persistently pray open Zechariah's "fountain" for "the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity"? (13.1) Who will plead the precious Blood of the Lamb of God, which alone can atone for, and cover, and cleanse, and sanctify beloved Israel? Who will sing for the Patriarchs' Children?

"There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains."

(Hymn 692 PCNZ)

Who is going to beat on Heaven's doors and windows, beseeching our Lord Jesus Christ to "pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced...and mourn for him, as one mourns for an only son."? (12.10) Who will keep on interceding in deepening, End Time darkness,

"O come, O come Immanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! rejoice! Immanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel."

(John Mason Neale, 1851)

For if we will not and do not pray and cry out and sing for Israel, then there will descend over us all again the same appalling and deathly silence which haunts Europe even up until today. A stunning and stunned silence, to be filled again (as it was during the Holocaust) with the pathetic, infant-cries of Rachel's babies, dying utterly needlessly...yet again!

After WW2, the great shout of resistance went up, "Never again! Never again!" But this battle is far from over, and "antichrist" will not give up his hellish vision and endeavour until our true King returns to gather all Israel together, "as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings". (Mt 23.37) Then finally this ancient and vile devil, and all of his human dupes and stooges, will be overthrown and destroyed by Jesus "with the breath of his mouth the splendour of his coming". (2 Th 2.8)

And so, in the meantime (this in-between time), how will we elect to occupy ourselves? By building your own kingdom here on earth...rather than the true, which must be brought down from Heaven? By building a reputation for yourself here...or up there? By seeking your reward now...or later?

"The evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?' " (Ac 19.15)

"And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Lk 18.7-8)

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