Part 4/4 Intensifying Darkness Alongside Intensifying Light

The Brutal Battle

If His intent for our life with Him on earth is that spectacular and if He is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to ensure its fruition, then we have a problem. There is an occupying force to be reckoned with. For heaven to arrive, for New Jerusalem to “come down” as Revelation emphatically points out, Babylon must be replaced. Destroying the enemy’s handiwork was a main focus of our Lord, and that holy destruction not only continues to this day, but is intensifying. Aspects of Babylon will not go quietly…things will get ugly. The prophets ominously warn that nations which refuse to acknowledge their true Creator and King will not only not be rewarded with provision and protection, but will experience the opposite.

Isaiah prophecies that obstinate nations will either change their ways (which many have done) or come to ruin and Zechariah cryptically says that, in the end times, nations that do not look to Yahweh will suffer economically to the point of horror and starvation. The battle is real, it is violent and innocent people will suffer. God hates all of it. He yearns for heaven and wholeness for EVERY nation, He yearns for it more than we do. But He will not allow evil to continue to thwart the magnificent destiny He has for mankind.

“Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring on them the plague He inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment…of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles,” says Zechariah (Zech. 14:16-21). Nations that have hated God’s people Israel and have attacked her either will change their ways and repent or face the dire consequences of their hatred and brutality and suffer economic despair (no rain).

In a previous chapter, Zechariah describes the health of his provided-for people: “They will sparkle in His land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be. Grain (that requires ‘rain’) will make the young men thrive, and new wine the young women” (Zech. 9:17). A few chapters later He contrasts the state of health of His people with the condition of the obstinate attackers: “Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets and their tongues will rot in their mouths” (Zech. 14:12).

Recent (2016) news headlines have brought the world’s attention to Syria and her peoples’ desperation and starvation resulting from their civil war. A headline in the Smithsonian Institute’s online magazine reads:

“Is a Lack of Water to Blame for the Conflict in Syria?
A 2006 drought pushed Syrian farmers to migrate to urban centers, setting the stage for massive uprisings” (Joshua Hammer, June 2013)
“Water loss documented by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), a pair of satellites operated by NASA and Germany’s aerospace center, suggests water-related conflict could be brewing… GRACE measured groundwater usage between 2003 and 2009 and found that the Tigris-Euphrates Basin—comprising Turkey, Syria, Iraq and western Iran—is losing water faster than any other place in the world except northern India . During those six years, 117 million acre-feet of stored freshwater vanished from the region as a result of dwindling rainfall and poor water management policies.

In Syria, a devastating drought beginning in 2006 forced many farmers to abandon their fields and migrate to urban centers. There’s some evidence that the migration fuelled the civil war there, in which 80,000 people have died. “You had a lot of angry, unemployed men helping to trigger a revolution,” says Aaron Wolf, a water management expert at Oregon State University, who frequently visits the Middle East.”

Significantly, this is the same Syria which has warred against Israel, attacking her three times (1948, 1967, 1973) since her physical restoration.

Zechariah (and Haggai) go on to warn that in the end times the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will experience chaos—the attackers will turn on each other. Are we living in this time of shaking? Both prophets say that one aspect of the Day of the Lord which ushers in the world-wide glory of God will be Israel’s enemies entering into a panicked state and attacking each other. Tragic and incredible when we look at the historically bizarre “Arab Spring”—the ‘natural’ explanations for the Arab Spring are threefold: 1) dissatisfaction of the people with their government, 2) shocking economic inequality between the citizenry and 3) a tech-savvy youth who can now see how other parts of the world are living and want in. But behind the natural reasons is the Lord allowing the sowing of Islamic falsehood and Judaism-hatred to finally be reaped. In the vast majority of these Arab conflicts (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Sudan and to a lesser extent, Mauritania, Omar, Djibouti and Western Sahara), one group of Muslims is fighting another, an incredible fulfillment of Zechariah’s and Haggai’s prophecies (Zechariah 14:13; Haggai 2:22).

Jesus is longing for His people to awaken and arise to the

present day emergence of heaven on earth.

The world-wide glory we’ve seen blossoming down through the ages and which has escalated with the restoration of Israel in 1948 (as incomplete as the restoration is), is not uniform. While flowers of heaven are indeed blossoming, so too are weeds.
Pockets of light are intensifying alongside pockets of darkness (Isaiah 60:2). Jesus said that at the end, the wheat would be mature—it would be recognizable as wheat (Matt. 13:24-30). Sons of God would look and act like sons of God. The kingdom, heaven, would have grown to maturity. And the weeds, they too would have grown to maturity—they too would be recognizable.

It’s not just ‘nations’ that can be described as full grown weeds. Individuals’ dark hearts will become darker. The maturing of the old nature will yield chaos. Hidden sins, habits and thoughts that used to be manageable, used to be controlled, if left unchecked will take over. Ugly habits that once could be covered will be laid bare in the public domain. Ugliness will get uglier…believers and unbelievers alike (whether a prayer was said ten years ago won’t be the issue, current yieldedness will be) will feel trapped and buckle under the weight of their intensifying slavery. Depression, drug use, visits to psychologists will all increase as will fist fights on airlines, in concert line ups and at grocery stores. Weeds fully grown. A quick glance at the news headlines reveals this is already in full swing, yet it is nothing compared to what will come.

Of course, if a seed of darkness that is sown will grow to completion, so too will a seed (you) of light! Sons and daughters of the kingdom will shine with divine splendour. Abundance, freedom and revelatory insight will explode. Glorious peace, love and joy in the Holy Spirit will come quickly on the heels of acts of truth and goodness. In fact, your growth in glory will accelerate at a supernatural speed.(16)

The freedom will be wild and unprecedented—wheat, the way God dreamed it up in the garden, fully grown! You, a new creation, experiencing an abundance of blessings, both material and spiritual.

So, there is a ripening of evil alongside a ripening of righteousness. This is where we are at. The ninth inning has started. It is right at our doorstep. The Day of the Lord, the terrifyingly glorious battle whereby all His enemies, all the darkness, matures, is defeated and placed under His feet, so that love and peace and joy dominate the six o’clock news, is unfolding. God’s unstoppable plan.

 

Strange Evangelical Farming

At some point the sons of God had to manifest (Romans 8:19). Did we think that would never happen? At some point the body of Christ would grow, form, advance, change, mature, transform, transfigure (anything, other than ‘wait’). He planted divine seed in us—so why are we so uncomfortable with the thought of it growing? Our dear Lord asked His Father for us to be as one with the Father as He was (John 17:20-22). Do we really think that ‘on earth’ prayer will be left unanswered? How far was He willing to go? So insanely far that He invites us into His unfathomably intimate relationship with His Dad…for eternity past it was just Father and Son and that union is now forever altered: Father, Son and YOU!(17)

We are “new creations”. This newness, Paul tells us, grows from glory to intensifying glory (2 Cor. 3:18). Our old human nature is being replaced with a new nature. Yeshua did not die to create better versions of ourselves—nicer Adams. As a “firstfruit” he died and rose to create more of Him, more sons of God. The Holy Spirit who is increasingly filling us cannot sin—he doesn’t know how to sin, and we are being transfigured into Spirit.

We are very strange farmers. In our bizarre world of agriculture, you plant a seed and wait years, centuries…and nothing happens. Well, something happens…many more seeds get planted. That is the goal on our faithless theological farm…plant as many seeds as possible that don’t really grow. Then, one day…a tree! From seed to tree in the twinkling of an eye! And we boast about the power of God that will be unleashed upon His Son’s return that is able to take that unimpressive little seed and instantly turn it into a full, glorious tree. Pardon me? I guess the author and perfecter of our faith just got it wrong?

Jesus is longing for His people to awaken and arise to the

present day emergence of heaven on earth.

 

The Mysterious Power of Unification and Sonship

No, heaven grows (it’s a process), New Jerusalem descends (it’s a process) and you are entering the fullness of Christlikeness (it’s a process). (At first I thought his mustard seed-turned-tree was a tree of evangelism. The number of converts would start small and grow. Fifteen years later I realized it was actually a Kingdom tree—though I didn’t exactly understand what that meant. And fifteen years after that, I see what Jesus actually said: it is a heaven tree).(18)

When Paul says the Father’s will is for “all things” in heaven and on earth to be together under one head, Christ, (Ephesians 1: 9,10) he is describing heaven and earth’s separation thinning; he is boldly proclaiming it is God’s design to have the cultures and societies of this world become the culture and society of heaven. He is simply stating that the Lord’s, and our, prayer (‘thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’) will be answered “yes”. (Would it not make sense that as the separation thins, as the two realms merge, we begin to see evidence of that? The American boy whose story was turned into a book and movie went to heaven (he never died) and visited heaven while alive, interacting with deceased relatives as well as with Jesus; a reputable pastor who engaged in a discussion about the end times with Joshua (the high priest in the book of Zechariah) when he appeared in the pastor’s London hotel room; Paul who visited the third heaven, and the American minister who claims he met with the apostle Peter at a Denny’s restaurant, are examples of a functioning staircase between two realities. That Staircase, which accommodates both the ascending and descending, lives in us (John 1:51; Gen. 28:12).

Our old thinking was limited to very separate and concrete distinctions: earth = one reality (now), then, afterwards, is heaven, the other reality. Our blurred vision created sharp boundaries—but sharp vision will enable us to see blurred boundaries. Both the living and the once-living (who are awaiting their resurrection bodies) are in Christ. There is one Christ, one ‘body” of Christ…not two. As it progresses to completion, there are real ramifications.

You are manifesting (literally, ‘unveiling’ or ‘uncovering’) Jesus, becoming his brother—a son of God…and now is the time. All of creation is holding its breath, on tiptoe peering over the fence, to see you! That decaying and tiptoeing creation will begin to dance as the Christ-like church flows in full power…

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4: 18,19).

Creation waits for the sons to be revealed because of what sons do! They set the enslaved free. They rule the nations.(19)

“For the creation waits in eager expectation for (choose one: Christ’s Second Coming or the sons of God to be revealed!)” (Romans 8:19).

Heaven emerging. Sons of God maturing. Creation healing. Darkness intensifying. Forces colliding. Prophecy increasing. Revelation mysteries unfolding. Enemies submitting. He is living inside of us as a corporate sparkling river which brings to life the dead things it touches (Rev. 22:1; John 7:38). Inside of us He is the tree of life producing an abundance of fruit for all the nations of the world as well as leaves for their healing (Rev. 22:2; Ez. 47:12)! Body of Christ, there has never been a time like this. Yeshua ‘endured the cross’ and ‘despised the shame’ for the joy this time will produce.

Jesus is longing for His people to awaken and arise to the

present day emergence of heaven on earth.

Body of Christ, now is the time to lean into the Lord. Be still…be quiet and hear His heart. Rest. Rest and be one with Him.

He yearns to whisper to you. You were not created to be in the bleachers at this moment in history, you were created to co-labour with Yeshua in reconciling everything (EVERYTHING) to Himself. He is infusing your leaves with power to heal the nations! And now is the time….

Get low. Be wary of old habits, old answers, old theologies…even good ones. Be careful of them. Get low. Bow.

 

End of Part 4/4       Footnotes follow the Points to Ponder

 

To Ponder…

Is it dawning on you, as it has me, that Father is much better than we had originally thought?

Did you use to attribute all of our “Western” luxuries (i.e. your boat, clothes, dinners) either to luck (“be thankful you were born in North America!”), or to the result of our brainpower?

Are you holding on to your theology humbly, taking everything to Jesus instead of to your pastor or favourite author? Do you ultimately look for your answers in the Book or the God of the Book?

Does fear rule your discernment? Do you fear deception more than you trust Jesus?

Does it surprise you that despite evangelical scholars (New Bible Dictionary) linking worldwide restoration with Israel’s restoration as prophesied by Isaiah, many of us in the pews haven’t heard a single sermon on the subject in our entire lives?

Is it shocking to you that the Bible teaches that heaven comes to earth, that it starts small and that it grows?

Do you see your neighbourhood as the Garden of Eden (or what should be and will be the Garden of Eden)?

Are you surprised that you somehow glossed over the angels’ proclamation (at baby Jesus’ birth) of peace ON EARTH?

Is it a new idea to you that Jesus waits in heaven until all His enemies are made His footstool?

Does it thrill you that Christ is increasingly filling His bride with His glory and presence? That intimacy between bride and groom will deepen to the point of your thoughts becoming His thoughts?

 

Footnotes:

(16)  Amos 9:13 refers to the end times accelerated blessings for God’s people.

(17)  2 Peter 1:4 …partakers of the divine nature…

(18) Shockingly, and sadly, for many of us the simple truth that the kingdom of God = the kingdom of heaven = heaven somehow got missed. This “miss” has been catastrophic.

(19)  See Revelation 2:26, 27 along with 12:5

Part 3/4 The Power of the Seed

Jesus is longing for His people to awaken and arise to the

present day emergence of heaven on earth.

 

The Seed of the Cross

Did Jesus not die on that dreaded cross? What did He fight through Gethsemane’s fear for…for an incomplete restoration of planet earth? For what reason did His blood pour from his wounds…so magnificent restoration would NOT occur for his people? How effective is the cross in your theology? Only effective as an entry ticket once people die? No! His death was the seed of the kingdom, the seed of heaven. Picture a seed. Tiny. Plain. One colour, one texture, one shape. What on earth could come of it? But it grows. And, what is miraculously hidden in that seed? EVERYTHING! If it is a tomato plant, in that seed is the green trunk, the green stems, the leaves, and eventually the nutrient-rich, bright red flesh of the tomato. Is the seed of the cross insufficient to produce the kingdom? Is the greatest event in the history of the cosmos not quite enough? Does the Lord need to come back to regain control (and grab the wheel from us, as it were?) What part of His strategy did He miscalculate? What was it that wasn’t enough—the gifts He gave us? Not enough of them or an insufficient cross section of them? The keys and the authority they represent? They only open some doors, but not all of them? His presence? Somehow the presence of the Creator of the Universe is insufficient? Does He need to return to have heaven emerge? Or is all the potential of the whole kingdom found in the death and resurrection of our Lord? Is it “Part one is finished” or “It is finished”—what do you think?

How far is He willing to go to bring it to pass? He blesses us with his FULNESS! He anoints the church with ALL His authority (Colossians 1:16-18). As we are increasingly emptied of our old nature, we will walk in His fullness so as sons/daughters and kings we co-labour with Him until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of His Father.

And, yes, yes indeed, it is happening now. The emergence of heaven on earth (the restoration of the Garden) in tandem with Israel’s restoration is in its embryonic state…and it will grow and intensify as we awaken to our identity and purpose to co-labour with Him.

He in us is zealously committed to subjecting every one of His enemies under His feet (Heb. 1:13; 10:12,13). In fact, the Lord waits in heaven for that to happen! We’ve been made sons and kings and one grand purpose He gave us was to defeat Christ’s enemies. Too grandiose a task for the here and now? What does Jesus say?…

“Now is the judgement of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out… “ John 12:31.

As we increasingly implement Jesus’ mighty “casting out” of this world’s ruler, who then rules? Do you think that the seat is left vacant?

Obadiah 21 prophesies that saviours/deliverers (or judges) will go up on Mt. Zion to judge and govern their enemies and “the kingdom will be the Lord’s”.

“Then the sovereignty and dominion of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the saints of the most High God”. (13)

What is God’s intent for planet earth (especially with its old ruler dethroned, and, one presumes, his vacant seat up for grabs)?

Here is His intent: “The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples…”(14)

It appears, in the lead up to the glorious 9th inning, that, to some extent at least, we’ve been dining with Him:

“How was your weekend?”
“Great. We went to see the new Thor movie.”
“Any good?”
“I loved it.”

“How are the grandkids?”
“Oh, they are growing like weeds. Benjamin’s taking skating lessons and he’s hilarious. Spends more time laying down than standing up. Marilyn just loves her pottery class. They are at that adorable age right now.”

“What did you do during the break?”
“Al and I went down to Mexico.”
“How was it?”
“Oh, we love it down there. Weather was perfect…we find it so relaxing there. It’s been crazy at work and Al needed to get away.”

“How was dinner last night?”
“Awesome. We went to the new Italian place, right next to the Coast Hotel. The bruschetta was fabulous. I had the seafood linguini and it was probably the best I’ve ever had.”
“Nice. Joanne and I went to the Greek Taverna. The souvlaki is delicious and it’s so cheap.”

“I heard you went to the Seahawks game last weekend.”
“Yeah, the boss had some spare tickets if you can believe it.”
“How was it? They lost didn’t they?”
“Yeah, but it was so cool. The atmosphere at those games is unreal.”

“How are you and Carol doing?”
“You haven’t heard? Take a look at this” (shows a photo on his cell phone).
“Wow. That’s a beautiful ring. When did you pop the question?”
Beaming: “Just last week.”

“Wanna go out for coffee?”
“You bet. Where do you want to go?”
“Have you tried James St. Cafe? Their coffee is fantastic.”
“Meet you there at ten?”

“When did you start driving this?”
“About a month ago.”
“I haven’t seen you in that long? It’s beautiful. What year?”
“2012.”
“It looks brand new!”
“Yeah, got it from a dealership. I love it.”

“How’s Steve doing?”
“Great. He was having trouble with his eyes but had surgery and it’s been night and day. He said he was crazy not getting it done a few years ago.”

“How was your weekend?”
“Had an excellent time. Went to a concert—Robert Davies Blues Band.”
“I’ve never heard of them. How was it?”
“Awesome. They have a sax player who was brilliant. And the venue is so small every seat is great.”

“What are you doing on Saturday? Do you want to go hiking? We are going to try Smithers’ Ridge.”
“Nah, I’ve got to get some work done on the house” (read: mansion or castle)(15)

“What state do you think our society is in?”
“Oh, things are getting so bad, aren’t they? It is so evil.”
“Yeah, let’s hope the Lord comes quickly.”

Does it strike you as strange that as we bask in our society’s blessings we nevertheless are quick to label it (society) ‘evil’?

The truth is, there really is power in the blood! The seed really does grow! God’s promise recorded in Isaiah is being fulfilled! This is beyond thrilling, but it is also smack dab at the centre of the church’s devastating nap. We’ve slept through the glorious kindness and beautiful healing of his spirit-yeast rising the dough of our society. The seed has been growing….from spindly tree trunk getting thicker…to the branches beginning to bud…and the stems mysteriously producing leaves….but we’ve grievously given the credit to ‘progress’.

Although I had believed this hopeful vision, I was getting very discouraged. A quick look at the negativity of the six o’clock news can send your faith spiralling into a sewer. “Lord”, I said, “I believe your kingdom is coming. I believe the wolf will lay down with the lamb. But I sure don’t see it. Could you send me an encouragement…a token…some evidence in the animal kingdom of two natural predators peacefully co-existing?” I didn’t tell anyone, not even my wife, of my bold little prayer. One week later I was sent a Youtube video of a polar bear and a husky, natural predators, frolicking together, licking each other in the wild, for over 30 minutes, and the shocked quote from the PhD in animal behaviour that what he was witnessing was truly remarkable and unprecedented.

His great Garden-restoration is happening all around you!

Jesus is longing for His people to awaken and arise to the

present day emergence of heaven on earth.

End of Part 3/3

Footnotes:

(13) Daniel 7:27

(14) Isaiah 25:6

(15) Sure I’ve cherry picked these conversations and yes we all go through rough patches. But these are representative of the bulk of conversations most of us in the ‘first world’ have. Here are some facts to accompany the anecdotal conversations…facts concerning Isaiah’s game seven ninth inning prophecies of blessing and world restoration being fulfilled: longevity— world-wide life expectancy has climbed from age 32 in 1900 AD to age 70 today (an increase not of 38 days or weeks or months, but YEARS); since 1950 worldwide extreme poverty has declined a staggering 50% (see https://www.gapminder.org/videos/dont-panic-end-poverty/); racism, once embraced as normal, is now, for the most part, viewed with disgust; freedom has exploded (note: in Europe in 1000 AD, approximately 9 out of 10 people were semi-enslaved in serfdom with little to no chance of autonomy…today the exact opposite could be said—9 out of 10 people are free to make their own life and career decisions, own land, etc); wealth and abundance has skyrocketed—since 1820 the Gross Domestic Product (per capita) for “industrial” nations has grown from $1000 to $21,000, a growth of over two thousand percent! (see: The World Economy—A Millennial Perspective (2001), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Author Professor Angus Maddison); the dramatic acceleration of restorative movements of the Spirit in building up the church (1900, 1906, 1940’s – 1950’s, 1960’s etc.) re-awakening gifts that were sleeping for centuries; compassion for the handicapped, children, and prisoners that has led to drastic improvements in their treatment = justice; peace… since 1948 the nations most influenced by Abraham’s descendant have experienced the least number of wars in history (see: The Better Angels of Our Nature, Penguin Books, Author Dr. Steven Pinker); the dramatic fall of communism and the increased awareness and demand for justice in society and government; sexism is fading at the fringes when before it flourished in every neighbourhood in every city.

Part 2/4 The Blessing of the World

 

How did Jesus’ messengers, sent to the nations, fare? At first, spectacularly. Hundreds of thousands of changed lives, every corner of the Roman Empire, from the top to the bottom, radically effected. Love replacing hate. Complete strangers to Yahweh now intimate friends of His. Blessing and restoration raging from nation to nation…truly one of the most incredible movements the world has ever known. But it did not last. For various reasons beyond the scope of this article, carnality seeped into the church. Corruption and error replaced holiness and truth until the church’s purity, power and purpose became lost.

The Power of an Old 40 Watt Light Bulb

During the Middle Ages (approximately 400 AD-1400 AD) and even on to the Reformation, there was a dearth of Christlikeness. Believers burned other believers at the stake for doctrinal disagreements (murdered them while quoting scripture!); we’ve physically and psychologically harmed our brothers and sisters in Judaism; Catholics have hated Protestants and Protestants have hated Catholics; protestants have hated protestants as we’ve persecuted each other over petty theological squabbles (thousands of denominations later, and counting); we’ve loved little; we’ve lacked Holy Spirit power; we’ve inflicted rampant colonial arrogance all over the world—the sad list goes on and on. And everyday life through much of Europe was tough…

I walked back to my hut today from the fields. I think I own the hut, but the truth is it can be taken away from me at any time, by thieves or even by my boss. It gets very cold in the winter and can get very hot in the summer. Pretty crowded in the evenings since we bring in our few animals at night so they don’t get stolen. Makes the flea situation worse and the smell can get bad if we don’t clean up after them pretty quick. Our life expectancy is short—our kids have a 50/50 chance of growing up what with the starvation that hits, the utter lack of medical expertise and the smokey air in the hut. No running water, no toilets, no shampoo, no soap. We are not allowed to wear clothes above our class…not a problem for most of us since we have no access to nice clothing. (Our lords even have jewels sewn onto their clothing…beautiful stuff!). About 90% of us Europeans are peasants—we don’t have a ‘middle class’ like you. Funny phrase, middle class…in my world you’d be called nobility. Once I’m done lunch (very basic fare compared to your United Nations pizza), I will not be going to a park to ‘play’ with my son. If he has the time, he will be working with me in the fields. If we do travel (well, we don’t) we must be extremely careful as roaming thugs from the other towns are in a constant state of agitation. In fact, one of your historians notes that the likelihood of my son being murdered is between ten and fifty times what it is for your son. Mini wars are an accepted part of life here. Life is hard…life is dangerous…and life is exhausting.

He gave us His very presence to take to the nations, His splendour that shines like the sun, and we ended up spreading darkness. During the better centuries, we’ve shone, but like old 40 watt light bulbs.

But what was God’s original intent for planet earth (6) and how far is he willing to go to see it come to pass?

Jesus loves His bride and never gives up on her. He cares for and grooms His body like we care for and groom our own. Hence, transformational revival after revival (the Reformation, the Great Awakening, the Welsh Revival, Azusa Street Revival, the Latter Rain, the Third Wave, etc.) ignited by His Spirit to renew, correct and woo her back to the light she was destined to be, to the light of the kingdom, the light of heaven shining here where it was meant to shine and forever rest (remember, what does New Jerusalem do? It doesn’t wait for us to come up, it comes down).

Two thousand years since Abraham’s descendant Yeshua sent the first crew out to bless and restore the nations, to re-align them to the fullness of life described as unhindered harmony and intimacy between us and God, us and ourselves and us and creation…to bring heaven down. It is utterly fascinating to observe the effect on the nations of the world and to weigh the ancient prophecy of “blessing” against present reality: The United Nations (2013 U.N. index of quality of life) (7) rates the world’s countries for quality of life (Biblically understood as ‘blessedness’). Out of the world’s top ten countries to live in, 100% of them are “Judeo-Christian” countries, countries that have been majorly influenced by Abraham’s descendant Yeshua (remember, a supposedly deceased Jewish carpenter who never held a degree or a political or religious office or had any inventions to his credit or any money). Yeshua, Abraham’s descendant, has his fingerprints all over Norway, Canada, the U.S., Switzerland, Finland, New Zealand, Austria, Ireland, Australia, and Germany.

Fascinating that we can actually gauge, to some degree of accuracy, whether what Abraham thought God told him would happen, in fact, happened. Again, why did Yahweh give Abraham this wild promise? Because He wanted the world blessed. He wanted a worldwide Eden.(8) He created the world, loved and loves it and wants it blessed. That is how Jesus sees it—He said He was sent to earth from the Father because of how much the Father loved the world (John 3:16).

Out of the next 40 countries the U.N. Index describes as having ‘very good’ quality of life, 72% have Yeshua as the primary architect of their moral/religious foundation (which helps shape the culture and society in a multiplicity of ways). The next 40 nations, described as experiencing a ‘good’ (as opposed to ‘very’ good) quality of life, see 65% that would trace their faith roots all the way back to Yeshua and further still to that bizarre promise recorded in the book of Genesis. Out of the next 40 countries, listed as a ‘fair’ quality of life, it drops to 54%, and out of the bottom 40 nations who experience the worst quality of life, we see the least amount of his influence (44%). In every bracket, the degree of influence corresponds to the degree of blessing.

Yet despite this obvious connection, even believers have often attributed the quality of modern life to man-made progress, missing the mysterious power of the gospel, the yeast that quietly, without fanfare, permeates the whole batch of dough, and has been the incubator for the scientific, artistic, technological, moral and economic growth that has made the nations we call “the West” so blessed. So blessed that millions of refugees the world over long to experience a taste of that ‘blessedness’, with ten of them tugging at the robe of one “Westerner” and asking to be taken to their….(fill in the blank).(9)

Now if an old 40 watt light bulb can produce the quality of life we see in the West, if 40 watt light bulbs can propel nations to the top of the world’s best countries-to-live-in lists, what would the sun-like brilliance of Christlikeness produce?

Jesus is longing for His people to awaken and arise to the

present day emergence of heaven on earth.

As the church gets filled with the very presence of God Almighty, as we mature into His sons and daughters and actually look and act like Jesus, what effect would that have on a country? Are all those Old Covenant promises actually “Yes” in Jesus? How much of those promises will we really experience as we increasingly become one with Him, as we are formed into His image (Eph 4:11-13; 1 Cor. 12)?

When Jesus taught us about heaven, He said it would grow.(10) God’s reign on earth would be a process. It would start out pathetically small (the seed of a dozen ordinary, and at times bumbling, men). But Jesus guaranteed us that despite its unimpressive inauguration, heaven would eventually emerge. Isaiah proclaims that Israel’s Messiah would be unstoppable in his dogged determination to bring “justice to the earth” (Isaiah 42:4). (Justice…to the earth). Paul echoes the Old Testament prophet’s characterization of this unyieldingly intense Messiah when he reveals the risen Jesus as ceaselessly and relentlessly advocating, groaning even, for our wholeness (Romans 8:26,27,34). Why such passion? Because He is a man of His word, and because He has a vested interest in it coming about—heaven/justice/wholeness are other ways of describing His bride, of describing life with the one He adores (us).

 

Isaiah and the Brightness of the Ninth Inning

So it should not come as a surprise to find Yahweh really flexing His muscle now as He stirs world events to bring all things into alignment with His Son’s promise. Through His prophet Isaiah (chapters 40-55) God promises that His people, Israel, will be restored. And Isaiah interweaves two themes beautifully: the return of Israel’s exiles back to their land and the abundant blossoming of that land both physically and spiritually. For approximately 2,000 years Jews were without a country, exiled all over the earth. After the second world war when the United Nations formalized the borders for the nation Israel, the exiles returned in droves. And the land blossomed (irrigation has transformed deserts into forests and farmland). Spiritually the blossoming has been very muted, though more Jews have turned to their Messiah Yeshua in the last 30 years than at any other time in history. Isaiah’s prophetic declaration has come to pass.

But Isaiah said something else that was remarkable. He globalized the theme. He used the geographically local and ethnically specific prophecy (of exiled Jews and their patch of land in the Middle East) as a springboard for a worldwide fulfillment. (11) As Israel’s fulfillment would unfold, as Israel’s destiny would be restored and her salvation realized, all peoples, exiled from their God and the original relationship of the Garden, would return. The knowledge of Yahweh would cover the whole earth as the waters cover the sea. John describes it as Babylon falling and the city of God, New Jerusalem, taking its place. Heaven, God’s kingdom, would triumph. The New Bible Dictionary capsulizes the message of Isaiah chapters 40-55 this way: “Israel’s liberation from exile is viewed as the beginning of the great era of salvation, in which all things will be made new.”(12)

Jesus is longing for His people to awaken and arise to the

present day emergence of heaven on earth.

Well, “all things” is a lot of things. And, what might “new” look like?
“All things.” Not one thing will be left old or decayed or a product of selfish worldly imagination that pollutes or minimizes life. Not one. Everything restored. Not so much all new things, but all things…NEW.

Jesus came to usher in the end of the ‘old’ age and inaugurate the ‘new’. “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God (heaven)… for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). His answer to the question from an imprisoned and confused John the Baptist was: ‘It’s happening! The joyous days of Isaiah are here!’ (Luke 7:19-22). Restoration! The Kingdom! (Many of us are similar to John. We don’t see ‘it’ happening, and we question…actually, we don’t question, we create theologies that put everything off until after we die. Restoration? For the here and now? Kingdom? For the here and now? But the newly minted excuses, sorry, theologies, clash with what the Lord promises through his Old Testament prophets).

For the last two thousand years we’ve been living in the end of the age (game seven of the World Series, if you will). (Heb 9:26; 2 Cor 6:1). Isaiah, though, is describing the ninth inning. The end of the end of the age. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, He says that accompanying the restoration of Israel will be the restoration of the world. What is God’s intent? Here it is. Isaiah describes it in detail:

-the lame will leap, the deaf hear and the blind see
-new things will be declared; the spirit will be poured out
-streams will gush in the desert and the wilderness will blossom like a garden, like Eden; life will be restful and peaceful; we will live in our own houses
-rulers will rule with justice
-God’s people will become shelters from the storm that surrounds them;
in the midst of calamity God’s people will be free and protected
-no sickness; infants born won’t die young; longevity of life
-understanding for the nations will replace confusion and veiledness as the nations will see us as blessed and come to the light of God’s people; cities of ruthless nations will revere God; they will put their hope in God’s law and learn peace; a feast of rich food for all nations with God as the cook
-all powers are imprisoned and punished; king of Babylon is defeated and all the lands rest; the poor will find comfort and the brokenhearted will be given beauty for ashes
-the wolf will lie down with the lamb because the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God
-captives will find pasture on every barren hill and there will be no hunger or thirst
-glory of God will be on God’s people while darkness covers the earth
-wealth of the nations will be brought to God’s people
-countries that refuse to serve God’s people will experience ruin
-a new earth and new heavens will be created
-death will be defeated; there will be resurrection

Clearly Isaiah is not describing the afterlife since he includes children being born and people dying. But it is amazing stuff. Is His intent this good?

Has it already began? Is it gaining steam?

How could it not?

This should not come as a surprise. Daniel prophesied that the rock that crushes world empires would ‘fill the earth’ and Isaiah prophesied that unto us a child would be born and that the INCREASE of His just reign would see no end. And of course the keys. Yeshua handed Peter the keys to heaven and guaranteed him that in his battle to see the Father’s will done here, the opposition (gates of hell) didn’t stand a chance.

End of Part 2/2

Footnotes:

(6) Is our Creator’s intent to destroy the world or to bless it? When we misread apocalyptic language (“the earth will dissolve in heat”) we end up confused. “The end of the world” is not the earth that is ending but an age, an order, a system, a way of life. You won’t find the sudden destruction of this planet, but you will find the closing, conclusion, and completion of this present evil world. Remember Noah: the world “perished” and was “destroyed” by the flood, but, what actually perished?

(7) There are numerous sources and indexes published for nations and their quality of life. Indexes for the years prior to and following 2013 differ only slightly—the overall percentages/results I’ve listed essentially remain the same (some lists include one non-Judeo/Christian nation in the top ten, lowering the percentage of the top ten countries from 100% to 90%).

(8) Isaiah 27:2-6; 26:16-19; Daniel 2:34,35; 44,45 cf Isaiah 54:2,3; Psalm 8 and Genesis 1:26-28

(9) Zech. 8:23; Is. 11:10; 26:18 (Remember, gentiles become descendants of Abraham, become one with Israel, upon faith). Modern day refugees might deny that they are fulfilling these prophetic verses, but simple spiritual understanding proves otherwise–they are tugging on Europe’s robes because of the blessing European society has enjoyed, thanks to Yahweh.

(10) Mark 4:30-32

(11) Is. 41:17ff; 42:18-25; 43:16ff; 44:3,28; 48:21; 49:6,9bf; 51:1-3,9f; 54:4-17; 55:12f; cf. 54:13; 60:4; 62:4; 65:18; 66:20

(12) The New Bible Dictionary (2nd Edition, Tyndale, Isaiah chapters 40-55;
page 527)

Part 1/4 The Blessing of Israel

I drive up to my own house. Zero chance of it being stolen from me by a gang of thugs. It is mine and will be my whole life if I so choose. I am hungry. I walk to the kitchen. The what? The personal grocery store? The Promised Land? The fulfillment of 3,500 year old prophecies? I walk into the kitchen and make some lunch. Tastes good…homemade pizza is always better than the frozen kind. Although I like bought pizza too. Actually, I like any kind of pizza. This one has two kinds of cheese: cheddar and mozzarella. The cheddar was made in Armstrong, about a five hour drive from here. The mozzarella was made in Italy (we bought the best!), about half a world away. I’ve got peppers, delicious sweet red, orange and yellow peppers (I’m not a fan of green peppers) that were planted, grown, then picked (by the farmers’ kids? some South American workers? Who knows?) and packaged and then picked up by a truck, placed in temporary storage, picked up again by a truck (who is that truck driver?) and brought to the airport where they are loaded on a plane by some other workers, then picked up by another truck driver who transports my peppers (just the red ones—the yellow and orange ones came from another country!) to a packing house where they are stored temporarily before brought to my local grocery store so I could pick them up and enjoy on my Saturday at 11 o’clock pizza. I have a delicious sweet red onion (I had a choice between red onion or normal onion but I like the milder and sweeter taste of the red onion) on it too, as well as two main toppings: shrimp (they came via Indonesia) and pepperoni (thanks to a farm in Wisconsin that made great pepperoni for decades and became very successful—now they have distributors all over North America). I am eating my pizza as if it is a normal Saturday lunch….got things to do, things on my mind…gotta go to Home Depot to replace the faulty gutter part. Ummm…that was sure tasty. Oblivious to the fact that I just participated in a world-wide event of such stunning richness and blessing that, down through the ages, only kings and queens would have known it. And even some of them would have been envious. After my Roman Ceasar-like feast, I go to the park (Home Depot can wait, I decide) to fly a kite with my eight year old son. I have no fear. Barbarian hordes are not hiding in the bushes to kill me; Mongols are not lying in wait for me…I am feeling completely at peace. Why, there hasn’t been a shooting or a stabbing at this park….ever. This park has never seen a murder. We have a great time laughing and flying the kite—the winds are strong. And in a few hours, dinner….

Jesus is longing for His people to awaken and arise to the

present day emergence of heaven on earth.

What is God’s plan for planet earth? …for you and your family? To discern this we go to the Bible—obviously, we need to start in the Garden. The first few chapters of Genesis don’t say too much about Father’s desire for His creation, but we can use our sanctified imaginations: What was in the Lord’s heart for life in the Garden? What would an average day for Adam, Eve and Yahweh be like?

As the tragic story of rebellion unfolds and our Father’s original intent for us is thwarted, a stunning rescue mission emerges. He singles out a man (Abraham) and gives him a breathtaking prophecy: he’d eventually have a descendant so remarkable that through that descendant all the nations of the earth (you and I?) would be blessed (Gen. 22:17,18; 26:4). Initially, that lofty role would be granted to the nation Israel (the descendants of Abraham who eventually comprised the nation Israel). Called God’s servant and even God’s son (Exodus 4:22), Israel was the country He created to be the door the world’s nations would walk through to be re-connected to their God. He created Israel to exhibit such a state of joy and success and blessedness (the ‘children’ would be a reflection of their father’s goodness and closeness) that the other nations would see, inquire and and be wooed(1) into the loving relationship he so desired to have with them. Restoration. Back with their Creator, the nations would be blessed.

So His intention for His people was to give them Himself, the author of life. To accomplish this, He rescued Abraham’s descendants from slavery in Egypt, guiding them to a land flowing with milk and honey where they would enjoy each others’ company, just like back in the Garden.

God Himself gives us His definition of the life He planned for His people:

-blessedness everywhere…in the country, in the city, going in, going out
-kids blessed
-animals blessed
-crops blessed
-womb-barrenness eliminated
-enemies defeated
-fame and respect—all people will see whose you are
-abundant prosperity
-heavens will be opened to send rain when needed (economic well being)
-lend money to surrounding nations but borrow from none of them
-sicknesses eliminated (Deut. 28:1-14; Exodus 23:25,26)

The remarkable state of blessedness was the inevitable result of life with Father. “I will be their God and they shall be my people” meant blessedness in the here and now.(2) The ultimate goal in God’s plan is for His people to enjoy a full life described as unhindered intimacy between us and our Maker, us and each other and us and nature. The undoing of the Fall. Yahweh has allowed us a glimpse into His heart revealing His Garden intent (even the land of Israel, Canaan, was repeatedly referred to as the “Garden of Eden”(3)).

All Israel needed to do was follow the guidelines and principles He set out for them, guidelines and principles that would steer them towards compassion, love, humility, respect and goodness. Then all these blessings would be lavished upon them by their Father. (If they disobeyed, they would be removing themselves from his protective care and be at the mercy of a merciless and sin-full world…basically the exact opposite of the things listed above would be their lot).

The Bible offers us encouraging vignettes of Abraham’s descendants being a blessing to the world: Joseph saving Egypt from famine with his (and his Lord’s) creative gift of administration and wisdom; Daniel rising to top leadership in a pagan nation and dramatically effecting that country’s policies and leadership. Under King David’s son Solomon we are given a glimpse at the plan’s power—a foreign leader (the Queen of Sheba) hears of the wisdom and fullness of the little nation Israel and makes the trek to see for herself (she “saw”, “inquired” and was “wooed” as Isaiah prophesied would happen). But, these moments of glory were short lived anomalies. Overall, His people Israel chose not to humble themselves and fulfill their end of the relationship. Instead of LIFE, instead of feasting on the tree of life, they experienced the opposite—death, decay, defeat and difficulty.

And the nations of the world did not “see”, did not ‘inquire’ and so remained outside of the full blessings of Yahweh, steeped in sin and brokenness just like Israel.

Jesus is longing for His people to awaken and arise to the

present day emergence of heaven on earth.

 

Mission Accomplished?

Israel’s failure would ensure a continued alienation of mankind from its Creator, and our God is too zealous a lover to allow that to happen. He saw from the beginning of time how things would unfold and was saving His best for last. Who would be able to fulfill such an outlandish promise of blessing all the nations? Abraham had accumulated about a million descendants, and one of them was an unmarried carpenter named Yeshua (we in the west call him Jesus).

He was the beginning and the end, the tree of life in human form, God…in sandals. In Him was all the wisdom of Israel’s 600 laws, all the goodness of Yaweh’s principles, all the love of the Father. He would be the light of the world Israel failed to be. Lifted up, He would draw all nations to Himself. Restore them! His obedience culminated in His sacrificial death, and while up on that cross in unimaginable humility and love, He cleansed the earth of sin. It resurrected the magnificent life-promises (promises previously unattainable because of disobedience). It fired the Garden Seraphim, removing the ‘Do Not Trespass’ sign in front of the Tree of Life and replacing it with a neon-flashing ‘Welcome’ sign. As the second Adam He overcame Satan’s temptation—a victory of obedience Adam could not claim in the garden and Israel could not claim in the desert. It reconciled the whole world back to its Father.

Yeshua told his brothers and sisters in Israel that He came specifically for them. To set them so free that the world would see, inquire and choose to enter in to that wild divine-human love immersing Israel—the love that all people everywhere were created for. Israel’s destiny, her awesome promises, now delivered on a silver platter and available for free to the weakest and most broken among them.

Though a few accepted the gift, shockingly, most of the nation rejected their saviour. Would this rejection yet again ensure the worlds’ alienation from its Creator? No, for the time of the Kingdom had come(4), and it would not be thwarted. So, Yeshua instructed His disciples to go directly to the nations with His silver platter of promises (Acts 13:45-47; 9:15; 1:8; Matt. 22:8f). Instead of seeing God’s face in Israel, the gentile nations themselves would display His splendour. (And, in an ironic twist, Israel would eventually end up seeing, inquiring and being wooed back to God. See Rom. 11). Paul says in Galatians 3:4: “He redeemed us so that the blessing promised to Abraham would come to the Gentiles.(5)” All those promises summed up in one—“I will be their God and they shall be my people”. God with us.

And to the nations they went. How did they do?

Jesus is longing for His people to awaken and arise to the

present day emergence of heaven on earth.

(1) Dt. 4:6-8; 28:10; Ex. 33:16; Jer. 33:8,9; 4:1,2; Zech. 8:23; 1 Kings 8:41-43; 60, 61

(2) See Ezekiel 34:25-31 for another picture of this truth

(3) Cf Gen. 13:10; Is. 51:3; Joel 2:3; Ez. 36:35. Do you think Yahweh’s definition of “Life” has any relevance to you as a believer? Is Yahweh’s understanding of “Life with Him” the same as yours?

(4) 1 Corinthians 10:11 states: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come”. Heaven was “near” when Jesus first burst onto the scene. Jesus said in Mark 1:14: “The time is fulfilled and heaven is approaching”. As he interrupted the natural state of affairs with his Father’s will, bits of heaven were experienced (For example, since there is no sickness in heaven, Jesus removed the sicknesses of all those that came to him —see Matthew 4:23,24; 8:16,17; 9:35; 10:1; 12:15; 14:14. He then revealed his heart and his plan by sending out the seventy-two disciples, saying, “Heal the sick and tell them the kingdom of God is near”—note the obvious connection the Lord makes between those two activities).

(5)  The fulfillment of God’s heart that every nation and family be blessed (through Abraham’s descendant) was so prevalent in the minds of the apostles that Peter actually connected it to the healing of the beggar at the Temple Gate (Acts 3, especially verse 25).The Father’s ancient Old Covenant plan was fleshed out in a current New Covenant fulfillment, yet I would never have made that connection. Would you? See also Romans 15: 8,9 “The Messiah became a servant of the circumcised people…to confirm the promises to the patriarchs and to bring the nations to praise God…”.

 

Next: Part 2/4