I Don’t Believe in the Rapture

the-raptureWhat, you don’t believe in the rapture?!

Well, I actually do believe in the rapture. But not in the particular version that we find espoused by many Christians. The version known as a pre-tribulational rapture where God takes all Christians to heaven while there is a 7-year period of great tribulation on the earth, then followed by a millennial reign of Christ.

I don’t believe this version holds water under scrutiny, at least the scrutiny of what Scripture teaches. Continue reading

The Meek and the Earth

A couple of weeks ago, I shared that we were working through the Beatitudes (found in Matt 5:1-12) this summer at Cornerstone. You can listen to or download the messages from our podcast site or from iTunes.

This Sunday, we moved into looking at vs5 – Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

I love teaching from this beatitude. It contains one of the most significant challenges for our lives (Blessed are the meek…) and one of the most significant promises for our lives (…for they shall inherit the earth).

Most people do not realise that God has promised the earth as a gift to His people, the meek. Actually, it has never registered for some that God has always promised land to His people.

In the beginning, before sin and death had entered our world, God gave the gift of Eden to Adam and Eve:

26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:26-28)

Our first parents were given the land of the Garden, to work it and take care of it (Gen 2:15). God was the great owner, but they were called to be stewards of it, while also being fruitful, multiplying and filling the earth. A fantastic gift and opportunity to participate in this bit of land, this bit of heaven on earth.

But moving along.

After sin and death entered the world, we pick up the story of Abraham (though I could have made some stoppers along the way). It’s only a few chapters down the road, but quite a long distance with regards to time. Interestingly enough, God calls a man, a man to be a blessing to all peoples of the earth (Gen 12:3). And, lo and behold, He again promises a land to Abraham and his descendants (see Gen 15:18-21; 17:8).

Now, I am of the view that God set out certain pointers, foreshadowings, in the old covenant that signify greater things to come in Christ and the new covenant. So, for example, in the old covenant, God’s people were marked by circumcision of the foreskin. But it ultimately pointed to a greater circumcision of the heart by the Spirit (Rom 2:28-29). In the old covenant, there were only a few that were called to enter into the priesthood of the old covenant. But, in Christ, the whole body becomes part of the royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9-10). And so on and so forth we could continue.

I believe the same is true with regards to the gift of land. While the land of Canaan was promised to the descendants of Abraham, I believe that, in Christ, the promise to all God’s people, whom are actually Abraham’s descendants (Rom 4), expands to the whole earth. A renewed earth one day.

And so, this is brought out by the fact that Christ’s words in Matt 5:5 are a restating of Ps 37:11, but within the greater new covenant context. What were those original words of the psalmist?

But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace. (Ps 37:11)

And actually, we read at least 5 times in that psalm alone that God’s people will inherit the land.

What land? Well, in the old covenant context, it was the land of Canaan (or, today, we might say Palestine). But, within the new covenant that Christ initiates, we see God’s plan is to gift the whole earth to His people, which really harkens back to the original gift of Eden in Genesis. Not only that, but Paul refocuses the original promise to Abraham in these words:

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. (Rom 4:13)

And, so, I believe a kingdom worldview sees these 5 points as essential to God’s purpose in Christ and the new covenant:

1) The earth belongs to God (i.e. Ps 24:1)

As a side note, when Paul calls Satan the ‘god of this world’ (2 Cor 4:4), it does not mean that he is ruler of the earth. It means that he is only ruler over those ‘of the world’, or those who live in accordance with the ways of the world. The Scripture tells us the earth belongs to God.

2) The earth will be filled with God’s glory (i.e. Hab 2:14 and Is 11:9)

This is God’s design and the final outcome of where we are headed. If the earth is His, then He will ultimately disperse His glory into every corner. And, He is interested in utilising us in doing so even now. But I’ll come to that in just a moment.

3) All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Christ (i.e. Matt 28:18-20)

No, not every knee has bowed. Not every tongue has confessed. But the lordship of Jesus is a  reality. It is not scheduled for a later date. It is for now. It’s just that, at a later date, it will be confirmed for those who are not God’s. It is already confirmed to us. Therefore, we can ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’

4) God’s plan is for the meek to inherit the earth (i.e. Matt 5:5)

This is awesome news. Part of the good news, the gospel of the kingdom. That the earth, this earth which God will renew, is our ultimate home. God’s design is not a palatial city in the sky. His plan has always been to see what is in heaven, His rule and reign, come on earth. That is why Jesus asked us to pray such (Matt 6:10)

5) In this age, we proclaim the God news that God is reconciling people to the Himself and making all things new (i.e. 2 Cor 5:16-21; Rev 21:1-5)

Though there is an absolute beauty in seeing human beings reconciled with the Father, their sins forgiven and becoming partakers of the divine (2 Pet 1:3-4), it does not stop there. The good news is that God will redeem and renew creation. And just like our lives of discipleship and holiness point to the age to come, when heaven has fully invaded earth, so does our stewardship of planet earth point to the age to come when all things are completely made new. We taste of it now as new creations. But there is a day yet to come (Rom 8:18-25). And this is part of seeing the glory of the Lord extend into the earth even now (i.e. Hab 2:14). Amazing He asks us to participate in this.

Now, I set a background with all of this to move towards a significant point I want to make in this post.

If Jesus is Lord already, how do we proclaim that today? In the biblical, New Testament times, to say Jesus is Lord (or Jesus is kyrios), this would have been quite significant in a world where Caesar was Lord and Master. It was quite offensive and definitely challenging to Caesar’s authority to say such back then. But, today, that word is kind of taboo. Or it doesn’t mean too much. Lords were of the olden days or masters over slaves.

Yes, our songs sure enough proclaim Jesus is Lord, and we probably say it with our lips. But I’m not sure it means much practically. What does this mean to a world that does not have much grounding in the importance of the lordship of Jesus Christ?

To proclaim the lordship of Jesus could be done in various ways. But, this is where I believe God made the connection for me – To proclaim that Jesus is making all things new is a proclamation of the lordship of Jesus.

He said He is making all things new (Rev 21:5). He already has begun in the new creation life of His people (2 Cor 5:16-17). And I believe His desire is to see His people engaged in living out lives that point to the reality that Jesus is and will make all things new one day.

And, so, to proclaim that Jesus is making all things new, I believe this is part of the good news message that Jesus is kyrios, Jesus is Lord. Well, I suppose if He wasn’t Lord, He wouldn’t have much of a right to make all things new. And, if He wasn’t making all things new, well, I suppose we could question whether He is who He says He is.

But Jesus is Lord and a major pointer to that reality is that He is the One who is making all things new. That is where the connection really came to me about the practicality of Jesus’ lordship.

And, the call is that those who want to inherit the earth as God’s gracious gift, well this is extreme challenge – Blessed are the meek

The way of the kingdom is so counter to the ways of the world, the ways of our own flesh. One does not receive from God by arrogance, throwing one’s weight around, controlling or being authoritarian. One receives through becoming meek, becoming poor in spirit, dying to self, taking up their cross. You know, emulating the Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus.

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

You can listen to the sermon by clicking on the icon below, or, as I mentioned above, you can download it from our podcast site or iTunes.

Planet Earth

I think for my first ‘official’ post, I am going to veer off a little from the original purpose of The Prodigal Thought. Why so? Well, I have been churning over something in my mind, or in my heart. When you see the title of this post, Planet Earth, you might be thinking, ‘Oh no, he is going to give his unwanted thoughts on global warming!’ But, really, that’s not where I am going.

It’s a journey that began back in the final few days of March of this year. I was visiting friends in Brussels and they happened to have a DVD series, in HD, entitled Planet Earth: As You’ve Never Seen It Before. This is a four-disc set put out by BBC with David Attenborough as narrator (he is well-known Brit). On the back of the box set, there is a short summary that reads:

‘This stunning television experience captures rare action, impossible locations and intimate moments with our planet’s best-loved, wildest and most elusive creatures. From the highest mountains to the deepest rivers, Planet Earth takes you to places you’ve never been, to experience sights and sounds never before captured on film. Prepare to be overwhelmed by the beauty and majesty of Planet Earth.’

Can I just say that when I first saw a portion of this series back in March, it was amazing. Sitting there watching such things you have never seen before, in HD ,on a larger television screen, it truly does take your breath away. Wild animals galloping across the plains of outer Mongolia, snow capped mountains of the Himalayas, baby snow gooslings hatching during summertime in the Artic circle. How did they do that? Or, should I ask, how did He do that?

So in this two-week transition period where we are staying with my parents until we fly out to Brussels, we were just browsing through their DVD collection and, lo and behold, we stumbled upon the Planet Earth series. Upon seeing the series on the shelf, my heart immediately jumped, my eyes widened, and I thought, ‘We are going to have to watch some more of this before flying out.’

So, we sat down last night and popped in the HD DVD (which, come to find out, they have stopped making HD discs, though there is still Blu-Ray). With a glass of chocolate milk in hand, my eyes began to take in the beauty captured on camera. To ponder the change of seasons, the blooming of multi-colored flowers, the heavenly bodies in all their glory, to literally see millions upon millions of one species of bird flying together, and even an aerial view of the almost completely deserted and frozen tundra of Asia. I don’t even need to quote Psalm 19 for you to make the spiritual connection, the God-moment some of this is. I just want to tell this short story to not so much ask you to buy the DVD series, though that might be a beautiful thing. But ultimately, I just wanted to let you know that I have seen that the ‘heavens declare the glory [or goodness] of God.’ And I am pretty sure you have seen it to.

Thus, I am challenged to ‘get outside and open my eyes!’ I must confess that I have never been too much of an outdoors person, and those who know me can attest (right, Cat!). I am content with book in one hand, coffee in the other, and usually in the air-conditioned dwelling place called home or a coffee shop. But after living three years on the coast of Wales, reading some of Eldredge and his challenges about the outdoors, and, now, watching this Planet Earth series, I sense a wooing and drawing toward something divine, something bigger than my little story where I am not even the main character anyhow. I feel a renewed stirring to drink in the surroundings of the Lover’s artwork and painted tapestry on which the drama of our lives are walked out. But I need to lay down the MacBook, step outside, and catch that “magic hour,” as the film producers call it.

So, I live on planet earth. How is my life going to be changed by that today?…