Basic Battle Training
Chapter 17: Diversions: The Kingdom of God.
The next seven Chapters represent what we see as diversions that the enemy has developed to sidetrack the Church from its goal and mission (Matthew 10:27). These subjects represent a range of topics that extend from the supposed “intelligence of theological thought” to the more obvious errors that surround 2007-year-old Christianity.
Though it is probable that we will not find agreement on all the topics, we are constrained to address them for those who have eyes that see and ears that hear. Our intention here is not the continuation of the divisions which plague God’s Church, but rather an exposition of what we see as true and profitable to the overall goal.
Our first subject deals with the profound errors that surround the make-up, description and goals of The Kingdom of God.
Rightly Dividing the Word
Two thousand years ago God attempted through His Son to institute a new covenant with the Hebrews. With their rejection of His effort, His attention turned to the peoples of the world: the Gentiles. Though God’s goals were in line with the previous Covenant, this new plan would follow a direction with much more at stake. This New Covenant would be very expensive to God and would give the ensuing generations much greater opportunity and responsibility.
With this new approach God, and those who followed Him, were faced with a very large job. This work, which He assigned to the Apostles, Paul and others, was to introduce a plan of service much different from the one given to Moses. As might be expected, this was a time of radical change that led to some confusion. With this, God’s ministers were given the power to do many miraculous things. The primary intent of these miracles was to show the authority of these men as they taught and led people to the new direction God intended.
Satan was also quite busy during this time and his attacks came in a variety of forms. From the outright elimination of the people involved through martyrdom, to his work of subversion and confusion, his days were full. As he labored, one of his primary goals was to confuse and frustrate the people of God through his time-proven course of perverting the leadership.
His attack continues today.
How To figure This Stuff Out.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:16-17).
"Study to show yourself approved, rightly dividing the Word of Truth (II Timothy 2:15)
The meaning of these verses, when attached to the times in which it was spoken, takes on a significance that has been somewhat lost. The job given to the early ministers of God’s New Covenant was to introduce the Kingdom of God with all its new forms. Parts of the old plan were to remain solidly in place while much was to be replaced with better.
Correct study and division of what had come before, and what lay ahead, became imperative to an accurate understanding of citizenship in the New Kingdom. This then is the true meaning of God’s exhortation to "rightly divide His Word".
The basic beliefs between the Testaments had no measurable change and are here clearly stated:
· God did not change from wrath to mercy.
· His overall goals have not changed.
· His plans are always made clear.
· The Bible is clearly divided into two plans.
· The New Testament has supplanted the Old.
· The practices of the old Covenant are finished.
With these things in mind, we would like to point out some of the many differences between the two Testaments:
|The Old Testament||The New Testament|
|Reward was temporal||Reward is later and Eternal|
|Saints were to rule the World||Saints are to be persecuted|
|Animals were sacrificed for sin||Christ is sacrificed for our sin|
|The Temple was at Jerusalem||The Temple is in our body|
|Holy Spirit “came on” people||Holy Spirit “indwells” people|
|Preaching was mainly to Israel||Preaching is to all the World|
|Saved by “Keeping the Law”||Salvation is by “Grace”|
|Aaron was the High Priest||Christ is our High Priest|
|Levitical Priests were in place||Now a Priesthood of Believers|
|Marriage was exhorted||Singleness is now exhorted|
|Wealth was a sign of blessing||Wealth is a Worldly hindrance|
|The job was to follow the law||Now we Preach the Gospel|
|The Law was written on stone||The Law is now on our hearts|
|Mostly temporal Judgments||Mostly eternal Judgments|
|Hope was for things temporal||The hope is for things eternal|
|Judgments were immediate||Judgment is to come (Hell)|
|Restrictions were on diet||Diet restrictions are eliminated|
|Capitol/temporal punishments||Church Discipline|
|Circumcision was the sign||Baptism is the sign|
|No talk of Discipleship||Discipleship is emphasized|
|Little talk of Hell||Lots of talk of Hell|
|The fear of God was temporal||The fear of God is eternal|
|No “Spiritual gifts” employed||The gifts are introduced|
|Heaven gets little play||Heaven is the main issue|
|Judgment Day got little play||Judgment Day is emphasized|
|Satan is hardly mentioned||Satan is a major player|
|10% tithing was in place||“Sell all” exhorted (rewards!)|
|Told to “Possess the Earth”||Exhorted to shun the World|
|Fighting in physical warfare||Fighting in Spiritual warfare|
With these distinctions shown, we will now illustrate two of the more confused issues.
Violence and the Sword
On the issue of violence and immediate judgment on evildoers there is clear and unquestionable difference between the two Covenants:
While men of God were blessed in the Old Testament for killing pagans (like Elijah who slew 450 prophets of Baal, or Phineas who was rewarded with an everlasting priesthood for spearing 2 fornicators), there are no such examples in the New Testament. In fact, when the disciples suggested calling fire down from heaven as Elijah did, Christ even rebuked them (Luke 9).
Nearing the cross, the sword is used in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt. 26, Mk. 14, Lk. 22)…but to what end? In these accounts, the disciple who cut off the Priest's ear was rebuked and told to put his sword away. At this time also Christ restored the ear, healing the damage. So why was this done at all?
In Mt 26:56 we see that these things were done "to fulfill Scripture". What was the Scripture needing fulfillment? In Luke 22: 36-38 we find Christ instructing of the disciples to arm themselves with what was eventually two swords (between all 12). The reason for this is given as: "that He was to be reckoned among the transgressors". Apparently Jesus was giving the Pharisees (and possibly the Romans) a "reason" to prosecute him...in essence giving them enough rope to hang themselves!
In all of the Apostles’ future encounters with pagans in the Roman Empire, not once did the apostles take up arms or use any kind of force (or even fight for legislation). Their tactics were totally non-political, non-physical, and completely spiritual. Their mission was not to change laws, over throw the Government, or physically force the moral imperatives of the Bible. The clear job they had been given was to proclaim salvation from sin, Hell and this world through Christ. With the promised rejection of that message by most (Matthew 7:13), their next obligation was then to clearly warn the hearers of the consequences of their action (Ezekiel 3:18, 33:7-9).
Our involvement in society is to be the public proclamation of God's Word and mind concerning eternal judgment and opportunity…not fighting, executing, or in any other way fashioning ourselves after the saints of the Old Covenant.
The erroneous division of this concept of violence has led to many examples of defaming testimony concerning Christ and Christianity by what the world considers “God’s people”. We are constantly reminded of one of the greatest of these follies: The Crusades. Another is the current “White Supremacist” movement.
Where, in all of New Testament, are we taught to take, or have possession of the Holy Land or “dominate” the world? The direction and purpose clearly taught in the New Testament is that of the Kingdom of God is "within you", "Spiritual" and to come in eternity! The erroneous meld of Old Testament instructions and direction did not come from God, but from the intentions of a misguided leadership as they mixed "religion with politics".
So today, there are those who believe that the use of violence is to be used by believers to establish nations and establish the World “for God”. Within this thinking there are also those that believe violence is necessary to "morally correct" such issues as abortion, sodomy and our "right" to preach. This thinking is clearly miss-divided from Old Testament beliefs and practice and is counter to the intents of God’s eternal plan.
Note: This understanding should not be meant to exclude the use of force in circumstances other than preaching and the ministry of the New Covenant. We fully realize the role of the Government, armies, the police--- and even the individual--- in the use of force in select circumstances (like coming to the aid of someone being assaulted).
We likewise encourage the role of the believer in issues we are clearly given a choice in. We do believe in voting! Again, our intent here is to show the vast differences between the covenants and to show God’s eternal plan as opposed to His old temporal one: that of the evangelism of the world and warning the World of the subsequent judgment to come. (See: John 18:36, Rom.12:17-20, 13:1-7, 1 Tim. 2:1-3)
Wealth, Blessing, and Prosperity?
Close on the heels of this misunderstanding of violence comes the vision of what we are to temporally expect from service to God. A popular verse used today in witnessing is John 10:10b:
“I have come that they might have life and life more abundantly". (John 10:10b)
In understanding the use and implications of this out of context promise we can see a root of the problem: an expectation of tangible Old Testament wealth, with the clearly promised persecution of New Testament believers left unmentioned!
Much of this error has attached itself to certain factions of Christianity with the oft-vaunted “Prosperity Doctrine”. This is most visible with Pentecostal thinking seen and in the current crop of Televangelism ministries such as TBN, The 700 Club, Benny Hinn, etc. Common sense, and a light skim of the Bible usually will suffice to see these frauds for what they are, but many are still duped.
Of course the best reason for this deception is to keep a goodly flow of money coming in to the above mentioned ministries. This is accomplished by the erroneous promise that the giver will be likewise "compensated" by God. These false expectations have reshaped the whole concept of the Christian life and direction God originally intended. Nowhere in all of the New Testament are we instructed to expect the tangible blessings of the Hebrews (Deut. 28:1-14). On the contrary, our lot is not to consider the world our home, but rather to expect hardship for our faithfulness and to look to the blessings of the one to come. (Yes, this IS called “Pie in the Sky”!)
Most Christians have little trouble reading and clearly (Biblically) understanding these errors. So what then is the problem? Why do converts have an anticipation of material blessing and a life that is far from the Master’s intents …and why are these things so readily believed? Why indeed has the New Testament become in many circles a "quasi" Old Testament in service and practice? The answer to this question is not hard to see:
Most don't want to follow Christ’s’ real lifestyle and rather have an itching ear, and a worldly lust, for the “prosperity” of this erroneous thinking.
So then, we again have the dual problem of a false message and eager ears to hear (Jeremiah 5:31). With this, Satan becomes the ultimate winner and all that follow his path become the eternal losers. With this also God loses as follows:
· Work in His Kingdom is judged by worldly standards: Big buildings, numbers, slick “prosperous” attire and status…not much like Jesus lived!
· The clear instruction to take aggressively His Word to the streets, "gates" and "chief places of concourse" is relegated to a non-issue, unable to meet the worldly “success standards” in vogue today.
· A poor witness is shown with the promised Godly "prosperity" displayed, built on the scams and errors we have described. (But this is little more that “glorified trailer trash" when measured against the glory to be revealed).
· Dead churches are a further casualty. As they strive to become what they were never intended to be, they continue the error and pass their confusion to succeeding generations.
· A distorted image of Christ is another result coming from this pursuit of a false Kingdom. The Christ of today is a jumble of mixed messages, indiscernible from the real Christ of the Bible
· And finally, the church has done a tremendous disservice to the Jews. The churches’ service and ministry has become not much more than an "enterprise": a quasi-social club! It is filled with "tradition" and is not far from the example of the backslidden Hebrews who were ultimately responsible for Christ’s death.
Today there are many voices “representing” God and His supposed intents. As we began this chapter with the exhortation to “rightly divide the Word” we end with the same instruction. Proper study and division of Scripture is imperative and can only be accomplished with vigorous effort to learn or verification of all things. (Again, see the folks from Berea: Acts 17:11)
Much of what we have outlined so far in this book describe the New Testament ideals exhorted in Scripture. But even knowing these things, most of us fall well short of these standards. This is especially true in the free world where we can achieve wealth and worldly "success" far easier than other Nations.
Though God has and can bless His people in worldly ways, those blessings should never be confused with the life promised to the Old Testament saints. Likewise we should be very careful in using violence to preserve our “worldly position". Correct perspective can always be kept by having the clear New Testament instructions and perspective firmly in place.
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