Waiting for the Kingdom

“Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.”

Mark 15:43

At His birth, during His earthly life and at His death, Jesus had men and women prepared for roles in His life and mission. For his birth he prepared Simeon and Anna; for his death he prepared Joseph and Nicodemus. These people had several things in common. They took the Old Testament scriptures literally and believed the prophecies contained therein. They were ready for Jesus’ appearing. Jesus later warned Israel to be ready (Matthew 24:44) and told a parable to that effect (Matthew 25:1-13). It was biblical prophecy, taken literally and believed, that prepared them and many others for their roles and service to Jesus Christ. We do a great disservice to Jesus if we do not do the same. If we don’t take God’s word literally and believe it, we will be unprepared for what is to come and unable to serve Him.

How we receive biblical prophecies will affect how we respond to personal situations and world events. Joseph of Arimathea was ready for the coming kingdom because he believed the prophecies concerning Messiah and Israel. His faith in God’s word led him to put his life on the line by presenting himself to Pilate asking for Jesus’ body. Faith in God’s word will always produce actions that demonstrate that faith (James 1:22; 2:14-26). James tells us that “faith” that fails to produce acts of faith is non-existent (2:20).

It seems reasonable that if we continue to read and believe God’s word and live our lives in accordance with it, then we will be prepared by the Holy Spirit for what is to come and for our role day by day. The Bible reveals that before Jesus returns to establish His earthly reign certain events must take place. If we don’t believe what God has given us in scripture, life will be like groping around in an unfamiliar room in total darkness. We will stumble and fall and this may lead to despair. However, if we believe the prophetic scriptures we will be prepared for those events prophesied by God through Jesus Christ and the prophets.

Throughout the New Testament we have testimonies that God’s faithful people expected the literal fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham. Examples of this include Mary (Luke 1:55) and Zacharias (Luke 1:72-73); and they are not alone in this.

No Disappointment

“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand and I will do all My pleasure”

Isaiah 46:10

There are many ways that people have sought to discover future events in their lives but all fail. Fallen mankind will look for knowledge of the future everywhere except to their Creator. Yet God is the only one who is outside time and therefore knows in detail all that is to come. This is why He said through Isaiah, “To whom will you liken Me and make Me equal and compare Me that we should be alike?” (Isaiah 46:5). We have tried to place our astrologers, crystal ball readers and the like on an equal footing with God. Think about this from God’s view point. In Psalm 2:4 we read, “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision.”

One of the key reasons that the Lord has made so much mention (much of it in considerable detail) of events, future to the time when given, is so that people will know the truth of Isaiah 46:9 when it comes to pass: “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me.” People may like to arrogantly argue and may think that they can find excuse but the Lord says, “I will not arbitrate with a man” (Isaiah 47:3). The Lord says, “I have declared the former things from the beginning … Suddenly I did them and they came to pass … I have declared it to you; before it came to pass … lest you say, ‘My idol has done them’ … I will not give My glory to another” (Isaiah 48:3-5, 11).

The reason the Lord tells us things to come is so that, when they happen in the detail He has given, we will know that He alone is God.

For now the world mocks those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even some Christians cast doubt on God’s faithfulness to His word especially in regard to His covenant with Abraham and King David. In Isaiah 49:6 the Lord promises to redeem both Israel and Gentiles. When this is eventually fulfilled everyone “will know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me” (Isaiah 49:23). Those who deny God’s faithfulness to His word will be greatly ashamed when He fulfills it in all the detail He has revealed. Those who live in expectation and faith that the Lord will fulfil His word will not be disappointed even if there is what we consider a long wait.

It is God’s Battle

“You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!”

2 Chronicles 20:17

This occasion is one of several where God gave Israel victory without them having to draw a sword. Three armies had combined and were making ready to attack Judah, including Jerusalem. King Jehoshaphat sought the Lord and his prayer is a model for us all. He acknowledged God as Creator and sovereign (v 6), and appealed to the covenant He made with Abraham (v 7). He then submitted himself and the people to the Lord’s word and command (v 12). In response, God reminded him that it was not his battle but God’s (v 15).

The king was told to set himself and the people of Judah as spectators. Before they did this, because they believed the word of the Lord (v 19, 20) and they worshipped the Lord in prayer, praise and singing (v 22). Then they went out to witness God’s victory.

They observed a dispute arise among the three armies. This resulted in two of the armies destroying the third and then the two remaining armies disputing further and destroying each other (v 23). No one escaped (v 24).

This is by no means the only time that Israel’s enemies had disputes among themselves such that they fought among themselves without touching Israel. We can observe this happening in part today. Remember that Iran is not Arabic, it is Persian. Iran is currently attempting to re-establish the Persian Empire to pre-eminence as it was centuries ago. This means subjugating all Arab states, Egypt, Israel and parts of Europe and Africa – as a start! That it uses religion to validate war to promote its ideology is nothing new to history. It concerns the Arabic states that Iran is gaining a stronghold in Syria and boasting of having infiltrated others.

At present, the nations that have been threatening Israel’s existence are disputing and fighting among themselves and therefore ineffective against Israel. As in the days of King Jehoshaphat, the battle is God’s and He will confuse His enemies. The key difference so far is that Israel is yet to seek the Lord and pray, as Jehoshaphat had done, appealing to the Lord’s covenant with Abraham. When they do, they will again be spectators as God destroys His, and their, enemies (Revelation 19:15).

Fully Convinced

“… and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” Romans 4:21

The way some people view God’s word would seem very strange to the apostle Paul quoted above and to many of the people to whom God has spoken. The above verse is a reference to Abraham and is key to what faith in God and Jesus Christ is. Abraham took God at His word and took it in its normal literal context. He was convinced that God had said what He meant and meant what He said. He wasn’t speaking mystically or in riddles that Abraham had to try and solve in order to know what was required of him. As a result of being convinced he then acted upon what God had actually said, not on a mystical interpretation of what God had said. Confusion in understanding of God’s word comes about because we don’t follow Abraham’s example.

In a storm on the sea Paul said to those with him, “I believe God that it will be just as it was told me” (Acts 27:25). Believing what God has said has a very practical application in life.

Noah was also convinced that God had spoken plainly to him and built an ark as it was told to him. Had he decided that God meant something smaller because such an ark was too hard to build the outcome would have been different. What if he did as some do today and decided that God only meant a local flood? He would have built a smaller ark and only taken local creatures on board. Now that error in understanding would give the environmentalists something to complain about!

Jonah certainly believed that God meant what He said even though he was unwilling to do as asked. Hebrews chapter 11 records the names of many others who did exactly the same as Abraham. Such names as Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David and the prophets are mentioned as men and women who were convinced that God had spoken what He meant and they acted on it without disappointment.

Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father, endured nine months being dumb because at first he didn’t believe what God had said. Mary believed God’s messenger when told she would conceive outside of marriage by the Holy Spirit. What if Joseph had not believed the angelic messenger and believed instead that Mary had been unfaithful? How different the Christmas story might have been! Both Mary and Joseph were convinced that God had spoken through the angel and that they should take what they were told in its normal literal meaning even though they knew it would open them up to criticism from their religious leaders. They were fully convinced that what God had said He was also able to perform.

This week we have a day set aside to reflect on God’s faithfulness not only to His word to Mary and Joseph but to all of the men and women to whom He has spoken throughout history. Christmas, as well as Easter, is a time that we can especially reflect on God’s word and our attitude to it. Instead of trying to make it say what we want to hear let us follow the example of so many others and take God at His word. That is the message that Paul was conveying when he wrote this verse to the Christians in Rome. It is just as valid now.

No Need to fear

“I am determined to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear” Zechariah 8:15

Just how determined is the Lord to do good to Jerusalem and Judah? The latter half of Zechariah’s prophecy gives us the answer. It describes some events leading up to and the Lord’s fulfilment of the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In Genesis 12:2, 3 we read, “I will bless you and make your name great and you shall be a blessing … and in you all the families of the world shall be blessed.” In Zechariah 8:13 we read, “So I will save you, and you shall be a blessing. Do not fear, let your hands be strong.” This prophecy is about the Lord fulfilling His covenant promises with Israel. That He says twice, “Do not fear” (vv 13 & 15) is an indication that the process of fulfilment will give ample reason to fear.

This will be a horrific time for Israel in which the Lord says that two-thirds of the people will die (13:8). Only one-third will survive the lord’s refining fire (13:9). Only for those who love truth, justice and peace and love their neighbour (8:16-17), which are indications that they love the Lord and believe His word, is there comfort and no need to fear. Instead, they will trust the Lord.

They will know that their King entered Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey (9:9) and died on a cross (12:10) for their sin, rising the third day as the Scriptures foretold. They will not fear because they believe that just as Christ was pierced for their sin they will see Him come in glory just as Zechariah’s prophecy and other prophets and Jesus have said.

They will not fear because they know that there is a day soon coming in which the feet of Jesus Christ will stand on the Mount of Olives and the mount will split in two (14:4-5) creating a large valley through which they shall escape.

They will not fear because they will know that “The Lord shall be king over all the earth” (14:9).

They will not fear because in there is soon to be a day when the peoples and nations will not come to Israel for war but “to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord” (8:22).

They will not fear because they know that “everyone who is left of all the nations which came up against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles” (14:16). This is what Peter was thinking of when he suggested building tabernacles on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was thinking of this great era when everything will be engraved with HOLINESS TO THE LORD (14:20). Maranatha!

While the Bible reveals terrible times ahead for Israel and the world those who believe God’s word see a most glorious world on the horizon over which Jesus reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords. We have no need to fear. Who is able to withstand the determination of the Lord? No one!

Either by bodily death or by the calling up of His church we will be delivered from this corrupt and evil world into Christ’s presence. “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Where is that Donkey when you Need Him?

“The word that the Lord puts in my mouth, that I must speak” (Numbers 22:38)

What if all the preachers in the world followed Balaam’s conviction? Surely we would have a much different world with many less confused Christians. Of course, Balaam didn’t come to this position without the Lord’s most unusual intervention. Tempted by gold and silver Balaam tried to have a foot in both camps. Surely God would let him have wealth and remain in His service! There have been and are many Christians who have followed in Balaam’s shadow and want the benefits of being a Christian without surrendering what the world offers. Enter the donkey! Balaam seems so set on this path that even his donkey speaking and debating with him didn’t seem unusual.

Sadly, today we do have preachers who do not follow Balaam’s eventual conviction and they do curse Israel. Where is that donkey when you need him? Balaam refused to curse those whom God has blessed. “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce who God has not denounced? (23:8) he questions rhetorically in his response to Balak. The anticipated answer is that he cannot go against the word of the Lord.

Balak may be a representation of the world of unbelievers whether they attend a nominally Christian church or not. He wanted Israel cursed and destroyed. He thought Israel’s God was like his own god but they are vastly different. Balak’s god comes from the imagination of men and remains an imaginary god. Israel’s God is the living Creator and Sustainer of all that exists.

Balaam reaffirmed the Abrahamic Covenant, “Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you” (24:9) and nothing has changed or will change in this regard. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (23:19). There is no way God is going to revoke or change His covenant with Abraham. If we believe that He has or will then we will never have assurance of salvation. If we believe that He will break His covenant with Abraham then, to be consistent, we must believe that He could break His covenant with all who have trusted Jesus Christ for salvation. This is contrary to all Scripture. It is unthinkable that God would demand that we be faithful to Him and His word when He is Himself is unfaithful!

Anyone who believes that God has broken His covenant with Abraham and replaced Israel with the church follows after Balak in his comprehension of God. Such people are attempting to curse Israel whom God is blessing but instead they will receive the curse. They have a god of their own imagination that is not derived from the Bible and is most certainly not the God of Abraham and bears no resemblance to our Lord Jesus Christ. That which Balak desired for Israel came upon himself. The same will happen today to those who curse Israel. The word of the Lord to Abraham remains the same, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you” (Genesis 12:3). Balak did not know this but after the donkey spoke, Balaam did know it.


“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac … concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead …” (Hebrews 11:17, 19)

It may be that many of us have more in common with Thomas, who would not believe without seeing, than with Abraham who believed without seeing – and without precedent. We speak and think of resurrection from the vantage point of hindsight. Not only can we read the accounts of Jesus raising to life three people, though all three died again, but we have four accounts of His own resurrection after being crucified and appearances to quite a number of people. He did not die again and this has been attested to by many people at the time but also through the centuries since.

Without death there can be no resurrection so we should be thankful to God for His marvellous plan of salvation that includes bodily death. It is true that some have passed on without bodily death (Enoch & Elijah) and many will pass on without bodily death (the living true church prior to His second coming) but these exceptions tend to prove the point that all others will die bodily. There are also some who have gone the other way, and others who will, without bodily death.

On this day more than any other through the year we give special attention to this wonderful fact and our glorious expectancy of resurrection into the presence of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Jesus Christ did not die then He did not rise. If He did not rise then our faith is futile and we are without hope. But Jesus did die for our sins and rise again and has promised to come again to receive us to Himself (John 14:3).

Abraham believed without sight or precedent. We have precedent, ample testimonies and the witness of Christ within. All that remains is to look ahead and live in the light of the fact firmly rooted in the faithful and true teaching of the Bible.