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This weekend I am struck by one passage in the bible I have been reading around the Easter truth of the resurrection of Jesus. It is from 1 Corinthians 15: ‘But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.’ (v20).
A firstfruit is simply the earliest fruit of the season. It is the promise of the rest of the crop or harvest to follow. We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection as christians not only because of his triumph over sin and death, but because inherent in his resurrection is our promised resurrection too.
There has sadly been a lot of talk about death recently, as we are daily receiving the latest coronavirus mortality figures. As a culture normally cushioned from mass casualties from wars or tragedies, the fragility of life and awareness of our own mortality is suddenly right up in our faces. Christians are not exempt from this virus; there are some lovely stories of people brought through this sickness, and also some sorrow filled ones of those in faith who have died through it.
The Easter hope we have in Jesus, who is risen from the grave, is that his risen glory will one day be ours. More than that, the heavenly inheritance we long for is the other side of death. Death is the necessary pathway Christians must take before they ultimately enter their own resurrection: ‘For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.’ (V22-23).
In this amazing bible passage, Paul goes on to describe death for the Christian like a seed planted in the ground, awaiting the new life that will come from it. He describes our dying as something that is perishable, weak and in dishonour. And that is what we see as a person breathes their last breath. But Paul then contrasts this with our new resurrection body we receive when Jesus returns in glory: a new body that is imperishable, glorious and powerful, just like Jesus’ glorified body. And that is what we struggle to see this side of the curtain.
Like most of us, I don’t like thinking about the issue of death very much, but this current crisis is making us face our mortality afresh. It is hard to hold lightly enough to this life to be able to also reach out for the next. My elderly mother has less inhibitions about facing this. A lady of strong faith and living by herself, she will often tell me on the phone about the new resurrection body she is looking forward to receiving!
If you have put your trust in the Lord, can I encourage you, whenever you are tempted to be anxious about death, firstly to think about Jesus’ risen body, dazzling and fit for heavenly splendour, and then think of what you will one day be like, with a body and a life that ‘reflects the Heavenly Man’ (v49)? And if you have not yet put your trust in Jesus for your eternal salvation please don’t hesitate a moment longer – put your faith in him so you can be sure of your eternal destiny.
As a Christian believer I can’t enter into my heavenly inheritance until I pass through the valley of the shadow of death. I can’t receive my new resurrection body unless my old one is sown like a husk into the ground. Yes we are living fully in this world, but we await a greater, more vibrant and abundant life in eternity.
Christ is alive. Our faith in him is secure, the hope of our resurrection life certain.
Hallelujah for Jesus our firstfruits!
God bless you.
I have holidayed on the island of Jersey in summer, for more years than I can remember. First as a boy growing up, and now with my family and all our extended families. We have gone back to the same bay year after year, and enjoyed the same beach. I’d like to think we have got to know it quite well by now.
What I didn’t know as a boy was that the Channel Islands has one of the largest tidal variations in the whole of the UK and, at low tide, Jersey nearly doubles in size. All I remembered was that, if the family afternoon swim was during low tide, we had an awfully long way to walk to the sea!
Moreover, every year that we returned to the island and our beach, we never knew what the bay would look like. The high ‘spring tides’ could reshape the beaches of the island. Sometimes they would throw up massive quantities of sand or seaweed by the sea wall, renewing rock pools, and covering rocks and the lowest steps leading to the prom. At other times the power of the tides would drag the sand back, exposing rocks and shingle and then you would see whole new contours of the beach.
This week I have felt the Lord highlight to me that this huge tidal surge of the coronavirus will profoundly reshape human life on earth. What is being exposed? What are the new global contours being formed? As my wife said when I told her I was blogging this, her comment was ‘do you mean “what a mess this tide is making”?’ Yes I guess I do.
It will undoubtedly take many months before any sense of normality returns to community and national life. Even though most people are sure we will eventually beat this virus, the economic and business fallout, the political implications, and even the way we will reform social interactions after the pandemic may be hugely challenging. Yet God will also use the things that have been exposed and the dramatic shifting of contours to turn people’s hearts to spiritual things and to himself. When you have prayed and watched the news, you may well have sensed with me the powerful natural and supernatural forces that are in play at the moment, like the most devastating of high tides. The good news for people of Christian faith is our trust that the Lord will bring his redemptive purposes through this shaking and reshaping.
God is not the author of this virus; it comes from the one who steals, kills and destroys. Yet He is allowing it, this freak crisis in our 21st century intricately connected global village. There is foretold in the bible an unavoidable process of shaking that increases and accompanies the last generation on earth before Jesus returns. There are things set in motion that, in God’s wisdom, shake us to our core and turn hearts to him, and also prepare the earth for the age to come.
Yet God is not just watching us, like a detached observer. More than anything, I am sure he is weeping over us and with us all in the midst of this virus pandemic. The Lord is holding us, and closely and deeply at work in myriad ways and situations, in every community. Even as the watershed events of Jesus’ life through Good Friday and Easter Sunday profoundly reshaped the way our human story unfolds, and re-drew new contours of grace and hope into our lives, just so God will have bring his sovereign and loving purposes in this shaking and reshaping time. Because of Easter faith, we look for the time when he will come to reshape all of heaven and earth into his perfect creation. One day God will make all things new! And of course, that is the hope of our resurrection faith in Christ.
God bless you in this remarkable and challenging Easter time.
In my last blog I focused on how we are held securely by God even when walking the scary high ropes courses of life. I have been thinking more about how our faith can grow in times of shaking that we all face – especially in an End Time context, when life on earth becomes more turbulent. Two lessons from the bible come to mind.
- Keep your heart steady through the shaking. In Luke’s gospel Jesus speaks of the fear people will face and the distractions they will use as coping mechanisms during the Tribulation shaking:
‘Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.’ (Luke 21v34-36).
The phrase ‘to escape’ doesn’t mean to avoid trouble; no it literally means to be kept safe from the worst of the shaking and global turmoil. Jesus calls for a steady and prayerful heart, where we are not sunk or demolished by the shaking of things we trust in life. Jesus wants to hold us steady and strong whatever troubles come in life, and enable us to stand well through End Time turmoil. The presence of Jesus mitigates the worst that life throws at us, because he is with us and his grace strengthens and supports us. The ‘standing before the Son of Man’ refers to a standing to receive a reward for our faith, as one might receive a commendation for work well done or a life well lived.
2. Allow God to refine you in the midst of the shaking. In the last book of the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi speaks of the ‘Day of His Coming’, an eschatological phrase about the ministry of the Messiah. It refers to Jesus’ actions both in his first coming and also in his second coming:
‘But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.’ (Malachi 3v2&3).
Jesus’ earthly ministry acted as a time of refining of faith for the faithful in Israel. In this prophecy which is pregnant with End Time symbolism, there remains yet a more comprehensive time of refining in the days before he returns in glory. No-one knows the precise ways that shaking will increase in coming years. Much of it will be due to human sin and rise of evil. Yet we know that God will use such times of shaking to refine and purify his people. Such refining of faith will be costly but precious.
The image in Malachi here is one a metal worker sitting in front of a fire and refining an impure metal to purify it. In ancient times you would use a process of heating and blowing air across metal to extract the pure and precious silver. An interesting analogy for tests of faith, I think. Sometimes we feel bad about the weakness that rises to the surface of our lives when we undergo suffering or trouble. We wish that fears or bitterness or lack of faith were not revealed, but they are. However the good news is that God is using trouble (akin to heat or strong wind of adversity) to skim off the weak areas of character or emotional issues. His bigger purpose is that the true and precious quality of our faith will emerge from the fire. So when shaking comes, there may well be a godly refining we can yield to, that will purify our faith.
So what is the application for us in the midst of this pandemic crisis? Well, if you read the gospels, this is not the crisis to end all crises. It may feel like that right now, but there is coming a time of Tribulation, which will be multi-layered and more sustained. Yet Jesus tells us that not even the worst turmoil and global shaking needs to shipwreck our faith. We can ask him to keep our hearts steady and strong and be those who receive his commendation for our faith and perseverance at the end. And when we are undergoing trouble or intense pressure on our faith, don’t be discouraged if fears or weakness rise to the surface. Instead ask the Lord to keep purifying you so that your faith emerges as precious silver to present to him. God is extracting something wonderful from you life through all the test that come your way, and even this season of difficulty or illness can be used by him to make your life more beautiful and your testimony more powerful.
God bless you.
One of the crazy activities offered to teenagers these days is to go on a high ropes activity course in one of myriad outward bounds centres. Parents pay to view the entertainment and watch their darling ones get harnessed up to safety rope mechanisms; then to have a fun-filled or fear-filled hour suspended 30 feet above the ground, traversing thin tightropes, shaking bridges, moving stilts and all sorts of unstable walkways! One of the easiest ways of gaining confidence, apparently, is to fall off something, because then you realise the strength of the harness holding you when you really need it.
I think we are all traversing the shaking and unstable course of trying to live through a global pandemic. It is not a nice feeling to have to restrict lifestyle, change patterns of work and socialising, and cope with uncertain symptoms and even serious illness. This is not the only area of shaking in the world of course, and for some people, war, migration, environmental problems and poverty are bigger real time troubles they live with every day. For many of us, however, the viral pandemic is a kind of leveller, bringing us all to an awareness of our mortality, the uncertainty of life and the important things that really matter. How steady are we in the midst of this shaking?
I have been blogging about glory and shaking as a new paradigm for living on planet earth, the closer we move towards Jesus’ return. I want to offer a couple of ways the bible gives us to navigate times of shaking.
Firstly see God’s purposes in it. Romans 8v18-25 speaks of the groaning of creation as in childbirth. It is a groaning of frustration because of the effects of sin upon our world, yet it is also a groaning of longing in all of cosmic creation itself to be liberated and renewed. The key word in this passage is hope; there is a mirroring of our christian hope for redemption and our new bodies, alongside the hope of the created order to know an end to the suffering of the world. Yes there is sin but there are also labour pains that pick up on the hastening times – God’s End Time plan as Jesus return draws nearer.
All shaking is part of the groaning of creation, a wake up call as it were. So many people are stuck head down in the immanent possibilities of what we believe human civilisation can achieve in our strength. Christian hope is about transcendence, looking up and beyond what is our human experience, towards the kingdom life and new world that only God can inspire and bring about. God allows every experience of shaking, not to destroy us, but to shake us free of the smaller things so that we can latch onto the so much bigger things of his plans and loving purposes for all of his creation. Trusting God’s bigger purposes actually motivates us to action and to making a difference in the world; we are literally spurred on by hope.
Secondly find confidence in God despite it. Psalm 46 speaks of having tremendous confidence in the Lord despite troubles and turmoil around us. The psalmist reminds us that troubles are not the whole story of our world: that is the devil’s lie. The bigger story is that God is in our midst, always at work, refreshing his people, working for good, and overturning evil. As people of faith, we can find a refreshing river of God’s presence wherever we are, even if trusted mountains fall away. As prayerful individuals, we can always re-centre ourselves within the profound peace of his unshakeable kingdom, even if everything normal is shaking around us. And that refreshing and that peace is something we can offer people around us who at the current moment struggle to see God or what he is doing.
In the end, confidence in God and hope in his loving purposes becomes a strong harness on the high ropes course of shaky life. We cannot fall beyond his loving reach so we will be okay. We can put our weight on him to steady us when traversing a difficult section of life. We are all held daily by God in his care and grace anyway, it is simply those of Christian faith who realise it best of all.
God bless you.
There are some prophetic passages in the bible which have the power to stir faith and prayer, and the long lasting impact to touch every generation of God’s people. God speaks words of promise and challenge that resonate deeply and unveil visions of the future. Joel 2vv28-32 is one of those:
28 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
32 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors
whom the Lord calls.
I believe the power of this prophecy lies in it being an eschatological passage – it refers to the end times. The terms ‘afterwards’, ‘in those days’, the ‘Day of the Lord’, refer to the day of Yahweh, the future time when God steps in with the power of his kingdom. Although christians all know this refers initially to the Day of Pentecost, many believe this passage has been only partially fulfilled – this prophecy also speaks of a future time. In fact, I believe the end of Joel 2 is a prophecy which bookends the life of the church age. It is most relevant for the early church and for the end time church.
This is not surprising for, as in much OT prophecy, there are different peaks of fulfilment. Like looking at distant hills – you have the foothills and much further off the mountain peaks. The early church was the initial foothills fulfilment (Acts 2 was quoted by Peter in his first sermon) but there remains a fuller mountain peak fulfilment just before Jesus comes back.
In fact a bible commentator says about this passage: ‘Pentecost triggers a series of powerful events which begin the the birth of the church, expand in its world-wide mission.. and move on step by step to God’s final judgment of his enemies and his vindication of those who truly trust him.’ (D.A.Hubbard, Tynedale commentary).
It is because of this ‘distant hills’ sense of Joel 2 that cause this to be a powerful future prophetic word for the end times, and very relevant for us as Jesus’ return draws closer. What is in this prophecy that helps us to see ahead?
Joel speaks about times of future glory (v28,29&32), and a longed for sign for his people Israel – the giving of his Spirit. Joel describes what he sees coming: global outpourings of the Spirit, a prophetic witnessing generation of church, his people experiencing great revelation and knowledge of the things of God, and living with great anointing, and about a great harvest of people coming to faith in turbulent times. The glory of God – his manifest presence – displayed through the early church will again mark the church in the end times as they live so vibrantly the exuberant life of the Spirit.
A measure of the anointing of the Spirit has always marked the life of the church in last 2000 years to a smaller degree; I believe this prophecy also refers to the last and greatest fulfilment of what the outpouring of the Spirit could be like. Is this beginning to happen? Do you know that in parts of Asia and Africa – China, India, Nigeria, are experiencing waves of revival, rapid church planting and turning to faith in midst of persecution right now? Do you know that across the Middle East the greatest ever turning of Moslems to Christ is happening right now? Do you know that in Israel and amongst the worldwide Jewish community, the number of Jews finding their Messiah is at an unprecedented level right now? Do you know that the various mission agencies are working towards completing the great commission of reaching every people group with the gospel in this generation right now? Do you know that in parts of Europe God is stirring student and young adult groups in an extraordinary hunger for and encounters with God right now?
Joel also speaks about shaking (v30-31). He describes wonders and signs of shaking – blood, fire and smoke. There is a shaking of things in heaven and on earth. As the giving of the Spirit was a sign for Israel, ‘wonders’ (like the plagues in Egypt at the time of Moses – Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:9) are a warning sign to the nations. These are portents, extraordinary phenomena—natural, or supernatural, as the case might be— which arrest attention.
Joel prophesises a shaking of the natural world – wars (blood), disasters & troubles (fire), and devastation or shaking of aspects of society (billows of smoke of ruined cities). He foresees great anxiety about the constant things in which we trust – a darkening of the sun and moon in the midst of these tribulations – and an uncertainty of the times in which we live. All this precedes the coming of the day of the Lord.
Global shaking has been intensifying in recent years. Even as I write, the first month of 2020 has caused much concern in the news. The unprecedented fires in South East Australia, the confrontation between the USA and Iran, the outbreak of the coronavirus, the fresh rise in jihadist terror attacks, the doomsday clock turning the closest it ever has towards midnight – all in the first month of a new decade. These things will increase the close we get to Jesus’ return.
We don’t know why God will allow such shaking in future years. But Jesus told the parable of the wheat and weeds; that both would grow together until the harvest at the end of the age (Matthew 13v30). The light will get brighter and the darkness darker and when both are at their peak, during the great tribulation, then we will find ourselves in the time frame called the Day of the Lord as described by Joel. The stage is then set for the biblical climax long prophesied, a time for Jesus to return, come for his redeemed people, to restore devastated planet earth, and bring in the age to come.
Can you see why the end of Joel 2 is such a powerful prophetic passage of scripture? Hugely relevant, challenging and exciting in equal measure, I would encourage you to blow the dust of this Old Testament prophecy and pray it through. See what God shows you and helps prepare you for in the days we are coming into.
God bless you.
We don’t need to look much at the horizon regarding the weather in England – sometimes rainy, often grey, we don’t have many dramatic weather fronts to watch out for. In other parts of the world it is different. On a family holiday in Florida three years ago, we assumed hot weather and warm blue skies would be the norm; we didn’t know frequent thunderstorms were possible in the summer months. We soon learned to keep an eye on the horizon, at any brewing thunderclouds; within minutes we could be in a late afternoon deluge, and as soon again, back in hot sun drying out the rain drenched land.
Jesus was once asked for signs by his skeptical audience. He took it as an opportunity to challenge them about their spiritual short-sightedness: “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times” (Matthew 16v3).
In the 2020’s, in tumultuous and exciting times, I believe we need more horizon level spiritual thinking. We must discern more what is on the way. There is the naturally changing world with its issues and newsworthy events. Yet, through it all and behind it there are supernatural dimensions. What is God saying and doing through it? What do we need to be alert to? In short, what is the spiritual horizon level that we need to be aware of ahead of time?
The prophecies of Joel in the Old Testament can help us with horizon level thinking. He was a prophet-preacher at a time of crisis in his nation. They faced twin problems – they were in a time of drought, and a locust swarm was devastating the country. He was looking to the horizon in prayer to see what God was doing and what the future would look like. God helped Joel to see a future beyond their crisis and a greater kingdom horizon of what God was going to do for His people. This vision became one of the most celebrated prophetic passages in the Old Testament, that begins with the words, ‘In the last days, I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh’ (Joel 2v28).
I don’t think Joel was expecting to see and hear all that God showed Him. Yet, because he was alert and praying, God gave him horizon level discernment. The hinge phrase in this passage is ‘the Day of the Lord’: “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord’ (v31). This is such a powerful phrase. The Day of the Lord in scripture is the season when God breaks in, when He acts to right wrongs and bring salvation to His people. In short, it became a great Messianic hope for the people of God, and in the New Testament, morphed into then phrase ‘the Day of Christ’ for Christians – the return of the Lord.
This Day of the Lord is described as both ‘great’ and ‘dreadful’. Why is that? Well it is because there will be amazing things that God will do – an outpouring of His Spirit – and also troubling things that God will also bring about – wonders on the earth, blood, fire and billows of smoke. I would put these descriptions of the great and dreadful in the categories of glory and shaking that is elsewhere described in the bible, and that I detail in my book ‘The Forerunner Cry’. You see, this prophecy of Joel is important for today, because it still awaits a future fulfilment. It was only partially fulfilled on the day of Pentecost; the initial eschatological sign of the Spirit poured out on the church was awesome, but there is a greater fulfilment to come, including awesome signs before the Day of the Lord and His return.
So today, I want to encourage you to lift up your eyes, and ask God to give you more horizon level thinking and discernment this year and into this decade. If there is more revealing of God’s glory and more shaking of the earth, then we need to correctly interpret the signs of the times. We will look more at this prophecy of Joel another time, but for now, keep you eyes on the horizon and watch out for what God shows you!
All of my adult life, I have longed for revival. Like many Christians, I have dreamed and prayed for the times I have read about in history where people were caught up in a move of God’s Spirit in their community or nation. Such stories make great reading because they are beyond our normal experience. The narratives from different generations are always full of God testimonies – surges of spiritual energy that lifted churches off their feet, people hurrying to get their lives right with God, Christians on fire for Jesus, unusual miracles and healings making headlines in papers, streets and neighbourhoods touched by the numinous presence of the Lord. Such seasons may last a few weeks or a few years, but they are genuinely remarkable accounts of God’s Spirit on the move.
We haven’t seen a major instance of revival in the UK for a couple of generations or more. Is that because the Lord isn’t working in that way any more? Or that our culture and situation isn’t responsive to such pulses of the Spirit? Maybe we need to reflect on our expectations of revivals and renewals within our current generation. I have thought about this a lot over the years. On reflection, however powerful revival stories are, I think there are some mistakes we can make with preconceived visions of revival and how it affects our praying and thinking:
Firstly, sometimes we have over-inflated these hopes for revival, and made them the only measure of success or answered prayer. It is as if we say, ‘If God isn’t doing that, then He isn’t really doing anything of note right now’. And of course, God is doing so, so much in our towns and all over the world. Whilst we are waiting for the next move of God, we can be missing, or not fully appreciating, all the small things that are happening, sometimes right in front of our noses. The movements of unity, prayer and mission in towns across this nation, the explosion of worship events and prayer rooms, the number of Spirit filled relevant churches touching their communities, the rise in ethnic minority Christian congregations, the profusion of social action projects across the poorest of our communities, the small scale local church evangelism that is reaching thousands every year.
Secondly, there is strangely a converse problem, that we can sometimes try to over exaggerate what is currently happening. That is to say, ‘If God is bringing a little blessing right now, then maybe this is the revival we are seeking’. Our Western culture likes to take something and package it. We have revival conferences, Christian worship and renewal events, special mission activities that we either shoe horn all our hopes – that this will be the event or the place that God will visit; or we take what is a real but limited time of blessing, and make it out to be more than it was. I don’t think the Lord really needs that kind of help from us. If He has done something that brought genuine renewal in lives, or blessed a certain conference, great; but we don’t need to say it is more than that.
Thirdly, if our understanding of revival is too narrow, not only do we miss the smaller picture, we may miss seeing the larger waves of the Spirit occurring worldwide. That is the kind of thinking that says, ‘If God isn’t doing it here in my backyard, then He probably isn’t doing it anywhere’. When I google ‘revivals in 2019 in the world’, there are only a few notable occurrences. And yet there are many more areas in the world where churches are growing at a massive rate, where many are turning to faith in Muslim majority nations, thousands of places where healings and miracles are happening in localised ‘Holy Spirit hotspots’, prisons where remarkable conversions are happening amongst many of the inmates, whole unreached people groups being evangelised and reached for the gospel. We might need to reframe our understanding of how the Spirit is moving in 2020 in our world.
What is God doing right now? I would say quite a lot! A lot in the smaller scale growth and impact of the kingdom at a micro level. And a lot in the larger scale moves of His Spirit amongst people groups and in hotspots globally. We may wish He was doing things differently where we live, but I actually think God is at work in a more profound way across the world than any of us realise. God doesn’t necessarily want to downplay our revival hopes, but I believe He does want to reframe them. The book of Acts was so much bigger than about a localised revival. It was an explosion of church growth and missionary activity that was genuinely world changing over a couple of generations. The days we are living in I believe will in a similar way be more amazing and world changing. We haven’t quite got conceptual categories to understand yet what is beginning to happen across the earth. The words ‘glory and shaking’ are perhaps the bigger terms that we need to start getting our heads and hearts around, into which times of revival and awakening will occur, in both similar and different ways that we have thought so far.
The next handful of blogs in coming weeks will start taking a look at how we marry our longing for revival with biblical prophecy about the End Times. I this help to enlarge our understanding of the ways God is at work and how we can navigate these times. What is coming is bigger than just ‘revival’, and the Lord wants us to be on board with all He is about to do.
God bless you.
Writing my book on the End Times has been challenging, yet publishing it this year has led to some wonderful opportunities to share on the themes of the signs of the times, how we live as disciples today and the hope of the return of the Lord. I have felt nervous too because, once you have written a book, then your teaching, viewpoints and convictions are out there, in public, ready to be weighed and critiqued.
One of my key strap lines has been ‘get ready for glory, shaking and Jesus’ return’. I wanted to put it as the subtitle of the book, but my publishers thought it might sound rather extreme for some potential readers! Yet my conviction continues to grow that glory and shaking are two overarching themes of the biblical End Times. I would say that they are actually mark the new paradigm of the context of Christianity in these coming decades of the twenty first century. A paradigm is the generally accepted perspective of a particular discipline at a given time, like Darwinism in the sciences, or secular humanism in the social sciences. To change a paradigm is to alter the collective thinking of a group of people or culture. As I read my bible, it seems fairly clear that normal life on planet earth intensifies the closer we get to Christ’s return. The generation preceding those days has to live with an intensification of both light and darkness, with both troubles and revivals. As the signs of the times increasingly point to the nearness of the coming age, I believe the church needs to wake up to a new paradigm of Christian living right now – we are not living in ordinary days, we are coming into more extraordinary days of glory and shaking!
I happen to be reading a biography of Leonardo Da Vinci right now, the great artist, inventor and scientist of the Renaissance. One of his most expansive legacies apparently is not his great paintings, but his notebooks. There are still over 7,000 pages of his notebooks in existence today, probably just a quarter of what he wrote. In them he kept a record of all his observations of the world, his fascination with nature, with the human body, with inventions, with scientific studies, and with artistic ideas for his paintings. Most of these were sketches, breathtakingly drawn, but which never became reality. Yet Leonardo stood as a genius at the forefront of the Renaissance culture, sketching out the artistic and scientific possibilities of a coming age. His notebooks are one of his most treasured legacies today.
I sketch out this paradigm of glory and shaking tentatively but with conviction. I am far from a genius, and many other voices speak with more clarity than mine. Yet I am convinced that this coming glory and shaking are real and will affect everyone living in the final generation. In my book I have traced the outlines of five marks of the coming glory of God: outpourings of the Spirit, a radically renewed church, massive harvest of faith, transformation of many communities, and a turning of the Jewish people to their Messiah. I have also sketched ten aspects of the prophesied shaking of all things: wickedness & wars, global power shifts, financial instability, environmental troubles, dark technological advances, social unrest, fully liberalised morality, emergence of a one world system, greater hostility towards Christians, and the cumulative ‘groaning’ of the earth.
These ‘signs’ of glory and shaking will need fleshing out and carefully measured against biblical prophecy. I hope to use some blogs in coming months to elaborate on the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of these marks and encourage you to read your bibles and weigh what I am sharing. This of course is far from an academic exercise, and the real application is to help us all stand well in the midst of exciting and troubling times; how to navigate our way through the glory of God coming in increasing power and diverse ways, and through the growing shaking of much in human society of what we trust in. An encouraging saying in the book of Proverbs says: ‘The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out’ (Proverbs 18v15). That is surely a good exhortation for all who follow Jesus in these times.
God bless you.
I want to share a brief prayer vision I had a few months ago as we were worshipping and waiting in our house of prayer.
I was sitting in the quiet room, and suddenly felt in my spirit that I and others were walking through a valley. After a few moments I abruptly sensed a man with a blazing torch walk quickly past us, summoning us off the valley path we were on. In my vision it was a dark misty autumn night and he moved swiftly up a hill, so swiftly it was difficult to keep up with him. The man led us higher through an ascending wood and up into a clearing and then onto the top of a rocky hill. It seemed that Jesus was standing there in the clear night air, not with armies but small groups of people around him. We were not intruding, but were welcomed to be there. It felt a place of privilege, a scene of clarity, vision and strategy as Jesus surveyed the vista before him. There were no specifics of what Jesus was saying, but I felt more the importance of this high place where Jesus was waiting and leading. I was also curious about the identity of the torch bearer, and felt bold enough to ask if I could carry one down to guide others up to this meeting place; I sensed the answer was yes. At that point the vision ended.
This vision wasn’t as dramatic as it may sound; I didn’t have goosebumps or any ecstatic experience. Yet it did leave an encouraging yet sober picture burning in my mind.
What does this say to me? on the simplest level, Jesus wants us to come up higher, out of the fog and darkness of the situations that sometimes we trudge through. The valley is not a bad place, but one of limited perspective and the quality of air is not so good. In these days I believe there is a summons to God’s people to move out of the valley and follow the urge, the prophetic voices, the fiery longing in our spirits to ascend to a higher place with Jesus. In our chaos of our nation, and likewise in many nations of the world, Jesus isn’t abandoning us, he is just seeing and leading from a higher place. And we are invited there, in prayer and discernment.
This vision also speaks to me about greater things going on that I can immediately see. Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings fans might immediately envision epic battle scenes from the big screen. We so need to remember that the Lord is always at work, his kingdom is extending, there are heavenly battles going on, there is a glorious church that is rising, there is a spiritual harvest being reaped, there is greater glory to come. Even as dark forces increase in power, Jesus is not perturbed by this nor distracted from the Father’s glorious work across the world. I may not see much of this, but I can gain more insight if I stand where Jesus is standing, and look at things from his perspective.
I am also challenged by the torch bearer. The scene had an End Time feel about it. There are clear and urgent voices, ministries, singers, writers who are encouraging the church to move out of a spiritual trudge and up into a stronger, clearer place at the end of the age. We have to have the insight of the Spirit to know how to minister life into the communities and heart of our nation in this season and in the remarkable days that are coming. The gospel never changes, but God will teach us how to live and what to say into our unique culture and time, if we ask him to lead us. He will break through in our world with greater glory and hope.
There have been a handful of times in recent months, where I have been in local and even national prayer times, where we started in a quite earthly place, with a dull or even foggy spiritual atmosphere in the room, and yet within a few minutes we shifted into a place of great clarity, faith and perception. One was during a powerful time of spontaneous praise, one was through a clear prophetic message about God’s hope for our nation, the third was out of a deep time of unity and confession amongst an international group. All three moments cut through the atmosphere and led us into a much higher place of discerning prayer, and powerful agreement.
I mention these as examples from the prayer movement, to encourage you to follow God’s summons to come up higher in your prayer and faith journey, and call others to do the same. Who knows where it will lead us? It can certainly be good, it can only position us well, if Jesus is there.
Thanks for reading.
God bless, William
Misty Edwards, American worship leader sings a song: ‘Oh how we want you to come!’
Well, I guess many christians would agree with that cry, in principle. But what do we really mean by that? In most of the prayer circles in which I find myself in, our prayers are certainly for the Lord to come. But by that, we tend to mean to come close to us, to help us personally and to change our circumstances. Or we sometimes mean to come near to us, as in a revival move of the Holy Spirit. Yet, we rarely mean asking for His coming again, in glory.
Perhaps christians feel as if ‘come, Lord Jesus’ is not a prayer we should ask for. We are taught that Jesus’ return is firmly within God’s sovereign timing, and not within the realm of our asking. We would feel presumptuous in praying such a prayer.
Perhaps more honestly, we just don’t feel that sense of expectancy or desire for the Lord’s return. We often make our discipleship more of a personal journey and preparation for heaven, and our mission as a gradual spreading of the rule of the kingdom of God.
As a Western church we have lost much of the sense of eschatological urgency that marked the early church. The New Testament letters are filled with exhortations to live in the joyful readiness of Jesus’ coming again. As an example Saint Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, ‘But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.’ (Philippians 3v20&21).
I would encourage us to start praying more with the Lord’s return as a bright goal in our prayers, and as a fervent cry in our hearts. This focus will stir faith expectancy in our hearts, and will encompass all the longing and working for the kingdom we are involved with.
When we ask for Jesus’ coming in the near revival we can set our sights too low. When we ask for his great second coming, we are asking too for all that must precede it – all the personal setting ourselves apart for him, the revivals and harvest, the transformation and crisis, the glory and shaking, and along with it, the transition from the present age to the age to come. I believe the ‘Maranatha’ cry will soon become central again in the prayer life of the church worldwide – ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come!’
God bless, William