Previous Next

Jan 01

The Biblical Perspective of the Kingdom of Heaven

It seems to me that for a long time, many of us who have been following Jesus have had an inaccurate understanding of Jesus’ use of the term “Kingdom of Heaven”.   Some, despite being in the Church for years, do not even understand what the phrase means.  Whether the cause or the effect, there are some popular yet unbiblical teachings, and common ways of thinking, that have their foundation in this incorrect understanding.  It is not the purpose of this very brief article to highlight those teachings and ways of thinking, but rather to point out Jesus’ own perspective, and hence the truly biblical perspective of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God

Let me begin by first explaining the biblical phrase “Kingdom of Heaven”.  Depending on the Bible version, this phrase is found 32 times in the Gospel of Matthew (33 times in the NKJV).  The similar term, “Kingdom of God” is found over 53 times throughout all the Gospels.  In every case, the phrase speaks of God’s rule/reign and authority.   The word Heaven, in the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” speaks of the place from which God’s rule and authority originate, namely Heaven, where God’s throne is located.

In the World, but not of the World.

When Jesus tells Pontius Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), Jesus is only speaking of the origin of His kingdom.  He’s not implying or conceding any lack of jurisdiction, authority or power in this world.  He is only speaking of the center or source of His authority, and not the manifestation of that authority.  This is consistent with how Jesus only a little while earlier prayed for his disciples (and us) saying, “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” (John 17:13-16)

This understanding is very important because many of us have been wrongly trained to think that we’re just waiting and working here in order to get to the Kingdom in Heaven, some day in the future, because that is where Jesus went to sit at the Father’s right hand. That is precisely the opposite of what the Bible teaches. If our final destination is Heaven where Jesus is currently seated at the right hand of the Father, then what is the point of Jesus not asking for us to be taken out of the world, but praying to keep us safe from the evil one while we are here?

It’s not the Children of the Kingdom that are going to be evicted from the Kingdom.

This wrong but common perspective is so ingrained in us that it often causes us to read things into the Scriptures without our even realizing it.  For example, regarding Jesus’ parable of the wheat and weeds (or tares in some versions), how many of us have thought that the wheat being gathered into the Lord’s “barn” meant being taken to Heaven? (Matthew 13:24-30 )

But when we read Jesus’ explanation of the parable to His disciples, we get an entirely different picture:

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the Kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!” – Matthew 13:36-43

The Kingdom of God has indeed come to this world and it’s not going anywhere.  This has important implications because what we do here matters much more than just winning souls, as important as that is.  Jesus Christ is not merely redeeming souls, He’s redeeming the whole world and everything in it, including its systems, to Himself.  He’s doing it through the children of the Kingdom (that is the Church).   This is why Jesus teaches us to pray along the lines of “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

While so much more could be said about this (and perhaps will be in future articles), I hope this brief piece has whet your appetite and challenges you to study the Scriptures keeping Jesus’ perspective of His Kingdom in mind.  That is what I am doing.  I also invite and encourage you to search the Scriptures yourself to see if these things are so.

May the Lord richly bless you in all things.

Pastor Neal

Message from the Pastors

Dear Friend:

Thank you for taking a few minutes to visit our website. We hope you will find it uplifting and informative. At Lighthouse Tabernacle, we are committed to fulfill the Command of Jesus to “make disciples of all nations.” We offer a number of ministries designed to do just that, for all the members of your family.

I would like to invite you all to visit our church and worship with us. You can find out our schedule of services by checking the website. In addition, we are committed to praying for your needs, seeking the Lord with you and for you. We believe that nothing changes within ourselves, or the world, unless God is the Change-Agent. Unless He does it, it will not be done. However, we further believe that prayer moves the hand of God on our behalf. Therefore, we’d like to invite you to visit our Prayer Meeting held on Wednesday evenings, immediately following our Bible Study. The Prayer Meeting is the “heart” of the church’s activities. Therefore, you will be able to gain a good understanding of our church family by joining with us in prayer.

If you prefer to join us for worship on Sunday, you will experience an exciting, and engaging time of joyful music as we lift hands and hearts to worship our Creator and Redeemer, followed by an equipping sermon from the Holy Scriptures.

We hope you enjoy our website and choose to visit us soon.

God bless you.

Aug 12

God is Light and There is No Darkness in Him

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone
— Colossians 4:5-6

We know that God is light and there is no darkness in Him. Light by its very nature will always offend the darkness. So whatever issue you may find yourself discussing or illuminating, if you are being the light of God in this world by speaking the truth born of God’s love and His Word, you are sure to offend those who love the darkness and wish to remain there.

However, as Christ followers, I believe we must guard our hearts to make sure we do not find ourselves rejoicing because we are offending.   Hans Fiene, in his recent Federalist article titled, Google Firing Over Diversity Memo Shows How Outrage Addiction Is Making Us Stupid, wisely observes and articulates how outrage has become an addiction and has suppressed the critical thinking of many as a result.  He also points out how we can all fall in to that trap regardless of our political leanings.  I would dare to say that I believe the other side of that same coin is that we can become addicted to the thrill of being offensive, suppressing our willingness to actively listen to understand where a person is and extend a hand up.

While sarcasm and satire can sometimes be very effective at illustrating a point, habitual use of satirical and snarky comments and comebacks are the fallback position of someone who may have become either too proud, too lazy, or perhaps emotionally indifferent and apathetic to their hearers, so that they are no longer willing to respond thoughtfully (with grace) and intelligently.

We have not been commissioned to offend for the sake of offending, rather as foreigners and exiles in this world (but no longer of this world), we are to “seek the welfare of our city”.  Our goal is to be a light that shines the light of God’s truth born of His love, in the hope of redemption.

If you only see yourself as a hammer, then soon everyone becomes a nail.

There is a saying that says, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”  Similarly, if you only see yourself as a hammer, then soon everyone becomes a nail or potential nail.   But if we are following the way of Christ, we are more than mere hammers, we are ambassadors of Christ and His kingdom.  Yes, Jesus said, “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves”, but we must take care not to be so focused on exposing wolves (and wolfish ideas) that we ignore His words that followed:  “Therefore be wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.”

May all who love and obey God continue speaking the truth in love as we ought to, doing so boldly and courageously. But let our conversation be “full of grace and seasoned with salt”.  We must always bear in mind what is written, that our battle is not against flesh and blood (people), and the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world, as we demolish ungodly arguments.

And do not rejoice because the light in you causes the darkness to flee (or be offended), “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Aug 05

The Church’s Prime Directive

If you are familiar with the science fiction series Star Trek, you probably recall that one of the main subjects of the various TV series’ and movies was the prohibition against interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations.  This was always referred to as “the prime directive”, a principle handed down by the fictional “United Federation of Planets”.  As you may know or can imagine, this prohibition created various moral dilemmas (and interesting entertainment), as the various star ship crews traveled the universe “exploring strange new worlds” and “going where no man has gone before”.

In thinking about the Church, made up of all those who believe in Jesus Christ, follow Him, and obey His teachings, I am reminded that we too have been given a prime directive by the Lord, the One True and Living God, handed down to us from those who were with Him from the beginning of His earthly ministry.  A directive that is intended to continue, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us until Jesus returns at the very end of the age:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” — Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” — Mark 16:15-18 (NIV)

Not just any kind of disciple.

Simply put, a disciple can be thought of as a person who is wholly committed to being trained through repetition, to adhere to some standard of thought which guides and impacts how they live every day of their lives.  For example, a soldier in any branch of armed forces can be thought of as type of disciple.  Another example would be a professional or Olympic athlete.  In each case these are people who are committed to both the mental and physical training that impacts how they think, what they eat and drink, and where and when they travel.

Whether it’s successfully defending the nation on the field of battle, winning a gold medal, or winning the super bowl, each discipline is designed to accomplish a specific goal.  It requires each person to be committed to the appropriate process and very often to be committed to working together with the other “disciples” on the team.  It is no different with the disciples of Jesus Christ, and based on the above biblical passages, it can be summarized as follows:

 

  1. Go everywhere and preach the Gospel (The Gospel message of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom).
  2. Baptize those who believe in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded His first disciples which includes:
    1. Reminding them that Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and earth (not just in heaven).
    2. Encouraging them that signs will accompany those Gospel proclaiming believers in accordance with what Jesus said as recorded Mark 16:15-18 and demonstrated and in the book of Acts and the Gospels.
    3. Encouraging them not to be fearful by reminding them that Jesus is with them until the end of the very end of the age.
    4. Commissioning them as Jesus did to repeat steps 1 to 3.

 

This is a biblical summary of Jesus’ authorized process of what it means to both become and remain one of His disciples.  It is often referred to as ‘The Great Commission’.   Missing the mark on any one of these points means that we are becoming or making some other kind of disciple, but not one of His.

The Great Commission isn’t just for leaders in the Church.

In many Church circles and traditions, especially in the United States, preaching the Gospel, becoming a disciple, and making disciples has become something that is reserved for leaders in the Church.  Many of our traditions have unwittingly or not, taught and demonstrated the false notion that the Great Commission, if taught at all, is only something that pastors and other ordained ministers are to be concerned with.   But when we read Jesus’ words, they were directed to His eleven disciples who were “sent” out make disciples (of whole nations).  Though these eleven were called Jesus’ apostles, which means “sent ones”, the clear implication is that all of Jesus’ disciples are apostolic (sent), but not all will hold the office of apostle.  This is also affirmed by the letter Paul, the Apostle, wrote to the Church at Ephesus:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-13

From this passage we can see that the fulfilling of the Great Commission is not just reserved for believing disciples who are ordained as leaders in the Church.

The Church’s “prime directive” is Jesus’ Great Commission to disciple nations, not Star Trek’s principle of non-interference at all costs.

The Church’s “prime directive” is the very antithesis of the hands off, non-interference principle of the Star Trek science fiction series.  Unfortunately there are many professing Christians and ministries who follow the Star Trek principle.

This idea might challenge us to our core, especially if we are only content with seeking out and attending good Church gatherings with good music, good sermons, and a good children’s ministry that don’t take us out of our comfort zones, equipping and encouraging us to actually “go”.

If our ministries aren’t making disciples of Jesus and equipping them to “go”, then what kind of disciples are we making if we are making any at all?  Do we think that Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) doesn’t have application today?  Can we truly call Jesus, “Lord” and not do what He says? (Luke 6:46-49)

Church gatherings with loving people and families who gather in Jesus’ name to hear good sermons and have good children’s ministry are not bad things to seek out.  But all these things, when built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone, are intended to equip each of us in the Church to become spiritually mature believers (followers of Jesus who are being conformed to His image), that do the work of Jesus’ ministry (according to our gifting and calling), to fulfill the Great Commission wherever we may be right now or where God may have us in the future.