THE END TIMES
There has been a lot of speculation about the last days and what they will be like. Will Jesus come back to collect all of His people and leave the rest to endure the tribulation.
Actually there is another way to read Scripture to say that Jesus has returned in the power of Holy Spirit to open the Kingdom of God to all who are willing to be a part of Gods will for their lives. Jesus, Himself, said, "..there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the Kingdom of God has come with power." Mk 9:1
Stephen saw and reported what he saw, and was stoned for his accurate reporting. Acts 7: 36-60 Paul heard Him on the road to Damascus. Acts 9: 3-9 Paul may have seen him had not God protected his eyes from the Light by putting scales over his eyes. When Ananias prayed for Paul they were removed. 9: 17-19
When Jesus was accused of casting out spirits by Beelzebul, He responded with an argument about any kingdom that is divided will fall, and closed with, "If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you." Lk 11:20
At the close of the Great Commission, Jesus leaves us with a promise, "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." Mt 28:20 The lives of the saints in the history of the church bear witness to His presence with us even now.
When Peter preached on Pentecost, he cited the prophet Joel, "In the last days, it shall be..." Acts 2:17 He was not pointing to the future. He was pointing to NOW.
PAULS CHANGE OF VISION
Paul began his ministry with the Pharisaic view of resurrection that set them apart from the Sadducees, who did not believe in a resurrection. We would all die and go to Sheol. We would all sleep until God was ready. When God was ready, we would all be raised up, and rewarded or condemned.
That is the image we get when we read I Cor 15 or I Thess 4. The trumpet will sound. The dead will be raised and we will all be changed into what we are supposed to become. That same view is voiced by Martha in talking with Jesus before Lazarus was raised. Jesus said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life."
There is a change in Paul who can say, "I know a man once who was caught up into the third heaven." He didnt sleep. He saw things that we dont even have language to speak about.
Paul continues to clarify his view in the Philippian letter. "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain...My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better:" Phil 1:21-23 There is no sleep in Sheol. There is a direct route into the presence of the King who lives within us even now.
HOW DO WE ENTER THE KINGDOM
The language of Paul when he writes of Baptism in his letter to the Romans. "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." Rm 6:3-4
When we are willing to give up our control over our lives, and give that control into the hand of God, we are brought into a New Creation. Paul admonishes us to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
That action demands two things. It demands that we make a decision that we are going to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. We must make the decision to be obedient to Him, rather than seeking to get God to establish our kingdom of self.
It also demands that we learn to pray, using prayer as a dialog with God whereby we may come to know Him and know His will for us. We must develop the discipline of prayer so that we might communicate with the King. When we are obedient to the King, any place where we happen to be becomes the Kingdom of God.
That means we come to the Kingdom through our death with Jesus Christ and our resurrection to as a New Creation NOW. He who keeps his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake and the gospels will keep it.
In accord with His promise, we have been given Holy Spirit, but that is not all of the promise. "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. We are to filled with all the fullness of God now in the time of this mortal life, as we walk in the Kingdom
JUDGMENT IS NOW
As we become aware of our communion with Jesus as Risen Lord, we enter into Life with the Lord of Life. We also enter into judgment that we seek if we are wise. Judgment is the healing power of Gods love cleansing us from all Sin and purifying us as gold and silver is purified in fire.
We walk in the Kingdom in obedience to the King. We offer Him those areas of our lives that are not yet in His care, and we yield to His judgment as Isaiah pointed out. "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be whiter than snow;" Isa 1:18 It is not His intent to destroy or punish, but to cleanse and restore.
Judgment is the mark of the end time, and it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God. He is here to cleanse and heal His church as we come to God with the expectation that He is the consuming fire that the author of Hebrews tells us. He will not burn us forever. He will consume our Sin and prepare us for the eternal life that we are to live in His presence.
When we are willing to give up our kingdom, and enter His, we begin to see that the Kingdom of God is where Jesus said it is. It is at hand. It is in our midst. It has come upon us in power, and we are to enter into the intimacy with our Father than He prepared for us from the foundation of the world. We are not to wait until we die in the flesh. We are to enter eternal life, to know God as one who loves us and Jesus Christ His only Son Whom He has sent.To Fr Al's Main Page