Sunday Meeting 09/03/23
I believe that, according to Scripture, the eventual collapse of Western Civilization is inevitable. This collapse will mark the beginning of the final epoch, culminating in the Lord’s return. With partial success, Western cultures have blended Christian ethics with hedonistic economics, human supremacy through science and technology, and social salvation through Statism. Scripture refers to this unholy mixture—of Christian ethics with humanism—as “Babylon.” Like nuclear fusion, Western culture forces together contrary elements until it explodes in unimaginable destruction.
Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of believers are presently feeling the ripples of tectonic shifts. These tremors are manifesting in school board uprisings, dizzying political swings, vaccine fears, increasing political power grabs and other social disruptions that make all sorts of conspiracy theories seem increasingly more believable.
Christians have tolerated this progressively hostile culture only because the antagonism has been so subtle until now. They’ve been duped by the mystery of it, gobbling up the mantras about science and progress as mere secular changes without spiritual significance. So they have failed to see the end result of how, by simply following along with the predominant trends, the basis of all their convictions, values, families, and lifestyles would be dismantled. To this point, they have failed to consider why Scripture calls the confused mixture not just “Babylon” but “Mystery Babylon.” But as they are confronted with the undeniable consequences of these changes, the mystery will disappear. Then, an exodus will ensue. So, in spite of all the turmoil and hardship of the time, we see the prospect of something extraordinarily exciting to anticipate.
Until the last few years, this collapse of which I speak, has been staved off by the United States more than by any other corporate entity on earth. But today we see the pillars of even that society beginning to crumble. You may be able to knock out one of the pillars of a large building without bringing the whole edifice down. You might even knock out two or three and, despite the inevitable shakings you will feel, convince yourself that nothing has changed. Yet, like a Jenga Tower, there comes a tipping point where one more loss brings down the whole structure.
I would submit that Christian familial values served as one essential pillar in our society. That pillar is now down. I would submit that “truth”—not your truth or my truth, but absolute, objective truth—was another such pillar in our society. And that pillar is now also gone, at least from the most influential institutions in our society, such as media and education. It has been replaced by relativism. I would even go so far as to say that one of the main pillars that Western culture has now knocked out was not only a mere vestigial belief in God, but, specifically, belief in God as the Creator. This has been replaced by an all-encompassing belief that human beings can be their own creators and define themselves in any way that they desire. And as crucial as all of these fallen pillars have been, perhaps the pillar that has carried more structural weight than any other has been the uniquely American view of justice and an independent judiciary. I submit that the building will not survive the collapse of this particular buttress of our society. “Justice” is primarily a quest for truth, resulting in the fair distribution of penalties, power, and consequences. Once that is gone, turmoil and the rule of arbitrary power become the norm.
No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched. Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands. Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood.
They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace.
So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday, we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. — Isaiah 59:4-10
If people are writing histories in a hundred years, I wager they will identify 2016 and 2020 as irreversible pivots in the inexorable breakdown of our society. It’s admittedly difficult to contemplate these shifts without being sucked into the narrative of either the Left or the Right. But I believe an accurate picture sees the shift as the responsibility of both sides.
From a Christian, allegorical perspective, it might be helpful to contemplate the two parties in America, kind of like Judah and Samaria. In the Biblical narrative, we see that while both of these factions had good and bad qualities, Samaria generally stayed ahead of Judah in its rush toward compromise, apostasy, and self-destruction. I see the Left and Right of our nation as somewhat analogous to this. The Left adopted the idolatry of human salvation and messianic Statism long ago. While the Right has been much slower to embrace this idolatry, it is following the same trajectory.
Historically, conservative Americans tended not to look for messianic political solutions or leaders. They saw voluntary society as the ideal context for pursuing and realizing the good of life—loving, helping, and improving lives. Conversely, they saw the State as fulfilling an almost entirely negative function: punishing criminals, protecting borders, and repelling aggressive nations. In contrast, for over a century, the Left has posited their hopes for society’s improvement in the State. They have believed that good government—through educating their young, healing their sick, feeding their poor, clothing their naked, and other programs—would create the beautiful society they dream of. So it was not surprising when they got "chills down their legs” while listening to Obama or hyperventilated with ecstasy during the speeches of Statist fanatics like Mario Cuomo and his ilk. But now, a change has occurred on the Right, and we must not deceive ourselves by ignoring it. We are witnessing, from so-called conservatives, the same cult-like emotional adulation toward Donald Trump. He is not merely a politician; he is an icon who stirs the fervor—not of voters, but of followers.
This may seem to be only a superficial change, but it is a seminal shift, signaling the rise of the kind of political idolatry on the Right that has always infused the Left. “Judah” has a new god—populist nationalism.
A dispassionate look at the Right’s newest hero raises some unavoidable questions: he was a Democrat until 2009, contributed massively to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, was pro-abortion until running for office, exhibits brash, brazen bully tactics, was married to his third wife, is a known philanderer and is a billionaire from Manhattan who calls his own autobiography “the second best book ever written after the Bible.” No dispassionate observer among Christian conservatives could have been induced to call this man a “conservative” before his run in 2016. He is anything but. Despite his many personal and character flaws, he is viewed as a winner by many on the Right. It seems that his unscrupulous tenacity for ego domination is somehow connected to his success, which is why his barbarities are often overlooked when they align with the Right’s political agenda.
We can find pertinent lessons for our times from the stories of Sodom, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Nineveh, and Herod. We discover that judgment and chaos were released when these people and nations crossed some critical line of brazen pride in the face of God. None of these entities belonged to God’s covenant people. None of them were categorically sanctioned of Yahweh. Yet all of them enjoyed at least inaction from angelic judgment until they crossed some pivotal line of hubris in the face of their Maker. In the same manner, it would seem as though Christian Nationalists may have crossed a similar line in recent years. And I’m not convinced that it’s prudent to view the calamity of COVID and its triggered government overreach as entirely detached from the collective pivot in attitude and values occurring in politics at that time. I’m suggesting that the changes erupting around us, from COVID to wars to government overreach, unscrupulous indoctrination of children, and so on, might be seen as a kind of judgment when considered through a Biblical lens.
Regardless, “injustice” has become the cry of our times—the Left clamors against the Right’s perceived injustice against minorities and underclasses. The Right boils in rage against the politically driven prosecutions and persecutions of their champion. In contrast, just 50 years ago, Richard Nixon resigned with dignity when his proximity to scandal cost him the support of the entirety of even his own party in Congress. Why? Because, as a society, Americans at that time subscribed to a standard of justice that transcended their politics. This is no longer the case. We are entrenched, not in a political row, but in a religious jihad where morality—right and wrong—is in the balance, and constituencies seem willing to follow their “heroes” into the very abyss.
In 2016, a series of dreams and warnings came to various members of our church, seeming to indicate that America was at a pivot point in her history and that our nation was going to cross some Rubicon from which we could never return. Before President Trump was even nominated, I had a dream that I briefly shared with the church. I have had many dreams, some inconsequential and some from God. This dream felt like one of the latter.
In my dream, I witnessed a large crowd of people standing at the rim of a massive crater. They were looking with dreadful awe into the crater, onto a scene that resembled a World War II battleground. The onlookers cupped their hands over their mouths or slumped to the ground, grabbing themselves by their knees, doubled over in a state of total shock. Mangled steel and parts of buildings littered the crater, and smoke filled the air—it was a shambles of devastation. Although it was unclear what had happened, I suspected a bomb had caused this destruction. Despite the situation’s severity, I felt frustrated at the people's reaction. These were good, respectable Christians gaping in astonishment, dumbfounded by the event. In my dream, I couldn't help but feel they should have known better and that their shock was misplaced. Did this trouble in the scene predict a specific occurrence, or was it allegorical of an approaching societal upheaval and collapse? I do not know.
In my dream, I walked along the crater’s edge to where I was looking up into the onlookers’ faces and said to them, “You should have prayed against this man.” That was the whole dream. As a local body, we responded to this dream with earnest prayer. Still, I'm not 100% sure that the dream was merely intended to get this local congregation to pray. Instead, I'm afraid it was an insight into coming events, which could've only been avoided by a degree of spiritual vision and awareness that was dismally lacking in the modern church.
Conservatives look back at the FBI and Justice Department’s mobilization against a then-sitting president in pursuit of now-disproven allegations spawned from his political opponent. They see how Hillary Clinton went scot-free for her actual violations, which James Comey of the FBI later admitted. They contrast that to the 3.5-year investigation that resulted in President Trump being completely exonerated in the Russia collusion hoax. And they are incredulous to see how the pillar of justice is cracked. Now, on the heels of these historic overreaches against a president, subsequently renounced as baseless and persecutorial, the same president now has 34 felony charges from the Justice Department, a DA in Georgia, and a DA in Manhattan.
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a career Democrat and Clinton donor, widely discredited the Manhattan DA. Left and Right condemn Alvin Bragg’s prosecution as ludicrous and guaranteed to fail in appeal. Still, none in their right mind can expect a Manhattan jury to separate their political feelings from the defendant before them and issue a fair verdict for the man ninety percent of New Yorkers voted against.
The District Attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, has charged 19 of Trump’s top administration officials with crimes ranging from conspiracy to fraud and sedition. Again, pundits on both sides claim that such charges will be tough to prove and have no historical basis or precedent. Conservatives understandably believe that the justice system is no longer independent but has become the most deadly tool in the political arena.
Simultaneous to these regional charges, the U.S. Justice Department has charged the former President with incitement, sedition, and other high-level felonies. Additionally, they have charged him with scores of crimes related to his handling of classified documents. In none of these cases is the former president being accused of a crime that the populous can readily relate to, such as murder, burglary, battery, and the like. It appears to them like another political witch-hunt. It looks like the Justice Department is weaponized by the political Left to prosecute the mishandling of papers after having ignored Clinton’s violations, such as destroying hard drives with hammers and wiping evidence with “BleachBit.” To at least half the nation, the blindfold has been torn from the eyes of Lady Justice, and her sword is stabbing one side on behalf of the other.
Folks, we’ve never been here before, not even close. And we would be blind, naive fools to, in the words of Jesus, fail to read the signs of the times (Luke 12:56).
So, I return to my first idea: Western Civilization will collapse. And the current political upheaval in America signals the fracturing of its most essential pillar: Justice.
And when it does collapse, what happens then? Some may imagine that anarchy will be released and pandemonium will take over what is now the United States. There will doubtless be places and seasons in which such conditions do prevail as the nation and much of the world, transition to a new era. But make no mistake: human power has never been greater. Technologies created by human intelligence have never been so thorough and ubiquitous. The specter of collapse, while bringing dread to the hearts of many, titillates the imagination of our society's most ambitious power brokers. This is articulated in the vision for what has been termed by the World Economic Forum as “The Great Reset.” Messianic states are salivating at the thought of an end to this current model that we call Western Civilization. They see it as their best chance to remake the world as it should be, according to their own utopian ideals.
Some imagine that we are already living in a post-Christian society. And while that is a valid depiction of institutions such as academia and media, we underestimate the extent to which Christian values still influence our culture. We cannot even conceive of a brand new model actually divorced from the ethics that informed the founding of this nation. The Constitution is a document codified 250 years ago, and, like it or not, it was established when people had a completely different view of family and church, human origins, science and sexuality, Statism, and personal liberty. Scores of sources were referenced by the Founding Fathers in the Constitutional Convention, from John Knox to various philosophers; they even referenced the French Revolution (although entirely negatively). But if you were to find the second most quoted source, the Bible was cited thirty times more than its closest runner-up.
We should not underestimate the totality of differences between the Christian-influenced culture of today—compromised as it may be—and future societies, which will be grounded and established free of every Christian value and ethic, and maybe not just free of them, but in antagonism to them.
The concept of a democracy that truly limits power and diversifies authority may no longer endure. The American political system is built on the presupposition of human imperfection and, therefore, the need to limit inevitably flawed human power. However, a new hierarchy of governance has emerged and is now increasingly uncontested in predominant sectors of Western culture over the last 250 years—the supremacy of scientific expertise. Doctors don’t gain their position by winning elections, nor do scientists, such as Doctor Anthony Fauci. They are not seen as practitioners of subjective worldviews but of scientific reality, a reality which is ostensibly deemed to be objectively, transparently true. Thus, science stands outside of democracy, not subject to Left or Right or majority opinion. So, the incredible power increasingly handed to the scientific elite is based on the universal acceptance of their truth claims—something unprecedented in the realm of political governance—until now (sub. 1). As artificial intelligence gains trust and becomes perceived as essentially accurate (and increasingly perceived by many as infallible) it will inevitably and decisively replace the antiquated need for democracy. In short, the future's AI systems will bring the uncontested expertise of science into the political sphere, ending the need for debate and dissent.
We have wanted our powers diversified across many bodies of government. Even though this is inefficient, we have wanted this because humans are imperfect; they make bad decisions. But once we can overcome the fallibility of human decision making and trust a computer system that is the collective expression of billions of human thoughts, we will no longer need the inefficiency of democracy. So we will move increasingly toward a computer-controlled form of governance.
A Smithsonian writer depicts a futuristic view of AI-governed society:
Civil rights drones fly over police pods as they race to the scene of a crime—one AI watching over another AI, for the protection of humankind. Each police station in Lagos or Kuala Lumpur has its own lie-detector AI that is completely infallible, making crooked cops a thing of the past. Hovering over the bridges in Kuala Lumpur are “psych drones” that watch for suicidal jumpers (sub. 2).
I believe the day will come when artificial intelligence will educate both our children and adults, diagnose our diseases, monitor and control our trade and economy, adjudicate our crimes, and essentially govern all of society.
Artificial intelligence is the ultimate culmination of mankind's ambition and the corporate project which was first attempted with the Tower of Babel. It is an amalgamation of our collective intelligence and effort to attain the status of God. Consider this: if you could encounter an entity that possessed in totality the beauty and intelligence of every human being but without any of their imperfections, would you not be face-to-face with God? This is the One whose image we were created to reflect. AI, on the other hand, is a counterfeit god—the incarnation of humankind's accumulated wisdom and ideas, manifesting as a mighty tree of knowledge. Artificial intelligence is the modern-day god, an avatar through which to worship human knowledge incarnate in technology.
So, the collapse of Western culture, a terrifying prospect for many, will present a grand opportunity for those who have chafed against Christianity’s influence on society until now. And yet, this opportunity will be two-fold. A large contingent of Christians who, like the proverbial frogs, have been soaking in the gradually warming cauldron of Babylon‘s mixed culture, placidly unaware of the devil’s insidious intentions, will finally jump out. There will be a great exodus. I believe this with all my heart.
Scripture reveals that only a remnant of Christians will survive the onslaught of the coming age. If John the Revelator marveled at Babylon, will not the remnant barely preserve its faith? Only those with the deepest level of commitment, whose lives and actions prove their faith as a present, ongoing reality, will even stand a chance in the coming days. But that remnant may be a lot bigger than many of us imagine. The collapse of the mixed culture will present the most significant opportunity for the bona fide culture of Christ to finally emerge on the face of the earth. Like the scoffers in Peter’s day, some may be tempted to mock at such a notion, pointing to the fact that such a culture has never yet materialized. But that time will most certainly come.
When the apostle Peter stood before the temple in the book of Acts, he spoke about how Jesus would remain in heaven until the time of “the restoration of all things” as prophesied by the prophets. This means that the restoration Peter spoke of has yet to come to pass so long as Jesus remains in heaven. The book of Acts sets the standard for believers to aspire to in terms of truth and power. However, Peter anticipated a yet-future restoration and revelation that would be required to usher in the Lord’s return, something surpassing the church of his day. This Christian society will emerge in stark contrast and conflict to man’s Tower of Babel project, which, by that time, will have become the universal “Babylon the Great," the mother of harlots.
Scripture tells us that this restored church will be a kingdom. It says that “the mountain of Yahweh’s house will be exalted above all other mountains” (Isa. 2:2), referring to nations allegorically as “mountains.” The prophets that Peter referred to said that the kings of the earth would see the success of the Lord’s kingdom and stream to her from the four corners of the earth, asking that Zion teach them her ways (Isa. 2:3). Jesus showed no interest when offered all the kingdoms of the world and their glory (Matt. 4:8), and He insisted to Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).
John further declared that all worldly kingdoms lie under the evil one's control (1 John 5:19). Thus, any world rulers asking to be taught by Zion will be abandoning their worldly thrones and political powers of death to become true sons of Zion—the city of peace, Jerusalem descending from above. Biblical prophecy depicts the Messianic stone that will come down and strike the feet of the great man-made god, fashioned as an image in man’s likeness. Scripture says this stone would bring down that gargantuan image of deified man (Dan. 2:5).
I said at the onset of COVID— “We must remember that what is good for the church is not always good for the world, and what is good for the world is not always good for the church.”
The church is too comfortable in Babylon. If Babylon were to remain a safe, palatable place for Christianity, the church would never be driven out like the children of Israel from Egypt. Zion would never find the wherewithal to cross the Red Sea, head into the wilderness, and seek a homeland beyond the confines of Egypt. And the church will never become what God has called her to be until she has been exiled from the world’s cultures. But when the host cultures become too hot to endure, Zion will hear a voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, My people” (Rev. 18:4).
I ask you to expand your thinking and try to imagine what it would look like for a kingdom to even come close to fulfilling the grand promises of the prophets. Could anyone honestly conclude that this restored “kingdom” amounts to no more than widespread recitation of the sinner's prayer, or even multitudes of individual believers lost and intermingled in Babylon? I find it patently absurd to think such individualism could even remotely fulfill Peter’s anticipation.
Let’s begin with the problem: why do the present-day churches fall so far short of fulfilling the great prophecies for Zion? While Christianity already boasts the numbers, she has never realized what the citizens of this world have long known—that unity is the prerequisite for power. We look at Christian groups around the world and see the old denominations crumbling and on the verge of extinction. The Amish church is now larger than the Lutheran church in America. For the most part, these stodgy mausoleums of past glory have no vision, no sense of commitment or community, but simply served as adjuncts and chaplains to the broader society. They’re as good as dead and will likely be gone within a generation.
So what does that leave of Christianity? Pentecostalism is the fastest-growing religion in the history of the world, with 30,000 added each day. The Pentecostal movement has power, passion, fervor, and a mission. And yet they fail to see the need for their beliefs to shape their way of life —to incorporate economy, education, and the wholeness of an entire way of life, that is, to shape a unique culture distinct from the surrounding societies. They content themselves with powerful spiritual experiences and Bible-based creeds. Then there are the Evangelicals, who largely represent a less-sleepy version of their older mainline denominational cousins. They prize doctrine, education, and success but relegate soteriology—salvation—to something entirely metaphysical, internal to the human experience and not a lived reality or visible culture among people. Thus, they can never fulfill the corporate Messianic prophecies.
What about the Anabaptists? In contrast to all the rest, they do believe that one’s faith should affect the entirety of his life. They are lifestyle Christians whose belief shapes every sphere of their existence. However, they lack a unified authority due to their rejection of the ongoing and direct working of the Holy Spirit. They choose their ministers by casting lots, a practice that appeared to cease in the church of Acts once the Holy Spirit had been poured out. As a result, they are defined by disunity more than any other group. They will divide over the color of their buggy top, the rubber on their wheels, or the shape of their suspenders. This is unfortunate because they could be the most potent, effective instrument of Christianity in civilization if they were unified. Because they have come to reject the anointing of the Holy Spirit, they have ceased to avail themselves of the only force capable of unifying them and thus become buried in their carnal-minded independence.
Some have the Holy Spirit but reject the lifestyle. Others have the lifestyle but reject the Holy Spirit. But none have the unity of the faith in the bonds of peace. They have not discovered the beauty of worshiping the Father in Spirit and in truth. These groups do, however, contain valuable knowledge and strength that will be crucial in the emergence of the Messianic nation, once we lay aside all our labels and differences and come into the full measure that belongs to the full stature of Christ.
The apostle Paul promises that only in the dispensation of the fullness of times, in the end, will God gather together all things that are in Christ under one head, things in heaven, and things on earth (Eph. 1:10). This suggests that a great unification is going to occur among Christian groups. This further implies that Christ’s lordship will oversee not only our heavenly notions and belief systems but also “things on earth”—the practical spheres and necessities of human life and existence.
You say, “How is unity ever going to be possible in the church?” Well, one means is that those who refuse unity are going to go extinct, like the denominations are already proving. The church cannot find unity because it is not truly submitted to the Holy Spirit. Only after all of the counterfeits fail her and Western Civilization collapses, when no hope remains in Babylon and Egypt—it will be only then that the church will begin to accept a level of submission and unity capable of forming her into the influence and witness God intended her to be from the beginning. But before that time, God will raise up Joseph and Moses ministries to prepare patterns and fill storehouses, to see ahead, and to serve as forerunners.
“I will turn your religious festivals into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.”— Amos 8:10-12
Smaller congregations throughout the world will carry out this Joseph/Moses mission—those given a vision by God for what the larger aggregate is destined to face in the years to come. You have the privilege of being part of just such a Joseph congregation. Why are we here? Why have we been able to find the level of unity which we presently enjoy? We are here because we are a collection of individuals whose faith in man (especially ourselves) has been pulverized by the world, sin, and the harsh realities of life. In short, the present-day Joseph ministries comprise those who have spent time in the pit, in persecution, prison, hardship, and personal tribulations. Bruised, disabused of all phony salvation systems, these have come together under the headship of Jesus, and their fruit is undeniable. But they are merely forerunners, preparing the way for the larger groups yet to go through tribulation.
In recent conferences and seminars, the question of what constitutes God’s kingdom has often been asked. Essentially, God’s kingdom is a society that is eradicating the spiritual control of the devil now prevalent on the earth. It is a collective environment where the “ruler of this world” is cast out and no longer reigns. In the book of Romans, it is stated that “the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). This entails that righteousness, peace, and joy are not the products of Roman law or coercive force, but only of the Holy Spirit.
In Luke 10, Jesus is seen casting out devils, a practice which upsets the Pharisees greatly. They accused Him of using satan’s power to perform such miracles. But Jesus refuted their claim, saying it’s not in the devil’s interest to cast himself out because “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” He added that if He casts out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon them.
This is a huge statement! What is the kingdom of God? Jesus says, “If I cast out demons by God’s finger, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” When you pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, Your kingdom come,” you’re saying, “God, cast out the spiritual power of the devil by Your mighty finger.” This means that wherever the Holy Spirit is at work to break demonic oppression, there the kingdom of God has become real. There is no kingdom of God in a cessationist church or environment. You have to have the movement and power of the Holy Spirit to even conceive of this kingdom.
Do you know where the phrase “the finger of God” comes from? In Exodus, Moses was sent to the courts of Pharaoh armed with two expressions of God’s authority—His mighty Name, Yahweh, and an outstretched staff. As Moses began performing miracles, Pharaoh called for the Egyptian magicians to do the same, as if to say, “Yahweh is no greater than these demons that we worship in Egypt.”However, Aaron’s staff turned into a serpent and swallowed up all the serpents of Egypt. Later, when Moses released an attack on the Egyptian empire in the form of a miraculous sign (a plague of gnats), the Egyptians were unable to match his spiritual power. “The magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is none other than the finger of God’” (Exod. 7:12; 8:19). This statement demonstrated the power of Yahweh invading the kingdom of the devil as incarnated through a political nation. So Jesus was tacitly referencing Moses’ struggle against the gods of Egypt, as if to say, “I’m threatening you brood of vipers just like Moses did the snakes of Egypt and the gods that were judged in the Exodus.”
Of course, there's another place where the finger of God appears in response to a political nation attempting to take the place of God. This happens when Belshazzar takes the temple artifacts that his father, Nebuchadnezzar, had previously stolen and uses them for a drunken feast. Suddenly, the hand of a man appears, and the finger of God begins to write on the wall: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” This means, “You have been weighed in the scales and found wanting,” as recorded in the book of Daniel chapter 5.
Throughout history, it seems that God’s casting-out finger appears when He intervenes to challenge the earthly embodiment of satan’s dominion in the form of tyrants, Egyptian wisdom, pharisaical human religiosity, or anything else that threatens the reign of the Holy Spirit. According to Jesus, when God’s finger is casting out satan, His kingdom has come—the kingdom we are called to seek and embody, thus serving as extensions of God’s pointing finger when facing up to oppressors like Pharaoh, Babylon, or the Pharisees.
The question about the kingdom’s nature has become extremely controversial, but a scripturally consistent perspective is possible. Today, there are several conflicting kingdom models, namely the Premillennial, Postmillennial, and Amillennial views. Understanding these varied perspectives might help us frame and explore the kingdom’s emergence. These terms all refer to the Lord’s return and the time of the millennial kingdom, when Scripture indicates that God’s people will reign with Him on the earth. Focus for a minute as I try to explain these in very short, simple phrasing that you can grasp and hopefully hold on to.
1: Premillennialism contends that Jesus will return before the millennial kingdom is established on earth. Most Premillennialists, though not all, believe that there will be a rapture of the church prior to the time of tribulation. During this tribulation, when the church is with Jesus in heaven, masses of Jewish people will supposedly become believers. At the end of the tribulation, Jesus will return to the earth with his glorified saints and will, at that time, descend to enact a natural and earthly kingdom. He will rule on the earth from Jerusalem, and the whole world will see the wisdom of Christ manifested on the earth through a sublunary kingdom under the rule of Jesus and His church, with the nation of Israel being the center of the kingdoms on the earth. At the end of that thousand-year period, satan will be released to lead a rebellion of the nations against Christ’s kingdom, and satan and all those who follow him will be destroyed. That is when the eternal realm of the new heavens and new earth will appear. Advocates of this view fail to reckon with the many New Testament scriptures which show that the Lord’s return marks the end of that realm of history and the initiation of the new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3; 2 Thessalonians 1 with Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 15). This is what Peter was referring to when, in Acts 3, he said that the Lord would remain in heaven until the restoration of all things spoken by the prophets of old.
2: Postmillennialism teaches that the Lord will return after the millennial kingdom, but that this kingdom is to be understood as a sublunary kingdom in this world. Advocates of this view expect that most people on the earth will be saved in this natural kingdom. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time before Christ's return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and nations—all of this representing and fulfilling the kingdom promises. They maintain that the ethics of the kingdom should be implemented now, and the State is the means through which to achieve this objective. This particular ideology is favored by “Reformed” Christians and believers intimately involved in political causes like Right to Life and so on. Their vision is to establish a natural kingdom on the earth, and they see the State as one of the chief means through which to accomplish this goal. If they could force others to adopt their beliefs, they would not hesitate. While they effectively demonstrate that the kingdom of God is indeed for this present age, they overlook that God’s people can never reign through forceful means. They ignore the seminal biblical reality of two distinct powers at play in this world: those of Caesar and those of Christ. Furthermore, they fail to grasp the significance of Christ’s statement to Pilate that His “kingdom is not of this world” and thus operates as a wholly different alternative to the world’s kingdoms founded on coercion and ruled by violence.
3: Amillennialism, like Postmillennialism, holds the belief that the millennial kingdom will take place during the current age and will be followed by Christ’s return. Both views acknowledge that Christ’s return will bring about the final judgment, during which He will establish the “new heaven and new earth” for permanent reign. Amillennialists correctly perceive that Christ’s reign is essentially spiritual—not of this world. But they erroneously infer that the kingdom will thus only manifest itself in ethereal, invisible realms, with no tangible expression on earth other than the presence of individual believers in Jesus.
4: Realized Millennialism, which I might add is the correct view, holds that Jesus will come back at the end of the current age to establish the new heavens and new earth, bringing about the eternal realm. They are in agreement with Postmillennialism that the millennial kingdom is happening in the present, and with Amillennialists that Christ’s millennial rule is essentially spiritual in nature. However, they differ from both Postmillennialists and Amillennialists, who respectively believe that God’s people reign through the world’s institutions or only in a non-visceral invisible realm. Realized Millennialism holds that the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit will become visible and complete, manifesting as an alternative culture as the saints reign on earth through their devotion and obedience to God’s anointed ecclesial design. By being transformed into the image of Christ, God’s people can rule over the power of the evil one in their lives, both individually and corporately. In this way, the church presently functions as an alternative to the kingdoms of the world, with every aspect of human life brought under God’s dominion. Realized Millennialists believe that the wisdom of Christ, not Caesar and Statism, will be seen throughout the world through the church’s voluntary, alternative culture. The Lord's return and the initiation of the eternal realm will occur once all that is truly life—as opposed to the power of death—is brought under subjection to Christ's feet in this present age. Spiritual Zion will have finally attained the final corporate witness of the full measure of the stature of Christ. So Realized Millennialists believe that the kingdom is spiritual, but that it is for today. Just as Jesus said, if the power of the devil is being cast out by the power of God, then the kingdom is real; it has come. That’s how the Millennium is real today. When the power of the evil one is being brought under subjection to Christ’s power, the church, both individually and corporately, this is the kingdom of God.
We contend that the kingdom’s power is spiritual and manifested through practical means, as Paul said, in heaven and earth. Jesus Himself proclaimed, “Truly, I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power” (Matthew 16:28). It is clear that Pentecost marks the seminal power event that launched the kingdom on earth. But what happened after Pentecost? Was there no practical, visceral, visible expression of this kingdom's birth? Did the believers simply return to their “normal lives” after receiving such power from on high? No, immediately after speaking in tongues, there were practical and tangible changes in their corporate society. The book of Acts tells us, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer” (Acts 2:44-45). This shows how the spiritual Pentecostal experience produced real-world implications in their daily lives, even redefining them as a group (Acts 4:32-35). Spiritual power and authority did not, in short, equate to ethereal, invisible realities but quite the opposite. This demonstrates the principle of Christ’s prayer—“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Deeply intimate, numinous experiences were intended to manifest as real-world changes and realities that we would call the kingdom.
But what became of that first kingdom? It sprang up but, by Constantine the Great, was co-opted before it could become that full expression—not in quality, but in quantity. Before it could attain the full statute of Yahweh's house being exalted above all other mountains, it became polluted by the world’s kingdoms.
In the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways so that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” —Isaiah 2:2-3
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.—Hebrews 12:22-24
So, if, as this last scripture makes clear, the “church” is present-day “Zion,” what do we have to look forward to? Part of our dilemma is our usage of a somewhat antiquated word: kingdom. If we translated this into modern vernacular, we would most likely use the word “state” or “government.” Yet if Christians were to go around speaking about the “state” or “government” of Jesus, people would freak out. This gives us an insight as to why the Romans were so afraid of Christianity! They did not see it as a private belief, but as a kingdom, an existential threat to the Roman Empire.
Christianity is supposed to be a Messianic nation. Jesus didn’t even try to avoid the similarity. He drew a stark contrast to Caesar’s kind of power but still chose to re-purpose the very word “gospel” from the most powerful politician of His day who had coined that term to proclaim the coming of a total State: the gospel of the kingdom. If we were to translate into modern language Christ’s use of “gospel”—a term linguists link to “revolution” and “political campaigns”—it would be similar to saying, “the uprising for our new country.”