Many Christians believe that the Kingdom of God will be established when Jesus returns with violent power and destroys all those who oppose him. This view is a distortion of the gospel. Jesus was adamant that his kingdom will not be established by force and coercion.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).
Evil will not be overcome by greater evil. Evil must be overcome by good.
Paul explains the reason for not retaliating.
Beloved, do not retaliate for yourselves, but rather leave room for the wrath of God (Rom 12:19).
If we retaliate against those who harm us, we leave "no room" for God. This is one reason the Kingdom has been slow to come.
Service Releases the Spirit
The Kingdom of God is established by service and suffering. The reason is simple. The Holy Spirit loves service. When Christians serve others, he is there with them, touching the hearts of those they serve. Serving destroys the powers of darkness. When Judas had betrayed Jesus, the political powers gained a victory. Jesus washed Judas's feet to nullify the power of their victory (John 13:1-30).
The Holy Spirit really goes to work when Christian suffer as they are serving. In a passage on suffering, Peter gives this promise.
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (1 Peter 4:14).
Peter is referring Back to the Shekinah Glory of God. When we suffer for Jesus, the Holy Spirit rests on us, and flows out to touch those who are persecuting us. When Christians respond with agape love to those who intend them harm, the Holy Spirit has freedom to work in of those doing the harm.
When people watch a Christian suffering, they open up to the Holy Spirit. He is able to convict them of sin and reveal Jesus. A good example is the centurion who crucified Jesus.
When the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, "Certainly this was a righteous man!" (Luke 23:47).
This centurion would have crucified hundreds of people doing his career. He was a battle-hardened killing machine. Yet after watching Jesus die, this man glorified God and declared that Jesus was a righteous man. Jesus suffering had released the Holy Spirit to work in his heart.
Defeating the Powers
God intends to defeat the principalities and power through his church.
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph 3:10,11).
The church will defeat the spiritual powers, but the process is not what we expect. Jesus achieved his greatest victory when he suffered and died on the cross. The powers of evil will not be defeated by force, but by suffering. When the church gets serious about suffering, the Holy Spirit is released to drive out the evil powers.
The fruit of the Holy Spirit is peace, so peace can overcome anger and wrath.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Prov 15:1).
When we respond to evil with anger, we stir up more anger, which grieves the Holy Spirit and releases the powers of evil. When Christians give in to anger and hate, spirits of anger and hatred gain control of the people they are resisting.
Politics and War
Political power cannot defeat evil.
When Christians rely on political power, the Holy Spirit flees.
When we use coercion against evil, God is squeezed out.
Whenever we resist evil by with force, anger and hatred are empowered.
When the Christians takes up the cross follows Jesus, the Holy Spirit is released, and he is able to defeat the principalities and powers will be defeated.
The Kingdom of God will be established by the Holy Spirit working through the church. Unfortunately, he has been hamstrung by our tendency to rely political power to deal with evil.
When we fight evil with violence and war, the Holy Spirit retreats. This creates a vacuum that is filled by evil spiritual forces. The kingdom of God cannot be established by war, because when war starts, the Holy Spirit withdraws and the principalities and powers move in. This is why war invariably makes the situation worse, even if the cause appears to be good. Evil wins, because the Holy Spirit has to withdraw.
In the struggle between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Darkness, the Holy Spirit will always be the winner, if he he has freedom to move. When the church commits to suffering in the face of evil, the principalities and powers will be defeated.
Service is the key to the Kingdom. It often leads to suffering. Suffering releases the Holy Spirit, allowing him to achieve victory.
Christians often misunderstand the Holy Spirit. We have these false assumptions.
We must resist evil, or be overcome by evil.
Violence must be destroyed, before it destroys us.
If we do not defend our way of life, we will be forced to surrender our faith.
We must use force against those who hate the gospel, or it might be lost.
We must defeat those who would harm us, before they destroy.
At the physical level, these statements appear to be true. Violent people often harm good people. Evil nations sometimes invade peaceful nations. However, this is only half the picture.
When the spiritual dimension is taken into account the shape of the struggle is different. First of all, Christians have eternal life, so they cannot be destroyed by evil. More importantly, what happens in the spiritual dimension determines who gets victory on earth. When Christians use force and political power, the Holy Spirit is constrained. When Christians choose love, compassion and service, the power of the Holy Spirit is released.
Giving the Holy Spirit freedom to act is the key to the victory of the Kingdom. Anything that restrains the Holy Spirit holds back the kingdom of God. Using force to protect lives or to protect our nation, may make sense at the physical level, but it hinders the coming of the Kingdom of God. Before the Kingdom can be established, God will have to shake our faith in human power, and teach us to trust the Holy Spirit. Given the immensity of his power, any other course of action is foolish.
We must trust the cross. Jesus went to the cross to defeat the principalities, abolish the political powers and establish the kingdom of Gods. We must follow his example. The Kingdom comes when we take up the cross and follow Jesus.
The first letter of Peter has been called an epistle on suffering. Peter reiterates Jesus message about responding to evil by doing good.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult,
but with blessing, because to this you were called
so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Pet 3:12).
Those who follow Jesus must respond to evil with blessing. This is the way that we inherit blessing. When we respond to evil with insults and violence, we lose God's blessing and block the Holy Spirit.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Pet 3:12).
The Lord looks out for those who respond to evil by doing good, bit his face is set against those who do evil. We must not resist people who inflict evil upon us, even if it means suffering. God will deal with them.
Suffering defeats the power of the enemy.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:8-10).
Suffering by Christians will lead to God's victory.
Paul embraced suffering, because he knew that it advances the Kingdom.
All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering (2 Thes 1:5).
Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God (2 Tim 1:7-9).
We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom 5:3-4).
Rome was a dangerous city for Christians. Paul's letter explains the way to respond to persecution and evil. His advice is challenging.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. (Rom 12:14,17).
This is easy to read, but hard to do. We must bless everyone who harms us. We must not repay those who bring evil against us. There is a good reason for this instruction.
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath (Rom 12:19).
We must always leave room for God to act. If we respond with curses or violence towards those who harm us, we shut down God's freedom to act. On the other hand, if we bless those who harm us, we release the Holy Spirit to work in their lives.
When facing evil, we must not take the situation into our own hands. We want the Holy Spirit to be active, so we must guard against words and deeds that would restrain him.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).
When we do good to those who inflict evil upon, we open the way for the Holy Spirit to do good to us and to them. If they reject the Holy Spirit, they put themselves under God's judgment.
Revelation and Endurance
Commitment to enduring through suffering is a major theme in the Book of Revelation. John understood that endurance of suffering brings in the kingdom.
Your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus (Rev 1:9).
The kingdom does not come through Christians gaining political power. Rather, as Christians follow Jesus example and take up the cross of suffering, the political powers will collapse, allowing the Kingdom to emerge. This is a mystery that few Christians understand. Patient endurance in the face of evil opens the way for the destruction of evil.
John's main reason for writing the letters to the seven churches was to encourage them to endure through their suffering. When modern readers focus on the faults of the various churches, we miss something important. Jesus is encouraging his people to endure suffering in the face of hostility from the greatest manifestation of evil that will ever appear on earth.
You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary (Rev 2:3 Letter to Ephesus).
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 2:10-11 Letter to Smyrna).
He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels (Rev 3:5 Letter to Sardis).
I know your deeds. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown (Rev 3:8,11 Letter to Philadelphia)
Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God... I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 3:8,12-13 Letter to Philadelphia)
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 3:21-22 Letter to Laodicea).
This last is an amazing promises. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God's throne. As Christians persevere through suffering, they are seated at the right hand of God.
John explained that Jesus overcame evil by dying on the cross. The Holy Spirit will bring in the kingdom through a church that follows Jesus example.
They overcame him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them (Rev 12:11-12)!
This seems like a paradox, but the people of the Lamb experience victory, when they are willing to die for their faith, and do not shrink from death. The fullness of the Holy Spirit dwells in such a church that rises to the right hand of God by suffering.
Two Witnesses Destroyed
Persecution will almost destroy the church. John saw two witnesses, two olive trees and two lampstands.
And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth (Rev 11:3-4).
The lampstands and the witnesses represent the church. The church is Jesus witness in the world. The olive trees represent the Holy Spirit. The odd thing about this vision is that their only two lampstands. Earlier John had seven lampstands.
The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches (Rev 1:20).
Seven represents perfection or completion. The perfected, completed church is represented by seven lampstands. A church with only two lampstands is a truncated church. The church is truncated because the Jewish people have hardened their hearts and are missing from it, so it cannot provide a complete witness for Jesus.
In the latter part of this vision, John explains how the political powers persecute the church so severely, that it appears to be dead.
When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them (Rev 11:7).
The people of the world celebrate joyously, because a minor irritant is gone, but God has a surprise for the world. When the church seems to be dead, he breathes the life of the Spirit onto it and raises it up to victory.
The breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them (Rev 11:11).
A radical church that has survived underground and prepared while no one has noticed will burst onto the world stage, knowing that in Christ, it is seated at his right hand of the Father in heaven (Rev 11:12). The people of the world will be shocked when they realise that church is not dead, just different and far more powerful.
The church must get to the stage where it is nearly dead, before victory will come. At the end of the Times of the Gentiles, the church will almost die, but when it is just about dead, it will be purified, and rise to victory.
Bride of Christ
The book or Revelation has been badly misunderstood by the church.
It is not time line for the second coming, as many think.
It is not a promise of a time when evil takes hold on the earth.
This wonderful vision explains how God will establish his kingdom on earth, but the story has an unexpected twist. God's kingdom will not be established by a church that triumphantly expands its authority and control. The opposite is true. The Holy Spirit will give the Kingdom of God to the church when it has learned to serve and suffer. John refers to the church that embraces suffering as the Bride who has made herself ready. This is the climax of his Revelation.
Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready (Rev 19:7).
All of heaven and earth were looking for to the time when the bride would be ready. Those who live at this time are truly blessed.
Then the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" And he added, "These are the true words of God" (Rev 19:9).
The next scene is not the second coming, but wonderful a description of the kingdom of God coming on earth, as the enemies of the kingdom are defeated and the work of God is victorious (Rev 19:11-21). The Bride does not get ready for the second coming of Jesus. She gets ready to receive the Kingdom of God as a gift from the Holy Spirit.
John explains how this bride is recognised.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear."
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God's holy people) (Rev 19:8).
The Bride that has made herself ready is wearing fine linen. John explains that this is fine linen is the righteous acts of holy people. This can be misunderstood. All Christians are made righteous in Jesus, but this vision goes further. The meaning of the Bride's garments had already been explained earlier in the fifth seal. The seven seal mark the beginning of the Times of Distress.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number were killed just as they had been (Rev 6:9,11).
The white garments are given to Christians who Christians who are persecuted for their testimony and their obedience to the word of God. Their emergence marks the beginning of a season of suffering, following the opening of the first four seals. They are told to wait for the Lord to do his work and bring in the kingdom. They will have to suffer until the time is right. Those who suffer for the gospel during this season will not be rescued. On the contrary, as they persist, their suffering releases the Spirit to do his work.
The size of this group wearing white garments is revealed in the next chapter.
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb" Rev 7:9-10).
A huge multitude in white garments will be called to suffer for Jesus during a time of trouble on earth.
Tribulation Destroys Evil
The multitude in white robes are willing to sacrifice their lives for Jesus.
Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes-who are they, and where did they come from?" I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14).
Many Christians talk of a tribulation of purposeless destruction when evil has a free hand on earth. This view is wrong. John saw something, a great multitude who had come through a "great tribulation" to experience victory.
These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev 7:14).
This is not a tribulation to escape. That happened in AD 70. Christians should embrace welcome the great tribulation prophesied by John, because it leads to a great victory. This suffering of this multitude in the face of persecution leads to the collapse of evil empires and the emergence of the Kingdom of God.
The Bride is persecuted for resisting state control. The opening of the first Four Seals releases a time of terrible trouble on earth, leading the people of the world to look to their governments to rescue them. This will produce a huge increase in state power and open the way for the Terrible Beast, the ultimate form of state control. The Bride will speak prophetically and warn of the futility of trusting in human government, but the truth will be rewarded with persecution.
Persecution will transform the church. Christian political and administrative structures will be torn down and destroyed by hostile political forces. Churches that depend on professional leadership, well-managed organisation, big meetings and church buildings will be easily to shut down, so Christians that depend on them will struggle to survive.
Christians will be stripped of their attachments to the world and the religious systems they have relied will be ripped away. Communities defined by love and strong relationships will emerge in their place, as Christians will be forced into deeper relationships with each other in order to survive. The Holy Spirit will flood these communities with love and power, while teaching them to do the will of Jesus. As they take up the cross and following Jesus, they will begin to love one another, as Jesus loved us (John 13:34).
God cannot bring in the Times of Distress until the Bride of Christ has made herself ready. When she has prepared, she tells Jesus bring in a new season.
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come" (Rev 22:17)!
The Greek word "Come" is "erchomai" and not "Parousia" The former refers to the a coming in judgment against evil, whereas the latter refers to coming in judgment against to Beast to bring in the Time of Distress. When the Bride is ready, the Holy Spirit tells Jesus to bring in the season in which the world system will be destroyed opening the way for the Kingdom of God to come. . When the Bride is ready, she says "Come", because she is ready and willing to go through the Times of Distress to get to the Fulfilment of the Kingdom.
Bride Comes First
When the Bride is prepared, Jesus open the seals and release the events described in the Book of Revelation. The Bride enables him to fulfil his plans, because she gives the Holy Spirit freedom to do his work on earth, even if it means pain for his people. She follows Jesus in suffering, because she knows how he defeated evil.
He gave up his place in glory, he emptied himself to became a man.
He allowed himself to be killed on the cross.
The Holy Spirit can use the Bride to defeat the powers of evil, because she is willing to follow his example.
They overcame the dragon
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death (Rev 12:11-12)!
Jesus needs a church that is willing to suffer to the point of death without pleading to be rescued. The Bride of Christ frees the Holy Spirit to destroy the principalities and powers by suffering in the face of persecution.
One reason that the Kingdom of God has taken so long to be established is that Christians have to often taken the wrong response to evil. When we try to overcome evil with military force and political power, we sometimes achieves a temporary victory, but the Holy Spirit is cramped and the Kingdom of God is hindered. The Holy Spirit cannot operate at his full potential in a church that grasps at political and secular power.
When order breaks down, Christian will be tempted to step in and use political power to bring order Back to the world. The church did this through Christendom after the collapse of Rome. A new order was created, but the Kingdom of god was not advanced. Christians should resist the temptation to seize power to restore order, as that would postpone God's plans for the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God will come in fullness when his church is willing to follow Jesus all the way and take up the cross in the face of evil. Suffering and tribulation will bring in the Kingdom of God.