Sunday, June 30, 2013

Born Again to What End?

John 3 is another often misinterpreted passage. Jesus tells to Nicodemus he must be born again NOT to enter HEAVEN, but to enter the “KINGDOM OF GOD” (vv 3‒6) and then goes on to equate the kingdom with “eternal life” (vv 15‒16). All Jews like would understand eternal life to be a reference to the kingdom to come at the end of the age and not to the release of the soul at death.

How have we gotten things so mixed up? We must once again begin to preach the authentic gospel -- the gospel of the kingdom of God.
Read more about the kingdom in "Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now" (Harvest House), available at, Mardels, CBD, Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

How Jews Understood Eternal Life

Jews understood "eternal life" to be life in the future kingdom (Luke 18:18-30) and not going to heaven when they die. Read the above account of the Rich Young Ruler through these eyes and you will never be the same.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Subversive Meals Now Available for Purchase

Just got word that my book “Subversive Meals” (ISBN 13: 978-1-62032-018-1), which examines the Lord’s Supper in its original historical context, can be purchased immediately and directly from Wipf and Stock via phone (541-344-1528) or email at: (Retail cost: $37; 340 pp).

It will be available online in 2 weeks at: and at Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, etc. in 6-8 weeks.

It will be available on Kindle in 6 months.

NT and Theology professors can currently order examine copies via phone or email. If adopted the copy is free of charge. Otherwise, it can be purchased at 50% discount or returned to the publisher.

Persecution and the Gospel

When Jesus said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth,” he implied that his power surpassed Caesar’s. Few statements could be more subversive than this. For the apostles to carry out their mission and call on multinational subjects of Rome to transfer their allegiance from Caesar to Christ as Lord was traitorous and seditious. It resulted in some being arrested, tried, and put to death as adversaries of the established government. Remember, Rome did not execute Peter and Paul for preaching about heaven or exile John to Patmos for preaching about forgiveness of individual sins.

The Gospel of God's kingdom ruffles political feathers. But a message that invites people to go to heaven won't raise a single political eyebrow.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

HEAVEN ON EARTH Makes Top Slot in Summer Reading List

Mac Brunson just listed "Heaven on Earth" at the top of his Recommended Summer Reading List. Hope many will purchase book as a result. 
Take a look at the recommendation on Twitter and at the FBCJax wensite:,842/mac-brunsons-recommended-reading-list,842/mac-brunsons-recommended-reading-list 
(Please pray and share)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Did the Last Generation of SBC Leaders Fumble the Kingdom Football?

In late 1999, a group of SBC executives and Baptist state executives, facing a new millennium and a fast-paced, postmodern culture, met to discuss how the Southern Baptists could ever hope to be a vibrant influence in world evangelization. A task force was then formed, and after numerous meetings and times of spiritual and scriptural reflection, concluded that since Jesus focused exclusively on the kingdom of God, all Southern Baptists should focus on it as well. They also examined a successful kingdom-oriented emphasis called “Empowering Kingdom Growth” (EKG) developed by Carlisle Driggers in the South Carolina Convention in the early 1990’s. They borrowed the name and went to work to implement a similar agenda worldwide. This was a major undertaking.

During the 2002 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, at the recommendation of the task force, the messengers voted unanimously to adopt a new spiritual initiative, which called upon Southern Baptist churches and members everywhere to concentrate fully on the kingdom of God. The vote was not simply for another program, but an entire new direction for the Convention. Henceforth, all SBC programs, boards and agencies were challenged to focus their full attention and energy on kingdom ministry.

At the time of the vote, President James Merritt called the decision as significant for the Southern Baptist Convention as the decision made in 1925 to launch the Cooperative Program. The EKG task force wrote that the Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative “could prove to be an unprecedented turning point in American history,” considering that never before has such a large body of evangelicals decided to put aside secondary issues to concentrate solely on the kingdom of God.

A national coordinator was named in 2003 to implement the worldwide initiative. But something went awry. EKG became just another program that eventually fizzled into near obscurity.

Hopefully, a newer generation of SBC leaders will pick up the kingdom football and take it toward the goal line of world evangelization.

["Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom ..." seeks to transform readers into a kingdom citizens and congregations into kingdom-focused churches. Available on Amazon]

Democracy and the Kingdom of God

Does a Christian have a right to influence public policy? Are we called to be cultural warriors? If you answer, “Yes,” you may be confusing Constitutional rights and Christian rights. 

Believers in the West often assume that fighting culture wars is the “Christian” thing to do. But most churches around the world don’t have this luxury. This strategy doesn’t work in Yemen, Somalia, or Zimbabwe. Most churches are located in Communist, Fascist, Socialist, Muslim, and Jewish states where church officials have little or no influence on governmental policies and Christians are forbidden to protest governmental policies or even share their faith in public. In tribal lands petty dictators set the social agenda and their military strongmen enforce it. What makes us think that governments run by godless thugs will adopt Christian virtues? Do we actually believe that Satan, the invisible power behind human governments, wants his earthly leaders to live by the Golden Rule? 

The Scriptures are clear that the moral progression of human governments is downward and not upward. Why should we expect it to be any different in America? Remember, Edward Gibbon entitled his monumental work “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire!” America is following the same trajectory into the abyss.

Democracy and the kingdom of God are two different types of government. A democracy is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The will of the majority prevails and the minority dissent. The kingdom of God is a government of God, by God, and for God. The perfect and righteous king has absolute authority. When we confuse the two we get side-tracked and fall into a trap.

We must remember the church is not a colony and an embassy of America, Canada, Russia or any other country. It only resides in these places. It is a colony and embassy of the kingdom of God. There is always a danger, especially in the West, to blur the lines.

A real NT church can exist in any country, under any type government. Believers in America who spend their time, energy and money on rescuing America rather than being the church—a colony or embassy of Christ in the midst of America— may one day look back and regret wasting so many human resources on a failed project.

[I explore these ideas and many more in “Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom …” (Harvest House), which can be purchased on Amazon. Please consider sharing and/or retweeting this post.

Pointing to the Kingdom

The church is a signpost pointing to the kingdom. It does not expect to transform society into a paragon of Christian virtue any more than the British embassy in Moscow expects to persuade Russians to give up vodka and start drinking Earl Grey tea! When the church sees its mission as changing the culture of the country in which it resides, it will be disappointed.

The church is like a foreign embassy -- Part 1

The church is like a foreign embassy. Take the British embassy in Washington, D.C, for example. While located within the geographical boundaries of America, the British embassy property is owned by the United Kingdom. Each morning the ambassador and his staff arrive at work in fine British fashion with women wearing tweed and herringbone suits and men wearing bowler hats and shirts with Prince of Wales collars. A worker raises the red, white and blue Union Flag. All official functions open with a rousing rendition of God Save the Queen.

The people within the embassy have a distinguishable accent and use idiomatic language that is unfamiliar to the American ear. They show little interest in American sports, but closely watch cricket and rugby scores. They ignore American holidays, but on the evening of November 5th they build a bonfire to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. They might eat fish and chips served with “mushy peas” for lunch and enjoy beef and Yorkshire pudding for supper. At eleven o’clock in the morning and four o’clock each afternoon things come to a sudden halt. It is time for a spot of tea and a biscuit or scone served on Royal Doulton china.  

Most important of all, the ambassador and his diplomats are British citizens who faithfully serve their government on foreign soil 3000 miles from home. Their main responsibility is to represent England in the United States.  Americans do not have to travel to England in order to know what the country and culture are like. They can visit the embassy. Occasionally an American seeks British citizenship. They are directed to a British consulate in their region or the embassy in the nation’s capital. 

Churches are like embassies. They are located in most countries around the world. Christians are like ambassadors. Although living on foreign soil, we are citizens of God’s kingdom and follow his laws and standards of ethical behavior. We are in the world, but not of it. We give our attention to kingdom affairs, use kingdom language, eat a kingdom meal in honor of our Sovereign, sing distinctive kingdom songs, observe certain kingdom holidays and customs, and engage in many kingdom activities that most people consider strange. Regardless of our location on the planet, we are loyal subjects of God’s government. As emissaries we represent the kingdom of God to the world. When people want to know what the kingdom of God is like, we invite them to come and see. When they visit they get a taste of the kingdom.

Monday, June 24, 2013

My Answer to an Inquiry about Jesus and Exorcism

Last week I posted that Jesus’ exorcisms were eacted prophecies that pointed to the in-breaking of God’s kingdom and to the ultimate defeat of the powers that hold God’s people captive.

A well-known Bible teacher (whom shall remain unnamed) responded with this question: “I like your take Alan. Do you believe some deliverances point ahead only in sense of announcing a future demon-free creation?”

Here’s My Answer:

Your question is a difficult and one I am still working out. But here is where I am now in my thinking:

I believe that all of Jesus’ exorcisms point to God’s victory over Satan, both temporarily and ultimately, or the “already” and “Not yet” aspects of the K of G. Entering enemy territory, Jesus plunders Satan’s house, i.e. Satan’s kingdom. Each triumph is a sign that God’s kingdom had arrived and was expanding, and that Satan was diminishing as Satan was losing his grip over people’s lives (see Luke 4:18-21; Matt 11:29).

When defending his exorcisms and explaining their purpose, Jesus likens his exorcisms to binding a strong man (Mark 3:23), an allusion to Isa 24:21-22, which speak s of the complete elimination of evil at the end of the age.

Revelation speaks of Satan being bound in a bottomless pit for 1000 years (Rev 20:1-3) and the Book of Enoch describes the binding of God’s enemies, namely Azazel and his associates (1 Enoch 10:4-16). For Jesus and his followers, exorcisms or the binding of evil spirits, mean that the “age to come” had arrived already in some way.

Of course, this caused so much confusion among Jesus followers and the masses,  since Jesus did not set up the kingdom as they had expected. In hindsight we can now see he inaugurated the kingdom at his first coming, but will not consummate it until his return.

Like the 12 apostles, the church now possesses the authority over demons (Matt 10:1, 11, 17; Acts 8, 9, 16) as we preach the Gospel of the kingdom. Each present-day exorcism is an enacted prophecy that frees someone from the grip of Satan now and points to the final day when Satan and his hordes will be bound forever. 

On the cross Jesus dealt a death blow to Satan, decisively sealing the latter’s fate (John 12:31-33; Col 1:13-14; 2:14-15). The cross is “the hinge of history “ and  represents Christ’s victory over Satan.

I deal with both exorcisms and healings in my book “Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now,” which can be purchased on Amazon in paperback and in Kindle format.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Cross and Healing

Matthew explains that Jesus’ healings are a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy—“He Himself took our infirmities. And bore our sicknesses’” (Isa 53:4; Matt. 8:17)—which describes a messiah whose suffering results in the physical healing of God’s people.

We often we think that Christ’s death on the cross relates to forgiveness only. But it involves more than that. Although the Apostle Peter applies Isaiah 53:4 to sins (1 Peter 2:24), Matthew links it to sickness. As a result of these two interpretations, a controversy exists over the extent of the crucifixion’s benefits.  The best explanation is that Christ’s death secures salvation for the whole person, i.e., forgiveness for the soul and healing for the body.

This conclusion leads three further considerations. First, while we are “eternally” forgiven of sins, we still commit sins in the present age. Likewise, while Christ eternally secured the redemption of our bodies, we still get sick in the present age. In the interim between “already” and “not yet” aspects of the kingdom, forgiveness and healing are available to us as a foretaste of the age to come.

Second, Matthew clearly links Jesus’ healings to his suffering on the cross (Matt 8:17); yet, all the healings recorded in Matthew’s Gospel take place PRIOR to his death. This leaves us with a dilemma: How did Jesus heal in advance of the cross? The same way he forgave sin prior to the cross. The crucifixion’s benefits extended into the past as well as into the future.

Third, Matthew writes his Gospel many years after the recorded events take place. Therefore, Matt 8:17 is his theological explanation of the healings after prolonged reflection. Most of his readers (living somewhere between AD 66‒85) never met Jesus or witnessed his healings. Therefore, the Gospel of Matthew informs them of the events and explains their meaning.

According to Matthew, Jesus miracles were signs that God’s eternal kingdom had broken into time. It did not arrive in its fullness, but it began to manifest itself. When the ultimate kingdom comes, everything will be restored to perfection. Until then, we must be satisfied with a little “taste” of heaven on earth.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Excorisms as Enacted Prophecies

Jesus’ exorcisms were more than individual acts of compassion. They were enacted prophecies that pointed to the inbreaking of God’s kingdom and his ultimate defeat of the powers that hold God’s people captive.

The deliverance of the Gadarene demoniac is a prime example (Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-19; Luke 8:26-29) and has a dual function. First, the demoniac is set free. Second, the exorcism points beyond itself to the day when Israel is set free.
When the man from the tombs meets Jesus on the seashore, the demon inside him cries out, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me” (Mark 5:7). As the Gospel writer notes, these words are a response to a command given by Jesus— “For He [Jesus] said to him, ‘Come out of the man, unclean spirit!’ Then He asked him, ‘What is your name?’” (v. 8).  

The first clue this passage should be read at two levels is found in the following verse. “And he answered, saying, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many’” (v. 9). On a literal plane, the demoniac’s response means that he possessed by a myriad of demons. To the readers of the Gospels, however, the “Legion” had political connotations as well. The term “Legion” was commonly used to refer to a contingent of 6000 Roman foot soldiers. Jews rubbed shoulders everyday with Roman occupation troops.  

The second clue is the mention of pigs. After begging Jesus not to “send them out of the country,” a multitude of the demons request that he send them into the swine. Jesus grants permission (vv. 11-13). According to Josephus, a pig or boar’s head was the symbol of the Roman Tenth Legion (Fretensis) that besieged Jerusalem (Jewish War 5.71-97). 

The final clue is found in these words:  “Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea” (v. 14). Does this account jog your memory about another army drowning in a sea? The wording is nearly identical to that of the Exodus scene at the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1, 10). When God delivers Israel from Egyptian domination, Pharaoh’s army perishes in the sea.

The exorcism at Gadara points to something beyond one man’s deliverance. The driving of the “Legion” into the sea can be viewed as an enacted prophecy, announcing Rome’s ultimate defeat and the imminent coming of God’s kingdom. A new Exodus has begun. God’s people will be set free from social, economic and political oppression just as much as the demoniac has been freed of his demons.