The Kingdom of God, Part III

Paul’s Kingdom Message to the Thessalonians

     Believing that they were defending Yahweh from heresies, many of the Jews in Thessalonica were incensed.  After hearing the preaching of Paul for three Sabbaths, many had believed the message and began following Paul’s message about the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  But the remaining Jews became extremely jealous and decided to attack Paul and his followers.  

     These Jews found some wicked men from the marketplace to help them implement their plans.  They engaged with these men and incited them to form a mob.  They surrounded the house of Jason, where Paul and his followers had been staying, seeking to bring them out to face the mob.

     When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of his friends before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”

     Thus, they stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things.  As a result, the new believers gathered together and agreed that they needed to send Paul, Timothy, and Luke away for their safety.  However, everywhere Paul went he preached the Kingdom of God and declared that Jesus Christ is King of the Kingdom.

 

 

A Place Prepared for Us

     The Apostle Paul fully declared that the Kingdom of God arrived when Jesus fulfilled His mission on Earth and when He ascended to His throne at the right hand of God (Ephesians), not in Jerusalem. The moment came when Satan, the accuser of the brethren was “cast down” out of Heaven.
     Notice why Paul says the “eyes of the heart” may be enlightened: 
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
     These are all the result of Christ’s resurrection and coronation.  
These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every  name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.  (Ephesians 1:18-23)
     What are the ramifications of these facts about Christ’s coronation?  It means that we do not await a coming kingdom, one whose King still needs to defeat His enemies.  All things have been put under His feet, and since we are part of His body, we also reign over the forces of darkness, not only in this age but also in the age to come.
     This position of power does not exactly fit the scenarios portrayed by the many Bible teachers today who diminish the scope and power of God’s Kingdom reigned over by Christ Jesus.

Our Place in Heaven

     Where will we be when we enter our eternal destiny, therefore? Will it be on Earth for one thousand years, waiting for the final judgment?
     Jesus made clear that our place will be to be with Him in Heaven with God the Father.  In fact, Jesus claimed that He was going to prepare a place for us in Heaven to be with Him:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going. (John 14:1-3)

     The Apostle John in this passage also answers the question we have asked.  The term “in my Father’s house” refers to God’s residence in Heaven.  Yes, God is omnipresent, and the Scriptures reveal this pervasive existence:

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  (Psalms 139:7-8)

     However, John the Apostle writes in his Book of Revelation about the scene he saw in his vision, a vision of Heaven and Heaven’s throne:

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. (Revelation 4:2-4)

     Jesus also prayed that all of His followers would be with Him in glory, including the Gentiles:

I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:20-24)

 

Paul’s Vision

     We know that after being caught up to the third Heaven to see inexplicable things, the Apostle Paul describes in his Letter to the Corinthians the place where we will be when we die:

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. (II Corinthians 5:1-3)
Paul continues to describe this place with Christ in the glory of Heaven, saying it will be our home as we await the final judgment day of the Lord:
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:6-10)

Our Destiny as the Bride of Christ

     Our place in Heaven is also revealed in the analogy, or “mystery,” that connects believers with Christ, just as a bride is linked to her bridegroom.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
According to the Old Testament, a bride who was found not to be a virgin was stoned to death:
But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you.  (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)
     However, despite the fact that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Christ the Bridegroom has assured that our purity, or “virginity,” has been restored as His bride:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:8-9)
     We as the Bride of Christ do not await the wrath of God.  Instead of being stoned, we await Christ’s coming again to receive us unto Himself, so we can partake of the Wedding supper and enjoy the consummation of our marriage with Christ. Like the ten virgins, or bridesmaids, who went out to meet the Bridegroom with their lamps of oil, we will rejoice at His coming.
     The final event begins when the Bridegroom goes to meet His bride and brings her back to the home he has prepared. The figure of the bride waiting with her companions to hear the voice of the groom when he arrives at her house to consummate the marriage is portrayed in Christ’s parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).
     Thus, the consummation of the Age is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ when we, the Bride of Christ, wait to hear the shout of Jesus and his companions when He arrives. At this time, the faithful still on Earth will be found to be “pure virgins.”  
     The Apostle Paul refers to this moment in the following passage:
For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. (II Corinthians 11:2-3)
     The final stage in the Jewish weddings of Bible times was the wedding feast, and this celebration is depicted in the Book of Revelation:
Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God. (Revelation 19:7–9)
 Next Time:  The next and final article on this topic will examine the Book of Revelation’s teachings about the Second Coming, while discovering that this apocalyptic text was inspired and written for the Church of all ages, not just the End Times.
 
 

The Kingdom of God, Part II

The Apostle Paul’s Kingdom Ministry

The primary theme of  the Acts of the Apostles is the story of the spread of the Gospel to the world.  The history of the Church begins with the ministry of Phillip to the Samaritans, even to an Ethiopian man (Acts 8).  

The story in Acts continues with the ministry of Saul of Tarsus, later the Apostle Paul, who began with the Jews scattered across the Macedonian lands, but also specifically ministering to the Gentiles in those lands.   

Paul’s history continues through Acts until the final chapter, when he is arrested in Jerusalem. Paul then appeals to Caesar as a Roman citizen.  Therefore, his appeal takes him on a journey to Rome, where he teaches and preaches first to the Jews:

When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. (Acts 28:23)

While in Rome, Paul also shared the Gospel with the Gentiles and “all who came to him” while he was held captive:
And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.  (Acts 28:30-31)
Thus, the Great Commission was given by King Jesus to bring believers of all ages and peoples into His Kingdom, a kingdom that began at His first coming and will continue to grow until He comes again.  

Christ Jesus is King

Writing to the Gentiles in Ephesus, Paul prays for enlightenment so they will know the fullness of God’s plan:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19)
Paul then explains to the Ephesians the results of Christ’s ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension:
These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is Hisbody, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23)
Notice that Jesus is revealed as already seated at the right hand of God, above all authorities in both Heaven and Earth. It makes little sense, therefore, for Jesus to be crowned again in an earthly Jerusalem when He has already ascended the throne in the Heavenly Jerusalem, far above all powers in both Heaven and Earth.

Christ the Cornerstone

The Apostle Paul then shares with the Ephesians their place in God’s plan, a “mystery” that includes them with all the saints, both Jews and Gentiles, all as parts of the “holy temple,” another way the Kingdom of God is described in the Word of God:
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Paul relates to the Ephesians the reasons why the mystery of the Kingdom of God was kept hidden:  It was to show how God’s wisdom has been revealed through the Church and has resulted in the complete reign of Christ as King:  
To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:8-10)
The mission of the Church continues, therefore, to demonstrate the wisdom of God’s plan even to these “rulers and authorities” in Heaven, and as believers we do it both from here and in the heavenly realms.  

The Riches of Christ

In the following chapter, Paul reiterates his previous points, again mentioning the “mystery” of God’s grace to the Gentiles:
By revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;  (Ephesians 3:3-5)
Paul explains his meaning in the next few verses:
To be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. (Ephesians 3:6-7)
Paul then explains his part in the revelation of this mystery:
To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities inthe heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:8-10)
Therefore, Jesus is the King who has already been crowned and is coming soon, not one who will be crowned when He appears in God’s time.

To Be Continued

We will examine this teaching about the Kingdom of God in Part III of this series, looking at two analogies, or metaphors, that describe the Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God: Part I

Probably the most common belief about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is that He will come to set up His Kingdom on Earth and reign from Jerusalem on a physical throne.

For this doctrine to be true, the entirety of the Scriptures needs to point to this same conclusion, so let’s see what the Word of God says about the Kingdom of God and God’s plan for the final age to come.

The Mystery of  The Kingdom 

Jesus said that His followers must enter the Kingdom of God like a child: “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (Mark 10:15).

Thus, a child’s simple faith and ability to enter into realms of wide imaginatione are parallel to the believer’s faith, the “evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), because the Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom.  It doesn’t come with “observation,” and flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom, just as the Apostle Paul wrote:

Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (I Corinthians 15:50)

Thus, the idea that the coming Kingdom is a physical one is illogical given the makeup of the Kingdom Jesus and the apostles proclaimed in the New Testament age.

 

The Kingdom of God Has Come Upon You

A number of passages that describe Christ’s earthly ministry reveal that His purpose was to demonstrate and reveal the Kingdom in His person and through His mighty miracles.  For example, He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  Jesus also said, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you (Matthew 12:28)

This Kingdom, Jesus implied, will not begin in another two thousand years, but it actually began in the lifetime of those who were gathered there with Him in Jerusalem and the surrounding regions.  After His Transfiguration, for example, Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (see both Mark 1:9 and Luke 9:27).  

After His Transfiguration, for example, Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (see both Mark 1:9 and Luke 9:27).  

Such a statement must have raised great excitement among His followers, for they believed that the kingdom Jesus spoke about would be like the one King David ruled.  This is why, both before and after the Resurrection, they repeatedly asked Jesus,  “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:7). Even the Pharisees inquired of Jesus when He would restore the kingdom, although most likely they were trying to entrap Him (Luke 17:20).

After His resurrection, though, Jesus told his disciples, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  (Acts 1:6-8) 

 

Jesus Proclaimed the Kingdom of God

Jesus operated in His ministry as though the Kingdom of God was already present, showing through His works that the kingdom had arrived: 

Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him.  (Luke 8:1)

And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. (Luke 9:2)  
But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:11).
In fact, Jesus declared that the Kingdom of God was not coming with signs to be seen, but that the Kingdom was right in their midst, or in their presence:
Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst”  (Luke 17:20-21).
Therefore, since the Kingdom “cometh not with observation” (KJV), the Church’s mandate was not to look for the beginnings of the Kingdom of God, but instead for the Kingdom to be populated, made up of people from every nation and language.
 

A Different Kingdom Than Was Expected

What the disciples of Jesus also did not realize was that the Kingdom would consist not only of the Jews, but also of gentile believers:

I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. (John 10:16).

Thus, after His resurrection and before His ascension to Heaven, Jesus gave His Great Commission, telling them to go into all the world and preach the good news:   
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) 
We may now see clearly, therefore, what the disciples did not, at least at first:  The Kingdom of God would include people from every part of the world, from every nation and tribe, and would consist of believers and disciples from all times until the end of the age.  It has taken much time for this mandate to be fulfilled, and the time continues to this day.

Believers Are Also Told to Wait

On the other hand, the Scriptures seemed to signify that the Kingdom had not yet come, as in the following passage:
While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. (Luke 19:11)
Thus, the disciples must have been confused; before the crucifixion, they were being led by their traditions and assumptions that because Jesus was travelling towards Jerusalem, He would soon assume the throne of an earthly kingdom, one they thought  would be similar to the Roman Empire and would take control over the Earth.  
Indeed, in the next few verses, Jesus even asked His disciples to appropriate a “colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat” (Luke 19:30) in order to ride into Jerusalem as the Messiah, as prophesied in Zechariah:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  (Zechariah 9:9) 
Thus, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the crowds “took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel” (John 12:13).
However, Jesus cleared up this confusion after His resurrection, when he continued to teach about the Kingdom of God: 
To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)
And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”  Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.  (Luke 24:25-27)
Jesus then gave the disciples their commission to go into the whole world, sharing the Gospel and bringing with them all who would enter the Kingdom of God.
This same Great Commission continued with the Apostle Paul’s ministry, a mission which led him to preach the good news to both the Jews and the Gentiles.  We will analyze Paul’s mission as it relates to the Kingdom of God in Part II of this series.

All May Prophesy

In Luke’s Gospel we find the following message from a series of teachings that Jesus gives his disciples:

And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it  be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. (Luke 12:8-10)  

We definitely do not want to deny our Lord.  We need to be prepared to “confess” Him before anyone who asks for our testimony, whether in private conversation or in courts of law.

Jesus continues His lesson to the disciples in the following two verses:

When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.  (Luke 12:11-12)

This promise, given to us by Jesus Himself, is powerful and very encouraging, but it may be difficult for some to believe that the Holy Spirit will speak to them in a time of crisis, especially an extemporaneous word that they haven’t prepared in advance.  

However, as we assemble together, the Lord provides many opportunities to learn how to receive His promise of inspiration in times of persecution as we exercise the gifts He has given us through His Holy Spirit.

 

My Own Experiences

Frankly, aside from being questioned by the school principal one or two times (and exonerated!), I have not been overly concerned about being brought before the “rulers and authorities.”  Recent changes in the world and the increasing numbers of Christians being persecuted for their faith have brought this possibility closer to our lives, however.

The promises Jesus gives in these verses from Luke are exceptionally comforting, particularly for those who may have a strong aversion to any kind of public speaking, which includes most of us.  Studies have even shown that Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is more feared than dying.

The Fear of Public Speaking

When I was a child, the times I had to deliver a book report or even participate in “Sharing Time,” were traumatic, and I rarely wanted to participate orally in classes, especially without writing down first what I would say.  Today, I no longer fear speaking in public, either in large or small groups, but I credit the power of the Holy Spirit in my life for giving me both the confidence and the words to say when I need them.

The Apostle Paul provides many insights into how the Holy Spirit moved in the Churches of his day.  Unfortunately, many Christians do not understand his many admonitions and guidelines, much, to our detriment, for we do not exercise the gifts of the Spirit, and if we do we have the same problems Paul warns about.  

This is what he writes about prophecy, for example, mainly to resolve some of the abuses of the gift in operation:  

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.  (I Corinthians 14:29-33)

Paul lists this spiritual gift of prophecy among all twelve of the gifts in I Corinthians 12:7-11, but it is mentioned here in Chapter 14 in order to correct some of the abuses of these gifts, including selfishly seeking to be the focus of everyone’s attention, or not preferring one another and speaking out-of-turn.  

Above all, the gift of tongues was being exercised in Corinth without the gift of interpretation of tongues. A combination of both gifts was necessary for understanding what was being said. Thus, anyone new coming into the assembly was led to confusion, and disorder was the result:

So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me.  (I Corinthians 14:9-11)

In addition, confusion existed in the Corinthian church, for people were interrupting one another or trying to speak all at the same time.  Somehow, they were misguided into thinking that if the message came from God, He had to be obeyed instantly when the inspiration was first received.  

However, Paul relates the following:

You can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.  (I Corinthians 14:31-33). 

This exhortation means that Paul’s desire is that everything may be done “properly and in an orderly manner” as the Church gathers together ( verse 40).  

 

Misconceptions About the Gifts

Some major misconceptions still exist about these gifts in the Church today, however, which have led either to their misuse or to the lack of their use altogether.  Many who use this gift have been deceived into thinking that the gift of tongues is used to deliver a message from God to the assembly, leading many Bible teachers today to teach that the gift of tongues is no longer valid or needed, when actually the opposite is true in these later days.  As much as I value the written Scriptures as the final authority on teaching and doctrine, I know personally how few people are able to read even the simplest texts with thorough understanding. This is why Paul says, “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted” (I Corinthians 14:31).  

Before His ascension, Jesus again promised the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5), and Jesus made clear that this promise is for the Church in every age and to the ends of the earth:  “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  

Later, Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost also clearly reveals that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was for the whole church in the “last days.”  Peter quotes from the Prophet Joel, and in doing so, he connects the gifts of tongues with the gift of prophecy, for particular use in the last days, even until now.   

Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost, however, clearly reveals that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was for the whole church in the “last days.”  Peter quotes from the Prophet Joel, and in doing so, he connects the gifts of tongues with the gift of prophecy for particular use in the last days, even until now.   

“And it shall be in the last days,” God says,
“That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.”  (Acts 2:17-18)

A careful examination of other relevant Scripture passages also reveals that all of the gifts were given to the Church for use in all ages for use in the uttermost parts of the world.  And the gift of tongues is not a message from God to the Church, but a message from the Church to God.  Paul makes clear that the gift of tongues is used for prayer, or to bless God in the Spirit:

Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified. (I Corinthians 14:16-17)

If people do not know what is being said in a prayer of blessing, Paul asks, how will they say “Amen” to the prayer?  And Paul continues to place this gift’s operation in context:

I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.  (I Corinthians 14:18-19)

However, not only does the Apostle Paul extol this gift’s use in his own life, but nowhere does he forbid the proper exercise of this gift: “Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues” (I Corinthians 14:39). 

 

Prophecy Guidelines

Paul instead advises the use of the gift of prophecy in the church assemblies because its operation needed no interpreter, being delivered in a known language.  Plus, the most significant uses of this gift in the assembly are not to predict the future or warn of a coming Shemitah or Blood Moon. Instead, the word of prophecy’s purpose is to bring exhortation, edification, and comfort to the Church, for God speaks personally to us through this inspired gift. 

Both of these speaking gifts of the Holy Spirit are similar, therefore, because they are both inspirationally received and delivered. In addition, through these gifts God gives believers experience and practice in speaking as the Holy Spirit gives us utterances (Acts 2:4, I Thessalonians 5:20).  

The Apostle Peter reiterates this same point when he writes, “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God” (I Peter 4:11).

 

Preparations For Use

It is this same exercise of faith and power through the Holy Spirit that will give us the inspiration we may need if we are called before the rulers and the authorities in days of persecution.  And it is the same giftedness that allows us to give an answer to those who seek to know about our faith in Christ:  

But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (I Peter 3:14-15)

Thus, it behoves us to practice the use of these gifts so that we will be prepared to hear the Lord’s voice spontaneously and inspirationally when we are called upon to make a defense of the Gospel.  

 

Exercising the Speaking Gifts

To use these gifts takes faith and trust in the Holy Spirit’s ability to bypass our brains, yet use our speaking organs to speak discernible truths.  We must first be filled with the Holy Spirit and continue to walk in the Spirit, as the following verses reveal:    

  • And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.  (Acts 2:4)
  • And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)
  • And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit. (Acts 5:18)
These verses demonstrate that God speaks to us through our spirits, not our souls.  In this carnal world we are accustomed to judging and evaluating everything we see and hear through our brains. However, the Word of God comes to us through our spirits which have been reborn.  Even God’s Word is useless to us if we receive it only through our minds, for it must be spiritually discerned, not mentally discerned.  
                 
Above all, we must strive to fill our hearts with the Word of God as revealed in the Scriptures, for Jesus said, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45).
This is Paul’s meaning in the following passage, where he describes how his teaching comes from the words revealed by the Holy Spirit, not learned in a classroom.  He brings to the Corinthians words of life because they are Holy Spirit inspired:

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. (I Corinthians 2:12-13)

In the following verses, Paul continues to make this application clear:

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. (I Corinthians 2:14-16)

The key to allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through us, therefore, is to begin speaking, not necessarily knowing what we are going to say, but allowing the Spirit to give us the words as we speak, or  “as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

This inspiration takes faith and confidence, of course, for we must overcome our fear of pubic speaking, as well as speaking without preparation in writing:

What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has ateaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (I Corinthians 14:26)

This also means that we need to have faith and confidence in one another in order to avoid speaking or hearing false doctrines in the Lord’s name, for as Paul wrote, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment” (I Corinthians 14:29).  We must be willing to both correct and be corrected in order to ensure that it is indeed the Lord inspiring the utterance.

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