The Unity of the Body

You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts – limbs, organs, cells – but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives.

We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain – his Spirit – where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves – labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free – are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

I Corinthians 12:12-18

Recently, I was at Hardee’s talking to a 20-something man working there about church and about the kingdom of God. He invited me, predictably enough, to his church. I told him, “Usually, I get along with churches and their pastors much better when I don’t go to them.”

After we had this conversation, I read I Corinthians 12 and realized something that is a vital revelation for us all. You see, we are all one body—all of us. Everyone whose sins are forgiven by Jesus is a part of the same body. This includes the people we like, the people we hate, the people we just can’t get along with, the people we disagree with, the people we think are anti-Christs—each and every one of them.

This becomes all the more important when you read Hebrews 11:

I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more – Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, [this long list of heroes of the faith] toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves.

They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection.

Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless – the world didn’t deserve them! – making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.

Hebrews 11:32-40

This is a short message, but a vital one for our survival. Think about it! Look at a door near where you’re reading this now. Is it possible for your foot to go through that door without taking the rest of you along with it? The same is true for the kingdom of God. It is absolutely, completely, totally, inexorably impossible for us to enter into our rest in the kingdom until everyone else does. Wake up! You’re not going anywhere until the brother who you can’t stand enters into the kingdom.

Do you see this? No wonder it is so important for us to walk in love and forgiveness towards people. No wonder Jesus spent so much time cautioning us to love our enemies. Without them, you’re not going anywhere!

My friend, Charles and I went to see the movie “The End of the Spear” this year. It’s about a handful of missionaries who rescued a tribe from self-destruction by being willing to forgive them for the murder of their husbands and fathers. From now on, don’t pay attention to the pain that someone has caused you. Look at this as an opportunity. For how much more effective is it for someone who should hate us to love us. Jesus said, “They shall know you by your love.”

The blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you!

The Seventh Trumpet

This is pretty cool. Thanks to Bruce for getting me started down this path.

To understand this, you first must answer a simple question. When was the kingdom of heaven established.

Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.”

Mark 1:15

Here, at the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus begins to declare that the kingdom of Heaven is here. The kingdom began to be established, then, at this point. It was fully established by his death, burial and resurrection. At his death, everything before was ended and the new realm of the kingdom began, which is why Hebrews 9:26 states that Jesus was “crucified at the end of the world. (KJV)”

If you don’t buy this, please e-mail me and we’ll discuss this in another writing.

Revelation 9 contains the fifth and sixth trumpets being sounded as part of God’s judgment during the tribulation. These trumpets are judgments from God by armies who slaughter millions of people—not at all unlike the great campaigns of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans who conquered all of the middle east in the times before Christ.

What is interesting though is what we see in Revelation 10.

Then the Angel I saw astride sea and land lifted his right hand to Heaven and swore by the One Living Forever and Ever, who created Heaven and everything in it, earth and everything in it, sea and everything in it, that time was up – that when the seventh Angel blew his trumpet, which he was about to do, the Mystery of God, all the plans he had revealed to his servants, the prophets, would be completed.

Revelation 10:5-7

The word translated Angel here and throughout the New Testament simply means messenger. These messengers are in two forms. There is a whole kind of life form that God created to be his messengers and servants, these angels are like Michael and Gabriel, who are constantly around God’s throne.

The other type is anyone who is sent with the word of the Lord. This is why each of the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation are written to “the angel of the church.” This means the person who brings God’s word to a church. All of this is to say that just because someone in the book of Revelation is referred to as an “angel” doesn’t mean they’re not a human being.

This is the case here. The book of Revelation is the uncovering of the understanding of Jesus Christ. There are other actors throughout, but all of it is designed to reveal to us who Jesus really is. I believe this angel in Revelation 10 is another form of Jesus. Look at the similarities:

“The Angel…swore…that time was up.” Revelation 10:6.

Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here.” Mark 1:15

All the plans he had revealed to his servants, the prophets, would be completed.” Revelation 10:7

But if you read the books of the Prophets and God’s Law closely, you will see them culminate in John, teaming up with him in preparing the way for the Messiah of the kingdom.” Matthew 11:13

Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures – either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama.” Matthew 5:17

So what we’re seeing in revelation form is Jesus’ public ministry here on earth. Once again, we find that Revelation is not a book of the future, but is a book of the history of the revelation of Jesus Christ, just as he told us in chapter one.

Notice also that all of this is tied to the blowing of the seventh trumpet. Let’s skip to chapter 11 and find out what happens when that trumpet blows.

The seventh Angel trumpeted. A crescendo of voices in Heaven sang out, The kingdom of the world is now the Kingdom of our God and his Messiah! He will rule forever and ever!…The doors of God’s Temple in Heaven flew open, and the Ark of his Covenant was clearly seen surrounded by flashes of lightning, loud shouts, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a fierce hailstorm.

Revelation 11:15, 19

So this comes back to when did Jesus establish his kingdom. The answer is, at his death. That’s why the last thing he says on the cross is, “It is finished.” At that moment, then kingdoms of this world became the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever.

And at that moment, there’s an earthquake and God’s temple in heaven flew open. When did this happen?

But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last. At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces.

Matthew 27:50-51

These events that happened at the death of Jesus are EXACTLY the same events as in Revelation 11. John is watching what is happening from a heavenly perspective, looking back across time. Let’s see what else happened at this time.

When they’ve completed their witness, the Beast from the Abyss will emerge and fight them, conquer and kill them, leaving their corpses exposed on the street of the Great City spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, the same City where their Master was crucified. For three and a half days they’ll be there – exposed, prevented from getting a decent burial, stared at by the curious from all over the world. Those people will cheer at the spectacle, shouting “Good riddance!” and calling for a celebration, for these two prophets pricked the conscience of all the people on earth, made it impossible for them to enjoy their sins. Then, after three and a half days, the Living Spirit of God will enter them – they’re on their feet! – and all those gloating spectators will be scared to death. I heard a strong voice out of Heaven calling, “Come up here!” and up they went to Heaven, wrapped in a cloud, their enemies watching it all. At that moment there was a gigantic earthquake – a tenth of the city fell to ruin, seven thousand perished in the earthquake, the rest frightened to the core of their being, frightened into giving honor to the God of Heaven.

Revelation 11:9-13

This passage is talking about the law and the prophets we read about in Matthew 5. Nearly all of the prophets of the old testament were martyred for the word they preached, just like what we just read. Their bodies laid in the city “where their Master was crucified.” And at the end of this, the people left behind who had had been stunned the earthquake and the resurrection gave glory to the God of heaven.

What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.) The captain of the guard and those with him, when they saw the earthquake and everything else that was happening, were scared to death. They said, “This has to be the Son of God!”

Matthew 27:52-54

Here is the exact same event we just read about in Revelation chapter 11. This is the seventh and last trumpet that sounded at the crucifixion of Jesus—that heralded the establishment of the kingdom of heaven.

What’s more, this is not the only evidence in the New Testament about the events surrounding the last trumpet sounding…

The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise – they’ll go first.

1 Thessalonians 4:16

This scripture, often thought to be an example of the pre-tribulation rapture of the church, was fulfilled at Jesus’ resurrection following the final trumpet of God and the Archangel calling out “Come up here” as we just read in Revelation 11.

So what is the point of all of this?

The point is simply this. The rapture is not some future event that we await with bated breath. Many have already had their rapture. They are with the Lord now in their resurrected form. Enoch, Elijah, and, in my opinion, Moses, and John the apostle went there ahead of us without having to die. What are you waiting on? The word of the Lord has spoken.

Come up here!”