THE HERE AND NOW VS THE BYE AND BYE
Author: Ray Guinn
Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.
Psalms 115:16 “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth He has given to man.”
For years, I and many pastors and teachers have taught what I call an “escapist theology”. This teaching, for the most part, teaches believers to live for the future rather than for the present. This teaching encourages believers to watch for the coming of the anti-christ, eagerly anticipating Christ return and longing for the rapture and the day they would leave the earth and live forever in heaven.
Those teachings, however true and valid, have failed to also teach a believers responsibility to the present. But unless those teachings are set along side the teaching on the Kingdom of God, they fail to present the complete picture of what God’s plans are for his representatives on earth. An understanding of the kingdom will lead one to understand that we have a mandate from God to teach the kingdom principles to those who are around us in our everyday life and to manifest kingdom principles in the market place.
The word dominion in Genesis 1:28 lays the foundation for the Kingdom concept as it relates to God’s purpose and plan for mankind. The translation of the word dominion in the Old Testament is mashal, and the Greek derivative in the New Testament is basileia which occurs 162 times in the New Testament, and the definition of both words includes the concept “to rule, to reign, or royal power.”
THE GREAT SUBSTITUTE
Author: Tom Alford
A number of years ago, I became acquainted with a particular prophetic ministry in Texas. To some, the leader was a bit controversial, but I found him both biblical and quite refreshing. I want to paraphrase something I heard him say that really stuck out to me. It went something like this, “There is only one legitimate substitute in the New Testament, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus for our sin. All the rest are illegitimate”. That statement struck me as true, but the part about illegitimate substitutes began to resonate in my spirit in a way that both moved me and troubled me.
As you move through this article, you will see why I believe I had these mixed feelings. What I am saying may trouble many of you also. As I pondered possible responses, I began to ask God about some of the implications concerning what I am about to say. No, I did not hear an audible voice, but words like revolutionary, upheaval or even catastrophic came to mind. In spite of my concerns, I am compelled to share my thoughts about “the Great Substitute”.
To do this, I feel I need to tell you somethings about myself. After coming to Christ in my early 20’s and watching him begin to transform my life out of bitterness and unforgiveness, I felt a distinct call into ministry. The trouble I had inside myself was that though I had been recreated into a new man, I struggled with the role of ministry and eventually the pastoral role. At first I just attributed it to my rough edges and that eventually they would be worn down by God and I would then fit snugly into the church system. The opposite was the truth. The more I tried to fit, the more difficult it became for me. I questioned my call to ministry, whether I had what it took, and every other thing I could think of. I knew God had saved me and called me in a ministry direction, but something inside me seemed to be hindering me along the way. I now believe it was the Holy Spirit.
During this time of struggle in the late 80’s, God began to open my eyes to His kingdom. It was only a small glimpse, but it got me over huge barriers concerning God’s eternal plan in the earth. New purpose began to emerge in me and I began to try and unfold it in my present church system. I began to teach what little I knew about the kingdom of God to those in the church I served as well as talking to many others pastors about my kingdom ideas and concepts. I knew there was something here that God was trying to show me and others, but we kept trying to fit these kingdom truths into a neat and safe box That box was the church system. It did not work.
I feel I need to make an important distinction here. The church is the bride of Christ. The true church is God’s chosen instrument to represent His person and love in the earth. There is no other instrument, but our present church system may not be a reflection of Him or His bride.
In 2002, I laid down my pastoral ministry and sought to salvage a troubled marriage and family. My efforts failed and I was devastated. Yet, in the darkness of those days, I continued to cry out to God for His mercy and grace. In the midst of my pain, He began to slowly unfold His plan to me and my eyes began to see His kingdom. There is still so much I do not know or understand about God and His kingdom, but since He told me to seek it first(Matthew 6: 33), this has become my life long pursuit.
Now, why the idea of the great substitute? Well, in my initial pursuit of the kingdom, I made at least two substitution errors. Remember the principle that in the Newt Testament there was only one legitimate substitute? Well, I tried to make two more. First, I confused the kingdom with the church. In the words of the late Jack Taylor, (Cosmic Initiative) I tried to make a part the whole. I equated the church with the kingdom as if they were synonymous. The church is the primary instrument of the kingdom, but it should not be equated as the kingdom. Like me, many wonderful men and women, have tried to make a part, (the church), the whole (the kingdom). This will never work and it has not worked. The kingdom is God’s overarching whole, His rule and reign over all. The church is to be His primary instrument in establishing His kingdom in the earth. It is His bride, but His bride is not a substitute for His kingdom.
Now, why have we done this? Why have we tried to make a part, the whole? In my case, it was zealous ignorance. There can be many reasons, but we must stop trying to make the church the kingdom. It makes the church a substitute, a hybrid that will never product kingdom reality.
You might be asking yourself how this has unfolded in the average church system. Let me give you a few examples of how I believe this is happening. Since we have confused the church with the kingdom, we have built a church system that is not a reflection of the New Testament church. For instance, in Ephesians 4, we are told that God has given gifts to His church to build it up. In our church system, we have exalted one of those five-fold gifts, pastor, as the “do all” and “end all” for the church. In so doing, we have exhausted that role and many pastors in all sorts of ways. We may give some token attention to the evangelist, but the other three, apostles, prophets and teachers, are somehow no longer needed. Yet, the King of the kingdom said all five are needed to build Christ church. To elevate this dilemma, we just develop man made theologies that say the other three have served their purpose and their functions are covered by the pastoral role. Strange theologies also come out of this. Since we evangelicals have so little understanding about God’s kingdoms, we develop traditions of men that only equate the kingdom with the second coming. We act as though the kingdom of God is now on “pause” until Christ returns. Oh, the kingdom will be consummate at Christ return, but are kingdom realities on hold for now? Is this really what scripture teaches.
The second mistake I made was trying to make my concept of the “city church” the Kingdom. Though I did this using many kingdom principles, it too failed to produce lasting kingdom realities. I was still trying to fit the kingdom of God into the present church system. I believe that we unknowingly, have often tried to make the whole, (kingdom) conform to the part, (the church). This is the “Great Substitute”. It will never work.
Ask yourself these questions: Why has there been so little teaching in the evangelical church concerning the kingdom of God? Yet, Jesus said in His teaching that the seeking of the kingdom of God was to be first. And what about this? Jesus told us in what we call the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6: 10), to pray that the kingdom of heaven come to earth. Do most of us have any idea what all that means? I sure don’t, but I am instructed to pray in this way for this reality. What we have done so often is to develop theologies and eschatologies that basically explain our lack of power in the church today. We criticize churches and ministries that are pursuing kingdom realities on the earth and pick their theologies apart as though our substitute theologies are biblical and sound.
Earlier in this article, I used some unsettling words: revolutionary, even catastrophic. If we choose to reject trying to make the church the kingdom, and fully embrace God’s kingdom agenda, it will be revolutionary. And for some of us, it may be catastrophic. It may come at great cost to you. But it will result in new freedom.
I do not have all the answers. I still have many kingdom questions. I am not a prophet, but I believe I am a voice. A voice to my brothers and sisters, to His church. In the two mistakes I described about myself, God brought me to a place where I had to change my mind. I had to admit that I had been guilty of trying to make a part the whole. Of trying to conform God’s kingdom to my agenda; guilty of trying to make it fit into the church system I knew. Maybe you have done the same. We can still change our minds and embrace His kingdom.
A few years back, I was praying about many of these things concerning the kingdom. I felt God began to take me back to the time when he revealed Himself to me and rescued me from my sin and darkness. Then it was as though He was saying something to me like this: “Do you remember when I saved you and gave you new life”? I said yes. He then seemed to say, “ When I came to live in you, I came as your king. Well, I brought my kingdom with Me”. “My kingdom is that mysterious element that was troubling you and has been percolating in you all these years. I made you a kingdom man. You will never fit inside a substitute system”. I began to experience a new since of freedom and purpose. I determined to stop trying to make God’s agenda, His kingdom, conform to my church system. I have abandoned that substitute and become a student of the King and His kingdom. Join me.
I close with a thought. Perhaps the greatest threat to God’s kingdom being manifest on the earth, may be the present church system. Don’t accept a substitute.