By the way…

There’s a strange but interesting story in the Bible.

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” (Matthew 14:1-2)

Herod had killed John the Baptist. Read the rest of Matthew 14 to recount the gruesome story. The question that remains for us is why did Herod proffer that Jesus was John resurrected from the dead? Was Herod simply trying to appease his guilt-ridden conscience? Was he making a shrewd political move? Or did he actually believe in the resurrection? After all, John was highly regarded as a prophet by the multitudes, and now Jesus had inherited a similar spotlight. The news of Jesus’ mighty works and the power of his teachings had spread like wildfire throughout the region.

Jesus and John were first cousins; their mothers Mary and Elizabeth were close. We don’t know much about the growing years of the boys. They were about 30 years of age when it was John who introduced Jesus to the multitudes. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29)

Later, when speaking of John, Jesus attributed to him the legendary status of being in the spirit and power of Elijah.

Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)

Jesus had taken his closest disciples, Peter, John and James with him high up on a mountain, and while they were secluded, the disciples had witnessed a vision of Jesus, shining bright as the sun, talking with Moses and Elijah.

And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.”

Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:10-13)

In fact, John’s entire life from conception, as conveyed by the angel to Zacharias his father, was destined to be “in the spirit and power of Elijah”. (Luke 1:13-17)

Notice that Jesus says two things about Elijah. First Jesus indicates that “Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.” And then, “that Elijah has come already…”

Jesus here seems to speak of a future reiteration of “Elijah”, as well as that of one just past being in the person of John the Baptist. Biblical prophecy is often characterised by dual echos; things that happen in the past have yet a still future reverberation.

Elijah was a man characterised by the wearing of a leather belt. He was a quite an untamed man of a few words, and is remembered for bringing down fire on the prophets of Baal as well as commanding that it not rain for three years. (John the Baptist also wore a leather belt, but may have been more “talkative” than Elijah was).

As for a yet future “Elijah” type, we need to only turn to the last book of the Bible. The Book of Revelation states its purpose in the opening verse:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. (Revelation 1:1)

Looking far into the future at the end of this age, two prophets (or witnesses) appear on the world scene:

“And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”
 
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.

These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.

When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.

And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves.

And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.

And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. (Revelation 11:3-12)

The two end-time witnesses are attributed with initiating events that are not unique to history. Not only are Elijah-like events foretold in Revelation, like no rain for three and a half years as well as fire from heaven, we also read of Moses-like events of turning water into blood and to strike the earth with all kinds of plagues.

Revelation tells us that after their witness is completed, they are killed and left lying in the streets of Jerusalem – characterised here as Sodom and Egypt, symbols for wickedness and slavery. The whole world celebrates. But not for long. Three days later “the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet…”

The spontaneous celebration of the death of these two witnesses (or prophets) apparently quickly turns into one of great fear. They are resurrected! Live television footage is broadcast instantly around the world. The evidence is shocking and unexpected. No conspiracy theories or expedient explanations can deny what has just happened. Two dead Christian prophets, widely regarded as “terrorists”, have come back to life!

Returning for a moment to Herod’s comments regarding “the risen John”: was he aware that an end-time “Elijah” character was going to be resurrected? We don’t know apart from what he did postulate.

We probably have more questions, I suppose, when it comes to what lies directly ahead. Who are those two witnesses? How are they commissioned? Are they literal flesh-and-blood men, or do they represent a figurative metaphor we have yet to understand? Is it an event we’ll see in our lifetime, or is it yet still “over the horizon”? Will nominal Christianity at large (as opposed to followers of Christ) recognise and affirm the work of the two witnesses? We can be sure, however, that those who live through those days will make the connections that God intends to impress on humanity.

The resurrection themes, events and discussions recurring throughout the pages of the Bible illustrate in many different ways a powerful testament to our ultimate destiny – to ultimately become glorified sons of God. Everything in “history” it seems centres on the resurrection of the righteous.

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God… For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now.  (Romans 8:19,22)

How we get there, and what it’s like when we experience it, will probably be more surprising and more amazing than we could ever imagine.

John T Klassek

 

Copyright John T Klassek 2011
Scriptures from New King James Version

Humble, faithful people

The people of God are everywhere, but sometimes you must look carefully. Within large and flourishing churches, and in small, scattered groups, you’ll find humble, faithful people who, having God’s Holy Spirit within, live their lives quite contrary to the norms of “this world”. They are saints. They reflect the light of Jesus in all they are. They have, in the words of scripture, crossed over from death to life.

These are the people with whom God fellowships. And they should be your friends as well. They are loosely defined corporately, as the “church without borders” is bigger than you may imagine and spread further afield than you might know. They are the very reason the world hasn’t yet sunken into the abyss of war and pestilence.

One faithful community, who in looking to Jesus for leadership, wrote this on their website:

We live in a time when many of the faithful have been scattered. The darkness of our world and the coldness of so many religious leaders make it a challenge for God’s children to find safe pastures. We believe God will provide the shepherds. We believe those leaders provided by God will be different than those who came before. Less invested in corporate mentality, less interested in control, more given to loving leadership, more generous in service. Less arrogant, less contentious, more humble, more patient with the imperfections of their brethren.

If this speaks to you, then you understand something others may not. You’re among friends, and definitely a part of the success story. And what’s more, you’re probably able to help others in search of safe pasture. It was Jesus who said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28 NIV)

John T Klassek

He’s coming

Jesus is coming. That’s what He said.

Do we believe it? Some do, most don’t.

Most of us have little idea of what lies just ahead; the news and events in our world will be momentous – because Jesus said He’s coming back but this time with power and might, fury and judgment.

Are we ready?

Rationally thinking it through

Over the years we have produced hundreds of short gospel films, mailed out thousands of free CDs and DVDs, and are now distributing hundreds of free copies of “Hope of the Resurrection“.

More recently we have been engaging people in the street in conversations they probably wouldn’t otherwise have. For example, at our market stall displaying copies of the “Hope of the Resurrection” book, we put a working model of a V twin steam engine in the centre of the display table. People who wouldn’t otherwise be interested in a “free book” came and wanted to talk about steam engines – fascinated by the working model on display. They agreed that it took precise engineering and careful machining to produce this engine, in other words, every rational person has to admit that the engine had a creator, a designer, and engineer.

At the end of one such day, my voice wore quite hoarse explaining that we are the product of an awesome Creator, Designer and Engineer – that there is no other logical explanation to life. Many agreed.

Yet others were simply impressed by the steam engine itself.

The short film “Steam” is well worth your look.

John T Klassek

 

The Sabbath Rest

 

Scientists predict that in approximately four billion years’ time, the sun will run out of the hydrogen that fuels it. As a result of the enormous gravitational pull inward, it will begin to collapse in on itself. The sun will then reach a point of critical mass, whereupon it will expand to become a red giant, and in doing so destroy not only the earth but the entire solar system.

The Bible also predicts that one day the earth will be destroyed by fire. God says that beyond that there will be a new heaven and new earth.

What does this have to do with the Sabbath? It’s all about time.

The weekly Sabbath rest is more than just a reminder that as physical humans we’re bound by constraints of space and time. It’s about holiness, it’s about REST, and it’s about being at one with God.

When this earth, as we know it, no longer exists, neither will the current parameters of days and nights, weeks, months or the years that help govern our passage through time.

At the beginning of the known era of humanity, there are two things that are intriguing in the Genesis account of creation.

Firstly, mankind was created after God’s own “image and likeness”. Thus, we were made with a capacity for relationships, were made to be creative, to have hopes and dreams. In other words, we have a mind that compares to nothing else in the known created world.

And, secondly, the creation week was concluded by the Great God (who doesn’t weary) by resting from all the work He had done. He set the seventh day apart, and made it holy. Later, Jesus Christ would give greater insight into why this was.

One of the things we learn from the creation week is that we’re moulded after the Godkind. One particular and obvious difference, however, is that, unlike God, we’re bound by the constraints of time and space, and as God told Adam and Eve, they would one day “surely die”. It was God who instituted a seven-day cyclic pattern at the beginning of the “human era” to assist, it seems, in marking the passing of time. But with that passing of time God included an “escape clause” picturing rest, for God told Adam (and Eve in similar manner after they had sinned) that his life would be characterised by labour — by the sweat of the brow, and further depicted by “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:17-19).

This was fascinating material and a road of discovery for a young boy growing up in one of the Churches of God. The passing of time, as marked by the weekly, seventh day Sabbath rest, was celebrated in our family home by a special Friday-night mealtime. Mum would cook a special dinner, using shiny cutlery and our finest crockery. Sometimes she would place a small vase with some fresh flowers from her extensive garden. Dad would offer us children a small glass of wine. He also rehearsed a point that Jesus had made: that “the Sabbath was made for man” (and not just for the Jews). (Mark 2:27)

Thus each passing week the Sabbath would be a natural reminder that God had created everything, and that along with our toil He promises us rest. When the Ten Commandments were given to ancient Israel, God again reminded his people about the creation of the Sabbath at the beginning of the human era. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” God said. Then God elaborated: “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11)

Despite the toil in our often mundane routine of earning a living, God wanted mankind to taste, to appreciate and to value the concept of rest. Jesus’ compelling words ring out for all time when He exemplified the Sabbath rest by saying: “Come to me all ye who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

In time, I also learned what God accomplished through the coming of Jesus Christ. I learned about the spiritual rest found only in Jesus. I learned that all things have their fulfillment in Him. And as a result I benefitted enormously from the anticipated weekly time of rest, worship and fellowship. The Sabbath became recognised in our family not as some kind of legalistic old covenant appendage, but as a treasured gift of the Lord, breaking the yoke of slavery. The words “Thy Kingdom come…” often fittingly featured in Sabbath evening prayer. There was a yearning in our hearts for the passing of time, when the ultimate rest for all mankind would be fulfilled.

Then it was with interest that I read of Jesus’ encounters with the misled Pharasaical application of the law. The Jews in their zeal had turned a day of rest into a burdensome day, thus missing the point of what true rest was all about. Today, we live with the opposite extreme in our western society: there is little demarcation between the holy and the profane. (But that’s another subject altogether).

Jesus chose the Sabbath on several occasions to confront the Jewish religious leaders. He said that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8), and that it is “lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” He used their own limited understanding of law to chastise their hard-heartedness and blindness.

The Pharisees reasoned that He could have chosen any other day of the week to heal; on one occasion we read where He asked those (critically) watching Him whether “it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath.” Jesus chose to heal, to bring rest to those “in bondage,” within the framework of the Sabbath. In one reference to healing on the Sabbath day, He said: “My Father is working, and I must do the will of Him who sent me.”

The Sabbath rest as exprienced in the Churches of God today is all about Jesus Christ and His work. It was made by Him, it foreshadowed Him, it represents Him, and it exemplifies His work and will. The Sabbath can be an expression of Christ-centredness. In today’s frenetic, secular lifestyle, it can also be a dynamic part of discipleship: being prepared to forego all and follow Christ, whatever the cost, whether it be social life, weekend sports, or work. It’s a recognition that enjoying an extra special Friday-night meal as an expression of God’s love to your family amidst the fine food, laughter, learning, and the rehearsed hope of a better world.

The Sabbath rest is a gift of the Lord. It’s a gift to man. It marks the passing of time, but more than that, it points us to a time yet future when holiness will transcend all, and all will find rest.

Regarding the future of the cyclic hours and days, months and seasons, which include the weekly Sabbath, Jesus Himself tells us that one day there will be no night, with no need for the sun or moon, for the old (current) earth and heaven will have ceased to be (Revelation 21).  We gain a glimpse that there will be a new earth and a new heaven where God Himself will be the light. The old sun and the solar system of which the earth is now a part will have long been forgotten. At that time the physical Sabbath rest will have finally served its purpose, and we gain a glimpse of this time from the writings of a prophet of old on this subject:

“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 66:22-23 NIV)

Written by John T Klassek

Buried Treasure

After many months in production, yesterday we finally uploaded an exciting new short film, “Buried Treasure”.

“Buried Treasure” retells the account of a man finding an ancient stash of buried treasure. He had never seen anything like this before! Broken pottery, gold coins, pearls and diamonds worth millions.

The potential success of this short gospel film is in the story. Since uploading the media streams yesterday, by this morning we were amazed at the phenomenal response.

Film insight: Now, my Dad has never owned a Ferrari, never wanted to, nor is likely to. However, in making the film appeal to a wider audience, modern cinematography skills have enabled us to include a scene with my Dad and “his” Ferrari parked in our driveway.

You will no doubt enjoy this film! Simply go to www.message7.org or www.messageweek.com

Our new book “Hope of the Resurrection” has also been a remarkable success over the past two months since it was launched. If you haven’t received your free copy, please don’t hesitate to order one now.

On behalf of the MessageWeek team, thanks for your interest and support.

John Klassek