The Rise of Islam

There’s no disputing it. Islam is on the rise. And the face we’re seeing, but trying not to believe, is an ugly one. One written in anger and in blood, in ominous moon and black flags, slavery and conquest.

So why now? What has held the forces of Islam in check – since four centuries ago, when they had advanced beyond the gates of Vienna and were beaten back – that their desire to conquer the world with their own brand of government, religion and ethics is finally gaining momentum?

It’s a good question, and one that probably has its roots in the strength and ethics of our formerly Christian-rooted societies. Our grandparents grew up in a West that was distinctly flavoured by the Bible. “Love thy neighbour” was an undisputed truism. But today, are we not, more proud of our “secular society” than of our heritage? And therein lies the heart of the issue.

Have we not lost our moral compass, evidenced by the social issues that are on the agenda today? For example, our grandparents would shudder to know how we’re bent on embracing homosexual marriage. They would weep over the shocking abortion statistics. And they would groan that we teach our children “evolutionary” garbage while conspicuously abandoning any reference to God and faith values.

So, where are we headed? In a year’s time from now, how will we see 2015? More bloodshed? Heightened terror alerts? Stronger Islamic aggression, near and far? Will our military efforts to stop Islamic extremism and expansion fail? Will indecisive foreign policy, in hindsight, have been grossly inadequate?

Democracy has the potential to collapse, the signs of which are already apparent in Europe, where large immigrant families (of Islamic origins) are outnumbering generally low western birth rates. So given enough time, Sharia law quite easily could be democratically voted in. And should that happen, Islam’s rise to world domination would be unstoppable.

Imagine seeing a strong and capable military leader emerge, and with him a powerful and charismatic religious imam – some call him the Mahdi. It’s not hard then to imagine the widespread and “legal” beheading of innocents – whose only sin is to deny the validity of Mohammed.

With eyes on the comparatively small state of Israel eventually becoming militarily overrun by its larger neighbours; when the missiles and rockets are let loose, it might be hard not to think that what is called Armageddon is upon us.

The irony is that we can’t say we weren’t warned.

Did you know that the Bible (the same book our grandparents read) warns about just that kind of scenario, a time of world domination by a ruthless and brutal world leader edged on by his “religious” counterpart? A time of intense solar activity leading to global warming? That a third of mankind is brutally killed? And, did you know that unless divine intervention occurred (that’s what Jesus taught), humanity would utterly destroy itself?

Jesus spoke about a coming conflagration on earth that has never happened before, nor He said will ever happen again. Jesus stated that He is coming again – this time on a rescue mission and this time claiming Kingship.

Of course, the incumbent leaders won’t go without a battle. Can you imagine that day?

Most people today hardly think about Jesus, let alone His coming. Do you? Do you believe that our only hope in this age, in any age for that matter, is the saving work of Jesus Christ?

It was Christian ethics and morality that has held Islam in check now for almost 1300 years (just read the annals of history). And it is Christ who will bring Islam to an end – there is no other way, for secularism is already falling prey to its terrible power.

John Klassek

Written by John Klassek

Your free copy of Hope of the Resurrection

Perhaps the three greatest questions we could ever ask are:

  • Does God exist?
  • Why was I born?
  • Is there any reason to believe in hope beyond this life?

It’s the sort of question we just can’t escape. Most of the time we simply put it out of our minds. But being dismissive won’t resolve it. To that end we’d like to give you a free book that specifically addresses the last question. Is there any hope, any reason to believe in a great purpose in life?

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Now in its third edition, Hope of the Resurrection explores perhaps those important questions, and focuses on the hope beyond this life.

Order your free copy online now, and we’ll get it in the post to you.

You may also download Hope of the Resurrection in eBook PDF format. No cost. No follow up. Our gift to you.

John KlassekWritten by Western Australian author and Church of God (Seventh Day) elder, John T Klassek

3rd edition, 154 pages, paperback, free

Smorgasbord “bytes”…

Many times we spend our time in the scriptures as we do in other areas of our lives. We’re in a rush. Life is busy. And our time for God’s Word sometimes gets downsized to smorgasbord “bytes”.

I remember when I was seventeen, my Dad remarked at what a quick reader I was. And, I took it as a compliment! You see, I would read an article, get the basic gist, and move on, whereas my Dad seemed to take ten times longer to read that same article.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but his method of reading and study was so much more effective than mine.

The problem of surface reading as opposed to in-depth understanding exists primarily, as I see it, because today’s online culture makes it just so much harder to adequately read and digest all this wealth of information that is right there at our fingertips, right there on our mobile phones, tablets and computers.

My phone is always buzzing and chiming with the latest notifications. In fact, some days it never seems to stop ringing. Everywhere I drive there are signs and billboards vying for my attention. And so, as a result, we tend to superficially “graze” even when it comes to the things that matter, such as God’s word.

But, over the years I’ve discovered (quite by accident) one or two things that can actually help me retain more information from those things that really matter. I found that by reading something out aloud, I was able to retain and recall it more easily.

I’m not sure why it works, but it does. The converse also seems to work: to listen to a friend read a passage of scripture out aloud. Their voice and intonation gives the passage a new, fresh flavour, and has often also given me additional insight.

I suppose that’s why I’ve always liked scripture reading as an integral part of Church services – a practise that actually dates right back to the those early days in the synagogue (as we read about in the Gospels) and later in those fledgling first-century house churches.

Reading out aloud might initially feel a bit awkward if you’ve never tried it before, but after a little practise, you’ll find your own natural tempo and voice, and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at just how edifying it is.

I suppose it’s all about quality reading, and not how fast one reads! Kudos to my Dad.

– John T Klassek

Dowerin Field Day setup

Rebecca and I are leaving tomorrow to attend the International Ministerial Congress near London in the UK. The Dowerin Field Day in Western Australia will also be on again during this time, so I travelled to Dowerin this morning to setup a gospel stall there. The stall will feature free Bibles, gospel literature as well as the book Hope of the Resurrection.

Many thanks to those volunteers who have offered to man the stall during this annual event. An attendance of between 10,000 to 15,000 is expected over two days.

The Book of Acts, Prescriptive or Descriptive?

The Book of Acts carefully describes the emergence of the primitive early church following the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The 28 chapters of Acts convey the activity, issues, personalities, teachings and sermons of various apostles, including detailed narration of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit working through Peter and John manifesting itself in a variety of miracles, the wisdom of James, and the travels and episodes in Paul’s ministry. Roman rulers are mentioned by name, as are cities and geographic areas.

Thus Christians reading the Book of Acts today are given a good description of the beginnings of Christianity as lived through the emergence of the early church. We read of the issues surrounding the Gentiles being given the Holy Spirit in a climate of Jewish opposition. We read of Jewish insistence for new converts to be circumcised and the resulting Jerusalem apostolic conference that discussed the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles and their resulting edict. We read descriptions of various Roman rulers who encountered the gospel via Paul’s testimony. We wonder at the manifestation of the Holy Spirit through numerous amazing miracles, such as Paul and Silas, and well as Peter, being freed from prisons, of healings, and of accurate prophecies such as given by Agabus. We weigh in on the problems and issues of the church some 2000 years ago, and cannot help but ponder how the Acts narrative might edify the modern church today.

Do the times and circumstances of some 2000 years ago as recorded in Acts, the incidents that occurred and resulting judgment calls, as well events tied to an ancient calendar, help us navigate our theology today? If Acts is purely descriptive and belonging entirely to another age, then we can simply see the book purely in a more or less a historical focus. Viewing Acts through an exclusively historical lens would then help us understand that Luke’s recording of the remarkable miracles of healing, freeing from prison, visitation by angels, and visions from God only existed in the context of those times, and are not necessarily to be expected in the Christian experience today.

And yet, we’re also confronted by the issue of being edified by what the early Christians believed, and how they applied their understanding to everyday life. Do the overall experiences and outcomes of early Christian practise and theology as cited in Acts carry any prescriptive weight for us today – in the light of Paul’s prescriptive comment in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”?

I believe that Acts is not only a descriptive historical narration containing elements that cannot be repeated in today’s Christian experience, such as witnessing Jesus’ ascension, or worshipping at the Jewish temple in Jerusalem (Elewell, Yarbrough Encountering the New Testament, Baker Academic, 2008, 212), but that it also speaks to us on a prescriptive level that mirrors core doctrinal teachings supported elsewhere in scripture. For example, Paul’s belief in the resurrection of Jesus and his actively preaching of the resurrection is supported elsewhere in the New Testament.

The challenge is: how far do we apply the prescriptive element contained in Acts in our faith and practise today? For example, many in our community of believers acknowledge Luke’s interesting inclusion of certain usually-relegated-as Jewish days of worship. The modern reader of Acts notes that the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, which we believe was a Sunday morning. Why were the disciples gathered in a meeting place on that Sunday? Had the weekly day of worship and fellowship changed from Sabbath to Sunday? The disciples were indeed gathered in “holy convocation” on this Holyday known as Pentecost, as they had perhaps always done. Of note is that God chose to use the significance of this day, historically believed to be when God originally gave the ancient Israelites the Ten Commandments, to now abundantly pour out the Holy Spirit on all who believed.

Luke also mentions Paul’s insistence to keep a certain feast:

When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, but took leave of them, saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing. “And he sailed from Ephesus. (Acts 18:20-21)

Can we take any bearings from Paul’s insistence on keeping this feast, be it Unleavened Bread or Tabernacles? Is this simply descriptive, or is it prescriptive? Luke also mentions the Fast, a reference believed to be the Day of Atonement (Acts 27:9). Elsewhere, Luke also importantly mentioned that they sailed after the Days of Unleavened Bread (Acts20:6) and from this the reader can understand that there were presiding reasons not to sail until Unleavened Bread was completed. The next verse (7) refers to an assembly [correctly translated] “the first of the Sabbaths”. This was not a Sunday assembly, but an assembly on the first of the seven Sabbaths (or weeks) counted from Unleavened Bread to Pentecost. [New Testament Greek does not have a word for “week”; the word for week occurs in the Septuagint and in modern Greek].

Theologians acknowledge that the interpretive understanding gleaned from the above examples are often hotly debated, especially by those who disagree with the implications that these Holydays bear relevance to the Christian today, it nonetheless demonstrates the interpretive challenges that Acts presents. (Elewell, Yarbrough, Encountering the New Testament, Baker Academic, 2008, 213)

The Book of Acts is a necessary part of the Biblical canon. It details the early church as it tried to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ; it documents firstly the work of the Peter, John and James, and devotes the final two thirds to Paul’s journeys and experiences; it documents the entrance of Gentiles into the faith, and it also gives us a good insight into what our Christian forefathers believed and how they applied that understanding. In this Acts still speaks to us today, not only as a historical narrative, but also fleshing out the prescriptive element, instructions on how to live the new life in Christ.


John Classic
Written for LifeSpring

John Classic
By John Classic

The Kingdom of God, “Already… not yet”

The term “Kingdom of God”, though not specifically quoted in the Old Testament (other than via the imagery of a future time when, for example, “the lion would lay down with the lamb”), is nonetheless replete throughout the New Testament. Everything about Jesus’ ministry seems to have centred on his core message of the Kingdom of God.

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

In a few days’ time many followers of Jesus will be celebrating an occasion when believers in our tradition (of the Churches of God) partake of a small piece of unleavened bread and take a sip of wine. The Lord’s Supper/Christian Passover is a powerful annual reminder of the love of God, and the sobering nature of the symbols of Christ’s broken body and spilled blood are not lost on those who participate. Somewhere in our revisiting of that original event, we read in Matthew, Mark and Luke alike a curious prophecy given by Jesus at this first commemorative event.

“For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:18)

Jesus here anchored this inaugural event to a resumption of this commemorative imbibing when “the Kingdom of God comes.” Thus we might understand it, in this instance, that the Kingdom of God is apparently a future reality. Jesus made a promise that he would “not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes”. There is no ambiguity in Jesus’ words: the Kingdom of God as cited here is a (future) “coming” reality; it is not here yet.

Related to this future sense of the Kingdom of God are Jesus’ earlier words when he taught his followers to pray: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) Thus theologians have wrestled with the “coming” aspect of the Kingdom of God when placed besides other scriptures that seem to indicate otherwise.

The scriptures I’m referring to here are those that, from Jesus’ specific teachings, seem to imply an already present aspect of the Kingdom of God:

“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28)

“Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

Jesus here explicitly taught that the present reality, the immanency of the Kingdom, as some translations put it, is, “in the midst of you”. And yet, elsewhere, Jesus implied a contrasting future tense, when the “Son of Man comes” scenario.

“And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11)

The apostles too wrote of the future tense of the Kingdom of God, and yet also reflected on the presence of the Kingdom in the now, today sense. For example, Peter encouraged Jesus’ followers with a sense of glorious reward at the end:

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:10-11)

And yet when Paul wrote to the believers in Colossae, he said that God has already given us entrance into the Kingdom: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” (Colossians 1:13) Thus, according to this passage, believers are already in the Kingdom.

To the faithful in Rome, Paul again conveyed a present reality of the Kingdom of God when he said that, “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) All these attributes are experienced by those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells (since the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts chapter 2). Thus the Kingdom of God is also a present reality.

Renown Christian author G.E. Ladd wrestled with this dilemma in his article “What is the Kingdom of God”. ( taken from The Gospel of the Kingdom. George Eldon Ladd, Eerdmans Pub Co, Grand Rapids MI, 1959, pages 13-23) G.E. Ladd writes that if we were to consecutively list all the scriptures pertaining to the Kingdom of God, and write their intended meaning alongside, we would begin to see what could be interpreted as apparent contradictions. If the Kingdom of God is something we can enter into now, then how do we apply and understand those scriptures that suggest a future fullness of the Kingdom? Thus Ladd addresses the issue of the Kingdom as being “already… not yet”.

Bible scholar N.T. Wright asked a similar question in his book titled “How God Became King” (Harper Collins, 2011) when he dealt with the question of “What exactly is the Kingdom of God?” Wright argued that orthodox Christianity has incorrectly interpreted the Kingdom of God as simply meaning “heaven” – a place we allegedly go to when we die, and earth conversely as this place where sinners are left behind to suffer whatever. Wright asserts that the Kingdom of God isn’t a far off reality, but that the Kingdom of God and earth are purposely intersecting. Wright further says that the Kingdom of God is already significantly present in the lives of the faithful, while its fullness is still coming to this earth! (See related videos as presented by NT Wright).

Both G.E. Ladd and N.T. Wright thus have highlighted the conundrum that exists among scholars as well as the wider Christian community as to what the Kingdom of God actually means, and how we might understand it as the Bible teaches it. Both authors are correct in their preparedness to lay aside traditional biases, view the scriptures for what they are, and then attempt to ask the right questions.

When we read the parables of Jesus that convey aspects of the Kingdom of God, we are confronted with quite a few different images. We see the Kingdom of heaven in Matthew chapter 13 as beginning small as mustard seed and growing into the biggest of trees. We learn that the Kingdom is like yeast placed in bread dough; the effect is that the dough almost imperceptibly at first becomes totally permeated and transformed by it. In both these examples, the Kingdom of God is portrayed as a process towards its ultimate fulfilment. And yet, elsewhere in this same chapter we read where Jesus said of the Kingdom, “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, [and] separate the wicked from the just…” Matthew 13:49) This matter-of-fact assertion of the future, as taught by Jesus, shows a definite future fulfilment.

Discussion of the Kingdom of God must never be relegated solely as the domain of theologians, because in Matthew 6:33 Jesus exhorted his followers, as of primary importance, to: “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”.

If we’re to seek first the Kingdom of God, then we must have some understanding as to what it really is. We have seen that the Kingdom has a future sense of fullness and fulfilment. This is nowhere more evident than in Paul’s attestation when he wrote to the faithful in Corinth:

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:22-24)

In this passage, Paul summed up the entire scriptural record, beginning with Adam, focussing on Christ, and then finally ending with the Kingdom being delivered to God the Father.

Then, there are those scriptures that attest to the early stages of Kingdom reality as a believer may experience it. Jesus spoke of people who “enter the Kingdom of God”:

Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31)

Other scriptures attest to the kinds of people who will be excluded from entrance into the Kingdom, such as the sexually immoral, covetous or the idolater. (Ephesians 5:5)

To Nicodemus, a Jewish ruler, Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Elsewhere, Jesus said that it was difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom. (Matthew 19:23)

The Kingdom of God can be defined as not just the realm of God, but more specifically the rule of God. This would imply a theocracy. When Jesus affirmed to Pilate that He was indeed King, coupled also with what he said after he was resurrected, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18), we understand both these statements to unequivocally place Jesus as King with an authority that encompasses heaven and earth. We also understand that the Kingdom of God is an emerging reality to be lived out every day by those who obey and submit to the sovereignty of Jesus – today and into the future when “every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord”. (Paraphrased from Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11 and Philippians 2:10-11).

Written by John Klassek
LifeSpring School of Ministry


Studying the New Testament

A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ, called by God the Father and brought to understanding through the work and presence of the Holy Spirit. Thus the only authoritative source we have that tells us of Jesus is the Bible, and specifically the New Testament account containing 27 books written in the first century by those who personally experienced Jesus Christ and others who came to believe through their ministry.

Thus to live a Christian life without a careful personal enquiry into who Jesus was, what happened to him, and how we might come to a fuller understanding and appreciation of God’s love and purpose for all people, would be to intentionally live a life of ignorance. Thus all followers of Jesus are compelled to varying degrees to personally explore those scriptures. Those who were illiterate in the first century benefitted from the weekly scripture readings at the Synagogue; the emerging Christian community is believed to have continued the tradition of Sabbath scripture readings, and we have reason to believe that the letters of Paul, for example, were also read to the churches. (Colossians 4:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:27)

Today the western world (at least) benefits from a high degree of literacy, and via the mechanism of mass printing as well as digital technology, we have the written Biblical text more available than ever before. Now while we could erroneously assume that a cursory view of the New Testament might be sufficient to adequately know the basics of God’s word, we would unfortunately then be highly susceptible to viewing and interpreting the New Testament through our own culture and personal experiences, or at worst, allow a mystical-flavoured perception and understanding to persist that assumes that the Holy Spirit as counsellor is sufficient without informed personal study.

This then leads to the question: how do we study the scriptures, especially the New Testament, and by which methods can we best benefit? Is a specific historical study sufficient?

Historical-Criticism approaches the Biblical text from a non-faith perspective, whereas Historical-Theological Criticism begins with the premise that the scriptures are indeed “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), that men wrote from their eye-witness and personal experiences and understanding as inspired by the Holy Spirit. While Historical-Criticism may be valuable in understanding, for example, the Jewishness of Jesus in the times and culture where he lived, (Encountering the New Testament, WA Elwell, RW Yarbrough, Page 156), the method treats the Biblical text as it would any other book and in doing so negates the influence of God’s Holy Spirit.

In then attempting to interpret and understand the New Testament account for what it presents itself as: eyewitness accounts of Jesus as well as the documentation of the emergence of the early Christian community, we come across the term “hermeneutics” – which simply is the theory and practice of interpretation.  (Encountering the New Testament, WA Elwell, RW Yarbrough, Page 159).

The work of interpretation involves our personal underlying purpose for undertaking it. What are our aims – is it to discredit the text or to gain further understanding; am I studying for personal devotion or to prepare a sermon? What are the conditions we employ for engaging the text – does the reader believe in the aiding role of the Holy Spirit or is viewing the text purely from an historical perspective? How do we begin, that is, what method will we apply – do we randomly turn to any page and start reading, or is there a systematic approach, perhaps aided by a planned reading from cover to cover as well as utilising supplementary Bible commentaries and handbooks?

Hermeneutics, if it is to be successful and enduring, must be based on the following premises: that the Bible is the inspired word of God as written by human agents. The Bible having been preserved down through the ages as an act of God’s divine will, presents itself today as the world’s most printed and published book ever, speaking to us of God, who He is, what He is doing, and what His plans are. A serious student of the Bible “enters into the text” by a careful reading, is dedicated to analysing its content and seeks to find authentic application for today’s living, and this also involves giving heed to its prophetic content and direction. Thus the New Testament in particular is “both history and theology simultaneously”. (Encountering the New Testament, WA Elwell, RW Yarbrough, Page 165, Summary).

If we are to benefit most from what the scriptures are, we’ll see that the New Testament is founded on the background and preparation that the Old Testament gives, that the gospels are genuine eyewitness and research accounts of Jesus the Messiah, that Acts documents the emergence of the Church age (beginning specifically on the Day of Pentecost that heralded the coming of the Holy Spirit), that the Epistles (letters written to various churches and individuals) further document the issues that affected and the circumstances of the first century church, and finally that the text concludes on a counselling and prophetic note as contained in Revelation.

A core part of Hermeneutics in our study of the Bible must involve prayer. Prayer is the intentional two-way and private communion between God the Father and the believer. The believer believes God exists and that He actively sustains the created order; that this world is God’s realm, and that our only hope in life is through Jesus Christ. Prayer can involve active and specific petition, asking God for guidance and understanding in our study of the scriptures – and then believing in faith that God will respond in His time and way. The act of prayer is then further validated when the believer (the student of the Bible) then takes time to carefully consider what he or she is reading, when and by whom it was penned, in the diverse and distant cultural milieu those events formed, and the original purpose the author had in mind. Helps such as different translations, Bible concordances and handbooks can be a valuable aid in this study.

By John Klassek