Question: What is your understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew? Is it future or already present, but not yet?

An initial note should be stated: when you compare the parable messages from Mark 4; Luke 8 and Matthew 13, you’ll see that the terms Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are used interchangeably. So is the Kingdom of Heaven future rather than “already, but not yet”?

We first need to see that there are five facets of “kingdom” in Scripture. There terms “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven” both refer to God’s rule, although the uses of the term “kingdom” will reveal five different facets.

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Question: How could a loving God allow suffering?

How could a loving God allow suffering? That is a question I have heard many, many times.  It’s as if people expect that God is, if He is all powerful, obligated to ensure that people should not suffer, because a “loving God” should not allow suffering of people. Continue reading

Why do bad things still happen?

When a person trusts in Jesus Christ, he becomes a child of God.  There is no greater blessing in life, than to be God’s child. When you trust in Jesus Christ, you become a part of the universal Church, you are identified with the family of God, you have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and you have an eternal destiny with the Lord in heaven. Yet, there are still bad things that happen. Why? Here are six reasons why there is so much trouble.

First, Jesus said bad things would happen. He could stop all bad things, but then he would have to remove every person from earth.  Inside every person, in fact in every Christian, is a sin nature. The sin nature is what continues to cause problems as Paul declared,

15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (Rom 7:15-17 NKJ)

Because of the sin nature, people still sin. Sin causes troubles.  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJ) The question is: Will you trust Jesus while you are in the trouble and learn patience, endurance and perseverance?  He still loves you and He will never forsake you (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5).

Secondly, the world is full of trouble because when Adam sinned, he gave up rulership of the world to Satan. Consequently, Satan is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4) and he loves to make people miserable and blame God for their misery.  In fact, Satan blinds the minds of those under his influence. Paul wrote, “…whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2 Cor. 4:4 NKJ) Satan’s blinding work prevents many from trusting the goodness of God and His good works, because they look for their hope in the world.

We know Satan is the god of this world, because he attempted to offer the kingdoms of the world to Jesus during the temptations of Jesus. Luke recorded the dialogue between Satan and Jesus,

5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 “Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”  8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, `You shall worship the LORD your God.” (Luke 4:5-8 NKJ)

There is no contest between God and Satan, because God could end the conflict at any time and wipe out Satan.  Why does God not destroy Satan? He will in His sovereign timing (Rev. 20:10).  In the meantime, God is showing that those who live under grace in dependency upon Him will be blessed and those who reject God will be miserable and find an empty future. Yet, even in trouble, there is hope in the Lord that eases the trouble and glorifies Him.

It is similar to when Jeremiah was sitting on the ash heap of Jerusalem’s destruction, he found hope in the Lord.  When God allowed Jerusalem to be destroyed in B.C. 586, because they had forsaken the Lord, Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations.  The city was destroyed.  Homes were ruined. The stench from dead bodies was repulsive. And yet, Jeremiah found his hope in the Lord,

21 This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. 22 Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him! (Lam 3:21-24 NKJ)

Thirdly, God allowed Satan to be a part of the testing process. Regarding testing, God allowed Satan to harm Job who was a blameless man, yet the testing showed that a blameless man would not curse God, but would trust God. When messengers reported that raiders came and stole his herds and another messenger said his ten children died in a huge windstorm, Job responded with trust in the Lord,

20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD. 22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20-22 NKJ)

Even in the trouble, the bad things, though Satan was the instrument God used, Job trusted in the Lord.

Fourthly, God allows Satan to be a part of the divine discipline process. That can produce trouble for many people. When a young man was committing incest with his step-mother, the Corinthian church acted like they should just practice grace.  Paul rebuked the church and said,

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles– that a man has his father’s wife!  2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.  3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Cor. 5:1-5 NKJ)

In other words, Paul chastised them for not fearing the holiness of God. They should have put him out of the church, which would have been a discipline on the young man, because there were no other churches in Corinth. Because the young man was saved (1 Cor. 5:5), he would have been exposed to Satan’s wrath. Why? He would have been exposed, because Jesus Christ dwelt within the young man and Satan can’t stand anyone who is a Christian. Therefore the young man would have become a target of Satan. If you are associated with a person or people who are under-going divine discipline, you will experience their discipline by association.

Fifthly, bad things are a purifying process of helping us become more dependent on Him. We in America do everything we can to maintain comfort.  We avoid troubles at any cost.  However, trials and troubles are often God’s purifying process. Peter wrote,

12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Pet. 4:12-17 NKJ)

Peter also wrote,

10 But maythe God of all grace, who called usto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Pet. 5:10 NKJ)

The purpose of troubles is to “perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” You will become more dependent on the Lord in His sovereign actions. You will gain strength to face new trials and reveal your tremendous trust in Him.

And sixthly, after death, there are no more bad things. Once the Christian is in heaven, there are no more sorrows and no more tears as John wrote, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4 NKJ) One of the greatest blessings of being a Christian is knowing that there is an end to the troubles of life. Heaven will be a place of God’s peace.

Generally, people do not like bad things or troubles.  Yet the one who trusts in the Lord will accept troubles as a part of God’s purifying and growing process. God offers peace in the midst of trouble. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJ) You can have that peace today as you walk in and trust Him. Paul wrote, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7 NKJ)

God has a purpose for everything. God will richly reward those who trust Him, even when circumstances are bad.  He is worthy of hope.  He is worthy of your trust.

Question: Was King Saul a believer?

Was King Saul a believer?

There are many who question whether King Saul was a believer.  They have to, not because of Scripture, but because their theology demands it.  Their theology says that if a person continues in sin, then he really was not a believer.  Saul would be a good example, because after David’s killing of Goliath and the ensuing jealousy, King Saul purposefully and intentionally spent years chasing after that rascal David to kill him.  How could Saul possibly be a believer and want that?  After all, Saul died a miserable death at the attack of the Philistines.  Certainly, he had to be an unbeliever!  That is not true, because that is not what Scripture teaches.

In 1 Samuel 10, there are nine clear indications that Saul was a believer.  This is the passage in question,

·         Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: “Is it not because the LORD has anointed you commander over His inheritance1?
·         2 “When you have departed from me today, you will find two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say to you,`The donkeys which you went to look for have been found. And now your father has ceased caring about the donkeys and is worrying about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”‘
·         3 “Then you shall go on forward from there and come to the terebinth tree of Tabor. There three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine.
·         4 “And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall receive from their hands.
·         5 “After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them; and they will be prophesying.
·         6 “Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.
·         7 “And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you.
·         8 “You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do.”
·         9 So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day.
·         10 When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.
·         11 And it happened, when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, “What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”
·         12 Then a man from there answered and said, “But who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb: “Is Saul also among the prophets?”(1 Sam. 10:1-12)

In the beginning of the chapter ten, Samuel, a judge in Israel, had been commanded by God to anoint Saul as commander over His people. The Lord had told Samuel, “Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to me.” (1 Sam. 9:16) This does not say that Saul was a believer, but he was chosen by God as the first king of Israel. As Samuel stood with Saul, he took the flask and anointed Saul as commander over Israel (1 Sam. 10:1).  Let us note nine reasons why Saul was clearly a believer.

First, Samuel tells precisely what Saul will do as he is joined with a group of prophets from Israel (1 Sam. 10:3-5). These prophets were not just coincidently connecting with Saul.  They were on a mission from God prophesying from the Lord.  That would be absurd if Saul was an unbeliever, because an unbeliever cannot understand the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14).  There would be no reason for any connection from any further messages from God.  If he were an unbeliever, he would be anointed and then he would do his own works and ignore any messages from God.

Secondly, God’s Spirit came upon Saul, “Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you and you will prophesy with them…” (1 Sam. 10:6a). The Spirit of God does not come upon unbelievers to do God’s work. However, God’s Spirit will convict the unbelieving world (John 16:8-11) and judge the world, but not come upon the unbeliever for prophesying.

Thirdly, Saul was turned into another man, “…and be turned into another man.”(1 Sam. 10:6b) This is the transformation process of regeneration.  Paul uses the term, “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). 

Fourthly, God was with him, “And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you.” (1 Sam. 10:7) This is a clear sign that Saul had trusted in God’s provision and God was with him to lead the people.

Fifthly, Samuel offered burnt and peace offerings for and on behalf of Saul, “You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. (1 Sam. 10:8a) There is absolutely no reason to offering sacrifices for or on behalf of an unbeliever.  God is concerned with the heart.  After the heart is right, then sacrifices are made to honor the Lord.

Sixthly, God gave Saul another heart, “So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day.” (1 Sam. 10:9)  Changing of the heart is a clear sign that Saul was a believer and the signs that came to pass affirm God’s blessing on Saul at that time.

Seventhly, God’s Spirit came upon Saul a second time, “…then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.” (1 Sam. 10:10) In the Jewish Age, the Spirit did not indwell the believer, but did endue the believer for special purposes (In the Church Age, the Spirit indwells all believers {Rom. 8:9}). The special enduement allowed Saul to prophesy for the Lord.

Eighthly, the people recognized God’s ministry through Saul, “…when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, “What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Sam. 10:11)  There was evidence that was witnessed by other prophets of God as being from God.  God may have spoken through a donkey and He can use any mouthpiece He wants, but the prophets recognized a transformation in Saul.

Ninthly, a proverb was named after Saul, “Then a man from there answered and said, “But who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Sam. 10:12)  In other words, the father (or the source) is the same source as the rest of the prophets of God.  Saul is from the Lord.  He is a believer.

Someone may be able to pick apart one or more of these reasons.  When you put them together, there is clear evidence that Saul was a believer in the Lord.

Now why is Saul questioned?  He is questioned about being a believer, because his actions are not “fitting” of that of a believer.  Really? See the article on the believer’s Downward Spiral.1 People who question if Saul was a believer never seem to provide a good answer to the question, “How many sins can I commit, before I need to question whether I’m a believer?”  A believer can act just like an unbeliever as Paul warns in Ephesians 4:17.  That is why the Lord disciplines His children, because they sin and refuse to repent (Heb. 12:5-6). 

 

1Check this link to read about the believer’s Downward Spiral: http://renewingtruth.blogspot.com/2013/06/question-how-sinful-can-believer-get.html