In this our last session, I shared thoughts from Matthew 13, the parable of the wheat and the tares, as a framework for understanding our times. Why do we see so many negative things happening on earth if God’s Kingdom is supposed to be advancing? This parable helps us understand that we can expect to see both the good and the bad growing until the harvest!
You can view the screenshow I made about ‘my father’s century’ – we didn’t actually use it in the evening class, but I explained that when my father turned 90, I preached in his church about how the 20th century, ‘the century of my father’, was a terrible century, surely the century of Satan! Two world wars, a depression, a cold war, the invention of the nuclear bomb, able to destroy the human race! Names like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot remind us what terrible things happened this last century.
Yet, as Charles Dickens wrote in his opening line of A Tale of Two Cities, ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’..
For the 20th century can also be called the century of the Spirit! It began with revival, in Wales, then Azusa Street, spreading to Scandanavia and other parts, becoming the global Pentecostal movement, still growing strongly in many parts of the world. the greatest revivals in history have taken place in the 20th century -East Africa Revival, Korea, China! More people came into the kingdom in the 20th century than all the other centuries put together!
So will the future be better or worse? The answer is: YES!
We can expect both the wheat and the tares to continue to grow – until judgement day.
Screenshow: The century of my father.
We then looked at 2 Peter 3:11-14, which uses the phrase ‘looking forward’ three times. We have stressed throughout the course that we need to be rooted in the past and focused on the future, in order to be effectively engaged in the present. Peter encourages us to be forward focused, so that our present lives will be holy, pure and righteous.
Tom Wright, in “Surprised by Hope’, opens his book saying: this book is about two questions: What are we waiting for? and what are we doing about it?
Our eschatology will influence the way we live now; what we believe about the future affects our current actions. Some read Peter as reason to neglect this world – “God’s going to destroy it, right?” Yet as we have earlier touched on this passage, the ‘new’ heaven and ‘new’ earth are actually a restored, renewed earth, and heaven; kainos, not neos. The prophets are in agreement with Paul (Romans 8 ) when he writes about restoration. This is what we are looking forward to.
That is what we work and pray towards now: the restoration, transformation, renewal of all things – to see God’s will being done, his Kingdom come in greater measure, knowing that while we can see more of his kingdom now in the here and now, it will only be consummated when Jesus returns. The kingdom is already – but not yet. As we are pregnant with God’s future, as people of hope.
After this study, each person shared in broad terms what they will take away from the course, and we finished with Romkje and myself praying for each person.
Thank you for joining us on this course! Our hope is that it will set you all on a life-long learning experience where you can pick up more and more about God’s story through the centuries, filling in the gaps and joining the dots.
And the best way to keep what you learn is to give it away!