God’s coming kingdom: Islam and Christian versions

Years ago, I remember having a conversation with a Muslim man.  We had a wonderful mutual exchange of religious ideas.  We had a parallel concept of a belief in God’s kingdom in which God will come again on the last day, the day of judgment.  The trumpet will sound and the Lord will return in clouds.  He will judge the living and the dead.   However, as Christians, we believe that God’s son, who is Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and his kingdom will last forever without end.  Other than the difference in who the Messiah is, the similarities actually encouraged me and opened an opportunity to share the gospel with my Muslim neighbor.

Despite some of our desires to see God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven, God’s kingdom is not revealed through any earthly political power, military strength, or even religious influence.  Despite how weak or strong we may be in this world, the Messiah will return in all his power and glory.

An enduring faith and trust in God’s power and sovereignty can give us peace, and rein in our fears and need to dominate and control others in the world.  If God is truly sovereign, all-powerful and all-knowing, shouldn’t God be able to usher in his own kingdom despite anything we do?

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen. (Rev.1:7)

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.  (Matthew 24:30-31)

Is Islam in a siege mentality?

It’s a theory but Islam may be stuck in a siege mentality.  Religions, cultures, and societies can develop a siege mentality.   When sociological groups of peoples, cultures, religions or societies believe itself to be constantly attacked, oppressed or isolated, they retreat inward or fight for survival.   Islam has felt like a defeated underdog for centuries and has a hard time to forget.

Since 9-11 and the war on Iraq, perhaps Islam has been reminded of such emotions on a societal level.  It has felt defeated since… and perhaps ever since the crusaders defeated the Islamic empires in the 12th century (watch 1300 Years of Islamic History below).  The war between the crusaders and Islamic empires were bloody and violent.  The crusaders ended up pillaging and destroying the Islamic empire and relinquished the Holy Land and Jerusalem from the hands of the Islamic Empire–but in the end, shed a lot of blood.  It’s nothing Christians are proud of.  But I wonder and ask myself the question, “What if the west did not do anything in retaliation after 9-11?”

Islam does have a dark and evil past.  Its historic Middle Eastern caliphates eventually morphed into other caliphates and empires.  The former Christian church of Asia Minor (of New Testament times) (which is modern-day Turkey) was eliminated by bloody violent force and was forcibly wiped-out by Islam. These were historic cities of the Church mentioned in the New Testament: Antioch, Thessalonica, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Philadelphia, Tarsus, Laodicea, etc.  However, we as Christians haven’t develop a siege mentality, or at least we’ve already moved past our loss centuries ago and made new history.  But not so with radical Islam. ISIS has been arrogant enough to verbally threaten to attack Rome one day and take over the Vatican.  This is not the first time Islam has tried to dominate the world and destroy Christianity.  Where are we supposed to go from here?  As Christians, we don’t want to provoke violence, and are called to love our neighbor.  But what do we do when our neighbors don’t reciprocate love for their neighbors?

God’s kingdom’s reign…in our weakness or strength?

My last post was on God’s coming kingdom.  Although how extremist-Islam’s version of God’s kingdom is to come about is violent and forceful, Islam also believes in a new kingdom.  However, if I may also be critical of us as Christians, throughout sectors of the church, some of our Christian ideas about God’s coming kingdom hasn’t been exactly all correct either.  I’m speaking about our “Kingdom Now” theology that some Christians believe in.  God’s kingdom is here now but we just need to claim it for ourselves.  This is true in one sense but false in another.  Theology is not so simple and clear-cut. We are citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom but it hasn’t fully manifested itself on earth yet, until the Last Day.

What some of us Christians might not like to hear is that Christ will accomplish His will in us in our weakness–and not in our strength.  In some parts of the Church, even today, it has deluded itself into believing that God’s earthly kingdom must be strong and victorious in an earthly way and we must exert our power and influence over the earth.   We look to grandiose schemes that are really focused on the earthly realm and view them as reflections of God’s future powerful rule on earth.   This is a theology of glory that attempts to achieve God’s kingdom via human strength–which is pure vanity.  The truth is, God’s kingdom is not of this world and will be nothing like what we imagine.

God’s kingdom is of the spiritual realm–which is unseen, and unknowable through earthly eyes and mind.   It cannot be built or achieved through the secular-earthly realm.  As Christians, some of us have also placed too much confidence in physical-secular power and wisdom.  We ignore the Sovereign and Almighty Power and Presence of God the Creator and trust more in our own wisdom and human potential, which in God’s eyes, really doesn’t amount to much when compared to his omnipotent power.  Our own ignorance and our arrogant attitudes within the church is proof enough.

Two thousand years have passed since Jesus ascended to heaven and returned to the Father and we still ignore what Jesus reminded the Church just before our Lord ascended.

In Matthew 24:23-27, Jesus also goes on to warn his followers about false messiahs and false prophets, who will also be performing signs and wonders to deceive even the elect.

God’s kingdom will come even in our weakness, and amidst our persecutions, trials and hardships.  Didn’t Jesus say:

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:5,10)

Both Muslims and Christians alike can fall prey to the evil one’s manipulation of believing that God’s kingdom must necessarily come through our strength and power.  If God is God, then can’t the kingdom of the Sovereign God come in the midst of our meekness and weakness?  When it does, then we know the kingdom belongs to our Lord, and not to us.

Islamic goal of a worldwide caliphate

assyrian-christiansThe caliphate, or a worldwide Islamic kingdom and rule on earth is the ultimate goal of ISIS.  This is the reason for its violent extremism that seeks to dominate the world using political and military strength.   Already over 1.6 million Syrians (mostly Christians) have been kicked out of their homeland of Syria by ISIS.  Recently, ISIS captured Assyrian Christians and tried to convert them to Islam through force (read full article here), reports the Christian Post.  My heart cries out to these Christian bros. and sisters of Syria.

Two of the 200-plus Assyrian hostages kidnapped by the Islamic State during an assault on Christian villages along Syria’s Khabur River in February have provided insight into their abduction in recent interviews where one revealed that the ISIS militants tried to force the Christian hostages to convert to Islam, but the captives boldly refused.

On Feb. 23, the terrorist group raided approximately 35 different Christian villages in the Hasakah province and abducted somewhere between 263 to 373 men, women and children, according to the Assyrian International News Agency. But about a week after the raids, ISIS released a handful of hostages on March 1.

Since it is ISIS’s goal of forming a worldwide caliphate (Islamic kingdom), shouldn’t we all have something to fear?  What’s the solution–use of force in self-defense or evangelism?

What NOT to say to the preacher

simpsons-in-church-sleepingI caught this from Thom S. Rainer’s blog and found it almost hilarious, but true.  These ten things can deflate a minister, especially after what the the preacher felt was a Spirit-inspired message.  It’s funny how some people see it as their job to put the pastor in their place, or they’re just totally insensitive.

Which one of these have we said, or thought silently to ourselves, on a Sunday morning?

  1. “I am going to be late for lunch because you preached so long.”
  2. “You must not have had much time to prepare that sermon.”
  3. “My former pastor preached a much better sermon from that text.”
  4. “I wish {fill in the blank} would have heard that sermon.”
  5. “You act like you weren’t feeling well while you preached.”
  6. “I’m sorry I fell asleep while you were preaching. Your voice just puts me to sleep.”
  7. “Your subject/verb agreement was incorrect three times in your sermon.”
  8. “I wish you wouldn’t preach from the Old Testament.”
  9. “Let me tell you what you missed in your sermon.”
  10. “Are we ever going to be done with this sermon series?”

Thom Rainer always has serious stuff to say about pastoral or church issues, but this one was just too good to pass up because we can all relate to it (in a wierd way).