9-06-19 SIGNPOSTS TO GOD
SAVING THE WORLD - PART FIVE
By John Aldworth
Ephesians 4:20-22: But ye have not so learned Christ. If so be that ye have heard Him and have been taught by Him as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off the concerning the former conversation the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts and; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Mark 6:34: And Jesus when He came out (that is, stepped ashore from the ship) saw much people and was moved with compassion for them, for they were as sheep without a shepherd, and: and He began to teach them many things.
Mark 6:41-44: And when He had taken the five loaves and two fishes, He looked up to heaven and blessed and brake the loaves and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided He among them all. And they all did eat and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.
John 6:33: For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
John 6:51: I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever and: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Is there an ideal world for humankind to live in? Is it, can it be, real? The Lord Jesus thought so. That is why He demonstrated in a series of ‘sign’ miracles recorded in John’s Gospel, just how wonderful such a habitat could be. One of them was the feeding of 5,000. Now we don’t usually think of this miracle taking place in an outdoor classroom but it did. The grassy lakeside slopes to which the multitude had followed Jesus became an amphitheatre in which the Lord taught the masses. Mark explains that a day-long seminar preceded the miraculous feast while both he and John record the Lord’s extensive after-dinner discourse on the truth that they were not to labour for the ‘meat which perisheth’ but for that which ‘endureth unto everlasting life’ (John 6:27).
Bread is the staff of life and the essential truth taught in the great feeding miracle the Lord performed is that He Himself is the bread of life. However, this life is not imparted to a believer through a free lunch even if it is laid on by the Master, but by hearing and believing the truth of who Jesus is and holding fast to his promise of eternal life. That is why being taught by Him is so important.
You see, according to the Apostle Paul, the acid test of whether you have the ‘spirit of Christ’ and are now ‘found in Him’ as your Saviour and Lord is whether you have ‘heard Him and been taught the truth as it is in Jesus’. It is not enough to have been baptised in water, joined a church and listened to others tell you about the Saviour. You must get up close and personal and hear from Him for yourself. Of course, that means you must study the Bible. But it also means that you should meditate on what you read. Joshua (Chapter 1:8) was told to meditate in the Book of the Law ‘day and night’. The Apostle Paul urged Timothy meditate on the things of ‘reading, exhortation and doctrine’ (1 Timothy 4:15).
This study series, ‘Signposts to God saving the world’, views the great miracles Jesus performed as pointers to how in a future time He will save the world. Not just individuals that is but the whole of humanity en masse. The feeding and teaching of the 5,000 lifts the veil on the prospect of how this will be accomplished. First though it is important to determine just when the Lord of glory will save the world? The answer is in the Day of Christ, mentioned seven times in Paul’s epistles, which is also the ‘world to come’ that Jesus said would be. Actually, this wonderful epoch when Christ will take over the government of the world and rule from heaven is the very next thing on God’s agenda. That is why the Corinthian believers were waiting for it (1 Corinthians 1:7) and why later grace-saved believers are told to be looking for it in Titus 2:13. It is my conviction, and that of others, that when the present age of grace shortly ends then the ‘kingdom of God’ and the ‘kingdom of heaven’, as Jesus variously described it, will take its place.
Now feeding 5,000 men (and there may have been thousands of women and children in addition) is a huge undertaking. Normally, a mountain of food and a small army of cooks and servers would be required to produce the meal the Lord served up single-handedly. Importantly, by multiplying five loaves and two fishes to feed a multitude the Lord was showing forth his credentials as Messiah, the great Provider both in this world and the ‘resurrection’ world to come (Luke 20:34-35).
However, Jesus in the New Testament is also Jehovah of the Old Testament. And it was as Jehovah-Jireh (meaning my Provider) that the Lord fed the millions of Israelites in the wilderness, not with bread and fish (for they had cried to Him for flesh) but with a vast throng of quails. Nor was it just one meal but a feeding that lasted a whole month. Read the whole story in Numbers Chapter 11. It was some 1500 years later that Jesus fed the 5,000. And when vast crowds followed Him to the other side of the lake seeking a further free lunch, He told them to ‘labour not for the meat (food) which perisheth but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life’ (John 6:27). What did He mean? My conviction is that by everlasting life He meant the life which will be lived by those resurrected (or changed while still alive) to live in the ‘world to come’. Those ‘accounted worthy to obtain that world’ (Luke 20:35) and resurrection into it would neither marry nor die anymore but be ‘the children of God, being the children of the resurrection’, He said.
Remember, the gospel Jesus preached while on earth was the gospel of the kingdom (Mark 1:14-15). Those who would be his disciples were to ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33); they were to ‘strive to enter in at the strait (narrow) gate, for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter and not be able’. His followers were told that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and the Pharisees ‘ye shall in no case enter the kingdom of God’ (Matthew 5:20).
Jesus plainly taught that the kingdom of heaven was a wonderfully different world, one that was to come. So different in so many ways, in fact, that it is all but impossible for us to comprehend it from our present perspective of reality. This is because our view of reality is shaped by ‘this present evil world’ (Galatians 1:4) in which we live and not by the righteous society the Lord will create and govern in the Day of Christ.
The feeding of the 5,000 demonstrates at least two aspects of this world to come as Jesus described it. One is that in the Day of Christ there will be no shortage of food, no hunger, no famine. Crops will spring out of the ground year-round (Psalm 65:13, 72:16) because freed from Adam and Cain’s curse the earth of itself will bring forth fruit and grain (Psalm 67:6). The desert will blossom as a rose (Isaiah 35:1) and ‘they shall sit every man under the shade of his own vine and fig tree and none shall make them afraid (Micah 4:4). Mountains will be lowered, valleys lifted up, the sea rolled back and deserts watered to create vast arable lands capable of growing an abundance of food for the billions of resurrected and changed who will live on earth ‘in the days of heaven upon earth’ (Deuteronomy 11:21, i.e. the Day of Christ, the day of resurrection.
At the Lord’s rebuke there be no more war (swords and spears will be beaten into plowshares and pruning hooks, Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3). Nations will war no more. ‘Judgement (will) run down as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream’ (Amos 5:24). There will be peace and plenty because the Lord Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and He will rule over the nations in his day, the Day of Christ. A further change in society exemplified in the feeding of the 5,000 is the sharing of whatever one has to meet one’s neighbours’ needs. Some 2,000 years ago this was done by the boy who gave up his lunch of five loaves and two fishes to feed a multitude. Note, however, that he himself got fed in the process. It was not giving to go without. Note also there was no buying or selling on that momentous day.
Why, because, like it or not, ‘the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13) is not a lover of capitalism. Nor does He endorse the cruelty and greed of Marxist communism or its watered down version, democratic socialism. In particular He is on record as strongly opposing trade, exploitation of labour, buying and selling in general and pillaging of the earth’s resources. Remember, He took a whip of small cords to drive traders and money changers out of the temple (John 2:15). And the Apostle Paul was speaking for Him when he said the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Sadly, the love of money and the inability to think anything can be done for God without it, is the root of much evil found in organised Christendom today.
For example, according to one-faith-in-God.org the Vatican has the world’s largest combined shareholding in arms manufacture, military support and pharmaceuticals including strategic financial relationships with the international trade of illegal drugs. The website comments: ‘Through these strategic investments, the Roman Catholic Church is by far the single largest arms dealer, profiteer from conflict, profiteer from the growth of the pharmaceutical industry as well as single largest recipient of illegal drug money of any organisation in the history of the world’. Its annual tax-free profits are estimated at between $60 and $200 billion per annum’.
What’s more other major denominations also hold large property and share portfolios they do not usually use to alleviate poverty among their members or those outside. I am reliably informed that a firm principle of the New Zealand Salvation Army is that its social welfare organisations must be funded entirely by outside contributions, that is, not from the Army’s coffers. Contrast this with the words of the Master who said, ‘freely ye have received, freely give’ (Matthew 10:8), ‘give to him that asketh and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away’ (Matthew 5:42). Just try as a homeless person getting a loan without collateral from either the Catholic Church or the Salvation Army. Very clearly the model of economic behaviour taught and exemplified by Jesus in his earthly ministry was based on giving not receiving, lending not profiteering. It was summed up by the Apostle Paul in Acts 20:35:
I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.
The above verse means that believers were to work for wages (as Paul did as a tentmaker) to support the weak. Fact is that nowhere in scripture are they encouraged to buy and sell to make money. Indeed, buying and selling is not only seen as the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:17) but also as an ungodly activity (James 4:13-15). Jesus’s message was to give not take. The present system is based on the very rich taking most of the world’s wealth from the poor.
For example, Oxfam’s wealth check for 2018 says the rich still grow richer while the poor get poorer. It shows the 26 richest billionaires own as much as the 3.8 billion people who make up the world’s poorest people. The development agency urged imposition of a 1 per cent wealth tax which would raise an estimated $418bn (£325bn) a year – enough to educate every child not in school and provide healthcare that would prevent 3 million deaths.
The gap between rich and poor is widening rapidly with a new billionaire emerging every two days. In 2018 the wealth of 2,200 billionaires across the globe rose by $900bn – or $2.5bn a day. This 12% pay rise for the richest contrasted with an 11% fall for the poorest half of the world’s population. What’s more half the world’s wealth is now increasingly controlled by ever fewer hands. Oxfam reports that the number of billionaires owning as much wealth as half the world’s population fell from 43 in 2017 to 26 last year. In 2016 it was 61.Two facts sum it up:
- In 2018 saw the world’s richest man, Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, saw his fortune increase to $112bn. Just 1% of his wealth is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people.
- The poorest 10% of Britons pay a higher effective tax rate than the richest 10% (49% compared with 34%) once taxes on consumption such as VAT are taken into account.
This is not just plutocracy - world rule by the wealthy; it’s also plutolatry – the worship of wealth and those who have it as mandated by government decree. And Jesus hates it. He said so over and over in his earthly ministry to the Jews and the message is repeated by his appointed apostles. Consider the following:
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:23.
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten…. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth and … are entered into the ears of the of the Lord of sabaoth (i.e. the Lord of Hosts). James 5:1:4.
For in one hour so great riches is come to nought (describing the fall of Babylon the global empire of wealth and false religion). Revelation 18:17.
Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who gives us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate …. That they may lay hold on eternal life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
In the ‘world to come’ (Matthew 12:32, Mark 10:30, Luke 18:30, Hebrews 2:5, 6:5) there will be no plutocracy and no plutolatry, no banks, no wealthy and no poor. Always it will be possible to drink water for free (we are made to pay for it now) and to buy wine, milk and bread without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1-2). While these verses speak of spiritual salvation and everlasting they also assure us there will be a full adequate provision. And the Lord fed the 5,000 to show us how real that provision will be in the kingdom to come.
Speaking of ‘that day’, the Day of Christ, the kingdom of God when Christ rules from heaven over the earth and its people, the prophet declared:
… say to the prisoners, Go forth, to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them; for He that hath mercy lead them, even by the springs of water shall He guide them. Isaiah 49:10.
To sum up, in the kingdom to receive our daily bread all we will have to do is to ask and thank God for it. Immediate provision will follow when we pray:
Our Father which in art in heaven, hallowed by thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:9-11).