Realm against Realm: the beginning of the birth pangs
“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:7-14)
As I continue to study the subject of the kingdom of heaven on earth, God continues to show me how critical it is to understand the reality of it as we approach the times of the end. Here, in Matthew 24, we find a timeline for how it will unfold, and how understanding the kingdom will be so vital to us being able to “read the signs of the times.”
Jesus begins by warning of a time that will signify “the beginning of the birth pangs,” characterized by “nations rising against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms.” In the Greek, “nations” here means literally a people or a nation, while the word “kingdoms” is the same one used throughout the New Testament as God’s kingdom come to earth and it means a realm, a rule, or a reign. Jesus is not merely re-stating the same thing twice using different words, as many believe. He is speaking of the time I believe we now live in where the clash between the two kingdoms—the two diametrically opposed “realms” on earth—is manifesting itself far more urgently than at any other time in history.
In verse 14, Jesus uses these same words again, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” The difference here is evident, along with prophecy the gospel of the kingdom is what will be preached prior to the end. We are not now preaching this gospel, rather its watered-down, convenient offshoot the gospel of salvation. But there are more and more, like myself, starting to preach this kingdom gospel, and rest assured more and more voices shall be joining us as the realm of heaven on earth arises against the rapidly advancing realm of darkness.
We’ve looked at the beginning and end of the above prophetic passages. Now let’s look at what happens in between, and why it must happen before the gospel of the kingdom is once again preached. It flies in the face of dominionists who incorrectly convey the concept of “kingdom” these days.
Contrary to their teaching Christians will rise up and take dominion over the realm of flesh, soon we will see tribulation come upon the church as has never even been faintly witnessed in this country. We have seen the beginnings of these “birth pangs” already, as governments God gave us to rule over the affairs of flesh rapidly come to hate everything we stand for. Professing homosexuals, apostate religious frauds, and God-hating atheists of all stripes are taking seats of power in Washington and local governments around the country.
Colorado is one of the foremost among them, having just elected a radical homosexual who has made his disdain for Christians openly known. Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t care about what flesh does to govern itself. It’s not my realm. However, in the interest of discerning “the signs of the times” as Jesus commanded us to do, I keep an eye on it. And when it comes to observing the clash of the realms, there is no place better to observe it.
Jesus tells us what this persecution will look like:
- We will be delivered up to tribulation, many by those they love. Jesus said in Matthew 10, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW. And A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.” Then He goes on to say anyone who loves these people more than they love Him will not be found worthy of Him.
- We will be hated and killed by the nations [realm of flesh and darkness] for lifting up the name of Jesus. In John 16, Jesus promises us the Holy Spirit and says He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. Who does the Spirit speak through but us? Therefore, if we are not denying Jesus, we will be convicting the world of sin and judgment, and we will be hated. Paul tells Timothy “All who desire to live godly lives in Christ will be persecuted.” This is not a suggestion, but a promise, for part of living a godly life is lifting up Jesus and speaking as the Holy Spirit leads. That will make people who have allied themselves with the wrong realm hate us.
- The bad news continues, as Jesus promises “many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.” He is speaking of many, many of our non-discipled converts filling the halls of our temples today: those who “say ‘Lord, Lord’ and yet do not do what He says” (Luke 6:46). And woe to those false temple shepherds who failed to “bear fruit that remains” from their flocks but focused only on “saving souls” with their gospel of salvation!
- Then there’s a comment I could spend pages on, as Jesus declares, “And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” Suffice it to say for now there is a consistent link between God’s people seeking the miraculous and the term “lawlessness.” Are we not seeing an obsession throughout modern Christendom with healings and other miraculous signs and wonders today? As realm arises against realm, there will be dramatically increased activity on both sides in this area. We must be extremely careful not to assess spirituality, or faith, by the frequency of their occurrences or put them above loving people in to the kingdom. We will witness “love growing cold” in those who do in favor of seeking the miraculous.
- Jesus says only those who “endure to the end will be saved.” Being a believer will be the hardest thing anyone can do as these birth pangs continue, like a woman in labor, to increase in length and severity. When speaking of what it will take to make it through the perilous times coming upon us Matthew 24 speaks of, Jesus repeats often in His warnings to His church two words we dare not miss: endure and repent. Contrary to what the dominionists think, we will not conquer this earthly realm but rather be conquered by it. Many will be martyred, but far more will fall away because they were evangelized in our temples but not discipled in our marketplaces. It will be a time for faithful endurance abiding in our Vine, and for the sort of true repentance Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11.
- Then Jesus says, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world…and then the end shall come.” I believe what He is saying is until there is this great falling away, which will include our comfortable temples reduced to dust and ashes and “those who said, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but did not do what He said” (Luke 6:46) rejecting the faith when times get tough, we will not seek out true Christian community as He modeled it. Once the remnant of the church—the true church—comes back together in community the world will once again see and hear the gospel of the kingdom. One of the primary contrasts between the gospel of salvation we’ve been preaching for decades now and the gospel of the kingdom is this: one can be merely preached, and one must be lived. Jesus did not merely disseminate knowledge in the classrooms our temples have become as our “pastors” of the gospel of salvation do today. He modeled everything He taught within the environs of community. The remnant church will have no choice but to gather in community for basic survival, but it will become their greatest joy as they preach and live the gospel of the kingdom!
And so, my friends, in summary I believe the birth pangs are now upon us as it has become so evident “realm is arising against realm.” We will see increasingly abhorrent and aggressive posturing from the children of evil in the kingdom of man, but also increased power, wisdom, revelation and love from “the One who is greater in us than he in the world.” We will be delivered up to a realm that hates us by those close to us, and many will fall away from the faith as real persecution comes to America. Signs and wonders on both sides of the fight will increase, and those who get drawn in to them will suffer their love for Christ and others grow cold as the “mystery of lawlessness” Paul spoke of unfolds. This chaos in the world will bring together the community of saints in sanctuaries God is even now preparing, and the world will witness the gospel of the kingdom as it is simply not now being seen. “And then the end will come.”
While it could be argued this is a far-too-simple analysis of end times prophecy given the voluminous amount of Scripture dedicated to it, these are the words of Jesus that give us a pretty good overview. There has never been a more perilous, nor exciting, time to be a believer since the days Jesus walked this earth, even as He now prepares to return to it! I beg you, pray for the transformation of your mind God institutes to introduce you to the kingdom of heaven on earth. Forsake the realm of flesh for the realm of the kingdom, seek out community with other kingdom citizens, and strive daily to live in and for that realm!