An Enduring Kingdom :: By Matt Ward


“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

One of the most important messages ever given by Jesus before he ascended into heaven has brightened Christmas every year for centuries. It has given hope for two millennia now. That message, often lost today, is that Jesus is alive, and He is coming again soon!

As the disciples stood gazing into the clouds after the resurrected Lord had ascended from the surface of the earth, rising higher and higher into the sky, two angels suddenly appeared with a vitally important message,

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

There is a hope embedded in this message that one day Jesus will return for his own. Just a short time earlier, while Jesus was celebrating Passover with His disciples, he revealed to them,

“Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward” (John. 13:36).

The disciples must have felt crushed. This was the Man most of them believed would usher in a new Messianic age, and here He is telling them He is departing and leaving them in their greatest hour of need. The disciples must have been distraught, feeling as though the very ground they stood upon had been pulled out from underneath them.

But then Jesus reassured them:

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1–3).

Jesus was departing from them with a specific purpose in mind, and he had a definite plan to return. He wasn’t intending to just leave them but described a very real scenario through which they would once again be united to him and with him.

Jesus referred to a Jewish wedding to help His disciples understand. Using this imagery, Jesus attempted to convey not only the absolute certainty of his return but the inexpressible joy that would accompany it.

In Jewish weddings, after paying tribute to the bride’s father and establishing the marriage covenant with his father-in-law, the Jewish bridegroom would return home to his own father for a time to prepare a dwelling place in his own father’s house that was fit for his bride. This is where the Jewish bride and bridegroom would eventually live, in the father’s house.

After completing the dwelling places to his father’s satisfaction, and allowing for his fiancé to adjust to and prepare for married life, the father of the groom would indicate that it was time for the bridegroom to return for his beautiful bride. With a shout, the bridegroom would announce his arrival and, along with his trusted companions and friends, would take her away to her new home. The bride would leave her old home on hearing the voice of her new husband and immediately leave for her new home with her new husband.

This is the imagery that Jesus used to convey the meaning of His absence. This imagery perfectly fits the concept of the Rapture of the church, when Jesus Christ, after leaving to prepare a place for his Bride, would once again return so, “…that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).

Later, Paul also describes how Christ “loved the church and gave Himself for her … that He might present her to Himself a glorious church” (Ephesians 5:25, 27).

The apostle John, in his Apocalypse, glimpsed this glorious future when he saw the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. “The Lamb [Christ] has come, and His wife has made herself ready … arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright” (Rev. 19:7–8). If you are a believer in Jesus Christ—this is your destiny.

From the first members of the bride of Christ huddled together in the upper room during the final Passover celebration to each member of the Church today, each one has now become a member of a royal priesthood through Jesus Christ.

“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10).

There are very real foreshadows of this modern bride of Christ found in the Old Testament. As John Walvoord states:

“Some expositors have found, for instance, in the marriages of Isaac and Rebekah, Joseph and Asenath, Moses and Zipporah, and Boaz and Ruth a typical representation of the plan of God to present Christ with a bride, the church, composed largely of Gentiles. In each of these illustrations, the bride is non-Jewish, that is, not a descendant of Jacob.”

God is forming his Church from all the nations of the world, from Jew and Gentile. This has always been his plan.

“I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16).

When Jesus departed, he emphasized that his purpose was to prepare a place for his Bride and that he would shortly return for them. The phrase… and if I go and prepare a place for youconditionally links His departure with His return: “I will come again” (John 14:3).

In the Greek, the word translated “will come” is actually in the present tense. Jesus is literally saying, “I am coming,” which carries a future force … to emphasize the certainty of Jesus’ return for his disciples.”

The analogy of the ancient Jewish wedding ceremony that Jesus uses guarantees Jesus’ return for his Church. Therefore, “Be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8).

We are entering a time in history that the Bible speaks much about. Indeed, the Bible talks more about the events of this generation and Jesus’ Second Coming than it does His first appearance on this earth. We stand on the cusp of world-changing momentous events.

No doubt, in view of the change we are seeing every day now, the world will be a dramatically different place just twelve months from now.

For some of us, this may mean persecution is ahead – each and every passing day seems to make this reality more of a certainty in my own mind.

But we have a living, dynamic, and real hope. We have Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior. Never will he leave us, never will he forsake us. And our destiny lies in an enduring Kingdom that cannot be destroyed and that will never come to an end.

Whatever the future may bring, we are servants of the King. And that fact, alongside the very real promise Jesus made that He will come back at some point soon and take us to be with Him so that we will be where He is, should fill us with hope and peace.

As the early church would say, “Maranatha!” meaning, “Our Lord, come!”

“Abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John. 2:28).

Merry Christmas!

The Russian “Anschluss” :: By Matt Ward

On March 12th, 1938, German troops marched into Austria, annexing the German-speaking Austrian nation into the Third Reich.

This annexation was not an instinctive act from Adolf Hitler. It was something that he had envisaged and planned for quite a considerable amount of time beforehand. In 1938, Austrian Nazis conspiring with Germany attempted to seize the Austrian government by force and unite the nation with Germany.

Austrian Chancellor Kurt Von Schuschnigg, learning of the conspiracy, met with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler to try to resolve the crisis peacefully and avert a disaster for Austria.

But Adolf Hitler was not for turning. Hitler had already decided that he was going to use the pretext of protecting the “German-speaking” people of Austria to justify his invasion.

So Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany, mercilessly bullied Schuschnigg when they met in 1938, not giving a single inch, and overtly threatened him. The end result of the meeting was that several top Austrian Nazis were forced the next day into the Austrian cabinet, very much against the government’s will.

On March 11th Schuschnigg resigned. The very next day, on March 12th, Germany invaded Austria, an event known in history as the “Anschluss,” the uniting of Germany with Austria.

German troops, met by enthusiastic crowds, marched into Austria, and a once independent nation became merely an additional state province of greater Germany, a situation that lasted until the very end of the Second World War.

At the end of the war, the Allies declared the Anschluss null and void, restoring Austria to full, independent nation statehood, and releasing Schuschnigg from the prison cell in which he had been confined for almost seven years.

Today, in 2021, Russia is attempting to do the very same thing with Ukraine. At the point of writing, 25,000 Russian troops have amassed on the Ukraine border. This is something that cannot be ignored. Yet like so many other things today, it is being ignored and is almost completely unreported by mainstream media outlets.

To all impartial observers, it looks exactly like it potentially is, a prelude to an invasion.

US Central Command has escalated its military posture to its highest level, “potential imminent crisis,” with the United States Air Force now flying constant observation missions over and along the Russian border, tracking Russian troop movements.

US President Joe Biden called Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to express his support and his solidarity. It seems to have offered little succour.

Dominic Raab, U.K. Defence Secretary, has issued a similar statement of support for Ukraine and its territorial integrity, stating, “We are gravely concerned about Russian military activity which threatens Ukraine.”

On Thursday, NATO ambassadors held a nonscheduled crisis meeting to discuss this fast-developing situation, tweeting as a group of the “grave concerns” they share over Russian actions.

Russia’s response is a belligerent one. Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, rebuffed all concerns, essentially openly threatening NATO should they attempt any future aid of Ukraine.

Peskov continued,

“There is no doubt such a scenario would lead to a further increase in tensions close to Russian borders. Of course, this would lead to additional measures from the Russian side to ensure its security.”

This all sounds ominously familiar. Not just because there is historical precedent between Germany and Austria, but because Vladimir Putin has used these old German tactics before, extremely successfully.

It was these same tactics that Putin used to invade Georgia in August 2008. At that time, Russia accused Georgia of aggression against South Ossetia and launched a large-scale land, air and sea invasion of Georgia on August 8 with the pretext of a “peace enforcement “operation.

Currently, 20% of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory is under Russian military occupation. Additionally, Russia does not even allow EU monitors to enter South Ossetia and Abkhazia at all now, in direct violation of the Six Point Ceasefire Agreement signed by all participants.

Russia has annexed this territory into greater Russia, and just like the original German Anschluss in 1938, the world stood by and did nothing.

Russia’s actions today regarding Ukraine are merely a rehashing of an old Putin tactic to justify military action by claiming Russian interests are at risk. It worked for him before, just as it worked for Adolf Hitler in 1938.

To further cement this claim, the Kremlin has been handing out thousands and thousands of Russian passports to Ukrainian residents in the east of the Ukraine.

By making hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians essentially new Russian citizens, Putin is turning them into his direct responsibility.

If he can then engineer a situation where “Russian” people are threatened, he can then justify an invasion to protect them. At this point, that is seeming increasingly likely.

The million-dollar question is what will the United States do in response? What will NATO do in response?

In the event of an invasion, Ukraine has only a few very limited options: cede a big chunk of its territory over to Russia, hit back politically by cozying up to and asking for help from the West, or it could fight.

However, despite Ukraine being stronger in military terms than one would think, they are simply no match for Russia.

NATO, for its part, could retaliate militarily. This, though, is unlikely. Just the thought of a hot war between Russia and NATO is enough to turn your blood cold. Such a confrontation would bring with it the highest risk of nuclear war in human history.

NATO might immediately admit Ukraine into its membership. But again, if NATO does this, it would be duty-bound to defend Ukraine from Russian aggression, bringing the nuclear superpowers once again back into direct confrontation.

More likely is that NATO would immediately admit Ukraine to the last stage before full membership, without becoming a full member, thus warning Russia, “this far, no further.”

The United States might employ sanctions against Russia or even reinvigorate the missile shield program, which Russia truly hates, in places like Poland in Eastern Europe. This would be a direct threat to Russia’s own deterrence capability.

But in such an eventuality, should Russia actually invade Ukraine as it did Georgia in 2008, there are simply no good options.

The world will be on tenterhooks; and diplomats, military leaders and politicians will be managing the finest of all balancing acts, trying desperately to avoid all out escalation.

In the Bible, when describing the very last days of the end times, Jesus talks of a time of “wars and rumours of wars.” We have long since been in that time frame. As we hurtle increasingly into that time period, the increasing birth pains will become more and more severe and intense. War will become more intense.

In 2021, in every direction one chooses to look, Jesus’s words of wars and rumours of war are and have become a present-day reality. From Russia to China, dictators are looking out from their own lands with greedy eyes. From Ukraine to Taiwan, to the south China seas to Hong Kong.

Whether it be in Eastern Europe between Russia and NATO, or more likely in Southeast Asia between the United States of America and China, major superpower confrontation and conflict is almost certainly coming in the next decade.

It is like a slow-motion train crash; everybody can see that it’s going to happen, but nobody seems to be able to stop it or even slow it down.

For us who believe in and hold to Jesus, we have a different hope and a different expectation of the decade to come. One of deliverance. That should be our focus today, and every day, until that deliverance becomes our own reality.

“When you see these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your head for your redemption draws nigh” (Luke 21:28).