THE APOSTOLIC MISSION
This week, I am sharing the rough draft of a new chapter I have written. This will be published in an upcoming book, more about that later, but for now, enjoy! - Jonathan Welton
THE APOSTOLIC MISSION
For nearly two thousand years, the Church has eagerly awaited the final return of Jesus Christ. For the same two thousand years, I believe that Jesus Christ has been waiting for the Church.
Many Christians have no idea what God is waiting for. Yet, if we don’t understand what He is waiting for, then it is impossible for us to partner with heaven to bring Jesus back to earth! This has resulted in an incredible amount of theological confusion regarding the return of the Lord.
One of the most prevalent misconceptions is that Jesus could return any moment. This teaching is present in so many Christian novels and low-budget endtimes films, yet it is not a sound doctrine of the Bible.
By lifting verses out of their intended historical context, one can create a doctrine of Jesus’ “any-moment” return. Yet, this is not taught anywhere in the New Testament. If a historical-contextual understanding of the New Testament is put into place, then the modern “any-moment return” doctrine crumbles.
While many Liberal Theologians say differently, A.T. Robinson has written a masterpiece which correctly demonstrates that the entire New Testament was written before the A.D. 70 Destruction of Jerusalem (insert endnote). This context is important because it gives a foundation for interpreting the New Testament. With that truth in mind, we can understand that the backdrop to everything recorded in the New Testament was the impending doom that was about to fall upon the city of Jerusalem. Here are a few examples:
- Why would the early disciples sell their property? (Acts 4:32-37) Because they had insider information that the city was about to be destroyed.
- What was Stephen accused of which led to his stoning? Stephen had been declaring the impending destruction (Acts 6:13-14) (A “false witness” typically meant a bribed witness).
- Why didn’t the early church build large churches and instead chose to meet in the temple courts and from house to house? (Acts 2:46) Because if you knew that your city was about to be destroyed, would you start building a large church facility? Of course not! Instead you would logically meet in homes and lecture halls (Acts 2:46; 19:9).
- This is why James writes encouraging his readers to take their plans lightly (James 4:13-17), because any moment, the destruction of Jerusalem could begin (James 5:1-9).
With the Historical backdrop in place, we must also understand the term “coming.” The New Testament writers understood Jesus’ coming as a reference to Jesus bringing judgment upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The following is an excerpt from the second book in this series, Raptureless; An Optimistic Guide to the End of the World. (Note: Raptureless gives simple and detailed explanations to the prophetic passages of Daniel, Matthew, 1 John, and 1 & 2 Thessalonians.) This portion is regarding Matthew 24:3b “…what will be the sign of your coming[?]”
The automatic, almost knee-jerk reaction is to think that the disciples were asking about Jesus’ Second Coming. But if we step back and think for a moment, we will remember that the disciples had no idea that Jesus was about to die and be resurrected. It is unrealistic to think that they were asking Jesus about His Second Coming, which would be thousands of years away. They were still in shock about Jesus chewing out the Pharisees (in Mt. 23); they weren’t suddenly asking Jesus about His Second Coming, but about something else very similar and closely related to the first question.
After Jesus answered their first question in great detail, He responded about the sign of His “coming”:
And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth [literally, “tribes of the land”] will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30 NASB).
Keeping in mind that the disciples were not asking about Jesus’ Second Coming, thousands of years later, here is a much more sensible understanding of what they were truly asking. The Bible scholar David Chilton says regarding this passage:
In order to understand the meaning of Jesus’ expressions in this passage, we need to understand the Old Testament much more than most people do today. Jesus was speaking to an audience that was intimately familiar with the most obscure details of Old Testament literature. They had heard the Old Testament read and expounded countless time throughout their lives, and had memorized lengthy passages. Biblical imagery and forms of expression had formed their culture, environment, and vocabulary from earliest infancy, and this had been true for generations. The fact is that when Jesus spoke to His disciples about the fall of Jerusalem, He used prophetic vocabulary. There was a “language” of prophecy, instantly recognizable to those familiar with the Old Testament.1
Knowing the Jewish culture, Jesus answered that they would see “the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30). Throughout the Old Testament, when God was going to bring destruction upon a city or a nation, it was said that He would “come on clouds in the sky.” In the Jewish culture, the phrase “sign of your coming” had little to do with location and arrival. It was understood to mean, “to come in judgment upon a city or nation,” as we will see in the following verses.
Each of the following passages was fulfilled by the destruction of an Old Testament city or nation:
He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning (Psalm 18:9-12).
The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind (Psalm 104:2-3).
A prophecy against Egypt: See, the LORD rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt with fear (Isaiah 19:1).
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand—a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come (Joel 2:1-2).
The great day of the LORD is near—near and coming quickly. The cry on the day of the LORD is bitter; the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry. That day will be a day of wrath—a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness (Zephaniah 1:14-15).
The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet (Nahum 1:3).
Now that we have some of the Hebraic cultural context, we can understand that: 1) the disciples were asking about when Jesus would “come” in judgment upon Jerusalem, and 2) Jesus responded with many signs that would lead up to verse 30, where He would finally “come on clouds” and bring judgment.
(Insert Endnote from Raptureless)
When the New Testament refers to Jesus’ “coming,” it is a clear reference to the impending judgment upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Once we understand that, we can shine light upon the passages, which are used to teach the “any-moment return” of Christ.
- “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:42
- “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25:13
- “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” Mark 13:33
- “but let us be alert and sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:6b
The first century Christians had to be prepared and watchful of the impending judgment. We are informed through the historical record that not one Christian died in the destruction of Jerusalem. To put that in context, 1.1 million Jews were killed in the slaughter, but every Christian of the first century understood that the prophecy of Matthew 24 was about their generation and they literally kept watch and ran for the mountains of Pella to escape the destruction.
[In Matthew 24:15-18] …Jesus was giving very practical advice to His followers about how to stay alive during the AD 70 destruction. We can tell from this passage that Jesus was speaking of a local destruction (flee Judea) and a historical setting (not on a Sabbath). The natural tendency, upon seeing an approaching army, would have been to flee into Jerusalem for safety. Jesus told them to fight their natural instinct and flee the city.
Because of Jesus’ command to flee, His followers were protected. In fact, as George Peter Holford said six paragraphs previously [in Raptureless], “…history does not record that even one Christian perished in the siege of Jerusalem.”
This is confirmed by other well-known commentaries. For example:
It is said that there is reason to believe that not one Christian perished in the destruction of that city, God having in various ways secured their escape, so that they fled to Pella, where they dwelt when the city was destroyed. —Albert Barnes
...it is remarked by several interpreters, and which Josephus takes notice of with surprise, that Cestius Gallus having advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it, on a sudden without any cause, raised the siege, and withdrew his army, when the city might have been easily taken; by which means a signal was made, and an opportunity given to the Christians, to make their escape: which they accordingly did, and went over to Jordan, as Eusebius says, to a place called Pella; so that when Titus came a few months after, there was not a Christian in the city… —John Gill
(Insert endnote from Raptureless)
It was important for the first generation church to Be Alert and Watchful, so that they wouldn’t die in the A.D. 70 Destruction. These verses applied to them, but not to us.
We are not called to live on the edge of our seats believing that Jesus could come “any-moment!” We are called to pray that it would be “on earth as it is in heaven.” We are to occupy until He comes, not be preoccupied with His coming!
RIGHTEOUS THINKING IS LONG TERM THINKING
One of the “Seven Core Values” that guide my ministry (The Welton Academy) is: “Investing.” Here is how I have stated it for my team.
- Investing is long-term thinking. This impacts every aspect of life. Although it may cost more, buying quality only hurts you once. It is better to do something right the first time rather than to do it twice. We believe that time is an un-renewable resource. There is always more money, but there is not more time. Operating in long-term thinking is kingly thinking, whereas short-term thinking is poverty thinking.
Let’s focus on that last sentence, “Operating in long-term thinking is kingly thinking.” The Bible gives us the stories of two very different kings, one that thought long term and one that thought short term.
1. King David stored up vast resources and wealth for his son Solomon to reign and build a Temple unto the Lord (1 Chr. 22). He was thinking of future generations and prepared for a Temple he would never live to see.
2. Later in Israel’s history King Hezekiah came into power. When Isaiah the prophet came and told King Hezekiah that he would have a peaceful reign but that after him the kingdom would fall into utter ruin and captivity, Hezekiah didn’t care! (Isaiah 39) King Hezekiah operated in a poverty mindset. He cared only about himself and his own life and generation.
We learn from King Solomon, who wrote the book of Proverbs, that “A Righteous man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.” -Proverbs 13:22. It is amazing to ponder that Solomon was able to write this proverb because of witnessing his father, King David, being a righteous man and thinking of his children’s children. This proverb is not simply a wise saying, but it is something that Solomon observed and appreciated about his father, the righteous King David.
The larger context of the Bible teaches that the “Righteous” think long term. Yet much of modern Christianity has been infected with short-term thinking. Consider the following quote:
First, have you ever wondered why Christians in the United States are clearly in the majority, and always have been, yet they have so little cultural influence?
Here are three good reasons: (1) They have no plan; (2) they have little or no personal incentive; (3) they see no long-run hope of success.
((pg xvi) Excerpt from The Days of Vengeance: preface by Gary North)
I believe that Mr. North has said volumes in the previous quote. It is a statement worth pondering until we (1) have a plan; (2) understand what motives us to pursue it; (3) and we understand that we are called to build the Kingdom of Heaven in the earth and think long term!
Although there are moments in time such as A.D. 70 where God gave a warning and told the early Christians to keep watch, this is not the posture of all Christians for all time. We are not called to live on the edge of our seats and bite our nails hoping for (or fearing) the rapture.
Actually, for much of Church History, Christian leaders have taught and believed that we are called to think and live long term. Take for example the book of common prayer:
“Consider the fact that the compilers of The Book of Common Prayer provided “Tables for Finding Holy Days” all the way to A.D. 8400! Clearly, they were digging in for the “long haul,” and did not expect an imminent “rapture” of the Church.”
-The Days of Vengeance by David Chilton, Page 497, (Endnote 6)
(To see it for yourself go to)
Book of Common Prayer (Quoted from 1662, which is derived from an earlier 1549 edition) Page LXV
The idea of thinking long term and building the Kingdom of God in the earth realm until the final return of Christ has been the predominant view of the Church in history. For example, consider the words of the following leaders:
John Wesley: All unprejudiced persons may see with their eyes, that He is already renewing the face of the earth: And we have strong reason to hope that the work He hath begun He will carry on unto the day of the Lord Jesus; that He will never intermit this blessed work of His Spirit until He has fulfilled all His promises, until He hath put a period to sin and misery, and infirmity, and death; and re-established universal holiness and happiness, and caused all the inhabitants of the earth to sing together “Hallelujah.”
(The works of John Wesley, 1985, p. 499)
Jonathan Edwards: The visible kingdom of Satan shall be overthrown, and the kingdom of Christ set up on the ruins of it, everywhere throughout the whole habitable globe.
(The works of Jonathan Edwards, 1974, p. 488)
Charles Spurgeon: I myself believe that King Jesus will reign, and the idols be utterly abolished; but I expect the same power which turned the world upside down once, will still continue to do it. The Holy Ghost would never suffer the imputation to rest upon His holy name that He was not able to convert the world.
(The Life and Work of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1992, 4:210
Long term thinking is not only seen in the writings of great leaders, but also even in something as mundane as church architecture. For example, if a leader believes that the church is called to think long term and establish the Kingdom of God upon the earth, then it is easy to commission the building of a church of stone, which will take a hundred years to complete. Even though that leader will not live to see the completion, he is intentionally planning toward a future generation. The massive stone churches across Europe are a testament of leaders that thought long-term.
Once we settle into the fact that the Kingdom has been here since the manger in Bethlehem and is growing and being established more and more through the church in the earth, we can begin to understand our calling. The church no longer needs to live on the edge of her seat as if she will float away any second! She no longer has to wait with an identity crisis of “Why won’t my groom come back for me?” And instead she can get on with her calling of building the Kingdom of God upon the earth.
It is vitally and profoundly important that the church abandon the “any-moment return” doctrine and embrace the long term thinking of the righteous man (Pro. 13:22).
COMPLETING THE APOSTOLIC MISSION
Let’s review. So far in this book we have established that Jesus came to earth as the King over all creation. He established His Kingdom and it began to grow from the first century through to the present day. The Church as the Bride of Christ is God’s ambassador to further establish His Kingdom in the earth. I refer to the Church’s calling as the “Apostolic Mission.”
It is this Apostolic Mission that here we will examine more closely.
"The word apostle in the New Testament means, “sent one.” Apostle was originally a secular term used by both the Greeks and the Romans to refer to the leader of a special envoy. That leader had the job of establishing the culture of the empire he represented into the daily lives of the citizens the empire conquered. Leaders had discovered that the citizens of conquered lands went back to their previous way of life rather quickly without transforming influence. It was extremely frustrating to see no change result in a conquered nation, which nullified the purpose of the conquest. For this reason, they came up with a strategy to transform the culture of a conquered city so that when the empire’s leaders visited, it would feel the same as home.
The position of apostle was created in response to this need. Jesus adopted the term to reveal His intentions. His apostles lead a special envoy of people who have the job of establishing the culture of the empire of heaven into the daily lives of the citizens they serve."
(Bill Johnson/Randy Clark, The Essential Guide to Healing, pg 116/117, chapter by Bill Johnson)
As citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), and as ambassadors of heaven (2 Cor. 5:20), we are here with a mission. Jesus is not coming back until we finish the “Apostolic Mission” the mission of the Apostolos, to implement the Culture of Heaven into the Culture of the Earth.
Yes, someday the Church will have completed this mission. Sons and daughters of King Jesus will know who they are and will live out their identity as righteous people. Suffering will be brought to a minimum in the earth realm. Sin will have been massively decreased. The sex industry will have collapsed and broken families will be restored. People will live longer, healthier and more joy-filled lives. There will be no more orphans, no more starvation, and sickness will be rare.
All the enemies of God will bow under Jesus’ feet until finally death is put under His feet as the last foe (1 Cor. 15:26). All other foes will be subdued as we put them under our feet (Romans 16:20).
The day will come when the culturing of the Apostolos has completed the Apostolic Mission. On that day, Jesus will be able to touch His toe to earth in physical form and finally say as the Roman Emperor’s did in days past, “This place feels a lot like home!”
has completed the Apostolic Mission. On that day, Jesus will be able to touch His toe to earth in physical form and finally say as the Roman Emperor’s did in days past, “This place feels a lot like home!”