We tend to imagine the kingdom of God as a coming “automatic reality” in which, in one moment, everything is different. We imagine that the Second Coming will involve a wave of the hand from Jesus, bringing paradise in a moment. Yet the prophetic scriptures describe a pretty detailed process of hard work related to restoring the earth and its reconciliation to God through the leadership of Jesus. Isaiah 61:4-11 is one example, as is Ezekiel 39:11-16. If Jesus is going to change the earth in a moment, with a wave of His hand, why is creation groaning and waiting for the coming of the sons of God in Romans 8:19?
In that day, after the return of Jesus, the “peacemakers” will be blessed, and known as “sons of God”. Why? As the Bride of Christ, we will partner with Him to judge the world (1 Cor. 6:2). We will labor with Him to bring true “peace” – the Prince of Peace reconciling God to man, but also reconciling creation to creator. That is true peace, and it establishes a true resting place for the Lord (Isa. 66:1) that He might dwell with men in His fullness. I believe that this is the culmination of a 1000-year process, not an instantaneous reality at His coming.
As we become familiar with the God of “process”, it becomes clear that everything He does in His leadership involves process – not just the millennial kingdom to come. The kingdom grows over time and does not come instantaneously, as Jesus taught in Luke 17:20; or even more specifically in Luke 13:18-21:
Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?
It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches. And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
God could have brought His kingdom instantly. Instead, He chose “process” as to express His mercy and long-suffering towards us, as Peter spoke in 2 Pet. 3:9. Peter spoke of how believers participate in this process: the growth of an ever-increasing kingdom that is yet to come in its fullness. We “hasten the coming of the day of God” through holy conduct and blameless living (or, internal life in God) – growing in maturity and agreement with the values and lifestyle of the kingdom to come while fully rejecting the kingdom of this world and the god of this age.
We find ourselves, then, in the process of sanctification – the work that Jesus has begun and will be complete until the day of Christ (Philippians 1:6) as we are transformed in the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) and washed, cleansed, and prepared by the water of the word in our lives and hearts (Ephesians 5:26). This process includes growing in the things of the Spirit, or our continual fellowship and engaging with the Spirit of God (2 Corinthians 13:14) that we might walk out righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).
We must sow to the Spirit (Galatians 6:8) that we might reap everlasting life – the life of God now in part and in fullness later. There are no “automatic” realities in God regarding life in the Spirit – we often have not because we ask not (Jas. 4:2). We must cultivate and grow in our relationship with the Holy Spirit, learning to ask and listen, learning to reach and step out in faith to exercise the “muscle” of walking in the prophetic and healing by the power of another kingdom.
We imagine that there will be a day of the comprehensive “suddenly” of God – as we once waited for the one “altar call” that would set us free from every problem and weakness of the flesh, that one moment in which we would be able to effortlessly follow God afterwards, we now wait for that one moment in which we have “revival power”. Is revival power from heaven (what Peter called, “a time of refreshing from the Lord” in Acts 3:19) coming soon? Perhaps. Are you guaranteed to take part? Absolutely not. You must sow to reap – and there are no shortcuts.
In other words, the man who never prophesies cannot short-circuit the growth and maturity necessary to cultivate a prophetic ear. He will not automatically and suddenly have authority in the prophetic if the “muscle” of faith and engagement with the Holy Spirit has atrophied from lack of use. The same is true of healing. One must cultivate and contend for healing continually to expect that we would be used by God in that area later on. As the “water level” rises, are you growing in your ability to swim? It is critical that we press, ask, and seek the Lord for healing today in the place of prayer and the laying on of hands so that we have the boldness to do more and go farther tomorrow. We must seek every opportunity to cultivate and nurture a sensitive heart that is responsive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
That principle is also true of the “other” stream that flows from the same tributary as the prophetic (prayer, prophecy, and healing), or passion for Jesus that leads to dialogue with Him. This stream is evangelism. Evangelism naturally flows from the place of encountering Jesus in prayer. Evangelism naturally flows as passion for Jesus provokes compassion for people, which leads to proclamation, serving, and sacrifice regardless of personal cost. Evangelism is supposed to take place as a continual outflow of a life spent in prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. It was meant to be performed by one who engages and fellowships with the Holy Spirit, continually.
To be “prophetic” then, is to simply be alive in God or experience life in the spirit. Thus we have the “prophetic song” and the “prophetic word”. These are simply songs and words empowered y grace to have impact on the heart. “Prophetic evangelism”, again, flows from the same stream. The darkened heart, separate from and in hostility to God takes a miracle from the Holy Spirit to provoke responsiveness. Thus the need to be prophetic, or to move in authority and power, is superior to “wise and persuasive words” that are but foolishness to those who are perishing. Will we come into this authority automatically? Again, absolutely not.
Yet, we expect – perhaps complacently, lazily, and foolishly at times – that there is a moment coming when “suddenly” we will have power to walk into a factory and watch as men and women cry out in conviction because of the revival power we will carry. I am convinced that there is a “suddenly” coming. That “suddenly” of God will come as the capstone to long hours of labor in prayer and much toil in the place of stirring ourselves in our weakness and barrenness to stretch and reach for a glimpse of understanding. It will come as the culmination of these days, spent in dry and weary days of pressing for something resembling the authentically “prophetic”. This is the way of God as Peter described it in Acts 3:19-21. This is the way we must go today, to fail often in the hopes that we sow and cultivate something in the Spirit that will reap a great harvest in the days to come.
The idea of a “comprehensive suddenly” is a potentially harmful error. This romanticism of the coming of the power of God will actually cause many to miss the hour of His visitation. Where they will “miss God” is their participation in what He is doing. We cannot absolve ourselves from evangelism today in the vain imagination that we are “only” called to pray and wait. If one aspires to live like Anna of Luke 2:36, than we must attempt to walk in every area she did – prayer, fasting, the prophetic (power dimensions of the Spirit), and evangelism (proclamation to “all who looked for redemption”). These elements of the life of an intercessor constitute a circular reality in which we are ever-growing in these areas as we walk them out.
I wonder if some are not moved by exhortations to evangelize and preach to the lost because they have convinced themselves that they are walking out their calling just fine, thank you very much. I would beg to differ. I know that I have touched God when I am moved by an ache for the lost. Until then, I have not met God with any depth in my prayer life. Still, like “hungering and thirsting for righteousness”, I am not exempted to wait for the desire to evangelize at the price of the command from Jesus to do so.
I have a deep resolve to lay hold of grace and opportunities from God to bring an increase to this area of my life.