Praying for the package
Vanua Levu is Fiji’s second
biggest island. Sensible people fly there. Us? We took a bus from
Suva at some unearthly hour, watched the sun rise beside
mirror-perfect rivers, held our breath as the driver manoeuvred
across only-just-wide-enough plank bridges, and bounced along
deeply rutted tracks that one day will be transformed into a
smooth sealed highway.
Abruptly, the wharf and the ferry.
As we clambered up noisy iron stairs to the seats on the top
deck, our bus joined a convoy of logging trucks and an assortment
of cars and vans in the bowels of the vessel for the five-hour
It was, in fact, the last voyage
north for the Ovalau II. Because, on the Saturday, on
its next trip to Vanua Levu, a hole appeared in the bottom of the
vessel, the pumps couldn’t cope, and down she went.
Together with one bus, six expensive logging trucks and assorted
smaller vehicles. Plus a lot of luggage. Passengers swam for an
uneasy 30 minutes until a rescue boat arrived and disappointed
the approaching sharks.
Those passengers praised God for
sparing their lives.
And so did the pastor who invited
us to stay with him. He had changed his booking from that
ill-fated Saturday sailing to ensure he was already in Vanua Levu
to welcome us.
It’s nice to know
that God is in charge of the details.
So we moved from one remote
village to another, teaching about Israel, the return of Jesus,
the Mark of the Beast, to audiences who were eager to hear and be
ready. We became experts at finding church buildings with no road
access, at crossing gullies on very slender tree trunks. We never
saw another European during our stay – and we didn’t
notice the fact until we left the island. And we never quite got
used to the friendly rat who ran across our pillows at night and
left its calling card as evidence.
Speaking of calling cards: where
roads existed, almost every decrepit ute or truck we had the good
fortune to flag down was driven by an Osama Bin Laden lookalike.
So we would enthusiastically tell the Moslem drivers about our
work among the Jews in Jerusalem, and about Jesus returning as
King of kings and God of gods. Then – you could say it was
a form of insurance – we’d give them our business
cards and invite them to stay with us the next time they came to
New Zealand. ‘He who would save his life...’
style of thing. Read the context in Mark 8:35.
Now, we felt thoroughly at home in
those Fijian villages. Sure, we’re still more Pom than Kiwi
even. And from the response when we preached, and from what we
hear, we are absolutely certain the Pacific islanders –
together with Africans and Asians – are going to be very
well represented in the Rapture.
They want to meet
And before you dismiss their
enthusiasm with a glib ‘Oh, they would want to go to Heaven
– they’re poor’, understand that, among Pacific
island believers there is a growing awareness that our western
affluence brings a whole raft of problems in its wake. And
problem #1 is an almost inexorable erosion of any genuine
dependence on God.
Remember: when we go on about the
Rapture and the return of the Lord Jesus, we’re not
primarily writing about a doctrine. Sure, we teach it,
complete with proof-texts. That’s okay. But it’s the
reality that matters. After all, liturgical churches
have been saying something along the lines of ’...from
whence He will come to judge the quick and the
dead...’ for centuries – without getting excited
And it’s the reality of the
Messiah’s return that matters. It seems sadly lacking in
NZ. No, not because we take life more seriously than Fijians do.
Oh sure, it’s a fact – but, look, while we were in
Fiji we received a totally unexpected invitation to teach for 12
days in the Kingdom of Tonga. Now – Tongans are far more
serious than Fijians. Especially about religion. Everything
(except the resorts) closes down on Sunday. No petrol, no
cafés, no nothing. No altar calls, even in Pentecostal
churches. But after we taught about the Mark of the Beast in
churches, high schools and to groups of government officials, the
handful of cybercafés in Nuku’alofa were besieged by
people checking out the details. Privately, believers were asking
God to confirm the relevance of the message. And even before we
left, God was answering those prayers specifically and
Being serious isn’t a
barrier to looking forward to meeting Jesus.
Okay, but before we go on about
how great all this is – let’s be honest about the Bad
News vis-à-vis the return of the King.
Jesus taught it. We mustn’t
duck it. And it’s part of the reasons God’s people
(perhaps particularly westerners) aren’t exactly over the
moon about their Saviour and Lord coming back. Read on...
Initially, the Prince of Peace
doesn’t come to bring peace.
He brings a sword. He brings
division. He said so; we’re just reporting.
His return – especially the
Rapture – will divide families. Friends. Churches.
And if you don’t like the
concept – what are you going to do about it?
Because the remedy is up to you.
Tell your family. Tell your friends. Your
teachers. Or your pupils. (‘Ooh! That’s not
allowed.’ Hush! Don’t let the Lord hear you say
that.) There may still be time. Sure, it’ll maybe sound
crazy. Most of what God does, does. To the unsaved. Being born
again, going to Heaven or Hell, angels, demons, whatever: all
crazy. So was Noah’s ‘all aboard’ message.
Until one minute after he went aboard. And God locked the door
and cued the rain. Then – belatedly – people thought
that being crazy wasn’t so stupid after all.
Now it’s time to say our
piece and trust the Holy Spirit will back us up. Two in one bed:
one gets taken, one’s left. What are you doing about it?
Two working together: one goes, one stays. What are you doing
about it? Jesus has given us two thousand years to get used to
the idea that we’re responsible for preaching the Bad News
as part of the Good News.
We must be able to say amen to
This is reason for our title:
‘Praying for the Package’. It’s no use
praying for the Rapture only. It’s no use praying
for the Jews to be restored to God’s full favour
only. It’s no use praying for Jesus to return as
King only. There’s an entire programme to these
events. These are in the specific will and purpose of God and we
have a part to play in them.
And we must be able to pray
sincerely: ‘Thy will be done’...