A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

June 25, 2024

When Religious Leaders Serve Themselves (As It Was in the Days of Jesus)

It is with a heavy heart that I find myself contemplating the state of religious leaders throughout the centuries. From the time of the Levitical priesthood [in the Old Testament] to the scandalous headlines concerning pastors in these past few weeks, there have been incidents of flagrant rebellion and overt sinfulness among those appointed to act as shepherds of God's believing followers. 

I'm not interested in calling out anyone, or naming names. I'm more concerned with the hearts of those who claim to represent our Holy and righteous God, yet disparage His character through their self-interest and unrepentance, thus leaving room for doubt and confusion among those who become discouraged from ever seeking Him. But even more than misguiding those whom they are commanded to equip and train up in the ways of the Lord, I think I am more disturbed by the fact that the religious leaders seem to lose sight of the purpose of Jesus's Kingdom mission and their role in it. 

Jesus, Himself, experienced the mistrust and doubt from the First Century Religious leaders regarding His authority. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Essenes and other religious leaders questioned His mission and the motives of His teachings. Unlike today, when our society has lapsed in the intentional teaching of Scripture and Biblical history to our young, the Jewish tradition placed a heavy emphasis on teaching their children about the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings [the Poetic books of Psalms, Proverbs and Job; the Festival scrolls of Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther; and the Historical books of Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles]. 

The Jewish people in general, and especially the Sanhedrin, [who held high positions in the religious and political spheres of the Jewish nation] knew the prophecies of the coming Messiah. The prophets of old spoke of a King who was fit to rule Israel like King David, returning them to a time of power and prosperity over their enemies. At the moment of His birth the wise men from the East came seeking the Messiah, "the one who was born King of the Jews". Those that Jesus healed at the beginning of His ministry hailed Him as "the Son of David". 

When John the Baptist joined with Jesus, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand, it's not hard to see the expectation that was placed upon Him. Even His Disciples saw Him in that light, expecting Him to take on the mantle of restoring the kingdom of Israel to its former glory under the Davidic dynasty. They believed the signs and miracles He performed, which were greater than the historical prophets, was clear evidence that He was the prophesied Messiah. But His mission was misunderstood and that led to the religious leaders feeling threatened by His teachings calling for a life of service and humility toward others; the willingness to suffer on behalf of your fellow man.

The priestly rulers simply could not understand the authority He possessed among the people. His teachings stressed loving your enemies, turning the other cheek, and sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others. He proclaimed that if one followed Him and His teachings, you were following the Law of Moses. And His ways challenged the strict boundaries of the Law as imposed by the religious Jews. Put in a very simplistic manner, Jesus's mission did not meet the expectations of the religious system that governed the Jews of the day. The Kingdom of Heaven, represented by Jesus, was in conflict with the kingdom of Israel, as administered by the religious leaders [in agreement with the political leaders].

Looking back, we see that Jesus came with a very clear mission and purpose: to establish God's righteous Kingdom on earth, making a way [through His sacrifice, death and resurrection] for all people to receive forgiveness for their sins, and be restored to a relationship with God. The goal was that this salvation from eternal death into eternal life would become the entry point into the Kingdom of God on earth (John 3:1-5), thereby changing the hearts of men and ultimately defeating Satan's kingdom on earth. Righteousness and Justice would rule the world and Evil would be defeated. 

Those leaders of the Jewish faith should have stood in righteousness and holiness, encouraging the people to believe in the prophecies of the Messiah, and welcoming Jesus as the true Son of God. But they were too caught up in their own reputations, arrogance, pride, and power to submit to a life of service, humility, and sacrifice. They exchanged God's laws for their own strict and binding rules that hindered an intimacy and connection with the Father. They missed the mission of the One they were waiting for.

And that brings me to the current state of religion and faith in the modern Christian world. Are we and our religious leaders following the same misguided path towards Jesus's goal and mission for His Second Coming? Are our modern shepherds too caught up in protecting their lofty positions of fame, money, and performance standards to understand the purpose of His Second Coming? Like the Pharisees, are they after self-importance and validation above those they are called to serve? And if the accusations of immorality that are currently being reported are true, then the community of Christian leadership needs to take a good hard look at itself. 

We need to take to heart Jesus's woes that He directed to the scribes and Pharisees, comparing them to the outside of a cup that looks clean, but is filthy on the inside [full of extortion and robbery and self-indulgence]. "You spiritually blind Pharisee [leader]; first clean the inside of the cup and plate [examine and change your inner self to conform to God's precepts] so that the outside [your public life and deeds] may be clean also". The Jewish religious leaders of old looked pious, God-fearing and devout servants of YHWH on the outside. But on the inside and in their private duties within the synagogues, they were back-stabbing, power-hungry, and oppressive hypocrites. They never held themselves accountable, and the celebrity environment within the 21st century Church has lent itself to the same temptations among our shepherds.

And that reality could have some mighty serious consequences for the spiritual maturity of the Christian brotherhood as we look forward to Jesus's Second Coming. Will we see the same kind of misunderstanding about what it's going to look like? He wasn't recognized or accepted the first time He came. Will He be the second time? The First Century Jews were expecting a King that would crush the Roman Empire and return them to prosperity and leadership. How many Christians are expecting to be removed from the earth before the Tribulation and "Time of Sorrows" covers the earth? Are they expecting that Jesus will announce that His Kingdom now rules the earth and Peace will exist across the globe? Are they going to be equally disappointed [as the Jews were] if what they've been taught doesn't occur?   

Will they be as lost and confused as the Disciples were when their hopes and dreams of a restored Kingdom of Israel didn't instantly materialize? Just as the religious leaders had not accurately interpreted the Scriptures and prophecies of Jesus's First Coming, I'm afraid that the Church has misconstrued and miscalculated the timing of events regarding His Second Coming. How are we to rightly understand His revelations that His return will mark "the great day of His wrath", or that the kings and leaders of the entire inhabited earth will "gather to do battle on that great day of God, the Almighty". Jesus prophesies in Revelation 19 that He is One who "judges and makes war"; He will "strike the nations" with a sword and tread "the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God".

These passages clearly show us that the world will not greet the returning Messiah with open arms. In fact, the world and its leaders will be as hostile towards Him as they were the first time. Are our current religious leaders serving their flocks by preparing them to accept Jesus in His true identity? Sadly, the First Century religious administrators were consumed with serving themselves and did not recognize the truth of Scriptural prophecy when He was in their midst. And I'm not that sure the modern Church has adequately raised up mature Leaders who can move past their desire for celebrity, popularity, and the need to compete for notoriety in order to be ready to receive Jesus and accept the mission and purpose of His return ... to establish the Kingdom of God once and for all and to usher in the the New Heaven and Earth. 

So, it is absolutely imperative that the Body of Christ rise up and join together in praying for our Pastors and Religious Leaders. Pray for repentance, clean hearts, a new movement of righteousness and holiness in the spirits of those God has called to shepherd in this time of world history. I pray for divine discernment; that they will seek the truth of Jesus's mission on His return; that they will seek the Holy Spirit's guidance and counsel in ways to equip and train the Body to prepare the faithful for Christ's victorious return. I pray that the temptations of Satan and this world will be removed from before their eyes as they focus their physical and spiritual eyes on the Heavenly realm from which He will appear. I know there are good, faithful, righteous and Godly men who serve our Lord in the role of Pastors and Church Leaders. I pray for their protection and their emergence as holy representatives of God's Kingdom on earth. I pray that all men will prepare their hearts in Truth and Spirit for King Jesus's return... help us to prepare the way for you, Lord! 

Mark 13:23, 37     But be on your guard: I have told you everything in advance... What I say to you, I say to everyone, 'Be on the alert (stay awake and be continually cautious'.


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