I CAN’T REMEMBER where Sylvester came from except that it was somewhere in the north of Kenya. This I do know, he’d had a long and arduous journey: setting out very early in the morning, mostly on foot with a stretch on the back of a pickup truck. At last he reached the small village where the Bible School was to be held. As I stood up to teach I noticed Sylvester on the front row—smartly dressed as though he’d just walked out of a dressing room, and keen to listen. We learned later that this was his first visit to a Christadelphian meeting of any kind. His sole previous contact with us was with an English lady who had used correspondence courses and letters to help give him a good understanding of what the Bible teaches. I was talking about the book of Revelation, and he was engrossed. He
THE GOSPEL is about the Kingdom of God. That is what Jesus and the apostles preached (Mark 1:14–15; Acts 28:30–31). It is what disciples died for. We know the names of some people who will be in the Kingdom. For example, Jesus named ‘Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets’ (Luke 13:28). He also said of the faithful apostles: … when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). Hebrews chapter 11 lists faithful people (in the Old Testament) who were, and still are, dead awaiting the fulfilment of God’s promises. They will be in this kingdom (Hebrews 11:4–16 and 39–40). Immortal Saints In order to live in the Kingdom, all of these named, and many more unnamed, faithful people need to be raised from the dead.
This must be one the most amazing and moving stories in the Bible—except for the life of the Lord Jesus. It is a story of power, zeal, religious passion and hatred, and it ends with humility, grace and love. You may be more familiar with Saul by his later name—the Apostle Paul. To fully appreciate the incident we need to examine his background, and very interesting it is. Saul was born in Tarsus in the province of Cilicia, said to be ‘no obscure city’ (Acts 21:39). By birth a Jew of impeccable pedigree, his father a Pharisee, a Roman citizen. He quoted this when arrested (Acts 16:37, 22:25–26). It was the Jewish custom to teach boys a manual trade, and Saul was a tent maker (Acts 18:3). He would have left his home as a young man and gone to Jerusalem, where he would be educated in the Jewish laws
IN JANUARY 2021 American news hit world headlines: a violent crowd of rioters stormed the Capitol building in Washington. The President was subsequently impeached for allegedly inciting a riot. The Senate chaplain had said that “Words matter” and that “the power of life and death is in the tongue”. The Power of the Tongue Words do indeed matter! With words we can humiliate, insult, embarrass, malign, discourage; or we can uplift, encourage and build up. The wise man said that there is ‘a time to keep silence, and a time to speak’ (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Keeping silent is not always the wisest approach, as silence is not neutral and can be misinterpreted, as either approval or disapproval. So there is a ‘time to speak’. But the speech itself needs to be wholesome. The Apostle James warned: No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly
IT’S GOOD TO BE able to see other people’s points of view. If we all did this more often there would be more understanding and less confrontation in the world. People with strong opinions can be particularly bad at seeing different points of view. They can be intolerant of those who disagree with them. Perhaps, deep down, this is because they are afraid of having their beliefs challenged. Some of the most opinionated people you’ll meet are religious people. And as it happens, religious people can be some of the most intolerant. You only need to think of the brutalities of the Church Inquisitions over the last few centuries, or the so-called Islamic State in recent years. Reacting against the intolerance and bigotry that’s undoubtedly characterised many churches in the past, many modern Christians make a point of being nonconfrontational and inclusive—to the extent that it’s common to hear phrases
ALTHOUGH HIS PEOPLE were so frequently disobedient and unfaithful, God was supremely patient with them. As the prophet Isaiah reminded them: “I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts” (Isaiah 65:2). Some suggest that because of Israel’s unfaithfulness, which culminated in them rejecting and killing God’s own Son, He has disowned the nation of Israel. This is not what the Bible says. For example this is what the angel Gabriel told Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he