Time windows in the kingdom of God

When God calls you to do something specific, there is often only a limited period of time, a window of opportunity. During this time, it is comparatively easy to do God’s will, but afterwards it is either much more difficult or even completely impossible.

Time windows in the history of Israel

The people of Israel were freed from slavery in Egypt and led through the Sinai desert. After less than 2 years, they reached the border of the Promised Land. At this point, Israel could have taken the whole land under the leadership of Moses. But Israel refused to obey, and God decided that none of the rebels would enter the land. A subsequent attempt by Israel to take the land without God’s permission ended in disaster (Num. 15). The Israelites then had to wander in the desert for 40 years, until the entire generation had died, until they were given permission to enter the Promised Land.

The book of Joshua tells us that Israel had the opportunity to take the whole Promised Land and that no one could resist them (Josh. 1:3-5). But Israel did not take it all (Judges 1:21 – 36). This disobedience meant that Israel could no longer take it all (Judges 2:1-3). The surviving Canaanites then became a constant temptation for Israel to fall away from God and serve other gods.

Before the destruction of Jerusalem, God often warned the land of Israel, its king and its inhabitants. Timely repentance and obedience to God could have averted the coming catastrophe, but this did not happen. So in 586, Jerusalem and the Temple of God were destroyed and the Jews were led away into captivity.

Jesus, the Son of God, was sent to the lost sheep of Israel. He invited them to repent and come to God and warned them of God’s judgment if they persisted in disobedience. However, the Son of God was rejected by the leaders of the people and they arranged for him to be put to death on the cross. But even after his death and resurrection, God gave them the opportunity to repent and accept Jesus. If they had done so, Jesus would have returned very soon, perhaps even before 40, and would have brought the long-awaited times of refreshment and the fulfillment of the good promises of the prophets in the Old Testament (Acts 3:17-21). However, the book of Acts describes how the doors for the gospel in Israel were closing more and more. In the year 70, Jerusalem and the temple of God were destroyed, and the Jews became a scattered and attacked minority. They had missed their window of opportunity.

Time windows in the history of the Christian church

When Jesus gave a prophecy about the end times, e.g. Mk. 13, He predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and His return shortly afterwards (Mk. 13, 24 – 27). This would have meant that His return would have taken place shortly after the year 70. However, this return of Jesus did not take place in the 1st century, and it has not yet come, and the whole of creation must therefore suffer terribly to this day (cf. Romans 8:20-24). Has a time window been missed here?

In Mt. 28, 18 – 20 Jesus says that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him, and He commands His disciples to go out and make disciples of all nations. He promises them that He will be with them until the end of this world. It looks as if a window of opportunity will open at Pentecost to make disciples of all nations during the lifetime of Jesus’ 11 disciples. This would also fit in with the 2nd coming of Jesus in the year 70 or shortly thereafter. In the book of Acts, however, we read that the disciples stayed in Jerusalem and did not go out to the nations. God then needed the persecution that arose after the death of Stephen, that Christian foot soldiers and Philip, who was only deployed to distribute food, evangelized the Samaritans and other normal Christians evangelized the Greeks in Antioch. Then the apostles or their messengers went out to test what God had already done. And it was Barnabas and Paul who were not among the elves who could be sent to the Gentiles. In Acts 15, they are still the only ones who were sent to the Gentiles. But this is in the year 50, 20 years after Jesus’ resurrection and after Pentecost. The apostles’ ministry was appointed by God and required a special calling. Jesus was present in the apostles and led the church. “Whoever hears you hears me.” (Lk 10:16)

The church rests on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Later, the church collected all the writings of the apostles and their immediate disciples Mark and Luke that are still available in the New Testament, which is the ultimate authority in the body of Christ today. Rejecting the ministry of the apostles ultimately means rejecting the Lordship of Jesus. Such a rejection already begins in the church in Corinth and becomes very clear in 3 John 9. In addition, the emperor Nero was looking for a scapegoat in the year 64 after a great fire had reduced parts of his capital Rome to ashes, and the rumor persisted that he had set the city on fire himself. Many Christians were executed and Christianity was banned throughout the Roman Empire. All the apostles were tracked down and executed, and only the apostle John miraculously survived. The window of opportunity to make disciples of the nations shrank from 40 to 14 years.

Many nations worldwide had not been reached, and as far as I know, it had not yet been possible to make disciples of whole nations. If one compares the writings of the apostles with the writings of the post-apostolic period, one must note a catastrophic decline in the spiritual level. Instead of the fresh food given by the Holy Spirit, the church relied largely on canned food, the carefully preserved traditions of the apostolic age. The church could no longer maintain its unity and drove out the Christians with a Jewish background. And in the 4th century, the church began to rely on the protection of the state. This then made successful work among Muslims impossible.

So few were willing to be sent by God that the Turkish tribes were not reached in the 10th and 11th centuries, but later became Muslims and fought particularly hard for the spread of Islam. The ruler of the Mongol Empire in China asked for 50 Christian missionaries, and 2 finally came. In the 19th century, the Japanese Empire opened up to the West, but the Christian missionaries at that time were too few and too weak to win Japan for Christ. This was repeated when Japan surrendered in 1945 and was very open to the Gospel for a few years, but not enough missionaries came. Now Japan is again an extremely difficult mission field.

Consequences for us

When God calls us to do something, we need to ask how and when we should do it. If we put off until later what we should do now, it may not be possible later. When God called me to Thailand at the age of 60, someone who meant well gave me the advice to work in Germany until I retired. At the age of 64, however, the performance of my heart decreased dramatically, so that I would not have dared to take the long flight to Thailand.

We should ask God how much preparation we really need before we leave. In my case, waiting until retirement, a four-year Bible school and a one-year language course would have meant starting my ministry in Thailand at the age of 70, 10 years later than I left.

We live in turbulent times today, which also affect finances. If God calls me to send a certain amount of money to a missionary, postponing it could mean not having enough money afterwards.

For all this we need very clear guidance from the Holy Spirit.

(Written by Reiner Hennig)