We read about the Twelve Apostles[1] in all four gospels. While John doesn’t mention the selection and calling of these men, he does refer to The Twelve several times. The Twelve[2] became the designated title for Jesus’ closest friends.

Choosing Twelve

Mark tells us that Jesus went up to a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.

How would those left out have felt? Jesus recognised something we all need to learn: not everyone can be close to us. Jesus had hundreds of followers but only twelve apostles. And even amongst the Twelve, Jesus had three close friends – Peter, James and John – and John was his closest friend.

Luke mentions Jesus made these decisions after spending the night praying to God. It’s always wise to spend time in prayer before making important decisions.

The Unlikely

Jesus’ choice of twelve was a symbolic gesture. Initially, the people of Israel consisted of twelve tribes.

Four of the guys, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, along with James and John, were fishermen. They would have been often ceremonially unclean because of their work, making them unlikely spiritual leaders. Add to that James and John’s fiery temper. Jesus called them Boanerges, the Aramaic term meaning “sons of thunder.”

Christianity.com describes James and John as “rough-hewn guys—amazing, colourful characters. They would not back away from a confrontation. In fact, they might even have looked forward to one. They could be very aggressive. And they also could be very insensitive.” On one occasion, Jesus was speaking about his impending death. The brothers asked, “Can we sit on either side of you in your kingdom?” Imagine you tell people you have one week to live, and they ask if they can have your car.

On another occasion, the brothers wanted to destroy an entire Samaritan town with fire. These guys were volatile young adults, but Jesus saw something in them that was worth choosing.

The Obscure

Philip was from Bethsaida, the same city Andrew and Peter were from. Philip was shy and introverted.

Nathanael was cynical. John writes that Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael asked, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” I understand Nathanael’s response because Nazareth was a small rural town of 500 – 1000 people, and Jesus was a common name, as it still is in Latin countries. It would be the same as me telling you that I’d found the Messiah, and his name is Bob from Mt. Isa. Jesus responded to Nathanael by declaring he had a clean spirit.

Two other disciples are obscure: James and Judas. These guys should not be confused with John’s brother, James, or Judas Iscariot. James is the son of Alphaeus and is identified in church tradition as James the Younger or James the Less. His brother is Matthew, the tax collector. Judas is also called Jude and Thaddaeus. He is the author of the little letter, Jude, tucked in before Revelation.

The Surprising

The final four apostles are unexpected inclusions in the Twelve for various reasons. Thomas is known for his pessimistic nature and reminds me of Eeyore, the gloomy donkey from Winnie the Pooh. For example, when the disciples learned about Lazarus’ death, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Tax Collectors were despised amongst the Jewish population as Roman collaborators, so it was extraordinary that Jesus would welcome Matthew, knowing well that his inclusion would rattle the nerves of the other disciples and the population he was trying to reach.

Even more astounding was Simon the Zealot. Zealots were a Jewish sect noted for their uncompromising opposition to pagan Rome and the polytheism it professed. The Zealots were an aggressive political party who despised even Jews who sought peace with the Roman authorities. Extremists among the Zealots turned to terrorism and assassination and became known as Sicarii (“dagger men”).

Finally, Judas Iscariot. His last name indicates his hometown, a “man of Kerioth” in the Judean hill country. Judas was Jesus’ treasurer, a thief, and a traitor. I find it surprising that Jesus chose such a person, knowing he would be a betrayer.

The Lessons

We can learn some valuable lessons from Jesus’ choice of the Twelve. Firstly, God calls imperfect people.[3] The Bible is honest and tells human stories, warts and all. Many people in scripture wouldn’t be allowed in our churches! Have you ever thought God couldn’t use you? Think again!

Secondly, God calls different people. One of the most significant difficulties we all face is relational challenges, and Jesus selected The Twelve, fully aware of their various personalities and the resulting clashes. In my years of pastoring, I’ve seen many people leave the church because they fell out with a fellow believer. They naively go to another church only to experience the same thing. Most of the New Testament epistles address interpersonal conflict. Why do we think a church community would be any different today?

Finally, God empowers people with his Spirit. In scripture, we see the twelve ragtag apostles entirely revolutionised by the power of the Holy Spirit. They were transformed from Jesus-denying, fearful, deserting followers into brave believers speaking boldly in the face of persecution, performing miracles and leading a church of thousands. As followers of Jesus, we must rely on the Holy Spirit and allow him to transform us.

The End

What happened to The Twelve? All but two of them became martyrs for their faith – Judas committed suicide, and John died of old age:

  • James, the brother of John, was beheaded with a sword by King Herod
  • Thomas preached in India and was slain with an arrow.
  • Simon the Zealot and Judas, son of James, were crucified.
  • Nathanael was beaten, crucified, and then beheaded.
  • Andrew, Peter’s brother, was crucified.
  • Matthew was run through with a spear.
  • Philip was crucified and then stoned to death.
  • Peter was crucified upside down.
  • James, the son of Alphaeus, was stoned by the Jews.


[1] Greek: apostelló means “to send on a defined mission by a superior.”

[2] From Romans onwards, other people, including women, are designated apostles.

[3] For some entertaining insight into the Twelve Apostles, read this amusing article.

There are several occasions in the Gospels when Jesus heals someone or raises them from the dead and then gives them strict orders not to tell anyone. Have you ever wondered why Jesus did this? If I or someone I loved was supernaturally restored, how could I not shout it from the rooftop?

One Story

We find one such story in Mark 5, where Jairus, an official of the local synagogue, begged Jesus to place his hands on his little daughter, who was very sick. Jairus believed that if Jesus did this, she would get well and live. However, while Jesus was on his way, Jairus’ daughter died. Upon arrival at the house, Jesus held her by the hand and said, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” To the astonishment of everyone in the room, she stood up and began to walk around.

At this point, Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone and to give her something to eat. People believed that ghosts and spirits could not eat food, so Jesus told the family to feed the girl to prove that she was alive. Furthermore, it had been a big day, and she was probably hungry!

Tell No-One

Why did Jesus order them to tell no one about the miracle? He did this on several occasions. One of these gives us a clue as to why Jesus was firm on this. It concerns the leper’s healing (Mark 1): Then Jesus spoke sternly to him and sent him away at once, after saying to him, “Listen, do not tell anyone about this…but the man went away and began to spread the news everywhere. Indeed, he talked so much that Jesus could not go into a town publicly. Instead, he stayed out in lonely places, and people came to him from everywhere.

It was the same with the healing of the deaf man (Mark 7): Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. Nevertheless, the more he did so, the more they talked about it.

Five Reasons Why

I have pondered the reasons why Jesus was so strict about this and suggested five reasons why Jesus told people to be quiet:

  1. Jesus wanted people to know the genuineness of the miracles.

Through the years, I have heard many people claim they’ve healed. I have also listened to evangelists glorify their ministry by talking up the hundreds or thousands of people saved and healed at their meetings – all without proof. It appears that Jesus is concerned about genuine miracles. Who would have thought?

When the leper was healed, Jesus spoke to him sternly: “Don’t tell anyone, but go straight to the priest and let him examine you; then, in order to prove to everyone that you are cured, offer the sacrifice that Moses ordered.” If you believe you have been healed through prayer, I encourage you to go to your doctor to authenticate the legitimacy of the miracle.

  1. Jesus didn’t want the publicity to make him too famous.

The former leper mentioned above talked so much that Jesus could not go into a town publicly. Word spread like a bushfire about Jesus’ healing power, and he became too much in demand. His popularity restricted his ministry. He had to change location from the towns to deserted places.

  1. Jesus’ popularity affected his personal life and emotions.

Mark reports that Jesus stayed out in lonely places. That’s an interesting choice of words by Mark. We tend to think about famous people with a touch of envy but consider how restricted they are because of their fame. Many of the freedoms we take for granted are off-limits to them, thus impacting their personal lives and emotions. Jesus undoubtedly saw his popularity as affecting him deeply and wanted to care for himself so that he could also care for others.

  1. Jesus wanted the miracles to stay within his message.

Jesus’ message was to preach the good news of the kingdom of God, a genuine offer for God to rule in the hearts of those who believe in His name. Miracles are incredible, but the message changes a life now and for eternity. Throughout my many years of following Jesus, I have come across many people who follow signs and wonders, and in so doing, they often miss the life-changing message of the Gospel. Miracles belong within the gospel message and should never be our focus.

  1. The miracles and crowds made the Pharisees jealous.

Jealously was the driving force that eventually caused the Pharisees to arrest Jesus. However, Jesus would be cautious about inflaming their envy unnecessarily because he had much to do before he was finally arrested and crucified.

Consider Matthew’s account of the healing of two blind men when their sight was restored. Jesus spoke sternly to them, “Don’t tell this to anyone! But they left and spread the news about Jesus all over that part of the country. Matthew then tells of an unhelpful interaction with the Pharisees. Jesus did not want to be arrested and crucified ahead of time.

The Exception

The only time Jesus told someone to talk about the miracle was the man delivered from the legion of demons: Return to your home [the Decapolis] and declare how much God has done for you. (Lk. 8:38-39).

The Decapolis was a gentile area that Jesus would visit later with great success. This man would do the groundwork for Jesus by sharing his testimony. Jesus did not need or desire the same level of publicity in Jewish regions.

There are a few reasons that Jesus told people to remain silent when he healed them. Today, some of these explanations still apply. Followers of Jesus should be careful not to follow miracles, thus making them idols. Moreover, when miracles happen, they should be tested to ensure they are genuine. Let us be wary of calling something a miracle or healing before it has been authenticated.

Since I decided to follow Jesus, I have loved reading and studying the Scriptures. But I can’t say that my relationship with the Bible has been easy-going. That’s mainly because of how I understood the Bible to work and how it should be read. I’ll explain:

The Uniform Way

For the first couple of decades of my Christian life, I read the Bible as a uniform text where every word has equal authority. The justification for this approach to Scripture is 1 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” There it is in plain language, “all Scripture.” It’s all equal, all important and all the same. Except I have never met any Christian who lives the Bible this way – me included! So, what did Paul mean?

Paul is writing to his dear son, who led the Ephesian church. Timothy struggled with the burden of his role, so the apostle wrote to encourage him. Amongst other things, Paul reminds Timothy of his devotion to “the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

All Scripture is helpful, but that doesn’t mean that all Scripture is applied equally. The problem with the uniform way of reading the Bible is that it doesn’t account for this difference. More on that next week.

The Progressive Way

The Progressive Way views the Scriptures as a developing story “where all the words accumulate in a crescendo of consistent truth.”[1] In recent years, I have become much more comfortable with this way of reading Scripture as it embraces the evolving narrative of God’s love for people and his desire to “reconcile the world to himself in Christ.”

The Bible is living, dynamic, and energetic. Just like flowing water, the Bible’s message is heading somewhere. It’s got momentum, and it’s progressing. For example, the Bible shifts from a revenge perspective to a way of grace and kindness personified in Christ. We witness the Bible’s progression in many ways, including slavery, women’s rights, interracial marriage, illegitimate children, war, capital punishment, and gender diversity. The Bible is not a static book. But there’s still a better way to read and understand the Scriptures.

The Jesus’ Way

The Bible itself calls Jesus the Word. Notice the capital W. When speaking about Scripture, the Bible employs a small ‘w’. Jesus is the Big W Word, the One to whom the written word must bow because Jesus is Lord! If Jesus Christ is Lord, he is supreme even over the Bible.

That’s how Jesus understood Scripture. Consider his Sermon on the Mount, where he altered several Old Testament verses. “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors,” said Jesus, “But I tell you…”

Jesus abolished the food laws (Mark 7:19), and Paul agreed (Romans 14). Goodbye Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, and hello bacon!

At other times Jesus disagreed with Scripture (Mark 10:1-9) or chose not to argue about individual verses and extend kindness instead (John 5:1-14; 8:2-11), something we Christians would do well to imitate.

The Revd. Peter Bartel put it this way, “Read the Bible. When anything in the rest of the Bible disagrees with Jesus, listen to Jesus.” Jesus is Lord!

A Beautiful Example

Luke is the only gospel writer to include the amazing story of post-resurrection Jesus walking and talking with two of his disciples. Luke tells us that the men, Simon and Cleopas, were kept from recognising him.

Jesus gave them the most amazing Bible study as they chatted: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Wow! I have wondered why Luke didn’t document Jesus’ words. I can only think that it was because we are supposed to read and study Scripture for ourselves. Christians are to read the Bible like that, the Jesus’ way.

Final Reflections

C.S. Lewis wrote, “It is Christ himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to him.”

Neither Lewis nor I are devaluing the Bible. We are simply putting it in its proper place. I am not teaching a low view of Scripture but a high view of Jesus. I fear that making the Bible an idol is possible as if the Trinity consisted of Father, Son, and Holy Scriptures.

The Bible teaches that Jesus is the Word of God! The primary revelation about Jesus is found in the small w word. Each page points to him. And so, as you read the Bible, Jesus’ Way ask: 

  1. How does this point to or reflect Jesus?
  2. In what way(s) does this draw me into intimacy with Jesus?
  3. Does this verse or story align with what I know about Jesus?

For a Christian, it’s the only way to read Scripture!


[1] A More Christlike Word. Dr Bradley Jersak (P. 41).

In last week’s blog, I explored the principal theories offered to describe and define the atonement, what Jesus achieved on the cross. There’s one more belief that requires more space than I could have given it last week, so that’s the subject of this blog ~ the limited atonement theory.


The idea of limited atonement is a theological doctrine associated with Calvinism or Reformed theology. Limited atonement suggests that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was intended only for the salvation of a specific group of people who are “elect” or the “chosen.”

However, limited atonement is debated among Christians, and there are valid arguments against it. Like me, those who disagree with limited atonement argue for a broader understanding of God’s redemptive work and emphasise the universal scope of Christ’s sacrifice.


The concept of limited atonement is defended by its proponents through a series of clever arguments. For example, they say that the Israelite sacrificial system, the prototype of atonement in Scripture, consisted of offerings given to Israel alone by God, to be performed by Israel alone to God, and whose benefits applied to Israel alone to the glory of God. In other words, it was limited.

In the New Testament, the limited reach of salvation is supported by verses like Matthew 1:21, “Jesus…will save his people from their sins.” “His people” being the Jews.

John 10:11 is also quoted in support of limited atonement. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus goes on to distinguish between those who are His sheep and those standing there who were not (v.26), suggesting that his atonement does not apply to them.

In Romans 8, while reflecting on Jesus’ death (32), Paul asks: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” (33) Limited atonement supporters use these verses to say that Christ’s death is restricted to the people God chooses, and not for everyone else.


While it’s true that the Jewish sacrificial system was just for Israel, God’s intention through Israel was that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” ultimately, I believe, that blessing came through Jesus the Messiah.

Matthew’s statement that Jesus came to save his people from their sins is the same. One occasion, Jesus stated, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” He said this to a Gentile [Canaanite] woman who asked Jesus to heal her daughter. It’s a fascinating discussion in which Jesus banters with the little lady and draws out her great faith. He compliments her and heals her daughter showing that he did NOT just come for Israel but for Gentiles too.

Some of Jesus’ final words express this truth: “Go and make disciples of all the nations.” Nations (ethnos) refers to the world’s Gentile people groups. Why would Jesus instruct his followers to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” if, in fact, he only intended to save Jewish people? The gospel is universal in scope.


Rather than Jesus’ work being limited, it is the opposite. Here are some of my reasons for this belief:

God’s desire for all to be saved: The Bible repeatedly expresses God’s passion for the salvation of all people. For instance, 1 Timothy 2:4 says God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” The idea of limited atonement conflicts with this inclusive message.

The universality of sin: The Bible teaches that all humans are sinners and need redemption. Consider Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If sin affects all people universally, Christ’s atoning sacrifice should likewise have universal significance. And let’s not forget the next verse, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Notice the word “all.” ALL have sinned; ALL are justified. Not a limited few.

God’s love for the world: One of the most well-known verses in the Bible, John 3:16, speaks of God’s love for the world and offer of salvation to all people.

The extent of Christ’s work is evident in John’s statement in chapter two of his first epistle. The entire chapter refutes the idea that Jesus’ death was in some way to appease God’s wrath against us. John writes, ” [Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Christ’s sacrifice is not limited to a specific group of God’s favourites. Everyone is welcome and worthy, including YOU.


We find the most in-depth insights into the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the resurrection chapter. Please read and ponder verses 35 to 50, in which Paul states his case and then illustrates it with several mini parables. He begins with two questions asking how the dead are raised and what kind of body they will have.

Question one is answered in the first part of the chapter. The dead are raised because Jesus has defeated death through his resurrection. Because Jesus has conquered death, we can, too, as we place our trust in him. Paul then turns his attention to question 2: With what kind of body will they come?

The Example of the Seed

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed, he gives its own body.

The seed is a body that first must die. In John 12:24, Jesus said unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. No doubt, Jesus was speaking about his impending death. He died as just one man, but his resurrection has cultivated many “seeds” – the billions of people following him.

That body (seed) dies, and God gives it a new body different from the one that perishes. That’s excellent news. Your resurrection body won’t have the same limitations of tiredness, hunger, and sickness endured by the human body.

As Kenneth E. Bailey says, “the new plant that arises from the soil is not created out of the vegetable matter found in the seed. Paul is not telling his readers that in the resurrection the (flesh) will magically reform and arise using the same bone and flesh with which it died.”

This is important because sometimes Christians are unsure about organ donation and cremation because they fear it may affect the resurrection. But your new body will be made of different stuff, so have no fear.

Flesh and Sun

Paul continues this thought in the following parable. The resurrected body will be different from the natural body we possess now. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.

He then speaks about Heavenly bodies. Paul isn’t referring to Hollywood actors here; he has the sun, moon, and stars in mind. The sun has one kind of splendour, the moon and the stars another, and each star differs in brilliance. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.

From our point of view, the sun dies each night and is resurrected in the morning. Even though the sun doesn’t move, we speak of it rising and setting. The moon and stars die each morning and get resurrected each evening. In the same way, death and resurrection are part of each day’s cycle.

Adam and Jesus

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable; it is raised imperishable it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

Paul continues by using the example of the first man, Adam, and the last Adam (Jesus). The first Adam inaugurated the long chain of perishable human bodies. According to Bailey, “the last Adam, Jesus, launched a new age where the incorruptible will inherit the eternal kingdom in the new creation. Paul is referring to the coming of the kingdom of God in its fullness at the end of the age.”[1]

In this present life, all people are like The First Man, having a natural body of the “dust of the earth.” (Genesis 3:19). Almost 99% of the human body’s mass is made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Almost all of the remaining 1% comprises another five elements: potassium, sulphur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. Our natural body, says Paul, is perishable, sown in dishonour and weakness as typified by the first Adam who disobeyed, lied to cover it up, blamed his wife, and then blamed God.

As was the earthly man, so are those of the earth. In other words, we can all relate to Adam’s story because it is our story too. We blame others and God rather than take personal responsibility. We are sinners, but that is NOT the end of the story. Like a seed precedes a plant, the natural body precedes the spiritual body.

Paul writes, “just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” Paul refers to Jesus as the last Adam, the second man, and the heavenly man, and makes several statements about the resurrection body which is:

Raised imperishable. The resurrected body will not decay or perish (John 3:16). It will be immortal.

Raised in glory. Possessing qualities of integrity, reliability, and wisdom.

Raised in power. The ability to express the life-giving power of love like Jesus demonstrated through the cross.

Raised a spiritual body. The natural (physical) body is sown into death, and, just like a grain of wheat, it springs up as a spiritual body. This body is constituted and directed by the Holy Spirit, thus one that cannot sin, as was God’s original plan.

A Body Like Jesus’

In the resurrection, we will acquire a body that is like Jesus’ resurrection body – tangible, physical. We will not be disembodied spirits floating around on clouds playing the harp. Thank goodness! After his resurrection, Jesus walked, talked, and ate food with people. He was seen by them but also vanished and reappeared in different places. He moved with ease between physical and spiritual dimensions.

Kenneth E. Bailey writes, “In the resurrection, the believer will have a Spirit-constituted physical body. The brokenness and decay of the old body will be gone. The new body will be a physical body like the resurrected body of Christ. Such a glorious vision and promise calls for an exuberant hymn of victory,” which is how Paul ends this chapter:

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”


[1] Bailey, Kenneth E. Paul through Mediterranean eyes, p. 460.

I imagine you’ve recently caught the news concerning a lewd joke about Jesus being told on The Project. Gay comedian and cabaret performer Reuben Kaye was a guest on the current affairs program a few days ago and created a storm over a crude reference to Jesus. What’s happened since is a stream of comments, news reports, and blogs expressing outrage, support, and everything in between. So, here’s another one!


Watching the interview, you’ll notice that The Project‘s anchor man, Waleed Aly, was singularly unimpressed with Kaye’s joke. The following day, Aly told The Project‘s audience, “We want to acknowledge the particular offence and hurt that it caused our Muslim and especially our Christian viewers. Obviously, I understand how profound that offence was.” Aly is a devout Muslim. Jesus is greatly revered within Islam and is the most-mentioned person in the Quran.

Another panellist, Sarah Harris, also apologised, “Live TV is unpredictable,” she said. “And when this happened in the last few moments of the show, it took us all by surprise; there wasn’t a lot of time to react in a considered way.” She’s spot on. I interviewed hundreds of people during my radio and television career, and things can be unpredictable, especially when interviewing “live.” We’re all wiser in hindsight. Think about all the times you’d love to go back to THAT conversation (or argument) and say things differently or not at all. That’s what live interviewing is like. You do your best at the time. You apologise when you get it wrong. But, of course, the apology was not enough for some.

The Backstory

Reuben Kaye has spoken about the hate he receives for his sexuality and dressing up in drag, particularly from the Christian community. Pause and think about that. The people who follow Jesus and carry the good news; people who are to treat others in the way they would like to be treated; people who are to love their neighbour as themselves have communicated hatred towards a person, and a community, because they are perceived as more sinful than others. The LGBTQ+ minorities have been singled out by much of the church for special attention and particular condemnation.

And so, should those who frequently receive disdain from Christians not feel justified in firing a few shots back? While I disagree with Reuben Kaye’s joke, I understand why he spoke the way he did. I’d love to hear his story one day if I ever have the chance to chat with him.

Cancel Culture

How has the Christian community reacted to all this? Well, we don’t like it, of course. We’re happy to dish up unkind words to others, but we can’t afford others the right to reply. We cry foul about “Cancel Culture,” then protest against The Project, asking for it to be cancelled. We speak words of judgement and condemnation and act surprised when the recipients of our harshness retaliate.

We argue that our freedom of speech is being threatened, that Christians are under fire, and then whine when someone else expresses their freedom of speech. There’s no hypocrisy to see here; please move on!

But Jesus Got Angry

I can hear the argument already. But Jesus got angry, so we have a right to be angry too. Yes, we do, but let’s reflect on what made Jesus angry. Mark tells the story of Jesus’ anger with the religious leaders who sought to kill him because he was good to people on the Sabbath. Shock horror.

Matthew 23 is an entire chapter that records Jesus’ angry rant towards these same leaders “who shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces,” just like the church has done to the LGBTQ+ community.

And then there’s Jesus’ famous clearing of the temple where he “drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons” – an apparent act of anger. You can’t imagine Jesus doing this with a smile on his face. But why did he do it?

After he cleared the temple court, “the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.” It’s significant because these people weren’t allowed inside the temple because of their disabilities. The space had been filled with people profiting from religion, and Jesus saw red and made room for those genuinely in need.

I wonder if you can see parallels between this story and those modern religion has kept out of God’s church.


What would Jesus think of Reuben Kaye’s joke? How would Jesus respond? Would he be as offended as some of his people? I think not. Jesus was reviled plenty during his life, and he rarely reacted. Peter wrote, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

The gospels tell us that Jesus remained silent before his accusers. Sometimes being quiet takes more strength than talking. How does this enlighten us as followers of Jesus? What if we instead used our voices to speak out against injustice and exclusion? What if we got offended by the things that outraged Jesus?

Jesus is as angry with hypocrisy today as he’s ever been. Any form of Christianity that blocks people from gathering with other believers to grow in grace is NOT the faith that Jesus pioneered. In the gospels, Jesus mixes comfortably with all kinds of people. His only words of anger and condemnation were reserved for religious hypocrites who built walls to keep certain “undesirables” out. Through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus tore the walls down and welcomed all people to come to him and find rest for their souls.

The Project

As for The Project, this has been a challenging time. No doubt there have been lots of discussions and introspection behind the scenes. But I can only speak from personal experience. Waleed Aly and the team at The Project were very kind to Christie and me during the years we advocated for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. They interviewed us and spoke with empathy for the boys. I, for one, would not like to see The Project cancelled. And I hope that we who follow Jesus will speak with kindness and grace and advocate for second (and third) chances for all people, just like we have received ourselves.

The standard “Christian” way to end prayer is by saying, “in Jesus’ name. Amen.” Have you ever wondered why? If so, I am hoping this blog may help you.

Firstly, we don’t need to verbalise these words as if they are a magic formula. The statement “In Jesus’ Name” is not like saying abracadabra. Instead, it is a recognition of three things:


The saying, “stop in the name of the law,” came into being in England with the first police force in the early 1800s. “The name of” is a synonym for authority.

The same goes today when emergency services activate their sirens or flashing lights. It is usually against the law to go through a red light, drive on the wrong side of the road, or move faster than the speed limit. But emergency services possess authority in which a higher law cancels out a lower one to protect life or property.

Similarly, praying in the name of Jesus recognises the authority Jesus has invested in his followers: at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil 2:10).


John, the apostle, records these words of Jesus in chapter 14 of his gospel, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Jesus then gives context to this by teaching on remaining in the vine, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4). The word remain means to be associated, connected, or linked.

Jesus continues, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing…If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:5 & 7).

Praying “in the name of Jesus” recognises our association with Jesus. He has called us “friends”.


My last name is Buckingham, and I was born in London. Next time I visit London, I plan to walk up to the gate of Buckingham Palace, tell them my name, and ask to see the Queen. What do you think of my chances? Buckley’s, I’d say!

But what if I got to know Prince Charles? He and I chat one day at a function, and we become friends. I tell him my wish to see inside the palace that bears my name and meet the Queen. No problem, says Charles, and he makes my wish come true.

I have access because I know the son.

Let that sink in.

The apostle Paul tells us, “In … and through faith in [Christ Jesus our Lord] we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Eph 3:12).

The writer to the Hebrews says that because of Jesus, we can approach God’s “throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 4:16).

Praying “in the name of Jesus” acknowledges our access to God. We do not come to God in prayer in our name. We come boldly in Jesus’ name!

And so, that’s why we say ‘In Jesus’ name,’ before we say Amen. These words acknowledge our authority, association, and access because of Jesus. More importantly, this must be our heart’s attitude rather than merely mouthing the words.

Any spiritual authority has nothing to do with who we are or what we have done. It is not increased with good works or spiritual brownie points. Our authority rests securely in who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he continues to do in the power of his Spirit.

I was recently asked if I thought the world would be a better place if everyone were a Christian. My immediate response was yes. But the answer did not sit well with me and, upon further reflection, I said, “actually, I’m not sure. I would hope so, but maybe it wouldn’t.” Here are the reasons I changed my mind.

Extreme Examples

The answer to the question depends on what kind of Christian you have in mind. If it is any of the following, the answer is no. No, the world would not be a better place if everyone was a Christian. Consider:

  • Christian snipers in Beirut.
  • Catholics and Protestants blew each other up in the Northern Irish Troubles.
  • The Lord’s Resistance Army that wanted to create a Ugandan state based on the Ten Commandments.
  • Plus, the Spanish Inquisition, Salem Witch Trials, and forced conversions to Christ during the Crusades.

Those “Christians” certainly did not make the world a better place.

Modern Examples

On social media, I am frequently exposed to Christians acting in anything like a Christian manner. Unkind, judgemental, accusatory, argumentative, aggressive, you name it. There is a definite lack of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:23-24). I try and reason with such people but often to no avail. I wonder how they treat people in their workplaces and families.

And yet, they all say they are Christian, but there is a disconnect between their faith and actions.

Christians at War

The disconnect invariably comes from what is taught in their local church. Spiritual warfare is consistently aimed at personalities like politicians even though “our struggle is not against flesh and blood.” And so, they are constantly “at war” with the world rather than “in love” with it like God is (think, John 3:16).

I know where they are coming from because that used to be me. When I became a Christian in the late 70s, we thought the antichrist and Illuminati were about to launch the Great Tribulation and a One-World Government. Communism was taking over the world, and non-Christians (and lukewarm Christians) would be left behind after the rapture. Of course, none of this happened.

It is sad to see history repeat itself and a whole new generation of conspiratorial Christians waging war on nothing! The enemy has changed, but the mindset remains the same. The world is NOT a better place by the attitudes and behaviour of these Christians.

History Repeats

The Moral majority and religious right were born out of a movement protesting against desegregation in the 1960s USA. Around this time, Christian schools opened because white Christians didn’t want to have mixed-race classes, which were perceived as unholy. The home-schooling movement followed in the 1970s.

Later, the religious right added abortion and LGBTIQA+ people as enemies to fight because this religious brand constantly needs an enemy to survive. It keeps people in fear and leverages this fear to generate commitment and cash. People will donate time and money to a cause they perceive will help win the war against … (fill in the blank of whatever the current enemy is).

Inventing an Enemy

For many years, communism was the target of the religious right’s attention. When the Berlin Wall fell, it was time to identify a new social enemy against which the religious right could mobilise. Enter cultural Marxism, “the perfect post-communist adversary located specifically in the cultural realm – academics, Hollywood, journalists, civil rights activists and feminists. It has been a mainstay of conservative activism and rhetoric ever since.”

The global pandemic has provided fertile ground for Christians who love to play the victim. It is a new Cold War waged against the so-called elites. But Cultural Marxism is a conspiracy theory just like all the other “alternative facts” spread by Christians at war. The world would not be a better place if everyone were like this.


In the early 2000s, the Barna Foundation commissioned David Kinnaman to conduct “groundbreaking research into the perceptions … sixteen to twenty-nine-year-olds” have of Christians. What they discovered should shock and challenge all Jesus’ followers. These young adults perceived Christians to be hypocritical, anti-gay, judgmental, and insensitive. The research published in UnChristian is one of the most challenging books I have ever read.

It is a sad indictment upon the church that produces disciples of Jesus that are nothing like Jesus. Jesus, the man who hung out with the poor and side-lined and who ate with the unclean. He was scathing towards those who were religious but lacked mercy, who “shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces” (Matthew 23:13). The world would certainly NOT be a better place if all the Christians were unchristian.

The Genuine Article

The world needs to see authentic Christianity – people who are honest about their failures and mistakes. We owe it to people to apologise for our missteps. To open our lives to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to make us like Jesus. We read the gospels to investigate what Jesus was like, who he spent time with, how he spoke, and interacted with people. We pray that we will progressively become more like him. Not people locked away in church buildings or protesting against this world, but people who get their hands dirty in helping the poor. We welcome the excluded even though we know that other Christians will criticise us and leave the church because “those people are here.” I know because I have experienced this firsthand.

On October 23 1915, Albert Einstein published an astonishing 3-page critique of the growing “Christian nationalism” in the country of his birth. He argued that the problem with hateful Christians is their departure from Christianity. Written in his native German, the little essay is titled “Meine Meinung über den Krieg” or “My Opinion of the War.” It ends with the beautiful words (translated from his German): “Yet, why so many words, when I can say it all in a single sentence, and indeed in a sentence that is most apt for me as a Jew: Honour your master, Jesus Christ, not only with words and songs but, rather, foremost through your deeds.” Apparently, the antidote to violent, nationalist Christians is … Christianity!

I think it would be helpful to rephrase the question. “Would the world be a better place if everyone were like Jesus?” It’s a massive YES from me!

There’s no doubt that Mary Magdalene was a significant person to Jesus and the first-century church. But there’s no mention of her after Jesus rose from the dead. Who was this woman, and what do we know about her?

Magdalene wasn’t her surname. In Jesus’ time, people were either known by who they were related to or from. For example, Jesus called Peter Simon bar-Jonah. Bar means “son of,” and Jonah was Peter and Andrew’s, father.

Mary Magdalene was Mary of Magdala. When I searched Magdala online, the first selection was Magdala fine foods, near Geelong. But that’s not the one we read of in the Bible. Magdala is a city in Galilee, located in the northernmost region of ancient Palestine (now northern Israel). It’s a beautiful town on the West bank of the Sea of Galilee.

The ancient town of Magdala has been excavated since 2009. It was covered with repeated landslides over the centuries. Still, since its discovery, archaeologists have uncovered a first-century Synagogue, a marketplace, Menorah, fishing pools, four mikva’ot (Jewish ritual baths), mosaics, a domestic area, a wharf, and a harbour.

Mary from Magdala was one of the earliest followers of Jesus. According to the Bible, she travelled with him and was present when he was crucified and died, buried, and resurrected.

She’s mentioned in all four Gospels demonstrating how important she was considered by the gospel writers and the early church.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.

It was Mary, along with Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told the apostles about Jesus’ resurrection.

Luke 8:1-3 gives the most comprehensive account of Mary, “Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”

Robert Cargill, assistant professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Iowa, wrote, “She was named in the Gospels, so she obviously was important. There were apparently hundreds, if not thousands, of followers of Jesus, but we don’t know most of their names. So, the fact that she’s named is a big deal.”

Despite—or perhaps because of—Mary Magdalene’s evident importance in the Bible, some early Western church leaders sought to downplay her influence by portraying her as a sinner, specifically a prostitute.

Robert Cargill again: “There are many scholars who argue that because Jesus empowered women to such an extent early in his ministry, it made some of the men who would lead the early church later on uncomfortable, and so, there were two responses to this. One was to turn her into a prostitute.”

And so, Mary became linked with the unnamed woman with the alabaster box (Luke 7:37) who had lived a sinful life as a prostitute.

In 591 CE, Pope Gregory the Great solidified this misunderstanding in a sermon: “She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary [of Bethany], we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark.”

In this way, the church’s patriarchal leadership sought to diminish her, downplaying the importance she held in Jesus’ and the gospel writers’ eyes. The inference being, “She couldn’t have been a leader because look at what she did for a living.”

The other response was to elevate her: Some argued she was actually Jesus’ wife or companion who held a special status. That’s the view explored by Dan Brown in his riveting novel, Da Vinci Code (It’s a great book but a lousy movie).

The book’s blurb states: Mary Magdalene was depicted as being of royal descent (through the Jewish House of Benjamin) and was the wife of Jesus, of the House of David. After Jesus’s Crucifixion, she fled to Gaul, where she was sheltered by the Jews of Marseille. She gave birth to a daughter named Sarah.

The Gospel of Mary, a text dating from the second century CE that surfaced in Egypt in 1896, placed Mary Magdalene above Jesus’ male disciples in knowledge and influence. She also featured prominently in the so-called Gnostic Gospels, a group of texts believed to have been written by early Christians as far back as the second century but not discovered until 1945, near the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi.

One of these texts, known as the Gospel of Philip, referred to Mary Magdalene as Jesus’s companion and claimed that Jesus loved her more than the other disciples. Most controversially, the text stated that Jesus used to kiss Mary often.

Then in 2012, the Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King unveiled a previously unknown papyrus fragment she believed to be a copy of a second-century gospel. In the text, Jesus referred to Mary Magdalene as “my wife.” After defending the document’s authenticity against a barrage of criticism, King eventually changed her stance, concluding that the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s wife” was probably a forgery.

The Bible gives no hint that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’s wife.

None of the four gospels suggests that sort of relationship, even though they list the women who travel with Jesus and in some cases include their husbands’ names.

The version of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute held on for centuries after Pope Gregory the Great made it official in his sixth-century sermon. Finally, in 1969, the Roman Catholic Church admitted that the text of the Bible did not support that interpretation. Today, Mary Magdalene is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches, celebrating a feast on July 22.

Robert Cargill again: “Mary appears to have been a disciple of Jesus. What’s important is that Jesus had both male and female disciples in his ministry, which was not necessarily common at the time.”

The prostitute and the wife theories may have been around for centuries, but they are legends and traditions that grew up long after the fact: Neither of them is rooted in the Bible itself.

Conclusion: Mary Magdalene was an astonishing woman, a disciple of Jesus, and, no doubt, became a significant leader in the first-century church.

It’s a question I’m regularly asked: Is it alright to pray to Mary and the Saints?

I write this with the highest respect for my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. I have learned, and continue to learn, much from you. I especially appreciate your great reverence for Mary, something that is often lacking in non-Roman Catholic churches. She was, as the angel declared, blessed and highly favoured!

Roman Catholic Theology

The doctrine of praying to Mary and the saints comes from some verses of Scripture found in James and Revelation. The Bible tells Christians to pray for one another (James 5:16). Catholic theologians then ask, “What human, other than the God-Man Jesus, is more righteous than Mary? She is full of grace (Luke 1:28) and blessed among women (Luke 1:42).” Roman Catholics believe that while on the cross, Jesus gave Mary to be the mother of all humanity when he said to John, “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:27). What good mother isn’t concerned with her children? Mary loves her children and prays for them.

Along with the other saints, Mary has died and gone to heaven, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned with the Church on Earth. Christians on Earth may be physically separated from Christians in heaven. Still, we are all connected supernaturally in the mystical Body of Christ. Christ has conquered death; what is more powerful: Death or the blood of Christ?

Roman Catholics also quote Revelation 8:3-4, “And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.” The text clearly states that angels in heaven are offering up the prayers of the saints. For whom are they praying? People in heaven or hell don’t need our prayers, so they must be praying for people on Earth and in purgatory. Or so the reasoning goes.

Who are the saints?

Much of this depends on the definitions used. To a Roman Catholic, a saint is a Christian who has died after leading a courageously virtuous life, embracing charity, faith, and hope and has at least one attested miracle to their name. To non-Roman Catholics, saints are followers of God (Hebrew Scriptures) or disciples of Jesus (New Testament).

“Saints” is always in the plural in Scripture speaking of a company of God’s people. And they were very much alive. Consider Acts 26:10 where Paul is telling his conversion story: “This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.” It’s hard to lock up dead people in jail.

What about Mary?

Mary was blessed for her faith but was still a sinner who needed to accept Jesus, her Son, as Saviour. Consider the story recorded by Matthew, “He was still speaking to the crowds when suddenly His mother and brothers were standing outside wanting to speak to Him. Someone told Him, “Look, your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to You.” But He replied to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother” (12:46-50). In other words, it’s more blessed to be a follower of Christ than to be the mother of Christ.

After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, Mary joined the Church as a disciple of Jesus. “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14).

Wrong Assumptions?

The Roman Catholic doctrine of Assumption supports the veneration of Mary and the practice of praying to her. The tradition teaches that Mary was taken up into heaven like Jesus – physically and spiritually after she died. Since before the Middle Ages, this has been a popular idea, but not made official doctrine in the Roman Catholic Church until Pope Pius XII declared it so in 1950.

The earliest prayer to Mary, and prayer to the saints, is from the 3rd century. There is no mention of praying to the saints in the Bible. As for mediators? “There is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human.” (1 Tim. 2:5, HCSB)

I’ll finish with a story. As you’re aware, my last name is Buckingham, and I was born in London. My parents emigrated to Perth, WA, in 1971, and I didn’t go back to the UK until Christie and I were married in the mid-90s. Now, consider that I wanted to visit Buckingham Palace. I walk up to the front gates and say to the guards, “Hi, my name is Rob Buckingham. This place bears my name, and I’d like to go in and chat with Her Majesty.” What do you think my chances would be? Did you say, “Zero?” You’d be right!

But, what if I met Prince Charles, and he and I got talking and hit it off? After a while, I tell him I’ve always wanted to see the palace. He says to me that’s not a problem, and off we go. We walk up to the gates, and they open without question. We go into the palace and into the throne room to meet mummy. I’m with the son. I have access.

It’s the same with God. The Bible says, “In him [Jesus, the Son] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Eph. 3:12). Not with Mary, not with the saints, but with the Son. Enjoy your freedom!


Last week, Christie and I, along with millions of others, watched the Oprah interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. I must admit to not being terribly excited about the prospect of seeing it. Still, the rest of the family was keen, so here are some take home thoughts:

Everyone has an opinion

What followed was several days in which newspapers, TV shows, and social media seemed interested in little else. Professional commentators and amateurs alike had various opinions of the couple’s attitudes, behaviour, and words. Families and friends across the world have been arguing passionately about the Royal Family. Are Harry and Meghan manipulators or schemers, victims or bullies? Were they innocent or guilty? Was it the Queen’s fault, or was it Prince Charles? Or Prince Phillip? Everyone wanted someone to blame.

I will not comment on the interview or their behaviour, but the hubbub made me wonder what Jesus thinks. Who would Jesus blame? Whose side would he take?

Jesus’ Example

And that’s just it. Whenever Jesus was challenged to blame people, to take sides, he questioned the motives and actions of others instead. Consider these examples:

  • A prostitute washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair and anointed him with expensive perfume. Those present questioned her motivation and generosity as well as Jesus’ discernment. But Jesus didn’t condemn her. Instead, he celebrated her heart and actions.
  • A soldier from the oppressive army occupying Jesus’ country asked for help for his beloved servant. Jesus gave it.
  • As a religious teacher, people were shocked when Jesus invited himself to a cheating traitor’s home, treated as an outcast by Jericho’s townspeople. They grumbled and gossiped until the money started to flow from Zacchaeus’ wallet when his heart was transformed by Jesus’ love and acceptance.
  • Jesus touched lepers. He was not repulsed by people considered to be outcasts. He talked to women, a taboo for a single man in his culture. Jesus frequently shattered the stereotypes of every expectation of a religious leader. And the people loved him for it.

Acceptance First

The wonderful thing is that the people who met Jesus in first-century Palestine were profoundly changed. It’s important to note that, on most occasions, Jesus didn’t demand change first. He welcomed and accepted people unconditionally as a precious gift. Often, individuals, communities, and cultures reject people who do not look like them or don’t behave in line with “the norms”.

This acceptance by Jesus of others is one reason why he is such a compelling figure to me. This gift of his acceptance attracted me to follow him when I was a young atheist radio DJ. This same acceptance has challenged millions of people throughout history and across the globe to strive to live the same way.

This desire to follow Jesus’ example has challenged me to model that same acceptance to others. Sure, I fail at this sometimes, but desiring to be courageously like Jesus gives me example and motivation. And this is my challenge for all of us. As we express our opinions about Harry and Meghan, are we showing the acceptance of Jesus?

And what about in everyday life? As Jesus’ followers, do we accept or shun? Do we embrace or reject? Do we harbour secret feelings of superiority? Like the Pharisee who stood by himself and prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like the other men – swindlers, evildoers, adulterers” (Luke 18:10-11). This man was very religious, but his pride prevented him from accepting those he considered unworthy.

Sadly, this kind of religious superiority and bigotry is still alive and well in Jesus’ church. For them, people need to get their beliefs and behaviour in line BEFORE they can belong. Jesus flipped this on its head and put BELONG at the front. Christians and Churches would do well do to get the order right too.

We have witnessed much hype around Harry and Meghan’s interview. Everyone’s got an opinion about them, and the Queen, Prince Charles & Camilla, William and Kate. After all, we’ve watched The Crown, on Netflix, haven’t we?

What we witness in the Royal Family is what we see in all humanity. We are all deeply flawed. We are all deeply loved by God. We are all eternally accepted in Jesus. May our lives reflect that same level of grace.

It’s been fascinating to see the hashtag “rapture anxiety” trend this year on Twitter. And no surprises with all the news that has been tied in with so-called Bible prophecy. Consider the Middle East peace deals with Israel, the US embassy moving to Jerusalem, a 27% increase in natural disasters including wildfires, floods, and earthquakes. Oh, and a global pandemic.

Many people have turned to prayer and the Bible for answers (which is terrific). There’s been a renewed interest in Revelation and the futurist interpretation proclaimed by the contemporary church and made famous by the Left Behind series of books. The futurists focus on the Great Tribulation, antichrist, a rebuilt Jerusalem temple, a peace deal, and the rapture. This reading of Scripture, a view I used to hold to but no longer, causes anxiety in many. Hence the hashtag.


Consider one young mum who wrote to me this week because she was feeling confused and fearful. “I have a young family with a little 2-year-old boy, and I’m worried I won’t see him grow up. I know everyone is going through this, and there are a lot of people scared as I am.” She continued, “To be honest, I didn’t want to read Revelation at the moment with my mental state. That’s why I have been asking a lot of questions to a few people. I believe [the Bible] should not be used as a tool of fear, and I really don’t know what to believe that I keep looking for answers and continue to be more scared than ever.”

I responded, “One of the reasons I’ve been so vocal about the false “end times” doctrine that is spread by many evangelical and Pentecostal churches is the abject fear it causes many people. The world will always hold a mixture of good and evil. The Gospel is good news, though. I would encourage you to stay away from articles and sermons that cause you to fear. Place your faith securely in Jesus and allow yourself to be loved by Him.”

I feel deeply for this young mum and the many others who are anxious and traumatised by an erroneous understanding of the Bible. “#RaptureAnxiety, like #ChurchToo (by which people shared stories of sexual harassment at church) and #EmptythePews (which critiqued hypocrisy in the evangelical community) before it, seeks to amplify the voices of those affected by the waves rocking the evangelical community.”

What the Rapture Isn’t

So, what is this “Rapture” all about? The popular view is it’s a time when believing Christians will be suddenly and unexpectedly caught up to heaven before the events that herald the end of the world. In most accounts of the rapture, believers go straight to heaven, while nonbelievers are left behind to undergo a period of great tribulation (political chaos and personal torment).

The rapture was one of the first things I heard about when I became a Christian in 1977. Jesus was returning in the 80s; the planets would align, causing cataclysmic events on earth. The antichrist was already in the world, and everyone’s eyes were on Israel and the Middle East. What happened? Nothing! And that’s the point! Doomsday prognosticators have existed for centuries, and not one of them has been right.

All of these false predictions have caused untold harm to precious people. Individuals had maxed out their credit cards, believing that the rapture would come before payment was due. Others sold houses, spent all their money, or resigned from jobs. Some failed to plan for an education convinced the end was near. I didn’t buy a house in my late teens and 20s (against the advice of my dad) because Jesus was coming back. That is one of my few regrets even to this day.

The Futurist Error

While early Christianity was intensely focused on Christ’s Second Coming, the “end times” theology as we know it today is relatively recent. While futurism appeared for a brief time in the Christian church’s early centuries, the view was not popular. During the Middle Ages and before the Protestant Reformation, futurist interpretations were virtually non-existent. Two Catholic Jesuit writers in the 16th and 18th centuries proposed the futurist view. Futurism became popular among the Puritan preachers in the 18th century and has grown in popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries so that today it is probably the most readily recognised. 

So, what does the Bible say about the rapture, and should it cause anxiety? Firstly, the Bible doesn’t use the word “rapture” anywhere. The Bible’s word is resurrection. In my early days as a Christian, Matthew 24:40-41 was the go-too passage proving the rapture: “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken, and the other left.” These verses were the inspiration for the popular Christian song, I wish we’d all been ready.

No doubt this song scared a lot of people into the Kingdom of God and caused a lot of #RaptureAnxiety.

But Jesus is not speaking here about a rapture. The context is “readiness and alertness.” Some will be ready for Jesus’ return while others, as they were in the days of Noah, will be blissfully unaware. One will be taken (taken by surprise; taken in judgment) while the other one will be left. The person you want to be is the one who is left, not the one taken! Paul reinforces this point in his first letter to the Thessalonian believers, “But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief” (5:4).

What the Rapture is

Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonian church present the most detailed description of the rapture/Second Coming of Jesus in the Bible: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (4:16-18).

Notice the order of events:

  1. Jesus comes down from heaven
  2. Deceased Christians rise to meet him
  3. Living Christians rise to meet him

The word “Meet” means to “escort of a journey.” Followers of Jesus will be gathered from the grave and the four corners of the earth to one point ~ where Jesus is. We will then all descend with Jesus to earth, “And so, we will be with the Lord forever.” No antichrist. No great tribulation. No peace deal with Israel. No cashless society or mark of the beast. No one-world government. No, #RaptureAnxiety. In fact, Paul tells us to “encourage one another with these words” not scare the living daylights out of each other.

Until Christ’s Second Coming, the world will continue as it is. Society will progress as it has for thousands of years. Life will be a mixture of good & bad. As Jesus taught, there’ll be wars and rumours of wars and natural disasters in various places. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

So, should the rapture cause anxiety? Not at all. It’s a day to look forward to as we will ever be with the Lord we love and who loves us. In the meantime, live a life that makes this world a better place, and demonstrate God’s love to others as you have the opportunity. Because He loves them too!


For further study: Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 John 4:17-19