2. Shaking of heaven and earth

Do we really suppose that the current Global Financial Crisis (GFC) is simply one end of the repeated economic bubble of boom and bust? Do we really imagine that it is primarily a manifestation of human greed, even if we sense the wrath of God involved?[1] We should discern in this time of many troubles that the Lamb is rising from his throne in heaven on behalf of his earthly witnesses and in response to their heartfelt prayers for global revival[2]

From ancient times men and women of faith knew that their urgent prayers penetrated the heart of heaven and brought forth a shaking of the earth, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. “The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry. ” (2 Sam 22:7 – 8). The New Testament applies the following prophecy to the entire end – times period in which we live, “For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’” (Hag 2:6 – 9). The writer to the Hebrews says, “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:26 – 29).

To sight, nothing about the GFC looks glorious, but to faith (2 Cor 5:7) the present shaking of the world is a reflection of the action of God in heaven for the sake of his building a glorious house made up of men and women on earth. This devastation is the latest manifestation of a pattern of the shaking of foundations that leads men and women to turn desperately to God[3]. A recent researcher plotting the emotional impact of the GFC investigated the number of searches for “Great Depression” on Google; they were soaring in response to bad economic news. Americans were panicking the most, followed by Australians. The article goes on to say, “For no apparent reason[4], Perth topped the list of the world’s cities”.[5] God is shaking people.

What should our response to such a divine movement on a global scale? His purpose is not limited to a focus on more power encounters, signs and wonders, social justice or any other set of phenomena[6]. Where the church makes these things the focus, legitimate in their own context, the end result is always disappointment[7]. The purposes of the kingdom of God are much greater than this. The Lord is seeking nothing less than a more intense indwelling of his glory in Christ’s Body[8] for the sake of the salvation of the world. The fullness of Habakkuk 2:14, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” awaits the End, but it is the goal towards which all things are moving through us[9]. We are talking about seeing the fullness of Christ penetrating all things: culture, people, the natural environment. The manifest presence of Christ proclaims a clear message, “This is the way home.” Our goal in the preaching and living of the good news is that God in Christ “will be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

The Lord is moving the church on earth[10] to increasingly image the rhythm of heaven. Above[11], the enthroned Jesus is at the centre of everything. In his presence adoration flows, those who love him recognise that he is the King of Kings who releases blessing or judgement on the nations, therefore intercession arises before him and the obedient sons of God[12] are sent forth to harvest the earth. These dynamics of adoration, awe at Christ’s sovereignty, intercession to him and a going forth to disciple the nations are all his present purposes for the church below.

The Lord is moving us to a place where we know the practical meaning of his words, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:19). The church – creating progress of the kingdom of God on earth[13] will visibly echo what is transpiring in heaven. There is however something malevolently blocking this, it is entertainment.

Who are we Sensing?

By “entertainment” I am not principally thinking of TV, DVD, CD, movies…. but the effect these media have on our humanity[14]. The essence of entertainment is that it takes us deeper into our senses. This is what makes entertainment, at least as a lifestyle, so dehumanising. If humanity was made in the image of God, then the glory of humanity is to be drawn ever more deeply into what God is sensing.

We must seriously ask, does the popular music style of our famous churches promote an experience of the heart of God? Does the motivational style of preaching lead us into the core of the divine being[15]? The market driven and seeker centred/sensitive churches of our day, by their very nature, cannot convey “the deep things of God” (1 Cor 2:10). What then is the passion and persuasion that will lead us deeper into the senses of Jesus? A recent experience of mine may prophetically convey the answer.

I was talking with a pastor who started to speak of the importance of being silent before God, I immediately had two sensations. The first was one of enormous power, there was no doubt it was the power of Almighty God. The second awareness, completely involuntary and spontaneous, was of fear and resistance. I did not at all like what I was sensing[16], however I believe it feeds directly into the subject matter of this article.

In both Old and New Testaments there is silence in heaven and earth before God acts in a decisive way. “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” (Hab 2:20); “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests.” (Zeph 1:7); “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” (Zech 2:13); “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” (Rev 8:1 – 5).

Much of the contemporary church has learnt from the apocalyptic images of scripture the lesson of adoring the Lamb, but silence in the presence of sovereignty of God is a discipline that seems to have escaped us. Why?

To say we inhabit a noise filled world where people are always facing flat screens or living with phones in their ears is true but symptomatic. My sense is that we take silence before God[17] as an indication that he is absent and/or angry. Whilst this might be the meaning conveyed by the great silence of the cross (Mark 15:34) to those who are lost, this cannot be true for us who know Jesus. In the very passage that speaks most clearly of the shaking of all things, we are comforted by the knowledge that we have come “to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Heb 12:24). Abel’s blood, like the blood of all the innocents slain from the foundation of the world, cries out for vengeance (Gen 4:10 – 11), but the blood of Jesus speaks to our consciences peace (Heb 13:20; Col 1:20; 1 Pet 1:2). Our failure to dwell in this silence, from which issues all the shakings that are going on about us, suggests that we need to learn again “the elementary doctrine of Christ” (Heb 6:1).

Nevertheless, if the Spirit is speaking to the churches about power and silence, we may be assured that something marvellous is afoot, something truly awesome[18]. I am anticipating that we will witness words and deeds full of the glory of the kingdom of heaven.

Homeless no More

For some years, Christians have spoken of the redemptive gift of nations and cities[19]. In the light of the teaching of this paper, I want to suggest that a redemptive gift[20] that God is unveiling in the present time from Australia is a sense of home. At first sight this might seem to be a peculiar suggestion. From the penal settlement of this nation Australians have lived in a spiritual atmosphere that has made them feel like they have been robbed of glory. Therefore, in the deepest way, they lack a sense of home[21]. Arguably, Australia’s number one social problem is homelessness. Not simply in the fact that over 105,000 are listed as homeless[22], but that so many children are growing up without fathers, and thousands of believers struggle to find a church as home.

Even more fundamentally, the nature of white settlement has been so traumatic for indigenous Australians that many call the national celebration of Australia Day, “Invasion Day”[23]. The recent government report on “the stolen generation” of aboriginal children forcefully removed from their families and placed in government care was called “Bringing them Home”. The notion of homeland is problematic in many ways for aboriginal people. Whilst this matter remains unresolved all the inhabitants of this country are all at a loss.

Back in the 80’s one of the most popular songs in Australia was “I Still Call Australia Home”. It speaks sentimentally of an expatriates longing for home. A sense of home has always been a difficult issue for Australians. To quote intellectual, journalist and social commentator Phillip Adams, “Australians have always worried about national identity. We quarrel over it, we fret about it. The (recent Victorian) bushfires ended the argument….But will it last ….that depends on whether Australians want to keep the communal spirit alive.[24]” Adams tone suggests he anticipates the communal spirit generated by the recent national bushfire disaster will not sustain. I think he is correct.

It needs to be stated categorically that only a sovereign manifestation of the glory of God can heal the homelessness at the heart of modern Australia[25]. Nothing can impart the sense of belonging, welcome, acceptance and wholeness we desperately need apart from a manifestation of the glory of Christ from his heavenly home. This needs something far wider and deeper than a few exciting church meetings. This involves a gospel much bigger than simply the forgiveness of sins. It requires more than a visitation of God[26]; it requires an experience of being God’s habitation that will spill out from the hearts of his people (John 7:37 – 39) into the marketplace- schools, pubs, parliaments, brothels, board rooms, factories, offices and every place where human beings experience a sense of lostness.

It is no accident of history that all the nations of the world have been drawn to Australia; it is part of God’s plan for a global homecoming at the close of the age. Almost half of the population of Western Australia has one or both parents born overseas. People from more than 200 countries, speaking 270 languages and embracing more than 100 religious faiths live here.[27] Western Australia has a prophetic destiny in Christ to become a “home for all peoples”.

This will not happen spontaneously nor mystically, but only as the body of Christ embraces what it means to be a “house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17), that is, a home for God from which the Spirit intercedes to the Father (Rom 8:26 – 27) for the discipling of all the nations of the earth (Matt 28:18 – 20). We await with prayer and patience the descent of the Spirit from on high to bring us into the “peaceful habitations” of his love (Isa 32:15 – 18), where we sense, perhaps for the first time in our lives, “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23).


Someone wisely said a revelation of home precedes a revelation of the need for house cleaning. Only when the churches hear that the Spirit is saying, “You are the dwelling place of God”, will they be moved to get their house in order for the Holy resident. Home is where it is all heading; this is why Jesus died and why everything is being gathered to him[28]. In the End, all peoples will find their home in him[29].

In the meantime we await the opening of the celestial temple that will give us a revelation that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20). As the Spirit unveils to us that to be “away from the body “is to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8) the vain efforts to fill our earthly lives and residences with meaning through material consumption will melt away. Only as we bathe in the radiance of the heavenly glory as it descends from above can we be free from all the constraints of culture and nationalism and point men and women “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9) to their true home in God. Only God can send a sovereign manifestation of glory that will provokes this. Surely however this is his deepest pleasure and purpose (Eph 1:9).

[1] As per Romans 1:18ff, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”.

[2] After the pattern of Stephen, “But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”” (Acts 7:55 – 56).

[3] For example, Isaiah 6:3 – 5, “And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 At the sound of their voices the door posts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” ” Cf. Rev 11:1 – 13.

[4] Locals can explain this easily, we have been told over here to expect an endless China –driven economic boom fuelled by the mineral resources of our enormous state (2,645,615 km², 1,021,478 sq mi). West Australians are afraid of losing so much they have taken for granted.

[5] The Weekend Australian march 7 – 8 2009, p.18

[6] None of which are excluded from the kingdom of God.

[7] Consider the hopes centred on the Third Wave, the Toronto Blessing, the social gospel movement etc.

[8] The glorious image of Jesus in Revelation 1 leads into the prophecies for the church in chapters 2 – 3.

[9] “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Eph 1:22).

[10] My comments in this section are particularly directed to lazy Western Christianity.

[11] See especially Revelation 4 – 5.

[12] In this case, angels (Mark 13:24 – 27).

[13] By this I mean that the power of the kingdom of God creates the church (Matt 16:16 – 18).

[14] There has surely never been a culture so entertainment saturated as contemporary Western society.

[15] Where we find the eternal cross in the heart of God.

[16] Jesus experienced both an awareness of divine omnipotence combined with fear and loathing as he approached the cross, “And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.””(Mark 14:36).

[17] The Reformers in particular spoke of existence Coram Deo, literally meaning “before the face of God”. It carries the notion of our living in the presence of God, under the authority of God and to the honour and glory of God. It is what each person was designed for by their Creator.

[18] Residents of WA will see, e.g. in the recent visit of the fatherly Angus Buchan, a fulfilment of Malachi’s words, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (4:5 – 6)

[19] E.g., Pieter Bos thinks Australia’s gift is “the good mate.”

[20] I am not excluding multiple graces of God imparted to a nation/race for the good of humanity.

[21] Despite national advantages like climate, vegetation, beaches, peace, prosperity and friendliness.

[23] http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/01/26/asia/australia.1-415668.php Australian of the year 2009, Mick Dodson, an aboriginal person, has publicly called for the date of the celebration to be changed.

[24] The Weekend Australian Magazine February 28 – March 1 2009 p.54

[25] Some propose that Australia is in the grip of an “orphan spirit”, e.g. target not found (www.livingwaters.org.au/Articles,Brochures,Newsletters/Prayer_of_Confession.doc), practically speaking this amounts to the same thing as having a sense of homelessness.

[26] Visitation is a biblical reality, but can conjure up a sense of God’s coming and going, of impermanence.

[27] The West Australian, Thursday March 5, 2009, p.14.

[28] “he set forth in Christ 10 …a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph 1:9 – 10).

[29]32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”(John 12:32).

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