When we consider, “What in the world is going on in the world?” our prophetic attention is directed to the book of Daniel. Daniel’s vision of four kingdoms indicates that we are living during the fourth and final kingdom.
Alaskan Signs of the Kingdom of God
Pastor Joe Fuiten, January 17, 2016, 27 degrees
I am not sure if you know it or not but there is something special about Alaska, particularly in this era of time. In my messages throughout the week I want to focus on the Kingdom of God beginning with two special things about Alaska that fit into God’s plan for the Kingdom and the end times.
Alaska has captured the imagination, certainly of America but also of the world. If you have been watching television the last few years you notice that everything about Alaska is being talking about. There was Gold Rush Alaska that garnered record ratings. There is Deadliest Catch and innumerable programs about fishing and hunting. There are programs about the trains and pilots. My cousin is a bush pilot here. The first winter as he built in the wilderness he didn’t even have a front door on his cabin. People watch with fascination programs about homesteading in Alaska including now Alaskan Bush people. I like to watch building Alaska, House shopping in Alaska and all kinds of programs about the animal life and the utter remoteness. What the programs share in common is more than the natural beauty but also the feeling that this is the last frontier. This may not be the end of the world but you can pretty much see it from here. On one of our many trips to the Middle East, Angie Peterkin and her husband were part of one of those Alaskan delegations with Pastor Kent. I remember being in Turkey when the guide found out Angie was a member of the Yupik tribe. Suddenly the Greeks and Romans were old news. We not only had people from Alaska we had somebody from the ends of the earth.
Yet into this rugged land the Gospel is being preached. Even in the remotest corners with the smallest populations efforts are being made to take the Gospel. Every time the Gospel in preached in this land Bible prophecy is being fulfilled. This is fulfilling the words of Jesus himself.
Matt 24:12-14 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 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. NIV
A couple of things to observe here. First, Jesus had in mind that the Gospel would be preached in the whole world. He said in Matthew 28:19-20 “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I know that your church has planted a church on every continent of the world. You are doing that because Jesus said to do that. There is a particular irony that a church in Alaska is planting churches on every continent. The Gospel is supposed to go to the ends of the earth but it is now coming from the ends of the earth to the ends of the earth.
Secondly, the preaching of the Gospel to the ends of the earth is a sign in and of itself. In the Matthew 28 passage Jesus linked the preaching of the Gospel to the end of the age. That is, he would be with those doing this work right up to the end of the age.
In the Matthew 24 passage it is very explicit. 14 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. In the second and third centuries you have comments among the church fathers who felt they had reached the whole world. But we know there was far more to the world than they knew. They were doing their best but there was a whole lot more out there.
The second Alaskan sign of the Kingdom of God is found in its diversity. Alaska has a very diverse population. According to the 2010 US Census, Alaska is 3.6% black and 5.4% Asian. There are 1% Pacific Islanders including Samoans and Hawaiians. Alaskan Natives are 14.8% including Iñupiat, Yupik, Aleut, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, and a number of Northern Athabaskan cultures. The largest ancestry groups are 18.3% German, 11.0% Irish, 8.5% English, 6.5% Norwegian, 3.8% French and so on down a long list.
I am very appreciative of the art of this church. It is very Alaskan and very Kingdom. When I see the art of the church I see Alaska. In an increasingly uncivilized world I respect the message because it is a kingdom message. Art speaks. I remember as a 12 year old going with my cousin to the Seattle World’s Fair. In the art hall I saw a piece titled, “El Sacko Grande.” It was nothing but a burlap bag glued to a big board. Although the word probably had not been invented yet I am pretty sure I thought it was freakin’ stupid. But the art here in positive in that it represents so much of the diversity of Alaska and the church.
Why is this diversity important and how is it a kingdom sign? We are talking this week about the Kingdom and the direction in which this whole Gospel enterprise is headed. In the book of Revelation we have the end game. (Rev 7:9-10) “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
In an earlier chapter the means of that great moment was outlined. (Rev 5:6-10) “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
I want you to notice that the final kingdom looks a lot like the art in this church. It looks forward to where God wants this world to go. The secular world sees diversity and wants to take the people back—back to their old gods and old ways. But God wants to take the people forward—forward to their place in the final kingdom. Revelation 11:15 describes the future. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
The kingdom which is coming looks a lot like Alaska. And as we bow before the cross and confess our sins and receive Christ we enter into that eternal kingdom. We don’t lose our old racial, national, or ethnic identity. We take on the identity of the future—the Kingdom of God.