The Bible is full of stories; stories about people and events.
But rather than being a random collection of stories, they serve
to tell succeeding generations about how God went about (or is
still going about) accomplishing His Will – the plans He had
sovereignly and independently pre-determined for His people
and the world – and revealing Himself to men.
Think of Abraham, who learned the God was Jehovah Jireh
as result of what God had told him to do: to offer up his only
begotten son, Isaac, on an altar of sacrifice (Gen 22:14).
Think of Moses who, subsequent to Israel’s victory over
the Amalekites, built an altar and called the name of it
Jehovah-Nissi: “The Lord is my Banner” (Ex 17:15).
Gideon too built an altar to God and called it Jehovah-
Shalom: “The Lord is my Peace”, because God assured him
that he would not die (Jud 6:24).
All these stories underscore the fact that God is known best
through experiences, not education. If God could be known by
education alone, He would have simply taught Abraham,
Moses, Gideon, and the rest, His names and what each of them
meant. For sure, our Bibles would be thinner than they are
today; but we would be poorer, spiritually. How would we be
inspired like we are now by the men of faith? How would we
be encouraged to run the race with endurance that is set before
us if there is no “great cloud of witnesses” to surround us?
(Heb 12:1) We must thank God for the Patriarchs of the faith
for they have indeed left us a lasting and precious legacy. It is
our turn to make a similar journey of faith so that we too may
leave a lasting and precious legacy to subsequent generations.
Sadly (and I am not judging here), many lack the patience
to know God in this manner. They have chosen the easier way:
education. In saying this, I am not blasting Christian academia.
There is a place for it, but it should not re-place divine
revelation. Paul was a very educated man, in the religious
sense, yet he was diligent in teaching the believers in the cities
that he visited. But at the same time, being keenly aware of the
limitation of the didactic method, prayed that God would give
to the faithful “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the
knowledge of him” (Eph 1:17). Through education, you can
easily know about God; but revelation will cause you to be
able to say, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have
believed, and I am convinced” (2 Tim 1:12).
I should clarify here that as you read my story about My
Wilderness Journey, you might recall a similar experience: a
time when God seemed far away, your prayers bouncing off
the ceiling above you, and you have lost your way. I want you
to know that what you experienced was not the Wilderness
Journey but the Dark Night of the Soul 1 .
In the Wilderness Journey, as it was for the Israelites, God
is clearly visible to you and His presence is unmistakable. He
has not left you; He is leading you. In the Dark Night of the
Soul, however, “an evil, unbelieving heart (has led) you to fall
away from the living God” (Heb 3:12). In short, you are
In Part I of this book, I will be sharing about my life between
the years 2008 and 2010, which I call My Wilderness Journey.
(It might sound cliché to you, but as you read on you will find
that it isn’t.) Before this, I had been a believer of Jesus Christ
for over twenty-five years; during which I had served as a
pastor and missionary, I had been well discipled by godly men,
and have discipled others as well. I knew God; or so I thought.
The Wilderness Journey humbled me by showing me how little
I knew of Him. (Humbling was one of God’s expressed
objectives for Israel’s wilderness journey according to
Deuteronomy 8:3.) I dare say that my knowledge and faith in
God grew more in those three years (of the Wilderness
Journey) than in the twenty-some years prior to it.
I am thankful that we are not the only ones who have
undergone this journey; I personally know of others who have
gone through it also. Their path and circumstances might differ
slightly but they always lead to the same destination: a deeper
knowledge of and greater trust in God.
Although this journey was embarked upon mainly by my
wife and I, my children – particularly the two elder ones –
were not untouched by it. God was, so to speak, killing two
birds with one stone, like He did with Abraham on Mount
Abraham had waited many years for the arrival of God’s
promised son – twenty-five, to be exact. Finally, Isaac was
born; and Abraham loved him dearly. Just when everything
seemed to be on track for Abraham to become “the father of
many nations”, as God had said, God Himself burst the
“bubble” by giving Abraham this command: “Take now your
son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land
of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the
mountains which I will tell you” (Gen 22:2).
Abraham obeyed God.
By then, Isaac was no longer a child; he was in his thirties.
Hence, it wouldn’t be difficult for him to physically overpower
his father (who was about 130 years old) and save himself
from certain death. But he didn’t. Through this event alone,
God tested and saw the faith and obedience of both Abraham
and Isaac. In the end, the Lord blessed both Abraham and
Likewise, as a result of our (my wife and I) Wilderness
Journey, in particular because of how we trusted in God, their
faith in God was built up. Praise the Lord.
There are two reasons why I have decided to put our
experiences in writing. The first is personal. What God has
allowed us to undergo is precious and the lessons learned
priceless. To forget them would be costly; God might make us
go through them again. It’s been a few years since we’ve
emerged from the journey and I felt it is time to recollect the
experiences and consolidate the lessons learned.
But these recollections are not just for my own benefit;
they are for you, my readers, as well. It is my hope and prayer
that as a result of reading my story you would hunger to know
God in a new and deeper way, and you would desire to embark
on the Wilderness Journey as well.
In the course of writing, my heart was constantly filled with
praise and thanksgiving to God. It has been “good medicine”
to my body, as Proverbs 17:22 says. We should do more of it:
telling one another of the wonderful things God has done, that
The second reason for re-telling my story is to help you
(and other Christians as well) see that the Old Testament
narratives are more than just good stories to tell children in
Sunday school; they hold spiritual lessons as well as very
practical ones too, even though we are separated by thousands
of years. Regrettably, too many of these stories have either
been allegorized or spiritualized to the point that their original
intent and meaning have being obscured, and their power
diluted. One of the cardinal principles in Bible Interpretation
is: Interpret Scripture literally. About this principle, J. I.
The Medieval exegetes, following Origen, regarded the
‘literal’ sense of Scripture as unimportant and unedifying.
They attributed to each biblical statement three further
senses, or levels of meaning. Medieval exegesis was thus
exclusively mystical, not historical at all; biblical facts
were made simply a jumping-off ground for theological
fancies, and thus spiritualized away. Against this the
Reformers protested, insisting that the literal, or intended,
sense of Scripture was the sole guide to God’s meaning.
Fanciful spiritualizing, so far from yielding God’s meaning,
actually obscured it. The literal sense is itself the spiritual
sense, coming from God and leading to Him. 2
My Wilderness Journey may have lasted for only three years,
but it is merely a part of a larger work that God was doing in
my life, beginning effectively from 1995.
You will read from my story that I was commissioned as a
missionary in 1995. During the commissioning service at
church, two brothers-in- Christ received “words” from the Lord
about me. One of them heard God say that He was going to
“put the spirit of Joshua” on me. Another brother simply told
me to read the book of Joshua. Since then I have been reading
the book of Joshua, but only since two years ago (in 2011) did
I begin to use the name “Joshua”.
Joshua, as you know, was the man appointed by God to
lead the children of Israel across the Jordan River and into the
Promised Land. In His own sovereignty, God has chosen me to
lead His people (Christians) into a spiritual “Promised Land”.
That was to be my calling, my destiny. But I had a problem: I
didn’t know what exactly is that Promised Land. Was it a real
place, or was it a spiritual realm? Where is it located, and how
do we get there? For the next seven years, I sought the Lord
for the answers to these questions, and more. I hate to spoil it
for you, but I am going to tell you that the Promised Land is
the Kingdom of God.
The Lord has taught me many things in the course of the seven
years. I have laid them out, as simply and as clearly as I could,
in Part II and III of this book. You are probably wondering:
“There are already many books written and published on this
subject; what makes this one different from the rest?”
From what I know (because I have not read every book out
there on this subject), most of them explain and describe the
kingdom of God from the perspective of the New Testament
only. I will show you, in this book, that the concept of the
kingdom of God is a biblical concept; meaning, it can be found
both in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old, the kingdom
of God is presented to us in the form of “pictures” – the
Passover lamb that was killed and eaten, and its blood painted
on the doorposts and lintels of the Hebrew homes is a picture
of Christ our Redeemer. In the New, it is presented to us
through metaphors such as “a man who sowed good seed in his
field” (Matt 13:24-30), “a grain of mustard seed that a man
took and sowed in his field” (Matt 13:31-32), “leaven that a
woman took and hid in three measures of flour” (Matt 13:33),
“treasure hidden in a field” (Matt 13:44), “a merchant in
search of fine pearls” (Matt 13:45-46), and “a net that was
thrown into the sea” (Matt 13:47-50). Furthermore, I will show
you that the biblical concept of the kingdom of God is the
basis of the gospel that Jesus preached during His ministry on
Matthew tells us that Jesus went about everywhere preaching.
What did He preach? Matthew says it was the “gospel of the
kingdom” (Matt 4:23). Although I had read this countless
times (as you’ve had too, I’m sure), it has never occurred to
me that Jesus could not have preached the same gospel we are
preaching today (I will call it the gospel of salvation) simply
because at that time He had not been crucified, and neither had
He risen from the dead (two events which form the bedrock of
the Christian faith. If Christ had not risen, our faith would be
futile, and “we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor
15:19)). And to preach this gospel of the kingdom, Jesus had
to have taken it out of the Old Testament, particularly the
Torah, since the New had not yet been written.
There will be those who would argue that Jesus preached a
“different” gospel because He was preaching to “the lost sheep
of the house of Israel” – the Jewish people. Being brought up
in the Hebrew Scripture, a gospel that was based on the Torah
would be more familiar sounding to them, and thus make them
more receptive to it. And for the Gentiles, God used a different
gospel; one that centered on Jesus who is “the Way, the Truth,
and the Life” (John 14:6).
This was of course not the case. Acts 28 clearly reveals that
Paul proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the
Lord Jesus Christ “with all boldness and without hindrance”
(verse 31). He did not use one message for one group, and a
different message for another group. The preaching of Christ
crucified was itself “a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to
the Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23). If Paul were still alive today, there
will be no doubt in my mind that he would preach the same
way he did back then. I only hope that he would not call us
“accursed” after hearing the gospel that we are preaching today
The gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of Christ – we
need both of them for they are two parts of a whole. If only
one part is preached, only a partial gospel has been preached.
Unfortunately, the gospel that was presented to me, which I
received, was a partial gospel. It is time for the church to
rediscover and preach again the gospel of the kingdom. This
was what, I believe, Jesus was doing when He went
everywhere preaching the gospel of the kingdom. And besides
preaching it Himself, He also taught His disciples to do the
same and to continue doing it. As a matter of fact, Jesus
predicts that this gospel of the kingdom will be “proclaimed
(or preached) throughout the whole world as a testimony to all
nations”. And when that happens, “the end will come” (Matt
Part II of this book is about the pictures of the kingdom of
God in the Old Testament. There are two, basically: the
Garden in Eden and the land of Canaan. From the Garden in
Eden, you will learn that the kingdom of God is (1) a better
place, (2) the most holy place, (3) a rich place, and (4) a place
of rest. Canaan, described as “a land flowing with milk and
honey”, also depicts the kingdom of God as a place of
abundance and rest. But more than all this, the kingdom of
God is a place where God rules and reigns.
In this sense, the Young’s Literal Translation has rightly
replaced “the kingdom of God” with “the reign of God” in
many places in the Bible. It is correct since God is the One
who rules and reigns in this kingdom. With this understanding,
we know what we mean when we pray “Thy kingdom come”:
we are praying and looking for the day when “the kingdoms of
this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his
Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev 11:15).
The kingdom of God, as represented by the Garden in Eden
and the land of Canaan, is the destination for God’s people.
This implies that they had a different starting point: Adam was
created outside the Garden, and the children of Israel were in
bondage to slavery in Egypt. Likewise, we were in the
kingdom of darkness before God found us; and were delivered
out of it and translated into the kingdom of His Son (Col 1:13).
Unfortunately, this verse has given Christians a wrong
impression: that we are translated into the kingdom of God
immediately after we were delivered from the kingdom of
darkness. Going by the Exodus story, which I have come to see
as representing the Christian journey, there is a lapse of time
between redemption (Passover), deliverance and baptism
(crossing the Red Sea), and entering the kingdom of God
(entering the Promised Land). Furthermore, didn’t Jesus say
that He is “the Way” and that no one comes to the Father but
by Him? (John 14:6) If Christ is the way, then He cannot also
be the destination. Hence, coming to Christ is not the end of
the journey; it is only the beginning. The way that Christ says
He represents is the Way of Discipleship: it is hard and few
find it (Matt 7:14). It is a path of breaking, molding, and
making spiritual children into spiritual sons.
In Part III, I will be examining the metaphors Jesus used to
describe the kingdom of God. Most of them are found in the
thirteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel narrative. But the study
of God’s kingdom would not be complete without looking at
the Coming Kingdom of Christ.
Most of what I will be sharing in the subsequent pages were
not learned through study but received through revelation. This
is a bold claim, I know. But I would not have made it if it were
not so. The truth is, the understanding of the kingdom of God
cannot be received by any other way except by revelation.
In Matthew 13, Jesus told a parable about a sower who
“went out to sow”. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the
path; some fell on rocky ground; other seeds fell among the
thorns; and still others landed on good soil. Before we rush
into expounding on the parable, let’s remind ourselves why
Jesus spoke in parables.
In His own words, Jesus spoke in parables because “this
people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can
barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should
see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand
with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” What’s
more, Jesus spoke in parables so that Isaiah’s prophecy, that
says, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will
indeed see but never perceive,” might be fulfilled.
But only to His handpicked disciples did Jesus reveal “the
secrets of the kingdom of God” – with this sober reminder:
“Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what
you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:17).
Now, we are ready to consider the meaning of the parable.
The sower, as revealed by Jesus, was God Himself. He has
gone out to sow the “word of the kingdom” into the hearts of
men (and still is doing so). When those who hear it and do not
understand it, “the evil one comes and snatches away what has
been sown in his heart.” These are those who have no
revelation whatsoever. Their hearts are as hard and
(spiritually) dull as the pathway on which the seed fell. Even if
God were to shout into their ears, they would probably not get
Then there are those who received the word of the kingdom
and rejoiced because they understood it. Their joy was
however short-lived. When tribulation and persecution arose,
some fell away. The word in the rest of them was choked by
“the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches”.
Only a few who heard the word and understood it went on
to be fruitful; “in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and
in another thirty.” These who have received the initial
revelation of the kingdom automatically become perfect
candidates for more revelation because, as Jesus said, “to the
one who has, more will be given, and he will have an
abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has
will be taken away”.
After I had received the initial “seed” (the word of the
kingdom), I continued asking for greater revelation and
understanding. The more I asked, the more I received. The
more I sought, the more I found. And the more I knocked more
was opened to me. Even as you read this book, I pray for the
spirit of wisdom and revelation to enlighten the eyes of your
heart. This is the only way you will fully grasp what the
kingdom of God is.