In the darkness of this side of our existence where evil and affliction prevail, we must see ourselves as citizens of the Holy City, whose builder and maker is God.

Does the Gospel Have a Backbone?

by Ruben Cervantes Jr.
10/22/19 Training and Events

When I first designed the Center for Biblical End-Time Studies (CBETS) and architected our premier learning environment, the Forerunner Study Group (FSG) taught by Mike Bickle, I was actually not convinced that detailed study of the end times was that important. I was thankful to Mike for faithfully preaching on the beauty and majesty of Christ and for leading the 24/7 sanctuary of worship and prayer that changed my life. I was fascinated with getting people to study the Scriptures in our biblically illiterate society, even if they were the “apocalyptic” and “cryptic” passages I cringed at. As you can imagine, I was very skeptical of end-time studies because often when I heard these kinds of teachings, they felt alarmist and, honestly, inconsistent with what I believed that the gospel communicated. I was and still am rightly fixated on the scandal of Christ’s love demonstrated through His incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Like a good evangelical, my life was consumed by justification and sanctification.

As a grateful recipient of God’s mercy, I meditated on the love that compelled Christ to empty Himself for my sake. So, when Mike Bickle invited me to lead the ministry initiative I had designed, I actually declined three times saying, “I’m not your guy” and “I don’t actually think I agree with IHOPKC’s eschatology right now” and “You need someone that will echo everything you say; I am always going to question what I’m not comfortable with.” What followed was Mike’s affirmation that he appreciates a careful “berean,” who doesn’t just accept his teachings; and then proceeded to patiently prod on why I was skeptical of studying what the Bible teaches regarding the generation in which the Lord returns. I still remember our two-hour conversation pacing back and forth in the parking lot. I delivered my three burning doubts thinking I would get a man who has prayed and fasted over these scriptures for over forty years to say, “Oh wow, you’re right! Perhaps we should drop that forerunner stuff.”

My first doubt was: how can we presume to know what it will be like in Christ’s second coming if no one in the first century really knew what to expect in His first coming? My second doubt was: if there are such strong opinions and differing views on the end times, why should we assume that we can get it clear? Lastly, I felt that we should focus on understanding the simple gospel and not fluff it up with peripheral issues that don’t lead to a life surrendered to Christ.

As you can imagine, I was schooled. Mike patiently yet energetically addressed each of these doubts with biblical grounding, not to convince me but to offer me a new perspective. I was impressed but not fully convinced since I had spent much time considering other, more popular, perspectives. Yet I was intrigued enough to pray about leading this new learning environment even though I wasn’t fully aligned. Frankly, I was amazed that, given my honest skepticism, Mike still wanted me to lead because he wanted me to design an environment where someone like me could wrestle through the Scriptures in community. After time in prayer, my wife, Elise, and I gladly accepted this task.

After a few months of launching and leading this new initiative under Mike Bickle and Daniel Lim, I began to see it with my own eyes! During this process I was on a visceral journey of asking heart-wrenching questions in prayer related to the existence of innocent suffering and the general problem of evil. I had been a radical follower of Jesus for over 15 years and was tired of propping up my faith and the faith of those I led with volatile answers. I was done offering ineffective one-liners that aimed at defending why God was simply inconsistent in answering prayer and opposing darkness. I needed to know why.

After reading through Isaiah and Jeremiah, I was cornered. I could see that God was very clear, and though the prophets were poetic, they were didactic in their statements regarding the coming of the Lord. I was sobered by the troubling nature of the events surrounding the greatest revival in human history that is yet to occur when Christ will return to Jerusalem and rule with perfect equity and justice. I was also incredibly encouraged to see that the gospel of Jesus Christ had a backbone. Not only does He forgive us and restore us to a right relationship with God but He promises to end all evil, resolve all the pain, make all things new, and govern the entire planet with perfect peace when He returns.

In the darkness of this side of our existence where evil and affliction prevail, we must see ourselves as citizens of the Holy City, whose builder and maker is God. This produces an outcry of prayer and works of justice that pry at heaven’s gates, longing for the return of Messiah, longing for the restoration of all things. Oh, to regain that ceaseless exchange of delight between creation and Creator! Oh, for the day when all nations will worship YHWH exclusively for His marvelous deeds and merciful love! Oh, for a solution to the world’s crises! That is the hope with a backbone; a hope that I’m willing to sojourn through this dimly lit existence for.

The Church is called to long for Christ’s appearing, and to cry out for Him to come. Experience three days of teaching and discussion on the end times with Drs. Michael Brown, Craig Keener, Sam Storms, and Clinton Arnold. Participate in Kansas City or online, November 7-9. Learn more >>

Ruben Cervantes


  • Director of FMA

Ruben Cervantes, Jr. has been at the International House of Prayer Missions Base in Kansas City, Missouri, since 2007 serving as worship leader, Bible teacher, architect of the Center for Biblical End-Time Studies, as well as the director of the Forerunner Music Academy at International House of Prayer University. Ruben serves in the House of Prayer along with his wife, Elise, and three children, Eden, Levi, and Selah. Ruben has a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and is working on his doctorate.

Tell us what you think