Reversing the Church’s Decline (12)

It’s been amazing how we’ve been accepting it really, since about 1830. That was the year that a lady had a series of dreams or visions about the end of the world. Some people with a very limited knowledge and understanding of the Bible found some dubious texts that supposedly supported her experiences, and the rest has been history.

Faulty eschatology has become an integral aspect of the church’s decline. When the church after 1830 gradually accepted the pre-millennial view of the coming of Christ and the end of the world, an idea that hardly ever been given any credibility for the previous 1800 years, it began to change the way Christians viewed the world, their role in it, and the role of the church in the world. This has been devastating for the church’s impact around the world.

Why? Theology has consequences, because beliefs have consequences. If I believe something about God and the Christian life that isn’t consistent with scripture, and proceed through life acting on those beliefs, it’s going to bring me to drama and loss at some point; just what happened in the Garden.

Pre-millennialism is a theology and eschatology of pessimism, which ignores vast portions of scripture. It doesn’t teach of a triumphant, victorious church which overcomes its enemies through the faithful preaching of the gospel, but warns that the days are only going to get increasingly darker, before the Lord has to suddenly return to rapture His church out of the mess.

Pre-millennialism is founded on a serious misunderstanding of portions of the gospels, and many other portions of scripture. Let’s take Matthew 24. Matthew 24 (which is paralleled in Mark 13 and Luke 21), begins with Jesus explaining to the disciples, in relation to the temple buildings:

Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down (v.2).

Clearly, Jesus was speaking of some kind of destructive act that was going to take place in the future.

Later, on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying,

Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? (v.3)

Then from v.4 to v.33, Jesus gives a lengthy, detailed prediction and description of events that are going to take place, then gave them (and us) a very important detail, in v.34:

Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

The other synoptic gospels repeat this verse, in Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32.

This brings us to an important question. Which generation was Jesus referring to, when He spoke of “…this generation?” Was it a generation in the distant future?

No. Jesus used the expression “this generation” some 20 times throughout the gospels. And every time, He was referring to the group of people, living at the time. Here are some examples.

But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children… (Mat.11:16).

The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here (Mat.12:42).

For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some of them they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation (Luke 11:49-50).

Peter added to this on the Day of Pentecost, when he exhorted his listeners to

Be saved from this generation! (Acts 2:40)

What was it that Jesus was referring to when He predicted that “Not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down”?

40 years after Jesus’ prediction (in AD 70), the Romans soldiers under Titus came and destroyed Jerusalem, burning and destroying the temple. They’d had enough of the Jew’s rebellion against them, and every person in the city was either killed or taken away to be enslaved. This represented God’s righteous judgment against the nation of Israel, which had been chronically in rebellion against Him, ever since she had been delivered from Egypt. Jesus had repeatedly warned Israel about this, and one of the plainest of these was in Mat.21:33-46: the Parable of the Vineyard, which culminated with this frightening statement:

The kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and given to a people, producing the fruit (v.43).

This is why it is important to understand that the Book of Revelation is not a predictive statement about the end of the world. On the contrary, it explains God’s judgment on Israel (and Jerusalem) in great detail. Without wanting to begin a whole new study, Revelation explains to us concerning God’s two witnesses that

Their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified (Rev.11:8).

This could be no other city on earth than Jerusalem. Just like Sodom and Egypt in the Bible, it was about to be severely judged by God, and He’d use the Roman armies.

A Biblical view of eschatology will bring a healthy level of optimism to the believer, and this is important. Who wants to go to work, believing that their efforts aren’t going to be rewarded?

Optimism is essential in any Christian work, and if we’re doing God’s will, we can ultimately expect His vindication on our activities. How do we know that? Jesus predicted that

the kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows-how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come (Mk.4:26-29).

He also promised,

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened (Mat.13:33).

Notice the all-encompassing nature of Jesus’ promise? He said it would be “all leavened!”

There would be no place in the affairs of men that would not be totally transformed by the leaven of the kingdom of heaven. This remarkable promise should make every Christian confident that their work is going to be rewarded by God, and that there will be great social change in every part of the world, in response to the faithful preaching of the gospel by the church.

Conclusion:                                                                                                                             

Pre-millennialism has had a dreadful impact on the church, robbing it of optimism about our future, convincing millions that as far as being effective in the world was concerned, we would be a bunch of losers who had little to bring to our communities, other than a ticket to heaven when we die. As far as evil conspiracies is concerned, it’s been successful, but it’s time it was utterly rejected by the church, as a deception.

I prefer the godly, Biblical doctrine about the future known as post-millennialism, which I believe we see Jesus quoting in three of the gospels:

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” The Lord will stretch forth Your strong sceptre from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies” (Ps.110:1-2).

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