Note: This is an excerpt from my book UPRISING: Time for Christians to Stop Waiting and Start Winning.
This site, and my ministry work, is dedicated to the understanding that believers are here, not to mark time and “do our best” till some random time we’re rescued, but instead to advance the Kingdom of God till the pre-eminence of Jesus is manifest in all creation.
When we embracing our God-given purpose of achieving Kingdom victory, it should compel us to look more strategically at how best to tackle the problems facing our world.
When we do this, we can see that for each of the enemy’s cultural strongholds, there is both a supply side and a demand side. There are people who produce pornography and people who purchase it, people who sell illegal drugs and people who use them, people who govern poorly and people who vote them into office, and so on.
Our human nature is to look for shortcuts – the perceived path of least resistance – and also to seek recognition for our endeavors. This nature generally leads us to attack the supply side of a stronghold; it just seems to be the logical way to bring it down, and we can certainly make a big splash by doing so. As a result, with all the best intentions, we picket abortion clinics, organize electoral campaigns, wage war against drug cartels, seek to outlaw pornography, and the like.
Now, we each need to do as the Lord leads, and there’s nothing wrong with any of these activities. If the Lord calls you personally to focus on the supply side of a stronghold, then you should do it with all your strength. However, if we as a Body embrace these tactics as our sole strategy for pulling down strongholds, and do so for any reason other than the leading of the Spirit, victory is impossible. How can I say this? It’s a simple lesson in Economics 101: For any given demand, limiting the supply simply drives up the price. For example, attack the supply chain for illegal drugs without addressing the demand – that is, keep the number of addicts the same, but make the drugs harder to come by – and you’ve only hiked the street value. As a result, you’re driving addicts to do even more extreme things to get them! Hardly sounds like the desired outcome to me.
Want to tear down the stronghold of illegal drugs? Just like every other cultural stronghold, removing the demand is the winning strategy. When former drug addicts would rather “get drunk on the Holy Spirit” than high on dope, the illicit drug trade will disappear! Instead, we’ve spent oceans of money and manpower fighting the supply … and how’s it working for us?
When men hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for the desires of the flesh, the pornography industry will collapse. Attack the supply – whether it be through shutting down pornographers or simply putting “porn blockers” on computers – and allow the demand to linger – and men will still commit adultery in their hearts. No victory there!
When our elected leaders are storing up treasures in Heaven instead of pursuing earthly riches, corruption will vanish. When the hearts of the electorate are turned towards righteousness, and they vote accordingly, the righteous will once again rule. Connect gang members to real, loving, edifying relationships and street violence will stop. When the truth of God’s love is known by all, then all religions and sects based on legalism, division or hate will fail.
Attack the supply side of any of these and you may get some temporary relief, but it’s no better than putting a Band-Aid on an infection. It may look fine on the surface for a time, but the real problem is still there, only getting worse.
When you get to the heart of these issues, you realize the ultimate supply of all our cultural ills is the deception of the enemy. Even those people who are agents of the “supply side” are, in their hearts, simply demanding gratification from something other than God, and they have believed the lie that they can find what they’re looking for through sin.
We must remember that our battle is for people and not against them! Any perceived shortcut is really a dead-end street. God’s Kingdom will come when we personally connect with the hearts and minds of individual people, one at a time, and turn them towards Christ. Victory will not be accomplished through blunt force, but instead through loving kindness. Put two and two together –“The meek shall inherit the earth”and “He who (conquers, carries off the victory) will inherit all things” —and it becomes clear that we will conquer through meekness. There is no other way.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
The Bible says the Body of Christ is supposed to function under His headship, and be knit together by what every ligament supplies. It says we all have a role to play, and that it won’t work right until we do. It says it’s the saints’ job, in general, to do the work of ministry, and the leaders’ jobs to equip them, and not the other way around. It says God is giving to the Church “first the apostle, then the prophet.” That said …
What if the prophet of God is artsy, has long hair, and talks with a stutter? The one God has given the gift of clear Spiritual sight, and to whom He reveals the plans of heaven, has been beaten down emotionally all his life because he’s “odd” and so can’t bring himself to speak up during the organized, orderly Sunday Morning ceremony, and has never been invited to participate in “church” leadership?
What if the one called and gifted as an apostle has an MBA and left the organized “church” years ago because his gifts were unwelcome? Apostles, in the model God intends – the ones He says should be first in the Kingdom lineup – simply don’t fit well in the stiff, pyramid structures of todays “churches.” Just a little too passionate to sit quietly and play “nice” in the face of stubborn ignorance, I guess.
What if the smartest person in the congregation is a geek? The one with the gift of healing is a shut in? The one with faith that can move mountains smells bad because she has 100 cats? The deliverance warrior who can face demons head-on never sat through “membership” class because he finds the Sunday “sermons” to be like watching Barney reruns?
What if God gives a revelatory word to a child, or a divine vision to a newly recovering alcoholic?
What if God is calling a body of believers to do something the IRS would consider “for profit” (like make tents, or own a fishing company, as early apostles did), and so the “church council” is aghast at the very idea? (The infamous BTK serial killer was a respected member his “church council,” remember.)
What if we as a body defined our “religious service” as a ceremony we conduct on Sunday mornings, instead of as God does – and that is, rolling up our sleeves, working up a sweat, and giving sacrificially to help those in need?
What if we defined “worship” as singing? What if we thought “church” was a building, or a defined organizational structure, or a set time of meeting? (If you’ve sat for years during “worship service” in the same row with a person, and you don’t know the most intimate details of their life, you don’t know their true giftedness, and you’re not sowing into each other’s lives on a regular basis, then you can call that place a lot of things, but don’t call it a Church, because God sure doesn’t.)
What if the founder of our denomination or congregation was indeed called by God for a reason and a season, but because of our way of doing things, he went further and solidified his position for the long term through a formal legal, organizational or theological structure? What if the person wielding his positional authority today was selected by an appointed or elected committee, for who-knows-what real reasons?
What if the guy with a “seminary” degree and “ordination” certificate went that route because he was a failure at everything else, or because his fiancée wanted to be a “pastor’s wife”? They’re out there, I know them personally (you probably do, too, unawares), and today they’re good little “pastors” at nice little “churches.” (Not surprisingly, they’re often the first ones to claim that God stopped calling apostles and prophets 2,000 years ago … and the sheep just follow along out of empty, dangerous tradition, because “pastor said so, and he’s ordained.”)
Seriously, what if the nice, charming guy who is decent at administration and who is a great public speaker and fundraiser is really not the one God wants calling the shots? Those are gifts of a politician, not a shepherd. Yet our model of “churchianity” has thrust them to the top.
What if there is a growing body of passionate, faithful, mature brothers and sisters who are truly led by the Spirit, and who regularly gather with other believers to serve each other and advance the Kingdom, yet … they sleep in on Sunday mornings (to obey God’s command to take a real day of rest each week) … they don’t ever enter a steeple-topped building … they can’t stomach listening to the weekly McSermon … they don’t recognize the Spiritual authority of a man who claims it simply because he holds a man-made title and “ordination,” and … they don’t belong to one of the Christian country clubs that man calls “church”? (Darn back-door losses! What is this world coming to?)
I don’t have to ask “what if” for any of these questions, because this is the reality we live in today.
No wonder Christ is increasingly mocked and marginalized in the world. Look what we consider to be His “body” today!
No wonder we’ve lost our influence in the culture. We can’t even influence our own selves to clearly discern and be obedient to His Word, because “the old wine tastes better.”
No wonder we have to fake out folks with a Sunday morning rock concert and stirring motivational speech just to get them to join our “church.” We don’t offer them much else anymore.
No wonder youth ministry today is typically little more than cheap, worldly, “cool,” entertainment with the name of Jesus occasionally slipped in when it’s not too creepy. We simply don’t understand the fact that their deepest desire is to be real, because we ourselves don’t know what real is.
No wonder the most popular “pastors” are either tradition-bound, toothless types who don’t want to shake things up, or prosperity hustlers who encourage their flock to live it up in the here and now. Give ‘em what they want, because what they really need might make them uncomfortable.
No wonder the general consensus among Christians today is that our best hope is for Jesus to come back soon and take us home, in some heretical idea of a sudden “rapture.” Kingdom victory is why we’re here. It’s our God-given assignment and destiny. But with today’s churchianity model, it’s simply not going to be possible.
“It is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:14-17
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Imagine being Christopher Columbus, loading up ships to sail around the world, while naysayers shout, “you fool, you’re going to fall right off the edge of the earth!”
That’s how I feel sometimes in ministry.
I mean, I’m playing to win. I believe that’s our calling; that our God-given purpose and destiny is to conquer the kingdom of darkness, here and now, once and for all. I find this clearly and unequivocally stated in the Bible, over and over, from the beginning of Genesis all the way through the Revelation. Yet the conventional wisdom of today’s pop theology states that big-picture winning is not an option.
Today’s popular “end times” fable claims that “the antichrist” will rise to global prominence, and Jesus will come to snatch away His floundering Bride before it gets too bad. Why this has achieved such dogmatic dominance among well-intentioned Christian leaders is beyond me – I mean, it’s nowhere in the Bible, its dubious historical roots are recent and easily established, and it makes Christians look like kooks. Yet it is dominant, and rarely challenged.
To Columbus, belief in a round earth was a no brainer. I mean, as far as he was concerned, anyone could scan the horizon or watch the sunrise and see it. I’m sure he knew he was risking his life to find a round-the-world passage to India – there were all sorts of unknown dangers in the uncharted deep – yet I doubt the thought of sailing off the edge a flat earth was one of his concerns. He simply knew otherwise, and he was right.
This belief was foundational to his endeavors; it was the implicit premise upon which all his plans and activities were based.
How frustrating it must have been for him to prepare for his first journey. How many times did he have to explain this most simple, fundamental belief? The investors. The shipbuilders. The suppliers. The sailors. Family and friends. Strangers on the street. Everywhere he turned: “Aren’t you that crazy guy who’s wants to sail around the world? Ha!”
How sad, because the conventional “wisdom” of a flat earth (conventional ignorance, really) had kept humankind trapped for centuries.
I’m sure Columbus grew sick and tired of having to explain this simplest and most fundamental reality, and was eager to finally cast off. He never set out to prove the earth was round. To him that needed no proving. He was simply looking for a more direct trade route to the Far East, and he wanted to put the ignorant naysayers behind him and get on with it.
In the same way, I’m not setting out to “prove” that the Body of Christ is destined for global victory before Christ returns. To me, this needs no proving! It’s simple, fundamental and foundational – plain for anyone who has eyes to see. I just want to play my personal role, as called by God, according to the gifts He’s given me, and I want to get on with it.
Yet everywhere I turn, I run face-to-face with Christians who buy the conventional “wisdom” that we’re powerless in the face of the enemy and destined for nothing but rescue. Just like Columbus couldn’t have set sail with a crew of flat-earthers, how can we manifest Christ’s victory with a team that doesn’t think it’s possible?
Like belief in a flat earth, this ridiculous yet mainly unchallenged teaching has kept the Body of Christ trapped for too long!
It’s time to dump this modern, man-made fable into the rubbish heap of history, so we can finally march forward in unity towards our victorious destiny in Christ.
It’s time for “Left Behind” to get left behind!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Seems like “The Kingdom” is becoming a new buzzword in churchianity. That’s great, in some ways, but sorta makes me uneasy in others.
Yes, the Gospel of the Kingdom is the heart of the message that God desires to communicate to mankind. It is the core of the Bible, from Page One all the way through. So it’s great that Christians today are, maybe, finally starting to see this and get it.
But the fact is, peoples’ wrong understanding of God’s Kingdom has led to all kind of bad stuff over the centuries. Heck, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day crucified Him because they misunderstood the Kingdom. They though it was political, and when Jesus didn’t bring a political uprising against the Romans, they executed Him as a heretic.
A wrong understanding of the Kingdom of God inspired Paul, when he was Saul, to kill Christians. It launched the crusades, fueled the fires of the Inquisition, and has led modern churchianity to build billions of dollars of steeple-topped monuments to men’s marketing abilities.
Just slapping the word “Kingdom” on a message, organization or endeavor doesn’t make it so.
The pre-eminence of the Kingdom message in Scripture is undeniable, even though many seem to ignore it. I kicks me in the gut when I realize that this was “news” to me, even after spending decades under a steeple. When it finally hits them, this realization takes lots of Christians by surprise. They, rightfully, feel shortchanged. I know pastors, missionaries and other seminary graduates who have said the same thing!
Here are the facts:
- The words “born again” are used ONE TIME in the Gospels, when Jesus — in private, after dark, on a rooftop, talking to one man – told Nicodemus that you must be ”born again” just to SEE the Kingdom. (Sadly, getting folks “born again” is the sole driver of the vast majority of Christian endeavors, and yet without the Kingdom, that’s a pointless pursuit.)
- The word Kingdom is used 120 times in the Gospels, 154 in the entire New Testament. When you look for it, you’ll see it is the basis for virtually ALL of Jesus’ teachings and parables, and those of Paul, too.
- The first paragraph of Acts says Jesus spent His last 40 days on earth teaching His apostles about the Kingdom. The last paragraph of Acts says Paul spent 2 years in Rome teaching all his visitors about the Kingdom.
- Jesus said the Kingdom is what we’re to seek first, every single day. And when we do, He promises that God will provide all our needs!
- Why did Jesus come to earth? What was the purpose He claimed for His living as a man among men? Salvation, you say? NO! He said, crystal clear, that His purpose was to proclaim the Kingdom of God. (See Luke 4:43)
- When He explained the meaning of the parable of the sower (which is the basis of most outreach ministries) Jesus said the truth of God’s Kingdom is the seed we’re supposed to plant in the hearts of men, not the message of “salvation” alone. Sorry, Billy, but we sure have missed this one!
- Jesus said the end won’t come till the Gospel of the Kingdom (no, not the Gospel of salvation alone) is preached to every tribe and nation.
I could keep going on and on, but I think these should establish the point for any thinking Christian who is hungry for the truth: The central message of Scripture — the message Jesus came to share — is the message of the Kingdom of God.
It seems we’re good about teaching folks about Jesus — but we’ve missed the boat entirely when it comes to teaching them what Jesus taught! A disciple, by definition, teaches the teachings of his teacher. This may be a hard word for some, but it’s the truth: If someone is teaching some gospel other than the Gospel of the Kingdom, that person is not a disciple of Jesus Christ, because they’re not teaching what He taught.
Like I said, a lot of folks are throwing the word “Kingdom” around these days, slapping it onto all kinds of hokum. For the record, the Gospel of the Kingdom:
- Is NOT some ecumenical, kumbaya message that all the man-made “churches” should lay aside their doctrinal differences for the sake of superficial, organizational “unity.”
- Is NOT some code for a Christian Mafia-type “familia,” calling Christian businessmen to link together for the sake of making tons of money, for whatever good intentions.
- Does NOT support the building of huge “churches.” In fact, it has nothing to do with the “religion” of Chritianity — not one bit!
- Does NOT call for or apply to a Christian political party, or any form of top-down, forced theocracy or law-based “righteousness.”
- Does NOT call for violence, military conquest, or American global hegemony.
- It has NOTHING to do with the modern, man-made, geo-political nation of Israel.
- Does NOT call for blind allegiance to or compulsory financial support of any self-proclaimed “apostle.”
- And, it does NOT mix in any way whatsoever with the modern, man-made fable of the “end times” that says “the antichrist” will rise to global prominence, and that Christians will have to be rescued in some upcoming “rapture.” (That is about as anti-Kingdom as a teaching can get!)
When we pursue any one of these things for its own sake and call it “Kingdom,” we’re heading down the path of the Sanhedrin, the Inquisitors, the Crusadors, and everyone else who’s jimmied their own agenda and understanding into God’s perfect Word.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is at its core unsettling to the status quo. Yes, it DOES call for Christian unity, for direct action, for functioning as a Body, for advancing righteousness in every sphere (including business and politics), and for the global pre-eminence of the Body of Christ — before He returns. But it’s a whole lot deeper, a whole lot simpler, and a whole lot more revolutionary (personally and corporately) than we’re practicing today.
So, what IS the Gospel of the Kingdom? Stay tuned for Part Two! …
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
This year may prove to be a perfect storm of ridiculous, kooky, end-is-near fever as secular/pagan whackoes who give credence to the Mayan calendar will join forces with the “Christian” whackoes who’ve made an industry out of “end times” predictions. Pop celebrities and mainstream media will no doubt get in on the act, because anything that generates hysteria makes good ratings — and if “Christians” end up looking even stupider in the end, that’s gravy for them.
This is a perfect — I believe God-ordained — opportunity for true, mature Christians to stand up and inject some Biblical truth into the mix. When 2012 comes and goes, and WE are the ones who can stay, “see folks, we told you so,” the media’s sensationalism will backfire on them, and God will be glorified through it all! This can and should be the year that the Gospel of the Kingdom gains global pre-eminence, and the would-be “Christian” Nostradamases are finally brought into the truth (or shamed out of their pulpits and seminary lecturns).
Those who understand the Gospel of the Kingdom, that Jesus taught and the early church advanced, know that there is no secret alarm clock ticking in heaven that will someday trigger “the end times.” We understand that the modern, pop-theology/mythology teachings of a sudden “rapture” and future “great tribulation” are nowhere in the Bible, and were instead pulled from their Dark Ages origins and popularized by John Darby, the father of modern “end times” kooks. We know that the rise of the victorious Body of Christ is inevitable before the end, not the rise of the antichrist!
The Bible says seven times that Jesus is currently seated in Heaven, waiting UNTIL His enemies are made His footstool. Jesus Himself said seven times in a row (in Rev. 2-3) that only those who are victorious over the world will have an eternal inheritance. Paul said that spiritual gifts are being given to men UNTIL the Body of Christ rises to global pre-eminence, and only THEN will Christ return. In the Revelation, it says that at the end, the angels will rejoice because “The Bride has made herself ready.”
On virtually every page of the Bible, this point is clear: God has given His children on earth a job to do — that is, to conform the world to His Kingdom — and the end won’t come until we’re done. “No one knows the day or the hour” because it’s in our hands, and we have free will!
So when will the end come? According to the Bible:
- After Christ’s enemies are under His feet. Where are His feet? On His Body. That’s us! We have power to bring down powers, principalities and strongholds of the enemy. The end won’t come till we stand up and exercise that power!
- When the Body of Christ (that is, us!) reaches “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
- When the sons and daughters of the Kingdom reach full maturity.
- When all true believers are united in the truth.
- After Christians are fully victorious in conquering the kingdom of darkness.
So … how far are we from that? Well, look around. To say that it’ll happen in 2012 is a stretch, at best!
Did you know the word “apocalypse” means “unveiling” — as in the unveiling of the Bride of Christ? The only one who should be afraid of that is the enemy! Certainly not victorious sons and daughters of the Living God!
There’s money in sensationalism. Human nature (as in, the sinful variety) values victimhood and craves a rescue from reality. Some leaders (Christian and other, sincere and not) gain great wealth and esteem by playing on these facts. They should, instead, be basing their leadership on the facts of the Bible. And those facts are that we are called to be VICTORS, not VICTIMS, and there will be no great escape or sudden “end of the world” apart from our crossing the finish line!
True peace is only found on the path of God. As fear grips the world this year, let’s seize the opportunity to draw mankind — starting with our Christian brothers and sisters — into the peace and certainty of God’s true vision, the message of His Kingdom come.
How? Read UPRISING: Time for Christians to Stop Waiting and Start Winning. Do like many others have done (including several mininisters) and buy multiple copies of it to give away. That’s a good place to start!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends! (Especially through 2012!)
No, I haven’t gone all kooky on you. Don’t go sell all your stuff and start carrying signs saying “the end is near!”
I most certainly do NOT believe in some secret alarm clock in Heaven that will someday go “BING” and then the world will end. There is not a mysterious, unknowable timeline for the apocalypse. God’s not playing cosmic musical chairs with us, to see who He can catch off guard at “the end of the world.” There will be no sudden “rapture,” either, and no far-out numerology or astrology will figure it out. Studying headlines or watching Middle East politics will just drive you batty and distract you from the work at hand. The prerequisite events that will trigger end of time are not in the hands of the enemy or “antichrist.” Instead, they are in the hands of God’s sons and daughters, intentionally put there by our loving Father. “No one knows the day or the hour” because it’s in our hands, and we have free will!
Jesus said the end will come “just as it was in the days of Noah.” Noah had a building project, and so do we! The very first thing God said to man in Genesis 1, after He made us, was “go and conquer!” In Revelation 21, He says that “he who conquers will inherit all things.” In between, the entire arc of Scripture paints the picture of God raising up victorious sons and daughters who gain the character necessary to inherit His eternal throne by conquering the enemy here on earth.
The Bible says seven times that Jesus is currently seated in Heaven, waiting for this to happen. And Paul said God will continue to give gifts to men until it does. God has given us an enemy to vanquish and a Kingdom to establish, and the end won’t come till we are done. The Bible plainly spells this out for those with eyes to see.
Noah could have refused to build the ark, and God would have raised up another man. The flood came one week after the ark was done. Yet, had Noah taken a two week vacation sometime during that 120-year construction project, he wouldn’t have drowned in the flood. Instead, God would have delayed the flood by two weeks! And Jesus said the end will come ”just as it was in the days of Noah…”
The first generation of Israelites could have chosen to trust God, count the cost, and cross the Jordan, and they would have been victorious! Or, the second generation could have turned around like their parents, and God would have raised up another generation, and another, till He got His people where He wanted them. Yes, in the mystery of eternity, He saw the end from the beginning — because it’s always NOW in eternity — but that fact did not negate their free will.
Some generation, someday, will finally grasp the Gospel of the Kingdom — the universal, uderlying message of the Bible, and the message that Jesus said was His very purpose for being sent to earth — choose to trust God, count the cost, and will gain victory over the kingdom of darkness once and for all.
When they do this, it will trigger the end of time, and usher in the new heaven and the new earth. Only then (as it says in Revelation), “the angels (will) rejoice because the Bride has made herself ready,” and (as it says in Ephesians), Jesus the Head will join the Body that has finally grown to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” on earth. Like Noah, we have a building project. And also like Noah, we have a choice.
I’ve worked with youth full-time for 10 years now, and have been blessed to lead hundreds to Christ. I’m not talking about getting them to raise their hands and say a prayer, or sign up to be members of a church group, or sit in a pew, or listen to “Christian” music, or even accept the factual truth of the Bible. I mean, God has used me to introduce Himself to them, personally and deeply. It has been a tough, costly and often lonely road, moreso than I ever imagined, but well worth it. I’ve also talked with hundreds of youth ministers over this past decade, and seen countless youth minstries in action (or inaction, as the case often is!). What I’m saying it, God has shown me a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t, and why.
We have to be REAL with young people — stop trying to fake them out, and start getting them out of the fake. They don’t buy the same old churchianity that’s worked for generations.
They’re the most sophisticated generation ever. Their entire world is made up of advertising messages of one form or another, and they’re highly jaded, skeptical, and disillusioned. They are HUNGRY for REAL and know it when they see it — because they’ve tried everything else. It’s just that most have just never seen it before!
When we meet them at their level — which is HIGHER than what we’re used to intellectually — leave out the religious traditions and jargon, stop trying to be “cool” and just be REAL, they respond, in a big way. Meet them where they are, personally introduce them to the Living God, and BAM — watch out!
I have genuine hope that THIS is the generation that will deliver victory. But how will they believe if they don’t hear, how will they hear if we don’t tell them, and how can tell them if we keep assuming they’re shallow and irresponsible?
I wish every youth ministry in America would trash the freaking X-boxes, skateboard ramps, pop music, pre-packaged programs and cutesy names. I wish youth ministers would stop diminishing themselves trying to “fit in” and be “cool” — trying fruitlessly to connect on a shallow, fake level, when the kids really want something REAL and DEEP.
Instead of trying to entertain them and slip in a little Jesus here and there, just sit down and BE REAL with young people! Stop playing “church” and start playing to win! Personally introduce them to the Living God, and let Him (and them!) take it from there. I can testify to you from first-hand experience that it works. They will go deeper, harder and faster then you ever imagined. Try it — you’ll be surprised! The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these!
We can choose to be the last generation!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
I sure don’t like using big words when perfectly fine small ones will do. It’s not just about avoiding unnecessary keystrokes, it’s about connecting and communicating. Using a $5 word like “Dispensationalism” will generally cause most folks either to get all glassy-eyed or run away screaming. That, or put them in a fighting mood. While throwing a big word out every once in a while may make me look smarter than I really am, none of these are reactions I desire from my listeners or readers, so I try to avoid them altogether.
Just so you know, I didn’t bring this one up, so don’t blame me. Note in the “category” listing of this post, it’s under “Q&A.” A woman I’ve been corresponding with asked me about it, and, as she’s seeking truth, I felt compelled to reply.
Specifically, she brought up the word in the context of a certain teacher she’s heard. I did research on the fellow and confirmed that, indeed, he is a Dispensationalist. No, it’s not curse word, and he wouldn’t take it as an insult (altought some folk I know sure would).
If you, like this fine lady, are a Christian who seeks truth, I must say this is one multi-syballic word you should probably be aware of, because most pew-sitting, pop-theology-subscribing Evangelicals today are good Dispensationalists, whether they know it or not. That, and it’s the biological mother of the 800-lb gorilla that is standing in the way of the Body of Christ’s march to Kingdom victory.
Anyway, that’s enough of a disclaimer. Below is an email I recently sent to her…
… I found an interview with (let’s just call him J.D.) online, in which he talks about his end-times view. He is a classic Dispensationalist. He sounds like a great guy. I know a lot of good men and women who have bought into this school of thought, as it became all the rage in some independent seminaries in recent generations, and has been popularized by the mass media.
Dispensationalism is a school of thought invented by John Darby in the 1830s and then popularized in America by Cyrus Scofield. It is based on the “futurist” view that was developed by Jesuit monk Francisco Ribera in 1585. Ribera was a part of the Inquisition-era Catholic Council of Trent, and he intentionally developed the futurist view to undermine the reformation. The Bible says we can judge a tree by its roots, and its fruits. Ribera’s plot is the historical root of Dispensationalism. For the fruit of it, I encourage you to read Corrie ten Boom’s letter about what she saw first-hand as the results of this teaching. (Find it at http://wp.me/P1XBI6-4m).
While this storyline has become popular in the modern Christian TV and book industry (it sells a lot of books!), it is patently rejected by countless theologians and long-established seminaries that are built on the work of the Reformers.
I have studied all the scriptures that are hammered together to support this view, and it cannot be deductively gleaned from anything in the Bible. It is only inductively supported by random, obscure verses. Without Ribera’s induction (to undermine the Reformation!), the Dispensationalist end-times view would never have come into being. (For a much more in-depth Biblical and scholarly study of this, I strongly recommend the book “End Times Delusions” by Steve Wohlberg.)
I don’t claim to be a better Christian, a smarter man, or more educated than any Dispensationalist. Remember, there was a time when ALL the apostles, except the marginally-trusted newcomer Paul, bought into the teaching that Gentile converts had to be circumcised. They were the ones who had spent time with the incarnate Christ on earth (Paul didn’t!) and they were the established leaders of the Christian church of the day. Even Barnabas sided with the circumcision crowd. They were incredible men and heroes of the faith. But, like the Dispensationalists of today, they were wrong. Thank God they were teachable! (Imagine an altar call with scissors… ouch!)
Regarding the message of the Kingdom that you ask about – well, this is my main beef with Darby’s Dispensationalist teaching, that it’s incompatible with a genuine understanding of the Gospel of the Kingdom (Greek BASALEIA = royal power, kingship, dominion and rule).
I encourage you to do a keyword search in the Bible on that word. It’s mentioned 154 times in the New Testament (120 in the Gospels). In the first paragraph of Acts, it’s what Jesus exclusively taught the Apostles during His last 40 days, and in the last paragraph of Acts it’s what Paul spent his last 2 years in Rome teaching. Jesus said the purpose of being born again is just to see the Kingdom, it’s what we’re supposed to seek first, its coming is what He prayed for first in the Lord’s Prayer, He said the end won’t come till the Gospel of the Kingdom is taught in every tribe and nation, and (in Luke 4:43) He declared that proclaiming the Kingdom is the reason He was sent by God. Most parables are about the Kingdom. John the Baptist’s message was that the Kingdom was near, and Jesus said this frequently, also. This is a very important topic!
Starting in Genesis 1, where God assigns mankind the task of establishing dominion (Hebrew RADAH = subjugate, conquer), and all the way through to Revelation 21, where it says “he who conquers will inherit all things,” and including the entire arc of Scripture in between, the clear picture is that God has assigned His sons and daughters (the Body and Bride of Christ) the task of bringing His Kingdom to earth as it is in Heaven. The Bible says seven times that Jesus is seated, waiting until this happens, and Paul said clearly (Ephesians 4) that God is giving gifts to men until this happens. (This is the primary message of my book, by the way.)
The word “rapture” is nowhere in the Bible. There is NO Bible reference to a great escape, or to a “third coming” of Christ (count them … second for “the rapture” then again later on). Our job is not to wait to be rescued, it is to advance the Kingdom. Our destiny is not to be yanked away from an unfinished project, it is victory. The only mentions of “antichrist” in the Bible are of a spirit that has been with us since the beginning. There is no future bogeyman “Antichrist” whose pre-eminence is certain. Instead, it’s the future pre-eminence of the Body of Christ that is foretold, and is certain.
Both can’t be right. We can’t be both passive spectators, destined for failure and in need of rescue (as portrayed by Darby’s end-times view) and active, victorious agents of the Kingdom come. I choose to side with the view of God’s victorious Kingdom, not on the side of a Body that is passive and pathetic.
You said you agree the church today is increasingly irrelevant and marginalized, yet you questioned whether this was due to the pop-theology “end times” view. I’d respectfully submit to you that Jesus said “the eye is the lamp of the body.” What we fix our eyes on, our view of things to come, permeates our very being. Darby’s teaching tells us that we are incapable of victory, nothing we do can ultimately change anything, and that Jesus and the angels will eventually come in after us and clean up our mess. (How does this view of the Body and Bride of Christ glorify Him?)
With this view of the future, is there a wonder we have such a hard time getting Christians motivated to make a difference? You can’t separate these two: the pathetic state of the church, and modern “end times” teachings. They go hand in hand. It is 100% due to the modern (very recent in history) popularization of Dispensationalism that most Christians today 1) simply have never heard the message of the Kingdom (the central message of Scripture!), and 2) are living as passive spectators to world events. (Good Dispensationalists will sing “I’ll fly away” all day long, but you’ll never hear “Onward Christian Soldiers” come out of their lips!)
It’s time for this to change! I think you’ll get a lot out of my book. I’d love to get a copy to (J.D.); he sounds like a wonderful fellow, who would have a teachable spirit.