with Jeremy Westcott –
We have been considering the disciples’ question about Jesus’ return and the end of the age. It is essential to view all this through covenant eyes. God has always worked through covenants with men, and every time it was men who broke them. But they were all fulfilled in Jesus: every promise God ever made finds its ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’ in Him. There are not two covenants in operation in our day, just one. And it is one which we cannot break, because it was not made with us, but with Jesus.
We have seen that Jesus’ answer in Matthew 24 (at least up to verse 34, but probably the whole chapter) refers to the end of the Old Covenant age and the destruction of Jerusalem, especially its temple. “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place”. AD 70 would have been the end of that generation of disciples Jesus was talking to. The main fulfilment of all those prophetic words happened in that period. That is not to say that we cannot see further examples of them in our day – and throughout church history – but we are not waiting for them to happen as signs of the end. The end that Jesus was talking about already came.
We looked briefly at the decline and revival of the church over the centuries, how the Holy Spirit began to break back in once the scriptures were available in the common language again. I would encourage you to read the ‘God’s Generals’ series of books by Roberts Liardon, and see how God began to restore truth to the church through some amazing godly men and women. But as God sowed wheat, the enemy also sowed tares. Tares look just like wheat, and you can only tell the difference because tares don’t produce a harvest. So in the very period when God was working in revival and power, we also see the birth of Darwinism, Marxism, humanistic philosophy – false systems of belief sown into the world. And not only into the world – into the church too. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Science all started around this time. Some of them looked like the truth, and people are still deceived by them today.
In 1826 the Brethren movement rejected the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and put back the purposes of God for another 80 years. In rejecting the truth, they also embraced deception, as often happens. And the enemy was able to use this to sow in false teaching and false doctrines which have plagued the church ever since. This is what God is starting to challenge and remove so that we can regain a true perspective of His kingdom.
What were some of those things?
- Dispensationalism. Separating up scripture into particular periods of time in which God works in different ways. That breaks up the continuity of scripture and prevents people seeing the whole picture of God’s plan and purposes through the ages.
- Cessationism: The belief that gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for now, that they stopped in the New Testament when the last apostle died.
- Pre-Millennialism: Jesus was going to come back before the Millennium. Up to that time the only people who taught that were the Jesuits. No-one else believed it. Now it is prevalent among large sections of the church.
- The Rapture: God would come for His people in a ‘secret rapture’, take them and leave everyone else behind. That doctrine only arose in this same period. And now it is the subject of a whole series of best-selling Christian books and accepted without question by much of the church as being what the Bible teaches.
- Seven Years of Tribulation on the earth: this belief only started to appear at this time.
- The separation of Israel and the church.
This was all so insidious that it spread like wildfire. The Schofield Bible came out of all this, robbing the church of authority by promoting an eschatology of defeat and rescue rather than of victory and of the increase of God’s kingdom to fill the earth. All of a sudden it was maintenance, put the walls up, protect your beliefs, have nothing to do with the world. The Brethren church was so exclusive you were not even allowed into their meetings unless you could prove that you came from another Brethren Assembly. I was brought up in this, and when I got baptised in the Spirit, God just challenged my whole theology. I have had to re-examine everything I believed: even now I have to be continually open for God to show me the truth.
Greek and Hebrew mindsets
The background to this is that there is a difference between the Greek and the Hebrew mindset. We have briefly touched on that before. Let’s be clear, I am not talking about reading scripture in the Greek and Hebrew languages, but about our way of looking at things when we approach scripture. Here are a couple of tables I often use to illustrate some of that:
|The goal of salvation is to escape this world and go to God’s dwelling place in heaven||The goal of salvation is to prepare a place fit for God’s dwelling here, among His people|
|The kingdom of God exists in heaven, not upon the earth||The kingdom of God is God’s reign among people here on earth|
|Jesus is coming to take us away from this world||Jesus is coming to reign over us and through us in this world|
|Message: “Get your ticket now, or you might miss the train!”||Message: “The kingdom of God is coming! Get ready to serve the King and manifest the kingdom.”|
|What I do||How I do it|
|What I know||Who I know|
|Analyse||Live – Be and Do|
You will recognise many of the approaches in the left hand columns. They sum up how most of us have been taught, and have affected how we view everything. God is removing stumbling blocks, and we are going to find that the Greek mindset is increasingly going to be challenged.
Related articles from Freedom ARC
- Leaven In The Lump
- Just One Answer?
- Jesus, the Centre of all History
- Salvation and Judgment
- Breaking Off The Greek Mindset (prayer, audio clip)
This article is available in other languages
- Cet article existe aussi en Français
- Raptureless – An Optimistic Guide To The End of the World – Jonathan Welton
(complete ebook, free download)