Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him....And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. —(1 John:2:15-17)
This series addresses a troubling trend within Christendom today. Our concern is that if professing believers in Jesus Christ are hung up on the temporal aspects of life on earth, then they are caught up in a delusion at best. They are missing the heart of what God wants for them, and, at worst, they could be unwittingly contributing to the kingdom and religion of the Antichrist.
As was indicated in part one of this series, this earthbound focus is not a new condition in the history of the world—or the church, for that matter. From the tower of Babel on, humanity has attempted to create a utopia and build a kingdom, either independent of God or, allegedly, in the name of God but for its own end. For those who call themselves Christians, there is a simple test to discern whether they have fallen prey to such a delusion: are their thinking and actions consistent with what the Word of God says about the kingdom of God, the rapture of the church, the prophetic end-time warnings of the Word, the final plight of the world in rebellion, and the eternal destiny of those who love the Lord?
The mark of a true Christian is that he or she conforms to what the Scriptures teach. Those who conform to the goals or agendas of the world, either personally or by participating in organized programs that compromise what the Bible teaches, although they may indeed be believers, are nevertheless drifting away from the faith (Hebrews:2:1). This means that one's temporal fruitfulness in Christ andeternal rewards will be adversely affected—but not one's eternal future with Jesus, which was secured by our Lord's full payment for all our sins.
The Bible doesn't make an esoteric issue or a cryptic mystery of what lies ahead for life on this planet. It simply and clearly informs us as to what has taken place in ancient times and what will take place in the future.
From the time of man's first sin against God in the Garden of Eden to our present day, the effects of that sin spawned a progressive evil among mankind. Early on, in response to the proliferation of wickedness, God destroyed all but eight people in a worldwide flood (Genesis 6). Sin has not abated as it continues to separate man from God. Since the days of Noah and his family and their repopulation of the earth, there have been few instances of collective obedience to God. Even among a people chosen of God to whom He would send His Messiah to save the world from sin's consequences, obedience was only sporadic, concluding initially with the rejection and crucifixion of God's anointed Savior, Jesus Christ.
All of that was known to God before the beginning of time, as well as what He would do for mankind in keeping with His unfathomable love for His created beings. His solution for reconciling man to Himself was first indicated after the fall in the Garden of Eden (Genesis:3:15,21) and then foretold by the prophets throughout the Old Testament. God's Savior would become a man through a virgin birth. He would be the God-Man and a suffering Servant, whose sacrificial death would pay for the sins of mankind. His resurrection from the dead certified that the infinite penalty He suffered for a condemned humanity was acceptable in satisfying God's perfect justice.
In the Book of Acts, after commissioning His disciples to share with the world the good news of His salvation, we read of Christ's ascension from the Mount of Olives to heaven and of His future return to that same place (Acts:1:8-11). Both Old Testament and New Testament prophets tell us about significant events that will take place here on earth prior to the Lord's return—and afterward: the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jewish people (Deuteronomy:28:64; Leviticus:26:33); the re-gathering of the Jews to the land of Israel from their worldwide dispersion (Isaiah:11:11-12; 43:6; Ezekiel:20:33-38; 36:24) the return of Jesus for His bride, the church, and His catching believers up to Himself to take them to the wedding in heaven (John:14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians:4:16-18); the seven years of the Great Tribulation, involving worldwide catastrophes that will follow the Rapture of the saints (Jeremiah:30:7; Matthew:24:21-22); the Antichrist's rise to dictatorial leader of the world (2 Thessalonians:2:3-4; Revelation 13); the pouring out of God's wrath upon the earth during the seven years of tribulation (Revelation 6-19); the nations of the world turning against Israel to destroy it (Joel:3:1-2,9-15; Ezekiel 38); the return of Jesus from heaven with His saints, and the destruction of those who have sought to annihilate Israel (Zechariah 12); Jesus' setting up of His throne in Jerusalem and ruling the earth from there for 1,000 years (Revelation 20; Isaiah:65:17-25), and the healing of the earth from the devastation that took place during the Great Tribulation (Isaiah:11:1-10; Ezekiel:47:1-12). At the close of the Millennial reign of Jesus, He will put down a worldwide rebellion led by Satan (Revelation:20:7-9). All those who have rebelled will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation:19:20; 20:10, 14-15; 21:8). The heavens and the earth will dissolve, and God will form, in perfection, new heavens, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem for those who love Him, and where righteousness dwells (2 Peter:3:7,10-13).
Just as all the prophecies related to the first coming of Jesus were fulfilled in the smallest detail and with 100 percent accuracy, we can be absolutely sure that the biblical prophecies regarding the future will be just as accurate. Furthermore, they spell out spiritual and physical conditions that will take place. One thing that should be obvious from the prophetic scenario above: this world has a temporal purpose that is incredibly brief compared to eternity. To miss that is to lose sight of the fact that a believer is a "sojourner" here whose "[citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians:3:20).
Our responsibility then, as Bereans (Acts:17:11), is to search the Scriptures and compare the movements, programs, agendas, and so forth, that are being promoted today in the world—and especially in Christendom—with what is foretold in God's Word. That will tell us what we may support and what we need to disregard—or even stand firmly against (Ephesians:5:11)
Certainly the world is all about solving its problems without the God of the Bible. Yet many professing Christians are rushing to remedy the world's troubles in ways that are without the support of Scripture, some even in contradiction to what the Scriptures teach. Rick Warren's global P.E.A.C.E. plan is one of many programs and teachings that, for the most part, cannot be reconciled with God's prophetic Word. It is Warren's "50-year plan" to cure global issues such as "pandemic diseases, extreme poverty, illiteracy, corruption, global warming, [and] spiritual emptiness" (see www.thebereancall.org). He claims that his social-works agenda developed from his reading of the Gospels—that Jesus gave him the model that was the antidote to the five biggest problems on the planet (see www.thebereancall.org). Warren subsequently expanded that model from an exclusive endeavor of Christianity to one requiring the support of all religions. The "P" in his P.E.A.C.E. plan originally stood for "Planting Churches" as the key antidote for curing the world's ills. Later, however, before a panel and audience of representatives of the world's religions, he changed the "P" from "Planting Churches" to "Promoting Reconciliation" (see www.thebereancall.org).
Warren announced unequivocally that the universal problems cannot be solved "without including people of faith and their religious institutions" [Ibid.]. He told his audience at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland (1/24/08) that the various houses of worship are needed for distribution centers of resources to help eradicate global problems. His shift, however, to an ecumenical program that includes Islamic mosques, Hindu temples, Jewish synagogues, and other religious establishments as participants in meeting social needs may impress the world, but it is contrary to what God says in His Word. The God of the Bible is an exclusive God: "I am the Lord, and there is none else, and there is no God beside me" (Isaiah:45:5). There is to be no participation with the purveyors of false gods. The Apostle Paul tells us we are not to be "unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" (2 Corinthians:6:14-15).
Rick Warren's "ill-curing" ecumenical agenda is illogical as well as unbiblical. How can his game plan for remedying "spiritual emptiness" work with those who promote a false spirituality? Peter tells us, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name [Jesus Christ] under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts:4:12).Jesus himself declared, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John:14:6). If there is no other true God but the God revealed in the Bible, and if salvation comes only through Jesus Christ—as the Scriptures declare—then all other gods and all other ways of salvation are false, with no hope for their followers. Yet Warren told his Davos religious audience that he was not concerned about their motivation in doing good, "as long as you do good." Tragically, he reinforced the very lie that keeps billions of religious people blinded to the truth and from turning to Jesus Christ: works salvation.
The influence of this fix-the-earth program is staggering. Warren's best-selling Purpose Driven Life (30 million copies- plus sold worldwide) introduced his "50- year" global P.E.A.C.E Plan and has been translated into 52 languages. According to his website, more than 500,000 evangelical churches are partnering with him in his unbiblical ecumenical effort.
Although Warren's attempt to solve the world's problems is more than misguided, it's not the only prophecy-denying, earthbound enterprise that's gaining followers today. Rob Bell, in his book Velvet Elvis, reflects the "fix the earth" eschatology of nearly all EmergingChurch leaders: "Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker....But we can join a movement that is as wide and as big as the universe itself. Rocks and trees and birds and swamps and ecosystems....God's desire is to restore all of it....The goal isn't escaping this world but making this world the kind of place God can come to. And God is remaking us into the kind of people who can do this kind of work."
Brian McLaren, arguably the best-known emergent leader, has a low, if not distorted, view of biblical prophecy, as do most of his peers in the Emerging Church Movement. He regards the Book of Revelation as "literature of the oppressed" to inspire "each generation," rather than God's warning of future events and judgments to come upon mankind.
Those future events and judgments are clearly at odds with the agenda of solving the world's problems and turning it into a paradise. McLaren declares: "In this light, [that is, removing the prophetic aspect of the Book of Revelation] Revelation becomes a powerful book about the kingdom of God here and now, available to all." He believes, as does Rick Warren (who also has a low view of prophecy), that it is necessary for all the religions of the world to work together for the greater good of society: "I think our future will also require us to join humbly and charitably with people of other faiths—Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, secularists, and others—in pursuit of peace, environmental stewardship, and justice for all people, things that matter greatly to the heart of God." That sentiment, although pleasing to the flesh, is far removed from the "heart of God" and His Word.
Restoring or preserving this planet as a rallying cause in the church has far exceeded the biblical principle of stewardship today and has become an earthbound mindset. Scripture is quite clear that any abuse of what God has provided for mankind is sin. Yet some are using the Bible erroneously to support their unbiblical agendas. Eugene Peterson, in his 10-million-bestselling The Message Bible, has no qualms about distorting the Scriptures for "the cause." He translates John:3:17 to say that Jesus "came to help, to put the world right again," rather than "that the world through Him might be saved" (meaning the salvation of souls-KJV). He then promotes the ecological Green Movement by adding the adjective "green" to Romans:15:13: "Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy...."
Marketing Bibles is big business today, and where there's a "cause," there's usually an attempt to come up with a Bible that implies that the agenda is supported in Scripture. The Green Bible is just one example. It is presented in conjunction with the Sierra Club, The Humane Society, and the National Council of Churches' Eco-Justice Program. It features an introduction by arch-heretic Archbishop Desmond Tutu and contributions by emergent leader Brian McLaren and theologian N. T. Wright, both of whom preach "redeeming the earth." Sales promotions claim that because the Bible mentions the earth twice as often as "heaven" and "love," it "carries a powerful message for the earth." That rationale is both delusionary and deceptive. The "powerful message" of the Bible is the "good news" of what God has accomplished to reconcile man to Himself that we might spend life everlasting with Him. This present earth plays a very minute part in God's eternal plan.
The next issue in this series addresses other promoters of the temporal delusion such as Shane Claiborne, Jim Wallis, and Glenn Beck, as well as The Hole in Our Gospel, a very popular book advancing the cause of the social gospel.
Sadly, increasing numbers of believers are attempting to secure their lifeboats to our Titanic—like earth for the purpose of redeeming it. Instead, our "agenda" needs to line up with the biblical mandate of evangelist and soul winner John Harper (see TBC Extra, p. 8). We are told that he was guided of the Lord to change his passage and sail a week later to America on the Titanic, knowing that that was where God wanted to use him. Remembered as "the true hero of the Titanic" and "God's minister to the perishing," he ran to and fro on the deck helping those in need, giving up his life jacket to another, and asking all that he encountered to turn to God for salvation through Jesus Christ. As the huge ship began to slip beneath the icy Atlantic waters, Harper leaped from the deck and began swimming toward everyone within sight, pleading with them to come to Christ.
There is no redemption for this earth—only for its people.
Lord, give us that same love for the perishing that You gave to Your servant John Harper, and, by Your grace, use us according to Your Word. TBC