END-TIME CONFUSION - CONSIDERING OTHER BELIEFS
As already stated, a unity of understanding amongst believers regarding the days we are in and those which lie ahead, has been hard to find. There is little agreement even amongst those who might agree about other scriptures. Making things more difficult to understand, there has been an increase in spiritual manifestations since 1993. Most of these have been seen before, but not with such magnitude. For some, these have brought an increased expectation of revival, as some have suggested these very spiritual manifestations are an indication of the beginning of an end-time revival which will bring in an end-time harvest. But this is a harvest outside the time of ‘great tribulation.’
One effect of these recent manifestations, which have multiplied since 1993, has been that ‘end-time beliefs’ have suddenly become pertinent. In recent years, beliefs about the end of this age had not been so widely discussed, as the prophetic expectations of many had come to nothing during previous decades. Before 1993, having a differing eschatology [doctrine of the last things] was the cause of little division. Indeed, few took any notice of the different understandings upheld by the different denominations, or if they did, they largely remained silent regarding their concerns. This has now changed.
Kingdom Dominion Theology
Those Christian groups who have believed that they would be involved in taking the kingdoms of this world for Jesus before He would return, have not looked for an imminent rapture, for they believed the Church had to obtain victory in the natural realm first, some actually believing they would take over the governments and systems of this world in the Name of the Lord. As part of this belief, this group have embraced, so called, ‘faith teaching’, and teachings on ‘spiritual warfare’ which have a goal of winning towns, cities, and even nations, for Jesus; beliefs which were of benefit to this end-time doctrine of taking ‘dominion’ in the world. Cries of "My nation [the reader can add their own] for Jesus" sound impressive, but discount the reality of the prophetic scriptures. This eschatological view sees the Church replacing Israel, adopting what is called, a ‘Replacement Theology’, which holds that there is no real future for natural Israel. This has been embraced by many of those who consider themselves to be part of the ‘House Church Movement’. Believing that God was restoring the Church to what it was in New Testament times, it also embraced the name ‘Restoration Movement’. As the Church was, in effect, to have dominion in the natural realm, it caused no problem that the structures within this movement were similar to those of the world system, with hierarchies of apostles with authority over those elders beneath them, who in turn exercise authority over ‘their’ flocks, all with other intermediate levels of authority. All are supposedly upheld by Scripture, but, as with any wrong belief, this ‘understanding’ is a mixture of Truth and error. Those unwilling to ‘submit’ to the ‘authority’ exercised within these type of churches, are dismissed as being ‘disobedient’ or ‘rebellious’, and their concerns are disregarded by those operating under a spirit of control.
Israel and the Church
The beliefs of those, who suggest that the Church has replaced Israel, and become the sole benefactor of all the Lord’s promises and covenants to Israel, with none of them pertaining any more to natural Israel in the future, may be described as holding to a ‘Replacement Theology’. This doctrine has been greatly opposed by those Christians who would believe that Israel has an ‘extra special’ place in God’s plan. This group rightly sees that the covenant promises for the nation and land of Israel are still to be fulfilled. Unfortunately, within this group there are various end-time beliefs which ignore that Israel is being returned to the land for further distress. Some even see the world ‘believing’ through a spiritually renewed nation of Israel before the Lord’s return. Unlike the ‘Restorationist belief’, the Church is not seen as playing much of a role, other than to intercede for Israel. These beliefs are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
It is important to rightly divide Scripture with regard to Israel, the Gentiles and the Church. Many denigrate the Church by not realising its special significance in this present age and the one to come, and wrongly differentiate between Jewish and Gentile believers, not realising that these natural affinities are of greatly reduced significance once we become part of the Church, the Body of Christ. The Church is made up of believers, whether they are Jew or Gentile. Paul says, "Give none offence, neither the Jews, nor the Gentiles, nor the Church of God," (1 Cor.10:32). Paul recognises three groups, not two; ‘Israel,’ ‘the Gentiles’ and ‘the Church’. He explains that "We were all baptised into one body, whether Jews or Greeks," (1 Cor.12:13); "There is neither Jew nor Greek..." in the Body of Christ, for we are all "one in Christ Jesus," (Gal.3:28); "He made both groups [formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so called ‘Circumcision’] one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall," (Eph.2:14 &11). The Church, we see, is a separate group to natural Israel and the Gentiles.
So often we differentiate between Jewish and Gentile believers, creating a false division, and maintaining a ‘difference’ which denies our oneness in Christ.
Additionally, much of our wrong understanding regarding Israel has led to a Judaizing of the Church which has seen our progress hindered, our mission perverted, and our spirituality destroyed. At its worst, instead of pursuing a path of separation from the world and following the Lord in our heavenly calling, wrong understandings of scriptures pertaining to Israel have caused the Church to alter her purposes as regards God’s intentions in the world. Many Christians look to the acquisition of wealth, the use of ritual, the erection of religious buildings, and the division of an equal brotherhood into ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’.
The Classic ‘Pentecostal’ End-time Doctrine
A different end-time belief can be found within the Pentecostal denominations. These have believed in, and taught their adherents to expect, the ‘imminent return’ of the Lord; to expect the Lord to come suddenly, at any moment. Much has been made of the ‘benefit’ that a believer is likely to live a better life if they have an expectation of the Lord returning at any moment. This ‘benefit’ has ‘sold’ this belief to many. However, those who hold to this view ignore the unfulfilled prophecies that are contained in Scripture, which have to be fulfilled before the Lord returns, usually by suggesting that many apply to a different group other than the Church. This is the reason a group known as ‘tribulation saints’ is suggested as being those who much of the book of Revelation applies to.
The Charismatic Expectation
The ‘Charismatic Ecumenical Renewal’ was the name given, in 1956, to the movement, which was already beginning to be seen across all the non-Pentecostal denominations, which encouraged believers to be ‘baptised in the Spirit’. Unlike previous ‘moves of God’, which were outside the denominations, this ‘move of God’ was happening within them. With this new movement spread the belief in a world-wide revival and harvest, producing a zeal for evangelism based on the scripture that the "gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world... and then the end shall come," (Matt.24:14). This ‘evangelism’, however, was often based on a gospel of ‘salvation’ only, rather than the full gospel of the ‘Kingdom’, and largely ignored the spiritual growth of believers. Many para-church organisations arose, focusing on ‘evangelism’ and happy to point new converts to the denominational church system once they were ‘saved’. The church system was pleased to accept this input of new life. Latterly these same churches have been more involved in ‘evangelism’ themselves, and the common goal of ‘evangelism’ has been seen across the spectrum of denominational churches, despite each holding differing beliefs. On closer inspection one realises that ‘evangelism’ means different things to different denominations, some purely looking to make church members without ‘new birth’. In the last few years this evangelistic activity has emphasised the idea of there being an end-time harvest, with recent spiritual manifestations suggested as being indicative that the end-time revival had started.
Recent Spiritual Manifestations
So, the belief in soon coming world-wide revival has grown on the back of the more recent spiritual manifestations which have supposedly been due to an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Some, however, have suggested that these manifestations have been the result of ‘wrong spirits’, with the result that a polarisation of differing beliefs has been created. This controversy has caused the differing understandings about the end-times to be questioned, because many believe these ‘wrong spirits’ were introduced into the Church through the 1948-1953 ‘Latter Rain Movement’, which upheld that there would be a mighty end-time ministry of the Church. The ‘Latter Rain Movement’ was a controversial ‘move of God’ which operated, unlike the Charismatic Movement which was to follow it, outside the Pentecostal denominations, and which saw a further restoration of Pentecostal gifts. The Church seemed to recover these gifts in the first years of the Twentieth Century, and this had led to these very Pentecostal denominations being created; ‘Man’ always seeking to put the Holy Spirit in a box!
Even before the more recent [c.1994] spiritual manifestations were widely seen, many had been questioning what they saw as the effects of the ‘New Age Movement’ upon, so called, ‘Charismatic Christians’. This opposition had seen the similarity between New Age teaching and that of the, so called, ‘Word of Faith Movement', and so called, ‘visualisation techniques’ etc., and were saying that these were errors which the Church was embracing.
Unfortunately, with these latest spiritual manifestations, what is ‘of a wrong spirit’ and what is ‘of the Holy Spirit’, has not been clearly distinguished. Differing views abound, and so a polarisation has been caused, resulting in one group upholding anything ‘spiritual’ was of the Holy Spirit, without due concern for the ‘Word’, the other upholding the ‘Word’ without due concern for the ‘Spirit’, in danger of refusing to acknowledge any spiritual manifestation as being ‘of the Lord’. In effect the Church has been attacked from opposite directions at the same time!
The Manifest Sons of God
Because of the controversy surrounding these recent spiritual manifestations, a previously little known end-time belief has become the focus of much recent questioning, largely because this belief came into prominence in the late 1940’s, within the ‘Latter Rain Movement’. This ‘belief’ upheld that an end-time harvest would be brought in by ‘some’ believers who will come into a ‘fullness’ before the Lord’s return. The scriptural basis for this belief, however, is usually found to rely on the ‘spiritualising’ of different scriptures which will in fact have a literal fulfilment through the nation of Israel. These scriptures do contain much Truth which is pertinent to the Church now, because those things which happened to Israel happened "as examples for us", (1Cor.10:11), as Paul explains. However, those who uphold this ‘Manifest sons of God’ belief, tend to ignore a literal fulfilment of prophecy. More commonly, they only expect to see the culmination of all the ages being fulfilled through the Church at the end of this age. The standard of maturity attained by the Church in this age, and a resultant ministry due to this, becomes their goal rather than the City of God, in the ages to come.
The ‘manifest sons of God’ belief suggests that some believers will come into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ coinciding with an end-time harvest. This might seem to be in line with the contents of this book, but the concept means very different things to different people. Conversely, those who oppose anything that sounds like this ‘manifest sons of God’ teaching, tend to consider that all beliefs which suggest an end-time ministry in a time of ‘great tribulation’ are wrong. Indeed, there are some very strange doctrines which do seem to have their roots in this time of the ‘Latter Rain’, and this has reinforced the opposition to Christians even considering the views of this book.
One ‘manifest sons of God’ belief even suggests that some ‘sons’ will get immortal bodies whilst still on earth, before the return of Christ, and will take the kingdoms of the earth for the Lord before He returns Himself. This is not, however, the common interpretation of the scripture in Romans 8:19, from which this understanding gets its name: "the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the manifestation of the sons of God."
Another variation of this teaching suggests that those who move on into ‘fullness’ will be rewarded by being part of, what they call, an ‘out-resurrection’. This ‘prize’, it is suggested, was what Paul was looking for, and of which he spoke in Phil.3:8-11, where he states he "counts all things to be loss... in order that he may attain to the resurrection from the dead." This doctrine suggests this ‘out-resurrection from the dead,’ will be a catching away of those saints who have, like Paul, counted all things as loss, and this will take place before the first resurrection mentioned in Revelation, Chapter 20. This doctrine is dangerously, and tenuously, created from an interpretation using just one verse! The proponents of this belief suggest the mention by Paul in this passage, of the "prize of the of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus," (Phil.3:14), is a reference to the ‘catching away’.
In the above ways, which are merely a few examples of the many differing end-time beliefs, Satan has ensured that our understanding of the end of this age is one of great confusion. This confusion has been increasing in these last few years, as we have begun to see a shaking which God promised would "shake not only the earth, but also the heaven... removing.. those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain... His kingdom that cannot be shaken," (Heb.12:26-28). As deception increases it seems possible that even greater confusion will arise.
The Importance of Understanding the ‘Kingdom’
Jesus told us to "seek first His [God’s] Kingdom and His righteousness" and we would see and experience His provision, (Matt.6:33). Jesus preached about His Kingdom during His walk on earth and it was still being preached by Paul at the end of the book of ‘The Acts of the Apostles,’ (see Acts 28:31 - ".. preaching the Kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered"). It is also going to be the preaching of the gospel of this Kingdom in all the world as a witness, which will precede the end of this age.
At this time, in this age, His Kingdom is not of this world [realm] but within us, (Luke 17:21). The reality of Jesus’ Kingdom is seen, therefore, as He reigns and has dominion in our lives. This Kingdom reality brings with it His protection, provision, plan and purpose; a purpose which is the will of the Father. So many believe they are preaching a gospel of the Kingdom but in reality are only preaching a gospel of salvation!
It is this Kingdom which we have counterfeited in His Name, building kingdoms of men - our denominational church systems; often denying His rule without even realising we are doing it. When we walk in the Spirit, and are led by the Spirit, we find that we are part of a harmoniously orchestrated correctly functioning Body, the Church, made up of those who bring forth a manifestation of His Kingdom. It is this Kingdom reality, this gospel [which means good news] of the Kingdom, which is to be preached in the whole world before Jesus returns. This will bring forth the harvest which is at the end of the age.
The End-time Harvest
Satan has done all he can to prevent us, the Church, from understanding, or even contemplating, this time of harvest, because it is the time of her victory over the power of the evil one, Satan, who is the god of this world, (1John 5:19, "The whole world lies in the power of the evil one." and 2Cor.4:4, "..the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving").
For 2000 years the Church has corporately been kept from walking fully in the power of the victory which Jesus won for her on the cross, and through His resurrection, except for brief times and in relatively few lives. Satan has prevented the Church from fully appropriating all that Jesus has already accomplished for His Church. It would seem that Satan is now doing all he can to increase his deceptions, because the time for the Body of Christ to break free from the bondage with which she has been afflicted is very near.
When the salvation, the power, the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ have come, then the brethren will overcome Satan who has managed to prevent this for so long. They will do this through the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony, and because they do not love their lives, even unto death. This will be the ‘time of harvest’ which will see the full separation of tares from among the wheat, the end of the age.
Then, One like the Son of Man will be seen putting in His sickle because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe. A great multitude that no one can count will come from this time, a time that will coincide with Satan having great wrath, creating great tribulation. He will overcome many, with the persecution of the saints, but this overcoming will only be in the natural realm. In reality the victory will belong to the Church, for the spiritual victory will be theirs in Jesus’ love and power.
Many are looking for a harvest without tribulation, a harvest presently accompanied by false triumphalism, but it is a counterfeit harvest. Looking to false ‘anointings upon’, which are not from the Holy Spirit, there has been a desire to see a harvest without the necessity for the Lord’s people being separated unto Him, holy. Instead, men have used their organisations and churches to declare a gospel focusing upon ‘salvation only’. This is not wrong in itself, but it is not the full gospel, because this gospel does not leading to Jesus’ true Lordship, its adherents being deceived into looking for a false harvest which does not entail Jesus being effectively Head of His Body, the Church.
At the time of the ‘Latter Rain Movement’ men received a prophetic view of this correct end-time harvest, but Satan has all but destroyed this ‘true prophetic understanding’, by having this Truth overstated and added to, so that it would be discounted. As the hour draws near, Satan has renewed his attack on the believers of that era. He highlights some ‘false brethren’, of the time of the ‘Latter Rain Movement’, so as to be able to discredit them all. Meanwhile, most believers continue looking to that which is not scriptural - a ‘preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom in the whole world’ without the great tribulation which will in fact accompany it.
This is our dilemma. What is Truth? What truly lies ahead? Even to discern if the contents of this book are true, we need to look to the Holy Spirit to lead each one of us into Truth and tell us of things to come. We must allow Him to give us His understanding and revelation of what He has had men write, in Scripture as well as in books, otherwise we will not understand. To do this we are going to have to draw near to the Lord. Our mental agreement and understanding will not be sufficient. Following what others believe, even our present day ‘heroes,’ will not suffice. We are going to have to buy oil for our lamps. (See Matt.25:1-13); to let our lamp go empty could be critical, as the foolish virgins found out.
The Lord knows our deeds, whether we are cold, lukewarm or hot. We may think we are rich, and have need of nothing, but in reality we may be wretched, miserable, poor and blind and naked, just like the Church in Laodicea, (Rev.3:14-22), and not even realise that the Lord is no longer in our midst, but outside, knocking on the door of our heart to come in. Just like the Church in Laodicea, Jesus has already left many gatherings and they do not even realise it! The time has come when we can no longer be lukewarm, caught up in mixture. We have to be hot to prevent Him spitting us out of His mouth, (Rev.3:15). Many are not going to see that they are in mixture, however, until more shaking comes. And that shaking will surely come.
As Jesus exhorted our Laodicean brothers, we are going to have to buy gold, which speaks of our need to walk in faith - faith which Satan has been attacking with vehemence for these last few years. Without faith we cannot please God, (Heb.11:6), or walk in the way that the righteous need to, (Rev.3:18). The ‘just’ will walk by faith, (Rom.1:17); there is no other way which produces victory. This gold will be refined by fire, tested by various trials and tribulations, which we are to count as joy, (James 1:2&3). When various trials come we need to remember "the proof of our faith", is indeed, "more precious than gold," (1Pet.1:6&7).
We are also required to buy white garments to clothe ourselves and hide the shame of our nakedness, (Rev.3:18). This speaks of our need to know His righteousness; to know who we are in Christ, and who He is in us, so as to appropriate the victory won for us in the blood of Jesus and through the power of His resurrection.
Lastly, each one of us must buy 'eye salve' to anoint our eyes, that we might ‘see’ spiritually, (Rev.3:18), or we will not be led by the Spirit, or receive spiritual understanding, wisdom, discernment, or a knowledge of the Father’s will. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot even hear Jesus’ voice asking us to open the door that He might come in and dine with us, (Rev.3:20). We must have "an ear to hear what the Spirit" is saying, (v.22). If we haven’t, let us ask before it is too late.
We are entering the time which will abound in "deception of wickedness for those who perish because they will not love the truth so as to be saved, and for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness," (2Thess.2:10-12). This is the most awesome of times. It is the time to break free of all that has chained up the Body of Christ for nearly 2000 years, and those who do will rise up with power to overcome in this hour when the end-time harvest is going to be reaped.
This ‘freedom’ cannot be achieved by ‘effort’, however, but is ours in Jesus, through faith. So, may we each look to our Saviour in whom we have this victory.
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