Three Myths about the Endtime
By David Norris
Clearly, there arc signs of the time that categorically point to the soon return of Christ. For instance, the twentieth century brought with it the revival of apostolic doctrine and experience, the restoration of Israel as a nation, and the development of specific global technologies that would allow for a particular application of prophecy described in the Book of Revelation. Yet, as the twenty-first century dawns, we need to consider if some of the “facts” that we sometimes assumed to be correct about end-time prophecy arc in fact true. Let us consider three myths that get passed on to others.
Myth 1: By definition, certain people will not be saved
In the Bible, certain people groups are mentioned who will do wicked things in the time of the end. It may be that because of this, we have assumed that people from particular nations will not be saved. For instance, as I was growing up, I did not have much hope for Russians. The fact that they were communists, that they were engaged in a cold war with us, and Ezekiel’s prophecy that Russia would invade Israel all convinced me that very few Russians could be saved. But then I visited some good Russian brothers and sisters and realized that a particular governmental system does not prevent people from coming to Christ. These people were certainly as faithful to Christ as me.
Recently, I have noticed a tendency to demonize Muslims as unreachable with the gospel. Certainly there arc militant Muslims who have extreme hatred for Christianity. But the truth of the matter is that Muslims by the millions are being converted to Christianity. Indeed, more Muslims have converted to Christianity in the last ten years than at any time in history. Our foreign missions publications celebrate the inroads that apostolic are making in the Muslim world.
We should consider as well our attitude towards China. Recent events have caused some to highlight the potential place of China as an antagonist in prophecy. Yet, there is incredible revival taking place in China. Despite global politics, Pentecostalism is burgeoning in this communist state. In fact, there are some who believe that Christianity will potentially change the very social map of China. Further, some of the fastest growth is taking place among those who are Oneness Pentecostals in doctrine.
None of this is written to question whether global alignments offer hints of the time in which we are living. My caution is simply that we should not be so caught up in what might take place globally that we neglect the real potential impact that the church can have to reach the world. I understand that some texts in Revelation have been interpreted to limit who can or cannot be saved. Yet, common sense must prevail. If God is sending revival and if people are being saved, we should draw back from attempting to micromanage a particular interpretation of the biblical text. Our job as the church is to continue to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Myth 2: We must see “a great falling away” before Jesus can return.
It is often assumed that it is inevitable that the church must prophetically he in some weakened position just prior to the coming of Jesus Christ. Certainly there are warnings about the last days and exhortations for the church not to fall away from Christ. But an understanding of the historical sweep of the church demonstrates that certain passages call the entire church age the “last days.” (See Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:2.)
Knowing this, we may understand that historically there has already been a great “falling away.” I would argue that the church is being lifted out of this gross falling away to a renewal of apostolic doctrine and practice. Some cite anecdotal evidence of individuals who have strayed from truth as confirmed evidence of a kind of general falling away. The truth is that there will be people both falling away and coming to Christ until Jesus returns. But the notion that the church must necessarily backslide should be abandoned.
Common sense should instruct us that exercising faith for people to fall away is misplaced faith. Even a focus on the world getting worse and worse ignores a biblical principle: “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). Paul said, “he which bath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Jude said of the Lord, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). I f we are going to have faith for something, we may as well have faith that the Lord is going to come back for a victorious church.
One might ask how it is that there came to be such a negative emphasis with reference to the church. It seems to me that this is one of those theologically skewed myths that we have inherited from others. A study of modern interpretation of prophecy leads me to believe that the doctrine that the church must necessarily fall into a kind of depravity is related to the pessimism of hyper-dispensationalist Calvinists. Such a doctrine should be abandoned by Pentecostals.
Myth 3: God needs us to accomplish certain tasks in order to fulfill endtime prophecies.
In previous centuries, some who were “post-millennial” in their understanding of the return of
Christ believed that if they would labor vigorously enough to Christianize the world, they could bring about the return of Christ. This understanding proved to he untrue. Some early Pentecostals believed that the gift of tongues was given for missionary purposes, and that as soon as they took this gift and shared the gospel with the world, Jesus would come. This understanding proved false as well. What both interpretations have in common is the belief that our actions control the eternal plan of God. While evangelism is always a good thing, God determines the date and time of the second coming of Christ.
Efforts have been made on other fronts to aid the Lord in His cosmic plan. Some of the focus has been on Israel. Certainly, we understand that Israel serves in some respects as God’s time clock. Further, we know that the psalmist intoned, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). Further, God has promised to bring Israel back to Himself. (See Romans 11:26.)
Yet, despite the reconstituting of the nation of Israel, the Jewish people are not restored to God. Most Jewish people in Israel are not religious, and there is a considerable percent of the population that does not even believe in God. Israel will be restored only when they recognize their Messiah, Jesus Christ. Thus, while it is our responsibility to share the gospel with the Jewish people, we must leave the results in the hands of the Lord.
Other actions need to come under scrutiny as well. Whether the United States should offer military aide to Israel—and how much should be given—is a political rather than a religious question. Some Christians have given money for the restoration of the Temple, or have concerned themselves with how to restore Jewish animal sacrifice. From my perspective, such an effort is misplaced. The mission of the church is clear. We are to bear witness of the life-changing power of the name of Jesus. As to the specific fulfillment of prophecy, we should leave this up to God.
In Luke 19, Jesus gave a parable about the coming of the Lord. In this parable, servants were given a pound and were told to be industrious with the gifts that were given to them. They were charged, “Occupy til I come” (Luke 19:13). This parable admonishes the church not merely to look for the return of Jesus—we are encouraged to be productive with the coming of Jesus Christ in view. The signs of the time are offered to us both as encouragement and caution. Just as the farmer studies the weather map to be a good steward of his labors, so Christians should seek to understand the time in which we live to maximize our labors in accomplishing God’s purpose in our lives. We can err by predicting specific time lines based upon this or that current event. Prophecy should be studied, not as a kind of hobby or in an effort to gain secret information. Signs of the time are less a chess game than a weather map. They are given for general guidance. Their purpose is to make the church hopeful, to encourage us to be industrious, and to teach us to be fruitful. They also help us to prepare for the day when our Lord will say, “Well done thy good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
From, “Pentecostal Herald”/August 2007/Page 10-11, by David Norris