Most of us, who have had the good fortune to be born into a nation that was established on Christian principles, like to believe we are tolerant, just, humane and well informed about the latest scientific developments. However, an increasing number of people, who have had the advantage of living in a society based on the concepts of freedom, justice, mercy and equality, see themselves as intelligent, rational adherents of empiricism and dismiss out of hand any notion of there being a God who has revealed Himself to humanity through His Son and His Word.
Many “progressive” thinkers look upon such beliefs as mere superstition: something well educated people would find completely unnecessary as they navigate a path through our evolving world. Self proclaimed progressives are often well read and, having consumed innumerable alternative notions of reality, they frequently dismiss the concept of God presented by the Christian community as an anachronism.
Ironically, most of these people will not have read the biblical prophecy that foretold the fact that they would do just that. The majority of people who reject Jesus’ message, would have no idea that almost 2000 years ago the apostle Paul warned the church in Thessalonica that there would be what he called an apostasy, or great “falling away”, before the end of the church age (2 Thes 2:3). For there to be a falling away there first needed to be a building up.
No matter how hard we try to rewrite history, it is impossible to avoid the fact that the church was built up throughout the world, carrying with it the principles God the Father had, across time, purposefully sown into the human community. He communicated His plan, purpose and these principles through His patriarchs, prophets, chosen people and apostles and most of all through the incarnation of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He also ensured that the people of the world would have access to this extensive communication by giving us His inerrant Word, the Bible.
People who like to present themselves as “progressive” thinkers can also be found within the Christian community. From the very beginning of the church age there were people who desired to present another gospel, another version of the truth Jesus came to reveal (2 Cor 11). Having aligned themselves with the opinions of unbelieving naturalists and philosophers, this fifth column began to gain traction in the 19th and 20th centuries. They began to sow seeds of doubt about the veracity of God’s Word into the churches and seminaries of the world, undermining the authority of the Bible. It is from this point that we can clearly detect their activity as they determinedly set about subverting the Body of Christ.
In today’s world we see a hollow version of what was once called Christendom. What we now see is the development of the great falling away Paul wrote about in the 1st century. This great apostasy began to erode the church’s human structures and then spread out into the societies Christianity once underpinned.
In reality there never could be such a thing as a Christian nation. Christianity is a personal choice and not something one can be born into: to be a follower of Christ one must be born again. However, there certainly were many countries whose laws and governmental institutions were founded on biblical principles and a large portion of the populations of these “Christian nations” would have made that personal choice to believe God’s Word and accept Jesus as their personal Saviour. Many of their leaders would have proudly looked upon themselves as citizens of Christian nations, whilst enshrining biblical teachings within their national ordinances and Christian holy days into their public calendars. There are now no such nations.
In the last 50 years we have watched as any pretense for such a claim has been renounced and replaced with the word democratic. We now boast about the rule of the people and decree any role our Christian heritages might play in our nations’ activities is merely the remnants of traditional trappings; any more is declared an infringement of the separation of church and state. Instead of our elected representatives placing their hands on the Bible to be sworn into office, they might now use the Bhagavad Gita or the Koran for these ceremonies.
Throughout these post-Christian nations, churches are closing down and many of their citizens are growing up in complete ignorance of the biblical teachings they would once have heard from childhood. In most of these countries there is what could be seen as a media free-for-all on anything Christian, as the many good works done by believers are ignored in favour of stories about paedophile priests. Christians are portrayed as homophobic, anti-abortionists who hold to outmoded moral codes. These views are seen as evidence of Christian intolerance by those who refuse to tolerate such religious beliefs.
What both the above groups of “progressive” thinkers have in common is a limited vision of God. The former group can not allow that a Supreme Being exists and can therefore not even begin to comprehend the nature of such a Being. Most have blindly accepted the notion that the concept of God is a human construct; something a more primitive people created to explain the unexplainable, before science gave us more naturalistic answers to our questions.
Many in this group choose to look upon those who know God as their intellectual inferiors. I can say this with complete confidence, because I have encountered many of these people, who have bluntly declared this to be true, insisting that people who believe in God do so because they are uneducated or of lower intelligence to themselves. They do this in spite of the fact that many Bible believing Christians hold doctoral degrees from prestigious universities.
This group have no understanding of the true nature of their Creator, choosing to remain completely in the dark concerning the things God has revealed to humankind. Their view of the Christian God is so limited they cannot even begin to perceive their own blindness. As Jesus said:
The minds of these people are dull. They have stopped up their ears and have closed their eyes. If at some time they opened their eyes they would see, if they unstopped their ears they would hear, then their minds would understand, and they would turn to me and I would heal them of their unbelief (Matthew 13:15).
The latter group, the fifth column, insist the god they have admitted into their belief system conform to their own specific set of parameters. S/he cannot override their “progressive” beliefs, which usually include an acceptance of the concepts of pluralism and evolution and a loosening of the moral standards clearly outlined in the Bible. Their god must be restrained within the confines of their own particular set of pre-existing axioms.
Some of this group claim they are believers in the Christian canon, although they admit they would like to rescue the Bible from fundamentalism. To achieve this they contort the scriptures and impose rules of interpretation, which make God’s Word almost inaccessible to anyone who has not been indoctrinated with their particular existentialist hermeneutic. The thought of plain reading God’s Word is anathema to them.
They assert God could not have managed to produce an inerrant document that is timeless – a canon that is accessible and relevant to all people throughout time and from many different cultures. Their god is too small for such an achievement. Instead, they insist the Bible must be reinterpreted by scholars who know how to properly apply their hermeneutic, making it relevant to the modern, scientifically literate reader. By necessity, this approach means the reader must be familiar with “hidden knowledge,” they must be part of the inner circle who are capable of utilising this extra layer of meaning to properly access God’s word. It seems they do not believe their god was willing or capable of giving all of humanity a straightforward, timeless, truthful account of his plan and purpose for His image bearers (Genesis 1:26).
However, both Solomon and Paul stated that God’s Word can be read in a straightforward way (Proverbs 8:8-9; 2 Corinthians 4:2). As with any text we need to understand differences in genres and the implications of the historical setting of the writer and audience, but this is the sort of literary appreciation we begin introducing children to in early primary school, it is simply part of understanding the nature of written communication. It is also obvious the original languages would be foreign to most readers, but there are many reliable translations of the Bible available today. God has seen to it that His people have easy access to His Word. It is not a coded message that needs demythologising.
For those people who allow God to be just what He claims to be in a plain reading of the pages of His Word, He is the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Creator; He is merciful, compassionate and just; knowable, awe inspiring and far greater than any person could even begin to imagine. Yet, despite His overwhelming qualities, He has chosen to reveal Himself to humanity through His Son, His Spirit and His Word, but at this time we can only have a limited understanding of who He is, because we must think with limited brains about a Limitless Reality. But for now, it is enough.
The Bible explains that God, in His wisdom, has ensured that no one can use human wisdom to know Him. He understands best what will result in our highest good and He has chosen to save those who would believe through something the unsaved world views as foolishness – the preaching of His Good News. The Father wants His followers to know and trust in His power, rather than in human wisdom. It is through this power that He has guaranteed us access to Him and His eternal kingdom (Romans 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18, 21; 2:5; 2 Cor 13:4; Eph 2:18; Heb 10:19-22) and by the power of His Holy Spirit we can learn more about Him and His plan for humanity through His inerrant Word.
Once we accept our limited ability in the face of the Greater Reality, who is the Creator of heaven and earth, we can start to understand our absolute dependence on His sustaining power. The realisation of this Truth is the beginning of a wonderful journey He tells us will never end. When we choose to give our lives into the hands of our Father we are no longer of this earth, we are destined for eternity. Along the Way our Lord has promised to enlighten and guide us, but we must be prepared to listen. We have filled our world with words, but Jesus alone is the Eternal Word (John 1; 1 Cor 4:20), He alone has the words of eternal life (John 6:68), because He is Life (John 14:6).
The Nobel Prize winning poet, T. S. Eliot called Jesus the still point of the turning world. He saw the incarnation of Jesus as that moment in time on which all time hinges. Eliot spoke into a world that was on the brink of the great falling away. Like many great thinkers and writers before him, Eliot saw that it was through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that God’s rescue mission for fallen humanity was accomplished.
It would be hard to imagine a Bible believing Christian person winning a Nobel Prize today. There is a very reasonable case for assuming it was his creationist stance that prevented one of the pioneers of MRI technology, Dr Raymond V. Damadian, from being awarded this prestigious acknowledgment of his work (see http://creation.com/dr-damadians-vital-contribution-to-mri-nobel-prize-controversy-returns).
The great falling away is now happening at an almost exponential rate. What was once considered a blessing has now become an everyday curse, as people regularly use as a profanity, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died that they might have eternal life.
When preaching to unbelievers Jesus warned:
I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me. If another shall come in his own name, him you will receive. (John 5:43)
The Bible tells those who will listen that this great falling away is a precursor to another event that will be even more troubling.
The verse from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians mentioned above warns:
Let not anyone deceive you by any means. For that Day (of Christ) shall not come unless there first comes a falling away, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of destruction. (2 Thes 2:3)
As the great falling away reaches its peak we will draw nearer to the revealing of this “son of destruction”, the “another” Jesus warned of who “shall come in his own name”. This person is mentioned throughout the Bible, but exactly who he is will remain a mystery until the unveiling that closely follows the falling away.
Just as the mystery of Christ the Messiah was revealed in His incarnation (see more on this topic in my next post), Paul explained to the Thessalonians that the mystery of iniquity that is linked with this son of destruction will also be revealed when the power of the Holy Spirit that is holding him back is removed. Paul writes:
And you know what is holding him (the son of destruction) back, for he can be revealed only when his time comes. For this iniquity is already secretly at work, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back (the Holy Spirit) steps out of the way. Then that wicked one will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of His mouth and destroy him by the splendour of His coming. This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the Truth that would save them. And because of this refusal, God will send them strong delusion, and they will believe these lies. Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the Truth. (2 Thes 2:6-12)
The great falling away is now proceeding apace, this will be closely followed by the unveiling of the man who will come to do the work of Satan. Unfortunately, a product of the falling away is that many people have also been deluded into believing there is no such being as Satan. I can only pray that they will turn their eyes upon Jesus, because it is only in Him that they will find the Truth.