Thursday, March 1, 2018

Guest Post: Imminence

We have discussed the kingdom/dominion/reconstruction/COR movement a number of times. I consider it to be the fastest growing adverse influence in the church today, and thus a primary cause for concern. It is helping to set the stage for the coming world government of the Antichrist by confusing key issues of prophecy. Of course, those involved in this movement would sincerely deny that they are helping, or that they wish to have any part in helping, the Antichrist in any way. There is another and more subtle danger—the undermining of one's personal spiritual life as a result of this movement's unbiblical teachings.
Those who believe that they must take over the world and establish the millennial kingdom for Christ in His absence either reject the Rapture or relegate it to such a distant and unimportant position that it has no practical value in their lives. This has serious consequences because the hope that Christ could return at any moment is intended by God to be one of the major purifying factors in the Christian's life (1 Jn:3:3). I believe that John is referring both to doctrinal as well as moral purity by the phrase "purifieth himself." The two go together, yet doctrine is now frequently avoided as a cause of division rather than what it actually is, the necessary container of truth.
One of the most unpopular doctrines today (in stark contrast to its prominence only a few years ago) is that of the Rapture—Christ catching His bride away to heaven (1 Thes:4:13-18). Because Christ has not come "quickly," as He promised (at least by our definition), there are those who consider the Rapture a topic to be avoided. However, the great number of statements in the Bible regarding the end times in general, and the Rapture in particular, suggest that this whole area should be a prominent part of our Christian faith and life.
With respect to the Rapture, we are repeatedly urged to have an attitude of watching and waiting. Why is this attitude commanded by Christ? Does its value for us, and the importance the Bible obviously attaches to it, reside primarily in the Lord's return actually being imminent? Indeed not.
Whether or not the Lord's return is imminent for us, we now know in retrospect that it was not imminent for all those generations of Christians who came before us. If the sole value of their "expectancy" lay in its being satisfied, i.e., in it being true that the Lord would come imminently—then the fact that Christ has not yet returned would leave us without any explanation for why the Lord urged this "expectant" attitude in the first place. Therefore there must be something important, something integral to a good Christian life, about the attitude of expecting Christ's return at any moment. What could this be?
There can be no doubt that believing that we could be caught up at any moment imparts an added seriousness to our lives. We won't be here forever, so we should make every minute count. Moreover, it makes us insecure in our tendency to identify ourselves too closely with a world which does not hold our ultimate destiny, and reminds us of our true citizenship in a world to come which is based upon eternal rather than earthly values. This attitude certainly ought to characterize a Christian life, and a lively sense of the possibility of Christ's imminent return is more than justified if it has this good effect on us.
But doesn't the possibility of imminent death supply exactly the same motive? No. While it supplies a very powerful motive indeed, there is a great difference. The expectancy of being caught up at any moment into the presence of our Lord in the Rapture does have some advantages over a similar expectancy through the possibility of sudden death:
(1) If we are in a right relationship with Christ, we can genuinely look forward to the Rapture. Yet no one (not even Christ in the Garden) looks forward to death. The joyful prospect of the Rapture will attract our thoughts, while the distasteful prospect of death is something we may try to forget about, thus making it less effective in our daily lives.
(2) While the Rapture is similar to death in that both serve to end one's earthly life, the Rapture does something else as well: it signals the climax of history and opens the curtain upon its final drama. It thus ends, in a way that death does not, all human stake in continuing earthly developments, such as the lives of the children left behind, the growth or dispersion of the fortune accumulated, the protection of one's personal reputation, the success of whatever earthly causes one has espoused, and so forth.
One way that people cope with the finality of death is through such forms of pseudo-immortality—ways in which we, or things we cared about, "live on" after we are gone. Even Christians, who have genuine immortality to look forward to, may nevertheless be tempted to find consolation in some of these forms of pseudo-immortality. The Rapture, however, undercuts all of these; and to whatever extent these pseudo-consolations are weakened, our post-mortem hope becomes purified of its earthly elements. Being thus forced to face the fact that our destiny lies in heaven, we will be motivated to live with that goal in mind.
(3) The incentive provided by death is weakened somewhat by the fact that we generally have at least some control over its relative imminence. Certainly we are radically contingent beings, and our lives could be snuffed out at any time. But this is not the way people usually die. The cancer victim could have refrained from smoking, or added more fiber to his diet, or sought treatment earlier. The guilty auto accident victim could have driven within the speed limit or taken a taxi when he had too much to drink.
Though death can come suddenly and without warning we are not complete masters of our own fate), it is nevertheless true that we make decisions daily that increase or decrease the chances of our dying tomorrow, next month, or in ten years. This not-altogether-illusory sense of control over the time of our death reduces its incentive for godliness by making us feel that we can afford to postpone a closer relationship with God until next week, next month or next year. In contrast, we have absolutely no control over the timing of Christ's return to earth. It will just happen "out of the blue." Belief in the imminent return of Christ, then, does not allow us to postpone anything.
The whole dominion/reconstruction movement is too wedded to an ongoing earthly process stretching into the indeterminate future to be truly faithful to the totality of what Scripture says about being sufficiently disengaged from this world to be ready to leave it behind at a moment's notice. I am concerned that the Reconstructionists and the Coalition on Revival as well as other kingdom/dominion advocates are fostering a false conception of our earthly ministry—a conception which we must guard against lest we subtly fall into an attitude like that of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor, for whom Christ's return to earth represents an interference with the mission of the church. He has Christ thrown into prison, where he visits him to complain:
There is no need for Thee to come now at all. Thou must not meddle for the time, at least...fortunately, departing Thou didst hand on the work to us. Thou has promised, Thou hast established by Thy word, Thou has given to us the right to bind and to unbind, and now, of course, Thou canst not think of taking it away. Why, then, hast Thou come to hinder us?
All human beings are tempted to be more at home in the world than they should be. Christians are not exempt from this temptation, and when they succumb it often leads to an effort to reinterpret Scripture accordingly. Reconstructionists exemplify this temptation, some even taking it to the point of claiming that Christ returned in a.d.70 in the person of the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem and excommunicate Israel—and that this was the day of the church's wedding to Christ prophesied in Revelation 19!
Christ's return before they have taken over the world would be as inconvenient to the Reconstructionists and others in the kingdom/dominion movement as it was to the Grand Inquisitor, and for the same reasons.
Our hope is not in taking over this world, but in being taken to heaven by our Lord, to be married to Him in glory and then to return with Him as part of the armies of heaven to rescue Israel, destroy His enemies and participate in His millennial reign. Yet too often those of us who claim to believe this hold the belief in theory only, while denying it with our lives. Our hearts should be in perpetual wonder and joy at the prospect of being suddenly caught up to be with Christ, our bodies transformed to be like His body of glory and to be wedded to our Lord for eternity.
Heaven is not so much a location somewhere as it is being with Christ wherever He may be in the universe at the time, for we will be perpetually in His presence. It is not so much a place as it is a state of being, enjoying a heavenly existence that is beyond our present understanding but which ought to be our continual and exciting anticipation. And in our transformed bodies, made like His body of glory, in which we will share His resurrection life, we will reign with Him over this earth for 1,000 years. Then we will spend an eternity during which He will be perpetually revealing to and in us more and more of Himself, His love and grace and kindness.
Part of the problem with the kingdom/dominion/reconstruction movement is its mistaken notion that mortal man can accomplish what only immortal Man, our risen Lord, and we as immortal resurrected beings with Him, can perform. Do not settle for anything less than the fullness of what Christ has promised! The glory of the eternal kingdom that He offers is light years beyond the COR agenda of Christianizing and taking over this present world in these bodies of weakness and corruption.
We can miss His best by refusing to take seriously what the Bible clearly teaches and by not standing firm for sound doctrine. And we can also miss out on our true reward by attempting to live in our own strength the Christian life which only Christ can live through us. May we be true to His Word and to Him in our daily lives. The joy and glory He has planned and in which He desires that we participate is more than enough to excite and inspire and motivate us. "Set your affection on things above" (Col:3:2)! TBC
By Dave Hunt