There are many factors that make up the growing apostasy and seduction of the church. One of the most alarming, least understood, and fastest spreading errors is the teaching that earth instead of heaven is the ultimate home for the church, and that her goal is to take over the world and establish the kingdom of God. Only then, it is said, can Christ return—not, however, to take us to His Father's house as He promised His disciples in John 14, but to reign over the Kingdom which we have established for Him. As we mentioned in the last chapter of Seduction, if the real Jesus Christ is going to catch His bride up from earth to meet Him in the air (1 Thes:4:17 ), then those who work to build a kingdom for a "Christ" whom they will meet with their feet planted on earth have been under heavy delusion indeed! They have been working for the Antichrist!
One hears a great deal about Christ returning only when the church is a unified, vibrant, forceful, spotless, wrinkle-free Bride (Harvest Time, Nov. 1986, etc.). There is no scripture to support such teaching. Nor is it logical that Christians who happen to be alive when Christ returns must attain to perfection in order to join (at that heavenly marriage to the Lamb) millions of Christians from past ages who attained to no such perfection at all.
The only righteousness that any of us has is that of Christ himself. Our works qualify us for rewards but not for heaven. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord" (2 Cor:5:8 ) is as true of carnal Christians when they die as it is for the most victorious. Christians from all ages "must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Cor:5:10 ), and when our works have been tried with fire (1 Cor:3:13-15 ) and in shame we have confessed our sins and failures (1 Jn:1:9 ) and He has wiped "all tears from [our] eyes" (Rev:21:4 ), then and not until then will His bride be without spot and wrinkle, united before the Father's throne in heaven and ready to join in that great feast above!
We ought to seek to live holy and faithful lives to His glory. His coming, however, is not dependent upon that small fraction of the church alive at the time reaching some perfection which millions and perhaps billions of Christians already in His presence through death have never attained.
This teaching can be traced back several centuries, but its recent explosion dates from the Latter Rain, or Manifest Sons, movement that began in 1948 in Canada in apparent revival. It was declared to be heresy by the Assemblies of God in 1950. Its relationship to the positive-confession (Hagin, Copeland, et al.) and discipleship (Mumford, Simpson, et al.) movements is clearly established. Obviously, if we can get whatever we confess, then we ought to confess healing and immortality and peace and prosperity and salvation for the world. This is in fact where the name "Manifest Sons" comes from: the last-days overcomers must manifest total victory over all foes in these bodies without a resurrection, even over death.
Earl Paulk is a major leader in this movement as are John Giminez of Rock Church and Bob Weiner of Maranatha Ministries, active on college campuses across the country. Pat Robertson at times sounds as though he leans strongly toward this position (for example, his Dec. 9, 1984 talk at Bob Tilton's church), as does James Robison. Hardcore Manifest Sons teachers make such statements as, "You can study books about going to heaven in a so-called 'rapture' if that turns you on. We want to study the Bible to learn to live and to love and to bring heaven to earth." (See Beyond Seduction, p 244.)
Others are more cautious and even devious in their statements. Earl Paulk, for example, claims to believe in the Rapture in spite of the fact that he has written entire books denouncing it. Just as Mormons use words such as salvation, eternal life, God, etc. but have their own meaning, so those in this movement use terminology with accepted meaning for other Christians in order to confuse. It is a mistake to assume that by "Rapture" Paulk means being caught up to meet Christ in the air with the resurrected saints and taken to heaven. Like the "Happy Hunters" (who tell of seeing a huge Christ at a crusade in Fresno—presumably not as tall as Oral Roberts' 900-foot Jesus— and Christians being raptured up into Him and being recycled back to earth) those in this movement use the term "Rapture" to signify reaching a new oneness with Christ that enables them to fully manifest His power and glory.
Prophetic scriptures are either denied, interpreted as having already been fulfilled (much of Revelation happened at A.D. 70, for example) or spiritualized. The church is Israel, which no longer has any place in prophecy as a nation; Armageddon is the ongoing battle between the forces of light and darkness; the Antichrist is a spirit not a person; we are already in the Great Tribulation and the Millennium both, etc. Instead of exegeting the Bible, there are new revelations. For example, the brochure for the Atlanta '86 conference for pastors, held at Paulk's church with speakers such as Oral Roberts, Tommy Reid, et al., declared that Christ's return was being held up by the reluctance to accept new revelation. The latter are presented by a new class of prophets who cannot be judged but must be obeyed.
Closely related in belief are several other groups: reconstructionists such as Gary North, et al., as well as Christian socialists such as Jim Wallis (of Sojourners), Tom Sine, et al., whose major focus is upon cleaning up the earth ecologically, politically, economically, sociologically, etc. They imagine that the main function of the church is to restore the Edenic state—hardly helpful, since Eden is where sin began.
Many groups are beginning to work together who disagree on some points but share with the New Agers a desire to clean up earth and establish the Kingdom. I expect such cooperative efforts to grow, even involving Christian leaders who are not aware of what they are actually promoting. One example is the Coalition on Revival, which includes such evangelical stalwarts as Joseph Aldrich, Bill Bright, Armin Gesswein, Josh McDowell and J.I. Packer, who are not aware that the actual intention of the leaders of COR falls in line with what we are discussing.
I give brief attention to this subject in the last chapter of Beyond Seduction. A more detailed treatment is provided in Whatever Happened to Heaven? Be on your guard. Keep close to our Lord and to His Word. Be Bereans who don't rely upon the interpretation of someone else (be he Dave Hunt, Robert Schuller or anyone) but who know what they believe and why on the basis of God's Word.
Last month we referred to the growing kingdom/dominion/restoration movement, and the related danger of sincere people being involved in a vast international cooperative effort to bring peace and justice upon the earth through humanistic means. Sojourners magazine (headed by Jim Wallis) boasts that it "has become a connection point...creating a network of faith and action among evangelicals, Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants, the historic peace churches, the charismatic renewal, the peace movement, and non-Christians looking for a faith that touches the world they live in." Any such "faith" that this ecumenical movement (which includes non- and even anti-Christians) can agree upon is obviously not the faith once for all delivered to the saints for which Jude tells us we must earnestly contend. In fact, this cooperative effort effectively undermines true biblical faith.
Significantly, the Pope is emerging as the inspirational leader in an unprecedented international ecumenism. He has cleverly declared that "liberation theology" (divested of Marxism) is the hope of the world and that a common concern for the welfare of humanity will be the means of uniting all religions into one. Mother Teresa is the champion of the humanistic ecumenism which the Pope advocates and she has become so highly respected that to criticize her would be unthinkable. She is the epitome of good works, selfless love and Christlike living—or so it seems. Yet she enjoys the acclaim of everyone in all religions, which is very un-Christlike (Mat:10:22 , Mk 13:13).
The reason for her popularity (which has deceived many evangelical leaders into unreservedly praising her) is her universalism. Although she seems to glorify Christ, she says He is in everyone. Indeed, AIDS victims are declared to be "Jesus in a pitiful disguise." In her speech at the United Nations after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (Jesus never gained such acceptance by the world), Mother Teresa explained that she wanted to get everyone to pray because prayer "purifies the heart," and when the heart is pure you "see God in everyone." Hers is the "god" of all religions. Her goal is to bring everyone "nearer to God," and when that happens, she explains, if you are a Buddhist you become a better Buddhist, if a Hindu you become a better Hindu, etc.
We cannot fault her selfless, sacrificial example of charity. It is staggering that this woman has been responsible for taking 40,000 derelicts out of the gutters of Calcutta and her work is spreading around the world. There is, however, something more important than helping the suffering and afflicted to die in a clean bed. It is in fact not love at all to clean them up only to let them go out into eternity without Christ. That is comparable to carefully attending to a blister on the finger while ignoring the fact that the patient has a ruptured appendix.
Both in Calcutta and New Delhi, Pope John Paul II declared that he had come to learn from the great spiritual heritage of India. (This "great spiritual heritage" of Hinduism has left India the poorest, most pitiful country in the world.) One year ago he "walked down the aisle of Rome's main synagogue to thunderous applause and sat beside Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff." The historic event was described as "an unprecedented papal gesture to end nearly 2,000 years of enmity between Catholics and Jews." The Pope has met with leading Muslims and Buddhists, including the Dalai Lama, and in doing so has repeatedly called for a uniting of all the world's religions. Last October 27 he succeeded in gathering at Assisi representatives of most of the world's leading religions in a "Day of Prayer for Peace." In his invitation he declared that "the challenge of peace, as it is presently posed to every human conscience, transcends religious differences."
It is a powerful appeal: the necessity to unite to rescue the world from a nuclear holocaust and to work together in the humanitarian cause of the poor and needy. And along with this is the equally irresistible power of a common mystical experience of "God" that frees one from the necessity of theological arguments and thus dissolves the basic conflict between religions. The charismatic movement is made to order for the new ecumenism and significantly it is the charismatics who are almost frantically pushing "the greatest move of unity in history." An integral part of this "move" is Protestant-Catholic "unity" which has Protestant charismatics overlooking fundamental doctrinal differences and embracing occultic practices.
With the clear biblical warnings of a coming world religion (Rev:13:4 ,8) we do well to watch these developments carefully and to seek to rescue as many as we can from compromise that denies the true faith. TBC