The Church At The End Of The Millennium
by Tony Pearce, Vanguard Magazine, Issue 7, 2/00

Newspapers have been featuring more and more articles commenting on the undermining of the Christian faith by its own leadership.  A.N. Wilson wrote an article in "The Express" (21/10/99) titled "The Dying Mythology of Christ".  He seems to think Islam is more likely to survive in the coming millennium than Christianity because the Muslims "preach the same undiluted message" as their founder taught, whereas in bible colleges and commentaries today "you would find only a minority of scholars professing old fashioned, orthodox Christian belief".  Wilson writes from a strongly anti-Christian perspective and his article is clearly biased, but the fact that the faith is being undermined from within by supposed teachers of Christianity cannot be denied.
In an article more sympathetic to Christianity in 'The Mail on Sunday" (1/8/99), Damian Thompson asks the question, "If the church questions heaven, hell and even the resurrection, what does it believe in?" Commenting on Dr Carey's millennium message, he writes that the Messiah sounds like a Liberal Democrat councilor, "slanted towards the disadvantaged" and "making those on the boundaries feel accepted".  The reason he gives for the Church of England's failure to present its message for the millennium is "the domination of clergy who in the sixties dreamed of an egalitarian paradise purged of racism, sexism, imperialism and capitalism.  As these liberals took control of the church, they heaved down the pillars and columns that made it strong".

From Liberalism to Rome... and beyond!

The politically correct clergy have espoused all kinds of bogus causes such as feminism and homosexual rights, but unlike the apostle Paul they are ashamed of the gospel and no longer believe it is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe (Romans 1: 16).

As a result many, like Shadow Home Secretary Anne Widdecombe, have converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism looking to Rome for statements of certainty in such fundamental beliefs as the resurrection and for clear guidelines on sexual morality. This is a great mistake since the Anglican church still has its pockets of light where the gospel is taught, whereas Rome is entirely based on error.

However when one looks at the unbelief which is taught by so many in the upper reaches of the Anglican hierarchy, it is not difficult to see why many thinking people are moving in this direction.

The Rome-ward drift was confirmed by the fact that the Pope was recognized as the overall authority in the Christian world by an Anglican and Roman Catholic commission which described him as a "gift to be received by all the churches".  After five years of debate, the 18 member Anglican-Roman Catholic commission concluded that the Bishop of Rome had a "specific ministry concerning the discernment of truth" and accepted that only the Pope had the moral authority to unite the various Christian denominations.

Dr Carey called for a debate on the report's findings.  He said, "In a world torn apart by violence and division, Christians need urgently to be able to speak with a common voice, confident of the authority of the gospel of peace".

It is in fact the authority of the gospel and the whole Word of God which has in the past prevented bible believing Christians from being able to speak with a common voice with the Roman Catholic church, because of Rome's deviations from biblical Christianity

As Protestants abandon the bible as their authority it becomes possible for them to consider what would have been unthinkable for the Reformers accepting the Pope as the authority over the Christian world.

The ecumenical trend is affecting a wider and wider circle of Christians.  The Alpha course has swept through the churches and has almost become a standard for orthodoxy in many circles.

It is equally acceptable to the Roman Catholic church and its authors accept Roman Catholics as fellow Christians.  Premier Radio in the London area has accepted Roman Catholic sponsorship and now broadcasts Catholic speakers along with evangelical bible teachers.  Most leaders of the evangelical and charismatic movement will never say that there is anything wrong with Roman Catholic belief.

This is part of the general trend of religious unity which goes way beyond simply uniting the Christian churches.  It ties in with the prophecies relating to an apostasy (falling away from the truth) within Christianity and a coming together of world religions in a religious system like that of ancient Rome.  In the Roman empire people were free to follow whichever god they wished to, as long as they submitted to the overall authority of the emperor who was known as "Pontifex Maximus" (supreme bridge maker ... a title taken over in the fourth century by the Bishop of Rome/Pope).  They placed their gods in the Pantheon (all gods) in Rome (the Spirit Zone in the London Millennium Dome is a modern parallel to this) and kept the peace ('Pax Romana') by not trying to convert people to their religions.  The early Christians could neither accept the authority of the emperor nor keep quiet about the one way of salvation they had found in Jesus and so ran into conflict with the state, resulting in persecution and martyrdom.

Signs and Wonders?

The denial of the fundamentals of the faith and the drift towards union with Rome is not the only problem affecting Christians at the end of the millennium.

There is also a huge credibility problem arising through the rise of highly visible ministries claiming signs and wonders and giving endless prophecies of impending world revival which will sweep "whole cities and whole nations" into the kingdom of God.

Recent exposure of this movement has taken place on TV with Ruby Wax (TV personality) attending a Benny Hinn rally in the USA and Trevor McDonald (TV presenter) investigating the "gold teeth" phenomenon which has swept through the charismatic churches which previously accepted the "Toronto" phenomena.

Ruby Wax showed a line of people in wheel chairs going into the Benny Hinn meeting expecting to receive a miracle.  It later showed the same people being wheeled out without anything miraculous happening, but still clinging to the faith that Benny would bring them healing sometime somewhere.

Some people did claim healings in the meeting, but a caption announced that these healings were investigated later and no evidence of any lasting healing could be found.  A similar thing happened at a Morris Cerullo rally in London, where the evangelist was challenged to produce one medically verifiable healing from his campaign and could not.

No doubt some will say that this is the opposition trying to discredit Christianity.  However when we look at the New Testament we find that the opposition could not question that genuine miracles had taken place (e.g. Mark 2:1-12, John 9, John 1 1, Acts 3-4). In fact Acts 4:14 states that the opposition "beholding the man who was healed standing with them could say nothing against it".

On the Trevor McDonald programme about "gold teeth" the claim was put out that amalgam fillings had changed to gold in charismatic meetings as a sign of God's favour.

One lady said that it did not matter whether or not the reporter believed that something miraculous had happened because it was true to her.

Another, who visited her dentist and was told that nothing had changed, was not put off by this, because she said the experience had been real to her and had given her joy. This is the same kind of "logic" we hear from people who are into "post-modem" ways of thinking, who say, "This is 'my truth' and you have 'your truth' and it does not matter what you believe because it is real to me".

By contrast the Lord Jesus said that He is the truth and by definition everything that He does must be clearly seen to be true.

Comfort for Battered Christians

As I travel around the country I meet Christians from various backgrounds, who have been hurt and alienated by the church.  Some have questioned leaders who give out prophecy that revival is just around the comer, and claim miracles, which turn out to be bogus.  As a result of this questioning they find themselves rejected and cast out by people they thought were their friends.
It is inevitable that any belief system, which is not based on the truth will end up as some form of tyranny, because it has to prevent those who are asking legitimate questions from upsetting the apple cart.

That has certainly happened in a number of Christian fellowships where the "carrot and stick" principle is used to keep people in submission to the leaders' hip.

The "carrot" is the promise of being part of the great coming revival.  The "stick" is being rejected and cast out of the group and even being told that you will lose your salvation if you question the leaders of the group.

To those who find themselves caught between liberal ecumenical churches and "the weird and weirder" show of charismania, the bible offers comfort and advice.  First of all it tells us that we should not be surprised at what is going on. The scripture is full of warnings (e.g. 2 Thessalonians 2) that the second coming of Christ will be preceded by the "falling away" or the apostasy (i.e. departing from the truth as taught by the New Testament).  Jesus said there would be false Messiahs and false prophets who will deceive many (Matthew 24:5,11, 23-4). Paul said that "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:13).  Peter describes the false teachers who bring in 'damnable heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them" (2 Peter 2: 1).

Writing to Timothy Paul said, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap up to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).  That time has certainly come.  Fables are made up stories, which are not in fact true.  Much of the church today is being built on fables.  Paul's advice to Timothy is as relevant today.  Those who want to stay loyal to the Lord should continue to hold to the things we have been taught from the scripture.  This centres on the fact that the Lord Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins and rose again from the dead.  This is recorded in the unchanging infallible word of God which alone can bring the knowledge of salvation and which we should preach whether people want to hear it or not.

The Prostitute and the Bride

In Revelation 17 John prophesied the rise of "Mystery Babylon", a union of all counterfeit spiritual forces allied to the coming beast or Antichrist.  This union is called "the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the earth." The prostitute gives her favours to every man that asks of her.  By contrast the faithful wife is the symbol used of the true church in Revelation 19.  The wife keeps herself for one man and the true church keeps herself pure for the Lord Jesus, even if it means suffering ridicule and persecution for His name's sake.  In Revelation 17 the beast makes use of the prostitute in order to rise to power, but then the forces allied to the beast turn on her and destroy her (see verses 15-18).

This ties in with the actions of past dictators who have used corrupt religious forces in order to rise to power, but then turn on them once they are in power.  In the same way the scriptures indicate that the coming Antichrist will use the coming religious union of the last days in order to gain power over all the nations but when the time comes he will turn on this union and destroy it (one reason why I do not believe that the Pope is the Antichrist).  He will replace it with his own religious system mediated by the False Prophet of Revelation 13.  Interestingly Hitler used corrupt forms of Christianity -. both Catholic and Protestant ... to gain power in Germany, but had it in mind to replace Christianity with his own form of occult based paganism in the victorious Reich.  It is not difficult to see the emergence of a "New Age" occult religion which will focus on worship of the beast in the last days of this age, as prophesied in Revelation 13.

The Remnant Church

The bible makes it clear that the true church at the end of this age will be a "remnant church" not a church taking control of the nations.  Jesus questioned whether he would find faith on the earth at the time of his second coming (Luke 18:8).  The church at Philadelphia which has "a little strength and has kept my word and has not denied my name" is commended, whereas the worldly self satisfied church at Laodicea which says of itself "I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing" is condemned as "wretched, miserable, poor blind and naked". (See Revelation 3:7-22 - Philadelphia and Laodicea can be seen as types of the true and false church in the last days).

The theme of the "remnant" is one which goes throughout the redemptive history of the bible.  True believers are a minority whom God preserves in the midst of an unbelieving majority Noah preaching to his generation, but only succeeding in rescuing the eight members of his family from the flood Abraham praying to God to save Sodom if ten righteous people can be found there (and they can't).  Moses smashing the commandments of God as the Israelites dance around the golden calf.  Elijah who thought he was the only one left in Israel who was loyal to the Lord and had to be reminded by God that there were still 7,000 who had not "bowed the knee to Baal".

Isaiah 6 gives a picture of the "remnant".  Commissioned by God to preach to his generation he is told that most people will not listen to his message.  In fact they will become even more hardened to God's word as a result of his preaching.  This will go on until the cities are laid waste and the people carried away into captivity He was given a picture of a tree being cut down, but the holy seed being in its stump, which guaranteed that it would grow again.  Understanding the relevance of this he called his son "Shear-jashuv" - "A remnant shall return".  This vision was to be fulfilled many years later as the remnant of Israel returned from the Babylonian captivity to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple and to lay again the foundation of faith in the Lord.

Not long after I became a Christian in 1970 [ went with my first wife Nikki into the Peak District in Derbyshire.  There we came across a place where a whole copse of trees had been felled apparently by a landslide.  Out of the stump of one of the fallen trees a shoot was growing.  We felt that God was saying that there would be a great upheaval in our time and everything that people believed to be secure would be shaken.  Nevertheless out of that shaking, in which many things would fall to the ground, there would be a shoot which would preserve the truth of God's word.  Certainly there has been much that has happened in my life which has fulfilled that word.

Beyond all this we can see that there is a glorious future coming in the return of the Lord Jesus.  One reason for all the apostasy in the church is that very few still believe and preach this truth.  Therefore they entertain the vain hope that somehow their efforts will save the world from the destruction which clearly is coming.  By this logic it becomes a good idea to unite as much as possible with others in order to be part of a bigger and better Organization which can influence the world (you hope!).  On the other hand, if you believe the remnant concept as taught in the bible and that the coming of the Lord Jesus is the event which will save the world from destruction, then you will be motivated in the opposite direction - to keep separate from apostasy and false teaching and to continue to preach the truth whether people will hear or not.

Copyright 2000 Vanguard Magazine