How far have we really come down the road of solving the huge problems of all of mankind? Not just the age-old problems of food, clothing and shelter are plaguing the underdeveloped countries, but also the giant headaches of our burgeoning Western technocracies: polluting the earth, gobbling up the remaining nonrenewable resources at a prodigious rate, feeding our monstrous energy slaves. What about the solving of our great crises of the spirit?
How far down have we come, in the Western world, toward giving this sick and starving world even a material salvation? Haven’t we exported our way of life to the four corners of the earth?
Aren’t we trying to save the rest of the world – Communists from communism, atheists from atheism, Hindus from Hinduism? Haven’t we tried to enlighten the world, teach and educate the world, clothe and mobilize the world? Haven’t we dreamed of seeing nations even in the fourth world bursting with our technology, gleaming with the glittering artifices and devices of our man-made, modern industrialized assembly lines and teeming with luxury cars at about two per person?
Is God really – now -- at this time using the Western nations to forge out some sort of last-ditch opening to the manifold and many-sided box canyons into which this world has gotten itself?
In the past hundred years or so, we have gone about the business of desperately trying to convince others nations of the multiple benefits inherent in the American (and Western) way of life. But now our almost religious fervor is beginning to wane. Watergate, South Vietnam, the Iraqi and Afghanistan debacle, the giving away of billions of dollars to fair-weather friends, the CIA investigations, our sliding confidence in public servants, all have taken their toll on our will. It was President Lyndon Johnson who said in the heart of the Vietnam War: “It is our will that is being tried.”
It is highly questionable whether or not we indeed do have the will to police this world any longer. Witness the recent fiasco in Libya where we began an operation and quickly turned it over to NATO. Now we are scurrying about our land on an unbelievable quest of “blame-placing” and “scape-goating.” We are beginning to come to grips with some of our embarrassments, failures, flaws and mistakes, both now and in the past.
But what should our real mission to this world have been in the first place? To send technocrats to teach others how to build massive mass-production assembly lines so they too could eventually choke in their own smog? To send missionaries to convict and persuade them of our brand of “Christianity”?
What did God want us to do, as a nation for the rest of this world? This is what the nations of the world should be able to say about the United States of America (and the former British Commonwealth of nations): “For this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? (Deut. 4:6-8).
But just as ancient Israel proceeded to fail miserably in their gigantic calling, so have we followed in their footsteps. Our actions and our words cry out as with one voice: “No! We won’t keep the Ten Commandments.”
But let’s not claim we are number one in spreading Christianity when we lead the world in divorce, crime, murder, pornography, the hideous misuse and abuse of the land in which we live and the voracious devouring of our ecological resources. Being number one brings with it the responsibility of not setting a pattern of every assorted form of evil for the entirety of the rest of the world.
Some of us still seem to think that we are the greatest Christian nation that this world has ever known. After all, don’t we print, publish and export more Bibles in more languages than any other nation under the sun? Don’t at least two-thirds of our peoples posses a copy of the King James Version, and many others of our populace more modern translations? Haven’t we sent more missionaries to more countries than any other national collection of peoples? Haven’t we diligently gone about the business of desperately trying to save this world spiritually, as well as economically, politically and socially?
Why then have we so utterly failed? Is it because we haven’t done what King David said and did? “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of they tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgression: and my sin is ever before me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee” (Ps. 51:1-3; 12-13).
Yes, that’s part of it. But the true answer is more fundamental than even that. Look about you at the world of religion and ask yourself this basic question: “Does the entire endeavor of Christian evangelism represent God’s best efforts to get this world saved? If it does, then we can all honestly say that this world is in deep trouble.
If Jesus Christ came to “Face the Nation” or “Meet the Press” today, how would He respond to a reporter asking, “Aren’t you trying to get this world saved”? The astonishing, astounding answer would be a resounding “NO!”
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). Over 1900 years ago he was asked virtually the same question.
Jesus frequently spoke to the general public of that day in parables, all sorts of similes, analogies and interesting stories mainly based on the agriculture of His generation. But neither those Jewish people nor even His disciples seemed to have the faintest idea of what He was talking about when He was conversing in parables.
His disciples asked Him why He spoke in parables. They wondered why He was confusing those poor people. Notice it in Matthew’s account: “And the disciples came, and said unto him, why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered. Because it is given unto you (the disciples and soon to be apostles) to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (kingdom of God in Mark, Luke and John), but to them (the general public it is not given” (Matt. 13:10-11).
Conventional “Christianity” has always taught its Sunday-school children that Jesus spoke in parables because He wanted people to better understand the gospel message. But Christ continued in verse 13: “Therefore speak I unto them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.”
Christ then added: “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias (Isaiah), which saith, by hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s (Jesus’ generation – and it is not different today) heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (vs. 14-15). And then Jesus went on to explain and expound the meaning of a parable to His disciples in the very plainest of language.
Does this sound like Jesus Christ of Nazareth was desperately on a “soul-saving” campaign to the people of His generation? Or didn’t He say in another place: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32)?
Later on in Luke’s account someone asked Jesus: “Lord are there few that be saved” (Luke 13:23)? Jesus’ straight-from-the-shoulder answer was: “Strive to enter in at the strait (narrow) gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (v. 14).
Christ did not neglect to comment on this vital subject in the Sermon on the Mount. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).
These and other scriptures represent a little bit of Christian theology that is just not being taught in the pulpits and under the steeples of this world’s “Christianity.” But they are as plain as day!
A little earlier in the same account Christ had said: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (v. 6). I will leave it to you, the reader, to figure out what Jesus was telling His disciples in that verse!
Now come to a couple of crucial verses that John adds to the story. “And he (Jesus) said, therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:65). And the famous (to God’s people) parallel verse: “No man can come to me, except that the Father which hath sent me draw him” (44). And God the Father is simply not drawing very many people today! The chaotic conditions troubling every nation in this world today ought to be mute testimony to that fact. There is too little salt on this earth!
The Father wasn’t drawing many in Jesus’ day either! Even many who appeared to have a modicum of understanding stumbled at Jesus’ exposition of the true meaning of the Passover in John 6. Notice verse 66 in particular. “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”
Many fundamentalists are perhaps more familiar with verses like God being “longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9); or “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4); and “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26).
What about it? Do these two sets of scriptures contradict and fight with one another? Or, since the Bible does not contradict itself (John 10:35; II Tim. 3:16; II Peter 1:20-21), is there a more logical plausible explanation?
God has a great plan and purpose He is working out with human beings on this earth below, and that plan has an orderly timetable. God has never locked Himself into any effort solely aimed at saving this world today. He is only calling a relative few now in order to further His future plans. Those few are called now to get back of His Work today so the whole world, at a future time, may be saved!
God is snot the author of the Babylonish confusion we see about us today; He will do things decently and in order (I Cor. 14:33, 40). His work with human beings is proceeding and growing according to an overall pattern that has been carefully planned in advance. God is not a failure: when He sets out to really save this world, He will save it!
The resurrection chapter (I Cor. 15) explains something of how God is going to go about saving all of humanity in general. Beginning in verse 22, the apostle Paul tells how we all die in Adam, but we Christians are to be made alive in Christ. Then verse 23: “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” Continuing in verse 24: “Then comes the end, when he (Christ) shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.”
That last summary verse was not augmented with any written detail until John wrote the book of Revelation in the 90’s A.D. He wrote, in chapter 20, of a thousand-year reign of Christ involving “they that are Christ’s at his coming.” These saints, the few called and chosen in this age, are to rule and reign with Christ throughout that utopian, millennial period (vs. 3-6).
All who remain alive into that time (those not having been drawn of the Father previously) and those who are born in the millennium, will receive a full chance at salvation. The earth will be as full of the knowledge of God then as the waters cover the sea now (Isa. 11:9).
But that doesn’t help those who have lived and died in the past (or who will be killed in future calamities), who maybe never even heard of the name of Jesus Christ, which is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12).
John was inspired to put in a parenthetical statement in verse 5 of Rev. 20 that clarifies this problem: “But the rest of the dead (those not included in the first resurrection to eternal life) lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” The words following this parenthetical sentence then refer back to the first resurrection. But “the rest of the dead” are those who never grasped the true gospel of the Kingdom of God even if they heard it with their physical ears, plus the many million and billions who have never even heard the name of Jesus Christ.
Verses 11 through 15 input these vital details. “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God (a dead person could never stand before anybody unless he or she were truly revived, or “resurrected” in theological language); and the books were opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”
Millions have assumed this event was a great “assembly line” of miserable human beings, marching endlessly past a great “courtroom” – each being told in his turn: “You go to heaven,” “You go to hell.” But that isn’t what these verses really say. In truth this great multitude of humanity will be judged by how well they live by the books of the Bible (the word “Bible” simply means books”).
This great resurrection pictured here is, as it were, acted out symbolically by the observance of one of God’s annual holy days: fittingly termed “the Last Great Day.”
Getting back to the subject of the mission of the Church, if God’s Church is not to be about the business of saving this sick and dying world today, then what is the real reason for its existence?
The 24th chapter of the book of Matthew is the focal point of all Bible prophecy. Instead of a prophetic picture of this world in the process of being saved, you get a pretty grim and dire scenario of a crush of deadly, end-time events that climax in the second coming of Jesus Christ. Matthew 24 talks about many false prophets coming into the world actually preaching in Christ’s name (vs. 4-5), wars and world wars (vs. 6-7), severe religious martyrdom (v. 9), and perhaps even an allusion to problems within the true Church itself (. 10).
Then Christ gives the great commission to the Church (in the form of a prophecy if some insist on it being worded that way): “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness (not necessarily to convert people, although a few are almost always converted as an automatic spinoff) unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (v. 14; see also Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:6-8). This is really the only verse that technically and specifically dates this whole prophecy. When the great commission is truly finished, God will then permit all of the problems to intensify to the point where if Christ did not return, all human life would be erased from off the face of this earth (vs. 21-22).
You simply don’t get a picture in Matthew 24, of all of Christianity uniting and by a tremendously energetic human effort saving the world; but precisely and diametrically the opposite picture. The purpose of this Work is to give this world not only a warning and a witness of the future disorder, violence, bewilderment and disintegration of this present society, but also of the good news (gospel) of the coming “New World Tomorrow.” Then, and only then will this world ever be saved!