Sunday, May 28, 2023

Making the World Sweat

“When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city.”

Progressives want to tear apart society, ostensibly in order to build a better one, though they can’t tell us how they plan to do that. But they are convinced the existing system is unreformably corrupt, and that oppressed humanity will prosper under a different and better one.

Postmillennialists believe much the same thing, really.

Utopia and the New Jerusalem

Postmillennial Christians read the great commission as a mandate to transform society. Their “new Jerusalem” is wildly different from the utopian dreams of the Left, but achieving it requires a similar degree of societal rearrangement. Progressives are wantonly destructive while postmillennial Christians are largely constructive in their approaches, but both groups think society is what’s keeping them from achieving their objectives for humanity.

Revelation 20 tells us neither plan is going to work. Society is not the problem — or at least it’s not the only problem, or the biggest problem. One of the purposes of Christ’s millennial reign is surely to demonstrate that even if building the perfect society were possible, men would not want it, and would risk everything to follow Satan’s lead in tearing it all down.

Rebellion is not a social construct. It is deeply rooted in the fallen human heart.

Introducing … Pride Season!

Dispensationalists grasp this concept, and view the great commission as a mandate to disciple individuals rather than abstractions. I believe that is a correct understanding of the command the Lord gave his apostles in Matthew 28:18-20, and I believe that should be the primary Christian objective in our present era. It is certainly mine.

All that understood, and notwithstanding the testimony of the prophetic word of God concerning conditions that will prevail in both society and the church in the latter days, I find myself deeply uncomfortable living out a Christianity that has no apparent preservative effect on our public school curriculum, poses no visible threat to a woman’s “right to choose”, does not remotely factor into the reelection prospects of an allegedly progressive Ontario government that sponsors all ages Christmas-themed drag shows, and inspires no fear for their bottom line in businesses that follow their government’s lead in celebrating first Pride Day, then Pride Week, then Pride Month, and now Pride Season. I kid you not.

Should we expect these signposts to moral oblivion to pop up more often as we approach the end of the age? Of course. Would they appear so frequently if our churches were growing and vital rather than stagnant and institutional? I think not.

Faith and its Implications

The apostles didn’t go out into the Gentile world with a specific mandate to transform its institutions. They didn’t deliberately intrude on the public square. Paul’s speech at the Areopagus was by invitation. Even his exorcism of the slave girl with the spirit of divination was a visceral reaction after “many days” of provocation, not a calculated swipe at institutionalized Philippian occultism. He was trying to “mind his own affairs” until it became impossible. Yet despite apostolic efforts to major on the majors, the rapid spread of the Christian faith shook society at the institutional level.

This is what the Jews feared when they heard the teaching of the Lord Jesus: “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” A single corrupt bureaucrat believed Christ’s message, and promptly determined to give away half his worldly goods to the poor. This sort of instant upheaval is what Demetrius the silversmith feared when he heard the preaching of the apostle Paul: “There is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing.” Why? Because the residents of Ephesus had just burned occult literature worth fifty thousand pieces of silver. They didn’t want such things in their lives anymore. Nobody had to tell them to go out and boycott the occult book industry or stage an anti-idol demonstration with the goal of reducing their manufacturers to penury. A transformed society was the organic byproduct of living Christian faith.

“These men have turned the world upside down,” the Thessalonian mob howled. They weren’t overtly trying to. They just kept sharing Christ, the chips fell where they may, and the social order in Asia just kind of inverted overnight.

Jew and Gentile alike saw the first century implications of a city or nation that enthusiastically followed Christ even if his followers didn’t stress them or push for them: political implications, economic implications, employment implications, lifestyle implications.

A Little Urgency

What would it look like today if believers were spreading the gospel with the urgency of progressives pushing for a lower age of consent, more drug legalization or an end to the use of petroleum? I don’t know, but it would look different than it does, that’s for sure.

There’s no magic in a Christianized world or a moral-but-unsaved society. Being part of “mere Christendom” or a reawakened West sure won’t save your soul; a thousand years of perfectly moral, all-wise government will demonstrate that once and for all. So then, institutional transformation should never become the primary objective of believers in our time on this earth. In itself, it doesn’t matter. In itself, it accomplishes nothing important.

But if our corporate testimony to the world is no longer impacting its institutions in even the most microscopic ways, what does that say about our faith? It’s almost like we are rich, we have prospered, and we need nothing, not realizing that we are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Almost. Institutional transformation may not be a primary Christian objective, but the extent to which the world feels the threat of it is the extent to which we are living like first century believers. It is the mirror in which we see ourselves, and I’m telling you my reflection is not pretty.

Snoopy Come Home

A friend was talking about an evangelical acquaintance. She says he is “very religious”. Knowing she is from a Catholic background, I wondered aloud how this fellow’s alleged religiosity manifested itself to her. Does he visit orphans and widows in their distress? Does he keep himself unstained by the world? More importantly, is he urging her to put her faith in Christ?

No, no, and no. Apparently this guy has a giant inflatable Snoopy he puts out on the lawn every Christmas. Must be a member of that hardcore neo-Baptist Schultzian sect. Glad he’s holding the line on the faith once delivered to the saints.

But you see the problem. If that’s how unbelievers define “religious” these days, then the church is in need of a major injection of first century-style separation from the world and evangelistic fervor. Something about us is not communicating Christ.

We should be making the world sweat. If we aren’t, we need to start doing something differently.

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