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2009 In Review

The Year In Prophecy- Part 3

By Ron Graff

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Matt 24:12

5 - Apostasy and Revival

Jesus warned that apostasy (“falling away”) of believers will occur in the last days.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. - Matthew. 24:12
Apostasy

Christianity declining

The secular media made its annual attack on Christianity during Easter week, led by Newsweek' Cover story: The Decline and Fall of Christianity in America. According to recent surveys, the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent. The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 percentage points since 1990, from 86 to 76 percent.

The atheist or agnostic segment of society has increased about fourfold from 1990 to 2009, from 1 million to about 3.6 million. And fewer people now think of the United States as a "Christian nation" than did so when George W. Bush was president (62 percent in 2009 versus 69 percent in 2008).

Christianity is not only declining numerically, it is declining in terms of the purity of its beliefs. In December, a new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows that modern Christians pick and choose what they want to believe and where they want to worship at any given time. According to the survey, elements of Eastern faiths and New Age thinking have been widely adopted by 65% of U.S. adults, including many who call themselves Protestants and Catholics.

year-end report by pollster George Barna agreed with these findings. According to Barna, Americans appear to be more interested in spirituality, but less committed to Christianity. He cited the book unChristian, by his colleague, David Kinnaman, who says that being a Christian or associating with the Christian faith is not as attractive to Americans as it used to be because "the mass media have unfavorably caricatured the Christian faith," and "it is relatively rare to find someone who is an exemplar of the Christian faith.” Another interesting finding by Barna is that 71% say they will develop their own slate of religious beliefs rather than accept a package of beliefs promoted by a church or denomination.

Homosexuality


Homosexuality

Because the U.S. Episcopal Church has decided to ordain a homosexual bishop and bless same-sex unions, conservative Episcopalians have formed a separate branch of the church, which they have named the Anglican Church in North America. The archbishop and primate for the new branch will be Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh. For the first time, a province would be defined not by geography, but by theological orientation. The North American church will have 100,000 members, compared with 2.3 million in the Episcopal Church. In August, the general conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to allow sexually active gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy. The denomination has 4.7 million members and about 10,000 congregations. By November, a large numbers of conservative Lutherans had left the ELCA over the issue of homosexuality and related matters of biblical authority. A "Coalition for Renewal" is in the process of establishing a new denomination which has not yet been named.
Preserving Marriage In California, the constitutionality of last year’s Prop 8 – traditional marriage amendment, specifying that marriage is between a man and a woman, was challenged. The State Supreme Court upheld the validity of the amendment. In two other states, Maine and Washington, voters also upheld traditional marriage, Gay marriage has now lost in every single state (31 in all) in which it has been put to a popular vote.
Abortion


Abortion

President Obama had campaigned on the promise to sign FOCA , the Freedom of Choice Act, first thing during his presidency. Fortunately, he has been too busy with financial matters and other pressing issues, so the bill has not yet been passed. Meanwhile, anti-abortionists have gathered over 700,000 signatures against FOCA, and recent polls show that 51 percent of Americans now describe themselves as pro-life - up from the 44 percent who answered the same way in 2004.

Abortion has also figured prominently in the Congressional healthcare debates. Both houses have passed similar bills, but when Congress returns in January for final resolution, it is likely that abortion will be the hot issue. The House version eliminates coverage of abortions, but the Senate version includes a compromise whereby states would be allowed to decide whether or not abortion could be covered by health plans operating in a new insurance marketplace under the bill. Plans covering abortion would have to collect a separate premium for the procedure, directly paid for by the person buying coverage. Abortion opponents in the House will probably not believe this compromise is good enough, so it could be a deal breaker in the final negotiations.


Disinterest in prophecy

One of the most amazing things about this period of time is the relative lack of interest in prophecy by many supposedly Bible-believing people. Perhaps it is partly because of the prophetic zeal of the Jesus People era that began in the late 1960’s. It was a revival that emerged from the hippie counterculture and resulted in the founding of the Calvary Chapel movement and many other great churches. It was characterized by sound teaching about the Last Days and about the Rapture of the Church. Few Bible teachers made the mistake of setting dates for Christ’s return, but the general feeling of the era was that it was very soon. The majority of those who were well taught in those days still believe, but the excitement has diminished with time, and with the fact that The Lord has not yet returned.
2 Pet 3:3-4 The Apostle Paul taught us not to be discouraged by the timing of Christ’s return: First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say,
"Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." - 2 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV)
Another disturbing factor that results in a lack of interest in prophecy is the subtle teaching of some mega church pastors that prophecy is not important. To some of them, belief in the soon coming of Christ is counterproductive to their long-rang plans to change the world in the name of Christ.
Revival


End-times revival

In spite of all these signs of apostasy, there are also signs of revival. God has always offered salvation to those who will believe before He brings judgment. Think of the Flood of Noah’s days, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Nineveh. As the darkness gets deeper the light shines brighter. Spiritual warfare will intensify as Bible-believing Christians stand firm and “nominal” Christian numbers grow.
The Rapture

1 Thes 4:13-18

One-World Religion

Rev 17
This polarization leads to two major end-times events. The first of these is the Rapture of the Church – when Jesus Christ returns to take away true believers before the judgments of the Tribulation period (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The second prophetic activity takes place during the Tribulation. It is the formation of a one-world religion, led in part by apostate Christians who have forsaken the Bible. This great movement is characterized by the prostitute of Revelation 17 who will give her power to the beast, Antichrist, and his dictatorial one-world government.
Missions In the broad world of missions, the Gospel is constantly gaining ground. And even in America there is a strong faithful remnant and some exciting signs of revival!

On the World Missions scene Christianity is growing rapidly. There is a concerted focus on reaching Asia in this generation, and Christian faith is still growing in spite of Islamic persecution in Africa.

There is secret growth of Christianity in the Islamic world. In many cases, Jesus appears to Muslims who could not hear the Gospel from a missionary.

Korean Christianity continues to maintain great enthusiasm. Five of the world’s ten biggest mega churches are in South Korea.

In Communist China, the underground church has grown from 3 million when the missionaries were expelled, to more than 100 million today! These devout Christians attend house churches and live under the constant threat of imprisonment and even martyrdom. These same fearless believers have spawned the “Back to Jerusalem” Movement which plans to take the Gospel to Asian nations in a wide sweep that will eventually end at Jerusalem in the Holy Land.

Here in the United States, there are also seeds of revival. The polls cited above indicate that even though formal, liturgical Christianity is in decline, charismatic Christianity and many evangelical churches are growing.

There are persistent reports of revival in Kansas, especially in connection with the International Houses of Prayer (IHOP) movement. Also in St. Louis during the last week of the year, the great Urbana Missions Conference, which meets only once every three years, is planning the future course of world missions. More than 16,000 students from the U.S. and Canada have gathered for the occasion.

There is even some impetus toward revival from the political scene. Former Vice-presidential candidate, and likely future Presidential hopeful, Sara Palin, on a video from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said that the United States should rededicate itself to seeking God's will. She said:

“It takes a united nation, and it does take godly counsel, and it takes prayer and answers to prayer — and a collective humble heart of a nation seeking God's hand of protection and his blessings of prosperity."
Another high-profile political figure, Newt Gingrich, released his new book, “Rediscovering God in America – Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation’s History and Future.”

In summary, we can expect a continued polarization of the nation – further descent in to ungodly behavior and apostate forms of Christianity – accompanied by exuberant waves of revival and evangelism by the faithful Christ-followers of these Last Days.

One-World Religion

6 - Growing pressure to treat all religions as equal and mixing of elements of various religions

. Christians have always known that the Bible predicts that one day there will be a one-world government and a one-world religion, but it was hard to visualize how these things could happen. It was thought that Americans, at least, would reject the idea of any kind of super-governmental power or super-religion.

The Parliament for the World’s Religions came into existence in 1893. It was followed by other organizations that have tried to distill the essence of religions so that everyone could have some point of agreement. The latest effort toward this goal was a meeting in Melbourne of The Parliament of the World’s Religions. Thousands of representatives from 80 nationalities and more than 220 faith traditions spent a week of dialogue about how to increase understanding and cooperation between various religious traditions. They discussed such topics as climate change and the west’s relationship with Islam.

It is worth mentioning that the movie “Avatar” broke all previous box-office records. It was rated PG-13, but intentionally targeted the younger children through McDonald’s happy meal program. It was a fascinating production with an interesting story line. However, the underlying message of the movie was about pantheism (all living things are part of God) and New Age religion. It will undoubtedly have a great influence on the cultural drift already mentioned above (under Apostasy) toward mixing and unifying religions.

Rev 17 & 18 This would be a good time for every Christian to review Revelation, chapters 17 and 18. In the last days there will be a final evil world empire, represented by the beast, and a false world religion, represented by the woman who rides the beast. This will not happen until after the Rapture of the Church, but, in the light of current events, it makes good sense.
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Last Updated: 1/1/10

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Copyright © 2009 by Ron Graff.
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