Previous: Revelation 3:15-17 - Continued 3

15 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'-and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked- Revelation 3:15-16

Lukewarm Christianity

Many major developments have occurred from the middle of the Twentieth Century until now that have contributed to the spiritual decline of the Church. With each of these situations there were also significant positive reactions by godly Christians that helped slow the pace of the moral decay. Therefore, after a discussion of each of these historical steps there will also be an acknowledgement of some of the concurrent evangelical responses.

Birth of Israel: The "Beginning of Birth Pains"

Jesus taught that the first phase of the end times would be characterized as a time of troublesome events that he called "the beginning of sorrows [birth pains]" (Matthew 24:4-8 -See Appendix A for Jesus' Own Outline of the Future).

This period of history will experience wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilence, and more. These will be precursors of an even worse phase of world events that Jesus called "Tribulation."

Though people of past historical periods might correctly identify the events of their time as chaotic, it does seem that the many negative events in our recent history are the most likely fulfillment of this prophecy.

The rebirth of the Nation of Israel on May 14, 1948 the end times prophecy recorded approximately 2500 years earlier came to pass exactly as it was predicted in Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37! In all of history there is not an equally-amazing example of the return by a people who had been driven from their land. The Jews had been scattered by conquests and persecutions for more than two millennia. In all that time they never lost their identity as God's chosen people, though in the humorous spirit of Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof," some of them may have asked God, "But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?"

Humanly speaking, the right for Jews to return to their historical home was the result of two major circumstances: Zionism and a post-WWII partition of the land by the United Nations. Zionism was a movement that had encouraged Jewish people from all over the world to gravitate to the Holy Land since before the turn of the century. The United Nations action came at the end of the temporary control of the area by the British in 1947, just at the time that millions of displaced and bereaved Jewish people needed a place to live. There was international approval for the partition plan because of public sympathy for the survivors of World War II's Holocaust. Six million Jews had been exterminated in a few years. This number represented one third of all Jews in the world at the time. The U.N. action divided the Holy Land, designating parts of it for an Arab state and parts for a Jewish state.

From a Divine point of view, prophecy was fulfilled when, as soon as the Jewish people declared their independence, they were attacked by all of their neighboring nations, and yet they survived. They went on, through many other wars, to become a great nation once again.

The rebirth of Israel was actually a great encouragement to the evangelicals, most of whom had a strong interest in prophecy. However, it created an even greater gap between the two major factions of the Church. The evangelicals were supportive of Israel, but the liberal denominations tended to side with the Palestinians.

It is worth mentioning that 1948, the year of Israel's rebirth, was also a big year for other news of interest to Christians. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, the World Council of Churches was formed, and The Benelux agreement (Trade union of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg - Forerunner of the European Union) was formed. Prophecy students have wondered if these milestones signaled the beginning of the "last generation" before the end of the Church Age and beginning of the Tribulation. After teaching His outline of the future, Jesus gave this parable:

"Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near-at the doors! 34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away." - Matthew 24:32-35

There are various ideas about the length of a biblical generation (35, 40, 70 years, etc.). But the length of time between the beginning and end of this era could be much longer. Jesus said the generation will not pass away until everything is fulfilled. As an example, the last person born in the Civil War generation was thought to be 108 years old when he died. That means that the generation that witnessed the Civil War did not pass away for over a hundred years.

On the other hand, existence of the new nation of Israel caused a resurgence of Islamic radicalism, giving birth to the modern jihadist or terrorist mentality that has increased the number of "wars and rumors of war."

The desire by many Muslims to restore Islamic control had been festering ever since the end of World War I. In 1924 the Ottoman Empire, the last Islamic caliphate (a territory controlled by a Muslim ruler), was dismantled. The Muslim Brotherhood was formed in 1928. The purpose of the Brotherhood was to unify Islamic countries and establish Sharia (Islamic law). They were responsible for the rise of Hamas among the Palestinians. They also assisted the growth of al Qaeda. In 2011, after the "Arab Spring," they assumed control of Egypt, but were removed by a military coup in 2013. They are still very active in the area.

In 1979 the people of Iran removed their Shaw-the last ruler of the Persian Empire, and installed the Ayatollah Khomeini as the Supreme Leader of the country, making it an Islamic Republic with a new theocratic constitution. Ever since that time Iran has been the archenemy of Israel and supporter of terrorist causes all over the Middle East. At this time they are about to complete the process of producing nuclear weapons. If they are allowed to succeed, they will be an existential threat, not only to Israel, but to many Arab countries that follow a different brand of Islamic teaching. Iran is a Shia Islamic nation, and its people are not Arabs. Most of the Arab nations in the area follow the Sunni branch of Islam, and are concerned that Iran will overtake them by force if it becomes a nuclear power.

Evangelical Response

Evangelical leaders were supportive of the Jewish remnant. They taught that the rebirth of Israel was a striking fulfillment of Bible prophecy and that Christians should faithfully pray for "The peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6). They were also convinced that America was blessed by God because of our support for Israel. They based this on the promise in the Abrahamic Covenant that said,

I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:3)

It seemed obvious to those who take the Bible literally that nations that had allowed the Jews to be persecuted were forsaken by God. On the other hand, the abundant blessings enjoyed by the United States were at least partially caused by the country's affirmation of God's Chosen People and of their new homeland. The majority of American legislators from both major political parties have been strong supporters of the nation of Israel.

Liberal theologians did not expect literal fulfillments of prophecy, and tended to be more sympathetic to the plight of the displaced Palestinians.

Christian ministries made use of the new technologies of radio and television to broadcast the Gospel. J. Vernon McGee, Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, Chuck Missler, John Hagee and David Hocking, were just a few of the media teachers who had a high regard for God's chosen people and the modern nation of Israel. Many of these prominent Christian leaders organized tours of Israel. This endeared them to the people of the struggling new nation. Israelis generally consider evangelicals their most supportive friends in the world.

The Ecumenical Movement and the Social Gospel

Ever since our first parents were deceived by Satan, he has devised various false religions. His ultimate goal is to be worshipped by mankind (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-19), and to that end the Bible tells us in Revelation, chapters 17 and 18, that he will finally produce a one-world government supported by a one-world religion. The global government is symbolized by its evil leader, the Beast, and the universal religion is symbolized by a woman riding the Beast. In recent times the framework for these monstrosities has been established.

In 1945, at the end of World War II, the United Nations was formed and in the following year its first General Assembly met with 51 member nations.

Another development was The Benelux Agreement in 1948, which eventually led to the 1953 Treaty of Rome and the formation of the European Common Market. This, in turn, became the European Union in 1993.

Between these two major unions of nations and the ongoing development in more recent times of various large trade organizations such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), there are many ways that a global government could emerge.

Meanwhile, in the world of various religions, significant steps have been taken with the goal of unifying all faiths. One of these steps was the establishment of the Parliament of the World's Religions in 1893. This occurred in the World's Fair in Chicago honoring the 400th year since Columbus discovered America. D.L. Moody and most Protestant evangelicals from Europe and America refused to participate, but the Roman Catholic Church and some liberal Protestant groups did send delegates. There were a few representatives from Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, Jain, Taoist, Muslim, Confucian, and Zoroastrian religions.

This organization has grown slowly during the past century, but their meeting in Melbourne in 2009 drew thousands of representatives from 80 nationalities and more than 220 faiths for a week of dialogue about how to increase understanding and cooperation between various religions. They discussed such topics as climate change and the West's relationship with Islam.

"New Age" religions try to blend all beliefs. This is exemplified by the 2012 movie "Avatar" in which everyone worships the "All Mother" goddess. She is described as "a network of energy" that "flows through all living things."

As mentioned above, the World Council of Churches was founded in 1948, and serves as a common denominator for theologically liberal Christian churches.

The liberal church teaches a "Social Gospel." This is the practice of doing good works for the poor and oppressed. For many years they accused evangelicals of ignoring the social responsibilities prescribed by the Bible and of caring only about saving people's souls. Some of them called this emphasis, "Eating pie in the sky, in the sweet by and by."

The Roman Catholic Church is also calling for "restoration of unity among all Christians" since its Second Vatican Council during the years 1962 to 1965.

In light of the choice of Pope Francis in 2012, the Catholic Church appears to be a leader in this push to bring about ecumenical unity.

Of course, the danger with the ecumenical movement is the fact that greater unity requires all parties to give up many of their distinctive beliefs. Evangelicals do not believe they can give up anything that is prescribed by God's Word.

Evangelical Response

Evangelical leaders formed their own organization for cooperation called the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in 1942. The group provide a partnership in such areas as government relations and world relief.

Criticism by mainline churches that evangelicals ignored physical and social needs was an unfair complaint in the light of all the good that modern evangelical missionaries had done around the world: establishing hospitals and schools, providing food and clothing for victims of disasters, teaching better ways of farming, digging wells, and improving living conditions in general. Yet it was partly true that some evangelicals in their American and European homelands did less than the liberal churches to promote civil rights, and care for the poor and downtrodden in society.

The Salvation Army, which was mentioned earlier, was a notable exception. It was established in London by William Booth in 1865. It was a ministry to the poor and needy in London. "General" Booth and his soldiers evangelized people who would not go to a church building. They preached the Gospel and at the same time, met the needs of the people. Their ministry set the tone for "home missions" work and undoubtedly inspired the establishment by others of rescue missions in most metropolitan centers.

Evangelical have also been exemplary in establishing and maintaining "disaster relief ministries." One of the earliest examples of compassion in the name of Christ is the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), which was founded in 1920 to aid hungry people, including Mennonites in Russia and Ukraine. Many other denominations have mobilized to help people all over the world after earthquakes, storms, and other disasters have occurred.

In 1950 Bob Pierce, a Youth for Christ evangelist ministering in China was so moved by observing hungry people that he established World Vision. It has become a major organization helping needy children everywhere. Later Pierce also established Samaritan's Purse, which is now run by Franklin Graham and is well known for its "Operation Christmas Child" ministry.

Two other examples of organizations that help people in disaster- stricken areas, both begun in 1978, are Mercy Ships, originally part of Youth with a Mission, and Operation Blessing, an outreach of Pat Robertson's 700 Club ministry.

Evangelicals have provided countless thrift stores and food pantry ministries, offering the Good News of salvation along with the good news that somebody cares.

There are also numerous special-need ministries run by people who combine evangelism with social work. One sterling example is the ministry of Teen Challenge, begun in 1958 by David Wilkerson, an Assemblies of God pastor who worked with gang members in New York City. Another sacrificial ministry is Prison Fellowship, founded by Charles Colson in 1976 after spending time in prison himself for the Watergate scandal of the Nixon era.

Next: Revelation 3:15-17 - Continued 5


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