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Sunday, November 22, 2020

THE WORLD AND THE CHURCH: WHERE ARE THEY HEADED? - PART ONE

The following is from The BEREAN CALL, unedited, unabridged. You can read this article from TBC by following this link. This is such an important message I felt compelled to share this with all of you. Please feel free to share with others! Part Two will be published soon!

THE WORLD AND THE CHURCH: WHERE ARE THEY HEADED? - PART ONE
October 1, 2020

~ by T. A. McMahon 

The title raises an important question that underscores the importance of knowing biblical eschatology. First of all, what is biblical eschatology, and second, why is it necessary to have a correct understanding of it?
Biblical eschatology is what the Bible says about the End Times—all that it declares will take place. How do we get a correct understanding of it? Very simply, we need to read what the Bible has to say about it. We can also read some books written about biblical eschatology, but they must be held up to the light of Scripture.

The Bible is a history book of the world—from the beginning of the world’s creation to its ending, when it will be replaced by new heavens and a new earth. Why will it be replaced? Because after its creation, something went terribly wrong.

God, our Creator, has communicated to mankind selected details regarding His creation, which He declared to be “very good.” After Adam and Eve were created, He gave them a commandment, which they disobeyed. The consequences of their disobedience brought sin into the world, corrupting all of creation.
Satan, the fallen angel Lucifer, deceived Eve into disobeying God. Adam, who was not deceived, sinned willfully. Their sin infected all of their descendants. Mankind therefore had two options regarding its sinful condition. 

They could 1) accept God’s plan of reconciliation and salvation, which He provided by sending His Son, Jesus, to become a man in order to pay the full penalty for all the sins of humanity; or, 2) humanity could turn to Satan for his solution as the god of this world, which included his offer of “godhood” to one and all.

From the time of Eve’s seduction until the establishment of the religion and kingdom of the Antichrist, the Bible records an ongoing spiritual battle for the souls of humankind. The Old Testament chronicles the events of Israel’s being chosen and set apart by God for His purposes—primarily for the establishment of a people to whom He would send His Son. Israel’s history included episodes of submission to and rebellion against God, times of true worship and times of idolatry, as well as attempts fostered by Satan to annihilate the Jews. If the Jews could be wiped out, God’s promises would be of none effect, and there would be no Messiah to come to the world through Israel.

The New Testament records Satan’s attempt to kill the infant Jesus through Herod, as well as other ploys by the Adversary to eliminate the Jewish Messiah. No doubt Satan thought his battle was won when Christ was crucified, only to be shocked by Jesus’s resurrection from the dead! He obviously missed the purpose of Jesus’s coming, which was to “destroy the works of the devil” by paying the full penalty for the sins of mankind through His death, burial, and resurrection. Satan’s chief works centered on keeping humanity in bondage to sin, a bondage that would be broken for all those who would turn—by faith alone—to Jesus for His atoning sacrifice.

So the battle is over for the souls of mankind, right? No. In fact, it’s heating up—big time! Satan’s ongoing self-delusion, which started in heaven when he claimed he would “be like the most High,” has been amplified to include his own religion and kingdom on earth. Through it, he will finally receive the worship he desires when he possesses the man whom he empowers, the Antichrist.

What I’ve summarized sets the eschatological background for the world and Christianity in their final conflict. The world, for a brief time, will be under the control of the Antichrist, who will appear to finally be victorious over Christendom. God will then judge the world through the Great Tribulation.

I want to begin with Samuel Andrews’ book, Christianity and Anti-Christianity in Their Final Conflict, for a number of reasons. The book was published in 1898. After reading a very old copy, I was highly motivated to have it reprinted through the Berean Call. I recognized that it not only contained tremendous insights regarding the fulfillment of prophecy, but his book also demonstrated an excellent way of better understanding biblical eschatology. Andrews never claimed to have any special gifting related to prophecy. What he did, however, was amazing! Yet it’s something we all can do, and need to do, in these days of increasing apostasy. Here is what he did.

Samuel Andrews went to the Book of Revelation to glean what it had to say about the Last Days. He considered who the major characters were, what their game plan was, what their religious beliefs were, their political agenda, and how those things fit in with the truth of God’s Word. In addition to John’s writing in Revelation and in his epistles, Andrews searched out what the other writers of Scripture—Daniel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul, Peter, and Jude—had to say about the Last Days.

Again, Samuel Andrews didn’t do anything that we as believers cannot do. As he gathered that information, he looked to see if anything of what he had read emerged and became influential in his own day. He was such a biblically discerning individual that I doubt he was even surprised to find how much of it was prevalent throughout the world of his day…and even within Christendom. Grieved, I’m sure, but not surprised.

For example, he recognized that most of the highly esteemed and influential philosophers of his time were opposed to Christianity, men such as Baruch Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, and Georg Hegel. Most of us are probably more familiar with Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who were both Americans.

If you’re wondering where these philosophers were coming from spiritually, they, as well as most of the leading philosophers of the 1800s, were atheists and agnostics. They rejected the God of the Bible, opting for “God” being an impersonal Force that is in everything and everyone. They promoted evolution and naturalism, which they, in due course, tied into Eastern mysticism.

Andrews saw the connection between their beliefs and Scripture’s declaration that the Antichrist will declare himself to be God and will be worshiped as God (2 Thessalonians:2:3-4). That’s an important observation, because the lie by which Satan seduced Eve—that she would be “as God”—isn’t a belief that people would buy into right away, especially those who view God traditionally as a personal Being and the Creator of the universe.

Today that would include about 2.5 billion Christians and one billion Muslims, for example. Whether the belief is in the Christian God or Allah, changing over to believing you are God, or are becoming God doesn’t happen immediately. Andrews writes: 

So long as men have faith in a personal God, the Creator of the worlds and of man, One who governs all things according to His will, and exists apart from all, no man can seat himself in the temple of God ‘shewing himself that he is God’; such a claim would be instantly rejected as both blasphemous and absurd. Before such a claim could be listened to, there must be wrought in many minds such a change in their conception of God that this claim of Divinity would not offend them as something strange and incredible, but would be accepted as wholly consistent with what they believe of the Divine nature, and of its relations to humanity.” Andrews then gives some insights into how philosophies that have religious implications help advance the acceptance of divinity for mankind. 

The very nature of philosophy lends itself to explanations of concepts that are based almost totally upon man’s intellect and reasonings. That may seem acceptable for some things, but man’s intellect and reasonings are dead in the water when it comes to answering the most significant issues of life. 

One example should suffice. What can philosophers tell us about God? Nothing of truth—other than the little they may have derived from the Bible. As one surveys the most influential philosophers, as I noted, when it comes to religious issues, they are atheists and agnostics. As atheists, they reject the God of the Bible in favor of their own ideas; as agnostics, they plead ignorance about God. In both cases, they nevertheless have much to say about the God revealed in Scripture. 

They have nothing to say, however, in regard to truth. Their writings about God are hopeless exercises in ignorance. Why is that? Aren’t they esteemed as brilliant men? Then why are the “brilliant” philosophers so ignorant in their reasonings about God?
Very simply, their sinful nature notwithstanding, they are finite beings trying to explain an infinite God. That’s not going to happen, at least in any sense of truth. Have you ever thought about the verse in Proverbs:3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding”? 

Why not lean on our own understanding? Outside of recognizing in creation that the God who created it all must be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, all the rest of our understanding is mere worldly wisdom under the guise of knowledge regarding God. That includes everyone (not just the philosophers).

Everyone who leans upon his own understanding is mired in his own fleshly wisdom. Again, finite man cannot know the God of Creation who is infinite, unless…? Unless God communicates to him, and that must include revealing things on which humanity can only speculate: His eternal nature, His perfect attributes, and His purpose for humanity. God also has to reveal things about us. What’s our problem? From whence came our sinful nature? Is there any hope for remedying our sin-infected condition?

All of that, and much more, we cannot know in truth unless God informs us. We don’t even know our own hearts! The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah:17:9); and For the word of God is quick [meaning “living”], and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews:4:12). That insight doesn’t come from the mind or wisdom or intelligence of finite and sinful man!

Getting back to the influential philosophers of Samuel Andrews’ day, e.g., Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Thoreau, and Emerson—these were among those who rejected the God of the Bible and gave the world their own antichrist beliefs. Antichrist beliefs? That’s what a person is left with when he rejects God and His revelation. He’s also left with another huge problem: he has to come up with his own solution to resolve the mess the world is in.

The God of the Bible declares that sin is the problem and that He has the solution. The philosophers find that unacceptable, and they are adamant about it—even nasty. The world, therefore, must come up with its own remedy. Yet all the remedies it has tried have failed! Examples abound such as:

Scientific materialism: the belief that there is no nonphysical reality. Discussions on this subject can get ugly…as well as stupid. Even so, that topic ruled the day for much of science in the past, but now it’s being mostly abandoned. Why? Because it defies both experience and reason, as well as being an “antichrist” concept.

Samuel Andrews comments: 
Science, because it craves absolute and unchangeable law, is favorably inclined to scientific materialism. It dislikes any Divine interposition [rejecting the spiritual realm]; its aim is physical, not moral.”
Thus the claim that “only matter exists.” Really?

If I were to ask someone who believes in scientific materialism why he thinks it’s true and he began to cite his reasons, I would stop him in the midst of his explanation with another question: “Is that what you think?” His likely response would be, “Absolutely.” My next question would then be, “You think so? Are your thoughts physical? What about reasons? Are they physical?” From there, we could go down a whole list of things that have no physical basis yet are unarguably a part of life: love, lust, justice, compassion, anger, aesthetics, pride, and so on and so forth.

True science has been helpful to mankind, but it has fallen far short of solving all humanity’s problems—and even more so as it has turned to scientism, which is in fact a religious makeover of science. So scientific materialism has thus dropped out as a solution.

Next, the philosophers looked to evolution: the belief that humanity is evolving upward, transforming from “slime to divine.” Some declare that man is at the top of the evolutionary ladder and will reach a higher state. Yet those who think that way have to overcome a number of barriers. Evolutionary theory is bankrupt—it has no answers for the basic issues of life. For example, how did life begin from non-life? To claim that it did contradicts the law of biogenesis. What is the probability of life—let’s say a human cell—being formed by chance? Zero probability! 

British astronomer and mathematician Sir Fred Hoyle presented the problem clearly, “…the chance of producing the basic enzymes of life by random processes without intelligent direction would be 10 with 40,000 zeros after it. This mathematic impossibility is well known to geneticists, and yet nobody seems to blow the whistle decisively on the theory.”

Among the millions and millions of fossils that have been found, there are no (as in not one) transitional fossils; that is, there are no intermediate species between any two kinds of species. How do time and chance, the bedrock of evolution, bring about the very different yet very necessary elements for reproduction by humans? Males have a very different makeup than females, and the difference between each is critical for the making of babies.

Again, regarding these questions and a host of others, evolution has no answers. Nevertheless, the atheists keep looking for solutions.
Closely related to evolution is Naturalism. That concept includes the belief that humanity is a part of Nature. Yet, somehow, we have lost that connection. Thus, Naturalism’s solution for the mess we’re in is to “get back to Nature.” Why nature? Well, we’re told that nature is pure and good and, for some reason, we’ve become “unnatural,” and thus what we do is mostly against nature.
Really? 

When a beaver builds its home or creates a dam, it usually messes up its ecological surroundings, leaving standing trees damaged, half-chewed, and the land flooded. But that’s okay because it’s “natural,” and thus is considered completely beneficial. When engineers build a dam for the good of humanity, however, heeding most every ecological concern, that’s considered not good. It’s unnatural.

Hold on a minute! If man is indeed a part of nature, as is claimed, then everything he does must be natural, and therefore good, pure, and beneficial. Going back to Naturalism’s connection to evolution, a major claim for the process of evolution is “Survival of the Fittest.” I have a bird feeder for chickadees. Cute little chickadees. They can clean out my 18-inch cylinder filled with birdseed in a matter of hours. At times it’s like watching wild dogs at a banquet. I’m just glad those cute little things don’t have fangs!
I guess I’m missing the good, pure, and beneficial part of nature.

Nevertheless, we’re told we all need to “realign ourselves with nature.” As Dave Hunt used to say, try to cozy up to Mother Nature. Hug an erupting volcano. Sure, go for a swim in quicksand. Dry off with poison ivy leaves.
I guess COVID-19 is a good and natural thing. It’s Mother Nature’s way of balancing the population through sickness and death. She also has a host of other “good and pure” natural diseases: cancers, infections, etc. 

No. Naturalism doesn’t fix the mess we’re in. It’s part of the mess!

So, if all the attempts by mankind to solve its woeful condition through scientific materialism, evolutionary theory, and a return to nature have failed (which they all have), you might think man would throw in the towel and return to his Creator.

No way! Although the philosophers claim to be atheists and agnostics, they had to—and have to—turn to religion in their quest of solving the mess we’re in. They have reasoned that since the personal God of the Bible does not exist, man remains as the supposedly highest self-conscious being. Thus, his position places him in the realm of the divine.
That is Pantheism

It leads to self-exaltation, which is necessary in order to solve the problems that only an almighty God can handle. Thus to realize one’s own godhood is extremely important. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the much-admired rebel philosopher and pantheist, showed the way:
Nothing is sacred but the integrity of our own mind. What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions if I live wholly from within?...No law can be sacred to me but that of my [godlike] nature…. I shun father and mother, and wife and brother, when my genius calls me. Jesus was better than others because He refused to listen to others….”

Andrews notes another characteristic, perhaps the primary one with regard to Pantheism. Pantheism is wholly subjective, driven by intuition and feelings, which can neither be proved nor disproved. He quotes Emerson’s making feelings the judge of what he was willing to accept or reject. The Lord’s supper is under Emerson’s scrutiny: 
If I believed that it was enjoined by Jesus on His disciples, and that he even contemplated making permanent this mode of commemoration as in every way agreeable…, and yet on trial it was disagreeable to my own feelings, I should not adopt it.” 

When it comes down to it, there are only two religious or spiritual options: biblical theism and pantheism. Biblical theism has to do with the God who reveals Himself in the Bible. He alone is God, who has created everything. He is not part of His creation—He is totally “other,” existing eternally outside of what He created. If God were a part of creation, He would be a part of the “mess” we’re in, which He’s not. He’s the solution!

Pantheism, as we noted earlier, is the belief that God is in everything and therefore everything is God. The rejection of (or any aberrational view of) biblical theism turns mankind to pantheism. All the philosophers I mentioned earlier (and many more that I didn’t) were pantheists. They rejected the God of the Bible and sought their own godhood.
Samuel Andrews, whose 1898 book, Christianity and Antichristianity In Their Final Conflict, which I’ve been quoting, documents the pantheistic beliefs held by the German philosophers that flooded the educated world through the arts, science, literature, and religion. 

Andrews writes, 
As to the former, some proofs have already been given showing that Pantheism, in some of its forms, not only pervades the current modern philosophy, but is more and more penetrating religion, science, literature, and all the departments of human thought. The multitude is made familiar with its principles through magazines and newspapers, through lectures and the pulpit. Its prevalence is shown in the rapidity with which such systems as those of Christian Science, Mental [Mind] Science, Theosophy, and others kindred to them have spread in Christian communities, for all have a Pantheistic basis. The moral atmosphere is full of its spirit, and many are affected by it unawares.”
This is where it’s all heading.

Pantheism is not only driven by its appeal to humans to “be as gods” but is reinforced by political action, notably democracy. How so?

Andrews writes, The “…growth of Democracy serves to prepare the way of the Antichrist by making the popular will supreme, both as to the choice of the rulers and the nature and extent of their rule; and by giving legal expression to that will
When a people elects its legislators, the legislation will be what the majority of the voters demand. In the past, among all Christian nations, such legislation has, in great part, been based upon Christian principles, and involved the recognition of God’s authority. So long as this authority, as declared in the Scriptures or by the Church, is recognized, the popular will is not supreme; but according as it is denied, this supremacy is more and more enlarged. If, then, the belief becomes general, either that there is no God, the Law giver, or no expression of His will which is authoritative, what principle shall determine the character and limitations of legislation? The only principle is that of the [supposed] public good; whatever this demands, is right.” [In other words, in order to get elected or re-elected, politicians often pander to the will of the voters. That is certainly politics today!]

Again, remember, Andrews’ book was written 120 years ago, and we’re only touching upon some of the things he reveals of his day, yet his book reads as though he were a news commentator in our day. And it wouldn’t be fake news!
This article focused primarily on the world and where it’s heading. In part 2, the main focus will be the church, the true and the professing church, and the apostasy (which, by the way, will include true believers).

I began this message by underscoring the importance of eschatology, especially its value in guarding believers against being deceived, including being drawn into, and unwittingly contributing to, the religion and kingdom of the Antichrist. Tragically, this is happening today in staggering proportions as the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ draws near.
TBC's article THE WORLD AND THE CHURCH: WHERE ARE THEY HEADED? - PART ONE
 

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