I know we’ve won the war. Jesus’ sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension broke forever Satan’s hold on planet Earth. Jesus brought the Kingdom of Heaven to us in ways that were numerous and impossible to miss – healing the sick, raising the dead, making the lame walk and the blind see, casting out demons, taming the wind and waves, etc. He gave us a glimpse of “regenesis” – God’s intent to bring heaven and earth back together after they were separated due to human rebellion and a disastrous fall from grace AND to restore all of creation to its original perfect state. Jesus ushered in the “age of the church” – that multi-millennial time between His earthly life as the Son of God in human form and His second coming.
I know this intellectually, but I’ve had increasing difficulty seeing the Kingdom of God on earth and experiencing a sense of victory. I have seen drastic changes during my lifetime, in the relationship between American culture and Christianity: from general acceptance, to questioning its basic tenets, to rejecting, ignoring or mocking it, and now to openly despising anyone who follows Jesus. I know this should come as no surprise. Jesus warned His followers of the cost of following Him in John 15: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. . . If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. . . They will treat you this way because of My Name, for they do not know that One who sent Me.”
I find myself too often getting caught up in the daily deluge of “bad” news – whether local, national, or global – and wondering where God is in what seems to be increasingly negative situations and circumstances. I confess that I forget to “look up” and the Holy Spirit reminds me God is where He always is and has always been – sovereign over His creation, in charge and in control. In Matthew 28: 18-20, the passage known as the “Great Commission”, Jesus tells His 11 disciples “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” John also tells us that Jesus is the Word and “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3)
My mental agitation and emotional frustration turn to a sigh of relief. God is on His throne. Nothing can deter His purpose. Nothing can delay His plans. Not persecution, not unbelief, not sin. Not war, not revolution, not political intrigue. I am reassured when Proverbs 19:21 reminds me “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” My faith is strengthened when Paul reminds the Galatian church that “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Those that misuse the power and authority God has entrusted to them to fulfill their own selfish needs and ambition (sowing to please the flesh) will reap destruction. (Gal 6:7-8)
Both Mark (13:5-12) and Matthew (24:4-14) record Jesus answer to His disciple’s question about “the sign of His coming and of the end of the age.” The “signs of the times” include:
- Heresy in the church – false prophets, false teaching, false gods – with many turning away from the faith
- “wars and rumors of wars”
- Increasing tension and discord as “nations will rise against nations and kingdom against kingdoms”
- Increasingly destructive natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires, floods, drought and subsequent famine
- Increasing persecution of the church – by individuals, organizations, and governments
- Family conflict producing rebellion and betrayal
Based on daily experience, it seems evident that we are approaching the end of the church age that began when Jesus ascended to heaven. And God is still faithfully implementing His plan and fulfilling His purpose: “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:17)
Here are some examples:
- God is using the massive displacement of people caused by war to reach populations that previously had no access to the gospel. Christian medical groups and mission teams are ministering to refugees in camps and resettlement areas.
- Immigration of refugees from northern Africa and the Middle East into Eastern and Western Europe has revitalized dead and dying Christian churches as they provide services and resources to large displaced populations.
- A recent article highlighted God’s “behind the scenes” redemptive work in Iran. Mosques are becoming increasingly empty as men are off fighting and women and children are turning to Christianity. God is using women to develop a house church movement and lead the new Christian community.
- Persecution is revealing to citizens how repressive their governments really are and motivating many to come to Christ for salvation where they experience the unconditional love of God.
God continues to use the marginalized and cast out to build His Kingdom. Persecution of His church, rather than defeating it, strengthens and grows it. We have seen this most dramatically in China. Governments can tear down buildings, confiscate resources, and imprison disciples, but Christianity is a religion based on love relationships with God and other people. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). Jesus Himself promised us “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). The more darkness gathers in our fallen world, the more His grace abounds and the more His Kingdom expands.
“Take Heart” by Matt Chandler with David Roark (Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief)
“Reappearing Church” by Mark Sayers (The Hope for Renewal in the Rise of Our Post-Christian Culture)
Note: scripture passages are taken from the New International Version (NIV) Bible.