Rick Warren, author of the best selling book ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ and leader of the Saddleback mega church in California has launched a global PEACE plan which aims to enlist ‘one billion foot soldiers for the Kingdom of God’. In a talk given to 30,000 people in Anaheim, USA he announced his plan which ‘will permanently change the face of international missions to take on these five ‘global giants’ for which the church can become the ultimate distribution and change agent to overcome Spiritual Emptiness, Self-serving Leadership, Poverty, Disease and ignorance (or illiteracy). This is the most important series of messages we’ve ever taught in 23 years here at Saddleback church. We believe it is part of the beginning of a Spiritual Awakening, a Global Movement, a New Reformation. The First Reformation returned us to the message of the original church. It was a reformation of doctrine – what the church BELIEVES. This Second Reformation will return us to the mission of the original church. It will be a reformation of purpose- what the church DOES in the world.’
All of this sounds very inspiring and is having a huge impact on evangelical Christians. However the idea that the church can change the leadership of the world system and eradicate poverty, disease and ignorance does not square up with the Word of God nor with the reality of what is happening in the world today. Jesus said there are going to be famines, earthquakes, pestilences and disasters hitting the earth with increasing frequency in the last days and widespread persecution of Christians, in fact the complete opposite of what Rick Warren is saying.
This is not to say that Christians should not be involved in giving relief to those in need in the world. But the idea that the church can be mobilised to bring a new leadership to the world which will eradicate poverty and social ills is another restatement of the dominion teaching which has blinded Christians to the truth of the prophetic word over the past thirty years and sent them down the path to disappointment. Dreams of transforming society and endless prophecies of imminent revival always turn to dust and ashes in the face of social reality. More and more people turn to yoga, Tai Chi and other alternative spiritualities based on Hinduism and eastern religions, Islam becomes more and more assertive, and apostate Church leaders continue to deny the fundamentals of the faith to the applause of the media which for the most part shows hatred and disdain for the Lord Jesus Christ. Meanwhile crime, violence, terrorism, breakdown of family life and sexual immorality continue to increase at alarming rates across the world, making life almost unbearable for millions.
There is not a shred of evidence either in the Bible or in world events around us that a billion man evangelical Christian army will lead the world out of darkness into the light of Rick Warren’s ‘New Reformation.’ For a start there are not a billion evangelical Christians on the earth anyway. The only way you can come up with this figure is if you include the Roman Catholics and other nominal Christians as part of the same church, which appears to be the way of modern evangelical Christianity anyway. Billy Graham said of the late Pope ‘He was one of those rare individuals whose legacy will endure long after he has gone. I will always remember his personal warmth to me and his deep interest in our ministry.’ Joel Edwards, Director of UK Evangelical Alliance, said, ‘John Paul II was one of the most remarkable Christian leaders of recent times, a Christian pastor with a commitment to evangelisation and the global church and to creedal Christianity.’ Brian Houston, founder of Hillsong Church in Australia said, ‘We pray that this papacy, like those before it is marked by a commitment to seeing the Christian message go forward and people changed by the power of the Gospel.’
How can Roman Catholicism and the late Pope who believed Mary to be a mediator between man and God and who was happy to say that Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and animists were praying to the same God as Christians be commended in this way by evangelical Christians? How can people be changed by the power of the Gospel in a church which denies that power? If this is the majority view of evangelical Christians today we need to go back to the first Reformation and recognise the role of Roman Catholicism in persecuting Biblical Christianity and preventing the spread of the authentic Gospel and the Word of God.
In the real Reformation men like Jan Hus, Latimer, Ridley and Tyndale gave their lives being burnt at the stake in order to bring the glorious message of the Gospel to people blinded by popish superstition and error. In the mega churches of America which are promoting the New Reformation sponsored by Rick Warren we have dance floors, shopping malls and Christianity made pleasant and palatable to the people while for the most part the Word of God is left outside, especially when it comes to Bible prophecy.
In his book ‘Purpose Driven Life’ (page 285-6) Rick Warren implies that the study of prophecy is a distraction from sharing our faith. Commenting on Acts 1.6-8, he writes ‘When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission to the world. He said in essence, ‘The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I have given you. Focus on that!’ This actually misses the point of the discussion between Jesus and the disciples in Acts 1. Jesus was not saying the details of His return are none of our business, He was simply saying the events surrounding the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel were not going to happen there and then in the lifetime of the disciples, but that they had a job to do, which is to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
If the Lord considered the details of His return to be none of our business it is a bit odd that He should tell the disciples the signs of His second coming in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) and that so much of the Old and New Testament should be taken up with prophecies about this event.
In fact the idea that there is a conflict between those who want to study prophecy and those who want to get on with the mission of Jesus is a red herring. If you understand prophecy you will realise the urgency of the message of the Gospel going out so that people can be saved from the judgement that is coming on the earth. It is the apostate church that wants to get the Christians away from looking at the prophecies of the Bible, because they tell us that in the last days there will be false Messiahs and false prophets leading many astray and a false Church allied to the political world system bringing persecution on the true Christians (Matthew 24.5, 23-26, 2 Thessalonians 2, 2 Timothy 3-4, 2 Peter 2, Jude, Revelation 17).
Interestingly the Roman Catholic Church in Britain has published a statement called ‘The Gift of Scripture’ which states that we cannot expect to find ‘total accuracy’ in the Bible. In particular it says that the first 11 chapters of Genesis and the Book of Revelation are not to be taken literally and that we cannot expect to find ‘details about the end of the world’ in Revelation. Yet the Lord Himself states that Revelation is about ‘the things which will take place after this’ (Rev 1.19) and it describes in detail the Great Tribulation period, the reign of the Beast (Antichrist), Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ to the earth. Revelation 22.18-19 pronounces a curse on those who would add or take away ‘from the words of the book of this prophecy.’
Of course it is not only Roman Catholicism that is saying you cannot take Genesis and Revelation seriously. Many supposedly evangelical Bible colleges training people for ministry in churches in the UK also pour scorn on a literal interpretation of Genesis and Revelation. However if we cannot trust what God says about the beginning and the end, why should we trust what He says about what happens in between? In fact Creation science groups are producing excellent material showing that the Genesis account is the most plausible explanation of how we came to be here and our purpose in this magazine is to help Christians understand the significance of Bible prophecy and its relation to current events.
Anyone who has a sober and realistic evaluation of the current world situation must recognise that the world is heading for the Great Tribulation and the reign of the Antichrist. A world that indoctrinates its children with occultism, violence and sexual immorality is not going to turn en masse to Jesus the Messiah when the troubles hit the earth, but to the false Messiah or Antichrist (Revelation 13). Our world system today is a house on the sand which is heading for disaster and neither politicians, business leaders nor church leaders are able to stop the calamity that is coming. The only one who can sort out the mess which we have made of the earth is the Lord Jesus Himself and Bible prophecy makes it clear that He will do that when He returns in power and glory.
However if the church has been encouraged to reject the prophetic word and to cooperate with the world in trying to solve its problems by a global PEACE plan, it will end up compromising with the world system and the apostate church, described as ‘Mystery Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth’ in Revelation 17.5. As this organisation is going to persecute true Christians (‘I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus’), the call of the Lord is to ‘Come out of Babylon’ not to cooperate with it!
God’s real peace plan has to do with Jesus the Messiah returning to the Mount of Olives at the time when global conflict brings the armies of the world to Jerusalem at the end of this age. In the meantime His call is for us to make peace with God by repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who shed His blood at the cross in order to redeem us. Sadly in the midst of all the clamour for a ‘New Reformation’ which Rick Warren is calling for, there is a growing neglect of the preaching of the Gospel and study of the Word of God in professing evangelical churches. As a result the ‘New Reformation’ is in fact looking like the Counter Reformation which sought to lead the church back to the dark ages of superstition and ignorance.
We do agree however that a global movement mobilising Christians is needed, but mobilising them to warn of the coming time of judgement and to point to the Lord Jesus who has come in fulfilment of prophecies of the Suffering Servant Messiah and who is coming again in fulfilment of the prophecies of the Reigning King Messiah. We need to pray that the Holy Spirit will raise up such a movement and publish the word of salvation to this last generation while time remains.
Sir Isaac Newton, the famous scientist who lived from 1643 – 1727, was a Bible believing Christian. He wrote ‘About the time of the end, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the Prophecies and insist upon their literal interpretation in the midst of much clamour and opposition’. As the world heads for disaster many people are going to be looking for an answer which makes sense. The idea that the Christians are about to take over the government and solve the problems of poverty and bring godly leadership to the world will look ridiculous in the conditions described by Jesus and the Apostles for the end of this age. The only message which will make sense is the call to ‘flee the wrath to come’ and to ‘repent and believe the Gospel for the Kingdom of God is at hand.’
While we do not have the kind of numbers Rick Warren can call on, we do have a growing network of people around the world who know that the end of this age is coming and want to make the message of salvation known. If you are on a sinking ship and the water is pouring in through a multitude of holes, there is not much point in directing your efforts to filling in the holes. You need to be getting people off the ship and onto the life boat.
By this I do not mean that Christians should not be engaged in helping those in need as a part of a concern for their eternal souls. I do mean that if Christians think they can save the world system by so doing they are going to be disappointed. This is because the ship the human race is travelling in today, the Cosmos world system, is holed in many places beneath the water line. It cannot be saved from destruction. But the people who are on it can be saved. There is only one lifeboat which can carry us to safety – repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you are challenged to do something about this here are some suggestions.
1. Pray that God will raise up those who can minister the truth in these days and point people to salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus.
2. Distribute leaflets, magazines, books and videos designed to make people aware of the coming of the Lord and the way of salvation (we can supply).
3. Organise a Bible study looking at the issues of the end times (we have produced a series of Bible studies on this subject – The Omega Course, available for £1 including postage).
4. Organise a meeting (in a home or in a church) to show a film about the end times and invite non Christians along. Study yourself so you are able to show people troubled by what is happening in the world that Jesus is coming again and how to find faith in Him.