Copyright © Robert E. Cruickshank, Jr (April 2, 2023)
Karen Rogers (Editor)
All Rights Reserved
A recent survey from Nashville-based Lifeway Research reveals, “almost 9 in 10 pastors see at least some current events matching those Jesus said would occur shortly before he returns to Earth.” If this is the case, then the “current events” in question are by design; the crises in the news are part of divine fiat, and nothing will change that.
This being so, any efforts by God’s People to turn the tide of cultural decay is a losing proposition. As Professor Richard Gaffin says: “The church wins by losing.” John MacArthur puts it this way, “We lose down here.” This takes our eyes off the world around us and puts them on nothing but the sky above us – as we wait for Jesus to come and rescue us. While we should be inviting people to embrace Christ and then teaching them how to apply God’s Word to every area of life and thought (2 Cor. 10:3-5), our message instead becomes “get saved or get left behind.”
Matthew Avery Sutton traces the mindset that began to become popular with the rise of Dispensationalism in the mid to late 1800’s when he writes, “While God had destined the rest of humanity to succumb to the Antichrist, tribulation, and then final judgment, the faithful looked forward to eternal bliss. They even sometimes seemed to find satisfaction in anticipating the ultimate annihilation of those who ignored or derided their faith.”
Prior to this, Christians used to build hospitals and universities. Believers used to lead the way in science, education and the arts. There are many good books documenting all of this. These would include The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, by Vishal Mangalwadi, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Western Civilization, by Alvin J. Schmidt, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born, by D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcomb, and God and Government: A Biblical, Historical and Constitutional Perspective, by Gary DeMar.
Charles Spurgeon witnessed the rise of Dispensationalism first-hand and saw it all coming. In a sermon entitled, “On the Increase of His Government,” Spurgeon said, “It would be easy to show that at our present rate of progress the kingdoms of this world never could become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Indeed, many in the Church are giving up the idea of it except on the occasion of the advent of Christ, which, as it chimes in with our own idleness, is likely to be a popular doctrine. I myself believe that King Jesus will reign, and the idols be utterly abolished…. The Holy Ghost would never suffer the imputation to rest upon His holy name that He was not able to convert the world.”
Unlike the speculation of today’s prophecy pundits, Spurgeon’s prediction actually came true. As Gary North wrote, “Christians haven’t taken seriously this vision of victory since the 1870’s. For over a century, this vision faded in the hearts and minds of regenerate people. A vision of defeat, in time and on earth, replaced the older vision of victory. The churches went into hiding, culturally speaking. They left the battlefield, and the humanists won by default.” Sure enough, this is exactly where we find ourselves today: in hiding and absent from the battlefield.
The reason? This is a battle that can’t be won and/or a battle that’s won by losing. Or so the experts tell us. The problem is that the experts are reading yesterday’s news alongside of today’s news and conflating the two. In fact, they’re reading news from 2000 years ago.
The Lifeway Research article on the pastoral opinion poll cites Darrell Bock, a New Testament studies professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, who notes “that the Bible has several lists of potential signs of Jesus’ return, like the Olivet Discourse passages of Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21, and some include concepts of global sicknesses.” The “global sickness” comment was meant to highlight the then current COVID 19 pandemic in 2020. For the most part, COVID has come and gone. The rapture didn’t take place, and the world didn’t end.
The main problem with Bock’s assessment is that all three Biblical authors, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, specify that the signs of the Olivet Discourse were to occur in their own generation (Matt. 23:34, Mk. 13:30, Lk. 21:32). We need to stop reading yesterday’s headlines into today’s headlines and start making new headlines by once again becoming the salt and light that we are called to be in this world. Future generations are depending on it.
This same Lifeway survey shows that “more than half of pastors (56%) expect Jesus to return in their lifetime.” Why worry about future generations if there is no future? Why worry about building hospitals and universities? Why worry about leading the way in science, education, and the arts when there won’t be anyone around to reap the benefits?
Previous generations thought this way as well, and yet we’re still here. As long as ninety percent of pastors agree that this is how things are supposed to be, the next generation will be in even worse shape than we are. We need to flip these numbers. Let’s get ninety percent of pastors to agree that this isn’t how things are supposed to be.
 Matthew Avery Sutton, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press), p. 4.
 Gary North, Backward, Christian Soldiers?, pp. ix-xi