One of the key misunderstandings I think most people will have with the term “apostolic Christianity” is that their mind will immediately jump to those people who consider themselves apostles. Now, I not only believe this gift operates in the body of Christ, I have a high value for people who are legitimate apostles. They are a necessary part of seeing apostolic Christianity lived out on the planet. But when I describe apostolic Christianity, instead of describing one segment of the body of Christ’s gifting, I’m actually describing something I believe God will allow the whole church to walk in.
At this point, if you’re following along closely, you’re probably ready to accuse me of forcing a specific gifting on the wider body of Christ. But my goal is not to make everyone in the church an apostle, but for us to embody the same spirit of surrender to Christ’s leading that the early church experienced. The bishops of the church in the third century expressed it this way: “We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”
You see, the whole church (that’s what that whole catholic thing means, universal) was meant to live together in a way that was handed down from the apostles themselves. Why the apostles? They were the ones Jesus himself charged with taking the Gospel all over the Earth. They were believed to have the most accurate testimony of His life and the most capable of understanding His Kingdom. And these guys gave their lives for the message of the Kingdom in the same way that Jesus had. They were good examples to follow.
So what does it mean for the whole church (not just those gifted as apostles) to embrace the lifestyle of apostolic Christianity? I’m so glad you asked! Let me give you a couple of high-level benchmarks of apostolic Christianity, fleshed out in the life of the church:
- Jesus is Lord: This could easily be described as the Church’s earliest doctrinal statement, but it is so much more than a mere doctrine. For those who are living out apostolic Christianity, this is a way of life. This starts at a very personalized, individual level. We all have to come to value Jesus as the pearl of great price, worth losing our lives over. This reality changes everything about us and we begin to live a new life, the life of Jesus. The realities of the Sermon on the Mount become the code of ethic for the individual. As we come to this recognition individually, it changes how we relate to one another. Jesus becomes what brings us together and we as a family respond to His leadership. (Romans 10:9)
- The Power of the Lord is Manifested: The constant dependence on Jesus showing up and healing, leading through dreams and visions, and casting out of demons was the norm for the early church, beyond the completion of the New Testament. It’s also a common sign whenever the true apostolic church begins to emerge through various renewal movements. More and more churches are shifting and becoming more open to the power of the Holy Spirit, but more so in theory than in actual practice. They believe Jesus does miraculous things today through people, but they don’t seek to move in the spiritual gifts. Paul strongly encouraged believers to seek these gifts out, especially prophesy, because he knew it was essential to living out the lordship of Jesus. The church that is living out apostolic Christianity not only seeks the miraculous power of Jesus, but sees it happen in its midst. (1 Corinthians 14)
- The Harvest is Plentiful: Jesus clearly intended us to believe there was an abundant harvest waiting for the church. He taught that the harvest was so abundant that it’s only limiting factor was the number of workers. Paul actually believed Jesus in this regard and was constantly moving from one place to the next, training up workers who would train other workers. Wherever we see apostolic Christianity emerging, we see the church focused on reaching this plentiful harvest. It causes the church to move out of buildings (and even homes!) into the streets. The Gospel begins to touch people who have never heard it or those who have been apathetic to it in the past. When the church embraces this apostolic lifestyle, the whole church engages with Christ’s mission to reach a vast harvest field and how they spend their time and energy reflect these commitments. (Matthew 9:37-38)
- The Oppression is Real: Jesus was clear, if they hate me, they are going to hate you. Wherever the church is truly operating as an apostolic reality following the ways of Jesus, it will be persecuted. The level of persecution will vary from culture to culture, from threat of physical death like we see in China and Middle Eastern nations to mild ridicule like we’ve seen in more open Western countries. Society doesn’t like change, no matter how much they use it as a slogan. Living out “Jesus as lord” threatens the grip of governors and makes us people who “turn the whole world upside down.” This will cause everyone from governments to social groups to feel threatened and persecute us in some way. But this will cause ample opportunity for the Gospel to go forth. In places like the first century church and China, it has amplified the church’s message, not drowned it out. This will only increase as the return of the Lord draws nearer. (Acts 17:2-8, 1 Peter 4:12-14)
- The Church is simple: Because the harvest is great, because the workers are few, because oppression is real, and because Jesus is Lord, the church typically becomes simpler and less programed. Regardless of what you believe about church structure, you are hard-pressed to find highly organized structures in the book of Acts. Simpler churches allowed the early church to start churches wherever the harvest was being gathered. I’ll say more on this in my next post “Why House Churches are Apostolic.” But for now, let me just mention that when Paul spoke of the church, he spoke of a church that was relational, connected, met primarily in homes, enabled every believer present to function in their gifts, and was able to effectively care for one another. In my view, this required simpler, more reproducible forms of organizing themselves. (Ephesians 4:11-16, Romans 16:1-16, 1 Corinthians 14)
- The Return of the Lord is Clear: Followers of Jesus function best when they believe that Jesus is coming back soon. Now, we’ve all met the guy that lives in a bunker and is storing food and guns away to resist the Anti-Christ. But this is not the kind of end-time view I’m advocating. The church that Jesus started believed He was coming back quickly. It didn’t cause them to hoard stuff, it caused them to give themselves to spreading the gospel to the darkest places on the planet. When we believe that Jesus is returning and that return will have real and irreversible consequences for the planet, we live differently. We actually begin to live in the way Jesus intended: with urgency. (Acts 1:6-11, Revelation 22:12)
Friends, if these things are true, they have tremendous implications for what we’re doing now. Business as usual has to change if we want to embrace the kind of life described here. If you are already doing this, awesome! Pray for us and pray that we all can go deeper in the grace you’re touching. If this isn’t you, then let’s together contend for God to release this type of Christianity in the Earth. I believe He will and it will change everything.
In an ongoing effort to provide a jumping-on point for new readers, I’ve written a series of posts entitled “Basic Introductions.” Each post gives my definition of a seldom explored realm of Christianity so that readers who are unfamiliar with some of the terms and concepts discussed here will have a quick reference point available to them. The following is the list of "Basic Introduction” posts here at Pursuing Glory.
Ever heard people talk about Jesus as a Groom or the Church as His bride? Ever wonder why people are so excited about the love of God? This is the post for you.
If you’ve ever heard people talk about Jesus and the Song of Solomon in the same sentence and not understood where they get Jesus in that book, this post is a great place to start.
Once you understand the Song of Solomon a little better, you may want to dig a little deeper. This is the post you want to check out next.
If you’ve always thought that we really don’t need to know much about the End Times because we won’t be here during most of the scary stuff, you should probably read this post.
I just finished reading an email sent out by Wolfgang and Mercy Simson describing their perspective on world events in light of the recent earthquake and tidal wave that has rocked Japan. Opinions about the situation are a dime a dozen, but I found this thought by Wolfgang extremely helpful. In describing how the church should address such a crisis he says this:
“Don’t do what the world does, but do what only Kingdom people can do, and no-one else. Kingdom people do not need to join the choir of a world without God that only sees the superficial humanitarian, economic, scientific or psychological aspects of disasters.” –Wolfgang Simson
I think this is incredibly key for the hour that we’re living in. Right now, with all of the calamity and war taking place around us, it can be easy for us to become humanitarians. And while I love helping others (and trust me, we will be called to help others) there has to be something that separates our response from the response of every other human being that doesn’t know Christ. You see Japan doesn’t need more money, they need Jesus.
The world has money, star power, volunteers, and sympathy. What they don’t have is any cure for the wrath of God that manifests itself partially in this age and fully in the age to come. What they don’t have is Christ, loving them, leading them, indwelling them, and empowering them. He alone is the cure for everything broken in this world. He is anything but impractical. When a group of people come under the Lordship of Jesus and experience His life, they will change and heal society just by their very nature.
There will be a day when all the world’s money, star power, and volunteerism will not suffice to bring healing. The weight of sin and the outpouring of God’s wrath will be too great. In those days the church will no longer be able to rely on what she has been able to do through human means, but only on what she has learned to give from Jesus. Her access to a supernatural God who changes mankind, heals the sick, restores the broken, and shifts the heavens will be crucial. The time to learn how to give this is right now.
Wolfgang goes on to describe other practical responses the church can make, and I would encourage you to check out his email that he sent and the pdf attached that gives you some insight into his revelation about Japan.
I believe in a victorious, end-time church. I believe that there will be a day when God raises up a bride that is without spot or wrinkle. I believe there will be a church that experiences the outpouring of the Spirit like never before. And I believe that church will finish bringing the Gospel of the Kingdom to the ends of the Earth prior to Jesus’ return.
But so much of what I see on a daily basis does not line up with that belief. But rather than grow critical about where the church is going, I’ve been sensing from the Lord an invitation to press in with prayer and fasting and ask Him to change the DNA of the church.
So, I’ve invited my house church to join me and pray and fast for seven days for God to release the end-times church in the Earth. It’s my conviction that if we ask God, He will release grace to us that will strengthen the church all over the world to move into her divine destiny. But just like with Daniel, some breakthroughs from Jesus only come as we set our hearts before God with prayer and fasting and ask Him to intervene.
Here’s what I’m believing for: As we pray and ask God to release the end time church, I believe God will give those of us who are praying revelation about what that church will look like. It then becomes our responsibility to pray those things back to God and ask Him to do them in the church. You can pray it for your local church. You can pray it for the church in your nation. You can pray it for the entire church all over the world. And when you do, I believe God will give us little “nudges” into what the end time church will be.
We probably will not see a full-fledged end time church arise by the end of our fast. But if we can participate with God in the beginning stages of seeing grace release for such a thing, it would be amazing.
Let me include some practicals. We’re feeling very strongly this is not a time to pull back into an isolated place and stop the ministry you are already doing. We also firmly believe in fasts that are “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That means don’t tell anyone what you’re fasting and don’t ask anyone if they’re fasting. Finally, there are some people (especially nursing or pregnant mothers or those with dietary constraints) that cannot do full food fasts. And that is okay. Do what you can, when you can. The important thing is to press into God for what He is willing to give to us in this season.
Finally, I’m inviting you. Yes, though you are not part of our church, I would love it if you would join us. I will probably post a couple of things through the week of fasting here just to keep everyone up to date. You can feel free to post something you receive from the Lord in the comment section on this post or any other related post. We will begin on Saturday, December 4th and end on Friday, December 10th. Join us on this glorious journey.
[In an ongoing effort to provide a jumping-on point for new readers, over the next few weeks on Fridays I’m going to write a series of posts entitled “Basic Introductions.” Each post will focus on a seldom explored realm of Christianity that we will focus on regularly here at Pursuing Glory.]
One of the fundamental errors I see consistently across the body of Christ is a nervous unwillingness to talk about matters related to the return of Christ and the end of the age. The reasons people give vary, usually falling somewhere between not wanting to be divisive or thinking there are more important matters for us to focus on than events related to the End Times. These arguments come from well-meaning people but they fall horribly short of the standard God has called us to. The end times were meant to be clearly understood by God’s people in a way the produce hope and change.
Part of the problem with not teaching eschatology (theology related to the end-times) is that we’ve shied away from it so long in our churches and seminaries, that most of us don’t know what we believe about the end times or why we believe what we do believe. Instead of promoting unity by avoiding “controversial” doctrines we’ve promoted ignorance of Scripture that relates to our common salvation. (BTW, I don’t believe that unity is ever achieved by agreeing with someone totally in regards to what they think about God. Have you ever met anyone who has thought the exact same things about God as you? And even if you have, only being in unity with them is not scripturally endorsed unity.)
Here’s a reality that’s helpful to understand: we all have an end-time theology. Most of us just haven’t thought about it or researched it in the Bible. We either believe that the future will get really good and the church will succeed or we believe that the future is dark and will get really bad for the church. If you believe either of these statements, technically you have an end-time theology.
These views of the end times flow out of our understanding of Jesus. Will He really rescue humanity? Will He really judge the whole world? Will we really get glorified bodies? Do these “spiritual” truths ever manifest in physical reality? If these things really happen, and they will, what we believe about them affects our lives here and now and will continue to affect us until these events occur.
Many argue that studying the end times is too difficult to understand. But God has not left us as orphans to understand His word by ourselves. He has placed us in a family, called the church, that can help us to understand seemingly difficult concepts. He has also promised to guide us into all truth by His Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit that reveals Jesus to us will give us understanding about the end of the age.
We’ll spend a number of posts describing end-time events and their relationship to the church. For now I think it would be helpful to give a few broad categories to help everyone understand the end-times from the perspective we will deal with them here. The following are brief descriptions of major events and concepts related to the end of the age:
He is the Lord. During the last days there will be no question who is on His side and who is not. Every eye will see Him openly and plainly. He will open the seven seals that release judgment on Earth (Revelation 6:1-8). He will be revealed as the desire of all the nations when He gathers those who love Him to His side (Haggai 2:7, Matthew 24:29-31) He will wage war against the most openly satanic government and society in the history of the planet (Revelation 19:11-21). This is our great hope. Everything that has resisted the Kingdom’s coming into the Earth up until this point will cease resisting and He will wipe away every tear from every eye (Revelation 7:17, Revelation 21:4). He will be the Hero of the entire story.
Will exist. We will not be pulled up to Heaven in some cosmic escape plan. I don’t have a primary proof text to support this idea; I have a Bible. John only speaks of the church in chapters 1-3 of Revelation. But he speaks of the saints throughout the entire book of Revelation (Revelation 13:7, Revelation 14:12, Revelation 17:6). To express this mathematically, saints=church. And why not? This will be our finest hour. To take us out at the end of the age would be like a football coach that drove the team hard at practice, played all the games, and skipped the final tournament. And here’s the part where this needs to connect: If the church will be here during the end times, she must begin to prepare for that day even before it arrives. Remember, the book of Revelation was written to the Church, not to the world.
Satan, in his desire to snuff out the plan of God and rule the Earth, will mount a massive war against Christ and His people. In order to marshal the Earth to His side, He inhabits a man of extreme political prowess. This man will not just be a political figure, he will be a false messiah on a global scale, the ultimate combination of secular and religious charisma that will draw most of unredeemed mankind to his side. He will attempt to destroy the church and wipe out all of the Jews on the planet in a final bid to stop the plan of God (Revelation 13:1-10). There will be great military and economic tribulation against God’s people and they will have to fully choose Jesus above everything else. Even those who die, however, will not loose, but be the greatest victors in that day. If this man is real, and he is, we must be prepared to respond when he arrives on the world scene.
The reality of the end of the age is that the reason most people don’t want to talk about it (and don’t want to be here) is because it’s filled with difficult and terrifying judgments that are poured out seemingly on all humanity. To make things more difficult these judgments are sent by Jesus-the merciful Lord that we’ve come to know and love. And while I believe God intends to at least partially shield His people during this time (see Revelation 7:1-12 and Revelation 9:4) we will also have the responsibility of declaring the love of Christ while simultaneously declaring Him as the source of the judgments falling all around us. This will not be an easy task.
All of these factors working together will result in the greatest world-wide harvest that the church has ever seen. Joel 2 describes the last days as a time when the Holy Spirit would literally be poured out on everyone and the result, even in the midst of judgments on the Sun and the Moon, would be an opportunity for many to be saved (see Joel 2:28-30). Jesus said this would be a time when the Gospel of the Kingdom would be proclaimed to every nation (Matthew 24:14). The implications of this great harvest should give us hope. It should also cause us to prepare for the harvest in a way that is different than we have before.
A day like no other is coming on the face of the planet. Jesus will be revealed in a way that will leave every human without excuse. They will either love Him or hate Him, there will be no middle ground. The church will be a fully alive people that will endure persecution and declare both the mercy and power of the Lord. The Anti-Christ will arise and lead the world in final satanic resistance against the Lord and His people. This will happen in conjunction with great judgments that will be poured out and a great increase of salvation that will take place before the last day. We will be able to say with Joel, “the day of the Lord is great and very terrible, (Joel 2:11).
Help Other Readers Out (Leave a comment about the following questions below):
- Is an understanding of the end-times important?
- How does your view of the end-times affect what you’re doing now?
- If these things are true are there things that should change with how we look at the church?
Some Helpful Books on the Topic
“The Gospel of the Kingdom” by George Eldon Ladd- This is probably the best book that connects our salvation with the idea of the end times. It’s pretty technical but if you want to understand how the end times ties into what Jesus did on the cross and the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God, this is a must read.
“A Commentary on the Revelation of John” by George Eldon Ladd- I usually don’t recommend two books by the same author, but this book is absolutely amazing. This book has probably shaped my understanding of the end times more than any other single book. It is a straight-forward, verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Revelation that will cause you to wrestle with the implications of end time events.
“The Church and The Tribulation” by Robert Gundry- This book tears apart the idea that we will escape the end of the age through the rapture. If you’ve been taught that the Church will be raptured before any difficult events occur, pick up this book with an open mind. You will be greatly helped by it.
Other Posts In the “Basic Introduction” Series:
[Editor’s Note: From time to time I hope to publish dreams that are relevant not only to our house church but to the larger body of Christ. This dream which was shared in the meeting mentioned in my last post, was shared by Aroea, a member of our house church. You can check out my thoughts below.]
[My husband and I] were living in a nice house in a small town. A large car dealership had bought out a small business much to the town’s protest. The dealership assured the town that it would be fine and said they would keep the manager of the local business on as an act of good will. The towns people gave in but the dealership didn’t keep their word with the manager. In addition they were keeping a large pen of wolves in the town next to the fancy dealership. The people began to protest again. It was as if this had
The slick talking agent from the dealership once again assured the people that everything would be fine and that the wolves were harmless. I knew differently. I also knew that the cattle in the fields were protected and so the wolves would be rummaging through our garbage cans and trying to get into our homes. I began to go around my house locking the doors. There were three doors upstairs and one downstairs. As I went around locking the doors I saw a black wolf cub in the backyard. He was beautiful against the snowy backdrop. I hurried downstairs to lock the last door and then started cleaning. Upon entering the storage room though I found the little wolf cub had made it into my house through the vents and was rummaging through my Christmas gifts. He’d also torn open a package of animal crackers. I quickly alpha-rolled the cub and made it lay in my arms, on it’s back like a baby.
Soon a couple people from town showed up and wanted to put me on the news. They were hoping to rally people against the dealership by showing how the wolf had made it’s way into my house. However I warned them we couldn’t. I knew that putting the cub on TV would actually work against us because it was so cute. The dealership would be able to argue that it had done no real damage and show how easily I had handled the cub. It would actually invoke sympathy for their cause. I was adamant that we could not fight them that way or it would backfire. I also knew that no matter how cute the cub looked (even to me) it was going to grow large and fierce.
Editor’s Thoughts: One of the things that struck me about this dream was the danger that false teachers and prophets will pose to the whole body of Christ at the end of the age. Obviously the wolf is a symbol of heresy that starts out small and “cute” but can grow into something much more dangerous. These wolves could get in through the smallest openings in a house (spiritual family) and prove deadly. The obvious argument (especially in early stages) is that these wolves are cute and harmless, but this lulls the people into a false sense of security.
How should we prepare to deal with false prophets, false teachers, and heresy? What does this mean for you and the church you are a part of? Is the Lord speaking to you about anything in this dream? The answers to any of these questions can be left by clicking “Leave A Comment” below this article.
We just finished celebrating the 1st birthday of my son, Joel. We did all the typical stuff…the party with presents, the much anticipated “first birthday cake smushing,” family came over, we sang…everything you would typically expect for a one year old. And we had a great time.
All of this, however, has got me thinking about Joel and what he means to Christy and I and to the larger body of Christ. We gave our son the name Joel because the Lord had spoken to us about a move of the Spirit that would come at the end of the age. The birth of Joel was going to be a sign for us about an outpouring of the Spirit described in Joel 2:28-32:
“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:28-32)”
I’ve written about this before, but I want to stick this thesis the door of my blog for the whole world to see: There is coming a move of the Spirit that will trump anything we have seen before. I’m not saying that just because the Lord told us to name our son Joel. I’m saying that because God declares in His word that He will pour out His Spirit in the last hour of human history. It will happen. It is as sure and as fixed in Scripture as the coming of the Anti-Christ and and the second coming of Jesus.
Beloved do not forget the coming outpouring of the Spirit! It’s not some pie-in-the-sky fantasy. God wasn’t just trying to motivate us with a promise that He never intended to fulfill. Weariness and dryness tend to shrink our faith. It’s hard to believe for an outpouring of the Spirit when you look around and see an Earth suffering from a shortage of God breaking through! But remember that just because we have not seen the outpouring does not mean it does not exist. When Noah built an ark no one had ever seen a flood, but that did not make him foolish for preparing.
So tonight, while I’m celebrating the life of my son, I want to call us all contend for the breakthrough of the Spirit of God wherever we are. There will be a day when we all cry out “come” together and a tidal wave of presence of God floods the Earth like never before. Our job is to continue to call out “come” until the crescendo in Heaven builds and God cannot hold Himself back any longer. The result will be signs in the sky, miracles on the Earth, and a flood of souls coming into the Kingdom like never before. May the Lord help us to be found faithful and waiting in that day.