Now, I’m not trying to be mean. I’m not trying to pour cold water on any of those who believe in End Time prophecy. I believe in Christ’s literal second coming to the Earth in a physical body. I’m a student of the Scriptures and what they say about the end of the age. I just don’t buy the idea that a total eclipse of the sun (or the heart) has any bearing on the whether Christ is coming back.
Why do I believe that? Well, a quick look at astronomical history in the United States will tell you that we have seen a lot of total eclipses of the sun and Jesus hasn’t returned in the 241 years of our existence, let alone the number of times the rest of the world has seen a total eclipse.
Now I’m sure that some will be quick to point out the language in Acts 2, Matthew 24, and Revelation that talk the sun going dark. Those verses will be fulfilled beyond a shadow of a doubt, but they won’t be because of a natural phenomenon that can predicted on a calendar. They will be supernatural signs that are beyond what natural history has seen.
Why is this important? The belief in Jesus’ return gets cheapened by every errant prediction based on natural events in the sky or random dates thrown out by preachers who seem to know what they’re talking about, but are wrong. Just like with the blood moon phenomenon from a couple of years ago, there will be those who see us predicting Jesus’ return, see nothing happen, and will harden their hearts a bit more concerning the reality of the Gospel.
Friends, Jesus is returning, soon. If we believe that, we should be telling as many people about the Gospel as we can and making disciples of people both near and far. So, start sharing the Gospel. Make disciples. Start house churches. Do all of that with a spirit of urgency that causes you to be on the alert for the Master’s return. Don’t fall asleep.
But let’s not predict the coming of Christ based on natural phenomena. It was never designed to work that way. We just can’t keep giving false signals to a world and a church that has continued to see us throw out date after date without much good evidence, only to be disappointed once again. Instead, knowing the times and seasons, let’s prepare for the day when the Lord will appear and bring His reward with Him.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
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.