Prophecy & Disaster in our time
by B. Michael Bigg (assistant editor CETF)
2011 commenced with a spate of disasters: floods, earthquakes and tsunamis. The second quarter of the year hasn't fared much better with deadly tornados in the United States, flooding in New South Wales, another "aftershock" earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, a Chilean volcano sending an ash cloud around the world, ongoing unrest and civil war in parts of the middle-east, and the continuing meltdown of Japan's Fukashima nuclear reactor. In spite of all this turmoil, death and destruction life goes on. The one light amongst such gloom was the much hyped and broadcasted marriage of Britain's Prince William to Catherine (Kate) Middleton.
And He (Jesus) said to the disciples, "The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, 'Look there! Look here!' Do not go away, and do not run after them. For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. Luke 17:22-30 (NASB)
It is not calamity and disaster that brings people to God, though they might cause them to cry out to or at God, and church attendance may increase until things get back to normal. It is the Word of God through witness that brings people to God. We see this vividly in the book of Revelation where the response to calamity is not a seeking after God but a desire to hide from Him.
I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"Revelation 6:12-17 (NASB)
But what does this mean for us? In biblical Greek the word for witness' is ma,rtuj (martus) and its verb form marture,w (martureo) means to bear witness, testify. It is from this word that we get our English "martyr" indeed it was not uncommon in the first century that being a witness for Christ meant death especially under the rule of certain Roman emperors; and likewise in some parts of the world today witness leads to martyrdom.
Revelation chapters 2 and 3 contain the seven letters (of praise, warning and criticism) to the churches. The warning introducing these letters, in Revelation chapter 1, makes the observation that Jesus walks amongst the seven lampstands which we are told are symbolic of the churches. Jesus is aware of what is truly going on IN HIS churches. The letters to the churches begins with Ephesus and ends with Laodicea. The warnings and criticism to these two churches include a call to repent, and indeed failure to do so means that Jesus, "will remove your lampstand out of its place" (Rev 2:5) and "will spit you out of My mouth" (Rev 3:16).
Ephesus was criticised for failing to keep their first love failing to do what they did at the beginning. Though commended for their perseverance to maintain correct doctrine and testing those who say they are God's ambassadors (apostles, prophets, teachers, etc.) they appear to have failed to keep their witness alive. They had become so introspective and so protective of themselves (and their church) that they failed to be a light and witness to others. The Laodiceans were the complete opposite: they were so open and "loving" they stood for nothing. The introduction to the Loadicean letter is by "The Amen, the faithful and true Witness" (Rev 3:14), something this church obviously was not.
These letters and warnings to the churches in Revelation show us that:
- correct doctrine is important and in fact, essential;
- the testing of ministers is correct practice,
- as is the rejection of those who are shown to be false;
- The church as lampstands are called to be light, corporately and individually.
- Our witness is to be faithful and true as HE is faithful and true.
- We are to witness to a fallen world: to our neighbours, associates and work colleagues; witnesses socially, societal (or societary) and in business.
- And also, our witness is to be maintained, even in the face of death.
Faithful witness means being a faithful and uncompromising witness inside the church (even if those in a church reject that witness) and a faithful and uncompromising witness in the cultural and societal location we are in. For some Christians the consequences of such a stand may result in a lack of business and/or the ability to support one's family. For others their witness may mean martyrdom not necessarily by being killed, maimed or blown up but by refusing to renounce the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. laying down our lives for Him..
A common prayer heard in the west is for the continuing freedom and blessing of living in a country where we can worship God openly. Yet the church's witness (in general) is such that it is seen as merely a bunch of people going to church on Sunday whilst the rest of society goes to the beach, the park, football, cricket, baseball, and so on and so on. True Church growth is not happening in the "blessed" West, but in the persecuted church around the world. Church growth happens as a result of the light of witness, even when that witness results in martyrdom.
Increasingly the freedoms of the West are being eroded and biblical Christianity is becoming openly criticised, accused of being intolerant and bigoted. So, is the church being shaken, our faithfulness tested and our witness revealed? If so, was the Church in the West really blessed for having its time of peace and safety? Or is the time of trial and testing coming to the western church a time of true light and true witness?
About the author
B. MICHAEL BIGG, and his wife, Kathryn, came out of the Word-Faith movement. Michael has a concern for the preaching of the truth (or lack of it) in many of today's churches. He has a desire to assist in the education of the elect and reaching the lost.