Will the world be won for Christ by 2000 A.D.?...

Revival - Now?

Since "God is not willing that any should perish ...", it is clear that almost everyone who has ever lived will be saved! The question is when? In this life or the next? See The Resurrections of the Dead for some clues!.

A sign in the sky. Millions of new believers. Crusades reaching "a billion souls by 2000". Miracle after authenticated miracle. Whispered messages from God. And prophetic visions realized.

Such reports flood the religious and even the secular press. Toronto. Vineyard. Pensacola. Kensington. All names that spell one word "revival". Is this the stirring of the Holy Spirit? Has revival begun?

Christians around the world have dedicated themselves to the concept of converting the world to Jesus Christ by the year 2000. Indeed one leading charismatic evangelist recently claimed such a revival has already begun. Is this an attainable goal? Will it happen? And is it - more importantly - what God wants? Is this what's prophesied?

[In 1950, Harold Bosley noted that "When I answered the call to the ministry in the 1920's, our church was resounding to the cry of the Centenary movement: 'The world for Christ in one generation.' And we thought it could actually be done! Now ... We need faith - great faith - simply to hang on ..."]

A Failed Gospel?

On the face of it, the Church has failed. Generation after generation has lived - and died - with only a tiny proportion "saved". Further, uncounted millions had died before Jesus made it possible to be saved! Jesus certainly commissioned his followers in the "The Great Commission" to "disciple all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Was he expecting total success?

Look at the power-driven activity of the early Church. No sign there of even that privileged generation being totally discipled despite powerful, miraculous signs and wonders by the apostles. The truth of the Gospel was rejected - and by most! Huge successes, certainly. But by no means the discipling of all nations. Has the church, has Jesus, failed?

The only way to test any "prophecy" encouraging this goal of worldwide evangelization - or any other - is the touchstone of Scripture. What can we glean from God's Word? A common assumption is that our task as Christians is to convert the world so that Jesus may return - "a wedding present for Jesus" said someone.

End-time Scenario

All the prophetic signs point to the return of Jesus Christ in our generation. [See our earlier article The Time of the Signs].

What then of the prophesied "state of the world" at Christ's second coming? Is "revival" prophesied? Will literally millions be converted and submit to the lordship of Jesus as King of kings?

The short answer is yes. But not as most evangelicals think!

The Scriptures are clear in their prophetic warnings. Rather than revival and mass conversions there will be a massive falling away (Gk. apostasy II Thess. 2:3). Faith will be a scarce commodity (Luke 18:8). There will be "a famine of the Word" (Amos 8:11). The power of the holy people will be scattered (Daniel 12:7). Persecution will be rife with wholesale betrayal of Christian by Christian and by the civil authorities (Matthew 24:9-11).

Now add the fact that "all the world wondered after the beast, and they worshipped the dragon [Satan! ch. 12:9]" - this in the years immediately preceding the coming of Christ (Revelation 13:3-4). Bible prophecies tell us that virtually all mankind will be in thrall to a great false religious system with Satan as the object of its worship.

Not exactly the picture of a successfully evangelized world. We need to carefully examine our assumptions about a coming revival!

Spirit Power

What, then, about all the millions of new believers now seen in many nations? Or the miraculous healings or those multitudes "slain in the Spirit"? Or the very real coming to pass of prophetic visions and "words of prophecy"? Surely a sign of revival?

Back to the Bible! The scenario in which millions will be converted is placed by the true Bible prophecies at the end of a time of tribulation. In fact, "the tribulation, the great" (Revelation 7:9-17). The horrors of this terrible period will bring to mind the call to repentance now being preached by the people of God. The intense suffering will bring millions of all races, all creeds to humble acceptance of Jesus the Messiah as their personal Savior. [Ed: Refer to last month's issue on the Tribulation]

Other prophecies predict that more than two-thirds of modem Israel will perish in the Great Tribulation. It's a time of trouble that comes because of our sin. Not only Israel, but all nations will experience the effects of our global disregard for the universal laws God has set to regulate human behavior. Out of this remnant will come the great repentant multitude who will worship Jesus on his throne.

What, then, of the present world-wide "move of the Spirit"? The answer is shocking! Let's do what the first Christians always did - turn to the Holy Scriptures, "the Law and the Prophets", to discern the mind of God.

False prohets can give accurate prophecies

God inspired Moses to foresee the deception that would sweep the world. We would expect false prophets to express erroneous predictions - their prophecies to fail. Is that what God warns?

"If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke to you, saying, Let us go after other gods which you have not known and let us serve [worship] them; you shall not hearken to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proves you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice" (Deuteronomy 13:1-4).

The message is: false prophets can give accurate prophecies!

And God's judgment (vv.5-18) is that both the false prophets and those who follow them were to be executed. The reason? Because they taught against the Law of God. Because they introduced into the service of God forms of worship which He expressly forbade. In modern terms this means Christmas, Sunday, Easter, prayers for the dead, images, pre-Christian symbols like the cross. Today, of course, that literal death penalty is suspended. But it remains, like a Damoclean sword, for those who will not turn to the Creator God.

Powerful preaching. Massive crusades. Multitudes of new believers. Heavenly signs. Visions. Words of prophecy. If they are uttered or claimed by some charismatic leader who turns you away from God's form of worship - he or she is a false prophet and you had better beware!

Our Task

Our task as Christians is to "preach the gospel in all the world as a witness". God calls us person by person (John 6:44). He draws us to Jesus Christ. He gives sufficient understanding for us to go further. When we respond positively He chooses us. But He is not calling everyone - not even those within sound of a powerful Gospel message! Indeed Jesus said he himself uttered parables to hide truth (Matthew 13:11-12)!

As Christians we are a witness for God and His love for mankind. As Christians we must proclaim God's message so that those may hear it whom He is calling. As Christians we warn the world of God's prophetic program. And that warning message will indeed be proclaimed in all the world before Christ's coming (Matthew 24:14).

That's the task of this work and of other works for God. Those who have. responded positively to God's call are dedicated to sowing the seed of truth in a world deceived and blinded by that arch opponent of the plan of God Satan, the devil. This final generation of mankind's self-rule is hearing the true Gospel. But this call falls on unheeding ears - for now.

Few have any desire to walk the narrow way to salvation available only through Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 7:13-19). But come the time of terror - called The Great Tribulation [see last month's article] - and that seed will begin to produce fruit. For, according to Scripture, out of that awesome and horrific stress on nations will come "a great multitude that no man can number" (Revelation 7:9).

God has a plan. The clock is ticking towards midnight when man's long dark day will close. But Jesus Christ will return to a world that is rejecting God - and worshipping Satan (Revelation 13:8)! Only those who obey His Word will avoid deception - and tribulation.

Watch, and pray!

To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.

For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 2 No. 2, March/April 1998. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.

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