Theme: The End-Time Church: What Will It Look Like? How Do We Get There? Presented by Fred London
“Have you seen her?” The Church is Not an IT, but a SHE! Once you have gotten even a glimpse of her, you cannot forget her. Once you have gotten a glimpse of how God sees her, you are forever smitten and can no longer settle for anything or anyone less than your beloved, the one to whom, and for whom, all of your affections cause you to yearn for. If we fail to become the Church as she was intended in our present days, we will be ill-prepared to be the Church required in the last days. What I want to present to you is, not merely a teaching, but a message and a burden.
The Church as the Key to End-Time Fulfillment –
I Peter 4:17, II Peter 3:10-12, Eph. 5:25-27
Straight-jacket analogy – For the most part, the modern-day Church is contorted and restricted in form and function. The Church in America, in particular, through spiritual eyes, looks like the poster child for “battered women.” As to function, she has been crippled through spiritual and emotional abuse – Jer. 23:1-2, Ezek. 34:1-10.
Inmates in Prison analogy – Let me take this notion one step further. Not long ago, I was watching a video of one of Art’s last public messages. However, this time, my eyes were opened as never before. But, it wasn’t the message that hit me between the eyes, which was typical of Art’s messages. Rather, it was a graphic revelation of the scene, itself. It was as if Art was a type of career counselor, laying out the motivational and technical skills necessary in order to be a productive member of society to a group of prison inmates, all incarcerated with life sentences, with no hope of parole. Being in a maximum security facility, the odds of successful escape were between slim and none.
Without outside help, there was little hope of escape. Without outside help, even in the unlikely event that one might devise a means of escape and succeed, where would they go? Would there be a place of refuge already prepared for them? Without outside help, everything taught, regardless of how valuable, would come to nothing. It would be hardly more than a perpetual exercise in rhetoric, all theory, never to be practiced and sharpened, never to be utilized in the way in which it was intended. All of that theoretical knowledge, along with the recipients of that knowledge, would fall upon the rocks and the thorns, never having had any real hope or opportunity to put that knowledge to practical use. What a waste!
Luke 5:36-39 – As for me, I have become convinced that both the wine and the wineskin are equally critical for us if we are to have any hope in “serving the purpose of God in our generation.” Brothers and sisters, tweaking and artificially enabling the Church in its predominant, unscriptural form and practice will accomplish about as much as re-arranging the deck chairs on the ill-fated Titanic. The fact of the matter is, you’re not doing anyone any favors by contributing to a doomed mega-ship and the people’s false sense of security.
Brothers and sisters, it is time to set the captives free, and it must first and foremost, begin with the household of God! I can state this with complete confidence and conviction, that this judgment upon, what represents the Post-Reformation expression of the Church is not a matter of, “If,” but rather, “When?” And, the ultimate question for each household will inevitably be, “As for me and my house, what are we to do about it?”
Text & Prophetic parallels:
Isaiah 58:12 – Eph. 3:19-22, I Cor. 3:11, II Cor. 11:2-3, Rev. 19:7-9, Acts 2:42-47 – Here, we see the beginning of the transition away from Temple worship, a hyper-centralized form of church. We also see that home meetings were not intended to supplement the general assembly, but rather, the general assembly was intended to supplement the home meetings.
Acts 8:1-4 – Note: The apostles remained behind in Jerusalem, churches may have been established by men of apostolic stature, but they were birthed by simple brothers and sisters in the Lord, the fruits of having had a proper foundation laid in them derived from an authentic apostolic foundation. What fruits will be manifest in the end-times, and particularly during “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble” – Dan. 11:32-33, 12:3, Rev. 12:13-17.
The Church of the 21st Century is in desperate need of a restoration, which will be required for God to accomplish His purposes through her in the “last days.” It is a change that is even more radical than the terms we so freely throw around, such as “revival,” or God forbid, another “movement.” It will require a major internal overhaul of what is commonly referred to as church. The Post-Reformation clergy-laity mindset is crippling the Church and, if not repented of, and I do mean, “repented of,” will result in creating an even greater “stumbling block” to God’s people as it pertains to their very spiritual and even physical survival in the days ahead – Eph. 4:7-16.
That prophetic scripture, “Strike the shepherd that the sheep would be scattered” will be fulfilled in a more tragic way in reference to God’s sheep than many could have envisioned. If, from the time our children are born, the goal is to wean them off of dependency upon mom and dad and prepare them to assume the responsibilities of adulthood, ultimately leaving the house and establishing their own household with adult responsibilities, then, why in Heaven’s Name, don’t we apply that same principle, and Biblical mandate, beyond lipservice, in training up spiritual adults? Well, there are several answers to that, and none of them Scripturally valid.
Is this nothing more than a theological debate? A simple difference of opinion? A matter of Scriptural interpretation? A question of denominational preference? Of form or practice? Of submission or rebellion? A trivial consideration at the expense of peace and harmony? “As for me and my house,” these questions were asked, and answered, long ago.
A Tragic Consequence:
We are all familiar with the famous quote by the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, who wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
It is almost a virtual paraphrase of the scripture found in Rom. 15:4 which says, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction.” That is why, within the context of this issue, having a fundamental understanding of Biblical and Church history is so vital.
I have read much literature analyzing all the reasons as to why, as a whole, the churches in Germany did not speak out against the Nazi atrocities perpetrated against the Jews, nor lift a practical finger to defend them, hide them, or enable them to escape the reach of the Nazi regime. Among all the volumes of analysis, psycho-analysis, socio-economic analysis, political analysis, and religious analysis, this is what stood out to me. I quote:
“In Nazi Germany in September 1935, there were a few Christians in the Protestant Confessing Church who demanded that their Church take a public stand in defense of the Jews. Their efforts, however, were overruled by Church leaders who wanted to avoid any conflict with the Nazi regime.
Internationally, some Church leaders in Europe and North America did condemn the Nazis’ measures against the Jews, and there were many debates about how Christians outside Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied territory should best respond to Hitler’s brutal policies. These discussions, however, tended to become focused more on secondary strategic considerations, like maintaining good relations with colleagues in the German Churches, than on the central humanitarian issues that were really at stake. Ultimately, the churches’ lapses during the Nazi era were lapses of vision and determination. Protestant and Catholic religious leaders loyal to creeds professing that love can withstand and conquer evil, were unable or unwilling to defy one of the great evils in human history. And so the Holocaust will continue to haunt the Christian Churches for a very, very long time to come.”
And, “vision”? What did “lapses of vision” have to do with such a human catastrophe, I wondered? And, immediately, the scripture came to me, “Without a vision, the people perish.” or “are unrestrained.” Either translation makes its point! The Jews perished and the Nazis were unrestrained. Prov. 24:11-12 – Brothers and sisters, do not deceive yourselves into thinking that, in that day, you will be able to hide behind incompetent, disobedient, unaccountable leaders anymore than an unbeliever will be able to hide behind a church hypocrite. In that day, will we be able to stand on the feeble excuses of, “But, my pastor told me, such and such!” any more than, “Well, look at those hypocrites in the church!”
Building upon these principles, how does this apply to the Church and its leadership, or in other words, how the Church is traditionally structured and led? For years, I have referred people, especially “leaders” to passages such as Matthew 20:25-28 and Matthew 23:1-12, and have been compelled to ask, “What part of “NO” don’t you understand!?! If they ignore the instructions of Jesus on this matter, it is not surprising then, that they would do the same with Paul’s and Peter‘s – II Cor. 1:24, I Peter 5:1-3
I Cor. 12 (theory) and I Cor. 14 (application) with I Cor. 13 (bridge) – the sum total leading to “speaking the truth in love” – love (I Cor. 13) is the glue holding together I Cor. 12 with I Cor. 14 – But, glue by itself is not much good, it must be applied to something. “As for me and my house,” we finally grew weary of playing “Simon Says” in church services. “Stand up!” “Sit down!” “Greet your neighbor!” “Repeat after me!” “Stand on your head!” And, “Let us conclude the service by standing and holding hands together, singing, “I’m your puppet.”
Now, if there were some Scriptural basis for such practice, then it would be my problem. But, if there is no Scriptural basis for such practice, then it becomes our problem, and if it is truly, our problem, then it becomes a legitimate problem for God to fulfill His purposes through His people as His Divine corporate expression on earth. Hear me, brothers and sisters! This is not a question of personal preference, but of seeing a greater revelation of the Lord and His ways, in and through His Body, that His will might be accomplished on earth, to the praise of His glory!
There was to be no fleshly distinctions within His Body; no titles, no ecclesiastical royalty, no special class of people, for as Jesus taught, “You are all brothers.” The Church was to reflect the Divine nature of a heavenly kingdom, not a Jewish religious system nor a Gentile authority structure. Paul knew very well what was “coming down the pike” as he already was seeing these “ugly heads” being raised in the earliest days of the Church.
Eph. 3:8-11 – The Church was predestined to manifest the wisdom of God, not take the best ideas the world had to offer and re-package them in Christian wrappings—having bought into the mindset that “the ends justify the means” or in other words, “If they like us, maybe they’ll like our Jesus, too!” But, as one man remarked sometime ago, “I went out into the world to find the Church, and when I got into the Church, I found the world.”
How We Rationalize False Notions
Does any of this sound familiar? Prov. 16:25 – “We can take the best of both worlds and mesh them together!” “We can stay and continue to do some good.” “The congregation needs us!” “I can have a positive influence upon the fellowship, and maybe in this way, it will slowly begin to change?” “Well, we’ve just learned to be content with where we are and what we have.”
Prov. 24:27; 27:12 – The Church in its present state is not unlike the presumed unsinkable Titanic, of which was boldly proclaimed, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against her!” But, “While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” As for me and my house, we will be diligently building lifeboats, so that some might be saved. And, if you are destined to go down with the ship, you had better be absolutely certain that it was the Holy Spirit who led you to make the ultimate sacrifice, and not your soul, which is notorious for rationalizing and being swayed by human sentimentality.
The Church as Community in the “last days”
One of the most quoted passages we hear makes reference to the tribe of Issachar, “Men who understood the times and knew what Israel was to do.” It is not enough to “understand the times,” but we must also know what we are “to do.” We must not react to what we see, but respond according to the leading of the Holy Spirit, under the Lordship of Christ, established upon His Word, “as a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.”
But, be forewarned, that unless checked by a serious work of the Holy Spirit, communities with the noblest of intentions, even those truly called by God, have the greatest potential for harm as well as good. Unwitting as well as unscrupulous men love to throw dirt down Jacob’s wells. Satan loves to poison these wells so that what should be fresh springs of living water are tainted with such things as legalism, elitism, human dominance, and a form of idolatry towards the work itself, never taking the preeminence of the Lordship of Christ beyond mere lip service. For what a man can build with his giftings, can just as easily be destroyed by his character.
Tragic accounts such as these have caused me to become increasingly aware and concerned for other so-called “close-knit” communities. Whether it be in the form of a farm-like, rural property environment, or in a more urban area which meets primarily in private homes, I am sensing a greater need than ever before of the Biblical imperative of establishing a proper foundation in such envisioned communities— a foundation which must be laid at the very beginning. After all, you get only one chance to lay in a proper foundation for a first time.
Now, I am not so naive as to believe that any work with the most sound foundations will not have various problems despite the skill of a “wise master builder” as they undoubtedly will. But, with a sound foundation laid at the very beginning, the likelihood of damage is lessened along with their frequency. That said, as long as there is flesh to deal with, the potential is always there for error and destructive forces. But, the ongoing safeguards will be there. The foundational moorings will be there. And so, there is the conscious choice either to cling or to reject those spiritual moorings. Regardless, the point is, they are available to whosoever will.
As with much of the House Church Movement these days, the move and vision towards a present-day Messianic community and preparation for end-time ministry requires so much more than a technically correct vision and external form. If the spirit is not right, is not healthy, and great care is not taken in laying in those most critical foundation stones, then we will be confronted with a more sobering and possibly heartbreaking reality of “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Sooner or later, the cracks in the walls will begin to show themselves, and all of the artificial band-aid jobs in the world will not be able to hold it together and prevent its fall.
So, what is most critical in the investment of time and teaching? It is the full counsel of God as it pertains to His purposes for the Church and Israel, it the fundamental soundness of such communities who are called upon to be present-day examples of corporate spiritual life, equipping-teaching and training centers, places of refreshment and restoration, and potential places of refuge, corporately forming a type of underground network, and a place where “those of understanding can give insight to the many” (particularly Jews), leading to salvation.
Rev. 12:13-17 is only one example of the Church’s and Israel’s ultimate destinies being intertwined. In the “end of days,” as the Roman centurion was converted through a revelation of who Christ truly was as He subjected Himself to the Cross, so to, will the Jews (Israel who is truly Israel) be converted (circumcised in heart) as they see the Church manifest Christ through their willful subjection to the Cross. Many will manifest Christ through the bearing of their own personal and corporate Cross leading to salvation of the Jews, many at the expense of their own lives. This is where a Corrie Ten-Boom-type “Hiding Place” ministry or refuge, comes into play.
“Divine Appointment in the Wilderness – A People Prepared for These Last Days” – “What do we mean by this phrase?” More importantly, “What does God mean by this phrase?” “Where does this preparation begin for the corporate vessel who will be called upon to fulfill such a ministry in the last days?“ Heb. 11:8-10, 13:11-14 – I believe it will be less about instruction and more about a living testimony of the Body of Christ in life and function. Now, make no mistake, instruction will be a significant component, in preparation of, and during, this time and experience. But, ultimately, it will be “in the fullness of time” that the “manifold wisdom of God will be made manifest,” through the corporate witness of the Body of Christ.
And, I believe that there will be one other significant aspect to this “wilderness experience.” It will be a time of remembrance, where the Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance, and understanding, prophetic words spoken to these unsaved Jewish refugees, “at such a time as this.” – Deut. 30:1-6, Ezek. 6:8-10, 20:41-43, Matt. 26:69-75, Rev. 2:1-5
The implications are not merely philosophical, doctrinal, a personal opinion or preference on how “church” should be done, or simply trying to recapture a nostalgic past. It is a matter of the Church’s very survival, much less its fulfillment of God’s purposes on earth. The message will be hard, the price will be costly, the process long and difficult “to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow,” in order “to build and to plant,” not by the hand of man, but by the Hand of God.
He will bring this about out of a Divine passion to present a bride worthy of His Son, the same passion which moved Him to offer “His only begotten Son” that He might have a people with whom he might commune, and through whom, He might manifest His glory.
The true Church, who has prepared herself “for such a time as this” will be dispersed throughout the world, having prepared the way for the final great dispersion of the Jews. They will be as a God-made net intended to catch fish of a Jewish sort. And, it will be a net leading to spiritual, and to some extent, physical deliverance. Brothers and sisters, we have a great deal of net-mending to do.
Heb. 5:12, Mark 6:20 – “Enjoy?“ Rather, did we receive a greater measure of Christ? Did we receive a greater measure of understanding of God’s eternal purposes? How many more teachers do we need? How many more teachings do we need to be taught? How many more conferences do we need to attend? And so, we must ask ourselves that ultimate question, which exposes the true level of commitment in our hearts. If in fact this message is judged to be from the Lord after careful examination, then, it is reasonable to assume that it should lead us to that ultimate question, which is, “So! What are we going to do about it?” Our response won’t be confirmed simply by quoting the phrase, “As for me and my house…” but will be as the result of a public testimony made manifest as a word which has indeed become flesh. So! What are we going to do about it?
“As for me and my house,” we will be busy building lifeboats. Why? It is imperative that we learn this lesson from history. “For the things which were written in earlier times were written for our instruction…” It wasn’t because the Titanic went down, or that no one could survive long in those frigid North Atlantic waters. The reason why 1,500 souls lost their lives that fateful night was because there weren’t enough lifeboats. It’s time to stop rearranging the deck chairs!