Sep 1, 2010

The Temporal Delusion - Part 1

T. A. McMahonBy T. A. McMahon
The Berean Call

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
I'm fascinated by timelines. They give me an idea of what events took place in history, how they relate timewise to other historical events, and whether or not former events may have influenced later ones. I especially like biblical timelines. They often begin with the event of creation and end with the future Millennial reign of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem, supplying a host of details in between. Due to their temporal nature, however, they can only hint at eternity, which is infinite, and for which our life on earth is only a preparation.

The "timeline" presented on the cover of this newsletter is a simple attempt to symbolically remind believers that spending eternity with Jesus is our raison d'ĂȘtre, i.e., it is the reason for our existence.

Why am I making an issue of this? Because the world and, sadly, much of the church are caught up in a temporal delusion: clinging to this earth rather than hoping for heaven. It's part of Satan's strategy to deceive the world into building his kingdom. For thousands of years, he has seduced both professing and true Christians into joining his labor force, with the goal of establishing his own religion, which will be headed by his puppet ruler, the Antichrist. As the intensity of his program increases in these last days, particularly in Christendom, the leaven of this apostasy has been deposited in all theological camps: charismatics, Calvinists, conservatives, liberals, Pentecostals, Baptists, left-leaning Christians, supporters of the Emerging Church Movement, promoters of the "social gospel," et al.

In its simplest form, it is an attitude of disdaining what Paul admonishes us to do in Colossians 3:2:
"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."
Although even those who truly know and love Jesus may struggle sometimes with keeping their affections on Him, there are others who profess Christ and claim to follow His Word yet who continue in their attempts to set up His kingdom here on earth prior to His return. That unbiblical objective, sometimes referred to as Dominion Theology and Kingdom-Dominionism, has taken many forms throughout church history.

One early example was the Holy Roman Empire. The idea was that "godly" (i.e., in support of the papacy) emperors would bring the world into the fold of Christ. When that wasn't successful, the papacy took control, ruling over most of the world at that time. As one historian describes it:
"[The Church of Rome governed the medieval world and] had all the apparatus of the state: laws and law courts, taxes and tax-collectors, a great administrative machine, power of life and death over the citizens of Christendom and their enemies within and without....Popes claimed the sole right of initiating and directing wars against unbelievers. They raised armies, conducted campaigns, and made treaties of peace in defense of their territorial interests."1
Like most of the dogmas and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, this was contrary to what Jesus taught:
"My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight...but now is my kingdom not from hence."
Amillennialism was the theological belief of the age, which posited that the Millennial, or 1,000-year, reign of Christ was already taking place, albeit spiritually. The worldly successes of the Roman Catholic Church seemed to support this view, but before long it succumbed to its own excesses and corruption. Although the Reformation was a reaction against the abuses of Catholicism, the Reformers kept the Catholic amillennial eschatology, along with many of its teachings and practices such as infant baptism and replacement theology (the belief that the church has replaced Israel). Verses from Scripture that spoke of blessings for Israel were spiritualized to denote the church; verses regarding Israel's punishment were ignored.

John Calvin attempted to make the city of Geneva a model of the kingdom of God, and, for his controlling effort, earned the title "the Protestant Pope." Although his goal was admirable, the results of his implementation were little different from what he had objected to in the Roman Catholic Church. Historian Will Durant writes,
"The new clergy...became under Calvin more powerful than any priesthood since Israel. The real law of a Christian state, said Calvin, must be the Bible, the clergy are the interpreters of that law, civil governments are subject to that law, and must enforce it as so interpreted."2
Another historian writes,
"In a class by themselves stood crimes against Calvin. It was a crime to laugh at Calvin's sermons, it was a crime to argue with Calvin on the street. But to enter into a theological controversy with Calvin might turn out to be a very grave crime."3
Geneva was hardly heaven on earth, though that was the intent. For example, "an overabundance of dishes at the table, a too-elevated headdress, an excessive display of lace, a proscribed color in dress - all were fair subjects of debate and punishment,"4 and one never knew when the consistory (the church police) would make a house call. One year saw 400 citizens indicted for moral offenses, and, in 60 years, 150 people accused of heresy were burned at the stake.

Calvin's Christianized society was simply not biblical, substituting law for grace. Not only that, it was inconsistent with Calvinist theology. How was one to "Christianize" those in Geneva who were not among God's elect? Characterized as "totally depraved" and not able to respond righteously because they were not extended "irresistible grace," the "non-elect" could never be the Christian citizens that Calvin demanded.

Kingdom-Dominionism took on a new form in the 1940s in Saskatchewan, Canada. An alleged spiritual revival broke out that spawned the "Manifest Sons of God," or, more commonly, the Latter Rain Movement. The eschatology of this movement shifted from the dispensational view, which is the Rapture of the church followed by seven years of tribulation and ending with Armageddon. The movement promoted a more "positive," even triumphant, scenario, looking for God to pour out His Spirit in a great worldwide revival, which would produce "Manifest Sons of God," a.k.a. Joel's Army. These would be believers, continually filled with the Spirit, who would manifest the same signs and wonders that Jesus did and would judge and conquer the world as they ushered in the 1,000-year reign of Christ.

One of the leaders of the movement has said:
"God's people are going to start to exercise rule, and they're going to take dominion over the Power of Satan....As the rod of [God's] strength goes out of Zion, He'll change legislation. He'll chase the devil off the face of God's earth, and God's people...will bring about God's purposes and God's reign."5
This movement, however, ran into the same problems that plagued Calvin in Geneva. The so-called Manifest Sons of God couldn't live up to godly moral standards in practice, even though strict (read "abusive") measures, known as "shepherding," were applied.

The dominionism of the Latter Rain Movement spread far and wide among Pentecostals and Charismatics. Here are some quotes from men whose names you may recognize:
Yes, sin, sickness and disease, spiritual death, poverty, and everything else that's of the devil once ruled us. But now, bless God, we rule them - for this is the Day of Dominion! (the late Kenneth Hagin)

Those in [Joel's] army will have the kind of anointing...[Christ's] kind of power...anyone who wants to harm them must die. (the late John Wimber)

The manifestation of the Sons of God [are] the "overcomers" who will become perfected and step into immortality in order to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. (George Warnock)
The movement was further promoted by the late Bishop Earl Paulk, who taught that Christ was "held in heaven" until His Body, the church, purified itself and the world. Paulk, however, had problems purifying himself, having had a long history of sexual immoralities and was later convicted of perjury. In the 1980s, under Paulk's leadership, charismatic Kingdom Theology joined forces with Calvinistic Dominionist Theology, also known as Christian Reconstructionism, or Theonomy.

Christian Reconstructionism was popularized by Rousas Rushdoony and his son-in-law, Gary North. Reconstructionists believe that by applying the laws of the Old Testament and the principles of the New Testament, the world will be morally transformed by Christians. This, they claimed, would draw people to Christ. Their eschatology is postmillennial, which means that they expect Christ to return after 1,000 years (viewed by some as a symbolic number, meaning that it could be much longer) of successfully reaping the fruit produced by applying the law.

From the 1980s through the turn of the century, a Reconstructionist group called the Coalition on Revival, or COR, greatly influenced conservative evangelicals to seek to transform the U.S. into a Christian-run nation by using the political process. Although the Reconstructionists and the charismatic Kingdom-Now proponents were far apart theologically, the dominionist beliefs that are basic to both camps drew them together. Gary North noted that this surprising liaison made sense in another way:
"...bringing together the postmillennial Christian reconstructionists and the 'positive confession' charismatics, with the former providing the footnotes, theology, and political action skills, and the latter providing the money, the audience, and the satellite technology [e.g., TBN and Christian Broadcasting Network]."6
A number of years ago, a friend of mine sat in on a meeting of Reconstructionists and asked if they truly intended to apply the biblical laws such as stoning and other capital punishments, to which a national leader of the movement replied, "Absolutely!" It seems that the Calvinist Reconstructionists learned little from the failure of Calvin's totalitarian experiment in Geneva.

The Kingdom-Dominionist movement continues, especially among charismatics, to our present day. Jack Hayford, George Otis Jr., and C. Peter Wagner promoted a form of Kingdom Theology that involved taking back the dominion that Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden. One of the movement's leaders explains, "Jesus gave us His authority and...we are supposed to reclaim, restore, organize, and rule over the earth - not only in a spiritual sense, but through economical, political, educational, and social reform as well." Here is why, this same person tells us, Christians must put to use their God-ordained authority:
"Jesus is held in the heavenlies until all things are restored under His feet. He will not and cannot physically return to earth until the church [has brought] a measure of God's ruling authority back to this earth."7
This form of Kingdom-Dominionism is rife with methods, rituals, and techniques to be followed in order to seize control. C. Peter Wagner's books Breaking Strongholds in Your City and Confronting the Powers contain what he calls "state-of-the-art spiritual methodologies" for taking dominion: identifying territorial spirits, prayer journeys, spiritual mapping, strategic level spiritual warfare, identificational repentance, reconciliation walking, city transformation, praise marches, redeeming the culture, taking our cities, workplaces, and schools for Christ, etc.

I personally experienced the implementation of these techniques during the heyday of Wagner's "strategic level spiritual warfare" influence when some students attempted to "take our local high school for Christ." They buried crosses on the football field and anointed the school windows with oil. Not only did they not take their school for Christ, but they almost caused every Christian student organization to be thrown off campus.

C. Peter Wagner is the chief of operations behind this, and the methods that he says God has given to him are seemingly endless. He is the one who brought John Wimber to Fuller Theological Seminary (FTS) to teach "Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth," later renamed "The Miraculous and Church Growth," which Wagner co-authored with him. Wagner was also the academic mentor who supervised Rick Warren's doctorate dissertation at FTS.

Jack Hayford spent years meeting with Lloyd Ogilvie and other local pastors at Hollywood Presbyterian Church as they applied various spiritual techniques to "transform Los Angeles for Christ." Hayford candidly admitted the failure years later:
"My city's [still] being torn on the inside by gang violence and murder, polluted by homosexuality and pornography on the dark side, and suffocated with pride, self-centered snobbishness and sensuality on the 'show' side...[it's] enough to self-destruct us."8
All of these movements from church history hold this in common: they are earthbound. Focused on setting up the kingdom of God here on earth prior to or in order to expedite our Lord's return, all have a very serious problem. According to the Scriptures, the next kingdom to come on this earth is the kingdom of the Antichrist, which will last for seven years. True believers in Christ will have no part in that kingdom. They will have been removed from this planet by the Lord Jesus and taken to heaven. This event is called the Rapture (John 14:1-3; Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11; 4:16-18; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Colossians 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 John 3:2-3; Titus 2:13; 1 Timothy 6:14; Revelation 3:10; 2 Timothy 4:8, Luke 12:35,37,40), which will happen prior to the Great Tribulation period, during which time those who have followed the Antichrist will suffer God's wrath.

As Dave Hunt has noted in Whatever Happened to Heaven?:
"The great seduction is to turn us from heaven to earth, from the true God to ourselves, from the denial of self to the acceptance, love, and esteem of oneself, from God's truth to Satan's lie. At the heart of this seduction are beliefs that have a deceptively spiritual appeal, but which actually turn us from loving Christ and His appearing to the earthly ambition of taking over society and remaking this world into the paradise that Adam and Eve lost" (p. 308).
Much of what has been presented here are some of the historic seeds of an earthbound dominionism that have been sown in Christianity throughout the last 1,000 years. They have taken root and are thriving in the church in this fledgling twenty-first century. In part 2 of this series, the Lord willing, we will address what is being promoted in Christendom today in an attempt to draw the Bride (true believers in Christ) away from eagerly looking for the coming of the Groom to take her to their wedding in heaven. We will question whether or not efforts within the church (the ecological movement, the ecumenical movement, social gospel endeavors, political activism, "redeeming the culture" techniques, solving the world's problems through a global P.E.A.C.E. plan, etc.) can be supported by the Word of God.

1. R. W. Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages (Penguin Books, Vol. 2 of Pelican History of the Church Series, 1970), 18-19, cited in Dave Hunt, Whatever Happened to Heaven? (Harvest House, 1988), 150-51.
2. Will Durant, The Reformation: A History of European Civilizations from Wyclif to Calvin: 1300-1564 (Simon & Schuster, 1957), 472-73, cited in Hunt, Heaven, 175-76.
3. Edwin Muir, John Knox: Portrait of a Calvinist (The Viking Press, 1929), 106-8, cited in Hunt, Heaven, 174-75.
4. Hunt, Heaven, 174.
5. Ern Baxter (associate of William Branham), cited in Sandy Simpson, "Dominionism Exposed," .
6. Gary North, Christian Reconstructionism: The Attack on the "New" Pentecostal, January/February 1988, Vol. X, No. 1.
7. Dr. Kluane Spake, "Dominion Theology and Kingdom NOW," .
8. Jack Hayford, cited in Dr. Peter Wagner, "Let's Take Dominion Now," .