As discussed before, biblical prophecy is focused on the First and Second Coming (or “Advent”) of Jesus the Christ, who is the King of History. He first demonstrated his authority over life and death by his resurrection from the dead. Prophecy then describes how the King of History will assert his authority over the planet at the Second Advent. It also describes the time in between these two pillars of history as “the Times of the Gentiles” (see Luke 21:24) or “the Church Age”, which literally means “The Gathering Age” (since “church” originally meant “the Gathering” in the original Greek text, the word”Ecclesia”).
In the meanwhile, as the Second Advent remains pending, Jesus spread “The Gathering” of believers across the globe to bring God’s kindness and mercy to this planet. Christians were told to act as agents of God’s mercy (His clemency) not God’s justice. The difference is between influencing versus dominating, where God’s mercy is the influence of God through people, but God’s justice will be established by God Himself when “He shall rule with a rod of iron…” (see Ps. 2:9; Isaiah 11:4; Rev. 19:15). This mission of God’s Clemency was proclaimed very simply, like this…
It is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. Prescribe and teach these things. 1 Timothy 4:9-10
Paul double-emphasized the mission of God as “the Savior of all men”, saying “prescribe and teach these”. The influence of God’s mercy upon the surrounding pagan culture through the Ecclesia was understood from the beginning in the 1st Century, stated in so many passages and different ways throughout the New Testament. (See Matt. 25:31-46; Gal. 2:10; Luke 4:18-21; Heb. 13:16; James 1:27; 2:16; 1 Jn. 3:17-18; 1 Tim. 6:17-18; Eph. 4:28; Gal. 6:10; Luke 14:13.) During this long period of God’s Clemency, God has spread mercy and kindness across the globe by means of sincere Christians working to serve Jesus in sincere Christian churches.
True, Christian churches have been less than perfect in the mission of spreading God’s mercy but observe how these misdirected churches have been corrected, weakened, and often dissolved by God Himself. Today there are no longer any Christian churches in positions of governmental power. This fact is often overlooked by critics.
Under God’s leadership, Christians are supposed to stand against the cruelty of the World System rather than cozying up to the Powers-that-Be. The mission of the Ecclesia is incompatible with the power-seeking, dominating mission of human governments. What is now called “separation between church and state” already was a major, repeated theme in God’s Word, scripted 2000 years ago. The “state” is called “the Kosmos” in scripture, which means “World System”, and Jesus’ followers are instructed to keep the two separate, submitting to the state but not loving it. (See Matt. 10:22; 22:17-22; 24:9; John 15:19; 17:14-16; Rom. 12:2; 13:1; 1 Tim. 2:1-3; Titus 3:1; James 1:27; 1 Pet. 2:13ff; 2 Pet. 1:4; 2:20; 1 John 2:15-17; 4:5-6.)
History has recorded scars on the face of Christianity only when Christian churches have ignored God’s clear instructions and tried to sit in the World System’s throne of power – of course, such terrible misdirection never lasted long. This is because the Ecclesia is owned by Jesus, who disciplines and corrects those who won’t listen to him. (See Rev. 2-3, where Jesus directly warns Christians about his disciplinary intervention.)
The Historical Record
Looking at the broader record of Christian history, it is clear that Christians have overwhelmingly acted as agents of God’s mercy on Earth. It is a beautiful picture. Hospitals, orphanages, terminating slavery and the mistreatment of women are a few of the many great causes spearheaded by Christian movements across the globe for two millennia.
The secular world imitates Christian charity today in the widespread Social Justice movement. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech borrowed heavily from his Christian roots as a pastor, but especially from the Bible. Highly recommended for Christian viewing is the Amazing Grace movie, which traces those Christian movements working tirelessly against colonial powers to outlaw the slave trade, spawning the Christian Abolitionist movement in America. Over time, Christians have influenced governments worldwide to adopt these Christian causes.
People don’t stop to consider the pivotal role Jesus plays globally today through the influence of the Ecclesia. The Christmas holiday is another, annual example. Christmas is the economic engine driving the world’s economy since it drives the economies of Western Civilization, but especially the US economy. Retail sales jump 50% for the Christmas holiday, and more than 25% of “personal spending takes place during the Christmas/holiday shopping season,” according to Wikipedia statistics. The so-called “Spirit of Christmas” driving the season is mercy, kindness, and everything else “the living God, who is the Savior of all men“, is showering upon humankind during the Gathering Age. Is there any other religion offering God’s Clemency to all mankind? What would happen to the world’s economy if Christmas was deprecated?
In an autobiography written over 50 years ago by my grandmother, she describes how missionaries worked to save women from terrible mistreatment like cattle in Africa. It was a wonderful work, and so typical of how Christian missionaries worked tirelessly to redeem the value of women, orphans, lepers, the handicapped, and the poor, spreading God’s kindness into surrounding cultures.
On evening, I could hear a wedding group singing their song and I heard a girl’s voice wailing and calling, “Mama Hoyt” [my grandmother’s name]. So I went out to the road. There was a dancing crowd singing but right in the midst of them was Khawingisi [a young Christian convert]…Her brother had a rope around her waist and he was dragging her along, and her mother following with a switch whipping her to make her go… They were selling her to an older man who already had other wives, and he had paid five good cows for her…
We missionaries talked often to the British Government officials about this cruel marriage custom, where the girls had no choice, but must go to the man who brought the best cows…In years to come it was changed, and what a relief it was to the girls.
The missionaries were able to rescue Khawingisi from the horrible, prearranged marriage, and the young girl married a young Christian convert whom she loved. By pressuring the British Colonial government, selling off young girls for cows soon became the practice of a dark past in Kenya, and my Quaker grandparents rejoiced.
The work in Kaimosi began in 1902, and “within 20 years there were over a thousand [native] Kenyan Quakers. Many women were drawn to the movement because it offered them greater freedom than their traditional African religions” the Christian History Institute reported. My crazy grandparents led the Kaimosi mission during that formative time. It exploded across the region.
Kenya today has the largest constituency of Quakers in the world—over 45 percent of the international membership of the movement. There are over 750,000 Kenyan Quakers in 18 Yearly Meetings with 2,000 congregations; over 1,500 Quaker primary and high schools and numerous colleges; two Friends hospitals; and hundreds of clinics and dispensaries. Friends participate actively in peacemaking activities in the region. [the Christian History Institute, “From Mud Huts”]
Such efforts to bring God’s kindness into dark places were commonplace in missionary activity, especially as Christian missionaries fought against the inhumane practices of Colonial governments. In recent decades, a most egregious distortion of history has taken place in higher education where Christian movements are portrayed as agents of oppression in history. The exact opposite is true. Christian movements have been fighting against Colonial and non-Christian governments to bring God’s mercy to the underprivileged. This was the mission declared by Jesus at the beginning of his ministry as he prophesied about the Gathering Age …
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18-19,21
The greatest challenge for every Christian fellowship is to seek God’s leading into the great work Jesus inaugurated towards “the poor…the captives…the blind…oppressed” all around us. Freedom Fellowships is a young and growing collection of Fellowship Groups already heavily engaged in the relief of poverty and suffering. More creative effort is needed, however, in an age where The Gathering is winding down.
What kind of legacy will Freedom Fellowships leave behind? What stories of “good news…liberty” and “the year of the Lord’s favor” will emanate from The Gathering in Northeast Ohio?
[Ed. Note: these blogs on the “End Times” are best used in Bible study groups where people have the chance to look up and discuss the scriptural references provided.]