The Evangelical Herald
CHANGE THE WORLD?
A leading slogan to enlist people into service for the Lord continues to be "You can change the world". There are modifications to this like, "Help us change the world", or "Make a difference in your world" or "Join us as we change the world". Young people are especially targeted with this message because of their natural inclination to rebel against the status quo and indeed they have responded to this cry by joining a score of youth oriented Christian churches and organizations. The idealism of youth combined with the radical teaching of Jesus indeed is an attractive call to arms.
There is no doubt that the world does need to change for the better, but is this call to recruit followers of Christ Biblical? Although this concept of changing the world is a truly a noble quest, we must question its Biblical truthfulness. Proponents of changing the world emphasize temporal objectives. New converts are taught that through their commitment, they can contribute the ideals of the Christian faith into the arena of the social, political, and economic systems of this present age. The benefits in this effort are indeed attractive: a world of love and understanding among all, a world of economic opportunity to all, a world without wars, a world of liberty and freedom. Truly a world such as this is worth the commitment of young minds. What greater cause can one who has made a commitment to Christ have?
There are at least two reasons why this call to arms falls short of scriptural truth. First, it all but ignores the greatest problem which mankind experiences. Given that if the world could be changed to that ideal paradisiacal existence, mankind would still experience the great enemy of our souls: death. Death was the original penalty for sin (Gen 2:17). The knowledge that life as we know it will cease is an abnormality in God's eternal plan for mankind. Second, the world will be changed, not by the power of man, but by the intervention and power of the Lord of Hosts. The concept that God's kingdom will be set up by the church in this present age is foreign to the scriptures. The medieval church purported to be that kingdom, but death continued to reign and the church's temporal abuses plunged the world into its darkest hours.
THE BIBLICAL STANDARD
Jesus began his ministry by announcing that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. This was His call for those who hungered for heaven to join His movement! Yet, in John 18:36, Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world". In teaching his disciples how to pray, the very first thing mentioned is "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt 6:10). Putting these thoughts together, we can only conclude that there will be a kingdom coming upon earth having all the attributes of heaven. Indeed, in the book of Revelation, we see this kingdom coming down from heaven with all the blessings that men have hungered for since the beginning of time (Rev. 21:1-4). The parables of the kingdom and vineyards in Luke chapters 19 and 20 clearly show us that Jesus was to go to receive a kingdom and He was to return again as Lord and master.
Paul emphasized the spirituality of the kingdom. In Ephesians 6:12, he states that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Peter tells us that the kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. The main feature of that kingdom is that there will be no more death - its citizens will live forever! There is no doubt that the human heart longs for this kind of world. In fact, it is precisely when we come to realize that the present system does not satisfy the human soul that God can lead us unto repentance. It is then that we seek the purpose and fulfillment of our existence and we long for the kingdom's manifestation. (see Rom 8:19-23)
Jesus, nor the apostles, worked to change the then world around them. It was not their objective to change the Roman world by preaching the gospel, much less get involved in its politics. Their mission was to preach the good news of salvation from death through faith in the sacrificial lamb that they may enter into the everlasting kingdom by resurrection of the dead. (see I Cor 15:19, Acts 17:18)
We must admit that committing ourselves to a temporal kingdom is much more attractive then committing ourselves to an unseen kingdom. Our natural selves yearn for satisfaction in tangible results of our work and dedication. Committing ourselves to the temporal kingdom will satisfy two yearnings: 1) to see the Kingdom established on earth and 2) find satisfaction for our labors. On the temporal plane, we can perhaps see the changes resulting from our labors and be encouraged by them and even be applauded by men for our efforts. On the spiritual plane, we wait by faith for the manifestation of that kingdom.
Shall we put our ultimate hope on man's labors or on the promises of God? Have we entered into the spiritual realm of everlasting issues by our rebirth into spirit-begotten creatures? Our answers reveal if our motivations are faith based or temporal based. The first century Jewish world was expecting the Messiah to come to change their world and they were greatly disappointed. Jesus, himself, was tempted by Satan to receive the kingdoms of the world as a gift, but Jesus refused because he did not come to change the temporal world (Matt 4:8,9).
PIE IN THE SKY MENTALITY?
We can hear objections to this "pie in the sky in the sweet by and by" mentality already. It is true that a faith that is not exercised in everyday life is a vain faith, but we must also recognize that a faith that is not governed by the unseen spiritual world is nothing less then a human philosophy. True faith is motivated by a submission to the unseen spiritual king and his kingdom (Heb 11:1). A humble heart governed by the laws of the eternal spiritual kingdom can not but help influence and be a light in the temporal world of darkness. Such hearts will be motivated to good deeds that reflect the character of their Heavenly Father. But, we must emphasize, the changes brought about are not motivated to change the temporal world, but to change individual hearts to know and love their Creator and so enter into the eternal kingdom.
Scripture admonishes us not to be distracted from our heavenly calling. Christians must be always focused on the mission that our Savior has given us: preach the gospel so that they may know the truth that brings them to everlasting life. The message of the gospel is founded and set in the eternal realm and must of necessity continue to be proclaimed in this realm (cf. 1Cor 15:13). Regardless of what our sophisticated world may say, the gospel is rooted in the issue of where we will spend eternity - in God's eternal kingdom or in complete darkness. (see Eph 4:1, 2Tim 1:8-9)
We must question religious leaders that do not seem to understand the realty of the unseen spiritual kingdom. If their motivations to follow Christ are mistaken, then the Christ they proclaim is a different Christ. Jesus and the apostles emphasized the reality of the eternal. Jesus was the lamb slain for the sins of mankind in order to overcome death and purchase eternal redemption for us. The apostles and early Christians gave up their lives with the hope of resurrecting unto eternal life (1Pet 1:3,4).
Jesus instructed his followers to pray for the coming kingdom. Obedient to his teaching, we continue to pray for that kingdom and hope for its soon coming. Then, and only then, will we see the changes that we long for: new heavens and a new earth where the ruler governs all his everlasting subjects with love, righteousness, and mercy. The call to arms must be an eternal call to know and make known our Heavenly Father as we learn the attributes of the kingdom that he has purchased for us. We seek those qualities of the kingdom for that is where our treasure is. The resurrection hope empowers us to dedicate ourselves in worthwhile labor to prepare the hearts of men to enter into the world without end that will be established.
It is perhaps the concept that heaven is such a mysterious place that we can not possibly experience its reality that keeps many Christians from making the hope of the kingdom real. Many of us associate heaven as a place made of golden streets, clouds, and harps with souls floating in the ether of space. To picture our existence in that kind of world is a fantasy or something that we just can not fathom to understand.
To reinforce our inability to grasp eternal things, modern psychology has introduced the idea that death is a natural thing that we must learn to accept. In their unholy reasoning, these sophisticated deceivers would teach us that death is a friend. Christians, of course, call it by its rightful name: enemy (1Cor 15:26). Yet, it is only Christians that live and move in the eternal realm that know that Jesus has conquered this enemy and that it has no more grip on us who believe. Jesus has tasted death for all men and so we commend our spirits to Him in that knowledge.
It is not necessary for the Bible to reveal life and all the details of our eternal existence since the longings of the first paradise has always been present in the soul of man. Our human experience has taught us well that the effects of the fall are contrary to that for which we long for. It is not necessary for the Bible to give us descriptions of paradise since we are familiar with a paradise lost. It is not necessary to envision heaven in a completely different venue of existence since the reality of paradise regained is the absence of the effects of sin. It is a glorified body. It is a resurrected body. It is a being that knows the Lifegiver, the Savior, and its Lord fully.
GOD'S KINGDOM - THE HOPE OF CHRISTIANS
Change the world? Yes, our Lord Himself will change it by the might of His power. We long to see this world where life will be at its fullest since there will be no more death. Love will be at its purest - God's love will reign supreme in every heart. The whole creation will be in harmonious bliss - no more destructive disorders of natural disasters. Labor will be at its best - meaningful service and wellbeing for all loved ones. Freedom -- then we will truly be free from sin, pain, and unbelief. Change our world? No, this is not our world to change, the god of this world which rules by hate, greed and destruction can only be conquered by the Almighty Creator at His time. As hearts are turned to hope in the spiritual kingdom, we can rejoice in the transforming power of the kingdom's influence on those that we touch. But, let us never be satisfied with this temporal world because, as the words of an old hymn say, "this world can not be my home."
One need only make a casual reading of the book of Revelation to see the emphasis on the eternal mysteries wherein mankind is involved. Great and mighty things have happened, are happening and will happen that are beyond the control of men. These events related to man have taken place and will take place only because the Sovereign of the universe decrees for them to take place. Our response is to be aligned with His everlasting plan of the ages. We have been called to a spiritual battle, let us not therefore be entangled with the affairs of men in a battle to change this present system at the expense of losing sight of the glorious Kingdom that is to be revealed. As warriors in this battle, we must exercise our spiritual eyes that we may see our King triumph over all His adversaries as indeed His Kingdom comes.