(© May 2015, Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.)
The average Joe watching the national news will develop a headache from his blood pressure. If you drag your carcass to the TV to subject yourself to the national news day after day without discernment, you’ll be ready to hire ten psychiatrists! Sometimes the news reminds me of the Road Runner cartoon, where Wiley Fox is always trying to catch Road Runner, and when he almost has him, something happens. Wiley Fox is conservatives, and Road Runner is the liberals.
Moreover, recall Hee-Haw’s theme song:
Gloom, despair, and agony on me;
Deep dark depression, excessive misery.
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all;
Gloom, despair, and agony on me.
Enter today’s Church Calendar celebration of ASCENSION. Growing up Baptist, then in the Bible Church movement until I graduated from seminary, then in Presbyterianism, I never heard a sermon on Ascension. At every church I attended or was pastor, we believed in the Ascension, but we just did not preach it. It was after I became Anglican and followed the church year calendar that I both heard and preached sermons on the Ascension. Our despair and pessimism kept us from the Ascension.
In my short life so far of 70 years, I’ve never seen such turmoil in the world in general and in the USA in particular. Is it any wonder that doom’s day dispensationalists are writing end time books and making millions, with such recent titles as Left Behind (LaHaye), The Harbinger (Cahn), Four Blood Moons (Hagee), and too many to list. And what plays into their hands is the news, from which they get much of their ammunition. In my circles, that is called newspaper interpretation. Find the worst news you can, and find a passage in the Bible that seems to fit. Woola! You can make a book if you do this enough. They all have one theme: the devil wins and Jesus and the Church loses—which means Jesus loses–so the Church has to raptured out of a defeated world. I cannot fathom how the Church with basically obedience to Christ will lose to Satan who promotes disobedience. Worship of the true God brings loss while worship of Satan brings victory. Go figure.
BUT it is my contention that we do not see with the Lord God’s eyes; we tend to filter the world through sinful eyes of unbelief. It is idolatry to enthrone Satan and dethrone the Lord Christ. What was His resurrection and Ascension all about if not His coronation? Does He not rule NOW? Here are a few texts that give us the opposite view of modern dooms day “prophets”:
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s
AT HIS COMING.
24 Then comes THE END,
whenHe delivers the kingdom to God the Father,
when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.
25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.
26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. (1 Cor. 15:22-26).
Notice that we have the Son’s “coming,” which word nearly always means the Second Coming in Paul’s writings. Paul defines the “coming” as “the end,” but the end of what? He gives two temporal clauses that define “the end,” each clause beginning with “when.” “When” He (Jesus) delivers a conquered kingdom to His Father, and “when” He (Jesus) has “put an end to all rule and authority and power,” meaning, of course, all wicked rule. Then he concludes with an explanation of how He wins: In the interim between His Ascension and current rule, He is “put[ing] all enemies under His feet.” Thus, when the Lord comes, it is not to establish a 1,000 year reign, but to deliver to His Father a conquered kingdom. How does He do that? By His Holy Spirit in the preaching of the Gospel through His chosen men:
18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matt. 28:18-20)
Do you see it? In the beginning, the Triune God created the world, “heavens and earth.” Mankind lost the same in the fall in Genesis 3, through a man, Adam, but one Man, Jesus, will regain it. He is the Second or Last Adam. The first Adam lost it through the temptation of the devil, now the Last Adam regains “heaven and earth” through His righteous obedience, death on the cross, bodily resurrection, and Ascension. We win, the world loses; Jesus is Lord and has won, we are His servants and we win also:
And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Rom. 16:20).
Just as in the Great Commission from Matthew just given, Paul says Jesus Christ will be with us to “crush Satan under [our] feet shortly,” which is from Genesis 3:15 regarding the First Adam:
And I will put enmity
Between you [the devil] and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He [Christ] shall crush [so the Hebrew] your head,
And you shall crush His heel (Gen. 3:15).
Obviously Christ crushes Satan in His Incarnation, death, resurrection, and Ascension. Moreover, because we are identified with Him, we also crush the devil’s head—how, by the Gospel. Consider these quotes from modern church historians who are top scholars in their fields:
. . . in modern Africa, where the number of Christians [has] increased, staggeringly, from 10 million in 1900 to 360 million by 2000. If that growth does not represent the largest quantitative change in the whole of religious history, I am at a loss to think of a rival. [emphasis added; Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom, p. 4.]
At the beginning of the 20th century, the only predominantly Christian nation in Asia was the Philippines, which was a strongly Catholic country with a small Protestant ministry. At the end of the 20th century, Korea has established itself as a largely Christian nation, with Protestantism—especially Presbyterianism—being by far the largest Christian group. [Alister McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, p. 447ff.]
McGrath goes on to say that this Buddhist nation, speaking of South Korea, had increased from only a handful of Protestant and Catholic churches in 1901 to explosive growth today (McGrath, p. 447ff):
- There were very few Christians in Korea in 1900, only about one percent. In the whole of Korea (before the split between North and South), there were 300,000 Christians in 1920, but has now risen to 12 million, over one quarter of the national population (Jenkins, p. 2), with Presbyterians dominating. The nation has been converted from Buddhism to Christ, and Korean Protestants outnumber Roman Catholics by three to one.
- The 1907 Pyongyang revival came, which was mainly Pentecostal but the Presbyterians were coming on strong also.
- In 1957 there were about 800,000 Protestants in S. Korea; by 1968 there were 1,873,000 Protestants; by 1978 5,294,000! South Korea today is about 70% Christian, with Presbyterians leading the way. Here is a predominantly Buddhist country that has been completely turned around in only 100 years.
Turning to N. Korea, we see every sign of its imminent collapse; as recently as this past week the chubby dictator had another fellow ruler shot. Complete information about the state of the Church there is difficult to obtain, but “anecdotal evidence suggests that Christianity has already made deep inroads among the population. . . .” (McGrath, p. 448). The same is happening in China where there are two churches, the underground one and the government controlled one, both full of believers. Estimates run as high as 100 million have been converted, but no one knows for sure.
I can’t begin to do justice to all the stats so get the two books (Jenkins and McGrath mentioned above). It is not without reason that the Church at large has been praying the Lord’s Prayer since the Church’s beginning in AD 30, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” That is not an empty prayer that applies to some far away millennium, and just about all Christendom prays it each Lord’s Day.
Don’t forget that the Lord taught us the Gospel is leaven: it works silently out of view, and then suddenly it blossoms. Moreover, the enemy has never learned that death does not stop the Church but grows it. Read Hebrews: 2:14-18, and here is v.14:
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.
Those in power think they can promote their kingdoms by murdering their enemies, but for the Christian, that is only a change of geography, and he/she continues to advance the kingdom with the Lord on His throne (Rev. 6:9-11)! It is not missionaries who are evangelizing the African countries, but the Africans themselves. Here are some more stats:
- There were few if any Pentecostals in 1900; today of the 2.2 billion Christians in the world, about 500 million are Pentecostals, and by 2050 it is predicted they will a third. We must get over our divisions regarding the charismatic movement. I’m not one, but at least I can say with Paul I’m glad when Christians preach the gospel, if they are basically orthodox (Phil. 1:18). The United Pentecostals are different; denying the Holy Trinity, they put themselves outside any orthodoxy.
- In 1900, there were virtually no Anglicans in Uganda, but now they compose about 35 percent of the total population (McGrath, p. 69), and Uganda is exploding in population growth, having about 30 million. In 1977 Anglican archbishop Janani Luwum was martyred by despot Idi Amin, which caused many more people to be converted to Christ! (Tertullian, died AD 225: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”) Uganda has gone from a few in 1900 to 10 million today, and still going strong. They recently tried to enact the death penalty for those homosexuals who are spreading AIDS. The West, especially the USA, put a stop to it. Our immorality knows no debths.
- In 2003 when Episcopal Church USA consecrated an homosexual as a bishop, they threatened to cut off the large sums of annual money to the Anglicans in Nigeria who were opposing the liberal Anglicans in the USA. The USA church had consecrated an active homosexual bishop. To his eternal credit, the Presiding Anglican Bishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, essentially told them that their money could perish with them! Until his recent retirement, he was the head bishop of about 20 million Anglicans in Nigeria, which does not count other Christians there. I could continue for pages, but here is one summary (Jenkins, p. 70).
- I have not even touched Pentecostalism in Brazil, south of our border, and the incredible millions of Pentecostals in Africa.
We give the number of worldwide Christians in millions:
The centers of Christianity 100 years ago were the USA, Europe, and the UK; now they are Africa, Latin America, S. Korea, etc. More particularly, the West is in serious decline. I used to say we’re in a free fall, but it is worse than that; instead, we’re wearing jet packs on our backs pointed down. We’re under judgment, now.
There is a tsunami of Holy Spirit Gospel flooding taking place right before our eyes, but because we are willfully blinded. We do not see it. Materialistic Americans will compromise anything—anything—to keep our toys and our personal peace. While we are declining (read, the Lord is removing His Holy Spirit from us), He is pouring out another Pentecost in other parts of the world. In 1900 approximately 90% of Christians were in the West; today about 80% are outside the West, and counting.
When you see on the news that Christians are being persecuted all over the world, know that Jesus is behind that. It is judgment of those nations who are losing the gospel salt, and favor on those nations where the Christians are going. Moreover, it is an indirect blessing on the Church, for we see in God’s word that the Church is like a gas fire: stomp it, it spreads; leave it alone, it burns out.
The only things the media and politicians see in places like the Middle East is guns, bombs, mass murders, military might, who is rising to power and who is being dethroned. Denying the Ascension and thus denying Christ, we think that with our military might we are invincible, forgetting that Jesus is omnipotent. He could take us down with mosquitoes, if He so willed it. If our leaders really want to change the Muslims and Arabs, they should open those countries to Christians. Instead, former strongholds to Christians are being shut, such as Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, etc. In AD 30 to now, Christians have increased proportionally from about one in 200,000 to about 2 out of 6.5.
Don’t look at what the devil is doing, look at what Jesus is doing. Stop the doom and despair; stop buying books that speak low of Christ and high of the devil; look up; tell your neighbor about the Sovereign Lord. I’ve read the Book—we’ve won! We won at His resurrection; we’ve been winning since then by the power of His Ascension in the Holy Spirit, and we are winning NOW. AMEN. Ὡ