I ran across an expression that has intrigued me- apocalyptic paradigm. To fully understand this expression we must look at the definition of each word.
The word paradigm comes from the Greek paradeigma: evidence, example, pattern, model, archetype. In popular understanding, paradigm often simply means a collection of ideas, a cluster of theories, models or actions representing a guiding idea, or a conceptual framework.
The word apocalypse is a Greek word meaning un-covering, i.e., a lifting of the veil or revelation. Today it is used in reference to any prophetic revelation of an End Time teaching or end of the world scenario.
Evangelical Christians have become so seduced by the apocalyptic message that they no longer remember the message of Jesus Christ—to make disciples. In fact, the whole message of the end times, destruction, chaos, global war and the destruction of mankind in general has been misinterpreted as the end of the world with the Rapture of all Christians.
The whole apocalyptic message has Christian believing that the wars against those who are anti-Christ and evil are in effect Holy Wars. We are at war, but it is a spiritual war brought about by our conversion to Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. Jesus foretold this when he said,
“Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." Luke 12:51-53
The very nature of serving Christ causes divisions and conflict. The wars and conflicts we have been caught up in are not about righteousness, or even religion, it is a battle for the heart and soul of every Christian. Christians are caught up in the cycle of blood sacrifice—kill the evil unbeliever, death and destruction to the enemies of Christianity--after all justice must prevail and evil destroyed . Christians need to return to the message of the gospel—salvation. We need to wake up and warn the sinner of the judgment that is coming. I am afraid that too many in the church have succumbed to the lie of the apocalyptic paradigm of the Early Church—wait for the End to come?
The New Testament writers who gave an apocalyptic message viewed their days as the worst of times — filled with suffering and pain for God's people. The message of all apocalyptic writing included a promise that God would intervene in human history, destroy evil and bring the troubles of his people to an end. This hope centered on the swift return of Christ Jesus, who would usher in the end of the age and bring in his kingdom. The end was near, and God was going to judge the world and reward his faithful and suffering people. The message gave the hope of “just any day now.”
What I find interesting is that the apocalyptic paradigm of the past has given rise to Christian Zionism. There are Evangelical Christians who think they can help bring about the Apocalypse by forcing the hand of God to fulfill prophecy.
It is impossible to hurry the timetable of God. If you read the New Testament it is impossible to miss the message that the early Christians were waiting for the end of the world and the return of Jesus. They were not expecting to be around very long and did not need to have answers to the world’s problems. If the LORD was going to “soon return” there’s not much point in any kind of evangelism because the world was on its way to total destruction. What is the result of this type of thinking—an ineffective church. The early Christians were so involved in waiting for the great “caught away” that they were in a state of indecisions because they were on their way out of this world. They had gathered on the mountain tops waiting for the LORD to return. There are many Christians today who have adopted this type of thinking. The Rapture could happen at any moment so why worry about what is happening in the world. The apocalyptic paradigm did not speculate about the end-time as coming in some far-off future time. The apocalyptic paradigm of the Early Church was interested in the here and now. Jesus was coming very soon to take away the burdens of His people and save them from the coming destruction—just like the Christians of today.
This early version of the apocalyptic paradigm lasted to the end of the first century of the Christian era. There were those who thought that Jesus would return before the death of John the Beloved but when John died it was difficult to keep this message alive. However, the theology and the language remained and Christians have abandoned the message of salvation for the apocalyptic paradigm of the past-- the imminent return of Christ.
The foundation of the apocalyptic paradigm crumbles when Christians begin to question the past teachings. How many “theologians” have made fortunes on predictions of the ending of the world, the Rapture of the elect, the first resurrection and the coming Anti-Christ? The whole evangelical church is seeking answers but they do not want to think for themselves. They do not want to take the time to research what is true. They prefer to have someone tell them what is true rather than question the theology. This mentality has opened the door to false teachings that go unquestioned. There are so many “experts” on the End Times and the Rapture. Most of these “experts” have been wrong many times, yet no one questions their false teachings.
In every other area of our lives when something no longer works or has failed time and time again we discard it. We move on to something that works—except in the church. We cannot forsake the worn out paradigms of the past. Man will never force the hand of God to change His timeline for judgment on this world. So it is time to get with the duty of the Christian to preach, proclaim, testify and witness to the changing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our message is not apocalyptic our message is salvation. Is Christ coming back? Yes! When? Don’t know. Is there an apocalyptic message for the church? Yes. In the Revelation of Jesus, John writes in chapter 3,
“ I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”
This church is the last of the churches and the spiritual condition is sickening. The problem is we are wretched, miserable, spiritually blind and no longer clothed in righteousness. The message to the Church today is stand up and be counted- gold tried in the fire, be zealous and repent. There is nowhere in this scripture, or any other scripture where we are command to try to bring about the fulfillment of prophecy by forcing God to bring about the end of the world. Christians have been called to preach the gospel and support justice and mercy and to walk in humility before the LORD. There is no room for Christians to attempt to bring about the end. We should be spending our time focused on repenting and getting our house in order and evangelizing the lost rather than on the secular state of Israel. Furthermore, why would Christian pray for the Rapture which will result in the destruction of Jerusalem? Have they forgotten the death sentence they are passing on Jerusalem?
Why is it that Christians are trying to establish Temple worship when the superiority of Jesus Christ is far above the ritual Laws of Sacrifice? Christian Zionist are supporting a system that denies the work of salvation through Jesus Christ and are going back to the shadows of the Law that only pointed to Jesus Christ. To support a system of worship of Old Testament sacrifices is to deny the power of Jesus Christ and what his death afforded us as the supreme sacrifice for our salvation. This is bordering on blasphemy.
It matters not that the Anti-Christ is coming, or that Russia, Iran and Syria will attack Israel. It matters not that the Mark of the Beast may be just around the corner or that there is an economic collapse of the world’s monetary system. It matters not that there are global wars everywhere. It matters not that there are natural disasters on the rise or that the polar caps are melting and stars falling from the heavens. What matters is-- are we ready and are we the witness that we have been called to be? Will all these things happen? Yes! However, it is not our calling to hurry them along.
I can see a parallel of what took place in the Early Church where there were those who had their faith destroyed when Christ did not return when they thought he should? In his message to the Church at Ephesus Jesus said, "I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance." These Christians were activists. They a group of Christians who took their faith seriously put it to work were caught up in the return of the LORD. Even though they witnessed, labored and ministered to human needs of others and were busy people they came up lacking. Their doctrine was orthodox and they were commended for this:
"I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles, but are not, and have found them false."
Paul warned them that times were going to get rough,
"I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." (Acts 20:29-31 NIV)
Paul understood the problem that would confront this church and in the end they failed to do what they were commissioned to do. Jesus said,
"You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary."
They had persisted in their teaching and their work despite much discouragement and hardship. They were not quitters. If the story could end here it would have a great ending but hear what the LORD said,
"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." (Revelation 2:4-6 RSV)
Now we can see that this is a church in serious trouble. Despite all the commendable things, there is something seriously wrong--"You have abandoned your first love." This is serious Jesus says, "If you do not correct it, I will remove your lampstand." The removal of the lampstand means the church would lose its ability to shed the light of truth. The light from this church would stop shining. They would become a church with no influence or impact spiritually upon the community around. They would be busy doing religious, but entirely irrelevant, things. They would still be working, still orthodox, but inconsequential, with no light, no impact.
The parallel to how the First Church and Last Church got into a mess and became ineffective is amazing. The loss of the joy in the Christian life has been replaced with busyness and routine. You have heard it all already. The church service loses its impact it is mechanical, routine, dull and drab. That is a sign you are beginning to lose your first love. You have lost your ability to love others. One of the great revelations of the Scripture is that the reason we love others is because we have first been loved ourselves. When we lose that consciousness of the wonder of Jesus' love we also lose our awareness of others and find our love for them fading. It is difficult to love. We become critical, censorious, complaining. We begin to choose our friends more closely and only associate with those we like. We lose the compassion that reached out to everyone at first. We lose a healthy perspective of ourselves. We become more and more important in our thinking. Instead of what the Lord wants and what will please him we begin to think of what we want and what will please us. Gradually, we become sensitive and touchy, unable to bear criticism. This begins to make divisions and often schisms in the Body of Believers. Individuals in the church are no longer interested in evangelism. They are no longer concerned about those around them without Christ, but are focused on themselves, their own comfort, and their own pleasure. Self-centeredness sets in. We become blinded to our spiritual condition and fail to see our nakedness and lack of righteousness and holiness. We are no longer excited about the joy of salvation we have become lukewarm in our calling to be a witness. We have lost our candlestick and are no longer effective in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the Church today.
The new apocalyptic paradigm for this generation is that God has lifted the veil and given us the revelation that our ideas, theories, actions and our whole conceptual framework is flawed and that we must repent and turn back to God. When the Church reaches spiritual maturity and becomes righteous and holy then will Christ return for His own-- it is our duty to be ready.