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Apostasy or revival? I may need some forgiveness here, but permit me to make a few objective remarks concerning Apostolicism as it exists in our twenty-first century. The observation has been made, by more than a few Apostolic-Pentecostal preachers, that we are living in a time of incredible potential for revival and yet we also dwell under the shadow of very real dangers of apostasy within the Apostolic movement. Some of our own men have prophesied of the things going on today—I have it on tape. From my own vantage point, I must agree with them, although it grieves me to have to admit to having family affected by the latter. What a difference a century can make!
There are those who today speak of great end time revival before Jesus comes. Not all who name it have it, but there is a great chorus of “Souls, souls, souls! Revival, revival, revival!” which resonates from some corners. Although the motivation of some—who never speak a peep of the dangers of apostasy among us—may or may not be rooted in God-inspired conviction, yet the potential for a move of God among His people cannot be denied. This conclusion, too, rests on the personal record of having prayed several hundred souls through to the baptism of the Holy Ghost over several years. (Note: this did not occur on the foreign field either.)
The reality is that both of these trends are undeniably presented in several New Testament passages. To be in denial or unaware of either has grave consequences. We must be objective enough to see about us, and yet believe in the potential for Apostolic revival, realizing that a move of God will not happen among an apostatizing people. It may occur in spite of them when they are in the minority, but the a posteriorian ethos and the faith-based drive for revival are fundamentally antithetic. They are entirely different courses. We as preachers and pastors must recognize this and build the framework required in seeking the move of God which tangibly advances the Kingdom within our assemblies. We must have it!
That being said, it is tragic that the great discipline of Bible eschatology has been inadequately attended to by Apostolic-Pentecostals. Too often prophecy is treated as insignificant, or incomprehensible, or even as vaguely defined within the Holy Writ itself. These preconceptions are a serious handicap to understanding the fullness of the original Apostolic message and its wide ranging implications.
Israel, the was-all and end-all. The entire body of Old Testament prophecy was originally given to and for national Israel. Whether sotereological, covenantal, messianic or eschatological, the original addressees of these sacred messages were the people of Israel, for they alone were the entire people of God at the time.
But then came the introduction of the New Testament in the earth. Who would have ever thought that the promises and benefits offered “to the Jew first” would have fallen to a predominantly Gentile people?
Fully known to the Apostles. Acts 15:13-21 reveals that the Apostles fully understood the Old Testament covenants and promises to national Israel as being fulfilled in a future age “after this” (Acts 15:16). Regarding “this” interruption of the Hebrew program, it was also known that there would be a work accomplished among the Gentiles “first” (Acts 15:14 w. Luke 2:25-32). Jesus further added that “the end” of this Gentile, “all nations” age would be followed “in Judea” by “great tribulation” (Matt. 24:14-21), cueing us to the resumption of God’s program for Israel. The prophet of this “time of Jacob’s trouble” had also described the crisis as an unprecedented universal event (Jer. 25:31-33). Here is the global Tribulation of which both Daniel (12:1) and Christ prophesied (Matt. 24:21).
The Scriptures, meanwhile, abounded with examples of God’s people being spared from such times of Judgment. In Lot’s case, he was specifically pressed, “Haste thee, escape hither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come hither…” (Gen. 19:22). We also have Noah’s experience. This principle of divine deliverance continued with the Apostles’ doctrine and, for the early Apostolic Church, the rapture was this “escape” of which Christ had taught in Luke 21:36. And preparation was they key! When the Apostles spoke of the “day of Christ” to their followers, it was always in reference to the expectation of this rapture of the Church before the great world crisis would begin. As the work among the Gentiles began at Pentecost with the advent of the Spirit, so it would also close with a withdrawal of the Spirit (II Thess. 2:7) and, of course, of all those filled with the same.
The present Church age is not the mere passing of yet another dispensation, but is marked by the signal revelation of Salvation which previous dispensations could but foreshadow. The New Covenant plan of Salvation is the Gospel and the Gospel is Salvation—Acts 2:38-39 Salvation. While there will be a clear hiatus of its application during the global Tribulation (the angel of Revelation 14 declares it in principle not in application), it is equally obvious that if Israel is to be in reality “saved out of it” (i.e. of the Tribulation) and if her people come to actual personal Salvation that “shall be for ever,” then the multitude of Old Testament prophecies of Israel’s induction into the New Covenant must include the key Acts 2 revelation of its Salvational aspect (Matt. 16:17-19).
Which brings us again to the future, “after this” age. The inhabitants of the next dispensation will simply not be saved by mere virtue of participation in the era. The Millennium will not be a time of auto-Salvation for people, nor of any universalism in that context. This fact has been manifested by the prophesied international rebellion which closes the period (Rev. 20:7-9).
It can be seen that Millennialism in itself will not eradicate the sin-nature or fallen state of man. Even then, he will require conversion; and that, we know, only comes through the fullness of Acts 2:38 Salvation. So that the Apostolic Gospel of Salvation, prophetically declared to be “everlasting” must remain in force through man’s entire future history as the premium distinction of the New Covenant. This is demanded by the prophets. It is required of a fallen race. And it was fully known to the Apostles.
Be it ours to seek revival of its fullness.