knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,
and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” [2 Peter 3:3-4]*
Having spent the last three posts dealing with aspects of the eschatological system known as “dispensationalism,” I want to make this disclaimer first: This is NOT another post promoting or defending dispensationalism. This is a post which deals with the issue of where certain groups/denominations/congregations depart from sound doctrine and promote, not erroneous opinion, but heresy.
Unless one has been living in a hut on Bora Bora, I’m sure my readers are familiar with all the hoopla surrounding the head of Family Radio Network [Harold Camping] and his false prophecy about the Rapture supposedly occurring at 6:00pm [or 1800 hours for those of us who prefer to follow military time] on May 21, 2011. Of course, the only ones who were to have been taken were Camping and his followers since, according to Camping, all others claiming the name of Christ are in apostasy and not really to be considered as believers.
As disturbing as I find Camping’s failings in theology and, more importantly, his hubristic refusal to accept reproof and correction, there is another trend on the opposite extreme which I find to be more disturbing.
I witnessed this extreme this morning when returning from picking up breakfast. Posted on the marquee at one of the downtown churches was the announced title for the sermon this coming Sunday: “Jesus Will Not Return.” Okay, for those who are interested, this marquee is at the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), located at 10th and Faraon in Saint Joseph, Missouri.
While we can be skeptical and dismissive of “prophecies” such as Camping’s, which claim to know not merely, the date, but the exact hour and minute of Jesus’ return for His own, since Jesus clearly stated this information was not to be entrusted to men on two separate occasions [Matthew 24:36; Acts 1:6-7], we cannot embrace the extreme that categorically denies His return, Peter refers to such people as “mockers,” who are “following after their own lusts.”
The word rendered as “scoffers” [in other translations it may be rendered as “mockers”] appears only one other time in the NT: Jude 18, which appears to be quoting from Peter. Peter, in the broader context, also refers to these people as untaught and unstable [2 Peter 3:16]. Jude refers to these people as: grumblers, finding fault,. . . they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. He also refers to these people as ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.
In other words, the Bible does not paint a complimentary portrait of anyone who denies that Christ will return. The question is: how does this congregation fit in with that description?
Being in the denomination called the Disciples of Christ, this congregation has a long history in its community for being opposed to that which is godly. It seeks for its leadership those who deny the inspiration, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture and has long publicly held itself forth as denying the Deity of Christ. The congregation publicly denies the vicarious atonement of Christ on the Cross. It has affirmed as its belief that Jesus was merely a good man, and the only redemptive value or purpose for His life was to provide us a moral example of how to live.
In keeping with their denominational allegiance, this congregation has also publicly endorsed homosexuality as not being sinful. It would appear that with regard to eschatology, the congregation would endorse universalism, if they believe in any form of resurrection at all.
This raises several questions:
QUESTION #1: If Christ is simply a moral teacher, and the salvation He brought is simply a moral example, what hope is there for humanity, since there has not been a single person on this planet since then who has ever lived up to His moral example?
QUESTION #2: Since none of us can live up to His moral example, and God is going ultimately reconcile everyone to Himself anyway, what possible purpose did Christ’s death on the cross accomplish?
QUESTION #3: Since (according to Disciples of Christ eschatology) God will ultimately reconcile everyone to Himself, where is there any motivation to live a godly life now?
When one analyzes carefully, the beliefs implicit in denying the return of Christ in this fashion, one is left with not merely poor exegesis of Scripture, or, worse yet, bad [sloppy] theology. In order to preserve any type of hope in their hearers, and incite them to any form of living that approximates godliness, the congregation must promote such rank heresies as antinomianism and universalism. This is self-defeating, of course, because there is no incentive to godly living in either heresy.
It must be recognized that there may be godly people within the Disciples of Christ. The question I have for them is this: why do you remain there? The Scripture is evident that when godly people yoke themselves in an unequal fellowship with the ungodly, the result is that godly people are corrupted by the association, rather than the ungodly becoming sanctified. [1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18].
I saw an example of this very principle in the life of a woman who had been instrumental in my hearing the gospel as a young teenager. This was in the United Methodist Church. She was a firebrand who even took the pastor of the congregation to task for promoting such heresies as denying the inspiration, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture, the virgin conception of Christ, and the Deity of Christ.
I left the UMC after my freshman year in college because I could not abide the growing darkness and corruption of apostasy. This woman took the attitude that I was sinning in not staying, because I was supposed to be a beacon to the denomination according to her. When I next encountered her, some fifteen years later, she had embraced the apostasy she fought against earlier. Her continued association did not result in the increase of godliness, but she was taken over by her corrupt association.
* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.