by Bill Nugent
In Matthew 28:18-20, the church is commanded to make disciples of all nations. Yet we also see that prophecies contained in the Bible reveal that the church will fail to win all the nations to Christ and the nations will follow the antichrist at the end of days. We are commanded to succeed but predicted to fail! I believe that the Bible shows us how to deal with this conundrum.
As an illustration, imagine Rick Joyner giving a pep talk to the football team of MorningStar University. He exhorts them to play hard and press on to victory. The team is energized to carry out Rick’s command to win on the field and be a good witness for Christian athletics.
On the way out of the locker room as they run to the field they are met by the head of the prophetic ministry at MorningStar. He says“I’ve got a word from the Lord about your game today!” The young men circle around him in eager anticipation of what the Lord would say to them. The prophet says “There will be perilous times on the field today, especially in the game’s fourth quarter. The Lord has shown me that there will be frustration and major setbacks. Your cheerleaders won’t be able to be heard above the din of the crowd calling for your blood. The opposing team will play dirty and cause injuries. I see young men carried off on stretchers. I see your team losing 36 to 6 and the crowd rallying around the opposing team’s captain and enthusiastically carrying him off the field.” Then the prophet exhorts them to play a good game, have fun and go for the victory!
How hard will that MSU team play? They’ve been commanded to succeed but predicted to fail! How can they rally their energy and playing skill to put in a winning performance? The team goes out to the field terrified and they play overly cautious. They can’t seem to shake off a defeatist, escapist, fear mentality. They go down to ignominious defeat.
In Matthew 28:18-20 we are given the great commission. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them . . . and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”(NAS). In Revelation 13:7, speaking of the antichrist, we read:“And it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him” (NAS).
This command to succeed but prediction of failure is what I call the central conundrum of end-time revelation. I could quote many other New Testament passages that tell of perilous times at the end of the age. These include First Timothy 4:1-3, Second Thessalonians 2:3-12 and of course, the long passages in the book of Revelation that tell of the coming great tribulation in which God’s judgement falls on an unbelieving world.
The church has responded to the predictions of failure by adjusting her attitude and focus. One very common position is the escape mentality often connected to the belief that the entire church will be raptured out before the tribulation. Other Christians teach that the church will go through the tribulation but be supernaturally protected.
Several generations ago, in the 19th century, much of the church believed that the people of God would transform the world into a godly society before the second coming of Christ. Those who held to this position were either postmillennial or amillennial in their understanding of the timing of the second coming of Christ. This was eschatological optimism which believed the church would be triumphant at the end of the age before the second coming. This view largely crumbled when World War I and World War II demonstrated the extreme brutality of man. The general decay of morals in western civilization over the last fifty years has also caused many in the church to abandon the postmillennial view. Those who continue to teach that the church will transform society in the end-times are often chided as “dominionists” or “Kingdom Now” adherents. We who teach on the seven mountains mandate are often derided as those who merely rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.
The seven mountains mandate is the view that Christians should press on to influence the culture for Christ in seven major areas. These areas or mountains are: 1) religion, 2) education, 3) arts and entertainment, 4) the economy, 5) media, 6) government and 7) the family. Bill Bright, Loren Cunningham and Francis Schaefer are generally credited with receiving this revelation in the 1970s and teaching it to the church.
I’m a premillennialist, yet I also believe that we must scale the seven mountains and bring in a great harvest of souls at the end of the age.
How do we deal with the prophecies in scripture that predict that the world will follow the antichrist at the end of the age? How can we teach the seven mountains mandate knowing that the great tribulation is coming? I know that prophecy is conditional. Even Jonah’s prophecy which said that Nineveh would be overthrown in forty days was conditional. Jonah’s prophecy is a Bible prophecy yet it went unfulfilled because the Ninevites repented and their city was spared. Are the prophecies in the book of Revelation which predict the great tribulation conditional? If the world repents will God cancel the great tribulation? Are the prophecies of end-time judgement to be taken not as predictions but as warnings?
Why did God command His church to win the nations to Him and yet give prophecies that predict the failure of the church to fully carry out that command? Did God prefer that his church have a defeatist mentality rather than an arrogance mentality? I don’t want to draw circles around the truth. I want to deal with this conundrum directly!
I see the predictions of end-times disaster as a kind of sorting mechanism. When Jesus came, He used the Sea of Galilee as a sorting mechanism. Did you ever wonder why Jesus spent so much time near the Sea of Galilee? If the crowd got too big Jesus would command the disciples to set sail for the other side of the sea. Only the most earnest of the people would walk around the sea to be with Jesus on the far side. In the Old Testament we see that Gideon was given a sorting mechanism to reduce his troops to just 300. So we see that God sorts out His people.
The prophecies of catastrophe are a sorting mechanism. How will you handle these negative predictions? Do you take an attitude of defeat and scale back your efforts? Do you refuse to scale the seven mountains? Or do you regard the negative predictions as mere warnings and press on valiantly to win the entire world for Christ?
In genesis 32: 24-29 we read that Jacob wrestled with a man until dawn. Reading further we can see that the man was no ordinary man but was what theologians call a preincarnate appearance of Christ. God wrestled with Jacob. God wrestles with each of His people today! How we handle the prophecies of end-time failure is one factor that determines whether or not we will be a part of the remnant, which is the overcomer company, the 144,000 described in the book of Revelation.
In the book of Daniel we see that Daniel had scaled the mountain of government. Daniel was a government official of great power in pagan Babylon. God will place His people in positions of power, like Daniel, in the seven mountains in the end-times. These are Christians who have great intimacy with God and great power in government and great power on the other mountains of influence.
The antichrist will not overcome all of the saints! The overcomer company will be immune to the great tribulation! The antichrist will not defeat the manifested sons of God! Sadly, much of the church will be worn down and overcome by the antichrist.
The Bible teaches a triumphant eschatology. There seems to be two major streams of predictive revelation. Some Bible prophecies tell of the saints being overcome by the antichrist and multitudes of people in the world being lost. Other prophecies tell of the rise of an overcomer company that brings in a great harvest. I believe that each believer, through faith and action, determines his place and ministry in the end-time triumph of the kingdom of God! Great promises are made to “him that overcometh” (Rev. 2:7).
The bottom line is that we must deal head on with the prophecies that predict the rise of the antichrist and perilous times ahead. We, however, must not take an attitude of either defeat or of arrogance. With sober humility we must press on to know the Lord and wrestle with Him in intercession and climb the seven mountains from which we will harvest a vast multitude of souls!
My book: The Cross, Self-Denial and the Manifestation of the Sons of God is available for free download from my website at www.bnugent.org. This book discusses the emergence of the overcomer company and describes the process of sanctification that prepares them to attain full stature in Christ. Also available on the website is an archive of other articles of myDefending the Faith Special Issue teaching series. (See DTF Special Issues archive on the website.) One article in particular,DTF SI # 14, titled: “The Perfect Jew: A Picture of the Perfect End of Our Age” contains needed insights on the overcomer company and end-time events. It’s also available for free download.