Can The Church Survive?
A Hard Look At
The Future Prospects of Christianity
An Appendix to:
From the Main Message of
Bread Upon the Waters Ministry
Like it or not, there is a very real possibility that the Christian Faith will eventually disappear if the Second Coming does not take place in the relatively near future.
Since the beginning of Christianity, one of the main driving forces behind Christian evangelistic zeal, and also behind zeal for true belief and real obedience, has been, in the ideological sense, the expectation of the Second Coming of Christ.
Second Coming Fever
Relevant to this, there have been many people, from the time of the Early Church onward, who have been attempting to predict the date of the Second Coming (and/or the Rapture). Sometimes such individuals have acquired large followings, and their predictions have at times produced waves of what has been called "Second Coming Fever" in the Church.
In every case, when the Second Coming failed to take place as predicted, the result was a general falling away of the Christians who had been swept up in the epidemic of Second Coming Fever. As this page is written, this is happening among Christians who were sure that the beginning of the Year 2000 would produce the Second Coming, or at least the Rapture.
In the last fifty years we have seen one of the biggest waves of Second Coming Fever in the history of the Church. This has included numerous attempts to predict the date of the Rapture. (All such dates that have come and gone have, of course, been proven wrong by history.) There have been many factors fueling this. As stated in the "Where Is The Promise?" page, among these have been the restoration of Israel as a state, and the fact that it has been nearly 2000 years now since the beginning of Christianity. The fact that Jesus has not come yet has already resulted in a decline in real belief in the Second Coming among Christians.
Israel may be in trouble.
Moreover, as this is written, the State of Israel is potentially in big trouble. Efforts to make peace with the Palestinians are failing. An independent Palestinian state may soon be declared. If this happens, most of the Arab refugees now living in other countries will return to the Holy Land. This will mean that the Palestinian State will be able to field an army of over 120,000 men, many of them seasoned veterans. This will include the Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran and is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. If a war should then break out between Israel and the Arabs, there is no guarantee that Israel will win. The Arabs may be able to carry out an effective divide-and-conquer strategy. There is also a serious possibility that they will be more likely to get outside help than Israel will. If they win, it will be the end of the State of Israel. Ironically, that could have the long term effect of thereafter contributing to world peace and unity.
The Year 2000 Issue
Meanwhile, there is a problem with the Year 2000. The significance of this is based on the idea that all of history is divided into seven 1000 year days (see Psalm 90:10 and II Peter 3:8). The seventh day is the Millennium. That is why we are already hearing so much talk about the Millennium, even in totally secular circles. This idea has been around since early in the history of Christianity. Even some Orthodox Jews believe it. We are at the end of the sixth day. From the standpoint of Archbishop James Ussher's widely accepted Bible Chronology, we actually crossed the 6000 year threshold of history in 1996 and nothing happened. The problem is that we don't know exactly when the sixth day threshold really is, but it might actually date from Christ's earthly ministry. By the Jewish calendar, we still have two hundred forty years to go. So this principle could still be true. Yet if the sixth day ends on the Jewish calendar, and nothing happens relevant to Second Coming Prophecy, it will be a major blow to the Messianic hopes of both Christian and Jews. However, the Christian Faith may vanish before we reach that point, if Jesus doesn't come.
Note: There is a possibility that the seven-day history concept may not even be valid at all.
The Bottom Line
If we go past the Jewish Year 6000 with nothing having happened that fulfills the Prophecies, and if Israel has ceased to exist as a state within the intervening time, a major blow will have been dealt to both Christian evangelistic zeal and zeal for true obedience. It will throw the entire concept of the Second Coming of Christ into serious question, and with it, in a secondary but nevertheless critical sense, the validity of the entire Christian Faith. The truth of the Bible will have been thrown into question in a way that even the most hard-core Fundamentalist will not be able to ignore.
The "BABEL RISING!" Problem
Then there is the associated situation with the rise of science, medicine and technology. As shown in the "BABEL RISING!" pages, this situation poses a serious problem to Christianity, regardless of how much some Christians wish to ignore it. It is likely that if the Second Coming does not happen soon, we will soon be giving ourselves seriously extended life spans, far beyond what we have now, and possibly even giving ourselves physical eternal life. We will, in the process, acquire the ability to create cloned or genetically engineered humans. The movement toward the globalization of business and culture, fueled by the Internet Revolution, may give us international peace and unity, and an end to all war in the foreseeable future. In the wake of these things, the human race may renew its efforts in space travel, and start spreading human civilization to other worlds. Colonies on the moon and Mars, and possibly one or more of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, appear likely by the year 2100.
The Threat of Global Warming
Another factor that has been fueling the Second Coming Fever in the past few decades has been the increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. Even cultists who have no belief in Christianity at all have taken serious notice of this. Although this has been blamed on global warming, there is a serious alternative possibility. It is the view of a number of scientists that the main reason for these things is a long-term cycle of upheaval in the Sun. If this is true, and the scientists are correct in their thinking, then these disasters should peak in in about three years and then begin to decline (i.e. after 2003). If that happens, if severe hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc., start to decline in frequency and severity again, that trend will rob the Christian world of another significant reason to believe that the Second Coming is near.
Note: Short term, it really could mean just the opposite.
See I Thessalonians 5:2 & 3.
On the other hand, if global warming is the cause of the natural disasters, we may not be able to stop it. It may reach the point of throwing the entire world into a permanent catastrophe. Such an event would be characterized by mass starvation, widespread epidemics, and possibly even by major, stupidly desperate wars. We would have the end of the world as we know it, but not in the way the Bible predicts. Such a debacle might produce a short-lived final wave of Second Coming Fever in its early phases. But if the Second Coming does not shortly actually happen, this will discourage true belief. It might also result in widespread, deadly persecution of Christians.
Bluntly, runaway global warming could exterminate the human race, and that in a way that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Bible. See "The Doomsday Factors".
The result may be that zeal for true belief in the Christian Faith will die out. With that, all evangelistic and missionary efforts will gradually come to an end. New conversions will drop off to near, if not absolute, zero. Then, as the members of churches get older, one true-believing congregation after another will shut down, to the point that sometime in the 22nd Century, all of what we call true Christianity may disappear. (Even now, churches here and there are shutting down for lack of members, and some church buildings have been taken over by Muslims or Hindus - and I mean in the United States of America! Others have been turned into theaters, and some even into private homes.) The generally true-believing churches that hold to the Preterits or the Spiritualist views of Prophecy, or yet the Dominion Theology-Kingdom Now views may hold on for a while longer, but the percentage of the population they represent will steadily decline.
Note: Even now, much of what is called "evangelistic and missionary efforts" is in practice nothing but social activism that really does little to advance the spread of Christianity.
The Moral Decline
There is also the move, in secular society, away from absolute standards of morality toward relativistic, situation-oriented ethics, and in many cases, in practice, absolute rejection of all moral standards. At the present time, this can be seen as a fulfillment of Second Coming Prophecy, as in Matthew 24:12 and II Thessalonians 2:3. But in the long run, if the Second Coming does not happen, it will be deadly to the Christian Faith. If this moral decline continues unabated, without divine intervention or true revival, both Christians and prospective converts will be increasingly confronted with a lack of cultural evidence for the truth of the Gospel. Nothing would be more fatal to Christian Faith than recent historical proof that society can survive and prosper without Biblical morality. The unsaved already often see Christian morality as unrealistic, narrow-minded and stupid. Give another century of moral decline, without an economic and social breakdown and there will be no intelligent basis for really believing in it. (This could happen. No student of ancient history could deny that Rome, Assyria and Babylon were at their peaks when most corrupt. What actually brought down those empires was conquest from without. The only possible conquest from without now would have to be the Second Coming, or a disaster such as described in "A Mountain Burning With Fire".)
The Final Comedown
A religion of the type that is known to true believers as universalistic, theologically liberal Christianity may survive for a while longer still. But the increasing secularization of society will eventually even result in that dying out. It is a good bet that if the Second Coming does not happen before the end of this century, there will be little left of the Christian Faith by the end of the 22nd. There may be a few scattered small groups of fanatical true believers. However, there will be too few of them to have any social impact, so no one will even bother systematically persecuting them. They will be ridiculed and despised as nuts and weirdoes. In fact, if the Second Coming doesn't happen soon, that, in retrospect, would be an accurate description of Christians even now.
For what it's worth, this trend will probably ultimately put an end to true belief in all the major religions. If Christ, in fact, does not come, the next few centuries should generally see the end of all other religions that have apocalyptic beliefs, especially Judaism and Islam. The globalization and secularization of culture is already undermining true belief in Hinduism and other Eastern religions. This is particularly happening among the wealthy and educated, to whom their religion is often much more a matter of culture than true faith. It will happen, as has long been true anyway, that religion will survive mainly among the poorest and least educated. But one of the social effects of the global economic growth that is now happening, and that may continue indefinitely, is that an increasingly large proportion of almost all populations is becoming educated and affluent. This will be fatal to established religion. The only spirituality that will survive will be the cosmic humanism of the New Age Movement. That happens to be growing.
There is a certain emotional and psychological inclination in humans that will cause many to continue to be involved with something of a religious nature. But, again, it will not likely be any religion that is associated with apocalyptic ideas, especially with ideas of a final judgment, or with eternal damnation, or with any absolute moral standards. On the other hand, there is an increasing proportion of humanity that practices and believes in no religion at all. It appears certain, again, that if either the Lord does not return, or some other similar divine intervention does not take place, then in the next few centuries every one of the major religions, as we now know them, will virtually disappear. In fact, there is good reason to believe that Christianity will be the first to go. Which is why, if we really believe in Jesus Christ, we have no choice but to believe that the Second Coming is in fact almost upon us.
These are not ideas that true-believing Christians will like hearing. It is not an issue that Christians are culturally supposed to consider. But intellectual honesty says that the possibility is there. This is not presented to suggest that the Christian Faith really will cease to exist, but to emphasize that the Second Coming of Christ really is a now-or-never situation. There is in fact, as already shown, concrete reason to believe that the Christian Faith will not survive if the Second Coming doesn't happen soon.
There Are More Reasons to Expect the Second Coming soon than that.
When Will Jesus Come Again?
The Doomsday Factors
Even So, Come Lord Jesus!
Contact Author, William D. Brehm; WDBrehm@be-ready.org