We must have a voice in the marketplace of ideas or else risk being irrelevant. According to 1 Chronicles 12:32, the children of Issachar had an understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. Before we can do the right thing, we must understand what is happening around us. Hebrews 12:26-28 give us the proper world view.
In this chapter the writer is comparing the first Pentecost with the second Pentecost. The children of Israel celebrated Passover as they were delivered from Egyptian bondage. Fifty days later they were given the law at Mt. Sinai and for them Pentecost was one of three major feasts they continued to celebrate.
At Mt. Sinai they witnessed thunder, lightning, heavy clouds, darkness. At the trumpet blast they assembled at the foot of the mountain which was covered with smoke. The mountain shook violently as God spoke, giving them his law. However, this shock and awe did not transform them, because forty days later Moses found them worshiping a golden calf. We must have his law written on our hearts. Jeremiah 31:31 promised that God would make a new covenant and write his law on our hearts.
That new covenant came into effect fifty days after the death of Christ, which was on Passover. Once more God shook not only the earth but also the heavens. This does not indicate a literal earthquake, but a shake up in the spiritual realm. Haggai promised, "In a little while [about five hundred years] I will once more shake the heaven and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come [the Messiah] and I will fill this house [the second temple] with glory (Hagg 2:6). As the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ physically entered that rebuilt temple.
When the kingdom of God was established at Pentecost, Peter described the results of the effusion of the Holy Spirit as blood and fire and billows of smoke. The kingdom began with the blood of Christ, the fire of God, and the smoke of the Holy Spirit. We no longer go to Mt. Sinai, but to Mt. Zion, the Church of the firstborn. The first Jewish converts on the day of Pentecost were the firstborn or firstfruits of the harvest. All who have been born again since Pentecost and all who will be saved until the second advent of Christ are added to this same Church, the heavenly city, Mt. Zion, which incorporates all the redeemed on earth and in heaven.
Between Christ's first advent and his second advent, two things are happening. The kingdom of man is being shaken down and an unshakable kingdom is being built up. Everything that is temporary will be reduced to rubble. The participle "shaken," which occurs twice in verse 27 is a present participle. Wesley's comment was that this universal shaking began at the first coming of Christ and will be consummated at his second coming. Whatever can be shaken and leveled will be.
Sinful man is in rebellion against the sovereignty of God. Our culture is a reflection of this rebellion. Man is still trying to attain the satanic promise, "You will be like God." From the building of the Tower of Babel to the present day, there has been one attempt after another to build the city of man.
But every attempt is nothing more than a house of cards. God tolerates this rebellion for only so long, then he shakes it down. Everything that is not built upon the rock, Christ Jesus will be shaken and destroyed. Our God is also a consuming fire. He will burn up everything the shaking brings down.
This, then, is the key to understand current events. There is a whole lot of shaking going on! Why are we witnessing such a great economic collapse? Why are we being judged economically? Just as the ten plagues of Egypt were an attack on Egyptian deities, so this economic shakeup focuses on the Almighty dollar. We are reaping what we have sown. Every time man tries to establish his own kingdom, God sends an earthquake. Across the span of history is the rubble of human empires. The city of man has no future. We are at the end of an age.
John Maynard Keynes wrote the most influential economic book of the twentieth century in 1936. He advocated state intervention in the free market through deficit spending in order to stimulate the economy. This is salvation through inflation. Keynesian theory advocates spending ourselves out of debt. The more credit is extended, the more prosperity results.
By 1971 Nixon declared, "We are all Keynesians now." But our house of cards is collapsing and the recourse is more state intervention. The result will be the loss of a free market. The Newsweek cover story for February 16, 2009, proclaimed, "We are all socialists now."
Will American survive this economic judgment? Not if we continue in our defiance of God's law. But even if America falls, this does not necessarily mean the end of the world. Such analysis often leads to date-setting. When Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple and his disciples immediately associated that with his advent and the end of the world. I am not predicting the end of the world, but I am warning that we may be facing the end of our world.
We must avoid two extremes. One view does not make any connection between our economic collapse and eschatology. The other extreme connects them in such a way that we try to project the timing of Christ's return.
Our message to this generation is that we have broken covenant with God. Deuteronomy 28:15-68 warns that if we break covenant with God, the consequences will get progressively worse. Deuteronomy 28:22 forecasts seven levels of judgment with the last being total destruction. It is a mistake to set a date for the final judgment. But it is also a mistake to think things will get better without repentance and renewal of our covenant. Our emphasis should be on ethics and not speculation. We will continue to see a progressive judgment in which the screws get turned tighter and tighter. Peter said that God first visits his Church in both justice and mercy. But his judgments grow more and more severe until the ungodly are left with no hope of escape.
Any judgment of God is an eschatological event because its goal is to bring an end to our sin. In Scripture "the day of the Lord" does not always refer to the same event. "The day of the Lord" refers to any time when the Lord intervenes in the world to judge sin and establish his sovereign rule. There will be one final day of the Lord, a day which God has appointed to judge the world (Acts 17:31), but until that final day there will be many days of the Lord. God will continue to shake this world until every stronghold comes down, until every argument has been demolished, every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and every thought is taken captive and brought under the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5).
Yes, I am aware that David Wilkerson has been warning about a thousand fires coming to New York City not far off in the future. "It will engulf the whole megaplex, including areas of New Jersey and Connecticut. Major cities all across America will experience riots and blazing fires-such as we saw in Watts, Los Angeles, years ago. There will be riots and fires in cities worldwide. There will be looting -including Times Square, New York City. What we are experiencing now is not a recession, not even a depression. We are under God's wrath."
I agree that we are under God's judgment. But some of the prophecies Wilkerson predicted would come "very soon" in The Vision, which was published in 1974, have not yet happened (see Deut 18:22). And I am concerned that this "message" contains little emphasis on hope. The righteous are only advised to lay in store a thirty-day supply of non-perishable food, toiletries and other essentials, if possible. Quite possibly Wilkerson's message is more a reflection of the implication of his prophetic view than a word from the Lord.
But things are not hopeless. There is another dynamic at work. God is not only tearing something down, he is building something up. We are receiving a kingdom. Just as the shaking is present tense, so is this receiving. Dispensationalism teaches that the kingdom was postponed at Christ's first advent, yet our text says we are presently receiving it.
This kingdom began long ago with Christ's first advent but the end has not yet been finally realized. But God is building a kingdom. It started as small as a mustard seed and it works as quietly as yeast, but it is built on Christ and it cannot be shaken. E. Stanley Jones wrote in The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person, "Not only will it not be shaken, it cannot be shaken, for it is ultimate reality."
If God is our refuge and strength, we have present help not simply the promise of future help. And if he is in our midst, we shall not be moved. The earth giving way, mountains falling, floods, and earthquakes are all ultimate expressions of crisis which are referenced in Psalm 46. Yet we are to be confident and not give in to fear. If God dwells among his people, the city of God will not fall - even if the city of man does collapse. Just at the break of dawn, God will help us. He will make wars cease. He will thwart the weapons of mass destruction. It is his agenda which prevails and he declares it — "I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." Therefore, the people of God are to be still. Our peace and confidence are based on the sovereignty of God. The darkest hour of the night is just before the dawn of the morning. When things appear to be the blackest, the Lord will come to our aid. "Nevertheless the foundation of God stands firm, having this seal, The Lord knows those who are his" (2 Tim 2:19).
A. T. Robertson remarked that the kingdom of God is not shaken, fearful as some saints are about it. Many people live in fear, but God did not give his children the spirit of bondage and fear (Rom 8:15). Nor should the man of God engage in fear-mongering. Instead, we must call the people of God to work. "Therefore [in light of the resurrection], my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Cor 15:58).
On an old English church was found this inscription, "In the year of 1653, when all things sacred in the Kingdom were either profaned or demolished, this church was built to do the best of things in the worst of time." And yet John Wesley would be born in 1703 and the great Methodism revival would sweep all of England. Richard Watson wrote that amid the scoffing of an infidel nation and the roaring of its senseless mobs, when there were but few signs of life amid the general death, the Wesleys sang,
Jesus, the Conqueror, reigns,
In glorious strength arrayed,
His kingdom over all maintains,
And bids the earth be glad.
In 1804 Methodist evangelist Lorenzo Dow was disappointed with his revival services in Lynchburg, Virginia. He wrote, "I spoke in the open are in what I conceived to be the seat of Satan's kingdom . . . Lynchburg was a deadly place for the worship of God." Two hundred years later Lynchburg is home to the largest evangelical university in the world.
In Scripture, the day of the Lord is not only divine intervention in judgment, but also in revival. Isaiah 2 describes the day of the Lord. Everything proud and lofty will be brought low, but the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains and the nations shall flow to it. John Wesley did not postpone this vision to a future dispensation, for he wrote that what Christ instituted will continue to the end of the world. Nor is this prophecy to be understood literally of a physical temple. Rather, it depicts the Church of God. His Church is marching on. In An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion, Wesley explained the Methodist revival by saying "the day of the Lord is come. He is again visiting and redeeming his people."
Jesus promised that we would have tribulation in this world. But he also exhorted us to be confident and courageous because he had overcome the world (John 16:33). We are to be people who have an irrepressible hope. Death has already been conquered. We have an unstoppable king and we are part of his unshakable kingdom.
A year ago the conventional wisdom was that stock in General Motors was a secure investment. The truth is that God is building his kingdom and it will stand even if the United States does not. Martin Luther had it right
Let goods and kindred go
This mortal life also
The body they may kill
God's truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever.