by Dr. Jay Gary
In tracking the future of end-time thinking, mission strategist and author, Dr. Andrew Jackson has done the church a favor to question Mike Bickle’s End Time gambit. A recent issue of Christian Research Journal features his essay, ‘Forerunner Eschatology: Mike Bickle’s End-Time Teaching & the International House of Prayer.’ (2009 Vol 32 Num 4). The article is not online, but the magazine can be purchased for $10. The article begins this way:
Mike Bickle, the one-time charismatic leader of the controversial Kansas City Prophets in the 1980s and 1990s, is now positioning himself to become an end-time specialist to thousands of Christian young adults around the world. He preaches an obscure interpretation of the book of Revelation, and proclaims, with a conviction of certainty, that the world is now entering an “eschatological revolution” that will lead to Jesus’ second coming within the next fifty years.
With clarity and grace, Dr. Jackson documents the Kansas City charismatic practice of 24-hour prayer and worship, and challenges Bickle’s extraordinary claim that the book of Revelation is an end-time prayer manual. Unlike most ‘got-you’ journalism, this article is a respectful appeal, inviting leaders to rethink the blind spots of apostolic millennialism, in one of the fastest growing youth movements of our time.
If you are concerned about End Time teaching diminishing our youth’s capacity to lead society into the future, Dr. Jackson’s article is a good place to start.
Yet this CRJ piece ends just where it should have begun. So here is my two cents. All of us, whether part of prophetic and intercessory movements or not, need to ask whether it is God’s will for us to truncate the horizon of the church and the next generation, as it seeks to engage the 21st century.
I talk to many Baby Boomers today and they tell me stories of how when they came of age, in the 60s or 70s, they were told that Jesus was coming again soon. So they told each other, ‘don’t worry about going to college, becoming a doctor, or starting a business.’ Forty years later they now regret that short sightedness. So why should they truncate the horizon of Gen X-ers, Millennials, or Gen Y-ers, with a 20 or 50 year future, when it didn’t work for us?
Political commentators talk about generational injustice in the national debt, borrowing from our children’s credit cards. But isn’t robbing our grandchildren of their future just as self-centered?
Now that we have moved beyond the apocalyptic fervor of the Year 2000 Crisis, wisdom would say, no, not again. Let’s not confine the next generation to a sunset mentality. Let’s not put that strait-jacket on our children that the end is near. Let’s stop creating apocalyptic dramas. Let’s release the next generation with a sunrise mentality.
What we need is a whole new way of thinking forward. When St. Augustine faced the collapsing decades of the Roman Empire, he confessed, “Christ came when things were growing old, he made them new.”
With that same conviction, recently Dr. Andy Jackson began asking every missional leader he knows, “How can global Christians be transformed, and participate in transforming our world over the next 100 years?”
This has gotten me thinking. I believe that the first item of transformation must always be where Jesus started. Jesus called his contemporaries to repent, to change their mind, because God was changing the times in his day. If we are going to participate in the Great Work of our time, to help move our world from tragedy to triumph over the course of the 21st century, we have to experience this metanoia, this new mind.
God has put us here to labor, to love and to serve; not to endure to the end. We have to see the New Covenant as counting up, seeing that redemption has come in history. The Holy Spirit has been poured out. So it is time we embrace the gospel of the kingdom, not just the gospel of salvation.
Yes, Mike Bickle is right. We can’t ignore eschatology. But I add, yes, the gospel was about last things, but only to those who first heard it. The last things of that day largely dealt with the end of Jewish nationalism and the Second Temple (Matthew 24:14). Yet the gospel was also about first things, beyond the looming Great War (C.E. 66 to 73). Those first things were about creating a new model of keeping faith from the inside out.
Peter, James and Paul saw themselves uniquely as the last generation of the Old Covenant, that was passing away. That house, that temple, that Levitical order passed away in the first century, as scripture anticipated, and history confirmed. No other generation needs to play that end-time card, because the end of the Law has come (Matthew 5:17).
So we need a whole new forward horizon, that is not bounded by apostolic millennialism. Transformation, or changing our minds about today’s Boomer narcissism is the first step. The second is then asking, how do we use this gift of forward time and forward thinking, in view of Christian stewardship? If the New Covenant today is about walking in new things, rather than last things, how do we practically do that?
This is where we need to join the generations, those behind us with those in front of us. We need to live, worship and work in a 200-year present. We need to look back 100 years and also look forward 100 years. Before the modern age people did this. They did this by locating themselves in between their grandparents and their grandchildren.
If you put yourself in the middle, and look back two generations, and then look forward two generations, you span the 200-year present. You are the prodigy of your Grandparents and Parents, and the progenitor of your Children and Grandchildren. This forms a thread of five generations that can not easily be broken. We need to restore the five-fold work of generations in our day in order to enter into the Great Work of our time.
This is what The Call, IHOP or KC prophets are missing. They are short-changing their children and their grandchildren. Like Adventists of the 19th century, they are discounting the future.
Our world may not have as much wealth as we did a year ago, but we have the wealth of forward time. No one, no matter whether they live in Kansas City or Kulua Lampur should forfeit that inheritance, that grace of God, that extends to the thousandth generation.