End-Time Theological Battle Universalist vs. Remnant ( Part 2 ) By Ted Robertson
Taking up where we left off last week, we have seen that Jesus Christ has stated that no one comes to the Father except by Him. So we can see now that the Christian religion is – according to the Messiah and the Saviour of the world – the only religion whereby Almighty God may be in relationship with us. So this excludes all other religions. If we do not believe this, then we do not believe the words of Jesus as stated in the Scriptures. If we do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God, then we are not truly Christian to begin with. As such, how can we reap the benefits of the Christian walk?
How can we come to the Father?
How can we have the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Whom Christ sent to us)?
How can we have absolution from our sins by the Blood of Christ?
These are the kinds of questions that have to be grappled with if, in fact, we embrace Universalist Theology.
So let us examine Christianity then. Let us then ask the question so many have asked in the past: why are there so many denominations in Christianity?
The answer lies in the history of the Christian Church. Without spending too much time studying them (we can save that study for another occasion), an overview of the Letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation reveal a basic plot afoot throughout the last two millennia. (Note that the time periods assigned to the various churches are widely agreed to by historicist interpreters of prophecy. This does not mean that any particular date is sacrosanct, however, as the prophecies are about the period of the church and not time-specific prophecies such as the 2,300 Days of Daniel 8, the 70 Weeks of Daniel 9, and other such time prophecies.)
The Church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7): A prophetic picture of the Early Apostolic Church as a church very thorough in its understanding of truth. Its only criticism was losing its First Love. (33 A.D. to 100 A.D.)
Church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11): A prophetic picture of the Persecuted Church. This is the period when the Christian Church was underground and withstood much persecution and martyrdom at the hands of the Roman Empire. (100 A.D. to 315 A.D.)
Church at Pergamos (Rev. 2:12-17): A prophetic picture of the decline of the Church. Christianity becomes a legal religion in the Roman Empire, and false doctrine begins entering into the Church. (315 A.D. to 538 A.D.)
Church at Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29): A prophetic picture of the Church fully descending into error and becoming a conduit for leading God’s children away from Him – in fact, working at cross purposes to God. The Church is warned by Christ that Her children will be killed with death. (538 A.D. to 1517 A.D.)
Church at Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6): A prophetic picture of the Protestant Reformation. A movement toward truth and away from error. However, the progress is not complete. (1517 A.D. to 1755 A.D.)
“Eventually, differences of opinion [in Reformation Churches] were settled by the adoption of definitive creeds that tended to discourage the search for additional truth. By a similar process the Roman Catholic Church, in the early centuries of its history, had crystallized much of its theology.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. 1956. Vol. 7. pp. 755-756.
Ecumenism or oecumenism mainly refers to initiatives aimed at greater Christian unity or cooperation. It is used predominantly by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian Churches separated by doctrine, history, and practice. Within this particular context, the term ecumenism refers to the idea of a Christian unity in the literal meaning: that there should be a single Christian Church.
The word contrasts with interfaith dialogue or interfaith pluralism aimed at unity or cooperation among diverse religions and referring to a worldwide 'religious unity' by the advocacy of a greater sense of shared spirituality.
The word is derived from Greek οἰκουμένη (oikoumene), which means "the whole inhabited world", and was historically used with specific reference to the Roman Empire. The ecumenical vision comprises both the search for the visible unity of the Church (Ephesians 4.3) and the 'whole inhabited earth' (Matthew 24.14) as the concern of all Christians. …
Ecumenism is the movement within Christianity that aims at "the recovery in thought, in action, and in organization, of the true unity between the Church's mission to the world (its apostolate) and the Church's obligation to be one." Thus, ecumenism is the promotion of unity or cooperation between distinct religious groups or denominations of Christianity. Ecumenism is distinguished from and should not be misused to mean interfaith pluralism. The interfaith movement strives for greater mutual respect, toleration, and co-operation among the world religions. Interfaith dialogue between representatives of diverse faiths, does not necessarily intend reconciling their adherents into full, organic unity with one another but simply to promote better relations. – Wikipedia, article “ecumenism.” (January 22, 2011)
Following is an excerpt from a paper by Bert Beach:
The New Testament presents a qualified church unity in truth, characterized by holiness, joy, faithfulness, obedience, and evangelism. “Ecumenthusiasts” (to coin a word) seem to take for granted the eventual organic unity and communion of the great majority of the churches. They emphasize the “scandal of division,” as if this were really the unpardonable sin. Heresy and apostasy are largely ignored. However, the New Testament shows the threat of anti-Christian penetration within “the temple of God” (2 Thess 2:3, 4). The eschatological picture of God’s church prior to the Second Coming is not one of a mega church gathering all humankind together, but of a “remnant” of Christendom, those keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus (see Rev 12:17).
There is clearly a point at which unorthodoxy and un-Christian lifestyle justify separation. The WCC seems to miss this point. Separation and division in order to protect and uphold the purity and integrity of the church and her message are more desirable than unity in worldliness and error.
Furthermore, Adventists are uncomfortable with the fact that the WCC leaders seem to give little emphasis to personal sanctification and revival. There are indications that some may view such emphasis as a quaint pietistic hangover, not a vital ingredient of a dynamic Christian life. They prefer to soft-pedal personal piety in favor of social morality. However, in Adventist understanding, personal holiness of life is such stuff as the morality of society is made (with apologies to Shakespeare). Without genuinely converted Christians, any formal organizational unity is really of a plastic nature and of little relevance. …
Adventists seek to be heralds of the only true and lasting oihoumene. In Hebrews reference is made to “the world [Greek: oikoumene] to come” (Heb 2:5, NEB), the coming universal kingdom of God. In the final analysis, it is this “ecumenism” Adventists are working for. Every other ecumenical movement is ephemeral. In the meantime, it is a Christian duty to “concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ” in one’s heart. “Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you. Make sure that your conscience is perfectly clear” (1 Peter 3:15, 16, Phillips).
– Beach, Bert B. “Seventh-day Adventists and the Ecumenical Movement" http://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/World%20Evangelical/Beach,%20SDAs%20&%20the%20Ecumenical%20Movement.pdf
Next week we will study the following:
§ What is the point of an ecumenical movement in Christendom if the Revelation of Jesus Christ describes a remnant at the end of time?
§ Is it really possible for a universal church following truth to exist in the presence of a remnant that is following truth? Does this make any sense?
§ Why are there so many doctrinal schisms in Christianity?
§ Are they important? If not, then what is truth? And what is error?
§ What really is the Body of Christ?
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