David Wilkerson has issued an urgent message called ‘An Earth-Shattering Calamity is about to happen.’ It apparently will be so universal and cataclysmic that ‘we are all going to tremble—even the godliest among us.’ You can read it for yourself at: http://www.worldchallenge.org/coverletter/an_urgent_message
This message comes on the heels of the horrendous Black Saturday 2009 bushfires in the Australian state of Victoria, near Melbourne, described as the ‘greatest natural disaster in Australia’s history.’ With Victorians bruised, battered, bleeding and burnt, just the mere suggestion that there was a link between the bushfires and the ‘judgment of God’ created a firestorm in itself.
Since the global economic meltdown began in earnest, if not before, talk of judgment has been in the air. When times are good, such apocalyptic voices are rare. Whenever a milestone is reached or a calamity hits, these voices rise again. Y2K and September 11th are two examples.
What do we make of the above? Here are some observations.
1. David Wilkerson: This man has been a faithful and effective servant of God for over fifty years. He is author of the best-selling book, The Cross and the Switchblade. Wilkerson is founder of ‘Teen Challenge,’ a global drug rehabilitation program which is probably the most effective in the world. He is founding pastor of the Times Square Church in New York City. I had the privilege of being the Australian chairman of his ‘Renewing Your Passion for Christ’ Conference in 2005. This was his one, and only, visit to the land down under. He came for the most noble of reasons: he wanted to bless the ministers of Australia. He paid his own expenses, refused any financial remuneration, and even was willing to underwrite any debt the conference might incur. From everything I have seen, there is no question he is a genuine man of God. He is definitely worth listening to. At the same time, no one is infallible. That’s why we have Biblical safeguards.
2. Prophecy must be judged: In the Old Testament, people who gave wrong prophecies were to be put to death (Deuteronomy 18:20-22) but today it is the prophecy, not the ‘prophet,’ that is to be judged (I Corinthians 14:29-32). The test of Scripture and witness of the Holy Spirit are to be applied to prophetic words, whether they come from a novice or an experienced servant of God. The purpose of New Testament-style prophecy is to edify, exhort, and comfort (I Corinthians 14:3); so instead of prophecies that judge, we judge the prophecies instead.
3. Judgment is an unpopular subject: While messages of sensational judgment will grab attention, the fact is they are the exception rather than the rule. How often do you ever hear a message of about the ‘judgment of God.’ Chances are: very seldom. That is because ‘God’s judgment’ and ‘hell’ are unpopular topics today, even among church-goers. In our postmodern, therapeutic, feel-good world such messages are considered ‘politically incorrect.’ We want to hear about a Jesus who is a life-improver, a liberationist, a new-age style guru, a lover not a judge. Thus said, was there ever a time when judgment was popular? Things were no different in the Bible.
4. Judgment is Biblical and inevitable: Judgment is one of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, along with repentance from dead works, faith towards God, baptism, laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead (Hebrews 6:1-2). Furthermore, it is none other than Jesus Christ Himself Who will be the Judge (John 5:22; Acts 10:42; II Timothy 4:1).
5. What is the Nature of Judgment?: This is a major topic but here are a few comments. Judgment in the Bible is the response of a holy God to sin and wickedness. He has ever right to be outraged at the evil in the world and to exact a price for the excesses of iniquity. Examples of judgment include Sodom and Gomorrha, the Canaanites under Joshua, Achan, Israel and Judah.
If God is so angry with the sin, decadence, and depravity of our world, why doesn’t He cast a thunderbolt from heaven and skewer the sinners below? Because there is another aspect of God’s character called ‘long-suffering.’ This means that He has extraordinary patience in giving people a chance to repent and find salvation before He exercises His right of judgment. When Judgment Day finally comes, it will be according to truth and one’s works, with total impartiality.
Judgment in the Bible was preceded by much prophetic warning. It was not a surprise. Yet the door of ‘grace’ and ‘mercy’ was always available before and even during the judgment. The salvation of Rahab and her family in the midst of the violent and total destruction of her city of Jericho is an extraordinary example of mercy in the midst of judgment.
Judgment fell upon ancient Judah in the days of Jeremiah, despite many warnings. But even when Jerusalem and the temple went up in flames and the Judeans exiled to Babylon, Jeremiah promised they would come home after 70 years. He even bought property in Anathoth during the siege to prove they would return.
Whereas grace and mercy were almost ‘side-by-side’ with judgment, in the church age, we have the grace and mercy upfront first and afterwards comes the judgment, which will be irreversible (Hebrew 9:27).
As far as I understand, Biblical judgments are well-announced with ample opportunity to turn to God. Since the commencement of the church age, we have a time of grace and the gospel so that as many people as possible can enter into the ‘Ark of Salvation’ before the final and ‘Last Judgement’ happens.
6. So Are Today’s Calamities the Judgment of God? Using the example of the Victorian bushfires, was there sufficient prophetic warning and confirmation? Did only the ‘wicked’ suffer? If so, why is it that Christian people perished in the flames and Christian campsites burnt to the ground?
Wilkerson’s comment that even the godly will tremble is highly problematic. If this is correct, what happens to all the promises to the faithful and obedient that God will exempt them from wrath (I Thessalonians 1:9), keep them from falling (Jude 24), keep them from trouble and set them on a rock (Psalm 27:5; 34:22)?
We live in a fallen, crazy, mixed-up world system, where good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. It rains on the just and the unjust. Of course, when Christ returns, that will all change. The Judge of the whole earth shall do right (Genesis 18:25ff).
7. So What Is Going On? Perhaps the best way to describe it is that we are in the time of ‘universal shaking.’ This is described in Haggai 2:6 and Hebrews 12:25-29. God plans to shake the earth and the heavens. Why is this? Because the temporal things and temporal kingdoms of this world are being shaken out of business to make room for the unshakeable, imperishable, ever-lasting Kingdom of Christ. The universal shaking is not a threat but a promise. It may be uncomfortable to some and terrifying to others but it is God’s way of making room for His kingdom.
In addition to shaking, or parallel with it, is the notion of chastening. This is what God does to His people out of His great love (Proverbs 3:11-12). Chastening is not judgment; it is God’s way to keep us from being judged (I Corinthians 11:32).
8. If We Are In A Time of Shaking or Chastisement, Rather Than Divine Judgment, How Should We Respond? Hebrews 12:28 is a good place to start. Let us:
Have grace and gratitude;
Begin to serve God and do so acceptably;
Have reverence and godly fear. There is nothing like a good shaking to take away apathy, lethargy, couch-potato comfort zone living, and get us back to living for God. The fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom;
Build your life on a solid rock. This means you hear and do what Jesus says. During shakings, you will not fall into a heap (Matthew 7:25) because you have a sure foundation.
Live a disciplined life: have devotions, take time out for rest and family, live by a budget, and pay off debts.
Should you store a month’s worth of groceries, as Wilkerson suggests? You can do anything you want provided you are led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14).
Is judgment on the way? Short answer: Yes. It will happen when the Judge appears. But in the meantime, let us not confuse the ‘shakings’ which affect everyone and chastisements which affect believers, with judgment which only effects the wicked. Again, as Hebrews 12:28 says, ‘let us have grace.’
Copyright 2009 Teach All Nations Inc.