Jesus made this prediction, “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt.8: 11-12).
We, generally, assumed that Jesus had His own people in mind. It was true, that God was bypassing those that had rejected His Son. That, however, is not what He said. The people that shall be left behind are the members of the kingdom. There was no Kingdom before Jesus ushered it in (Mk.1: 15) and before He began to build His Church (Mt.16: 18). The word “church” is the Greek word “ekklesia” and it means the gathering of a people that believe and follow Jesus. It has nothing to do with denominations or physical structures. God no longer resides in a temple or on a mountain, but in the hearts of Jesus’ followers (Jn.4: 19-24). Luke is helpful by having added, “Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and the first will be last” (13: 29-30). According to Paul, when the Gentiles shall become too full or too self-assured that they too shall be left behind (Ro.11: 25). The Gentiles have taken Jesus’ grace for granted and are being left behind. They were the first. Hopefully, they can remain in the kingdom as the last?
Again, we have been misled by our own self- satisfaction. By the word “last” Jesus was not telling His followers that they would get in, but that they will be put outside into the darkness. By darkness, He meant the world of the devil. There will be some that will be last because they followed His commandments (Mt.5: 17-20), but not those that served Him with their lips and not with their hearts. Praises cannot replace service (Mt.7: 21-23). Jesus promised to let in those that did what He would have done and without knowing that they were doing it for Him (Mt. 24: 31-46). In Revelation chapter seven countless people from all over the planet earth and from all ages are gathered before the Lamb (Christ). They are all wearing white robes, holding palm branches and praising the Lamb. In case we think they got there because they were baptized in Jesus, then think again. They shed their blood for their faith in Jesus during the great tribulation. That too speaks volumes for us Westernized Christians.
Recently, two reports came over the Internet that should disturb us and cause us to ask whether we are being left behind? The one report predicts that nine nations shall become totally secular within two decades. They were not only Christian, but also the cradle of Protestantism. The Czech Republic, home of John Huss was the forerunner of Martin Luther (Lutherans) and the Moravians. Switzerland was the home of Calvin and Zwingli, who were the founders of Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians and Reformed Churches. In addition, the report lists Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands and New Zealand. The U.S.A. needs only 16 percent to be listed among the seculars. We have dropped within a decade from below 10 to 35 percent. Does this mean that Christianity is dying? We do have groups that are growing. Unfortunately, we do proselyte among ourselves; we do not gain many from other religions. The fact is that we are being left behind.
The other report comes from “Megashift,” authored by James Rutz. The fastest growing religion in the world consists of converts to Jesus. There are almost every day 175,000 converts. Rutz calls them “core apostolic.” It is a return to the days of the Apostles whom Jesus sent forth into the world to make converts (Mt.28: 19-20). The Greek word “apostolos” means to send forth by an authority. Just as Jesus authorized the eleven followers so these new Christians witness with the same power from above. They experience countless miracles. It is a new outpouring of Pentecost. These Christians do not endorse theological views or any denominational lines. They have no places of worship or clergies to support. It has become an underground movement very similar to the first century Christians that spread to our Western world. Jesus is building His Church and hell cannot stop Him (Mt.16: 18). Only, it is not in our neck of the woods. We are being left behind. We have made Christianity too costly and too materialistic. At the rate our financial structure and material wealth are disintegrating, Jesus might again set us on fire. It is our hope that He does.