The Lion Handbook’s The History of Christianity (Oxford, England, etc.: Lion Publishing, first edition, 1977, reprinted 1994, page 672), in the section titled “The Next Chapter of History,” begins:
The crucible of history in the last decade of the twentieth century [now the 21st century] takes on a new dimension. For beyond the history of nations and their citizens, it will now have to embrace a history of the created order itself. Have destructive processes been set in train which means that its fate is already sealed? Is there time left for vital change? Can a new sense of responsibility for nature save not only threatened species, and threatened landscapes, but life itself? And where lies the salvation of individual men and women in all this? [Emphasis mine.]
Never has this threat to “life itself,” about which we were warned fully two decades ago, been more urgent than in this new decade of the 2010s! As the former American diplomat Henry Kissinger summed up our times today, “We live in a world of disorder.” [See: https://ph.news.yahoo.com/henry-kissinger-world-view-1702252362.html.]
In the past months, nature’s rampage — awesomely displayed by the series of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, heavy rains, flooding, drought and other damaging occurrences — has hogged the news. Almost a year ago, the strongest “super typhoon” in mankind’s decades-long recent history (typhoon “Haiyan,” locally renamed “Yolanda”) struck the central Philippine islands in the Visayas region. The heavy toll on human, animal and plant life, man-made structures and private possessions has left many communities still devastated up to now. These and other natural and man-made disasters blast in all of mankind’s face the reality of this threat to “life itself.” And, as many would predict, the worst is yet to come!
Almost two millennia ago, a great Jewish prophet had predicted this reality. Speaking of our times today — these times before His imminent return as He had promised (Matthew 24:3) — Jesus Christ told His disciples: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved…” (Matthew 24:21-22). All “life itself” (human or otherwise) would perish!
A good number of scientists are now saying that the destruction of the earth — as well as the entire universe — by various means is now possible more than ever before!
The History of Christianity concludes the same section thus:
These will be the critical issues that must be embraced within the next chapter of history. They are of such a profound nature as to challenge shallow pragmatisms and to drive men and woman back to asking fundamental questions about purpose and reality. If the Christian Church fails to meet such questions with answers of sufficient depth and conviction, it will have failed at a vital turning-point of human history. [Emphasis mine.]
So, where do we get such “answers of sufficient depth and conviction” as to justify the existence of Christianity itself?
The very reason for human survival
Believe it or not, these answers are found right in the pages of a book which many have read, but also a book which most have misunderstood, perhaps more than any other book. That book is, of course, the Holy Bible. The pitiable scandal of religion today is that the myriad groups that use the same Holy Bible have been woefully divided over what the vital message of that book really is. [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” No Walls, No Ceiling? and Spiritual Dyslexia, and The Great Wall.]
But here is one inescapable fact: Jesus said that the survival of mankind and all of “life itself” — the “shortening” of the critical days (such as we are living in now) which are threatening the decimation of all “life itself” — depends on there being “the elect.” Jesus says, “…but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22).
Who are the elect?
Who are the people that comprise this group called “the elect?” Why are they the key to human survival in these critical last decades — if not years — of human history?
Much as many Bible students would wish the contrary, the Bible says that God has “appointed” (chosen or “elected”) some people for salvation, while others He has appointed for destruction (that is, for now, but for later salvation under different circumstances or “dispensations,” if you please).
The apostle Paul wrote, in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…” Further, in Romans 9:22-24, Paul wrote: “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, that He might make known the riches of His glory in the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”
Paul defended God’s sovereign right to decide which ones to save now and which ones to destroy (but save later, as I will explain) — “that the purpose of God according to election might stand” (Romans 9:11).
Paul compared the people whom God has prepared (elected) for salvation and those prepared (elected) for destruction, to clay vessels or containers made by a Master Potter. Much as man would protest the seeming arbitrariness or “capriciousness” of the Potter, Paul says that it is not man’s call, not man’s will, not man’s power, to decide who God will save and not save at this time. “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him [the Potter] who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay, and from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor” (Romans 9:20-21).
Such is God’s divine sovereignty that none of us, mortal creatures that we are, can question or argue against it. To do so is to pit ourselves against our very Creator — and that to our own undoing. As “frail children of dust,” we humans had better trust in God’s perfect wisdom. And we need to realize — and trust — that our merciful God has every man’s good at heart, although we may not fully understand it now. Paul exclaimed, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out (Romans 11:33)!
Earlier, in Romans 9:14-16, Paul had argued: “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? [Some indeed have accused God of being arbitrary and capricious. Paul replies:] Certainly not! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ So then, it is not of him [that is, of man] who wills, nor of him [of man] who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” [See: The Divine Prerogatives and Of Elections and Appointments.]
God has His own timetable for saving all of mankind. No one will be condemned before one has had his day in God’s court! But that is all in God’s appointed time. Those who survive the great tribulation and the plagues before Christ’s return will have their day during Christ’s 1000-year reign with His glorified saints here on earth (Revelation 5:8-10; 20:4, 6; Isaiah 2:2-4; Zechariah 14:16-19, etc.). The rest of mankind will be resurrected [their first] and will have their day after that 1000-year reign (Revelation 20:5). [See: Predestination and This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]
For those interested in exploring an alternative history of the Church of God which Jesus founded, I invite you to click on this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE , select “Books and Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “A True History of the True Church.”
As in the days of Noah
Jesus said that in the end time — our time today, just before His return — things will be like they were in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37-39). Humankind back then also stood on the brink of annihilation. Because of man’s great evil and wickedness, God destroyed mankind through a “Great Flood.” Were it not for God’s grace — and mercy — on Noah (Genesis 6:8) and his family, the entire human race would long have become extinct! But because of that, we are here today. All of us human beings since the Flood owe our existence to God’s grace on that one man .
For whatever reason only God knows, He chose to save only Noah (with his family) among the possibly millions of human beings then inhabiting this earth. Because of mankind’s extreme wickedness and violence, God had perfectly every reason to destroy all of mankind. But God chose to save the human race (or the human “species”) by preserving Noah and his family.
Likewise, in our time, it is because of God’s grace to a few whom the Bible calls “the elect,” that the human race will survive what has become a world more violent, many times over, than that of Noah’s day. It was still in the 1960s when I first heard the word “overkill” in describing the nations’ combined stockpile of WMDs — weapons of mass destruction. And nations have not stopped building up their WMDs since then! Never has the threat of another world war become more ominous than today!
Besides WMDs, mankind has devised other ways to destroy our planet and life on it: pollution both of our “good earth” and of man’s moral sense resulting in devastation of family life (and, eventually, human society), and deadly diseases. Truly, we live in a time when — were it not for Christ’s timely intervention — no human (let alone other fleshly creatures) would be left alive. Indeed the very survival not just of nations but the entire “created order” and “life itself” is at stake, as never before!
What of the “Christian Church?”
We have seen how “the elect” of God is vital to mankind’s survival. What about the “Christian Church?” Does it comprise all of “the elect?” Does one’s being a member of a “Christian Church” guarantee one’s “election?” We all had better heed Paul’s warning, in 1 Corinthians 10:12: “…Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
Jesus had warned that in these last days “false Christs” and false prophets would arise, deceiving not the few but the many — even, if it were possible, the very “elect” themselves (Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 23-24). [See: The True Christ.]
Because of false prophets who have taught wrong things about Christ, false churches have arisen. Revelation 17:1, 5 speaks about a great false church as “the great harlot” and “mother of harlots” — who, by implication, would thus have her “harlot daughters” as well. [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” ]
The apostles Peter, John, Paul and Jude also warned about false prophets and false brethren infiltrating the Church of God (2 Peter 2; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 Corinthians 11:26; Acts 20:29-31; Jude 4-13, 16-19). [See: Beware of False Prophets.]
The apostle Peter exhorted Church members: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things [which he enumerated in verses 5-9], you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11).
At Christ’s return there will be many who call Jesus “Lord, Lord” who will find themselves excluded from God’s kingdom (Matthew 7:21-23). [See: Is Jesus Your Lord–Really? and “I Never Knew You!”] Not being a part of the true “elect” of God, they will have failed to provide “answers of sufficient depth and conviction” to “fundamental questions about purpose and reality” — about the truth of God’s plan and purpose for man and the reality of the threat to mankind’s and all of creation’s survival.
The “next chapter of history”
When all is said and done, we have the certain assurance that “the next chapter of history” will see the human species survive — and thrive again — when Jesus returns to set up God’s perfect government on this earth. That “next chapter” will be a world filled with peace, prosperity and joy beyond what we can imagine now. It is truly good news! [See: World Peace — At Last!]
For more details about how that new world will play out, click on this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click on ENTER HERE then choose “Books and Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “The Wonderful World Tomorrow — What It Will Be Like” or the book titled Tomorrow — What It Will Be Like.
May that wonderful world come soon — even in our lifetime!
Pedro R. Meléndez Jr.