Dear Wake Up Family:
Occasionally, we answer the phone and talk with someone who is excited because they learned a new idea about Bible prophecy. They comment, “I am going to see what my pastor has to say about this.” Pastors have a God-given role in presenting His Word, caring for people’s needs, and serving as God’s representatives to His people. Within this role, pastors often become arbiters, determining the truth or falsehood of biblical concepts. They evaluate the idea through a lens of their biblical training and previous experiences, the potential effect it may have on their followers, and their church doctrines. We rarely receive a second call from someone who shared information with their spiritual leader.
I assume the pastor, as an arbiter, has rejected this new idea. The prophetic understanding that we share is often at variance with church doctrine. Typically, churches begin with a group of like-minded people who share a common understanding. Over time, the church addresses conflicts in understanding and develops a structured set of beliefs that transforms into doctrine. The early Christian church illustrated this process when Jesus’ followers began sharing the message that Jesus was divine, was sinless, died on the cross, rose after three days, and ascended to heaven. The converted Jews shared ethnicity and common beliefs in Jesus and Jewish traditions. However, after Paul introduced the gospel to the Gentiles, the early Christian church had to settle variances between Gentile and Jewish traditions in circumcision and food laws (Acts 15). Early Christians began to settle on a set of beliefs during the first century, and by the second century, Roman Christians were converting these beliefs into doctrines. Nearly every Christian denomination today has formalized doctrines to document the belief system of their congregants. Doctrines provide churches with a simple method for demarcation between followers and dissenters. When a new idea conflicts with church doctrine or traditions, it is rejected.
When God decides to reveal progressive truth to His people, He must take extraordinary steps to ensure the message will survive the barriers of organized religion. God’s first method is to give his message to truth-seekers who humbly listen to the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, many religious leaders are unwilling to consider ideas outside their doctrinal paradigm because they are often unwilling to risk their livelihoods by approving a conflicting position. If denominationalism prevents leaders from accepting the progression of truth, historically, God has chosen individuals rather than churches to share His message. The second method God will use is to tear down church barriers by tearing down churches when the Great Tribulation begins. Many good-hearted people would rather cling to their religion than embrace God’s advancing truth. The great earthquake and the physical disasters of the first four trumpets (Revelation 8:5–12) will display the inability of organized denominations, whose leaders claim to be God’s messengers, to do anything to make the natural disasters cease. When all religions are exposed, a huge obstacle preventing the sharing of God’s truth will be removed. God will use His messengers (the 144,000) to share the information denominations are unwilling to share.
God’s ways are not our ways. The Bible gives many examples of when God used individuals to share new light when church leaders rejected it. God revealed the time Jesus would be born to the wise men from the East (Matthew 2:1–2), not the religious leaders of the day. Although Jesus amazed the priests and indicated his divinity in the temple at 12 years of age (Luke 2:41–50), they did not consider the importance of His words. When Jesus began His ministry, he gave the 12 disciples new light because he knew religious leaders would not accept his message (Mark 11:27–12:17). After the Sanhedrin rejected the gospel (Acts 7:54–58), God chose Paul to take the gospel to Jews and the Gentiles (Acts 13:46–47).
As time passes, God reveals more truth to those who listen to His voice and are willing to share what they have learned. His humble subjects, whether individuals, church members, or church leaders, need always to be open and ready to share the continuing progression of truth. It should not surprise us if God unveils new information about his purposes and plans through unexpected sources. Unfortunately, we must be careful because the devil may also attempt to distort or obscure new light or present heresies as truth. The Holy Spirit will help us to determine the truth or falsehood of a message if we are humble and open to the Spirit’s guidance.
We have an example of what we should do if we hear a new message. Acts 17:11 states, “And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” The Bereans did not wait to learn what their religious leaders said about the gospel message. Instead, they studied to see if the new light was in harmony with the Bible and what the Holy Spirit revealed.