The Time has not yet Come!
Why America is Experiencing Judgment
The startling answer comes from the 2500 year old but very up to date book of Haggai the prophet.God had commanded the people of Haggai's day to complete the Temple for Him, but they were saying, "The time has not yet come for the Lord's house to be built" (Haggai 1:2).
Is this challenge hurled at God by His people in Haggai's time the same one we are issuing Him today? What was His response to them? What will it be to us?
Are we experiencing the same devastating judgement that they were? How much worse will it get?
To fully comprehend the answer we must look into the recent background.
God Awakens Thomas Wang!
In 1987 Thomas Wang was appointed the new International Director of The Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization. God had mightily used the 1974 Lausanne Congress called by Billy Graham in Lausanne, Switzerland to give evangelical mission agencies a new direction and motivation. The challenge of the remaining unreached peoples was set forth by Ralph Winter and others and a new surge had begun.
Now a new director had been chosen to give direction to the leading movement in world evangelization, which had plans for a new Lausanne Congress, Lausanne II, to be held possibly in 1989. What would God say to Thomas?
Only a few mornings after Thomas had been appointed, he tells how God had awakened him in the middle of the night and would not let him get back to sleep. As Thomas listened to him, the Lord began to bring to his mind all the major mission agencies that had begun to focus on finishing the Great Commission by the year 2000!
God made it clear to Thomas Wang that He was behind this, that He wanted this job finished by the year 2000. Thomas was so moved that he began to write that very morning and soon published an article called "By The Year 2000," published in the Lausanne magazine, World Evangelism, and then immediately in the May, 1987 issue of Mission Frontiers magazine.
He reported these things to the predominantly Western leadership of the Lausanne Committee hoping to make this the theme for Lausanne II. Unfortunately they did not accept it, but made the theme, "Proclaim Christ Until He Comes."
Like the people so long ago in Haggai's day the church in the West was saying, "The Time Has Not Yet Come."
Why God Was Angry With Haggai's People
The people to whom Haggai was sent to prophesy were the Israelites who had returned from Babylon in 538 B.C. with one specific mission: to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. King Cyrus of Persia whom God raised up for this purpose supplied them with all the resources they needed to rebuild it.
They began well and within two years had laid the foundation. Then they experienced some challenges and they stopped building for sixteen years. But when God sent Haggai to call them to obedience, their response to God was, "The time has not yet come for the Lord's house to be built."
The Lord's question to them through the prophet was "right on the money." He thunders back to them, "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?" (Haggai 1:4).
They had actually taken all the resources given by God through Cyrus for the rebuilding of the temple and used them on themselves. No sense in letting perfectly good resources go to waste! Why not panel my house?
God's response was to totally devastate their economy. Through Haggai the Lord says, "Give careful thought to your ways. You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?" declares the Lord Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.
"Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands" (Haggai 1:7-11).
They were in a desperate economic situation and they knew it. Amazingly, they repented. I say amazingly because Haggai and Zechariah, who prophesied together to the exiles, were the only written prophets that were obeyed by Israel. The rest were scoffed at.
God removed the drought and economic malaise and blessed them. And they used the blessing to complete the temple in four years. They all gathered with joy and expectancy for the dedication day, for Haggai had prophesied something spectacular: "The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house, says the Lord Almighty" (Haggai 2:9).
They prayed and offered sacrifices, however, and waited for fire to fall from heaven to consume the sacrifices. They waited for the glory cloud to fill the temple as happened at both the Tabernacle which Moses built and the Temple which Solomon built, but it never happened (Ezra 6:15-18).
Haggai: The False Prophet?
Haggai was hardly a false prophet. His prophecy boldly catapults the concept of the Temple out of the narrow confines of the Old Testament physical Temple to the New Testament spiritual Temple made up of redeemed saints. This is God's New Testament fulfillment of the Old Testament example of the physical Temple.
Paul makes this concept very clear as he writes to the Gentile Ephesians, "You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:19-21; see also 1 Cor 3:16, 2 Cor 6:16, Heb. 3:6, and 1 Pet. 2:5).
The Apostle Paul makes clear that Christ's people are to be involved in building this Temple of God (1 Cor 3:10-17).
The Apostle Peter makes it clear that this Temple is being made up from living stones from around the world (1 Peter 2:5).
Missiologists identify about 24,000 different peoples in the world today. Living stones from about 13,000 of these peoples are in place in this Temple. Stones from about 11,000 groups are not. No missionary has yet caused Christ's church to be planted among these 11,000 groups.
These are groups like the 1 million Maranao of the Philippines, the 20 million Kurds of the Middle East, the 4 million Baluchi of Pakistan, and more. Altogether these groups make up 2.1 billion people, with about 50,000 daily going to a Christless eternity.
Like the people of Haggai's day, evangelicals in the United States have all the resources needed to finish this Temple. In fact, US evangelicals have 100 times the needed resources to finish this Temple. U.S. evangelicals earn about $800 billion in after taxes income. We give about $2 billion to missions or about 1/4 of 1%.
Like Haggai's people, we had laid a good foundation decades ago but now our participation is only token, kept up by a few godly saints.
Now out of every $100 Jesus gives us to use we give him 25 cents for his highest priority. Moreover, out of this 25 cents, only about 1 cent goes toward missionaries working with the above mentioned Unreached Peoples. Amazingly, American evangelicals spend $8 billion alone on weight reduction programs. What a tragic commentary on our values.
If God was angry at Israel in Haggai's time for not completing the Temple made of stone, how much more is He angry with us for letting 50,000 a day perish without Christ when we now have the means to prevent it.
God's Judgment On America
If God called for a drought and devastation of their economy, will He not do the same to us? In fact, we are in the worst recession in 10 years and in our sixth year of drought in California (which has affected food prices nationwide). Unless we repent and open our hearts to the Unreached Peoples who are without God and without hope (Eph. 2:12), droughts and recessions will turn into famines and depressions. In the midst of this, however, God will preserve those that seriously support missions.
This has been a very difficult two years for me, personally, in that God has led me to pray for continued California drought and recession for our economy--even as Elijah prayed earnestly for a drought and resulting devastation of their economy. He did this because he loved Israel enough to want to see her corrected.
Our nation is on the verge of social, economic, political, and moral collapse. Only a serious turn by evangelicals to obey His commission to disciple all the peoples will allow Him in justice and mercy to restore sound thinking to our leaders. As it is, we have deprived 11,000 unreached groups of salvation and spiritual health. Why should God bless our country?
After Thomas Wang left the Lausanne Movement he joined forces with Luis Bush, another prominent Third World Leader. Together they have rallied many other third world leaders to form the AD 2000 movement which has adopted as its watchword, "A church for every people and the Gospel for every person by the year 2000"!
They are saying along with many other movements that the time has come to finish the temple even by the year 2000! Will the American church respond? The Non-Western church is. They have gone from 39,000 missionaries to 49,000 in just two years according to Larry Pate. In fact, mission researchers recognize more and more that God is transferring His mandate to disciple all peoples to the non-western nations of Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
Haggai's Prophecy Fulfilled
The Temple Haggai was ultimately referring to was spiritual, but when does the Glory of the Lord finally fill it? Of course each believer already has God's Spirit dwelling in Him. But Haggai is talking about the spectacular filling of the whole Temple.
Haggai 2:6,7 gives the staggering answer: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the Lord Almighty."
The word nations in the passage refers not to countries but to the peoples like the Maranao, Kurds, Baluchi, and others. This passage so clearly states that as all the Unreached Peoples are finally reached, the Desired Of All Nations will come and fill His temple with His transcendent glory. Most all Bible scholars over the centuries have clearly said the Desired Of All Nations refers to Christ.
Does this mean that the Lord will return in the year 2000? Wouldn't it be great!!! However, the church of Christ around the world would first have to respond with sufficient love for Christ and resources to fully reach all peoples by the year 2000! This is still very possible.
Secondly, to know the exact year would be difficult. He could return in 1999, 2000, 2001. But when we finish this job (and He will make the exact determination), He has promised in Haggai 2:7 and Matthew 24:14 that Christ will return in power and great glory and fill his Temple. The time has come! Let's arise and build the Temple and joyfully expect Him to fill it!