Signs of the Times in the Church

Rev. Kleyn is pastor of Trinity Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.

Several years ago—around eight—there was much “to do” in Reformed writing and circles on the topic of the second coming of Christ. As Y2K approached, there was among the population in general a nervousness. In many Christian circles there was much misunderstanding and fear, and along with this came a torrent of erroneous teaching concerning the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. And we Reformed people responded in our writing, teaching, and witnessing by presenting the biblical teaching on the timing of Christ’s coming, the signs thereof, the nature of Christ’s kingdom, and so on.

But lately, for some reason, we seem to have very little to say about these things. Maybe it was overkill, too much on one topic in such a short time, and we assume now that the Reformed reader understands all these teachings and is watching and ready for the coming of Christ. But could it be, too, that Reformed readers heard that the coming of Christ is not imminent, that He is not coming tomorrow, or next week, or even next year, and so they have adopted a “laid back” approach to the second coming of Christ—”We have time, no need to be too concerned about these things.”

And if that is the case, then are we not guilty, as teachers, of not warning about and watching for the signs? And would not that make our people guilty also of not watching and praying in preparation for the coming of Christ? Life in our world can be very comfortable. The problems of this world can seem quite distant from us, while her luxuries and pleasures are quite accessible, and the result can be that we are swept along with a tide of worldly cares and materialism, that we lose our spiritual sensitivity, become less and less aware of the development of sin, become numbed to the wickedness of our age, and the day of the Lord, or our day of meeting Him, creeps up on us unawares.

“Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (I Thess. 5:6).

We must watch for the signs of the coming of Christ.

The signs to which we should be especially alert are the signs in the church and the signs among the nations, the signs of apostasy, of ecclesiastical union, and of the development of the antichristian kingdom. The believer ought to be watching for these things, reading the press, listening to the news, and watching what is going on in this world in view of the end and the final coming of Christ.

With these things in mind, I quote the following clear and alarming news pieces.

From (October 31, 2007), under the heading “UN Head Reaffirms ‘strong’ collaboration with World Council of Churches,” we have the following:

The United Nations and the World Council of Churches (WCC) have reaffirmed their commitment to collaborate at a meeting between the general secretaries of both organizations held on 29 October at the UN headquarters in New York. 

“As the UN faces the 21st century highlighting the interrelatedness of development, security and human rights, the WCC strongly believes multilateralism is the only way to respond to the challenges of today,” said WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia at the meeting. 

He went on to assure UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon of the WCC’s commitment to the principles and purposes of the UN, while Ban expressed “deep appreciation for the work of the WCC”, saying that the council was a key member of the UN constituency, given its worldwide church representation, the common objectives and the “significant contribution made by the WCC in the areas of democracy and human rights”. 

“It was a good and constructive first meeting as both leaders expressed their desire to continue strong and close collaboration,” said Rev. Christopher Ferguson, WCC representative to the United Nations in New York. 

The meeting took place at the beginning of the WCC’s United Nations Advocacy Week taking place 29 October-2 November at the Church Center to the UN in New York. 

Kobia thanked Ban for the participation of several UN officials who are contributing to the week-long discussions attended by some 80 church leaders, policy and advocacy officers of churches and ecumenical organizations from all over the world. 

In view of the conviction that “religion has a big, positive role to play in the search for global peace and harmony”, the WCC general secretary announced the council’s intention to propose that the UN declare a “Decade of Inter- religious Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace”. 

The proposal would be submitted to the UN together with an international consultative group in the course of the coming year.

A meeting like this demonstrates, on the one hand, the commitment of world church leaders to the purposes of the United Nations in establishing world peace with one world order and, on the other hand, the desire of world leaders to include religious leaders, and especially “Christian” religious leaders, in their efforts. And these are clear steps towards the establishment of the kingdom of Antichrist, which will bring together the nations of the world, with the help of the apostate church, under the godless government of the man of sin.

Meanwhile, the WCC is working hard to promote union between different denominational groups. Again, (October 20, 2007), under the heading “WCC and Pentecostals Continue Ecumenical Dialogue in Switzerland,” we read:

A second round of dialogue between World Council of Churches (WCC) members and Pentecostals was inaugurated last week in Baar, Switzerland.

A group of seventeen Protestant, Orthodox and Pentecostal Christians met to re-launch the work begun by the first Joint Consultative Group between the WCC and Pentecostals from 2000 to 2005. 

In reflecting on the importance of the meeting, Cecil M. Robeck Jr., professor of church history and ecumenics at Fuller Theological Seminary, who returns as the Pentecostal co-moderator of the group, said “this meeting has given us a very good start on the next five years of our work together”. 

Jennifer S. Leath, African Methodist Episcopal Church (USA), who serves as the WCC comoderator of the group, said she hopes that it will “continue to grow in mutual understanding and will not shy away from difficult questions or challenges for unity”. 

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Finnish Pentecostal Mission, presented an overview of Pentecostal bilateral dialogues with the Roman Catholic Church, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and conversations with the Lutheran World Federation. He stressed how this work has “laid the foundation for continuing Pentecostal involvement in the struggle for the unity of the Church of Christ”. 

Harold D. Hunter, International Pentecostal Holiness Church, led a conversation on the “ecclesial gift of charisms”. 

Marina Kolovopoulou, Church of Greece, and Cephas Omenyo, Presbyterian Church of Ghana, led a conversation on the “ecclesial gift of sacraments”. Both topics had been recommended for further discussion by the first group. 

The group will meet again in October 2008.

There are two things in this article that are noteworthy. First, we note the broad church representation included in these discussions, either directly or indirectly. From Roman Catholic, to Pentecostal, to Lutheran, to the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, there is interest in these meetings. American evangelicalism is represented by a Pentecostal professor from Fuller Theological Seminary. Second, of interest are the topics under discussion—charismatic gifts and the sacraments—which indicate a move toward Roman Catholicism and a justification of Pentecostalism.

Meanwhile, under the name “Reformed,” there are also massive ecumenical developments. From (October 23, 2007), under the title “Historic Reformed Church Merger Unites 80 Million Christians,” we read:

The World Alliance of Reformed Churches agreed Monday to unite with the Reformed Ecumenical Council to create a new global Reformed body representing more than 80 million Reformed Christians worldwide. 

Leaders made the historic decision while attending the WARC’s executive committee meeting in Trinidad and Tobago after two days of in-depth discussions on the many aspects of the proposed merger.

“This is truly, truly [an] important moment,” said WARC president Clifton Kirkpatrick after the vote was taken, according to a WARC report. The global church head invited participants of the meeting to join together in singing the doxology after the vote. 

His counterpart, REC president Douwe Visser, also recognized the significance of the time saying it was a “great moment.” 

“I hope we can combine the efforts of these two organizations and have an even broader outreach than WARC and REC have at the moment,” Visser said. 

“I have a feeling this new body will be the voice of the Reformed world,” he added. 

In March, REC’s executive committee approved the idea of a new Reformed body tentatively called the World Reformed Communion. However, WARC on Monday requested more time to consider alternative names for the group. 

WARC is a worldwide fellowship of 75 million Reformed Christians in 214 churches in 107 countries. REC represents 12 million Reformed Christians in 39 churches in 25 countries. Twenty-seven of REC’s churches are also WARC members. 

“This is a historic moment. The Reformed family has demonstrated that we have the ability to engage together in a united fellowship and overcome division and for this we are thankful to God,” WARC general secretary Setri Nyomi said. 

A WARC survey of member churches found that 41 churches [denominations, RK] supported the merger, while 6 churches raised some questions. None of the WARC churches who responded to the survey expressed opposition to the decision. 

The new Reformed body intends to invite movements, agencies and theological institutions of the Reformed movement to become affiliates of the group.

All these are events that ought to prompt the true Reformed believer to remain alert to the signs of the coming of Christ. They clearly point to the coming together of organized religion, including Reformed Christians very close to us (the CRC is part of the REC), in support of the coming earthly reign of the Antichrist.