Last night I got to drop in on the FSM class Q&A that goes along with the Saturday night EGS. Normally I am unavailable at that time, but this week I was actually able to go. Because I’m a teaching assistant for the Friday night class, I get to drop in on the Saturday session whenever I’m available. It’s a great time of learning; the students write down questions about the book of Revelation and the End Times to be answered by the class facilitators (who I will come to in a minute).
Anyway, I was in the class, and one student submitted a question that went something like this: “What about the poor and totally oppressed people in the earth who haven’t heard about Jesus? Will they be spared the judgments, or will they perish?”
Now here’s the best part. The people facilitating the class were Stuart Greaves and Shelley Hundley.
If you’re around IHOP-KC, you already know why this is so great. For those of you who may not be familiar with these folks, let me give you a brief summary: Stuart teaches a class called “Theology of Social Justice”. Shelley has taught a class called “The Heart of the Judge”. Both of them have spent a significant amount of time living in poor countries. Both of them have a lot to say about God’s justice as it relates to the poor and suffering. And to them, it’s more than just theological banter. They’ve seen it and lived it. Which is why, upon hearing the question, they both read it again, in unison, out loud, and offered each other the first shot at answering it. I wasn’t sure what would come out of it, but I knew it would be really good.
Shelley ended up answering first. I’ve heard her give this answer before, but because of some recent prayer focuses and giving intiatives here at IHOP, it really struck me. “Actually, I think the poor of the earth are set up in a big way to follow the Antichrist.”
There are many reasons why she says this, which are beyond my scope to develop now. One huge reason, though, is a simple one. The Antichrist is going to control the world’s resources, and he will have a very specific way of controlling who gets ahold of those resources. It’s called the mark of the beast (Rev 13). Economic privileges are given to those who will declare loyalty to him. In tumultuous times when the earth is reeling from the judgments of God, there will be one man who is offering a way to procure the necessities of life, and many will consider that good enough to sell their soul.
I was immediately struck by how dirty of a tactic this was. It made me angry. It’s just like the devil to find the poor, the weakest, the most depserate, and then extort them and prey upon them. The Lord has compassion on the poor and raises them out of the ashes. Satan targets them and manipulates their desperation for his own wicked purposes.
This reinforced within me one more reason why God cares so much about the poor of the earth. If we don’t reach them with real hope and real substance — say, a real Kingdom that’s coming to the earth that will bring restitution for every injustice suffered — they will only have one other “logical” recourse. If we don’t give sacrificially, now and in the time of tribulation, if we neglect “the least of these”, then they will turn to the charismatic leader who is willing to exchange food for worship. If we can’t give the poor real hope for their eternity (in addition to giving them aid now), the only sensible thing for them to do is to go with whoever can promise them the most comfortable life in the immediate sense. And in the final 3.5 years of this age, that’s a mistake that will sear their conscience and cost them their souls.
God really cares about the poor. So should we. There is a real war over their souls and the church needs to be not only a supplier of their needs, but a crystal clear voice. We need to be contending in prayer that the Lord would “guard [them] from the evil one” (2Thes 3:1-5). God cares greatly about meeting their physical needs, but still He is far more concerned that they be delivered from the power of darkness. We need to become messengers of the Gospel, those who live out the Sermon on the Mount and who have clarity on what it means that God has come to give us salvation. He saves us from our sins, yes, but more than that, He grants us access into His Kingdom which really will come to earth and make all things right. We need to get God’s heart for the poor, which is not that of a sentimental humanitarian. It’s that of a God whose heart yearns and breaks for the poor of the earth, and who is unwaveringly just in His judgments upon the earth and the Antichrist’s kingdom. The Gospel is good news to the poor, so long as the poor do not make themselves God’s enemies. Which is why we must pray, serve, and become messengers, starting now.