Chapters in this book will deal with such issues, for the sake of those who need to answer such questions intelligently before they can give any serious consideration to Bible prophecy.
But there is another issue that I will attempt to address here in this present chapter, and that is the loss of credibility on the part of the Christian church itself.
If Christianity possesses the truth, and has this truth spelled out in the Bible, then why are there so many different "Christian" churches with different denominational names? And why do these differ so widely in beliefs and practices? And why have they often been at each other's throats, quite literally, throughout church history? Why isn't there just a single Christian Church, united in belief and practice?
Another problem is that, in those multitudinous "Christian" churches, one sees things going on that even unchurched unbelievers know should not be there. There are scandals involving wealthy television evangelists living in shameless luxury and sexual immorality. There are scandals involving pedophile Roman Catholic priests.
Politically, the history of the churches and nations of Christendom has been tainted with every sort of sin imaginable, from bloodthirsty Crusades to greedy colonialism. Priests accompanied Spanish conquistadors who converted native peoples at the edge of the sword. And church-going people made up the mobs that lynched blacks in the American south.
Could you imagine Jesus behaving that way? Of course not.
Jesus repeatedly extended the invitation to, 'Come, and follow me,' or 'Come, be my follower.' (Matt. 9:9, 19:21, Mark 2:14, 10:21, Luke 5:27, 9:59, 18:22; John 1:43) Are lynch mobs or pedophiles "following" Jesus? Certainly not. He would not behave that way, so people who do behave that way are not following Christ.
Yet, people who engage in such shameful conduct have often claimed to be Christians, even to be acting in Jesus' name. Jesus knew that this would happen, and he explained why in his 'parable of the weeds':
"Jesus told them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his
field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner's servants came to him and said, "Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?" "An enemy did this," he replied. The servants asked him, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?" "No," he answered, "because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn."'" (Matt. 13:24-30 NIV)
What did Jesus mean by this illustration? We don't need to puzzle over it, because he gave the explanation himself, and his disciple Matthew wrote it down:
"Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, 'Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.' He answered, 'The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.'" (Matt. 13:36-43 NIV)
So, Jesus, "the Son of Man," knew that the church organization he planted would soon be overrun with "weeds," even though he had planted good seed. And it would continue that way until "the end of the age" when he would return and set matters straight. Yes, Christ made it very plain that there would be many claiming to be Christians, but who would be anything but true followers of the Messiah:
"Not everyone saying unto me, Lord, Lord, shall