Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah… And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17a, 18-19NIV)
Seventy years ago, U.S. Major General George S. Patton’s 3rd Army had Adolph Hitler’s forces in full retreat. Patton wanted to enter Berlin’s swastika-covered gates and personally crush the serpent’s head.
Arguments and questions plaguing modern Christianity would all be settled if the faithful re-adopted Jesus’ assertive definition for “Church”. Compare the accepted understanding of “Church” with the Lord’s description in Matthew 16:18. The brick and mortar church resembles a fortress while Satan’s army has long been storming the gates.
How and when did the Church accept its false identity of passivity? Credit Constantine the Great (272 A.D.-337 A.D.). As Rome’s Emperor, Constantine bore the title of Pontifex Maximus (head of the pagan priesthood). In the Edict of Milan (313 A.D.), he decreed tolerance for Christians throughout his empire. Afterward, he set about making his new religion resemble the old.
At the end of this age, churches that maintain pre-4th century traditions will eventually succumb and return to their pagan roots. It is not a matter of reforming the Church, Biblical transformation of the Church is what’s needed. Like an army is to peace, so the Church is to the Millennium. It has always been a means to an end, specifically, the 1000-year reign of Christ.
Where there is great persecution, our brothers and sisters are at war. How many of the afflicted saints wonder when Western believers will rise from their padded pews and fall in at their side? What is needed is transformational leadership such as what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave to the American Civil Rights Movement or General Patton offered to those under his command in World War II.
If Patton was around to address Christ’s followers today, he might say, “Men, we are engaged in a battle we will win! Some of you boys I know are wondering whether or not you will chicken out under fire. Don’t worry about it. I can assure you that you will all do your duty. Your struggles will test you as a man. War, the supreme struggle, will provide you with your highest test. Do not forget who you are fighting and what you’re fighting for.
“I want you to also remember this: I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. Let the enemy do that. We will be advancing constantly. We’re not interested in holding anything except his throat. We don’t take defensive positions. No defensive position has ever been successfully held against a determined foe. We will advance, advance, and advance. When in doubt–we’ll advance some more.
“Now there’s one thing you men will be able to say when you get to the next age–and you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now and you’re sitting around your fireside with a grandson on your knee
and he asks you what did you do in the great World War, you won’t have to say, ‘Well, I shoveled manure far from the battlefield.’ You will proudly say that you fought in the Great War among the bravest of the brave. And that you played a part in throwing Satan into the abyss so your grandson’s grand-kids can live in peace.
“And, oh, yes. I feel privileged to lead you men in battle, anytime and anywhere. That’s all.” “Dismissed!”
The Church militant will be the Church triumphant. Altering a quote of the World War I, General John J. Pershing, it might be said, “It didn’t hurt that the Church had so bold a leader, as to be dangerous to the devil.”