The Folly of Fleeing
Chapter 9 - "Last Days Church"
By Dene McGriff
It happens all the time. People are living quiet peaceful lives, raising their kids, taking them off to soccer practice, going to work. Suddenly, something happens – a disaster, invasion or economic crash. It has happened time and again through history all over the world. All of Europe, except a few elites, was totally surprised by World War I and so it goes down through history. German Jews refused to believe Mein Kampf, even when Hitler laid out his plans in great detail. People living in relative tranquility in places such as Beirut, once known as the Paris of the Middle East, can suddenly find themselves in the middle of a war zone. Zimbabwe was one of the most productive countries in Africa but was reduced to inflation ridden poverty. Even wealthy Argentina, Brazil and most Latin American countries have at one time or another seen their savings wiped out and their lives turned upside down.
One of my favorite movies, “The 25th Hour” - starring Anthony Quinn - is about a Polish peasant who is caught up in WWII – along with millions of others, not understanding what happened. He was just swept along by the winds of war along with millions of others. Just imagine the tens of millions killed or displaced over the past century in Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Europe, Africa, and Asia. We view these events objectively and find it hard to even comprehend that these are real people dying and losing their loved ones, their savings, their homes, their countries. And it is happening all over the world! We smugly think that could never happen here! (Right?)
Today, power and wealth are shifting from the West to the East. We see the rise of religious fundamentalism and civilization conflicts we thought would be history in this modern age. The threats of world war, nuclear holocaust, terrorism, environmental disaster and economic meltdown hang over our heads but we keep on trucking as if things will go on forever just like they are. A few “chicken littles” sound the alarm – “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” And some pack up their bags and head off to the woods or flee Babylon/America for parts north, south, east and west. But is there an escape? Or better yet, should we even try to escape?
Inflation or war has destroyed the happy lives of normal, every day people again and again. Below is an interactive graph of recent conflicts. This represents tens of millions of lives disrupted.
The Bible is clear that the last days will be marked by deception, wars and natural disasters.
So what do we do escape or stand, flee or have faith that God will use us in the midst of trouble? Few Christians today are prepared to stand and suffer for their Lord. Many evangelicals are convinced there won’t be a problem because they will rapture before the Tribulation begins. A growing minority believe that America is prophetic Babylon and that Christians should flee – move physically out of the country. This article examines these various positions. Which is correct?
We don’t seem to understand that in this day and age, there is really no where to hide if the government wants to find you. Satellites can be programmed to find your heat signature. Cameras are cropping up in cities all over the world. One of the results of 9/11 is that security is heightened around the world. You need ID to travel. Your credit card and ATM cards are easily traced. Your cell phone has a GPS chip allowing them to pinpoint your location. And don’t forget, there is that little matter of the “mark of the beast” when everyone must have on their forehead or hand in order to buy or sell. (Revelation 13:17, 14:8-10) In other words, you can neither hold a job or spend money even if you have it (and money will likely be in an electronic form). Those who think we can flee America to a safe country are delusional. Movement across borders is highly regulated. You can’t just go to another country, get a job and stay there indefinitely without the proper visas.
One ministry some of you are familiar with exhorts their followers:
“Nevertheless, our FAILURE in Canada does not mean that we have given up our effort to get out - and that we have given up our effort to encourage YOU, our brethren in Christ, to get out as well - all in answer to God's holy DICTATE in Revelation 18:4 to "COME OUT OF HER" (i.e., Babylon) - and to do so before you are subsumed in the coming "CHRISTO-FASCIST" government that the Bible predicts will shortly appear in the United States…;
In our view, it is intolerable that REAL Christians can remain suckling at the breasts of the American New World Order System in light of the HORROR it is visiting on the peoples and nations of the earth.”
GOD’S HOLY DICTATE? Give me a break. What would leaving America accomplish? Most can barely afford to live from day to day here. The inconsistency of the exhortation boggles the mind as the author lives off of “Babylonian” retirements and gifts he extorts from the saints by laying a guilt trip on them. Liberation theology is not the new gospel of the kingdom and escapism is not God’s way.
The author takes Revelation 18:4 completely out of context. It is clearly a reference to the rapture at the end of the tribulation and before the judgments known as the Wrath of God and the Lamb. To say that it is a command to flee misses the point. In the world we will have tribulation but He has overcome the world. (John 16:33) Most agree that the prophetic “Church in Laodicea” (Revelation 3:14-22) represents the wealthy church in the West, especially the American church. Rather than write it off completely or tell everyone to get out of America, the passage encourages Laodicean Christians to repent. No matter how bad a church is (lukewarm, wretched, poor, blind and naked) the Lord is standing at the door knocking. So God is not making some ridiculous demand – just the usual: that we repent, open the door and fellowship with Him.
But whether we flee the country or to the wilderness, or rapture, we are missing the point. First, there will be escalating signs; deception, wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes but these are just the beginning of sorrows (birth pains). Then there will be persecution, but what are we told to do? “Stand firm to the end” and “be a testimony to all the nations.” Do you really think you will avoid tribulation in Germany or Canada? We aren’t told to escape to a “hidey hole” and try and make it until the tornado passes. So what should we do?
Daniel did not flee Babylon but overcame even while he was in the King’s court. He was not hurt by lions or fire. His testimony was sure. He was not a coward. Down through the ages, there are very few instances where God’s people are told to flee. The glory to God is when His children stand boldly realizing that any loss in this life will be more than made up by eternal gain.
First and foremost, as Christians we need to realize that saints down through the ages have recognized that we are just passing through this life and that through Jesus we are looking to a heavenly country as Hebrews 11:16 says, “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Many suffered and died knowing they were just passing through.
Second, we need to see that this is the church’s (our) finest moment – to stand as a testimony to the whole world that we have an eternal and present relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no reason to be gripped by fear. We are called to stand and witness those events leading to the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior. What a privilege! What an honor!
Third, we should throw off everything that distracts us from knowing Him, from listening to His voice and learning to do what He says. We are His sheep and we need to recognize His voice and follow Him. (John 10:3-4)
Fourth, we need to realize that God doesn’t want to exalt body parts (arms, legs, fingers), individual Christian super stars, but He wants a corporate expression of people (see Ephesians 1-3) built together in love, expressing His life to the world. We don’t need church buildings, church institutions and programs. We need a real community – relationships with other believers who know Jesus and want to see Him glorified above all even if it costs them their lives.
Now all of that said, the next most important thing for us to realize is that we have time for preparation. So what do we do? Of course we need a living, current relationship with God. But we also need to find Christians and be in a relationship with them as well. As I said in my last article, I don’t see how this could possibly occur within the context of a traditional church (not to say there may be exceptions). Christians will not realize a normal, living, organic relationship with one another within the context of a traditional church. We need far more than just to see each other at the weekly performance. So pray that God will lead you to people so you can begin to experience a normal organic body life. (Please see Frank Viola’s book on Reimagining the Church to see how it can be done.)
We are beginning to see the economic meltdown, the destruction of the economy through inflation and deflation, and the greatest depression which will wipe out many of our middle and lower middle classes (not to say that the upper classes will be immune). Unemployment will soar. People will be hard pressed to keep their homes. (Please see some of the many articles on the economy on our website.) There will be a tendency to get even deeper in debt – already upside down on their homes and maybe even auto loans, they will resort to credit cards to make up the difference. It will be impossible for most to dig out of debt. Once paper currency around the world fails, a new and “improved” electronic currency will be introduced (which may include a little “mark” instead of a plastic card). It will eliminate counterfeiting, stealing, etc. So above all, cut expenses now, get completely out of debt and learn to live within your means. Unlike the 1930s, there is no family farm to retreat to. If the transportation system fails, millions will starve.
Consider growing a garden – as in fruit and nut trees, home gardens, chickens and small farm animals. Read about organic gardening (you won’t be able to buy chemical fertilizers and pesticides anyway). Some may have a small farm or several may settle in a small town and form their own little community. Make sure it’s paid for. Remember, you won’t be able to buy or sell. There is nothing wrong with learning to be self sufficient, but don’t start setting up “fields of fire” to defend and keep people off your land. The reason to do these things is so we can be an effective witness, not escape persecution. That will come and when it does, hope you aren’t standing alone but with brothers and sisters in Christ so that corporately people will see Jesus in you all.
I personally believe that very few people will voluntarily leave their churches until a couple of things happen: the apostasy will become obvious, the “Church” (the institution) will ask you to leave or people will be forced together with several families living in one house. If you can move into smaller communities or neighborhoods together right now, that is more proactive than being forced to later. One way or another we will rediscover the organic church life and leave the artificiality of the “Church”.
But most importantly, learn to listen to the still small voice of the Lord both individually and collectively. Learn to trust the corporate wisdom of believers you have been drawn together with. Pray and seek His guidance. Enjoy one another. Draw life and strength from one another as the love of the Lord flows among you. Rejoice in the Lord and know that your salvation draws near. I’m not trying to minimize what we are told will be the greatest tribulation in history, but I am saying that the Lord will give us the strength to overcome and a gloriously heavenly relationship with one another as a shining corporate testimony.
Jesus reminds his disciples, "A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:10) Is our expectation to pay off our house, build up our retirement and live well until we die? Or as the apostle Paul declares, “18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us… 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:18, 35)
Persecution and suffering have been the lot of Christians down through history. Why would we not rejoice with Paul? We are His testimony! We are His handiwork! And the Jews, as stiff-necked as they may be, are His handiwork, in their own special way. God didn’t pick either group because of our attributes or inherent goodness, but out of His mercy He chose us. We are called to be witnesses, to testify and to be a testimony. The root word of “witness”, “testify” and “testimony” is “marturiva” or “marturia” in Greek, meaning “martyr”. It is used 33 times in the New Testament and 8 times in Revelation.
Let’s go back and look at the verses that use the word “testimony” in Revelation:
Brothers and sisters, do you see it? We are His testimony! We are His witness! We are those who will be called to die for that testimony, those crying out from the altar, those who “overcome by the blood of the lamb, the word of their testimony and do not love their lives to death.” And when we come to the end of the book it declares, “4And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:4) Truly, the sufferings of this present time are nothing compared to the glory before us. God will give us grace to endure whatever sufferings we may have to go through.
During the past two thousand years, God has been working on His testimony – His earthly and His heavenly peoples. He also has a score to settle with His arch enemy, Satan. Satan has had free reign on the earth to tempt, thwart and corrupt God’s work. We, the people, have had the opportunity to choose who we will serve. The day of reckoning is fast approaching. In Revelation 11:3, “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty day”, they prophesy for three and a half years. The two witnesses testify boldly and are even empowered to protect themselves. At the end of that time frame, the beast comes out of the pit and tries to do stop them. “7When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.” (Rev. 11:7)
As I mentioned before, you don’t need to “make war” against Moses and Elijah. ”Make war” refers to an all out military campaign, a world war against the people who comprise the two witnesses. Please note again that we become the object of Satan’s wrath (not God’s). This is as it has been from the beginning. Satan is the one who hates and destroys. God is the one who loves and nurtures His people.
But with God, even death is just a temporary setback. Even though they are killed, God brings them to life. “11Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12And they[e] heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.” (Rev. 11:11-12) So after the second three and a half year period (three-and-one-half days), they come to life, and a voice from heaven says, “Come up here” and that’s the seventh trumpet, the rapture and the Second Coming of Jesus followed by the judgment and the wrath. (Revelation 16-20).
The tribulation gives unrepentant man seven more years to change their minds. After listening to and seeing the two witnesses, they have no excuse. Yet many harden their hearts, and minds. God is then fully justified in pouring out His wrath and final judgment.
We should be clear on the chronology, the purpose of the tribulation and the two witnesses. Saints down through time and in the last days can be overcomers if they allow the overcoming life to work within them. God deals with each one of us individually. We have an “equal opportunity” God who gives to all freely if they will receive. His life-giving Spirit is available to every born again Christian. The interesting thing is that at the end of the day there will be overcomers in many different situations, different “churches” (from the institutional point of view), locations and walks of life. When the wheat and the chaff - the sheep and goats - are separated, I’m sure we will be quite surprised who ends up on one side or another. Only God can judge our hearts and He will.
Any suggestion that there is a “magic bullet”, a special formula, special treatment or any such thing is not the way God works. He deals with us individually – “We work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) The idea that fleeing America (Babylon) will save us is absurd. God is not so capricious to condemn every Christian in America because of their geographic location – where our body resides, but God does care where the heart is. I will agree with the “fleeing advocates” on one issue. We are in the epicenter of deception. That is why just about everything I write has to do with the issues of deception and apostasy because there is absolutely no doubt that there is a falling away in the churches and deception is rampant. This is a spiritual issue.
It will be very difficult (although not impossible) for a person who is heavily invested in their institutional Church and America as a chosen nation to escape deception. It will take a real inward revelation from God. Fleeing and escapism are folly, but standing all alone is not very smart either. Christians are afraid of getting too close to one another. They are afraid to leave the safety of their “church” even though they realize they’re staying there at their own peril.
We need to let the love of Christ draw us together with other Christians and begin to experience a daily organic church life (apart from buildings, leaders and programs). A living community of Christians will provide the protection we need from the world and apostate religious systems.
Dene McGriff, August, 2008