..A Magazine for all Christians · Nº 19 · January - February 2003
We could, perhaps, be the last generation of this era. What is our responsibility as the most privileged generation, by the quantity of accumulated historical revelation, and by the proximity of the return of the Lord?
Perhaps the Last Generation
If we observe the history of the church, we realize that it is a liner history, not a recurrent or circular history. This is, because God’s purposes do not go in circles, but a clear and sustained purpose or direction form a beginning to an end.
God’s purposes span the eternal past on into the eternal future; having a common thread through it all, which is an achievement of a purpose: that Jesus Christ should have preeminence in all things. This is the goal of all history. As it says in Colossians, Christ is all and is in all. Christ, His exaltation and His glory are the center of all of God’s attention and are the sum and the end all history.
Bible students seem to all have a general agreement when defining dispensations of time and of church history–and also in recognizing certain smaller stages inside those dispensations–for example, the stages in the church’s history represented in the churches of Revelation. However, on this occasion we won't speak about either of these, but rather, of some even smaller periods–the generations.
What is a generation? A generation is made up simply of men and women that share the same time and therefore share common experiences –and responsibilities.
Each generation has a mission. Each generation has a purpose according to God’s economy, and that specific purpose is to help in the final attainment of God’s eternal purpose. Each generation has the specific responsibility of recovering some aspect of God’s revelation, so that at the end of time, in the consummation of all things, the church is under conditions of participating in the final events in a decisive manner.
Two classes of generations
The responsibility of each generation is immense. It cannot repeat what the previous generation did. If this were possible, it would be enough to take the experience of the previous generation and to reproduce it. However, this is not the case. Rather, it requires us to listen very attentively that we may know what it is that God is saying to our generation in particular, and what the particular vision is for the time. Not all generations have collaborated with the development of God’s purpose. There are have been generations of faith and there have been generations of unbelief.
We observe great changes from one generation to another through out history. In the Bible, we find for example that Joshua's generation was a generation of faith, but the next generation was not (Judges 2:10-13). This next generation fell into tremendous apostasy. David’s generation was also a faithful generation, but the following generations were not. After Salomon's sin, Rehoboam reaped the spiting up of the of the Kingdom, and apostasy once again. (1 Kings 12)
Through out the church’s history something similar seems to happen. The church’s witness in the second century, are very pale compared to those of the first century. Later, on in history we find Luther to be part of a generation of faith, but the following generation didn't inherit that same faith. They preserved and studied Luther’s writings, but they didn’t know Luther’s God. It no longer interested them to know God’s will for themselves in particular, but only to correctly interpret what Luther wrote.
God is limited by man
Therefore, each successive generation cannot always collaborate with God’s purpose, despite the fact they may have lived right after a faithful generation. What’s more, in the generations spiritual decay, God’s purpose suffers damage and He has to wait for another generation of men that are willing to collaborate with Him so that His purpose can continue to advance through time.
Therefore, why is God’s glory many times lost so quickly from one generation to the next? Is God not able to make it last? What occurs is that God acts on the earth through limited mankind, therefore when it comes to generations, it is through the duration of the life of man. How long does a man live? Generally 70 or 80 years; but man's useful life doesn't last more than forty or fifty years. So God is limited by men’s years that are also the approximate span of life for a generation.
The faith that reaches a generation doesn't follow the natural laws of inheritance. Each generation should have its own faith, and travel its respective path. Each person should experience a personal encounter with God; and each generation should also receive a specific vision of God’s purpose for them. Each generation must open itself to the heavens and have their eyes cleared up that they may be able to see what God desires for them. If this were not the case, the testimony of one faithful generation could transform itself into a sterile copy in the next generation copy. The river of God would end up being a mere pool of stagnant water in their hearts. Everything becomes an empty mould, a wineskin without wine, a shadow without substance, a mere human tradition. None of these things are of any value to God.
What type of generation are we?
The matter that we want to arrive at is this: What about us? What type of generation are we? There are generations and then there are generations. Just as there are faithful generations, in which some form of God’s purpose or further revelation of Jesus Christ is added, there are also other generations that consist mostly of deterioration. A faithful generation is one that has vision. A decaying generation is one that doesn't have vision. A faithful generation is one that really knows God. A generation in decline has only heard of knowing God.
We who live on the thresholds of the XX and XXI centuries, are we a generation that knows the Lord and that has seen His works-- and better stated, that knows His ways-- Or are we a contumacious and rebellious generation, “Whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.” (Psalm 78:8)? Or are we a lying generation that burn with lust among the oaks and under every spreading tree? (Isaiah 57:4-5) Or are we an indifferent generation, indifferent to the flute and the dirge and we make our senses numb, much like the generation during the Lord Jesus' days on earth. (Matthew 11:16-17).
The Lord Jesus' generation was so depraved that they didn't see the glory that was hid behind the veil of that Galilean Man. They only saw Joseph's son, the carpenter. Because their corrupt and perverse eyes could not see beyond the superficial. That “wicked and adulterous” generation requested signs and miracles, “but none will be given it” the Lord told them, “except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Who could see that sign? It was veiled from them. They could look at the external things, the aspect of the sky–when it will rain or when it will be hot–but they could not recognize the signs of the times, that is, that Christ was before their very eyes.
The Greek word that is translated as a “sign” is something that is seemingly insignificant but that has deeper meaning beyond its appearance. This is the case here. The wicked and adulteress generation could see things as an “aspect” (as something external), but not as a “sign” (with a spiritual meaning). When the Lord showed them the prophet Jonah’s sign, that is to say, His death, His descent inside the earth and His resurrection, they could not see it. They knew how to distinguish the aspect of the sky, but not the signs of the times.
What type of generation are we? We cannot adopt a deterministic posture and say: “Oh, we were at one time in a better condition, but now look at us.” That would be fatalism! Nor can we say: “If we had this or that, then we would be able to be a generation that collaborates with God” That would be unbelief!
Let us not ask: “What generation are we destined to be?” (As if we were a toy in the hands of some inevitable destiny), but rather, “what generation are we willing to be?”
We will be the generation that we are ‘willing’ to be. We have two paths before us: will we live for God or will we live for ourselves. To live for God means to serve God’s purpose for this generation. To live for ourselves would mean to be alone, withered, to be frustrated. It would also mean the greatest loss for God who has invested so much time and patience in us.
If we fail we will not be able to blame anyone but ourselves. We won't be able to accuse those who preceded us, for giving a bad example. No! Because we know God and we are responsible for what we will be. The great problem, the great cause of our failure, is none other than ourselves. The main enemy of God’s work is my own unrepentant heart; this is the emperor that has his throne in my heart. This is my own Pope –Luther said–, “myself.” Let us not think that there were more favorable circumstances in the past in which to serve to God. We don't depend on the circumstances, because “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” (Rom. 8:28), and “time and chance happen to them all.” (Eccl. 9:11b). It is not my circumstance that needs to change, but myself. We have to rob the “I” of its throne, to ignore its rights, do violence to the tyrant that claims everything for itself. This is a work that neither God nor anybody will do for me.
We are, perhaps, the last generation of this era. The fig tree – that is, Israel–is already sprouting. The summer is ending. The generation that is a witness to this, could very well be the last one. (Matthew 24:32-34)
We have the best conditions
If we look back over time we see the legacy of whose who preceded us. How much experience has been accumulated over time, what abundant revelation, how many lessons; but also how many errors, how much “over-emphasis”, how much distortion. Because of this accumulated experience and the proximity of the Coming of the Lord, our position, as a generation, is unique and privileged.
When looking back we see times of distortion, great periods in which the children of God had the wineskin without any wine or they had the wine without the wineskin. Today, we are in much better conditions. We have the wineskin and we also have the wine. We are not in the sterility of merely a doctrinal knowledge, nor exposed to the wastage of the wine of the Spirit. We have the new wineskin (the church as a body) that can efficiently contain the glory of God’s revelation through the Spirit. By this means there should be no loss. (Matthew 9:17)
We are in the best of positions with the greatest opportunities to serve to God. We know Christ; we know His church: we have limitless learning possibilities and potential for service. The whole revelation flow that comes to us from the past can be ours by the Holy Spirit. But if, on the other hand, our heart is obstinate and vainglorious, we will only perceive the moulds, the methods and the systems, and we won't receive the abundance of life that comes to us from the past.
All that we have seen and lived up to now is nothing less than a preparation for all the things that are coming and yet to come, as we have pointed out. God is looking for people with which to carry out all these glorious things, and for a people with which to reign. God is subjecting them to a strong training to make them participants in these events. The training is sometimes hard, and some have been rejected. The first thing that must be learned is to deny oneself. When one loves himself, they cannot be approved by God. The second is to learn how to live the life of the body (the church), with all its lessons and restrictions. If one doesn't learn these basics, there is no future potential. Those that have been rejected have demonstrated that they were not willing to accept these basics.
Let us think of the preparation of a prince that is dedicated to an earthly throne. He has the best teachers, is subjected to the richest experiences, their preparation is rigorous, because a king cannot fail. Can our preparation, which the Holy Spirit carries out every day, be any less? What is the Holy Spirit doing in us? He is producing a character of princes and rulers, the King of king’s character in us for a future time. These long years of sufferings and of preparation have not been in vain. Does the loving discipline that is exercised in the church not pursue this same end? Is God’s attentive preparation not so that we can participate in His glory tomorrow?
This is our stage
As with everything, although we may be the last generation, for God and His eternal purpose, we are only another generation. If we fail, it will be our failure, not that of God. If we fail, He still has more options, perhaps another generation, or other men among which He can find what He looks for. On the other hand, for us this it is a matter of life or death. We have only one life. (Heb 9:27). In our frailty and smallness, a single stage corresponds to us in this great purpose of God. For God, this is only one stage (even though it may be the last one), but for us it is our entire race. So, press on, Christian, this is your day! While you press on in life, this it is the day of your race!
There remains but a little, very little time. There is no time to lose. The night is advanced, the day comes ever closer. We are already concluding the fourth watch of the night. The voyage sometimes becomes troublesome, the wind is against us. The water threatens to flood us. But, look! The Lord comes closer, and he tells us: “Take courage, it is I.” (Mark 6:46-51)
Will we continue lamenting our past defeats? Or thinking that God has discarded us? The woman of Manoah told her husband: “If the Lord had meant to kills us, he would not have… shown us all these things or now told us this.” (Judges13:22-23). Nor would God have shown His glory to us. He would not be telling us that He has a purpose with which we can collaborate. God doesn't laugh at His children. He doesn't encourage us, and then just turn and leave us abandoned along the way.
We have to make preparations. We have to establish a new order in our life’s priorities. We must cleanse ourselves of all the things that are opposed to Christ, so that He can express His glory through us, so that through us He advances a little more in the culmination of His eternal purpose, in what concerns this generation.
We are, perhaps, the last generation. May the Lord open our eyes to fully consider what this means. Amen.