TWO DIFFERENT THEOLOGICAL TEACHINGS OF RECENT TIMES
In recent times, the study of biblical truths, the so-called theology, has produced different kinds of teachings. One theology, which became accepted after the Reformation, was nearly heretical. It acknowledged the Bible, it acknowledged God, and it also acknowledged that the Lord Jesus was the Son of God who became a man, that He died on the cross for sinners, that He was resurrected from the dead, and that He ascended to heaven. However, concerning His second coming, its teaching was incorrect. This school of theology taught that human society will gradually improve due to the influence of the gospel and the teaching of the truth, and that one day, a “utopia” will appear, which will be the millennial kingdom. However, the Bible tells us clearly that human society has no way to improve itself. On the contrary, it will become more and more evil until its sins overflow. Then at the end of this age, the Lord Jesus will come back to judge the people in the world and rule as King on the earth. Furthermore, He will change the world situation into the heavenly kingdom for a thousand years. Therefore, the teaching of this school of theology is far off from the biblical truths.
Before the First World War in Europe, at the beginning of the 1900s, this type of theology was very popular. Especially in Europe, many people believed that European society would gradually improve through the spread of the gospel and the teaching of the truth. Contrary to their belief, in 1914 the war broke out in Europe, and it developed to such an extent that the whole world was engaged in the conflict. Consequently, their teaching concerning the transformation of their society into the heavenly kingdom evaporated. That was why in 1918, at the end of the First World War, people put this kind of teaching aside and came back to study the prophecies in the Bible.
At that time, the publications put out by Christianity were mostly expositions of biblical prophecies. I was saved at precisely that time, and of all the reference books I obtained, most of them were to help in the understanding of the prophecies in the Bible. I can testify that many of the prophecies that I read or studied over fifty years ago have been fulfilled in these fifty or more years. For example, at that time I read that the nation of Israel would be restored and that the Jews would recover Jerusalem. When I read this, I did not dare to disbelieve because that was the word of the Bible. However, I shook my head, saying in my heart, “How can there be such a thing?” The Jews had lost their country for nearly two thousand years. Their territory was absolutely gone and their people were scattered among all the other peoples all over the world. How could they ever become a nation again? This seemed impossible. For Jerusalem to be returned to the Jews also seemed impossible. The Crusades were launched because the Arabs, who were Moslems, took possession of the holy city, Jerusalem. That was the reason the Christians in Europe formed armies of Crusaders to make a number of eastern conquests to recapture Jerusalem. Eventually, however, they did not succeed, and the holy city still remained in the hands of the Moslems. The Moslems built a mosque on Mount Zion in Jerusalem at the old site of the holy temple. That is the second largest mosque, which is smaller only than the mosque in Mecca. However in 1948 after the Second World War, suddenly the Jews reestablished their nation. Furthermore, the nation of Israel was immediately recognized by the United Nations. Then after nineteen years, in 1967, Jerusalem was returned to the Jews. That was truly a miracle. The biblical prophecies which I read fifty to sixty years ago have mostly been fulfilled.
The First World War ended in 1918, and from the viewpoint of Europe, only twenty-one years elapsed before Hitler started the war again in 1939. Actually, before that, in 1931 when Japan invaded the headquarters in Feng-tien, which was in Manchuria, China, that was the beginning of World War II. Counting from that day, there were only thirteen years from the end of one war to the beginning of another. In World War II, the whole world was engaged in the conflict, so much so that everything was in disarray. As a result, the erroneous theology of the millennial kingdom was completely destroyed, and no one would believe in it any longer. One of the main errors of this kind of theology was the belief that human nature can be changed and that Christians do not receive another nature, a spiritual nature, through regeneration. We acknowledge that every saved person has two natures. One comes from his birth and the other from regeneration. Nevertheless, this theology did not acknowledge this. I am speaking only this much to you so you may realize that whenever you hear the word theology, it does not always mean that it is something good. Actually, certain theologies, one of which is the theology of which we have spoken, contain grave errors.
Among the different theologies, the highest and most trustworthy is the Brethren theology. This type of theology rose up gradually after 1830 through the teachings of Darby and others. Today the topmost Bible seminaries in America all receive the Brethren theology, which is the most reliable. I do hope that the Bible seminaries in the Far East, both in Hong Kong and in Taiwan, will receive the Brethren theology instead of taking the way of the erroneous theology of which we have spoken. I speak these matters to you in order to show you the progression of man’s knowledge of the Bible over the last two thousand years.
In recent times, Christianity, in particular Protestantism, was brought to China by Robert Morrison in the previous century, in 1807. Since that time many Western missionaries came to China, and they started to translate the Bible into Chinese. Today the Mandarin Union Version that we have in our hands is one of the best translations in the world. Its language is plain and easy to understand, its style is appropriate, and its rhythm is also very nice. Yet it is regrettable that the Western missionaries did not bring with them much knowledge of the Bible. They did not properly bring the Brethren theology to China.
The Lord raised up His recovery in China in 1922. Once we were raised up by the Lord, the thing to which we paid the most attention was the knowledge of the Bible. I can never forget how I began to write to Brother Watchman Nee soon after I was saved in 1925. My questions to him were mostly spiritual ones. Once I asked him, “Please tell me what book there is that can help me more than any other in the world to understand the Bible. I truly want to understand the Bible.” He replied to my letter by saying that according to his knowledge, The Synopsis of the Books of the Bible by John Nelson Darby was the best in helping people to understand the Bible. He further said that because the English grammar of this book was very difficult, one could not understand it without reading it four or five times. As far back as fifty-nine years ago, when we, who were two young brothers, wrote to each other, we were trying to find out how to obtain a book that could help us the most in understanding the Bible. I remember in that same year, a certain pastor in Nanking named Cheng Chi-kwei translated the most widely circulated Scofield Bible Correspondence Course into Chinese. Brother Nee also helped in that translation, and he held it in considerable esteem. I was only at the tender age of twenty at that time, and I immediately enrolled in that course. I received considerable help by taking the course. Scofield’s correspondence course and his Reference Bible are the most widely circulated in America, and over ninety percent of the truths contained in them are based on the Brethren theology.
(The All-Inclusiveness and Unlimitedness of Christ, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)