Introduction

by Ralph Winter

The 10 Super Centuries of Mission History

Ralph Winter Man has virtually erased his own story Human beings as far back as we have any paleological record have been fighting each other so much that they have destroyed well over 90 percent of their own handiwork. Their libraries, their literature, their cities, their works of art are mostly gone. Even the little that remains from the distant past is riddled with evidences of a strange and pervasive evil that has grotesquely distorted man's potential. This is strange because apparently no other species treats its own with such deadly hatred. The oldest skulls bear mute witness that they were bashed in and roasted to deliver their contents as food for other human beings. An incredible array of disease germs also cuts down population growth.

World population in Abraham's day is estimated at 27 million - less than the population of California in AD 2000. But, the small slow-growing population of Abraham's day is mute, and ominous evidence exists of the devastating combination of war and pestilence, both the relentless impact of the Evil One. World population growth back then was one-sixteenth of today's global rate. As hatred and disease are conquered, world population instantly picks up speed. If today's relatively slow global growth rate to have happened in Abraham's day, our present world population (of 6 billion) would have been reached back then in just 321 years!

Thus, in those days, evil must have been much more rampant than now. We are not surprised, then, to find that the explanation for this strange evil comes up in the oldest detailed written records - surviving documents that are respected by Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions whose adherents make up more than half of the world's population. These documents called "the Torah," by Jews, the "Books of the Law" by Christians, and "the Taurat" by Muslims not only explain the strange source of evil but also describe a counter-campaign and then follow the progress of that campaign through many centuries. To be specific, the first eleven chapters of Genesis constitute a scary "introduction" to the entire problem, indeed, to the plot of the entire Bible. Those few pages describe three things: 1) a glorious and "good" original creation; 2) the entrance of a rebellious and destructive evil - superhuman, demonic person - resulting in 3) a humanity caught up in that rebellion and brought under the power of that evil person.

Don't ever think that the whole remainder of the Bible is simply a bundle of divergent, unrelated stories as taught in Sunday School. Rather, the Bible consists of a single drama: the entrance of the Kingdom, the power and the glory of the living God in this enemy-occupied territory. From Genesis 12 to the end of the Bible, and indeed until the end of time, there unfolds the single, coherent drama of "the Kingdom strikes back." This would make a good title for the Bible itself were it to be printed in modem dress (with Gen 1-11 as the introduction to the whole Bible).

In this unfolding drama we see the gradual but irresistible power of God reconquering and redeeming His fallen creation through the giving of His own Son at the very center of the 4000-year period ending in 2000 BC. This is tersely summed up: "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 Jn 3:6). This counter attack against the Evil One clearly does not await the appearance of the good Person in the center of the story. Indeed, there would seem to be five identifiable epochs of advance prior to the appearance of Christ as well as five after that event.

The purpose of this chapter is mainly to describe the five epochs after Christ. However, in order for those later epochs to be seen as part of a single ten-epoch 4,000-year unfolding story, we will note a few clues about the first five epochs. The theme that links all ten epochs is the grace of God intervening in a "world which lies in the power of the Evil One" (1 Jn 5:19), contesting an enemy who temporarily is "the god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4) so that the nations will praise God's name. His plan for doing this is to reach all peoples by conferring an unusual "blessing" on Abraham and Abraham's seed (Abraham's children-by-faith), even as we pray "Thy Kingdom come."

By contrast, the Evil One's plan is to bring reproach on the Name of God. The Evil One stirs up hate, distorts even DNA sequences, perhaps authors suffering and all destruction of God's good creation. Satan's devices may very well include devising virulent germs in order to tear down confidence in God's loving character. Therefore this "blessing" is a key concept. The English word blessing is not an ideal translation. We see the word in use where Isaac confers his "blessing" on Jacob and not on Esau. It was not "blessings" but "A Blessing," the conferral of a family name, responsibility, obligation, as well as privilege. It is not something you can receive or get like a box of chocolates you can run off with and eat by yourself in a cave, or a new personal power you can show off like rippling muscles. It is something you become in a permanent relationship and fellowship with your Father in Heaven. It returns "families," that is, nations to His household, to the Kingdom of God, so that the nations "will declare His glory." Preventing the nations from declaring His glory are any evidences of God's inability to cope with evil.

If the Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the Devil, then what are the Son of God's followers and joint heirs supposed to do to bring honor to His name? This "blessing" of God is in effect conditioned upon its being shared with other nations, since those who yield to and receive God's blessing are, like Abraham, those of faith who subject themselves to God's will, become part of His Kingdom, and represent the extension of His rule, His power, His authority within all other peoples.