|Photo by Simon East 2005|
In this dream, I’m at a “Christian” revival meeting in a large hall, packed out with noisy people. A pregnant woman starts to go into labor, so I offer to help. She is bleeding and “delivers” a plastic baby doll, covered in blood. They take her to the hospital, while the revival continues without interruption, grief, or even anyone commenting on this bizarre occurrence.
The atmosphere reminds me of “Bicker night” in college, when eating clubs that had invited sophomores to become members had loud parties and competed with one another to sign up the most recruits to join their ranks. At the time, I had mixed emotions about it, as it was fun and exciting, and flattering to be pursued as a recruit. But in their attempts to sign up as many invitees as possible, the leaders in the eating clubs also seemed to exude an air of pressure and desperation, which I absorbed as if by osmosis.
A similar spirit prevails at the “revival” in the dream, as there is no sound preaching of the Gospel message, just undue pressure to join the hosting church. Many church members and leaders approach me at different times to sign me up and have me join their church, even though I explain I’m already saved and I’m very happy with my own church family.
I spot a familiar face – a friend of ours who is a pastor -- and am relieved, hoping he’ll tell them I’m already saved and belong to a local church. But another man intercepts him and insists that I need to be born again by joining their church.
As I awaken and contemplate the dream’s meaning, I put it in the context of the End Times in which we now appear to be living. All the signs that Jesus spoke of in His Olivet discourse (Matthew 24) seem to erupt all around us – wars, rumors of wars, pestilence, plague, famine, earthquakes in unusual places, persecution of God’s people, and division even among families. These catastrophic events are troubling, but true Christians can be reassured that they portend the imminent second coming (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18) of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we shall meet Him in the air and live with Him forever!
Jesus also said there would be many false prophets teaching false doctrine in the End Times (Matthew 24), which the dream reflected in a false works-based salvation, namely, that you could be saved by joining a church. None of the speakers expounded on God’s Word, particularly the Gospel truth of salvation only by our faith through God’s grace, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). We can be saved only if we trust in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).
When false doctrine is preached, the result is corrupt fruit (Matthew 7:17). The woman who went into labor brought forth not a live infant, which could represent being born again (John 3:3-8), but an inanimate doll. It makes we wonder how many who sign a card, walk the aisle, join a church, or get baptized, thinking these works will please God and earn them entrance to Heaven, have never really trusted Christ or asked Him into their heart to be Lord of their life. Without that faith and a personal relationship with our Savior, that “born again” experience is as phony as being delivered of a plastic mannequin that cannot bear any fruit.
Yet the woman was bleeding, symbolizing the sorrow, pain and loss that may accompany a fake “conversion.” Some Catholic sects used self-flagellation as a means to salvation, but their shed blood and painful scars brought them no closer to Heaven than the self-cuttings of the pagans worshiping Baal (1 Kings 18:24-29).
In a less extreme but no less wrong belief, based on the authority of God’s Word, some false teachers preach the need for repentance before salvation. While it is true that the person being saved realizes through the Holy Spirit that he is a sinner deserving eternal punishment in hell, and hence needing a Savior (Matthew 9:13; Luke 15:7; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Peter 3:9), some false prophets elevate repentance to the status of a work that must be accomplished before God will grant salvation. If the sinner is not sorry enough, or suffering enough over his past mistakes, these false teachers claim he hasn’t truly been saved.
Such a doctrine negates God’s grace, the only way by which we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). Praise the Lord, we don’t need to suffer to be saved, for He did it on our behalf, bearing the crushing weight of all our sins and the associated excruciating judgment (2 Corinthians 5:21). He rose again, proving that He is Son of God and God Himself, so that all who trust in His substitutionary sacrifice (Romans 3:25; 1 John 4:10) can have everlasting life!
Sadly, in the dream, no one mourned the woman’s pain, delivery of a dead thing, or removal from the revival, or was even concerned by it, suggesting that in false churches, sham conversions are the primary goal and the norm rather than the exception. It’s not about souls truly being led to the Lord, but about numbers -- how many members, tithes, professions of faith, baptisms, visitors, even cars in the parking lot!.
In the dream, the pressure to join the church was akin to the pressure to join a social club, with the leaders motivated by filling up their ranks rather than by the spiritual welfare of those being pressured and misled. Like the End Times church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-19), these churches think they are rich because they boast of many filling up the pews and paying tithes, often for the wrong reasons of social networking or worse, thinking they will be saved by these deeds. Yet spiritually, they are poor, misguided, leading others to damnation, and making Jesus Christ sick to His stomach.
Many megachurches today may appear to the outside world to be in a state of revival. For those spreading God’s Word, this may indeed be true. But for other churches that seem to be thriving in secular terms, often with magnificent auditoriums, huge congregations, worldly entertainment, and emphasis on prosperity and self-fulfillment, the “revival” is nothing more than successful marketing devoid of spiritual ministry.
Nowadays even atheists have churches, in which they don’t pray or worship God, but listen to feel-good messages, and sing together. The newly appointed chief chaplain of Harvard University is a self-proclaimed atheist, which truly reflects the sorry spiritual state of these End Times.
My husband and I are blessed to belong to a Bible-preaching church pastored by a great man of God whose true desire is to see souls saved. Despite being a relatively small church, it has God’s heart for missions and supports more than 50 missionaries. But many are not as blessed, and fall prey to preachers seeking to fill their wallets rather than to win souls for Jesus Christ and His kingdom.
May we do our part to support the true church, or called-out assembly of believers in Jesus Christ, and to lead others to understand and accept the true Gospel message, even more as we see the day of His return approaching!
© 2021 Laurie Collett