I always find it encouraging at Christmas to be reminded of just how many biblical prophecies were fulfilled in the Birth of Christ – way beyond any conceivable statistical odds! We know that Jesus was in fact born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) over 2,000 years ago, in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) before fleeing to Egypt (Hosea 11:1) as Herod slaughtered the innocents (Jeremiah 31:15). The light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.
But this Christmas, I started to wonder about the ongoing fulfilment of biblical prophecy today. How is the increase of his government going, since it should never end? Having done some research, I’m frankly stunned by what I’ve found. Get ready to be astonished!
Christianity is the fastest growing religion worldwide in absolute growth, not Islam as the media would lead us to believe. Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the annual increase of new adherents. The absolute growth number is calculated as the annual number of new Christian converts subtracted the number of ex-Christians + number of births subtracted number of deaths (new converts – former Christians + births – deaths).
Christianity is the fastest growing religion at both parameters, both in absolute number of new converts and absolute number of new Christians due to population growth. In all, this sums up to an additional approximately 25.2 million new Christians annually:. 22.7 million due to population growth and 2.5 million due to conversions. This total growth of Christianity (25,210,195) adds the equivalent of more than the population of Australia (21,555,500) or the U.S. State of Texas (23,904,380) of new Christians to Christianity. Every year.
Christian converts are more than twice as many as converts to all other religions combined. The number of new converts to Christianity is more than twice the combined number of new converts to all the other tabulated religions, even if we take out those with negative numbers, such as Hinduism which is losing adherents.(2,501,396 vs. 1,090,541). And globally, around three times as many people convert to Christianity annually as convert to Islam (2,501,396 vs. 865,558)
The new converts to Christianity (2,501,396) adds the equivalent of more than the population of Latvia (2,268,000) or almost the U.S. State of Nevada (2,565,382) of new Christians to Christianity. Every year.
Currently, the largest religion in the world is Christianity with 2 billion followers of Christ; based on current trends, projections put that figure at 3 billion by 2050. This is even without any significant new wave of revival or renewal.
The number of charismatic healings and miracles being reported is on the increase. Of the two billion Christians today, there are more than 600 million charismatic-Pentecostal believers worldwide, the second-largest group of Christians after Catholics. Pentecostals and charismatic churches can no longer be considered a small, fringe movement. Broadly categorized as renewalist movements, these religious communities are experiencing their most dramatic growth at the frontier between Christianity and Islam in Nigeria; in the vast factory towns of China’s interior; among members of the rising middle class in Kenya; in the slums that ring the rapidly modernizing urban areas of Central and South America; in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Hindu-majority India. Blurring many of the traditional distinctions between Protestantism and Catholicism, renewalism is widely believed to be the fastest-growing religious movement in the world. And with the rise in this movement, reports of miracles and healings have been an increasing phenomena worldwide. An academic study of Iris Ministries’ work in Mozambique, an example of this movement, has found that yes, real healing is happening through laying on of hands (or Proximal Intercessory Prayer (PIP) as the academics like to call it!)
“These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18
The number of new churches planted is increasing exponentially. To give just one example, look at the number of churches planted by the Assembly of God in Cuba and Myanmar – both very closed cultures, Communist and Buddhist – working with local church planters. Notice in particular the rapid rise in numbers of churches planted since 1995. I found this pattern repeated in any denomination or church planting network. There are more churches of all types being planted than ever before.
It all looks to me very like what is described in Micah 4:1-2.
It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
and many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways.
Now let’s look at some other ways in which His kingdom is coming in our days. Remember, He came to destroy ALL the works of evil one, (1 John 3:8) including sickness, poverty and death (Isaiah 53:4, 61:1, 2 Corinthians 8:9, 1 Corinthians 15:16).
The numbers living in extreme poverty are dropping rapidly, that means that fewer and fewer are living on less than $1.25 per day, the UN definition of extreme poverty. The percentage of those living in extreme poverty globally has dropped from 40% in 1981 to just 14% in 2010. Some estimate that extreme poverty could be eliminated by 2030: this is the stated goal of at least one Christian NGO, Live58, as well as the hope of such well known activists, such as Bono. You can check out his TEDtalk on the subject here: http://www.ted.com/talks/bono_the_good_news_on_poverty
but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree Micah 4:4
War is becoming both rarer and less deadly too: so there are fewer wars occurring, and fewer people are dying in them. In the graph, you can see how the death rates have fallen from around 20 million annually between 1940 and 1950 dropping to around a million in the early 1990’s to virtually none by the year 2,000.
After two devastating wars in the first half of the 20th century, Robert Schuman, the founding Father of the European Union, stated in his declaration in 1950, when launching the European Coal & Steel Community, that thus…
any war becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.
Today, the European Union has known over 60 years of continuous peace, after centuries of internal wars – and only two years of peace in the 17th century!
As it says on the inscription of the United Nations building in New York:
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore… Isaiah 2:4
Fewer people are dying young, and more are living longer. Major killer diseases are being vanquished – tuberculosis, measles, and both the infant and maternal mortality rates have halved since 1990. Since 2000, the dramatic fall in deaths due to malaria means it could soon be the latest disease added to the list. According to the World Health Organisation:
Mortality in children under five, the age group, which concentrates the biggest malaria problem in terms of severe disease and death, has reduced by a staggering 58 percent.
In short, fewer people are dying untimely deaths. And that’s not only true in rich countries: life expectancy has gone up between 1990 and 2011 in every WHO income bracket. The gains are even more dramatic if you take the long view: global life expectancy was 47 in the early 1950s, but had risen to 70 — a 50 percent jump — by 2011.
Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; Isaiah 65:20
Violent crime is on the decline. Yes, again contrary to popular perceptions, violent crime is actually on a downward trend worldwide. Murders have halved since the turn of the century, while violent crimes are down by a third since the early 1990s in the USA.
In fact, the European murder rate fell 35-fold from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 20th century (check out the amazing 2003 paper from Manuel Eisner, who dredged up medieval records to estimate European homicide rates in the swords-and-chivalry era….)
Prince of Peace! Of the increase of his government and peace,
there will be no end. Isaiah 9:6-7
Christ’s kingdom is coming throughout the earth through His church, directly and indirectly through the salt and light effect. It’s amazing to realise just how much progress is being made. The divine kingdom predicted by Daniel, which started as a small stone, is really becoming a mountain that is filling the whole earth.
“But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth…… In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. Daniel 2:35 &44
An interesting piece of evidence highlights this: in a landmark study of the much maligned 19th century missionaries, the sociologist Robert Woodberry made a fascinating discovery:
Areas where Protestant (conversionary) missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.
In short: Want a blossoming democracy today? The solution is simple—if you have a time machine: Send a 19th-century missionary.
What do we dream of for tomorrow?
Of the increase of His government there will be no end….
Some of my sources:
http://crcc.usc.edu/initiatives/pcri/ – the Pentecostal & Charismatic Research Inititiative