Controversy over 'Back to Jerusalem Movement'

Jerusalem (photo: Pixabay)
By Dominus HammerJuly 7th, 2017

Many Chinese churches believe that "Once the Gospel is brought to Jerusalem, Jesus' second coming will come to pass."

The movement 'Back to Jerusalem' was first originated in the 1940s. At that time, two Chinese pastors, Zhao Maijia and Mark, received a common vision of spreading the gospel to the West along the Silk Road while by passing the neighboring Muslim countries until eventually reaching Jerusalem. The vision propelled them to establish a mission organization called " Northwest Spiritual Group." However, the movement was forced to a halt after 1949.

Though the movement failed, its core vision has inspired the church in China tremendously. Till date, many churches still rally for this vision of spreading the gospel back to Jerusalem. Some even believe that Chinese Christians would be the most suitable agents for this mission in view of Muslims' little hostility towards Chinese. Others rationalize it by presenting the historical flow of the gospel towards the West from the Middle East to Europe, Europe to South America and South America to East Asia. Riding on the same flow, some believe the Gospel should be carried from Asia to the West. Do you think all these beliefs are biblical?

The Great Commission has been mentioned several times in the Bible. Jesus told his disciples on the Mountain of Galilee that," Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Whatever I've commanded you, teach them accordingly. Then, I'll be with you until the end of the time." (Matthew 28:19-20)

Before the resurrection, Jesus also reminded his disciples as such,"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."  (Acts 1:8)

Both of these scripture messages proclaim powerfully Jesus' commission for the Gospel to spread throughout the world. However, there is no clear indication on focusing the mission specially on Jerusalem. Moreover, Jerusalem has not been deficient of Christian including the Jerusalem Church, Roman Catholic Church, Armenian Church and the Asia Church ever since the early church period. As such, the vision of Back to Jerusalem may not have a strong biblical support.

The abovementioned belief that gospel has been carried to the West indeed differs from the actual fact. Since the Early Christianity, the Gospel has been spread across the land not just to the West. Apart from Apostle Peter and Paul who ventured into the West, Andrew headed north to reach the Black Sea are while Thomas, Bartholomaus and Matthew headed to the East. Seeds of the Gospel were then planted in Persia, Armenia, Middle Asia and India. Other disciples such as Simon and Mike were commissioned to Egypt for church planting.

According to theology scholars, there were more Christians in the East than the West before the Muslim religions gained their dominance. In the 10th century, a Greek missionary headed to the East, contributing to the occurrence of Rus' Baptism that led to the whole nation's salvation later on. In our modern time, many missionaries headed to the South for mission work, leading to the great revival of African churches. Therefore, the view of bringing the gospel to the west may contradict with both historical and modern realities of gospel spreading. As such, early church's focus on spreading the gospel to the West could be due to disciples' intention of tapping on Roman's tremendous influence and power in the entire Medditarinian area to facilitate mission work at that time.

Moving on to the next popular claim, are Muslims really friendly especially to Chinese? According to my research, this is indeed a false statement intentionally spread by those involved in Muslim mission. It inevitably paints a beautiful façade over such mission work. Though there are many kind Muslims, we should be aware of the presence of religious extremists who are extremely hostile to those behold other religions. Therefore, it's highly advisable that we should be extremely careful and try not to step into those highly dangerous zones to avoid further bloodshed.

Next, should Chinese take over the beacon of the gospel race now? In fact, this statement is infused with a strong sense of patriotism and national pride. As we all know, the Lord is God of all nations. Regardless of skin colours, races and nations, anyone can become His kingdom's children. Similarly, people from all nations can become his missionaries to expand God's kingdom. More importantly, the Bible does not state any specially chosen nations apart from Israel. As such, missionaries recorded in the Bible come from various nations and cultural backgrounds. Among the mission team who serves in China, we could find English, Americans, French, German, Italians, Jews and Greek, instead of a single race. Therefore, we could not find any supporting evidence from the Bible that China has been specially chosen to take the beacon of the gospel race.

Lastly, is it true that Jesus will come again after the gospel is brought back to Jerusalem? Jesus once says, his second coming would not be known by anyone. Even angels and Son of God will not know as only the Father knows  (Matthew 24:36). As such, would it be unbiblical if we set our own timeline of Jesus' second coming?

Though Christians carry the command from the Great Commission to expand God's kingdom, we should not frame God's commission to our own likings. Riding on the tide of technology, the earth has already been inter-connected with facilitated convenience from airplanes, trains and ships. The Gospel now could even be spread to the end of the earth just through technology. As such, we should tap on this technological advancement to carry out God's Great Commission.

- Translated by Maggie Li

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