The Rise of Asia or "Wise Men from the East"
I have just returned from a teaching tour in South Korea. On this trip there was also a group of 12 pastors from Israeli Messianic congregations. The churches of South Korea are among the most, if not the most, zealous, prayerful, and organized in the world. The strongest churches of most of the protestant and evangelical denominations are located there.
(For some examples: I had the opportunity this year to teach at the Suwon Central Church, home of Pastor Billy Kim, chairman of the International Baptist Convention; and at a conference with 3,000 pastors and wives led by Yungsei Church pastor Sonjuk Yun; as well as at Grace Church, home of David Kim, whose mission organization has sent out more missionaries than any other church in history; and to be interviewed by the largest Christian newspaper and television station in connection with Youngi Cho's church. As a special blessing, and I believe as a prophetic "sign of the times" from the Lord - I was able to speak at these places in Hebrew, [with translation into Korean from our friend Yoni Yun].)
The world is certainly changing. One characteristic is what I call the "rise of Asia."
It is not a coincidence that the newly elected Secretary General of the U. N. is Korean. (In checking with friends in Korea, it seems that Ban Ki Mun has superficial acquaintance with faith in Jesus, and is just as much influenced by Buddhist background in his family.) The presidential elections for South Korea are scheduled for November of this year and the current leading candidate is a committed evangelical.
On the world market, the U.S. dollar has been slowly declining over the last few years, while the huge Asian markets are steadily increasing. In 2008, the international Olympics are to be held in Beijing, China. All these are also "signs of the times" in which we live.
Yeshua challenged us to be witnesses for the gospel "in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth" - Acts 1:8. This mandate for world evangelism contains a certain direction or strategy. As the gospel spread out of Israel, many of the early churches were established in Asia Minor, what we call today Turkey.
As Saul (Paul the apostle) was ministering there, he desired to turn east toward Asia. However "they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia" - Acts 16:6. Immediately afterwards Saul had a vision of a man from Greece beckoning them to come share the gospel there. At this point Saul's team turned west toward Europe, "concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them" - Acts 16:10.
Paul's decision in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit marked a turning point in history. For the next 2,000 years the primary direction of the gospel, and of the history of the civilized world in its wake, has been westward. By our generation, that continuing westward movement has reached the Far East and is moving across into Asia.
Some of the places where the gospel is spreading the most rapidly in the past decade have been in Asia - in China, in India, and in some of the Islamic but non Arabic nations (Indonesia, Central Asians, Bangladesh, Berbers, Kurds, etc.) In China, the once bitterly persecuted Christians in the underground church are slowly having more and more of an effect on the educational, economic and, government institutions.
If we include areas in central Africa, we find that the current wave of the gospel forms a "loop" around the Islamic world from the north, east, and south.
Two years ago I had an opportunity to teach at a conference in Kazakhstan, organized by Koreans in which there were 4,500 young evangelists (average age in their early twenties) with a vision to share the gospel in the Muslim world. About ten years ago, in the network of underground churches in China, the vision began to spread to share the gospel to the Muslims. (This week we are hosting a conference in Jerusalem for a group of Chinese church leaders.)
It seems obvious to us only now that God's wisdom was to bring the gospel to the Muslims primarily from "non-White" people.
The vision of the gospel continuing westward across Asia, through the Islamic world and eventually back to Israel has been called the "Back to Jerusalem" or "Road to Jerusalem" movement. While most do not have a clear understanding of the End Times, it is becoming clear to millions of "new Christians" in Asia (who have not been influenced by Western theology) that the Second Coming has at least something to do with Israel.
Here's a quick Bible quiz: How many wise men came from the East to seek Yeshua at His birth? "Behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?'" - Matthew 2:1-2. The answer is: The Bible doesn't say. I believe a huge number are yet to come again out of the East to Jerusalem to seek Him who was born to be King of the Jews.
While Yeshua was born to be King of the Jews, He has not yet taken up His throne in Jerusalem. At the First Coming, the One who was born to be King of the Jews was crucified. At His Second Coming, He will be crowned. And that time, it will not be just for the Jews; nor even just for the Western Protestant Church, but for the hundreds of millions who will be seeking Him from China, India, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Arabic nations as well.
This combination of the "Christian" vision of world evangelism, the "Jewish" vision of restoring the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6), with the rise and influence of Asia in our generation, shows us just how close we are to Yeshua's return and the establishment of His kingdom on earth.