Death of the Church Victorious is a frightening book, one that shows how far the church went off the track during the 19th and 20th centuries. If carefully studied, it also shows us how the church can get back on track and become the instrument that the Lord intended for the redemption of men.
From Need’s work we see that no premillennial idea had any standing in the church of the 18th century. Strange people, using strange methods, forced the idea onto the church. A Jesuit priest, Manuel Lacunza, who posed as a converted Jew, took some prophetic Scriptures and promoted the idea that the church would fail in its mission. Later, an eccentric and rather conceited young Scot, Edward Irving, caught on to the idea. As a well-known and respected preacher, he promoted Lacunza’s vision of doom among a British elite that was scared by the French Revolution and saw in it only the end of the Age.
The scion of a wealthy Irish family, J. N. Darby, avidly promoted the idea of church failure. Need found statements in Darby’s writings that are far from Biblically correct. Darby’s 1869 letter written from Germany is almost blasphemous in downgrading the Great Commission, words of our Lord Himself. Throughout Darby’s writings we find him stating that his interpretations should be preferred to teachings that had prevailed in the church for centuries. His message was of doom and failure with huge loss of souls implicit. The inconsistency of preaching doom while living in posh country mansions and luxurious resorts should help us evaluate the Darby-premil movement.
Need also shows how zealously the new vision of failure and doom spread around the world. It received speedy acceptance in an America whose ideals had been shattered by the War Between the States. American Christians had lost hope, so they assumed the end-time was near. At first, mainline churches resisted. But as men of little theological training, like D. L. Moody and C. I. Scofield, began to spread the Brethren idea of failure, it became accepted. Dispensationalism was offered as a defense against the likes of evolution and humanism that sprouted in the 19th century.
The victory of premilennialism was pretty well complete by 1900. With it came pietistic retreat from reality and social concern, leaving an ineffective, self-centered religion. The 20th century was mostly a mopping-up operation for unbelief. Those who opposed the poison of Dispensational-Premillennialism were vilified or ignored; and this occurs to an extent even today.
Thanks to Darby and his successors, the 21st century has opened with a defeated church in fast retreat before humanism, pagan religions, and infidelity. Yet with careful study of God’s Word, it is evident that the Great Commission and the Abrahamic Covenant call for a total triumph for the church in this Age. Proper reaction to Need’s book will lead a careful student back to the Word to see that the risen Christ plans and proclaims total victory. The believer should take a stand for that and work toward bringing in the Kingdom of Christ. The turnaround will come when men really listen to Jesus Christ, accept His Word, and give themselves to carrying out His purpose.
Need’s book is a must read! A must read for every pastor, to say nothing of the informed and concerned people in the pews.
1. Ovid Need has edited and published The Biblical Examiner (biblicalexaminer.org) for 20 years. His articles have appeared in the Chalcedon Report and the Journal of Christian Reconstuction. He was a pastor from 1983 to 2002, when he began writing Death of the Church Victorious. The book can be ordered from Amazon.com or through biblicalexaminer.org.