Are We Living in a Transition Period?


Image: Myer Pearlman

This Week in AG History — July 30, 1932

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, Mon, 29 Jul 2013 – 4:21 PM CST

The year was 1932. The world’s economic and political systems were groaning under the weight of an economic depression. Western culture was shifting as modern education and urbanization challenged traditional notions about family and morality. The Assemblies of God’s view of the end times spoke directly to this cultural chaos.

The Assemblies of God, like many other evangelical groups, embraced a premillennial eschatology that predicted a period of rapid social decay, followed by Christ’s return. They believed that much of the American church had abandoned the authority of Scripture. In their view, this would lead to the collapse of families, morality, and the broader culture. Historians have described premillennialists as pessimistic. One might also describe their views as realism.

Myer Pearlman, a prominent Assemblies of God systematic theologian, described these rapid societal changes in a 1932 Pentecostal Evangel article titled “At the Dividing Point of Two Ages.” Pearlman, himself a Jewish believer in Christ, drew heavily upon Jewish scholarship in his voluminous writings. In his article, Pearlman quoted Dr. Judah L. Magnes, the chancellor of Hebrew University in Palestine: “There was never a time when civilization was so near ending as the present…It is indeed a momentous time, a time of revolution, comparable perhaps to that period of late Judaism and early Christianity, when men were awaiting the end, and yet were planning new life and new doctrine.”

Pearlman summed up the cultural moment with this phrase: “we are living in a transition period.”

Magnes identified a parallel between the birth of the church two thousand years ago and contemporary world events. In his article, Pearlman built upon this parallel, identifying characteristics of the culture when the church was birthed and comparing these characteristics to the current era.

Pearlman identified seven general characteristics of the culture 2,000 years ago:

1)  It was an age in which popular culture reigned. Superficial forms of religion, art, and philosophy were widely spread among the people.

2)  It was a highly civilized and modern age. International travel and commerce were common, women became prominent in various spheres of life, and there was proliferation of cultural amusements and comforts.

3)  It was an educated age. People were literate, teaching was an honorable profession, and universities and libraries flourished.

4)  It was a cosmopolitan age. The Roman Empire provided a common language and a system of roads that allowed exchange goods and ideas.

5)  It was an age of religious universalism. Religious and political leaders tried to unite religions and rejected truth claims viewed as divisive.

6)  It was an age that, just before its crisis point, expected a king to emerge who would save and rule the world.

7)  It was an age that witnessed the first earthly coming of Christ.

Christ came into a world, Pearlman noted, that exhibited very similar characteristics to the world that existed in the twentieth century. He wrote, “As the Redeemer appeared at the dividing point of the ages of Law and of Grace, so He will appear at the dividing point of the ages of Grace and the Millennium.” How should the church, perched on the edge of the dividing line between the two ages, respond to this eschatological hope? Pearlman encouraged believers to “lift up their head sin joyous expectancy when these things come to pass, and to watch to keep their lamps lighted and filled with oil, and faithfully to use their talents until he comes.”

Read the entire article, “At the Dividing Point of Two Ages,” on pages 8, 9, and 11 of the July 30, 1932, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Elijah, an Example,” by Ernest S. Williams

* “The Kingdom of the Son of Man,” by James S. Hutsell

* “Why Put Them Out?” by Mrs. H. F. Foster

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now:

“Pentecostal Evangel” archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangelclick here.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA

Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free:  877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

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