The Eleventh Hour


The armistice ending the First World War stipulated that hostilities were to cease at eleven o’clock on the morning of November 11, 1918—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The last possible moment.

The phrase “the eleventh hour” entered Western language through the parable of the vineyard workers (Matthew 20) who, for one hour of labor, received the same pay as those who were hired in the morning. But by the nineteenth century the term had come to mean “the last possible time” or even the apocalyptic-sounding “penultimate moment.” That meaning was most certainly on the minds of the armistice signers, who chose the multiple elevens as a symbol of what they believed the nations in conflict were doing: stepping back from the brink of global destruction.

Nice try, but no cigar.

Peace “waged” by humans doesn’t last. There have been many eleventh hours, and as long as the Lord tarries, there will be many more. Since that first Armistice Day 91 years ago, the world has changed in ways its then-leaders could never have imagined. Global destruction is not only still a possibility, but it can now be nearly instantaneous. Armed conflict spills into our neighborhoods in the form of drive-by shootings and brutal beatings. And our soldiers are fighting a war in which a chilling worldview comes into play: for terrorists, no one is a noncombatant.

Yet in the midst of the bleakest situations, God moves to expand His Kingdom. He has provided hope in hard places. Among servicemen and –women who have pledged their lives to defend our nation He has placed chaplains who are dedicated to care for their spiritual needs. The Alliance is on the leading edge of ministry to the military, recognizing that the armed forces make up one independent people group with its own culture, language and customs (p. 16 ).

In Juárez, Mexico, eight Alliance congregations (in a city of 1.5 million people) keep spreading the good news of Jesus Christ despite the mind-boggling chaos wrought by warring gangs and drug dealers. The violence has bled into the surrounding countryside, but the pastors of the C&MA churches in Juárez continue to find ways to reach out to the indigenous people in the mountains. To help their Mexican brothers and sisters, a team from an Alliance church in Colorado Springs has journeyed to this troubled city every summer for 13 years, helping to build a Christian presence amid the chaos (p. 10 ).

The Foundations page (on the back cover) is a reminder of just how much has been lost in the modern age of warfare. As a “Cold War baby” I have never known what it was like to live in a world without weapons of mass destruction. Writing just a few months after Hiroshima/Nagasaki, Dr. Wilbur Smith of the Moody Bible Institute captures the profound impact of nuclear technology on those who had grown up in an age when such warfare, “capable of destroying the population of a whole nation within an hour or two,” was inconceivable. Six decades later, Dr. Smith’s words remind us of what is in fact indestructible—nothing built by human hands but only those things from the Spirit of God. In the eleventh hour—and from the Resurrection to the present day, it has always been the eleventh hour—the Church is called to “make disciples of all nations.” Sometimes those nations may be at war—with each other, with us or with themselves—but the call remains. We are all commissioned.

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