SPIRITUAL PLANNING FOR THE NEW
The most note worthy feature of a modern war is that it is an exhibition of military force:-
" ‘We are going to kill you’ said the general, speaking from
the top of a Challanger 2 tank [see background
picture in ‘Europe at the Crossroads’] bearing the Union Flag and the
Stars and Stripes at Camp Coyote in Kuwait, just 28 miles from the Iraqi border," (Daily Express, 15th.
March, 2003). "
It is also a struggle of ideas:-
"We deeply regret French intransigence and the Iraqi non-compliance have left us with no option but to bring discussion of our draft resolution to an end," says Deputy Premiere John Prescott. "Everyone knows Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. Nobody believes he is co-operating, nobody seriously believes that he will." "The Prime Minister told Cabinet colleagues that Saddam Hussein could have been disarmed without a shot being fired if the international community had given him a united ultimatum, but instead President Chirac had placed an ‘absolute block’ in the path of diplomacy" (Daily Express, March 18, 2003).
“A cruel dictator like Saddam is seen as not only a leader of a
prophet, he is sometimes, in the eyes of his deceived mass, almost god himself.
A kind of mystical union often exists
between the duped mass and the leader, in so much as
he impersonates their passions and hopes. He is therefore sacrosanct - so long as he
remains their leader. If he can maintain
his position long enough to take effect, he cannot fail to be regarded as an
“While the Christian is in full sympathy with, and in full intercession for, all that is good and upright in national conduct, the extreme peril of his sharing in politics, and so in military action, is an ever present one. Chaucer, the morning star of English literature, said: "Victories in the world’s wars have rested, not on the multitude of the armies, nor in the valour of man: victory rests on the will, and in the hand, of our Lord God Almighty."
“For ourselves, as the disciples of Christ, we shall be wise to adopt the attitude of John Ross who wrote before his martyrdom: "Pray for me also that I too may write and preach in fuller measure against the malice of Antichrist, and that God may put me in the forefront of the battle, if needs be to defend His truth. For be assured I shrink not from yielding up this poor body to peril or death for the sake of God’s truth, though I know that God’s Word hath no need of us. But I desire to live for the sake of those who suffer violence and need the preaching of God’s Word, that the malice of Antichrist be exposed and the godly escape it."
Dr. EDWARD MACK, of Union Seminary,
"There is a lost note in the praises of our churches. That note, which we must recapture, is the
manifest, visible, glorious return of our Lord. Although that blessed note runs through all
Scripture it has faint proclamation in
our pulpits. In Bible days the
saints stacked their all on the assured return of the Lord. What is the end of our faith and our works of
faith? A holy
One detail is already vividly with us: "In the last days grievious times shall come: for men shall be ... TRAITORS" (2 Tim. 3: 1,4). We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven. Yea, and ‘all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’ ‘If thou art in the way to the kingdom, my life for thine thou wilt come at the cross shortly (the Lord grant thou dost not shrink at it, so as to turn thee back again’). - Bunyan. "If any man will come after me," saith Christ, "let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." ‘The cross - it stands and hath stood from the beginning as a way-mark to the kingdom.’
Regenerate believers,* not prepared to face the big guns of the enemy of this truth, who doggedly resist this doctrine, will most certainly not qualify for entrance into Christ’s Millennial Kingdom: "strive to enter in by the narrow door: for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (Luke 13: 24). Exceptional danger calls for exceptional courage. Let us ask it from God!
[* See "A Challenge" in notes at the end of this tract.]
The Church is encouraged to pray for peace as an environment in which it can live and work: "for kings and all that are in high place; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all goodness and gravity" (1 Tim. 2: ; cf. Jer. 29: 7). Nevertheless, to pray for final world-peace without world-righteousness - (an end only made possible by the Second Advent of Christ) - is to pray against the revealed will of God. Wars are coming; the Middle East War is now upon us. "And another horse came forth, a red horse; and to him that sat thereon it was given to take peace from the earth, and they should slay one another" (Rev. 6: 4).
No illusions attend or await the student of Scripture prophecy. World-catastrophe he expects to usher in the ultimate consummation of bliss; but as there is a likelihood of a lull before the impending storm, may we examine the probable character of Satan’s armistice and consider suggestions for using it to God’s glory and the blessing of men? Thinkers atheist or agnostic are already planning again for another New Europe - a European Community without God and without Christ; but Christians too can plan, with God. We can only look ahead, thanks to the searchlight of the Word; and by the Spirit be as well prepared as they for the coming opportunities of service, and be, like them, neither unduly optimistic nor victims of hopeless defeatism.
Crises - Napoleonic, medieval, sub-apostolic - have led to renewed prophetic study, and so the true revival; so may not the crisis of this hour re-awaken and re-inspire to effort and enterprise in the final God-granted spell of freedom for the Gospel of God’s Grace, and that of His coming Millennial Kingdom? For Satan’s present bid for world-control will almost certainly prove premature and abortive; a new balance of power seems indicated; but with wearied, worn and worried spirits, and resources denied, even war-mongers will be glad of the respite forced upon them, reverting to serious efforts of wide-spread social reform.
The ensuing pseudo-peace will afterwards be exploited by both God and the Devil. The Jews will then be at rest and dwell in safety in unwalled villages (Ezek. 38: 8, 11, 14). Zech. ch. 1 verses 11 and 15, speaks of the whole latter-day earth "at rest and in peace",* and of the heathen that are at ease; while Rev. 6: 2-4 tells of peace being (by the Rider on the Red Horse) taken from earth - which plainly implies that previously there existed a peace that could be thus removed. This peace follows the world-conquest of the Rider on the White Horse, who went "rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest" in, apparently, bloodless advance - unlike that of the Rider on the White Horse (Rev. 19: 11-13) Whose coming and kingdom in happy progress is subsequent to that of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Who alone with righteousness brings true and lasting peace.
[* Scripture quotations are from the N.I.V.]
The then destruction from the Lord - an upsetting of Babel-plans, of proud unity and godless self-preservation- is coming like a pregnant woman’s labour pains at the time when men boast of having at length attained "peace and safety", without God, the only Foundation of social stability (1 Thess. 5: 3). This vaunted world-settlement will be a false Millennium, for Satan’s strategy is to forestall God by an untimely counter-feit, imitating, anticipating, offering perhaps the right thing but in the wrong way, and before the time - "in every sort of evil that deceives", "to deceive the elect - if that were possible" (Matt. 24.; Mark 13: 22; 2 Thess. 2: 9-11); which must mean that the fraud will look very much like the reality, and possibly tempt the indulgent to imagine the Lord "is staying away a long time".
Now it is important to realize that just as Satan is an "angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14), as well as a "roaring lion" (1 Pet. 5: 8), so the Antichrist is first a substitute-Christ - passing muster among the ignorant upon whom he is palmed off as the real thing - before he unmasks himself as the open antagonist and deadliest foe of Christ, Who is both Lion and Lamb. And his minister of propaganda - the False Prophet - exhibits also a Jekyll-Hyde character, for "he had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon" (Rev. 13:11-14).
The seventh and eight kings are yet to appear. Whoever the seventh may be, the eighth and last is believed by many to be Nero, re-incarnating the assassinated body of his predecessor; for "an eighth ... he belongs to the seven" (Rev. 17: 11), an ex-Roman emperor, claiming divine honours, dying a violent death, and with 666 for the numeric value of his name. Before he became a byword for brutality, Nero was a reasonable, humanitarian and popular leader, having been under the influence of the almost Christian philosopher Seneca for the first five years of his reign. Just as Herod first pretended to be a worshipper, and the first Pharaoh was a protector of the Hebrews.
The false Millennium will show several surface features of the true; and it is interesting to recall that Rab-shakeh - a forerunner of the bluffing, blustering, blasphemous Man of Sin - claimed Divine inspiration and promised the beleagured Israelites "a land like your own, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and of honey. Choose life, and not death" (2 Kings 18: 25, 31-32; with Deut. 8:8). So apart from God there will be attempts at remedying many ills, solving innumerable problems of nationality, unemployment, disarmament, tariffs, housing, etc.
How long the lull will last no man can say, but present circumstances and Scripture alike seem to assure its actuality, and the Lord’s command, "Occupy till I come," means buying up the opportunities, going to it and sticking at it till we are called and caught away to give an account of our stewardship.
The miraculous gifts are to be restored and God’s Spirit to be poured out on all people "before the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord" (Joel 2: 28-32), if only by the coming of the Two Witnesses, presumably Moses or Enoch and Elijah (Rev. 11: 3-12; Zech. 4: 3); and believers are bidden pray for them: "Eagerly desire the greater gifts" of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12: 28-31; 14: 1, 39) - prophecy, tongues, healing, discernment of spirits (1 John 4: 1). The fullest realization of the Parables of the Talents (miraculous gift) and of the Virgins (lamp of prophecy) may lie in the immediate future; but miracle is surely needed, recommended, offered for today. Christians require in reverence and expectation to experiment with God: "Ask, and it shall be given you"; "Test me in this." (Mal. 3: 10)
Lord wants sons and servants who will trust Him and whom He can trust; He wants men concerned about His glory and the welfare of their hopeless fellow
men; shepherds in training for His
is uprooting us, and (especially with violence) throwing us together; breaking
down barriers of privilege and prejudice, and compelling co-operation. The Lord wants personal purity and devotion, courage and love; people who can pray
with fervour and effectiveness, in fellowship and harmony; people who know and
can teach His Word, His purposes and claims, His Coming Kingdom; people who can
refute the Devil’s lies of evolution and modernism; people who can sink petty
and party differences, and work with their fellow-Christians, particularly in
the open-air. He wants (Luke 16: 8-9) enlightened men who can wisely use
worldly means and methods of propaganda - Internet websites, Broadcasting,
Tracts, Text messages perhaps. We have
good news and are silent in our unevangilized
He wants men who will put Himself and His Word before their fellow-believers and therefore themselves (Rom. 12: 10). At the risk of seeming to create a new body, free yet devoted Christians could get together, welcoming all who love the Lord; they could get out a marked New Testament of instructions for God’s people, set up a Bible School in every Church, and train workers and spiritual statesmen for the home country and for the continents, to make known the Lord’s Return and reign of peace. "So you also must be ready!" (Matt. 24: 44).
Ye say, we do not understand the speech of strange nations. What? Shall the Kings of the earth find interpreters for their embassies to foreign lands and shall the King of kings find none? Ye are anxious as to your support. Know ye not that the holy Paul earned his living with the same hands which he after laid upon his converts? Ye say, that no miracles stand at your disposal as they did at that of the apostles. But the mightiest miracles are a holy life, a heroic patience, an unshakable love, and that certain hope of final victory in gentleness which wins, the wildest heathen. Ye shrink from dangers, but the princes of this world find soldiers in thousands willing to lay down their lives and shall the Prince of life wait in vain?
THE CHURCH AND THE STATE
It is not surprising that some see in 1 Peter 2: 13 a difficulty in the way of disobeying the law; for "Be subject to every ordinance of man" is a wide expression which taken superficially seems not to allow any liberty of disobedience to constituted authority. But several considerations show that this is not really so.
1. The word "ordinance" is not a strict translation, and also is itself ambiguous. It means something that is ordained; and while laws that rulers make are somewhat that is ordained, so also, and equally so, is the office of the ruler. Of these two meanings it is the latter that is here intended, as the next clauses show: "Be subject to every human ordinance whether to the king ... or unto governors as sent by him." It does not say, whether to statutes by rulers or orders by governors. This may be seen in Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, where it is expressly pointed out that it is not the laws that are in view but the offices instituted for good government. The R.V. margin gives the correct rendering as "creation", something created, which can be used of an office or institution, but not of a law. We speak of creating a government department or post, but not of creating a law or rule. The verse therefore teaches subjection to every rank of rightly appointed ruler, but not a blind obedience to every order they may give.
2. And this is implied of necessity in the accompanying reason for obedience. Obedience is to be rendered "for the Lord's sake": that is, as a proof that Christ does not allow His subjects to be revolutionaries, a danger to rulers or to society. But suppose a case that has, alas, frequently occurred, that a king orders a private assassination: how could a Christian obey such a command "for the Lord's sake"? What honour would come to the Lord by such a deed? Was God glorified when Joab obeyed king David, and arranged the death of Uriah? On the contrary God showed His great displeasure by avenging the deed to the end of David’s life (2 Sam. 11. and 12). Thus the reason for the subjection creates its own limit thereof.
3. The attitude of Holy Scripture is that "there is no authority but of God" (Rom. 13: 1). This is clear from considerations. (a) That God has power to prevent the creating by man of any office, or of hindering any particular person from reaching it; and (b) He can deprive any individual of it, or can overturn the institution itself. From this two important consequences flow.
(1) That those who own the supreme authority of God submit to lower authorities that He appoints or permits, for they will not fight against God. Thus the Son of God, submitted without strife to the unrighteous and illegal acts of Pilate against Himself, for He would not contend against that which God allowed (John 19: 11; 18: 11). So the duty of the follower of Christ is obedience, even though he must suffer much thereby. But this is passive submission to wrong, not active co-operation in doing evil.
(2) It also follows that the lower authority must act, and can claim obedience only so long as it acts, within the limits and for the purposes that the higher authority has commissioned it, which in this case is defined as "for vengeance on evil doers and for praise to them that do well" (1 Pet. 2: 14, and Rom. 13: 3, 4). Therefore if a ruler commands deeds which encourage evil-doing and penalize well-doing he forfeits claim to obedience. No subordinate authority may do or order acts that are ultra vires, that is, beyond the powers delegated to it. For example, if in this country a court of petty sessions were to order a man to be hanged, the hangman would have a duty to disobey the order, that court having no legal right to make it, nor he to obey it.
These considerations show that no ruler other than the Most High Himself may claim absolutely unlimited obedience. Nor can an individual claim exemption from the penalty of a criminal act on the plea that a superior had ordered it, for the one had no right to give, nor the other to obey such an order.
There is therefore a general duty to obey, but it is limited on occasion by a particular duty not to obey. The doctrine that the individual is to be deemed as merged into the state, so that whatever the state demands becomes his duty irrespective of its moral nature, is deeply immoral, ungodly, and is to be resisted unto death. The separate, inalienable responsibility of each individual to God direct is heavily emphasized in Scripture. "So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God": "each one shall receive the things done through the body": "they were judged everyman according to their works" (Rom. 14: 12; 2 Cor. 5: 10; Rev. 20: 13).
The question of sharing in politics belongs to our subject. If a man is a citizen of one of the kingdoms of this world he has a duty to do what he can to keep in order and to better its corporate affairs, in which case he will vote in elections; but if he is only a subject, living for a time under this or that government, and presently going on to his own country, he has no business with those affairs. He will do what may be in his power to help any one, but as a foreigner his ways of so helping will be limited, and will not include interference with matters public.
is the status of the child of God according to the mind of the King, his
Father. He has been translated out of the
consequence, Peter describes Christians as "sojourners
and pilgrims" (1Pet. 2: 11). Both terms meant at the time simply aliens,
persons in a land but with no rights of citizenship. In his German translation (the Elberfeld) Darby renders the latter word by "ohne Burgerrecht", that is,
without citizen rights. The force of the
former is seen in Acts 7: 6 and 29. The
Israelites were aliens in
Consistently with this the Scripture nowhere gives instructions for the conduct of the Christian in the affairs national or international of men. If he join in these he must do so without warrant or counsel from the Lord, and will be cast upon his own poor judgment. The Word of God orders the child of God to be subject to the authorities in any land where life’s journey may take him; it never goes beyond this or contemplates him co-operating in public affairs.
In the words of J. R. Caldwell (in The Earthly Relationships of the Heavenly Family, p. 111) :-“Under what form, then, of the world’s government is the Christian to enter into politics? Under which of the wild beasts of Daniel 7. shall he take office? Where does he find in the Word of God his warrant to ally himself with government or party to attain ends which he supposes will be for the general good? Where in Scripture prophecy is there a trace of a ‘Christian government’, any more than of a reigning church? As well might we speak of a Christian seven-headed wild beast!
Who will venture to deny that the alliance of the Church with the world power, however plausible and apparently advantageous, cost the Church its heavenly character, and that not as an accident, but as the necessary consequence of the position? And can the individual become a politician, and bend his energies to further the views of government or party, and not likewise surrender his heavenly character and citizenship?
Then, as strangers and pilgrims here, let us confess our heavenly character and citizenship, and in no wise ally our selves with the world in its earth-born movements and world reformation schemes, whether political or social, but wait for His appearing who shall be to this poor, sin-stricken earth the fulfilment of every hope, whose eternal kingdom shall be ‘righteousness, and joy, and peace’."
Those individuals who have strength enough, by the indwelling Spirit of Christ, "to follow after peace with all men," however great the personal cost, are the truest benefactors of the world. In the family, in society, in the nation, they have always been a far richer source of blessing than all the men of violence combined.
- G.H. LANG
"Apply thyself to ALL the Scriptures, and apply ALL the Scriptures to thyself." - BENGEL.