Christianity offers the best news in the world. The gospel declares that through faith in Jesus Christ, we receive the forgiveness of our sins. With this assurance of God’s love, comes the promise that we receive a citizenship in heaven, a home has already been prepared for us, and that no sorrow of the present age is able to compare with the glory to come.
Christians living in the United States have enjoyed a period of calm and peace to practice their faith free from persecution with liberties that previous nations never could have imagined. In recent years, something is happening, however, that Christians are struggling to process. Christianity is becoming unwelcome in a country that originally enshrined in its constitution the freedom of religion. The handwriting in on the wall, it’s only a matter of time before, it seems, Christianity may become the great enemy of the state.
This has caused widespread panic among believers not knowing what they should do to combat this vicious assault against their faith. To appreciate a proper Christian response in times of revolution and persecution, there has to be a biblical understanding of what exactly is happening behind the scenes, lest our responses themselves undermine the expressed purpose of the Lord in leaving us on the earth.
The Antichrist Crisis
In every given culture throughout history, including the United States, there is a present cycle of iniquity that is working itself out to judgment. This is precisely why no nation, even one as great as Rome in its unmatched glory, has avoided a fall throughout the centuries. God told us this would be so throughout history. When God promised Abraham the land of Canaan, a type of the heavenly land promised to all believers, he first called Abraham to patience until a cycle of iniquity ran it course among the Amorites (Gen. 15:16). This was a way of saying that nations will run a course of satantic oppression in evil that, as Meredith Kline observes, “savagely turns against its citizens who refuse its mark.” This is necessary to vindicate God’s righteous judgment.
The city runs ever-present danger of developing in an apostate course that oppresses its citizens. In history, once this cycle reached its full cup of iniquity, God intervened in judgment to deliver his people and bring down the oppressive state. This is what the book of Revelation is describing as the potential of the state to become bestial (see Rev. 13), a state sanctioned religious antithesis that fulfills the perennial stand of wicked rulers “against the Lord and against his anointed” (see Ps. 2).
This is not to deny the legitimacy of government as good in principle as established by God to combat evil (Rom. 13:1ff). This is why we are called to submit to government authorities in full recognition that God ordains the state for our good. This submission has a great limit, of course, and we are called to obey until they tell us to do something against God’s law (Acts 5:29). What we are recognizing is the satanic development in the state that takes the form of idolizing humanity, a religious warfare in which apostates use the state to rebel against God and destroy his people (see Rev. 12:1-9).
God showcased this antichrist development particularly in the story of the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-10). “Come” they said, “let us make a name for ourselves” and “let us make a tower that reaches into the heavens.” This satanic development in the state reached a point that undermined the original good intention of God in its design. Again, as Kline notes,
There can be a radical “transformation of the city of man into the temple of Man, the god-king, earth’s revolt against the Creator…an idolization of power, full of corruption and violence, a regime that dehumanizes the mass of men and women by brutal oppression, a demonic ridden beast power that doubtless persecutes the people of the saints of the Most High, perpetuating the enmity of the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman…”
This is what Kline calls the man of sin stage that develops in the state.
This biblically described development, if not appreciated, will be evidenced in confused efforts that amount to making the mission of Christianity itself about saving the state from a cycle of iniquity. But according to Scripture, when the state reaches the antichrist stage, there is no stopping the flood of iniquity until the Lord himself intervenes in by restraining the evil or by bringing that nation to an end. Nobody can predict the rate and speed of the development or how far the Lord will allow it go in a given society. This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 24, that unless those days are shortened, no one will be saved. But, just as with Noah and his family, in its worst form, when they reached the point of being driven off the earth, the Lord answered their cries by deliverance and judgment. This was the case of Israel in Egypt too.
Two Present Responses
There have been two general responses to the beastly development of the state in our times. The first is the vast cry for social justice. That this cry for social justice has overtaken the masses should not be missed as a deliberate response to what Kline says is a dehumanizing of the masses by oppression. You can’t take the dignity away from men and women as God made them, destroy marriage that was designed as good for the benefit of humanity, murder in the womb, devalue human existence by making people a number, and attempt to reset society with paganism, without the consequence of cries from the masses over oppression. Yes, oppression is everywhere and these are definitely reasons why.
Christians, who deeply value justice, have felt this pain too and have struggled to respond to what is often a just cry from oppressed citizens, even when many do not realize that what they are crying against is exactly what they have supported and created.
The second general response is a radical effort to reclaim the state back to its original, early form, far before the cycle of iniquity has reached this level of iniquity, and this through cultural activism. Both of these secular responses have been currently adopted by many Christians as ways to fix the problem of the state. For instance, the present shift in eschatology, among believers, as wicked rulers strike down basic morality, is in the direction of a post-millennial, theonomic and reconstructive effort to save the state. While this view has found popularity among Christians in history, there is an adoption of this in our current moment as the great effort that should be pursued by Christians to save America and claim all things for Christ.
The problem is that on both fronts, whether its social justice activism or cultural transformationalism, these efforts, as they often stand in expressed condemnation of each other, are two sides of the same coin. They are the same endeavor, both as cultural efforts to stop the flood of injustice imposed by the state. But both efforts end up in the same place of frustration as injustice abounds. Should we want a just government, and should we care deeply about the injustices people face? Absolutely! Should Christians appeal within their rights to reform the state and maintain accountability to the laws they’ve agreed upon? Surely. We desire a nation of peace to help people and raise our families in Christ free from persecution.
The question is how we handle ourselves when governmental abuse is beyond our control. This leads us to the most important question: when a cycle of iniquity is running its course, should the mission of the church take on this great project of reclaiming a fallen state for Christ?
Few appear to stop and ask if our nation, after all these years of Christian influence, sound preaching, books published, churches on every corner, has not been transformed by this point, after some 245 years from its founding, then maybe something satanic is happening that we, in and of ourselves, are not able to solve. Maybe there is a purpose of God to vindicate his righteous judgment. And maybe, our present confusion on this point, has taken us off mission in our response. What then should be our response as believers when we find ourselves in a culture climaxing in a cycle of iniquity?
The Way Forward
As Christians turn to social media to decry the new abuse of the day, a sad development is happening. Both of the current responses in crying for social justice or redeeming the state, are having the same sad effect on the church. We are being swallowed up in these pursuits as the great goal of Christianity. And in the process, a burden is being laid on Christians that cannot be carried. Every day we are bombarded with new voices who are distressing believers and robbing them of their confidence in Jesus by placing the burden of the world’s sorrows on their shoulders to solve by fixing the state as the solution.
Christians, feeling pressured to do something by way of fixing the state, are discouraged, depressed, and distraught not knowing what their place is in our changing times, especially when some new voice is beating Christians over the head for never doing enough to stop the flood of iniquity. What’s evident is that our current impulse to fix America and our responses are not helping Christians fulfill their primary calling to be Christ’s witnesses to a gospel that delivers people out of the greater abyss of hell. Yes, there is a greater abyss that we need to be saved from. The problem of sin is sidelined and social cause is exalted to the place of primacy. And much of the activism we are called to is relegated to social media that only accomplishes Christians trashing other Christians for not doing enough. Surely, that’s not a solution.
So what is the way forward?
1. We are not Jesus: We need to remember that we are not Jesus. Much of our current response forgets that Jesus himself claims the right to deliver us in the appointed time from all evil. There are certain satanic things are happening that we are not the ones to solve. It was Israel’s perennial failure, in times of oppression and threat, to look to other delivers or to try to become delivers themselves from oppression. Was Saul not a lesson enough for us? What is needed first, therefore, in our challenging times, is a strong confidence that Jesus alone is our savior.
2. We are called to prayer and repentance: Christians need, more than ever, in these times, to cry out more in repentance and faith to Christ for help. This is not some pietistic application, it’s the very present cry that anticipates our greatest joy in Jesus’ flaming fire deliverance on the last day when we rejoice in him (Ps. 118:24). And Jesus sends relief too in the present. Jesus alone is the savior of the world and has taken the great responsibility upon himself to make a new heavens and earth where righteousness shall dwell forever. We sing from Psalm 98, “he alone will judge the nations…”
Christ has a perfect plan he is executing. As Abraham was called to patience before receiving the land, until the iniquity of the Amorites was complete, so too, we are called to patiently wait for the heavenly land knowing that the present cycle of iniquity is “vindicating God’s righteous judgment (see 2 Thess 1).”
This does not support a pessimistic, weak, defeatist outlook on things as is often said. Far from this, we are expressly told that Jesus has already overcome the world, and that even though we are guaranteed hated by the world, there is one greater in us than he who is in the world. We are already victorious.
3. The mission of the church is to make known the person and work of Christ: We are called to abide with Jesus, and stay with his expressed mission of being his witnesses to the ends of the earth. There is a reason, in times of distress, that Paul told Timothy to continue in what he already had learned and been assured of in the gospel. We are not saving people from bad governments; we are called to deliver people from hell as we have been entrusted with a good message that we take to the ends of the earth. This doesn’t make us uncaring for those who face abuses in this present age. We see these things are opportunities for the gospel. And we pray that through these opportunities, people would be helped to the great physician of their bodies and souls. But if we lose the primary goal in our calling to “save people from sin” we have lost that which truly matters. That this primary goal is still in place should be evident every Sunday as you gather to hear Jesus preached, as your pastor is commanded to do.
All of creation is being put under Christ’s feet, nothing is hindering his supremacy in all things and he promises to redeem creation on the last day. We are called to testify of his person and work, with a joyful confidence, that the victory is already accomplished. We are Christ’s salt and light by speaking the truth in love. Our lives should be lived in a quiet and peaceable manner, in all godliness, with full assurance that God, through this witness, by his Spirit, is convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment ( Jn 16:8).
Dear Christians, don’t be brought back into bondage with earthly theories that seeks to save a world that is passing away. Serve the Lord with gladness, enjoy your liberty as sons and daughters, pray for the salvation of your neighbor, do good to those who hate you, live by faith in the promise, and enjoy a quiet and peaceable life in godliness as you walk in the hope of glory.
Christ has already overcome the world, the victory is certain, and greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. These truths should drive the Christian life, free from all hostility and anger. This is enough to keep us busy in the calling Jesus has for us.
As for antichrist developments and beastly governments that seek to oppress us, Jesus promises he’s got our back, and that is, after all, why we are called to pray, “Jesus, come quickly.”