It’s hard time right now. Many of us are facing uncertainty with our health, our lives, our finances…but one thing we must always realize is this: God cares for us. God has orchestrated all this for our good and His glory. He will walk us through this and be with us on the other side.
Be encouraged over the fact that God is sovereign and is not some sort of powerless spectator.
The emperor of Rome from AD 54 to 68 was Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, also known simply as Nero. The emperor was not known for being a moral and ethical person, to say the least. In AD 64 the great Roman fire occurred, with Nero himself being suspected of arson. In his writings, the Roman senator and historian Tacitus recorded, “To get rid of the report [that he had started the fire], Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace” (Annals, XV).
It was during the reign of Nero that the apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans. While one might expect him to encourage the Christians in Rome to rise up against their oppressive ruler, in chapter 13, we find this instead:
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:1–7).
Even under the reign of a ruthless and godless emperor, Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells his readers to be in subjection to the government. Moreover, he states that no authority exists other than that established by God, and that rulers are serving God in their political office.
Peter writes nearly the same thing in one of his two New Testament letters:
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:13–17).
Both Paul’s and Peter’s teachings have led to quite a few questions from Christians where civil disobedience is concerned. Do Paul and Peter mean that Christians are always to submit to whatever the government commands, no matter what is asked of them?
A Brief Look at the Various Views of Civil Disobedience
There are at least three general positions on the matter of civil disobedience. The anarchist view says that a person can choose to disobey the government whenever he likes and whenever he feels he is personally justified in doing so. Such a stance has no biblical support whatsoever, as evidenced in the writings of Paul in Romans 13.
The extremist patriot says that a person should always follow and obey his country, no matter what the command. As will be shown in a moment, this view also does not have biblical support. Moreover, it is not supported in the history of nations. For example, during the Nuremberg trials, the attorneys for the war criminals attempted to use the defense that their clients were only following the direct orders of the government and therefore could not be held responsible for their actions. However, one of the judges dismissed their argument with the simple question: “But gentlemen, is there not a law above our laws?”
The position the Scriptures uphold is one of biblical submission, with a Christian being allowed to act in civil disobedience to the government if it commands evil, such that it requires a Christian to act in a manner that is contrary to the clear teachings and requirements of God’s Word.
Civil Disobedience—Examples in Scripture
In Exodus 1, the Egyptian Pharaoh gave the clear command to two Hebrew midwives that they were to kill all male Jewish babies. An extreme patriot would have carried out the government’s order, yet the Bible says the midwives disobeyed Pharaoh and “feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live” (Exodus 1:17). The Bible goes on to say the midwives lied to Pharaoh about why they were letting the children live; yet even though they lied and disobeyed their government, “God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them” (Exodus 1:20–21).
In Joshua 2, Rahab directly disobeyed a command from the king of Jericho to produce the Israelite spies who had entered the city to gain intelligence for battle. Instead, she let them down via a rope so they could escape. Even though Rahab had received a clear order from the top government official, she resisted the command and was redeemed from the city’s destruction when Joshua and the Israeli army destroyed it.
The book of 1 Samuel records a command given by King Saul during a military campaign that no one could eat until Saul had won his battle with the Philistines. However, Saul’s son Jonathan, who had not heard the order, ate honey to refresh himself from the hard battle the army had waged. When Saul found out about it, he ordered his son to die. However, the people resisted Saul and his command and saved Jonathan from being put to death (1 Samuel 14:45).
Another example of civil disobedience in keeping with biblical submission is found in 1 Kings 18. That chapter briefly introduces a man named Obadiah who “feared the Lord greatly.” When the queen Jezebel was killing God’s prophets, Obadiah took a hundred of them and hid them from her so they could live. Such an act was in clear defiance of the ruling authority’s wishes.
In 2 Kings, the only apparently approved revolt against a reigning government official is recorded. Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, began to destroy the royal offspring of the house of Judah. However, Joash the son of Ahaziah was taken by the king’s daughter and hidden from Athaliah so that the bloodline would be preserved. Six years later, Jehoiada gathered men around him, declared Joash to be king, and put Athaliah to death.
Daniel records a number of civil disobedience examples. The first is found in chapter 3 where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to the golden idol in disobedience to King Nebuchadnezzar’s command. The second is in chapter 6 where Daniel defies King Darius’ decree to not pray to anyone other than the king. In both cases, God rescued His people from the death penalty that was imposed, signaling His approval of their actions.
In the New Testament, the book of Acts records the civil disobedience of Peter and John towards the authorities that were in power at the time. After Peter healed a man born lame, Peter and John were arrested for preaching about Jesus and put in jail. The religious authorities were determined to stop them from teaching about Jesus; however, Peter said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20). Later, the rulers confronted the apostles again and reminded them of their command to not teach about Jesus, but Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
One last example of civil disobedience is found in the book of Revelation where the Antichrist commands all those who are alive during the end times to worship an image of himself. But the apostle John, who wrote Revelation, states that those who become Christians at the time will disobey the Antichrist and his government and refuse to worship the image (Revelation 13:15) just as Daniel’s companions violated Nebuchadnezzar’s decree to worship his idol.
What conclusions can be drawn from the above biblical examples? The guidelines for a Christian’s civil disobedience can be summed as follows:
• Christians should resist a government that commands or compels evil and should work nonviolently within the laws of the land to change a government that permits evil.
• Civil disobedience is permitted when the government’s laws or commands are in direct violation of God’s laws and commands.
• If a Christian disobeys an evil government, unless he can flee from the government, he should accept that government’s punishment for his actions.
• Christians are certainly permitted to work to install new government leaders within the laws that have been established.
Lastly, Christians are commanded to pray for their leaders and for God to intervene in His time to change any ungodly path that they are pursuing: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1–2).
In the month since I posted my blogs about prayer, our world and our lives have been turned on their heads. Many of us are having to self-quarantine due to Covid-19 (or the Coronavirus). This means except for shopping for essentials or walking by ourselves around the block, we are not going out. Most restaurants are closed, schools and colleges are closed, and even shopping malls and stores are closed.
Social distancing is a concept that many could not have articulated a month ago. Now, even grade school age children understand what this means. Many parents are now forced to be home, along with their children, because many work places are also shut-down. Many may no longer have a job and multiple businesses will close forever. The government is currently considering a massive stimulus package that will reimburse families and businesses for lost time and wages.
Everything that was normal is no longer normal.
On Monday of this week, I listened to the BBC News and heard the daily broadcast given by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. A month ago, if the British people would have been told that police and government workers have the power to break up any gatherings of more than two people, they would have probably laughed and ridiculed you at the thought of such Draconian laws being put into place.
For those who have read or remember history, excessive or harsh laws were implemented in Europe and eventually the Jews were blamed for the problems of western Europe. Citizens were told that the laws were only temporary and in place for the “well-being” of all people. But I digress for that subject is for another day and another post.
However, the concern that I have is that the British government explicitly detailed what was to close. In the Prime Minister’s announcement, he specifically stated that all church gatherings are now banned!
Everything that was normal is no longer normal.
Local, state, and federal governments, here in America, have declared that we can no longer meet in groups larger than 10. Some are taking it even further and freedoms are being restricted beyond anything we could have imagined possible.
For almost half a century, I have read. I cannot begin to tell you how many books I have read in my lifetime, but I know they number in the thousands. From the Bible to classics to romance to modern day warfare to lawyer or military intrigue, turning pages in a book is a comfort to the soul. Yet, in all of my reading, what I see today seems like dystopian fiction come to life.
However, we in the western world now find ourselves at a crossroad. We are no longer allowed to meet for church in groups of more than 10, and some states in the USA have implemented emergency measures that allow for criminal prosecution for those breaking these new emergency laws.
This last Sunday was the first Sunday that the church where we serve closed down. We got up early and drove toward the building where our local assembly gathers. But, the services would not take place and so we turned around in a park. The day seemed to grow even more gray and dreary and I wondered aloud how much worse things could become. I realized afresh that —
Everything that was normal is no longer normal.
Yet, all that we see happening should not shock true believers. The apostle Paul wrote to a young man right before his own execution. In his short letter, he predicted that tough times would come. In fact, parts of this little epistle read as though Paul pulled his news directly from the front page headlines of 21st century newspapers.
2 Timothy 3:1-4 – “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
We who are true believers should remember that difficult or perilous times will come. The Bible is clear that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. I am not trying to predict that this is the final days before the time of great tribulation, but it is a possibility. What if through this time, a world leader should arise and promise to give the world a “happy ending?” What if that person were to bring prosperity, but at the cost of losing a few “freedoms”?
The truth is that the world deserves any and all judgment that may come at the hand of a holy and righteous God. We have rejected His ways and His commands for centuries and millennia. Even now in the 21st century, mankind thinks that he has been able to either destroy God or that he has re-created God is his own image.
The world mocks the remnant who have never bowed the knee to Baal. The world mocks those who proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He will return one day just as He promised.
There are even so-called evangelical churches that no longer believe that Jesus will literally return to this sin-cursed world. It is a world that Romans reminds us cries out for redemption, along with all those who have been redeemed and bought by the precious blood of Christ.
2 Peter 3:1-4 – “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’”
Like the prophets and preachers of yesteryear, it is important that true Christians proclaim the message of the gospel. Like Paul did to Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, we must preach about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment.
Be not deceived, for God will not be mocked. Whatsoever a man sows, the same he will reap. We do not know when the day of judgment will arrive, but when it does, the current pandemic known as Covid-19 will not even be a distant memory to those who live through those terrible days.
Christians, we are called to be like a Bride who is making herself ready for her Bridegroom to appear. Jesus Christ is very much alive and He is coming again. It may be sooner than any of us think. And I know with 100% assurance that He is definitely coming back sooner than the world wishes to believe.
NO LONGER NORMAL should be the battle cry of every true child of God. Through every trial, every tragedy, every pandemic, every death that occurs in this world, and especially at times like we are currently experiencing in March 2020, we should be shouting to everybody who will listen that –
Life is no longer normal!
Whether through Covid-19, an earthquake, cancer, the flu, an accident, or some other tragedy, death is coming. True believers should rejoice that our punishment was born by Christ on the cross of Calvary and there is no fear of any condemnation. For those who are not, we again plead to you to bow the knee to King Jesus before it is too late!
Pastors, if you are not preparing the hearts of your people for the return of our glorious King, then repent and humble yourself before His Majesty. He is coming and we need to live and preach like we actually believe it again!
It is no longer time for us to try and remind God of how big we think our problems are in this world. The time has come for us to tell the world how big our God is and always has been!
Only one life
It will soon be past,
And only what’s done
For Christ will last!
Before you read any further, stop and take note of the time.
Write it down if you have to in order to remember. It is important because the next week is going to change the lives of millions.
This is the approximate number of people who will die from something worse than Covid-19. The coronavirus has nothing on this disease. There is no human cure or government intervention that can change what is going to happen. Not one single medical mega-corporation will ever find a cure to this deadly disease.
In fact, the number above is a close representation of the number of people who died since this exact time last week and the week before.
The Spanish Flu took the lives of approximately 50 million people in the three years between January 1918 and December 1920.
This disease I speak of is even worse.
The Black Plague or Bubonic Plague that ravaged the world from 1347-1351 took the estimated lives of 25-200 million.
But the disease I speak of is even worse.
If you had paid close attention to the news, you would still have missed the reality that in the last eight weeks, almost 10 MILLION people have died around the world. This is more than the population of New York City, New York. It is more than the population of Mexico City, Mexico. Actually, the approximate number of people who have died from this disease is the same as the population of Seoul, South Korea.
From March 17, 2020 until March 17, 2021, approximately 63 MILLION people will die from this ancient disease.
That is the combined population of: Tokyo, Japan; Jakarta, Indonesia; Beijing, China; New York City, New York; and Sao Paulo, Brazil!
Here is the worst news anybody in the world could ever read. Forget all of the statistics. This disease has a 100% mortality rate to anybody who contracts it. The news channels, magazines, government organizations, and not even the United Nations wants to talk about this because it is so scary.
Tragically, the news DOES get worse.
Everybody in the world has the disease and there is NOTHING that can be done about it from a human perspective. My friend, you have the disease in your body and you may not even know it. However, it is not a respecter of persons. I have it on perfect authority that you and I WILL die from this disease, although we do not know when death will visit us.
The symptoms are horrible and at the heart of each symptom is the brutal reality that the underlying issues are too blatant, gross, and vulgar to even print. The symptoms of this disease grow worse with each passing day, but are so subtle at times that the overwhelming majority of the world will never stop to think about what is happening in their body.
The disease I am speaking of is SIN.
Sin is a curse that has come upon all of mankind through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Regardless of what modern psychology, humanistic philosophies, or even government mandates may try to dictate, they cannot stop the 100% mortality rate from taking place.
The effects of sin are evident all around for those with eyes to see. What seems like tragedies, illnesses, terrorist activities, natural disasters, and rampant disease are all the result of sin entering the world.
Further, because the disease of sin has entered the world, there is an even greater problem. Man has been separated from a holy God. God cannot bear to look upon sin and yet, man thinks he can become like God. This is the lie that has been the longest in existence and it comes from Satan.
Satan blinds the eyes of men, women, and children around the world. He does not want them to see the wonder of who God is. He does not want them to hear the good news that there is but one escape from this dreadful disease that has killed more people than all the wars and plagues to ever befall mankind.
Satan wants people to think that they can believe what they want, do what they want, live how they want, and then eventually die with no fear of eternity.
The Bible is clear though that there is a time that is appointed for ALL to die, and after death will come the judgment.
YOU CANNOT ESCAPE! The ravages of this death stare at you every day in your bathroom mirror, but you are ignoring them. Yet, they will not go away. Your flesh will decay until your body becomes dust in the grave.
But, there is a beacon of hope. It does not require hoarding toilet paper or food supplies. It does not require that you self-quarantine yourself in your home and hope for a better day.
The ONLY beacon of hope that you can escape is found in Jesus Christ ALONE. The Bible says ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Further, it proclaims that the wages of your sin is death.
Tired of the bad news, then hearken to the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Do you realize what this means?
For those who place their faith in Christ alone and plead to God for mercy, He will not reject them. He will grant forgiveness to those who ask for their sins to be forgiven. His love will and does extend to all who realize that Christ is the only escape.
John 3:16, 17 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
The ravages and effects of your sin will still end your life one day. It may not be this month, this year, or even this decade. But death is still coming and it comes to all.
However, for those who become true believers in Jesus Christ have the promise that there is NOTHING to fear when death comes. We will pass from this life into eternity where we will forever be with the Lord.
If your name has been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, then rejoice in this truth.
Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Today is the day of salvation though. Tomorrow may be too late. Over the next week, another 1,209,600 people will pass from this life into eternity and you may be one of that number. The results for those without Christ will be far worse than Covid-19, the black plague, or anything found in a chemical warfare lab.
Come to Christ while there is still time. Do not worry about the effects of Covid-19 if you have a right relationship with God.
If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, then rejoice and lift up your eyes for our redemption draws near. Our Lord is, has been, and always will be sovereign and in control of this world. If we get sick, or grow old, or die in an accident, death has been swallowed up in victory because Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose again so that we too can have the eternal hope that we will be raised to newness of life when this life is over.