Are we seeing the rise of a new tyranny that will usher in the end-time brutality and fiery trials that test the “perseverance and faith of the saints” prior to Christ’s return (Revelation 13:10)?

Undoubtedly, the current pandemic, now in its second year, has created a mass hysteria of panic and fear which has led to an increasing authoritarianism around the globe that is gladly embraced by frantic worldlings looking for safety and security. For Christians, however, who rest in the knowledge that they are guided and protected by the rod and staff of their Great Shepherd, there is no such panic (Psalm 23:4). They are, by faith, spiritually immune to the blind fear that has gripped the world and thus are able to calmly identify any signs of political malfeasance being implemented for the sake of a fleeting, synthetic peace.

The picture being shown isn’t pretty. In this latest scene from the directors of the pandemic, we are witnessing the forced establishment of a “New Normal” where strict control of human beings is the key component. People in some parts of the world, including America, must now show their “papers” to access the most basic needs of humanity, like fundamental medical care, gathering for worship, or permission to enter a supermarket for food. Clearly, this is a disturbing acceleration of globalized authoritarianism that should be of great concern to everyone, but especially to Christians who are sensitive to worldly disruptions stirred up by “the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” that will effectuate the “schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-12).

As writer C. J. Hopkins sees it, “It feels like things are about to get ugly. Very ugly. Extremely ugly.” And the reason for this dreadful feeling? Because, according to Hopkins, the “global-capitalist ruling establishment” is using the pandemic to seize more power, and implement “a new, more openly totalitarian structure of society and method of rule. They are revoking our constitutional and human rights, transferring power out of sovereign governments and democratic institutions into unaccountable global entities that have no allegiance to any nation or its people.” The New Normal, he solemnly reports, is doing “precisely what every totalitarian movement in history has done before it, right by the numbers.”

A TIME TO WATCH

This grim assessment outlining a major totalitarian shift in our political climate should put all Christians on high alert. This is most certainly a particular time to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41) and spiritually prepare for the possibility of a coming tyranny. Just like the sleepy disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, today’s Christians are called by Jesus to stay awake and “watch” for the malevolent ruling force that will suddenly emerge from the darkness and challenge their faith. For Peter, James and John, the great trial at hand was the political arrest and crucifixion of their Lord; but for us, it may very well be the increasing authoritarianism of the New Normal that presents our next crisis of faith.

In a final beatitude to end-time believers, Jesus reiterated the importance of keeping watch until He returns. “Blessed is he who watches,” our Lord pronounced, “and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame” (Revelation 16:15). As Matthew Henry explains it, “These will be times of great temptation; therefore Christ calls on his professed servants to expect his sudden coming, and to watch that they might not be put to shame, as apostates or hypocrites.” Indeed the earnest watcher will always desire to be found clothed in the true righteousness of faith, no matter the times or season (Philippians 3:9). In reverent obedience to Him, therefore, we need to use all the God-given tools of imparted biblical wisdom and spiritual discernment to identify, scrutinize, and judge the satanic evil that may come stealthily like a prowling lion looking to devour us before Christ’s return (1 Peter 5:8).

Not surprisingly, the approaching shadow of authoritarianism seems to be revealing this predatory shape. In fact, as various world authorities manipulate this current pandemic to tamp down personal freedoms in the name of health and safety, the watchful Christian should already foresee the deadly consequences of this totalitarian movement and how it is creeping forward. Such beastly oppression by the state does not stand alone, but soon spreads its rabid authoritarianism into the culture and creates a generalized “moral justification” in society and a cult-like mentality that encourages and applauds the labeling of any nonconformist as an enemy of the “greater good.”

This is almost certainly the common rallying cry of a coming tyranny: pronouncing themselves and their particular cause as “righteous” and their opponents as an “evil” that must be eliminated. As Thomas Paine once noted:

“The greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes.”

THE CHURCH AT RISK

The end result of this cruel use of power in the guise of virtue is frighteningly clear to the believer in Western society who is mindful of Bible prophecy and the sad history of Christian persecution. Even now, despite any connection to valid public health concerns, churches are being burned down to isolate parishioners, violent protesters are terrorizing Christians who attend public worship rallies, and faithful preachers of God’s word are being censored and arrested for speaking truth that questions any predominant social narrative. Why are such things happening more and more? Because following Jesus is, and always has been, viewed as a social and cultural threat that challenges those in the world who wield indiscriminate power and control. In these instances, it isn’t really about eradicating a virus; it is about eradicating Jesus.

Sadly, this is the hidden reality behind the persecution that comes every time the world creates and implements a new mechanism for tyranny. Whether through war, pandemic or social justice, the devil and his world forces continue to seize upon these various upheavals to persecute Jesus Christ through His people—just as our Lord prophesied they would do: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20; Acts 9:4-5). Why, then, would any committed Christian ever assume that they might avoid the same cruelties that were inflicted upon our Lord? Since persecution is part and parcel of our life in Christ (2 Timothy 3:12), we shouldn’t expect anything less than this bombshell of truth from Jesus about the nature of hate in this world:

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19-20).

Hate is certainly hanging thick in the air these days. The combustible rage exhibited by mobs of social Marxists and anarchists has spread throughout our country and destroyed our people, property, and rule of law. In most major American cities, senseless murder and violent assaults are at an all-time high, and indicate a demonic activity hard at work. Satan is well aware that “his time is short” and so at every opportunity he will make war, especially on “those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus” (Revelation 12:17). Indeed it is the spirit of antichrist (1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 1:7) which has spread like a disease to infect our government and transform our society into pockets of angry, hate-filled factions ready to persecute and even eliminate the “others” that threaten their precious “peace.”

TYRANNY AND THE PERSECUTING MOB

Perhaps we need to be reminded that it was this specific kind of mob mentality, nudged along by the ruling elite, that put our Lord to death. Often, we find, the masses are complicit in their efforts to join in the government’s tyrannical rule. Case in point: everything about Jesus’ arrest and trial was an unlawful prosecution, and yet it was only by stirring up the public against Him that the ruling priests and elders could fully ensure His crucifixion (Mark 14:53-59; Matthew 27:20). And why was it so easy for the mob to be persuaded by the falsehoods and innuendo coming from their leaders? Sadly, they were all too eager to accept the lies about Jesus because it appealed to their self-righteousness and satisfied the bloodlust in their own deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). It is this woeful narrative of Scripture which inspired Matthew Henry to rightly conclude:

“Multitudes who choose the world, rather than God, for their ruler and portion, thus choose their own delusions.”

Such is the common theme in the annals of Church history when the mere presence of Christians poses a prickly challenge to the soft, comforting “delusions” of this sinful world. Starting with the martyrdom of Stephen, the ebb and flow of Christian persecution has been a constant fixture like the tides of the sea. Just peruse this quick list of tyrannized Christians throughout the ages: The Apostles and early disciples, Roman believers during the Great Persecution of 303 AD, English reformers like William Tyndale and John Bunyan, Pastor Paul Schneider in Nazi Germany, and Pastor Wang Zhiming in Communist China. These courageous believers, and millions more, were all stripped of their civil rights, often cruelly imprisoned, and many of them brutally executed because of their unwavering commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Recent historical data, compiled in 2014 by the late researcher David B. Barrett, puts the number of Christians martyred since the time of Jesus at 70 million and counting. Between 1917 and 1980, nearly 15 million Christians died while living in prison camps where they were placed because of their faith, and it is estimated that 340 million Christians are being persecuted for their faith around the world right now in China, North Korea, Afghanistan, India, Africa and several other countries where Christians are a despised minority.

To add to their misery, according to World Watch Monitor, the global pandemic has become a new “catalyst for repression of minority Christians” and a pretext for increased governmental surveillance, harassment, and harsh restrictions. The latest excuse for heaping abuse upon Christians in these oppressive countries? They blame Christians for the coronavirus! And sadly, there is some evidence that this vile sentiment may have already spread into certain pockets of our society as well.

Only by the merciful hand of God are Christians in America shielded from the level of persecution currently taking place in other parts of the world. Or perhaps the more precise reason the American church is seeing little affliction these days is a scandalous one. Maybe it is because there is currently little distinction between today’s mere professors and the world around them. As Charles Spurgeon correctly noted, even in his day, “There would be much more persecution than there is — if there were more real Christians. But we have become so like the world, that the world does not hate us as it once did. If we would be more holy, more true, more Christ-like, more godly — we would soon hear all the dogs of Hell baying with all their might against us!”

Regardless of the reason for our present-day protection, Christians in America may soon find the hounds of persecution at their doorstep as more and more draconian mandates, lockdowns, and severe controls on human activity are utilized in Western society, unchallenged by a fearful public that is looking for a scapegoat to blame for their immediate problems. All the while, as desperate people are pointing fingers, powerful global institutions outside the jurisdiction of sovereign governments are hard at work trying to erase all borders, absorb every commonwealth into a one-world regime, and govern the whole of humanity with the sole purpose of universal control and manipulation. In many ways, this relentless authoritarianism has all the characteristics of the lawless rule of a coming tyranny that will soon place American Christians under the thumb of the Antichrist.

OUR OBLIGATION TO GOVERNMENT

Some Christians, perhaps, may argue that this is an over-the-top assessment of our current situation, and that any temporary governmental overreach now taking place is a “necessary evil” to secure and protect our communities against a deadly disease. They may even rightly point out that the Bible teaches we should submit to the governing authorities, regardless of their political persuasion or heavy-handed rule, because they have been “established by God” as a divine tool for maintaining order, equity and justice in society (Romans 13:1-5).

Without a doubt, Paul’s inspired teaching on the matter is true and noteworthy, and we should always take this into account as we seek to conduct ourselves “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” and “with wisdom toward outsiders” (Philippians 1:27; Colossians 4:5). Nevertheless, this particular doctrine of submission to government may become a secondary directive if the ruling authorities go beyond their God-ordained purpose of “punishing those who do evil and praising those who do good” (1 Peter 2:14). Specifically to this point, Francis Schaeffer bluntly asserted, “The state is to be an agent of justice, to restrain evil by punishing the wrongdoer, and to protect the good in society. When it does the reverse, it has not proper authority. It is then a usurped authority and as such it becomes lawless and is tyranny.”

Samuel Rutherford, the 17th century Scottish theologian, would have agreed. “Tyranny being a work of Satan, is not from God,” he wrote. And while he believed a ruling government official may be a “minister of God for thy good” in the “nature and intrinsic end of his office,” Rutherford emphasized that such power, if used to sinfully oppress citizens, is “not from God, and is not a power, but a licentious deviation of a power, and is no more from God, but from sinful nature and the old serpent.”

OUR OBLIGATION TO GOD

So what do we do when such oppressive political powers try to usurp God’s commands or the natural rights He bestowed upon us at creation? Clearly, the Bible shows us that there can be an overriding situation where it is imperative that we “obey God rather than men.” This is the godly response as established by Daniel, the three Hebrews in Babylon, and the Apostles (Acts 5:29; Daniel 1:8; 3:16-18; 6:6-12). Take notice that in every one of these biblical examples of resistance against authority, these men of God did so with all due respect, seeking to resolve the conflict by offering alternative concessions, or to humbly submit to any judicial repercussions should they be forced to maintain their higher obligation to God. Notice, too, how God validated and honored their faith-driven resistance by divinely intervening and rescuing them from the cruel instruments of tyranny: the dungeon’s chains, the lion’s mouth, and the fiery furnace.

As Christians, then, our duty may well be to interact with our ruling authorities in a humble manner and submissive spirit that honors our Lord, and yet we are under no obligation whatsoever to obey governmental tyranny when it directly collides with the commands of God. Even Jesus made a clear distinction between what we owe the government and what we owe God: “…Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25). The implication of what our Lord is saying here suggests that civil noncooperation or resistance through a legitimate moral recourse may be a necessary course of action when the state interferes with our greater obligation to the things of the Lord.

THE FINAL RESOLVE OF OUR FAITH

In light of these compelling scriptural directives, the question then becomes: what is our pressing obligation concerning the immediate matter at hand? Should we sheepishly capitulate to this New Normal of medical passports, digital certificates, and “social credit” rankings that lay the groundwork for segregating and controlling certain segments of the population which are deemed socially undesirable by the state? Or should we stand in godly opposition to these totalitarian innovations, knowing that they are the very bones which can construct the perfect beast of tyranny against God’s people?

To properly answer these questions, we must utilize the application of God’s word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to ascertain the proper course of action, and thus keep ourselves “watchful unto prayer, thankful, and standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 4:7; Colossians 4:2; I Corinthians 16:13). This may be a difficult task at times, especially if the powers-that-be continue down this current path towards totalitarianism. And yet, come what may, we must don the full armor of God and stand in defense of the Gospel, all the while rejoicing that we have been considered “worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).

Continuing on the subject: The Genius Of Christianity Breaks The Snare

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