James 5:1 (KJV) Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Christians and Patriotism, Part 1 of 2

Well, now, I can just about guarantee that this post might frustrate some people. But don't let it, please. I completely understand what both sides believe and feel, because I have struggled with this issue for nearly 40 years. So you will have the greatest of sympathizers in me ... no matter which position you take. It's difficult, and here we are at what seems to be a decision point in the United States. The Lord loves us all, and we all strive to the best of our ability to work our way through these most difficult of times - times that try the souls of men.

I ask only that you follow my train of thought, since I suspect that many who consider themselves Christians and patriots have traveled this very path. I am not looking to convince anyone to arrive at my conclusion ... only to travel the path together, to have one more look. We may both be Christians and yet get off at different stops along the way. If you are a serious Christian thinker, you always find it imperative to search out every nook and cranny along the way, to find the truth. Perhaps you will find some small grain of truth that you hadn't previously considered; it oftens happens to me. All the time, in fact.

It has been only in the past few weeks that I came to a final position on this matter, one which has been perhaps the primary dilemma in my entire Christian walk. The circumstances of our current societal crisis has more or less forced me to get off the fence and search the scriptures carefully once again on this matter.

This next may seems trite. It's not. It's at the core of every matter, and that is the question: what would Jesus do? Immediately, we often find a clear answer. But not always. We are still encumbered with human minds, minds that cannot readily grasp the mind of God much - if not most - of the time.

We do know that Peter, in his zealous anger, fought back at the centurion who came to arrest Jesus. But was that act a result of Peter's patriotism? I haven't done a lengthy study on the Roman law in that situation, but I suspect it was just Peter's 'regular,' even righteous, anger in the situation, with perhaps some fear lurking in the back of his mind. It was one of those impetuous moments which we so lovingly identify with Peter (because it reminds us so much of ourselves). In any case, the Lord gently rebuked his action. This probably isn't an example of Christianity and patriotism, so it's probably not a 'loaded' place to begin a discussion.

Still, it seems unlikely, if not unimaginable, that Jesus would have taken up arms, no matter what the situation. After all, as He said, His kingdom is not of this earth.

And yet, did not God direct the people of Israel numerous times to take up arms, even kill women and children, in the Old Testament? Yes, He most certainly did. And isn't Jesus the very exact representation of God? Yes, He most certainly is.

Then how do we reconcile these two different pictures of God? And they must be reconciled. Do not accept the idea which is so often offered, that the God of the Old Testament was a God of wrath, and the New Testament is a God of love. That is a patently false view. God is One. He is the same God in the Old Testament that He is in the New Testament. He is unchanging.The very same One God, represented as the Lord God and as Jesus. It is our lack of understanding, as always, that is the problem.

So, before we can accurately evaluate our roles here on earth as Christians, with regard to patriotism, it becomes essential to understand the role of God and Christ in both testaments. (I have just decided this cannot be written in one post. Therefore, this just became Part 1.)

We must understand that the entire Bible must be seen as a unit, a unity. There is no way to begin to understand the mind of God without that as the starting point. It is one entire unified story of God's plan and work from the beginning to the end of time, on earth. There is no possible way to understand Almighty God without this as the starting point.

What we must first understand is that God is working with two peoples throughout history - and he has a different plan for each of these two peoples, in order to bring them to the same place in the end. The first people consists of the Israelites, the Jews, with which he established the "Old Covenant." The second people consists of all people who have accepted Jesus Christ as Messiah, Jew and Gentile (that's us), with which he established the "New Covenant," and is known as the Bride of Christ. The first group did not accept Jesus as Messiah, and they are awaiting the imminent return of their "Messiah;" unfortunately, they will accept the Antichrist until their eyes are opened and they finally recognize that Jesus is, after all, their Messiah.

God has a separate and distinct plan under which these two groups are operating throughout history, until the time that both groups are reconciled in Him, at which time He will reign and rule on earth for 1000 years. One of the differences between these two groups is that the first group, the Jews, was set up in an earthly governmental, covenant relationship with God here on earth. It was not His plan for them to live under the rule of earthly rulers and governments, but directly under His Kingship over them in Jerusalem and the surrounding lands. This is why He has declared Jerusalem as His royal city forever, and why Jerusalem is the most fought over city in the world, as earthly kings under Lucifer's control are dead set on ruling over God's territory and the City of David, Jerusalem. This is also why God had the Jews fighting on earth, to establish His government on the earth territory in and around Jerusalem. They failed to accomplish this, but instead worshipped other gods and insisted on earthly kings, for which they have been, and continue to be, punished. They are on a different track than Christians (followers of Jesus Christ) - because of their disobedience.

Christians, on the other hand, are those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God's only begotten Son who came to die on the cross as the one, final, sacrifice for the sins of mankind through which we receive redemption and inheritance into the heavenly kingdom (and are thus royal heirs) through the New Covenant God made with us. We are not to establish any earthly territory for God's rule, but rather are to live under the earthly rulers while carrying out God's spiritual reign and rule in our lives through the Holy Spirit's presence in our own spirits, who guides and controls all that we do. We are to be the light in the darkness of the unredeemed on earth, the salt of the earth to spread the good news to all who will receive Christ as Lord. This is a different track than the Jews are on.

Both tracks are about to come together in the near future: "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth;" Ephesians 1:10.

This is why God worked in one way in the Old Testament and in an entirely different way in the New Testament. Same God, different plans for different people, for a time. One people under an earthly government with God as their king, one people under earthly government with men as their kings, but our "conversation is in heaven," (Philippians 3:20) "And [he] hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus..."Eph. 2:6. Note that these scripture references are present tense. Our home, conversation and spiritual rule is in heaven right now, but we also live on earth presently where God has also placed us under the jurisdiction of earthly rulers at the same time ... just as Jesus Christ himself was, by choice, when He was bodily on earth.

The day will soon come when God Himself will descend to earth with his bride: "for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." Rev. 19:7-9. This passage tells us that the Bride of Christ, now in heaven and now his wife, is dressed in fine linen, and it is time for the marriage supper (which, in Jewish tradition, occurs after the bride and groom have been secluded for the seven days after the wedding).

Continuing in Rev. 19:11-14: "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean." The wedding has been over for seven days, and it is now time for the marriage supper. It will be at that time that He returns to make war, along with the armies clothed in fine linen, white and clean (his wife, the saints - us).

He destroys the kings and rulers of the earth (and invites the fowls of heaven to their part in the supper): "And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great." Rev. 19:16-18.

PLEASE NOTE HERE (above) that Jesus is involved not only in WAR, but in its gory aftermath. One God, a God of love, war, judgment, mercy, forgiveness, i.e. righteousness ... all the very things we, even in our imperfection, see as necessary elements of order and justice. Even in our sinful state, we think like God to a great extent. No wonder. Don't forget that he intentionally created us in His image! He loves us that much and wants nothing but the best for us. Why is it so hard for people to accept Him?

Jesus Christ, with the armies clothed in fine linen, then addresses Satan, binding him in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years (after which he will be loosed again for a short time): "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled." Rev. 20:2-3.

Christ will rule and reign on earth for the 1,000 years, after which Satan is loosed for a short time and then will be permanently out of business on earth. The Great White Throne judgment then occurs, heaven and earth are replaced with a new heaven and earth, and the New Jerusalem descends to earth where God will live with his people, as described in Revelation 21.

This is a short space in which to sum up such difficult and important scripture as that in Revelation, and I hope in my haste that I haven't caused more confusion than light. But it seemed necessary to connect these dots to get even the barest picture of the critical importance of understanding the unity of the entire Bible before we can begin to understand our roles as Christians during this time on earth.

So...we will continue tomorrow in Part 2.

Royal Heir