By Stephen Green
First Published in Christian Voice January 2009
Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
34 For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at
, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.
It was way back in February 2003 that I looked at the Lord's parable in Luke 19:11-27 about the nobleman going away to a far country to receive a kingdom and to return.
It remains clear to me that the Lord was talking of His Ascension. Heaven is the 'far country' and the 'kingdom' is the kingdoms of the world, the ones which Satan maintained in the second Temptation (Luke 4:5-8) were in his gift.
Luke 19 says that because of His obedience on the Cross, and the triumph of His Resurrection, the Lord would receive the 'kingdom'. Upon His return He would reign in peace and justice, first having called the believers to account for their diligence in exercising their talents, and then slaying His enemies, those who would 'not have this man to reign over us.' (Luke 19:14) The Apostles understood both the terrible sequence of events in the judgment:
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Christ's position as the rightful ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth:
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The
kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
And the mystery that Christ is indeed, but was yet to be revealed, as King of kings:
Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;
In the classical premillennial approach, we are waiting for the Lord to return and evict Satan from the kingdoms of the world. If we take a postmillennial view, the Lord's return has happened, but the Church still has to strive and occupy to bring in the kingdom, which is plainly not yet established. I am not taking sides in that debate, not today, anyway. Indeed there are other ways of looking at it, but I would argue they all boil down to this:
Our Lord is the rightful ruler of this world,
It is good when God's will is done on earth,
Satan is a usurper whose time is short,
We are under Satan's illegal occupation,
We do not know when that will come to an end,
But we have to be busy in our Lord's service,
With minds focused on His ultimate reign.
THE WINTER OF NARNIA Over Christmas, I watched 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' for the first time. C.S.Lewis shows extraordinary perception by having Aslan the lion as the lawful ruler of Narnia but at a distance, while the witch regards herself and acts as if she is the undoubted queen. By setting the results of the witch's occupation as a perpetual winter, Lewis invites us to conclude that virtue and righteousness, beauty and life itself are unable to grow and flourish with Satan in charge.
If he could see our day, Lewis would be amazed at how close he came to the reality of the effects of Satan's reign. The Book of Common Prayer expresses a desire that the Queen's ministers might 'truly and indifferently (=impartially - SG) minister justice to the punishment of wickedness and vice and to the maintenance of true religion and virtue.'
John Belham, in his book 'Lord teach us to pray', says: 'The old words sound hard in our day, and yet they carry the seed of all that it means to really pray, "Your will be done," throughout every level of society. Modern thinking concerning government is that it should always be morally neutral, not adjusting punishments and rewards to restrain evil and corruption and promote the good and godly, but simply to provide the necessary support to enable its citizens to enjoy a free choice of lifestyle, godly or ungodly, moral or corrupt. As a direct result of abandoning the biblical perspective of the God-given privilege and responsibility of government, well intentioned modern governments actually find themselves presiding over the moral collapse of society.'
ABSE AND STEEL DID A DEAL And so they do. The late Leo Abse has been referred to as 'the Member for Happiness' because of his work to bring in the Sexual Offences Act 1967 and the Divorce Reform Act 1969. The happiness was supposed to have been that of homosexual men released from the fear of blackmail and those said to be 'locked in loveless marriages'. But all Abse did was increase unhappiness in a vast new set of people: those young men and women drawn into the homosexual lifestyle as a result of the relentless proselytisation of 'gay youth' and 'gay switchboard' groups, and their despairing parents, and those divorced against their will and against all principles of justice.
Ungodly measures like these have contributed massively to what Belham describes as 'the moral collapse of society.' I shall also single out the Abortion Act 1967, just to mention Abse's abandonment of principle. He was himself opposed to legalised abortion, and spoke out against it, but in his final years he gave an interview in which he exposed the machinations which went on in 1967. The supporters of David Steel's Abortion Bill went to Abse and told him that if he did not stop his opposition to their Bill, they would block his. 'It was the only time I succumbed to blackmail,' he admitted. Both the Abortion Bill and the Sexual Offences Bill were enacted that year.
GOOD LAWS HELP THE GOSPEL It is often said by those who oppose ministries like Christian Voice that 'good laws do not make people good', to which I retort that even if that is so, they bring the benefit of stopping a whole lot of bad people behaving badly. Or at least bringing them to justice when they do. But the witness of scripture does not support the initial contention. The Apostle Paul urges that:
1Ti 2:1 ... 'supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
Now kings and those in authority pass and administer laws and the judicial system. Paul wants citizens to be able to 'lead a quiet and peaceable life', to go about their business, 'in all godliness and honesty.' That is precisely 'the punishment of wickedness and vice' and 'the maintenance of true religion and virtue' of Cranmer's prayer. But Paul says a righteous system of government is what God wants to see, and he gives a reason. When such a system is operating, it is easier for the Gospel to be preached, for men to see the truth and be saved. So good laws do make people good, or at least, help them get saved. The prophet Isaiah said the same thing, centuries earlier:
Isa 26:9 With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
So when the law of God becomes the law of the land, people stop doing wrong and start doing right and they are more open to the Gospel.
SATAN DELIGHTS IN HUMAN MISERY But in the chill wind of Satan's occupation, the people learn wickedness instead. The vilest men are exalted (Psalm 12:8) and as the wicked go walking on every side, they trample underfoot any green shoots of virtue which dare to emerge crocus-like from the snow. So when an elderly lady is assaulted, the public pass by on the other side. A boy defending his friend is knifed. A girl falling pregnant ends up in the grasping hands of the abortionist. A father trying to bring peace on the estate is kicked to death.
And wickedness begins to be directed at the Church itself. A Christian registrar is forced out because she cannot not solemnise the abomination of civil partnerships, a magistrate has to resign rather than give children into the care of homosexuals, a Christian care home loses all Council funding rather than ask its elderly residents every three months if they are 'gay'. Christians are harassed by the police for expressing mild misgivings over council promotion of homosexuality, or locked up for preaching the Gospel. Firemen are told to honour a 'gay pride' march with the distribution of leaflets and disciplined when in conscience they refuse.
Despite the heroic attempts of street pastors and evangelists, it is hard work explaining the need for a Saviour to a people who do not recognise that they have sinned. Taking what Isaiah is saying to its logical conclusion, turning the law on its head, declaring wrong to be right and right wrong merely adds to moral confusion and impedes the Gospel, whatever damage it does to individual lives along the way. And all the while, Satan is rejoicing over those wrecked lives just as much as he delights in souls kept away from heaven. If that were not true, he would not work so hard to get wicked laws passed. He loves human misery, both here and in the hereafter.
SO WHAT SHOULD WE DO? I suggest we Christians are in a similar position to that in which the French found themselves as the Nazis poured into
in 1939. The occupying enemy has come in like a flood and seized the levers of power. Now he is now intent on silencing or neutralising all opposition. Dissent will not be tolerated. An example will be made of those who step out of line.
Yet despite the risks, certain of the French decided to fight back. They engaged in a guerilla war. The word 'guerilla' literally means 'little war'. Rather than a full-frontal assault, it involves small, mobile skirmishes and raids, aimed at disrupting enemy communications and destroying his installations, moving in, doing the business, then vanishing into the night. Despite its Spanish origins in the Peninsular War of 1807-1814, one candidate for the title of the inventor of guerilla warfare is Owain Glyndwr. He noticed in 1400 that the occupying English army could only move along certain highways, to pre-determined locations, reacting with fixed rules of engagement. So his men struck from the hills, looking for weak points, harrying and disappearing. Men rallied to Glyndwr as his successes grew and it was not long before skirmishes became fixed battles, all of which he won.
But fixed battles were not open to the Maquis of France. They knew they had a rightful government across the water, so they simply had to hold in there doing what they could, hoping and praying for deliverance from outside. That is almost exactly our own position.
And let us not forget, Aslan the Lion is waiting for human beings who will be obedient to his call, and will take up the battle. He cannot, or will not, act alone. The reconquest of Narnia has to happen in partnership. I am always amazed at how generous our God is, to ask us to be involved in something He could easily do Himself. Wesley said that God does nothing except in answer to prayer, and although He could surely strike down the Government and place Godly men there tomorrow, He is gracious enough to let us be part of a much slower process - slower because of our human condition - but a process which will enable us at the end to say, 'I was part of that.'
So what do we do? We pray and ask for instructions then we listen to the Lord as He replies. This is less 'Lord, do something,' and more 'Lord, what can we do?' We ask our Commander to reveal the enemy's installations, which we might call Satan's strongholds. We do what the Maquis did. We make a map, marking the strongholds, or we just list them. We look for signs of weakness, deciding which to confront first and drawing up a plan of attack. Then we fasten on our Gospel armour (in fact not taking it off is a good idea) attack fast and by surprise using the weapons at our disposal, which centre around the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
It will all be hard work, for the Lord's service is not easy. There will be casualties. Not everyone gets their armour on properly. We may need the spiritual equivalent of field hospitals. But the truth is, Christianity has become too soft today, while the Lord still looks for men who will endure hardness as a soldier (2Tim 2:3). As for reward, those who overcome will inherit a crown of life and rule over cities and angels. But by doing what we can do, we can look to the Lord to work a miracle. In other words, if we do the simple things, we can leave the clever stuff to the Lord. No man can withstand His artillery.
HOLD THE FORT There is another way of looking at it, which may be encouraging. It centres around an incident in the American Civil War, which inspired Philip Bliss to write his famous hymn, 'Hold the Fort'. The hymn and a fuller account of the story are on the Christian Voice website.
In short, while General Sherman's Union army lay camped in 1864 in the neighbourhood of
, the Confederate army of General Hood passed his flank and began to destroy the railway and capture the small garrisons along the line. The principal of these was located at
, where General Corse was stationed with a brigade of troops, about 1500 men, and a million and a half of rations. Six thousand men were detailed by Hood to take the position. The works were completely surrounded and invited to surrender. Corse refused, and fighting commenced. The defenders were slowly driven into a small fort on the crest of the hill. Many had fallen, and the end seemed in sight.
At this moment an officer caught the sight of a white signal flag, far away across the valley, fifteen miles distant, upon the top of
. The signal was answered, and soon the message was waved across from mountain to mountain: "Hold the fort; I am coming. W. T. Sherman." The signal cheered the men and despite the death of Corse, they held the fort for three hours, until the advance guard of
's army came up, and the Confederates were obliged to retreat.
For Bliss, the story became an inspiration that our Lord knows our position; and that, we doing our utmost, he will supplant our weakness by speedy reinforcements. So
's message to the soldiers of
becomes the message of the Great Commander, who signals to all who fight life's battles, "Hold the Fort; I am coming."
WE SERVE A GREAT KING We are entering a new phase in Christian Voice. We pray to expand and become more active. The March of Repentance on 18th July is one aspect of this. But another is looking for partner churches who feel led to move out and take this spiritual fight to the enemy. We shall eventually be relieved, but until then we shall 'hold the fort', watch and occupy and be busy about the master's business, get behind the enemy lines ourselves, in true guerilla fashion, advancing the cause of righteousness for the Kingdom of God and for His glory. We serve a great King. He may be 'across the water,' but He is working here already, He is the rightful Ruler of this whole earth and of our
, He is working His purpose out and He will establish His rule.
Rev. 19:11 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 said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.