We were recently greeted with the announcement that the Supreme Court will hear cases related to gay marriage, leading to the almost certain legalization of gay marriage across the country. The liberal left has never been satisfied before with anything short of complete domination, and therefore the results we’ve seen play out in our neighbor to the north will likely become reality here. That will mean, at the least, that speaking against gay marriage or the practice of homosexuality will carry very big risks for any Christian. I have some very good friends who are supporters of gay marriage. I will be very interested to see whether they stand up for Christian pastors when they come under government attack for refusing to perform gay marriages or recognize them in their churches.
I don’t know what the future holds. But I am not optimistic for the state of the country. I have written a couple of posts on this in the last weeks, since the election. But please don’t mistake that for pessimism in general. I am not pessimistic at all. It seems likely that Christians in this country are going to go through some hard times. People in general are likely to go through hard times, but Biblical Christians in particular may come under particular attack, in addition to the generally bad economic and political conditions. But the greatest growth always comes through suffering.
As I said, I am no prophet. But I know what the Bible says. The Bible tells us that Christians must experience persecution and tribulation. Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” There the Holy Spirit tells us all that the world is and always will be hostile to Christianity, one reason I’m not a postmillennialist. That persecution has been lesser or greater in different times and places, more or less overt, but it’s always been a reality. Christians right now are under severe attack all over the world; in Muslim countries and in communist countries like China or North Korea the risk is imprisonment, beatings and death. In European countries and in Canada, and increasingly in America, the risk of being a Christian presently is social ostracization, ridicule, fines and other kinds of government censure.
But as I said, I’m not pessimistic at all. And I’m not even speaking directly of the eternal hope, of life with Christ in the new creation, though of course that can never be outside of our thinking. I am not optimistic about the nation of America, or western civilization in general. But why should I be? They are manmade institutions, and all such institutions come to an end sooner or later. Why should I be anxious for the perpetuation of an institution that allows the murder of infants? I have four young children, and I worry about them and others their age. I expect they will be adults in a very different world than I have been in. But God is their God too, and will care for them too. I can’t say that decadent and prosperous America has been particularly good for my self-discipline and trust in God anyway.
But I am very optimistic for the progress of the kingdom of God, for the church of Jesus Christ which is that kingdom’s outward manifestation. The church is growing the most rapidly in those places where it is under the greatest attack. In China, in India, in Africa, in the Muslim world- the church is growing rapidly. I have heard claims, though I can’t verify them, that though the old state churches in Europe and England are dead and gone, that evangelical Christianity is on the rise. Even in America, the growth of Christianity is not coming from the old liberal mainline churches that sold out on divorce and abortion a generation ago and thus paved the way for the trainwreck we’re now observing in this country. Along with all that growth of course there are cults, there are heresies, there is shallow feel-good prosperity-oriented Christianity. But that’s how Christianity has always spread. There will be a core of faithful Christianity that believes and holds to the Bible, a shallow Christianity that might have some small effectiveness in change the underlying culture, and a lot of wackos on the fringe. That’s how the church has always grown, and that’s how it is growing now.
The devil is beaten. The worship of the state and its power is the worship of the beast spoken of in Revelation. The worship of money, pleasure, entertainment, and the religious forms that support it are Babylon, the whore of Revelation. The beast and Babylon work together to dominate the nations of the earth, and in America they’ve just about had their victory. But the beast always turns on Babylon and kills her, something we’re also seeing in our own country right now, as the power of the state comes into competition with the power of the economy that has always supported the state in the past. So they never succeed in establishing their empire. Though they may have temporary victories in some times and places, Babylon was destroyed by God many millennia ago and He will never permit it to be rebuilt. So Christianity wins. The church goes forward. Satan and those who support him, those who rebel against the Scripture’s teachings on marriage, on the protection of life, on sexual ethics, on economic truths, those who look to the state to save them from every problem, those whose lives are spent in the pursuit of money and pleasure and entertainment, will continue to fight against the establishment of God’s kingdom. But God’s kingdom cannot be stopped. Many of Satan’s loyal followers will be convinced of the superiority of Jesus Christ and His kingdom; they will see the message of hope and forgiveness and love in the cross and will reject the futile dead-end of self-worship. And those who cling to their idols will come to nothing- producing nothing, changing nothing, advancing nothing. They will produce only death.
Satan and his kingdom will continue to fight bitterly until the end, and they will cause suffering. But that suffering will only make Christ’s kingdom stronger. Just as Christ found His victory through suffering and shame, so too will Christ’s people. In Jesus Christ there is life, and that life will have the victory. Christ’s kingdom cannot be stopped, and the kings of the earth will bend the knee.
One thought on “Optimism”
ontenre 1831Good post, Matt. I am just preaching on this subject from Revelation 5 and 6. We will not be spared the rigors of the conflict, for all are called to bear the cross. There are many lessons to the world before the revelation of the kingdom and the eternal inheritance.