When Government Rewards Evil and Punishes Good JOHN MACARTHUR

When Government Rewards Evil and Punishes Good


INTRODUCTION AND DISCUSSION OF ROMANS 13

I have obviously tried to address, through the last year and a half almost, the issues that confront us in the country that we live in, in the world that we live in, in the times that we live in. But I thought there is one final message that I would like to lay upon you, and that’s what’s come together this morning. It has many components and many parts, and it may test your attention span a little bit.

When we first decided to meet as a church—it’s been a year now—and to do that without regard to what the government was telling us to do, there was a lot of criticism. That criticism came from evangelical leaders, pastors, bloggers, writers, friends, foes—just about everywhere. But we were not dissuaded in any sense from doing what we did. And the Lord has demonstrated to us that we were lied to. And I think whatever the issues are in the world, the church is the only hope of the world.

Now I want to see if I can’t, from the Word of God, pull together some things that will help you to understand why this is our position. And I want this because I think in the future, for those who are younger than I am—maybe I’ll live to see some of it—this resolve to be the church when the government wants to shut you down is going to be tested again, and it’s going to be tested at a much more aggressive level. There were many churches that failed this test, and there will be many who will fail the next one. But the true church follows Christ, not the government. Our President’s said in the last month that the greatest threat to America—he said on one occasion—is systemic racism, which doesn’t exist; he said white supremacy, which doesn’t exist with any power; and then he said global warming, which doesn’t exist either, and if it does, God’s in charge of it.

In reality the greatest threat to this nation is the government, the government. And I want to show you how we are to understand that. Turn to Romans 13, Romans 13. Listen carefully to what the apostle Paul said: “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 doesn’t bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” The role of the government is to restrain evil; and when it functions to restrain evil, it is fulfilling its God-ordained purpose.

Please notice in verses 1 and 2 that government is from God, by God, of God. It is designed as a necessary restraint in a world of sinners. Verses 3 and 4 tell us it is not a threat to those whose behavior is good, but evil. It is those who do evil who should be afraid, not those who do good. In fact it offers praise to those who do good, and brings wrath on those who do evil. And rulers actually, according to verse 6, are servants of God, devoted to that service.

This is God’s design for government. The problem is, when government ceases to function by God’s design, it yields up its authority. The same would be true in a family. God’s design is that the father lead the family. When the father leads in a destructive and evil way, he yields up the right to exercise that God-given authority.

And by the way just as a footnote, the man who wrote that, the apostle Paul, was in violation of the government more often than any other person in the entire New Testament. And when he went to preach the gospel, he was very often thrown in jail; and ultimately he was executed by the government that he refused to obey when it no longer functioned to protect good behavior and punish evil behavior.

GOVERNMENT CAN FORFEIT ITS AUTHORITY

A second passage, 1 Peter chapter 2, and verses 13 and 14 will suffice, I think: “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”—by the Lord—“for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” There again we are to submit for the Lord’s sake. “What do you mean ‘the Lord’s sake’?” When the government is doing what the Lord designed it to do.

When government turns the divine design on its head and protects those who do evil and makes those who do good afraid, it forfeits its divine purpose. In our world today rulers are designing a culture that protects the immoral. It even has reached the point where it desires to protect criminals, and makes those who do good afraid. When the criminals are unrestrained because they don’t fear the consequences, but the police are restrained because they fear the consequences of stopping criminals, you know everything is turned on its head. Our government is the source of lies and the protector of liars, and the enemy of those who speak the truth. It praises the evil and persecutes the good.

So God’s design for government has been entirely corrupted. As these divinely designed spheres of control in human society descend into chaos, the government will cease to function the way God designed it, and in fact it will become the enemy of the divine design. It will turn everything upside down. It will become the punisher of those who do good, like putting James Coates in prison for preaching but letting rioters go free.

THE WORLD IS THE ENEMY OF THE GOSPEL

Now I want you to understand that there’s some supernatural reasons why this is happening. They’re not political. They’re not even social in the fullest measure. If you go back to 1 John and reconnect with the passage from last week, 1 John 2:15–17, we read, “Do not love the world nor the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Then verse 16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

The world is the enemy of God, the enemy of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The world is the enemy of Scripture. The world is the enemy of the gospel. The world is the enemy of the church. What do we mean by the world? Well remember last week I talked about the world as the complex of evil. The word is kosmos; it means a system. The complex of evil works against what is good.

So you have government, which is a part of the world, turned to restrain the world of which it is a part. Very hard for it to hold together because it’s all part of the same system. The complex of evil works everywhere, and the government is no exception because the very evil people given the responsibility to restrain evil are themselves incapable of being without evil. And that makes enough problems. We have a human system made up of evil, sinful people trying to control a culture of evil, sinful people. The potential for breakdown is inevitable, and it has been demonstrated historically. That’s why the Bible says the world gets worse and worse; evil men get worse and worse as time goes on.

But there’s something more than just that. There’s something more than just the human complex of sinners trying to restrain sin, which in the end is a losing effort. There’s something more that we have to face, and that’s in 1 John 5:19, and I want you to look at it. First John 5:19, “We know that we are of God.” We, believers, are of God. And then this very, very important statement, “And that the whole world lies in”—literally—“in the evil one.” The whole world is in the control of the evil one. It isn’t just that everybody’s sinful; it is that there is an evil supernatural power: the evil one.

Who is this archenemy of God, this evil one? Listen to John 12:31, where Jesus speaks of the devil and says he is “the ruler of this world.” And then again in John 14 and verse 30, He calls the devil the ruler of this world. And then again in chapter 16 and verse 11, for the third time, “the ruler of this world.” And in Ephesians 2:2, he is “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit working in the sons of disobedience.”

So you have Satan, who is the world ruler, who operates in the system and—listen carefully—in the people. The whole world is in his kingdom—John 8:44, “You’re of your father the devil.” And Satan is in them in the sense that he can attach his devious, evil deception to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life—and that way exercise influence over them. He is “the god of this world,” 2 Corinthians 4:4, who blinds minds. And Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood”—humanity—“but against principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies.”

It’s not just a human complex of evil, it is behind that that the entire force of hell operates. The enemy is not just sinful people, it is the system of evil behind that visible evil, that invisible system basically under the control of the prince of demons, Satan himself, and all his demon cohorts. Evil operates in the heart of every human being, so there is a kosmos of evil that operates in the human heart. But there’s another powerful kosmos of evil in the invisible spiritual world run by Satan.

What is Satan’s objective? Listen to Peter’s words, 1 Peter 5:8, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, seeking someone to devour.” He’s a killer. John 8 tells us “he’s a liar, the father of lies,” and he’s “a murderer.” He tempts, he lies, he seduces, he slanders; and Scripture gives us all of these illustrations. He distracts, he divides, he destroys, he sifts, he silences, he strategizes, he steals, he oppresses, he possesses, he blinds, and he kills.

And how does he gain the power to do this? How is he so adept at drawing people into his methods? The answer comes in Revelation 12:9, which says this: “Satan deceives the whole world.” “Satan deceives the whole world.” Paul told the Corinthians he is disguised as an angel of light, and therein lies the deception.

So what we’re dealing with in the world is not just a complex of human evil, as vast and complete and comprehensive as it is, we’re dealing with another level altogether—not just that visible human world, but that invisible demonic world. And Satan’s ultimate goal is to prevent people from coming to Christ. His ultimate goal is to take over everything, to rule in the place of God. He is the usurper. And he has a goal, he has an objective: He’s heading human history toward his kingdom. He has a goal, he has an objective: Satan is systematically working to get to his kingdom.

That kingdom is described for us in the book of Revelation. Turn to chapter 13 of Revelation, one of the most amazing images in this incredible revelation. As he moves through human history, Satan wants to strip all elements of divine law and all elements of divine truth from society. He’s moving the world into his final design. Chapter 13, verse 1, John has a vision of a dragon “on the sand of the seashore,” and he sees a monster, “a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.” This is a monster—this is a monster who consolidates power and consolidates national leadership; the ten and the seven speak of that consolidation. All the crowns are on his head, and all of them have the name of blasphemy because this is the kingdom that Satan is pulling together as the final attempt to dethrone God. It describes this kingdom as having powers like a leopard, a bear, and a lion; and what we find here is this monster is none other than the final Antichrist.

“Even now,” John says, there are “many antichrists.” This is the final one. He rises up out of the sea, out of the nations. He consolidates all world power—this is globalism symbolized by ten horns, a number of completion, as is seven heads. He has the consolidated power and the consolidated authority. He is a blasphemer, but a powerful one. And the dragon is Satan, and the dragon gave the Antichrist in John’s vision his power, his throne, and his great authority. At some point in the future the world will be, verse 3 says, amazed at this monster. And as a result of his influence they will worship the devil, the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast. They worship the beast, the monster, the Antichrist, “saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’”

ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY IS PROGRESSING TOWARD A GLOBAL KINGDOM UNDER THE POWER OF SATAN

Understand—all of human history is progressing toward a global kingdom under the power of Satan, in which Satan has one global monster ruling the whole world. He is a blasphemer—we’ve already seen it, but notice “blasphemies,” in verse 5, “blasphemies” in verse 6, “blaspheme” in verse 6 again. And verse 7, what does he do? He “makes war with the saints to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.” This final, global ruler will make war against the saints.

Verse 8, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who had been slain.” The whole world is going to go after him. We’re headed toward a one-world, global government with one massive, monstrous leader.

He has a cohort in verses 11 and following. This is another monster who has two horns like a lamb. This is a more benign individual. This is the false prophet. This is the religious leader who, going along with the political leader, assists him. He exercises all the authority of the first monster. He “makes the earth and those who dwell in it worship the first monster, whose fatal wound was healed.” Apparently there’s some kind of false resurrection, which is how he gains power. And then “he performs great signs,” verse 13, “making fire come down out of heaven in the presence of men.”

Verse 14, “He deceives those who dwell on the earth”—again, this is Satan—“which is given to him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.” So once he has this false resurrection, he then establishes himself as the world ruler; and the false prophet points the world to him.

Go down to verse 16. We don’t have time to cover all the details. “He causes all, the small and the great, the rich and the poor, free men and slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the monster or the number of his name,” which “is 666.”

So we’re headed toward a time when there’s a global satanic kingdom. It consolidates all kingdoms of the world. It is under the final monster Antichrist, designed by the devil himself, and the entire world follows him, the entire world. Along with this political leader there is a spiritual leader; this is the false prophet. He is the one who lures, seduces the world religiously to worship the Antichrist. So he becomes god; he is Satan’s puppet.

ONE FALSE WORLD RELIGION IS FINAL PLAY BY SATAN

One world religion—that final world religion is the target of judgment in John’s vision of Revelation 17; go to Revelation 17. Here this one-world religion, consolidated with the Antichrist and the false prophet, is called “the great harlot” because it’s the prostitution of true religion. “Sits on many waters”—which means it just literally covers the globe—“with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality”—this is to say that the kings, the rulers, the nations of the world consolidate all their power; metaphorically speaking, it’s like committing adultery with a prostitute. “And those who dwell on the earth are drunk with the wine of her immorality.” So what’s going to happen in the end is this massive, global unification of the entire world under the Antichrist, and there will be a religious component to it, led by the false prophet.

And again, verse 3, you see this “scarlet monster, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns”—that again is a reference to Antichrist. Then you see the harlot, the false religion, “clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations of the unclean things of her immorality, and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, ‘BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.’” And this false religion is depicted as the prostitute of the final, global, one-world kingdom—the prostitute religion, the apostate religion. She is “drunk,” verse 6 says, “with the blood of the saints,” because they persecute the saints. Antichrist’s kingdom will persecute the saints, kill the saints, shed the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. How does it all end? If you come down to verse 14, “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them.”

So this is where Satan’s going. He is pulling the world together, unifying the world in a way that never could have been done in the past because he didn’t have the technology to do it. But they “wage war against the Lamb,” and that is a losing proposition because “the Lamb will overcome them,” verse 14 says, “because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are called and chosen and faithful.” This is where history is going. Don’t be surprised at globalistic efforts. Don’t be surprised at government’s turning on divine truth. This is Satan’s plan.

In chapter 18, you have a look at the final world culture. The religion is what is revealed in chapter 17; in chapter 18 you see, rather, just the culture of the world. “The kings of the earth,” verse 9, “who have committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously . . . will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning.” What does that mean? Well back in verse 8, “In one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong.” In the end God is going to bring down that global religion, and that global kingdom as well.

“‘Woe’”—verse 10—“‘woe, the great city of Babylon, the strong city! In one hour your judgment has come.’ And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes anymore—cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones, pearls, fine linen,” et cetera. “Merchants”—in verse 15—“are standing at a distance because of the fear of” what they’re seeing in “torment, weeping and mourning.”

Verse 16, “‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls; for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!’ And every shipmaster, every passenger and sailor, as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance, crying as they saw the smoke of the burning, saying, ‘What city is like the great city?’ They threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning.” Realize John is seeing this in a vision. This is a vision that depicts what is coming.


REAL PERSECUTION CAN ONLY BE DONE BY GOVERNMENT

“Woe”—verse 19—“the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she had been laid waste!” Verse 20, “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.” This is where Satan is taking the world. Again, Satan has many strategies; but he has one goal, and that is to collect the world around one final Antichrist, empower him to defeat God. In the process, he persecutes the saints; he seeks to kill them.

Now let me remind you of something. We talk about persecution and we sometimes experience it in the sense that somebody doesn’t like us because of our Christian testimony. You might have trouble with a professor in a university class because of your testimony; you might get a bad grade. You might lose your job because of your convictions and your testimony. And that’s a measure of persecution. But mark this: Real persecution, which means imprisonment or execution, can only be done by government, right? Only government does that. There can’t be a group of atheists who go out and imprison Christians; only government can do that. God has given government the sword, the power; and when they prostitute that power and they begin to punish those who do good and protect those who do evil, they wield that power against the people of God.

Satan knows that in order to kill the saints he has to have the one legitimate earthly power, and that’s the power of the government. So government is, and always has been, and always will be the ultimate persecutor of the church. It is government—authority, power constituted in rulers and leaders—that has essentially done all the damage to the church through its history. And so I say what I said at the beginning: The greatest threat to truth and virtue in this country is the government because they have totally prostituted their God-ordained design. All through history, government is the ultimate persecutor of people. Satan has to get ahold of government; and that’s where he operates—always work through government.

Go back to Isaiah 14. Isaiah 14, the prophecy of Isaiah spoken to the king of Babylon, the king of Babylon. It’s a judgment against the king of Babylon—chapter 14, verse 4, a “taunt against the king of Babylon,” judgment against the king of Babylon. But notice how interesting it is. This judgment, down in verse 12—something more than just the king of Babylon appears to happen here: “How are you fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn!”

Has the king of Babylon fallen from heaven? No, but who is fallen from heaven? Lucifer. So who is behind the king of Babylon? Lucifer. He goes from talking about judgment on the king of Babylon to going behind the king of Babylon to the “star of the morning, the son of the dawn”: “You’ve been cut down to the earth, you have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart”—this is what Satan said when he was in heaven—“‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God’”—the angels of God—“‘I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” “‘I will, I will, I will, I will.’” This is Satan’s rebellion. And so Isaiah shows us that it is Satan himself, the fallen one, who is energizing the king of Babylon, controlling the king of Babylon.

There is a similar section of Scripture, Ezekiel 28; I want you to turn to it. Ezekiel 28, verse 11, “And the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Son of man’”—that was God’s name for Ezekiel—“‘take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre.’” Now we’re talking about the king of Tyre; Tyre was another pagan kingdom, persecuted the people of God. But notice how this seems to be something more than just the king of Tyre: “Thus says the Lord God, ‘You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God’”—wait a minute, the king of Tyre? He wasn’t in Eden. Who was in Eden? Who was prowling in Eden? Satan.

“You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the ruby, the topaz, the diamond; the beryl, the onyx, the jasper; lapis lazuli”—which is a beautiful blue stone—“the turquoise, the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, was in you. On the day you were created they were prepared. You were the anointed”—what?—“cherub who covers.” Now you can see, Satan in Isaiah is working behind the king of Babylon; here in Ezekiel he’s working behind the king of Tyre. This is because Satan does his great work against the people of God using political leaders—kings and rulers.

“You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God and walked in the midst of the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you. By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned; therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God, and destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, that they may see you, the multitude of your iniquities.” He goes back to talking about the king of Tyre with almost not missing a beat. The judgment on the king of Tyre is also a declaration of the judgment on the one who is behind the king of Tyre.

Satan always works through evil rulers to persecute the people of God. In the book of Exodus it was Pharaoh. When the children of God left Egypt, it was the Canaanites, it was the powers of the Philistines. It was the rulers of Assyria then, and then it was the rulers of Babylon. And you come into the New Testament, and the persecutors of the people of God were the official leaders of Israel, the Sanhedrin. And then it was the Roman Empire. Destroying the people of God is always a government enterprise.

PERSECUTION IN BOOK OF DANIEL

I want to show you another illustration of this in Daniel, in Daniel chapter 2. Daniel, though he is a Jew in exile in Babylon along with all the Jews that were taken there, God has elevated him because he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. At the end of chapter 2, verse 46, “King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, did homage to Daniel, gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. The king answered Daniel and said, ‘Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of [lords] and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.’ Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. And Daniel made request of the king, and appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king’s court.” You know for a while Nebuchadnezzar liked Daniel a lot because all his own fools, disguised as wise men, couldn’t answer any of his dilemmas. But he sounds like—almost like a believer here. Verse 47, “Your God is a God of gods and a Lord of [lords].”

Some time passed, probably some years. Chapter 3 gives us a different picture. Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten, apparently, about the declaration that the God of Daniel was the God of gods, and he “made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits”—that would be ninety feet—the “width six cubits”—that would be nine feet—“and he set it on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.” And by the way it was an image of him.

Then they all came. In verse 4, “The herald loudly proclaimed: ‘To you the command is given, O people, nation and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, the flute, the lyre, the trigon’”—another musical instrument, stringed instrument—“‘psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, . . . fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. Whoever doesn’t fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.’” So now Nebuchadnezzar has set himself up as god, and anybody who defies that is going to die.

So some of the “Chaldeans,” in verse 8, “came . . . and brought charges against the Jews.” They came, in verse 9, and they said to Nebuchadnezzar, “‘O king, live forever! You, O king, made a decree that every man’” should bow when they hear the music, “‘fall down and worship the golden image. And whoever doesn’t fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.’

“Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. . . . ‘Is it true,’” he says, “‘that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I set up?’” Verse 16, they replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” This is civil disobedience: “We’re not worshiping your god; we’re not worshiping you. If it is to be the fire, let it be the fire.” Nebuchadnezzar was so infuriated by this that “his facial expression was altered,” and he gave “orders to heat the furnace seven times more.”

Well you know the rest of the story, right? Threw them in the furnace. In verse 25, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” And again in verse 28, Nebuchadnezzar says, “‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielding up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.’ Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.” This is getting to be a little bit repetitious—but he bounces back again. When it serves them well, government may tolerate the people of God; but when they are angry, they have the power of death in their hands.

Chapter 4 is incredible. It’s one of the great conversion stories in the Bible. It’s the conversion of Nebuchadnezzar, and it’s a first-person story. “Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: ‘May your peace abound! It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. How great are His signs and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation.” He was hard to convince, but there’s a change in his attitude.

Then he gives his testimony; I won’t go through all of it. It’s an amazing testimony. He has a dream, he can’t figure out the meaning of the dream, Daniel tells him the meaning of the dream in verses 19 through 27. The dream is about him being cut down. It’s a dream of a tree; it’s him—he’s going to be cut down, chopped down, nothing left but a small stump. Why? Well because he needs to learn, verse 25, “that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”

So Daniel interprets the dream, and then in verse 27 says, “Let me give you some advice, O king”: “Break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.” Here’s another opportunity for this guy to say what he says and actually believe it. All this happened to the king. This is the interpretation of the dream.

Verse 29, “twelve months later,” he’s forgotten it again. And he thinks he’s God, and he’s reflecting on it: “Is not this Babylon”—verse 30—“the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” It’s a soliloquy on his majesty. “While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you. You’ll be driven away from mankind, your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You’ll be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven [years, literally] will pass over until you recognize the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; he was driven away from mankind, began eating grass like cattle, his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and nails like birds’ claws.” For seven years. That is humbling.

“At the end of the period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing; He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He’s able to humble those who walk in pride’”—yeah, he learned that. I think you’re going to see him in heaven. It’s a real conversion story.

THE LAW IS KING AND NOT THE GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA

The point that I want to make out of this is it’s always in the power of monarchs to do damage to the people of God, always. That is why Proverbs 16:12 says, “It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,” because it turns everything upside-down. Only in righteousness is a throne established.

Look, in Acts chapter 4, the Jewish leaders said to the apostles, “Stop preaching!” In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar said, “Stop worshiping!” Again, in Daniel 6—we didn’t read it—the rulers said, “Stop praying, or we’re going to throw you into”—what?—“the lions’ den.” The governor of California says, “Stop singing! Stop hugging!” But God’s people don’t stop because no—listen to me—no human authority is absolute. No human authority is absolute. I’ll say it again: No human authority is absolute. All human authorities are only authorities as long as they function in the way God designed them; and when they don’t function that way anymore, but they turn it on its head and do it in the reverse form, they yield up that God-given authority. Obviously the fallout is horrendous.

I love this little paragraph by Doug Wilson talking about Peter. He said, “The man who [told us to submit to the government] was soon to be executed by the magistrate as someone who was a grave threat to the civil order. This [is] the same man who was broken out of jail by an angel, . . . who disappeared from the book of Acts as a wanted man. The guards who lost him were executed because of his disappearance. This was the man who was in jail in the first place because he was a leader of Christians, and who earlier had told the Sanhedrin that he [would not] quit preaching, no matter what they said. And he was the man who was writing this letter to prepare law-abiding Christians for the time of persecution that was coming, in which time they would be accused of being [rebellious]. So whatever his words in chapter 2 mean, they [had] to be consistent with the life of the [man] who wrote them.” You submit when the government functions in the way God designed it.

So we are beginning to see persecution from government. This is the most formidable persecution: COVID, LGBTQ, transgender, social justice—all these new ideologies are now going to become the only acceptable moral standards. And if you don’t accept them, you’re going to be the enemy of the government. Truth, the Bible, Scripture is going to be canceled. The government’s taking control; they want to take control of absolutely everything. The church has become the main enemy of the government—nothing new.

Some helpful insights from Tim Cantrell over in South Africa, one of our missionaries: “In July 1933, during Hitler’s first summer in power, a young German pastor named Joachim Hossenfelder preached a sermon in . . . Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Berlin’s most important church. He used the words of Romans 13 to remind worshippers of the importance of obedience to those in authority.” This is 1933. “The church was [all decked out] with Nazi banners . . . its pews packed with the Nazi . . . faithful [and soldiers in uniform].” Earlier that same year, Friedrich Dibelius, “a German bishop and one of the highest Protestant officials in the country” also preached on Romans 13 “to justify all the Nazi seizure[s] of power and [brutal] policies,” and misquoted Martin Luther himself about the powers of the state. “Three days” after this sermon by Dibelius, “the German parliament dissolved,” and Hitler took over. Within a few years, six million Jews had been slaughtered, and the world devastated by World War II. 

Throughout history, even in the Western world, people lived under what was called the divine right of kings. Kings were believed to have had a divine right. This was absolute monarchy. What broke that was basically the Reformers. The Reformers—a little phrase was “the law is king,” not the man. Because of the myth of the divine right of kings, it became the justification for the slaughter and the massacre of countless children of God.

GOVERNMENT HAS BECOME PURVEYOR OF WICKEDNESS

One New Testament writer says that Romans 13 has “caused more unhappiness and misery . . . than any other . . . verses in the New Testament by the license they have given to tyrants . . . used to justify a host of horrendous abuses of individual human rights.” Hitler’s Holocaust, racism in the apartheid of South Africa, Cantrell says, “Both the Jews in Germany and blacks in South Africa were viewed as a threat to public health and national security. . . . “‘Trust us,’ said government . . . ‘we truly have your best interests at heart. All we want to do is help . . . keep you safe.’”

Government has already become the purveyor of wickedness. Government is a murderer, slaughtering millions of infants in abortion; elevating the LGBTQ agenda, the bizarre transgender deception. The culture has become anti-truth, we all know that. The truth is the biggest threat to lies. William Pitt, well-known name in English history, said this: “Necessity (i.e., public health, common good) is the plea [of] every infringement of human freedom: it is the argument of tyrants. “Get people afraid, and they’ll do whatever you want. A fearful society will always comply; panicking people will believe anything” [(Cantrell)].

“During the gruesome and bloody days of the French Revolution, when 40,000 innocent [people] lost their heads,” you would be interested to know who was operating the guillotine: the Committee for Public Safety [(Cantrell)]. One writer says, “Governments now get voted into power by promising to oversee housing, education, medicine, the economy, [the] currency, a minimum income, food, water, land, and the list goes on. The government become a parent, and the citizens are dependents. The government in this role becomes a monstrous juggernaut of bureaucracy, devouring taxes and trying to regulate every detail of life.” And they definitely want to regulate the church and silence its proclamation.

In his book The Glorious Body of Christ, Kuiper wrote, “Our age is one of ecclesiastical passivism. . . . When a church ceases to be militant it also ceases to be a church of Jesus Christ. . . . A truly militant church stands opposed to the world both without its walls and within. . . . Time and again in its history the church has found it necessary to assert its sovereignty over against usurpations by the state.” And Kuiper gave some biblical examples, like when King Saul or King Uzziah usurped the priesthood, stating, “In both cases a representative of the state was severely punished for encroaching [on] the sovereignty of the church.”

“Lord Macaulay of England summed up the Puritan reputation this way” [(Cantrell)]. He said of the Puritans, “He bowed himself in the dust before his Maker; [as] he set his foot on the neck of his king.” Kuiper says, “Ours is an age of state totalitarianism. All over the world statism is [rising] . . . . In consequence, in many lands the church finds itself utterly at the mercy of the state whose mercy often proves cruelty, while in others the notion is rapidly gaining ground that the church exists and operates by the state’s permission.” We do not operate by the state’s permission; we operate by the Lord’s command.

THERE IS A PLACE FOR CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Francis Schaeffer, who died in 1984, says, “If [there’s] no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the living God.” And that point is exactly when the early Christians performed their acts of civil disobedience, even when it cost them their lives. “Acts of State which contradict God’s [Laws] are illegitimate and acts of tyranny. Tyranny is ruling without the sanction of God. To resist tyranny is to honour God. . . . The bottom line is that at a certain point there is not only the right, but the duty to disobey the State.”

[Cantrell:] “G. K. Chesterton once made this . . . observation: ‘It is only by believing in God that we can ever criticize the government. Once abolish God, and the government becomes . . . God . . . . Wherever the people do not believe in something beyond the [government], they will worship [it]. . . . They will worship the strongest thing in the world.’”

John Calvin said, “[We’re] subject to the men who rule over us, but subject only in the Lord. If they command anything against Him let us not pay the least regard to it, nor be moved by all the dignity which they possess as magistrates.”

Now Scottish Covenanters, amazing people. Andrew Melville was jailed in the Tower of London for the gospel. He was actually jailed because he confronted King James of the King James Bible. This is what Melville said: “There are two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland: There is King James, the head of the Commonwealth, and there is King Jesus, the Head of the [Church], whose subject King James is, and of whose kingdom he is not the head, nor a lord, but only a member.” For that he was jailed.

[Cantrell:] “In 1660 the Covenanters signed their National Covenant” with their blood. “Historian S.M. Houghton tells . . . they were determined”—quoting—“to: resist to the death the claims of the king . . . to override the Crown Rights of the Redeemer in His [Church] (King Jesus). Their National Covenant [gave] high honour to the eternal God and His most holy Word; demands the faithful preaching of that Word, the due and right ministration of the sacraments . . . . The subscribers further say that they fear neither ‘the foul aspersions of rebellion, combination, or what else our adversaries from their craft and malice would put upon us, seeing what we do is so well warranted, and [arises] from an unfeigned desire to maintain the true worship of God, the majesty of our King, and the peace of [His] kingdom, for the common happiness of ourselves and our posterity.’ They [pledged] themselves as in the sight of God to ‘be good examples to others of all godliness, soberness, and righteousness, and . . . every duty we owe to God and man.’”

DOES GOVERNMENT WIN?

Does government win? Does Satan win? No, because in chapter 19 of the book of Revelation, Jesus comes back, right? And destroys all kings set against Him. Battle of Armageddon, He wipes them out. Listen to Psalm 2: “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed”—this is what the rulers of the world do. And they say, “‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!’ He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, ‘But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.’” The King is coming, isn’t He?

“I will . . . tell you the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You’re My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I’ll surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You will break’” those nations “‘with a rod of iron, You will shatter them like’” clay pots. “‘Therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” A warning to the leaders of this nation and every nation: The King is coming. He will crush all opposition.

Satan persecutes the church through governments. But the Son of God has come to destroy the devil, to render him powerless, to overthrow Satan’s final kingdom of darkness. In conclusion, Romans 8:31, “If God be for us, who is against us?” Let’s pray.

Father, we are so grateful for the confidence that we have, borne to our souls from Your precious truth: Your Word. Thank You for these dear people. Thank You for their faithfulness, for their love for You, for the love wrought in their hearts, by You and thus for You. Thank You for the joy of fellowship. Give us such joy, as we understand that what’s coming is all going to be for Your glory.

Everything in history is unfolding in the plan that You have designed. Your purposes cannot be thwarted. You will triumph. Christ will come. He will destroy His enemies. He will destroy all kings and all rulers, and reign alone in His glorious kingdom, of which we who love Him will be a part. We long for that day. Until then may we celebrate with joy and thanksgiving that we even now are citizens of that kingdom; and we who know Him and love Him will reign with Him. We thank You for that promise.

May we never become discouraged by what’s happening in the world. May we understand that it’s exactly what Scripture says we would expect. Help us not to get caught up in the politics of these things, but rather to see them through the lens of Holy Scripture.

We know that the devil has a plan, but so do You; and You will triumph. You are triumphing even now at Grace Church, and we are basking in a preview of Your final triumph. We thank You for that sweet gift of grace. Bring to Yourself any with us today who don’t know Christ. Draw that soul into Your kingdom. For Your glory we pray. Amen.

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