The Last

 

 

Volume 14, Number 2, November-December 2010
(Actually published October 2011)

Calamity to Confidence 

by Norman Scott Edwards

How are we to cope with the difficult times in which we live? It seems our way of life could come crashing down at any moment. With government debt that must be described as catastrophic and the worst economy in decades, one would think Americans would want to abandon our present big bank, big business and big government control of our nation.

The world was shocked when Blomberg news revealed $1.2 trillion in secret loans were given to a small group of banks that regularly pay massive salaries and bonuses to their already wealthy owners. That is enough money to give every man woman and child in the USA $4000—to pay their short-term debt, buy a second-hand car or even a year’s rent. But it went to the hands of a few. See Internet: http://tinyurl.com/evil-trillion

Even worse, the US Department of Labor is considering taking over the $6 trillion in IRA and 401k plans and replacing them with a fixed government retirement. See: ow.ly/18Lmy and http://tinyurl.com/grab-ira

Sadly, many Americans would say: “That’s high finance that I don’t understand; they probably have to do it”. This attitude is part of the problem. America is now finding itself yielding even more control to big government: in the areas of healthcare, food, education and even religion. How will the Believer survive?

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, (2Tim 3:12-14).

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:10).

The keys we need are right in these verses. We know we will suffer persecution, but if it is for righteousness sake, he will be blessed for it. It is our job to live out the teaching of Scripture, and not to worry about when or how persecution might come, but to trust God to go through it.

We do need to understand the bold verse above—there are evil people alive today who are deliberately trying to deceive the masses and true believers as well (Mat 24:24). The New Testament and secular history of the following few centuries give us clear examples of the interrelationship between persecution and deception.

When Jesus was before Pilate (Matt 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18), the governor wanted to arrive at the truth, and tried to avoid putting Jesus to death unnecessarily. The situation was similar with the apostle Paul and the Roman leaders who heard him (Acts 23-26). There was little deception involved, mostly a desire for political expediency. In the centuries that followed, the Roman empire later persecuted the early church as a matter of policy because they would not worship the emperor. They were not killed for some false pretense, they were killed because they were followers of Christ.

But when we consider how the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and lawyers persecuted Jesus and his disciples, it is a totally different story. Throughout the New Testament, these evil leaders are looking for ways to “entangle them in their talk”, are making false accusations and are looking for false witnesses. John records at least 10 plots to kill Christ before they were successful. The central government conspired to bribe the soldiers who guarded Christ’s tomb to circulate a false report (Matt 28:11-15). The Apostle Paul said:

“Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me” (Acts 24:13).

Today’s lesson from these two types of persecutions must not escape us: If Bible believers are to be persecuted by Muslims, communists, atheists or a country that strictly views their brand of Christianity as the only true Christianity, it might well be done in a straightforward manner like this: “Bible believers will be sent to camps, or they will die.”

But in a nation like our own, which claims to have separation of church and state, religious freedom and many Christian leaders, persecution will involve much deception. People will not be accused of being Bible believers, but called anarchists, terrorists, tax evaders, gay-bashers, child abusers (for home schooling or physically disciplining their children), zoning ordinance breakers, etc. There is no complete list of possible false accusations because those opposing God are constantly trying new ways, even spending decades inventing new laws and gradually bringing them into effect.

The basic right of Believers to meet and study together in the USA is now under attack. The First Amendment recognizes the right of Churches to meet and be tax exempt without applying to any government. But since the 1950s, the IRS let churches “better document” their tax exempt status by voluntarily coming under section 501(c)(3). That law also sets restrictions on the activities of the Churches that come under it, but for decades those restrictions were virtually never enforced, so nearly all big churches are now under it. Today, the IRS has a regular practice of examining churches to see if they are complying. See the IRS website: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=183333,00.html

The IRS tells many churches that they must stop dealing with political subjects or face loss of tax exemption and fines. The definition of “political” seems to get broader all of the time. Anti-Christian groups regularly send copies of sermons, literature and other church messages to the IRS in an effort to have churches investigated. The IRS acknowledges the use of “informants” for this purpose: http://www.irs.gov/charities/churches/article/0,,id=181365,00.html

At the other end of the scale, small home churches and Bible studies are beginning to feel attacks. In May of 2009, David and Mary Jones were told by San Diego County to stop their Tuesday night Bible studies, or face fines in the thousands of dollars. A massive e-mail campaign caused the county to relent. See http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=98895 and http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/biblestudy.asp

San Diego county apologized and let the study continue. Even so, the city of Rancho Cucamonga. Calf., made a law against home churches, but in April, 2010, yielded to pressure and backed out of shutting one down by classifying it a “Bible Study”, not a church. Orange county fined a family $300 for a 50-member Bible study that created no traffic problems. See web pages: http://www.onenewsnow.com/Culture/Default.aspx?id=958516 and http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/09/21/california-couple-fined-300-for-holding-home-bible-studies/

None of these instances are the results of citizens’ long-term complaints against home churches. Home alcohol parties cause far more trouble every day. They are a concerted effort by anti-Bible bureaucrats—possibly bribed by the big boys—to stop the truth. Given the general godless nature of our country, people will eventually tire of hearing about all of these local struggles, and some will eventually be successful in stopping home churches.

This article concludes with five ways people typically react to these and many other significant problems on the horizon:

1)         Ignore the trouble—believe the mass media that everything will somehow work out all right when the next candidate with a better plan gets elected. A believer who does this can expect to suffer and perish with the unbelievers who do not know to trust God over the government.

2)         Blind faith in a prophetic scenario. Some have the belief that they individually and possibly even the church has no role in determining future events, but that they are all predetermined by prophecy. There are too many scenarios to mention! Some believe that they or their church will be raptured away to heaven or an earthly safe place—though they have witnessed no such miracle in their lives thus far. They need to understand that Christ expects us to be doing His work when he returns (Jer 18:7-10; Matt 24:42-47; Luke 12:42-48).

3)         Denigrate or physically fight against those whom we perceive to be evil. Many “conspiracy” publications stir up anger and strife, blaming specific people for problems with no source for information, calling them all sorts of names, or telling their readers have their guns ready to solve the situation. They usually ignore any peaceful solutions, and fail to note that evil is coming upon our nation primarily because of its sin, not specifically because of the people God is allowing to bring the evil. Theudas and Judas of Galilee are examples of this approach (Acts 5:36-37).

4)         Hide from everyone. Some try to avoid all confrontation and even all contact with governments, big business, etc.—even if it means great economic loss to themselves or inability to do God’s work. They may avoid all computers, cell phones, bank accounts, licenses, air flights, etc. Some try to live in an isolated place where they can grow their own food and hope nobody knows they are there—but even so, satellites see everything.

5)         Live an open life of faith, encouraging people to repent of their sins and trust their Creator rather than trust sinful and corrupt religion and governments (Mark 8:15). Support just laws and leaders (Isa 1: 15-25, but acknowledge that God brings evil ones to punish sinning people (Isa 9:16-17).

Let us consider the last three options from a carnal perspective. Governments fear their people—especially religious or democratic ones (Mark 11:18, 32; 12:12; Acts 5:26). Unless a government rules completely by fear (like Joseph Stalin), it must maintain the image to most people that it is doing good, lest it become despised and overthrown. A government can seem reasonable when it publicly squashes those who are combative (3)—most people will say they are getting what they deserve for fighting the government. With secretive ones who try hide from everyone (4), governments have the option ignore them if they are truly powerless or massacre them—if few people know they exist, there will be few complaints. But with people who are open and unashamed of their Biblical beliefs (5)—ones who might receive divine protection in times of difficulty—they are much more difficult for the government to attack. They are too well known to quietly kill off, and too known to be righteous to easily construe as evil. Even carnal leaders are afraid to fight God (John 19:7-8; Acts 5:39).

Let us consider the last three options from a spiritual perspective. God frequently uses evil, unbelieving nations to punish disobedient people for their spiritual good. When God’s judgment for ancient Israel was to serve the King of Babylon, all their efforts to fight or flee that King failed. Lacking any clear revelation from God, it is a mistake for the combative believer (3) to think he can protect the nation from evil leaders by force of arms or even political might. The hiding believer (4) is not doing Christ’s work either. Christ told people of faith (5) we must warn others of sin, deceptions and evil (Matt 24:4, 14; Acts 20:31), and be willing to lose our lives in the process (Rom 3:23; 6;23; Matt 10:39; John 15:13). He also told us not to worry about physical provisions (Matt 6:24-34) and made this “radical” statement:

"For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matt 16:25).

We need to set our hearts to serve God, and trust him for either protection or faith to die a martyr. Paul was protected for two years by Rome, while awaiting trial in Rome (Acts 28:30-31), but he eventually was martyred there. Other believers found similar protection from Rome, though some killed later—see the article in this issue “Why Stand We in Jeopardy Every Hour?” Begin living by faith today, with whatever trials you have, and you will be strong as the more evil days arrive.      &

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