The question as to whether there can ever be such a thing as a Christian nation is one that requires an answer. Some believe that in the present age such a possibility can only be a delusion. Others assume that present godless nations can be brought to becoming Christian ones and that ultimately the whole world will be predominantly Christian. Looking at the teaching of Scripture, there are elements of truth in both positions. It is most certainly the case that in this world it is quite impossible that the Gospel should do anything other than triumph. The purposes of God even for this present time cannot be thwarted by the sin of man. What must be established is how and when such a victory will appear. Equally, there is no way – and here the Scriptures are clear – that the kingdoms of this world are destined for anything else than complete destruction. They cannot be reconstructed or reformed into something they are not, nor ever can be. At the same time, it cannot be pleasing to God that they remain as they are, but that all should repent and turn to God through Christ. It follows that if a nation does not order its affairs according the revealed will of God, does not encourage its citizens to live according to the Christian Gospel, then by what law should they live? All else would be not neutral, but anti-Christian. Every nation ought, in this sense at least, to be a Christian nation. Surely as there is individual repentance it is perfectly possible, according to Scriptures, for nations to turn to God. The Gospel must be preached in a way that has this as its goal. Because something may not happen does not mean it ought not to happen or will not happen at some point in the future.
The present difficulty is that we live in the midst of a godless and perverse generation with its heart set against God and Christ. No nation can be saved by self-reformation any more than an individual can. It requires regeneration and this presumes a mighty work of God bringing about repentance and faith on a large scale. This will happen only as the Gospel is preached and preached in some power. For an individual to live a Christian life, the old must die and the new replace it. All that which is sinful is destined for destruction, in an individual or a nation. Yet we are committed to the preaching of the Gospel to all nations in this age in the full knowledge of its ultimate triumph. It cannot fail and our work is not in vain in the Lord. “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)
What is not to be expected is that our 'Christianised civilisation' should burst forth into millennial glory around the world. The reason for this is made clear in the book of Daniel with the prophetic account of the great image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (see chapter 2) and the four beasts (see chapter 7). The time covered by these prophecies is from the rule of Nebuchadnezzar to the return of Christ, yet to happen. Representing the whole of the kingdoms of this world, we see that the image is completely destroyed; they all fall together. A stone cut out of the mountain without hands smote the image so that it was broken and became like chaff to be blown away by the wind. This is what will happen. The stone itself became a great mountain or kingdom filling the whole earth. Cut without hands, this is not a kingdom of human origin. The precise meaning is not difficult and is given us in chapter 2:44, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever”. The event is further elaborated upon in the book of Revelation (11:15), “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever”.
The ‛beast’ (see chapter 7) cannot be Christianized, the kingdoms of this world do not change their nature. Wounded in the head, it still lives and has poured out the blood of God’s saints. Let us make no mistake, the worst of these kingdoms remains at enmity with God and His people to the moment of its destruction. The last of these kingdoms is depicted as being a civilization of iron force, yet weakened by the clay mixed in with it. It is shot through with a spirit of sensuality, is crowned with false science, lifted up by false philosophy. Those nations who boast of being the greatest, of being the most powerful, are the weakest because their boast is in a greater measure of those sinful and antichristian ideologies and power that establishes their ruinous pride, their degeneracy, apostasy and godlessness. Our civilisation may boast of being the highest, the richest, most powerful yet – but it is the weakest, hard as iron but with a mixture of clay that makes it the poorest and most vulnerable of any previous civilisation. It openly poses as a substitute for the all-pervading, eternal kingdom of Christ.
Looking at what is unfolding around us, the heart of every genuine Christian believer today will be deeply saddened, but on the other hand, also full of hope. We are saddened because we see the depths into which our nation has sunk, the moral morass around us, the spiritual poverty and death on every side. Daily we meet friends, relatives, acquaintances, all of whom may know nothing of Christ and understand little if anything of the Christian Gospel. We see others who are grasping out to ideologies that help no one and that can only lead to yet more misery. Many professing to follow Christ are taken up with erroneous and misguided teachings, the inventions of men and not the doctrines of Christ. We are full of hope despite the gathering clouds of darkness, because we know that these are the signs that the day of the Lord’s return must be near. “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).
The apostle Paul says of the Thessalonian believers: “…ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). This is the true and ‘blessed hope’ of every Christian believer: the glorious return of Jesus Christ, an event that lies at the heart of the biblical doctrine of redemption. For the individual Christian is the ‘redemption of the body’, “we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23). We must be saved from the guilt of sin; we must be delivered too from the power that sin has over us. So we still need yet to be delivered from the effects that sin has wrought in our mortal physical bodies. The Bible teaches the resurrection, the redemption of the body, only then will we begin to understand what Christ did for us in shedding His blood and rising from the dead. This resurrection will occur at the second coming of Christ.
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)
The Bible also makes clear that the redemptive purpose of God encompasses mankind as a society inhabiting the earth. As history has unfolded, Satan’s reign and power has been continually manifested in the sinfulness, the physical sufferings and mortality of individual men, but equally in the corruption, degeneracy and evil deeds of men towards one another in the nations and society as a whole. When at the temptation of the Lord Jesus, Satan offered Him authority over the nations, although himself a usurper of power and ultimately such authority was not his to give, there still remains an element of truth in his words, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9). God in His infinite wisdom and in pursuance of His sovereign purposes has seen fit for Satan to exercise his power over the kingdoms of this world and human history. This is behind of all that is happening, the wars across the world, the godlessness, the abuse of God’s Name and rejection of Him, the evil perpetrated on our streets, in our schools, higher places of learning and in our homes, in fact everywhere we care to look. All these things are under the sway of Satan; he instigates and perpetrates every atrocity, but always and only under watchful eye of God and in pursuit of His ends not Satan’s. In the last one hundred years or so, we have seen evil manifested on a scale hardly imaginable to previous generations and this is destined to increase and intensify rather than diminish, so the Scriptures tell us. If we want to grasp what is currently unfolding before our eyes, it is here we must begin.
Over the years, teaching about the second coming of Christ has been forgotten for many reasons, not the least because of the setting of dates, and the exaggerated and fantastical claims made by self-styled teachers of prophetic matters. The fog ought to be removed for it is difficult to see where we are today without some inkling of how everything will end. Earnest Christians have differed in their understanding of the subject. Some have thought that the whole earth would be won over and the kingdom of God ushered in, although there is nothing in Scripture to suggest this will happen at any time before the return of the Lord Jesus. We must be aware reading the Bible that God has not, even now at this late hour, given us enough light to make accurate or detailed charts of all the events that will accompany the return of Christ. Yet the light we do have is sufficient for our needs. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus was not critical of Cleopas and his friend for failing to understand the Old Testament record of events before they had happened, but chided them for failing to recognise the fulfilment after it had occurred. “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken…” (Luke 24:25). Prophetic writing reveals future events, but equally it interprets the present. Some matters revealed for us in Scripture concerning the Lord’s return may well only become clear to us after the event – or whilst it is occurring or is about to occur.
The last book of the Bible, Revelation, has proved to be an incomprehensible book for many readers. If we can set aside our preconceptions about its interpretation and search rather for its plain meaning, a general outline of events is likely to become clear, despite many of the details remaining a mystery and hidden. It is clear from the book that the many manifestations of evil that have marked the centuries since the first coming of Christ will at the last time be concentrated in a final incarnation of evil. The strivings of men for a ‘new world order’, such as the one seriously proposed in The Grand Chessboard written by the former security adviser to US presidents, Zbigniew Brzezinski, will be realised in some form, but doubtless not quite as envisaged in the book. This new order will culminate in the emergence of a global one-world ruler. The stuff of dystopian fiction will have become fearful reality. This man is identified in Scripture as Antichrist, for that is exactly what he will be. We can see that this has happened on a local scale many times in our own lifetime and so is not as improbable as it may seem. These men are recognised in Scripture as being Antichrists. The difference now will be that the rule of this man will extend virtually to the whole world. As his precursors have done, this man will bring about a union between religion and his apostate State, forcing all to worship him or suffer economic sanctions and even death. Furthermore, this final Antichrist will be energised directly by Satanic powers, directing his hostility predominantly against God and the people of God. Reading Revelation, we see that at the height of this man’s powers, God’s people will be subjected to the most horrendous persecution ever witnessed on earth. In view of this, it is surprising that more is not said on this matter that indeed we should by God’s grace, prepare ourselves for it. Thankfully, this time will be quite short, just three and a half years. Of course, the Antichrist will not have all things his own way. God will be active in this final period bringing judgement and outpouring His wrath upon him and all who worship him. Then, at His appearance, Christ will bring judgement on all His enemies, deliver His people and establish His kingdom on earth.
We live in an age now dominated by evil powers. There is nothing that will change the essential character of human society before the return of Christ in judgement and the full realisation of God’s kingdom. Nowhere in the Bible are we led to expect before this time a complete conquest of the world with the Gospel. The character of our age is and will remain until this time fundamentally evil. “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Galatians 1:4). “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19). Satan is the god of this world. “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The children of God are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:13-14). The whole world being in darkness, believers exercise an influence for righteousness and godliness upon the society of which they are a part.
The Scriptures indicate that in this age a complete transformation of the world through the preaching of the Gospel will not come about. Quite the opposite, evil will spread and grow something like a huge vineyard, ripening and awaiting the final harvest.
“And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.” (Revelation 14:16-20)
The Scriptures point to a day when God’s wrath will find its fullest expression in supernatural manifestations and this will end in the final condemnation and punishment of all wickedness and evil. The second coming of Christ will bring a visitation of wrath (see Revelation 6:12-17; 19:11-16). Christ Jesus, the living Word has His robe dipped in blood. “And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God” (19:13). This is not His own shed blood, but blood that He has shed, that of His victims slain in battle.
“And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (19:15-16).
It is clear that God will protect His people from the outpourings of His wrath against in the ‘Great Tribulation’. The people of God, although alive on earth during these last terrible days will be sealed by God.
“And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4).
God protected the children of Israel in Egypt with the sign of blood over the doorway and so every Israelite spare the loss of the firstborn son. In the same way, God’s people will be spared from the effects of the supernatural visitation in the outpouring of His wrath at the end of the age.
Throughout history, it is true that God has not always protected believers from the hostility of evil men and this will doubtless continue until the consummation of the age. As time continues and Satan sees his end is near the hostility towards God’s people will intensify in an attempt to obliterate the worship of God. This has already begun among us. God’s people have down the years repeatedly suffered at the hands of civil governments and rulers hostile to the truth of God. They are instruments of Satan. Jesus Himself prophesied that throughout this age His followers would experience tribulation and death and would be hated by all nations for His Name’s sake. “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake” (Matthew 24:9). Jesus promised that in the world His disciples would have tribulation. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). (see also Acts 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 3:4) Paul tells the Thessalonians they may expect deliverance from tribulation only at the revelation of the Lord Jesus.
“Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:5-8).
God will not deliver His people from tribulation, but preserve them in it. Even though they are put to death not a hair of their head would perish.
“And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto” (Luke 21:16-18).
The meaning is clear: physical death, bodily suffering is not to be feared, terrible as it is, by those redeemed though the suffering and death of Christ. Martyrdom is always a sign of faithfulness to Christ. Believers have been always ready, often glad, to die for Christ. This will be no different right to the end.
Thoughts of the coming of Christ have a purifying influence as we contemplate the glorious reality of that coming.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
Here we see the hope of being like Christ when He comes that has a purifying influence. I have set my hope in Christ because He is the object of my affection and I rejoice in knowing that one day I shall be like Him.
As we read the Scriptures, we see how human kingdoms have become the Church, taking over the role of God, defining righteousness and calling for total submission. The place of apostate worship and what parades as the Church has become identified fully with the godless kingdoms of this world. The professing Church has been subsumed with Babylonian confusion, has become not a bride of Christ, but a harlot. This cannot be confined to the Church of Rome, but must be extended to embrace all those without the indwelling of the Spirit of God, holding apostate doctrines, devoid of moral righteousness being corrupted by the world around them, wide open to the maxims, policies and practices, the nature of that world. The world has so penetrated the professing Church so as to make it secular – full of atheistic ‘Christians’.
The great turning point for the nations is the return of Christ. It is for this that all true believers wait. To the Thessalonians, Paul writes: “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10) It is the next great world event. At His coming, we are told the Jewish nation first of all shall recognise the Lord Jesus for who He is. They will, to a man, repent and believe. At the moment Jewish eyes are for the most part blinded to Christ, this is what the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 11, but it will end, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (v.26). Israel will be the first truly Christian nation on earth. With the believing saints who have died raised and will be caught up with those living to accompany Christ at His glorious appearing, His Kingdom will have come in the face of the grinding to powder of all others, truly amazing. All this is taught in the Old as well as the New Testament.
“Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof. So the heathen shall fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth thy glory. When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer. This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the LORD.” (Psalm 102:13-18)
What a wonderful victory in which we, all believers, shall participate! Christ shall be honoured among the peoples of the earth as He ought. The day is fast approaching, even so come Lord Jesus!
“He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him. For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.” (Psalm 72:4-13)
“All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.” (Psalm 86:9)
Nations will only become truly Christian after Israel as a nation.
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:2-4)
The conversion of the world to Christ will happen and we are in the meantime to busy ourselves with a proclamation of the Gospel of Christ’s kingdom. This will come only after the destruction of the kingdoms of this world and their replacement with that of Christ. Today the masses reject Christ, are largely His enemies, the field is full of tares. Under the increasing judgement of God, they only blaspheme and refuse to repent and believe. Yet, when Christ shall appear then will all change. It is to this end we work, wait, watch and pray.