There are those for whom this planet is their cradle but not their home. They are aliens and strangers here.
Science fiction can sometimes help us break us out of our rut and see things from a different angle. Imagine there was a galactic empire that ruled the Earth, yet most humans were oblivious of its existence and control. The rise and fall of human governments was something we thought we determined when, in fact, the Empire orchestrated events behind the scenes to set up and take down Prime Ministers, Presidents and nations. Those who lived in democracies still indirectly determined what sort of government they had, but would have been shocked to learn it was not by their election votes. Instead, it was the moral decisions they made in the years leading up to their elections. The empire assessed the state and direction of the society that humans were freely shaping, and on the basis of these criteria, decided what kind of government they deserved, and orchestrated the election of governments accordingly. To clarify, democratic governments were determined by votes, but the voting was orchestrated by the empire to achieve the results the empire deemed necessary, given the kind of society humans were shaping with their moral choices.
Now back to reality …
In the 1980’s and early 90’s, my work took me to many countries around the world. Some of them were repressive and practiced flagrant violations of human rights, but there was one country that was an easy choice for the most awful place in the world, ruled to this day by a dynasty of brutal dictators, each one worse than the next, and an army of secret police. I spent what seemed to be half a lifetime there one month, totally cut off from the rest of the world. Each morning I was awakened by martial music blaring through loudspeakers across the city, and skilfully subjected to another day of propaganda and indoctrination. I had no photos of my wife and as the weeks went by I found it harder to remember her face as I lay on my bed at night, thinking of her and our children. Every move was monitored and every word was recorded. It was like living in a giant prison, totally cut off from the rest of the world. The hope I clung to was that I was an alien there, it was not my country, and in a few more weeks I would be out of there and would see my wife and family again.
The greatest king of the Babylonian empire was Nebuchadnezzar II (circa 605 BC –562 BC). He had invaded Israel, destroyed Jerusalem, leveled the temple, slaughtered thousands including the sons of King Zedekiah before gouging out his eyes, and carried off the few survivors to exile in Babylon. The Book of Daniel, in the Bible, records an incident that occurred during his reign in which God forced Nebuchadnezzar to understand that “The Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes.”(1) One might think that if it is God that sets up and takes down governments, then they should be excellent governments indeed, until you realize what Nebuchadnezzar had done to Israel and what the Romans later did to that same nation. Israel, like the Canaanite society they had replaced, had become a gratuitously evil society. It was the moral decisions of that society that determined what sort of government they would have to endure or enjoy.
Gathering the threads together …
Those people who have put their faith in Christ and have eternal life are described as “aliens and strangers” in this world.(2) From this alien perspective we know (or ought to, if we study the Bible) the following:
- Human governments are set up and taken down by the One who is “ruler over the realm of mankind,” with each society receiving the government they have earned or what the larger global situation requires at that point in history.
- Because it is God who sets up and takes down governments, He says that we are not to curse a ruler(3) but to be in subjection to those who are in authority.(4) If you think that is hard, recall that Jesus said it while Israel was under the jurisdiction of a foreign imperialistic government who conquered nations and crucified protestors and hung their bodies along the roads leading into town. Less than 40 years later, the Romans would destroy Jerusalem and hundreds of thousands would die, all a result of moral and spiritual decisions that society had made in the decades leading up to the siege of Jerusalem.
- With each election, the question to ask is not, “Do I approve of the new government?’ but rather, “What do these results tell me about the bigger picture, the moral state of our society, and larger global factors that led to God’s decision to put this particular government in place?”
- By far the most heinous human government is still in the future. According to the prophecies in the Bible, it will be a one-world government, totally godless, will execute Christians by the tens of millions, and will end at Armageddon. It is then that humanity, like Nebuchadnezzar, will finally understand that they rule nothing … except their own hearts and minds – and we have failed even at that.
- The ultimate destiny of the entire cosmos is annihilation by what the Bible describes as ‘intense heat’ where the elements themselves are destroyed.(5) The only thing to survive this universe will be the souls of men and women and the things they have done of eternal value. This world was just a training ground for eternity. Most will fail, few will find eternal life,(6) but the choice between the two options is in the hands of each individual.(7)
Bottom Line: Human governments are viewed from a very different perspective for the authentic Christian who understands that we are aliens in a world that is no longer our home and that it is actually God who sets up and takes down political rulers.
So do we sit on our hands and do nothing?
Of course we have a duty to vote and exercise a positive influence on society and government in whatever ways are presented to us, but if it is the spiritual and moral direction of a society that forms the basis for God’s decision as to what government He puts in place, then our highest priority is the heart and mind of the individual. So what are we to do? If Christ is the model for a Christian, then it is fascinating to realize that even though it was He who put the Roman government in place, He spent his time preaching the gospel and healing the sick, quite simply because He, the Creator of the Cosmos, loves and values each individual person. His priority to reach their heart and soul was once expressed in his statement …
“Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.”(8)
- Daniel, chapter 4
- Hebrews, chapter 11
- Exodus 22:28
- Titus 3:1
- 2 Peter 3:10-13
- Matthew 7:13,14
- John 3:16
- Mark 1:38