One of the timeless Christian hymns of the Reformation era is Joachim Neander’s ‘Loben den Herre’, translated by Catherine Winkworth as ‘Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation’. Both the original German – and its nineteenth-century reversion – speak powerfully of the importance of depending not on our own connivings, but on the providence of God.
The verses begin:
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation;
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation: …
Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under his wings, yea, so gently sustaineth: …
Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work, and defend thee;
Surely his goodness and mercy here daily attend thee; …
As zeitgeists go, ours is an increasingly disempowered one, certainly on the popular level. An all-pervasive technocracy carefully manipulates convictions, thoughts and emotions, setting the stage for something incredibly dark, inklings of which might already be gleaned as we hear Australian premiers brag about their thousand-bed Covid quarantine camps, or see the CCP institute a national social credit system, or touch a door locked to us for the first time because we’ve not have our third jab. The coming oppression will be felt not in the abstract.
Nothing is being hidden. The population is being conditioned to accept the tyrannical as normal. It’s being trained, like a Pavlovian dog, to beg for restrictions. It’s being played like a violin in the hands of a malevolent maestro. Genuine threats to what remains of our civilisation are being diminished by the powerful, while imaginary threats are being elevated to an existential level.
The wickedest part of it all is the inculcated sense that you are completely powerless. Engage in insurrection, and you’ll be fought. Protest, and you’ll end up in jail. Participate in politics, and you’ll be marginalised. Resist passively, well, that’s you out of a job. Acquiesce reluctantly, and nothing will change.
It’s a matrix.
The vision of John in the Book of Revelation pictures something similar with the image of the beast from the sea:
Then I saw 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. … There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. …
It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. … If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints. (Revelation 13, NASB)
There is a helplessness in those words, “if anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes”, something that speaks powerfully to our present condition.
As 2 Thessalonians 2 makes clear, there was a lawlessness at work now, which continues to this day and which at some point will no longer be restrained. The coming of this lawlessness – or rather of the lawless one – is being or will be accompanied by “every kind of power, sign, and false wonder, an with every wicked deception against those who are perishing, because they refused the love of the truth that would have saved them”. After it come powerful delusions. If there were ever a generation that disbelieved the truth and delighted in wickedness, then surely this was it.
At Christ’s darkest moment on the cross he uttered the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” which among other things, anticipated what would happen to the church. The most fearsome aspect of the last days is the removal of the Restrainer, typically considered to be a reference to the Holy Spirit. Where Christians have suffered more than anyone else in the past, we have not endured a world given over fully to the machinations of the evil one. For a few years, that is what will happen on earth: no one will be left in doubt of their need for a Saviour at that time.
As we draw close, we can expect ‘awakenings’ and resistance. Perhaps in the wars to come, one side will be better than another, I don’t know. Perhaps there will be leaders intent on enacting righteous laws, whom it will be right to support, or judges giving just judgements. For sure, we are to resist bowing to the evil one and resist taking the mark. Resistance will eventually be demanded of all Christians.
But let’s be clear, the battle is the Lord’s, and He will be victorious. This is a spiritual battle with outworkings in the physical realm. We should not place our hope in a military solution, not until the Lord returns and all His holy angels with Him.
As sovereign states, as kingdoms, as the liberal democracies, as the Islamic theocracies, as regional multinational entities become increasingly tyrannical there will be a temptation to resist actively, defensively, as freedom fighters against a terrorist state. To do so may not be wrong: I don’t think Revelation 13 is necessarily saying that. Only at some point, natural resistance will be futile. If our hope is in worldly solutions, we will be both disappointed and defeated.
I strongly believe we are not to trust in awakenings, popular uprisings, mass movements and the like. For sure, good people may arise in the public square, but we are not to hope in them, to pray for them, but not to put our trust and hope in them.
Neither will there be redemption in carnage, nor conflict, nor crisis.
Our hope is to be in Christ alone.
It was He who went before us as a suffering servant, He, who knows and understands our weaknesses, and will uphold us by His strong hand.
The response, brethren, must be what it’s always been, to obey God’s Word, to get on our knees, and to fast and pray.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. (Psalm 121, KJV)