Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Rise of the Kings of the East?

When I first read the Book of Revelation, among the many amazing future events that the apostle John wrote about was the many dramatic events that would take place towards the last days of the current earth age. To call the book awesome is an incredible understatement. Many people call it scary, and many others claim that it is mostly symbolism and not really an account of actual events that take place. But I for one fall firmly in the camp that believes that the Book is mostly a literal accounting of actual events that will take place. However regardless of one’s opinion, one thing is very clear and very literal: our Lord Jesus Christ accords His divine blessing on the readers of this book in it’s very beginning: This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near. (Revelation 1:1-3 NLT)

One thought that persisted with me when I read the accounting of nations that take part in the events of Revelation is the apparent absence of the United States as a world power during this time. It is fair to say that the US has been a world power economically, socially and militarily especially since the early part of the 20th century up until the present time (2009). However the US does not appear to be a player on the world stage during the end time based on the Book of Revelation. Israel certainly appears to be: And I saw another angel coming up from the east, carrying the seal of the living God. And he shouted to those four angels, who had been given power to harm land and sea, “Wait! Don’t harm the land or the sea or the trees until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of his servants.” And I heard how many were marked with the seal of God— 144,000 were sealed from all the tribes of Israel… (Revelation 7:2-4 NLT). The Middle East region certainly appears to be a player: Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice speaking from the four horns of the gold altar that stands in the presence of God. And the voice said to the sixth angel who held the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great Euphrates River.” Then the four angels who had been prepared for this hour and day and month and year were turned loose to kill one-third of all the people on earth. I heard the size of their army, which was 200 million mounted troops. (Revelation 9:13-16 NLT). An eastern power the “Kings from the East” certainly appears to be a participant: Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great Euphrates River, and it dried up so that the kings from the east could march their armies toward the west without hindrance. (Revelation 16:12 NLT)

It is this issue of the “Kings of the East” that I wanted to post about. What country or region could this be? One thing seems certain; it is not a nation or region from the West. That would appear to exclude Europe and the United States. One primary candidate could be the current emerging world power from the east – China. It is the world’s most populous nation, with the biggest army and the country that at present is considered the primary nation that threatens the United States’ position of world dominance. The Washington Post captures an interesting intersection of current US and Chinese relations in the following:

The first G20 (Economic) meeting, last fall, appropriately took place in Washington. But holding this second conclave in Beijing would have signaled a clear recognition that the Washington-Beijing axis is the most important relationship in the world today; it is the X factor in the quest to rescue the global economy. If the two powerhouses work together, the world may yet emerge prosperous and stable. If they work at cross purposes, the world's future will be as grim as the gloomiest doomsayers forecast. - washingtonpost.com
Could it be with the current economic crisis in the US that we are seeing the signs that will ultimately lead to the reduction of American influence and power on the world stage? China’s economy and military has been growing steadily for decades, and now with its ownership of a large portion of US debt, it has the power to further push America into economic disaster. But let’s also look at some additional background. The culture in America has been growing more and more toxic with each ensuing decade and generation of people. The last US generation that had potentially a plurality of honor, class and decorum was likely my grandparent’s generation (people born up to say 1930). Life was much simpler then in the sense that most people did not have the abundance of “things” and “entitlements” that have perverted all American generations since. Beginning with the generations born after the 1930’s we have seen a steady increase of people who have divorced their spouses and broken their families, demanded their own way, and indulged in themselves (money, sex, drugs and virtually everything else). The rise of the mass media (TV and it’s mass market followers) have helped to create what I call the “look at me” generations who to this day have been willing to sacrifice even their children (abortions, broken homes, child abuse, stem cell research and future taxation) for the sake of their own pleasure pursuits or conveniences. As would have been expected of this rise in moral toxicity, God has been dismissed from American schools, from American laws and today from the American public square. Movies like “The 10 Commandments”, “Ben Hur” and “The Robe” were among the most popular movies in the 1950s. Those types of movies are laughed off by today’s generation. Though “The Passion of the Christ” was among the most popular movies in recent years, it came with vicious denouncements from the liberal American media such as the following:
  • "If I were a Christian, I'd be appalled to have this primitive and pornographic bloodbath presume to speak for me." – The Chicago Reader

  • "Since Mr. Gibson chose to concentrate on the last twelve hours of His life, Jesus, played admirably by Jim Caviezel, spends the entire film bloodied and beaten, almost beyond recognition. He has no character; he's a symbol - which might be what Mr. Gibson intended. However, unless you're already a devout Christian, you have little invested in the Savior as Whipping Post." – bigpicturebigsound.com

  • "Might be mistaken for an instructional video on meat-tenderizing techniques for cannibal chefs. Mel's a muscular Christian without a philosophical bone in his head." – seattleweekly.com

It’s not too difficult to see why a nation who’s journalists can write the blasphemy such as the above about an accurate representation (read Isaiah 52:13-15) of Christ’s death for our sins could be reduced to but a bit player or a non-participant in the events that affect human history at the end of days. Yes, I believe that the US will be reduced from its current position of power and influence in time. Perhaps in relatively short time. I don’t presume to know how this will happen; whether it will be in a devastating cataclysmic event or death by a thousand cuts. As an object lesson, ancient Rome was a world power for hundreds years and because of a very similar pattern of moral decay to what passes as normal life in the US today, the Roman power of old was removed as a world power by a sovereign God who will not be mocked: Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air. And a mighty shout came from the throne in the Temple, saying, “It is finished!” Then the thunder crashed and rolled, and lightning flashed. And a great earthquake struck—the worst since people were placed on the earth. The great city of Babylon split into three sections, and the cities of many nations fell into heaps of rubble. (Revelation 16:17-19). Perhaps the US is in the Book of Revelation after all. It could very well be one of the “many nations” listed in this last scripture.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Jehovah Witness Visit

The doorbell rang at my home yesterday morning to a not uncommon visit from two members of the Jehovah Witness Church. This is I’m sure a common occurrence for many readers, as I can remember my home receiving similar visits from the time I was a child. Over the past several years, I have made it a point to use these visits as an opportunity for me to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the Jehovah Witnesses which is usually the opposite intent of their visit to my home.

I don’t pretend to know a whole lot about the beliefs and tenets of this Church, and I certainly don’t consider myself any more of a saved sinner than they may be. As it happened on this occasion, after welcoming the couple (a middle aged man and woman…about 10-20 years my senior), I immediately identified myself as a Christian. My initial point to them was that I was a believer in the entire gospel of Jesus Christ, and though we may have some doctrinal differences, if they too believed and accepted that Jesus Christ died for their sins, then we were brothers and sisters in Christ. I make this point because as believers in the Christ we sometimes make the differences between us to be the basis on which we relate to each other, as opposed to our unity in and total dependence on Christ. What we think we do for Christ is nothing compared to what He has already done for us: When you came to Christ...you were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. (Colossians 2: 11-13 truncated NLT)

On this occasion, this Jehovah Witness couple warmly accepted my position without offering anything to the contrary, and shared their agreement that apart from Christ we are nothing. Yes the gentleman at the end of our exchange offered to leave some of their material with me, to which I politely declined honestly expressing that I would likely not be reading it.

I write this post because in the future you may indeed entertain people of various or no religion at your home or in the streets. Though their belief or doctrine of Christianity may not agree with yours, God asks us to present Him to others gently: Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. (2 Timothy 2:23-25 NIV) I must say I probably fail at this command as much as I succeed. I pray that the Holy Spirit will override my unreliable flesh more and more in the future on this issue. If you see yourself in this post, then I pray the same for you as well.

A God who sends people to Hell?