The Nations are on Fire
Although it is not in vogue these days, sometimes from various voices and corners in the Church, you will hear passionate and pontificating announcements that God has sent or is sending judgment upon America, or whatever nation you may live in. Usually the prophet will announce something to the effect that, America has turned its back on God! You have kicked Him out of the schools! Homosexuals are getting married! America has out-sinned Sodom! If we dont repent and have revival, we will all perish!
Does this message sound familiar? I think we have all heard it before. Some of us have even become pretty good at parroting this message ourselves. Some very saintly men of God that I have the utmost regard for have said such statements. I have even quoted these men from time to time myself.
But, if I might take a moment of your time, could I be so bold as to suggest to you that such men, well meaning as they have been, have actually missed the mark in such statements?
I believe such declarations, while often having a hint of truth to them, are theologically shallow, and fail to truly grasp the mind of Christ. And the danger of these statements is that they are often dressed up in some way as being prophetic, but in fact, are not. And it is my contention that the Church, which is called to be a prophetic voice and witness in this world, cannot afford to make such faulty declarations. For the world is dying for want of a true word from God.
It is especially important that we get our message right, living in the times that we do. Ten years ago, history took a very drastic change in direction when two airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center on September 11th. The fallout of this event has caused upheaval across the globe. In but a few years time, new structures of global proportions have been established. War has been multiplied. Kings have fallen and have been replaced. Economic systems have crumbled. And the great institutions that we thought would last forever have shown themselves to be but nothing more than fancy homes built upon the ever shifting sands of this world.
Yet here we are as the Church. And in the midst of such calamity, we feel we must speak up on behalf of God. We fancy ourselves prophetic because we stand up in America and tell the heathen that we need to put prayer back into the schoolhouse, and keep homosexuals from getting married, lest the wrath of God be unleashed upon the nation in even greater proportions. Forgive me, but I am not impressed by such statements. Nor the random list of other things that heavy breathing evangelists and uninspired internet prophets often rattle off.
The trouble I have with these prophetic mis-pronouncements is that they are often isolated statements that are entirely disconnected with Gods ultimate eschatological plans and what Hes looking to accomplish in redemptive history. These prophecies almost always have nothing to do with Jesus Christ and the gospel message itself. These prophecies really amount to saying nothing more than God is angry at sin and is ready to kick some butt. Again, forgive me. But I find hardly anything prophetic about that.
If the Church is to truly live up to its calling as the Church, and that is, to be a prophetic people, I think in order to bring a true word to the nations, the Church of Jesus Christ desperately needs to rediscover Gods ultimate plans and purposes. We need to know what He is up to, and what He is doing in history. For biblical prophecy is always grounded in the larger historical narrative of what God has been doing and is looking to accomplish. Any would-be prophet that would think of standing up and speaking a prophetic word divorced from the historical narrative that God is writing should think twice before speaking.
I think the Church would do well to step back and reassess what we have often been saying. We need to take up a prophetic identity that is deeply rooted in the vision of Daniel 2. We cannot be truly prophetic unless we have an identity and message that centers itself in the establishment of the kingdom of God. In this chapter, as you may recall, King Nebuchadnezzar had a terrifying dream where he saw a large statue that represented the superpowers and nations of this world, including his own, coming to a dramatic end. The prophet Daniel was given the opportunity to declare the dream and the interpretation of it to the king. He prophesied a message that we would do well to burn into our hearts and minds, and to speak with our lips.
And what was that message? It was the announcement that God was done with the nations. It was the announcement that God would intervene in the history of mankind through a kingdom, and that the coming of this kingdom would bring about the ultimate doom of all the kingdoms of this world, in order that a new heaven and earth might be established. It was the announcement that everything that could be shaken would be shaken, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Daniel in one simple word announced that everything mankind trusted in was a lie, and would one day come to a violent and apocalyptic end. That one day the kingdoms of this world would be replaced by the kingdom of God and of His Christ.
And when the time was fulfilled, God sent His Son Jesus Christ into this world. And it was this message that Jesus Christ came and announced. He announced that the long awaited kingdom that Daniel was looking forward to had finally come, and that the final curtain was ready to fall, and that the show was on its way to being over. In His preaching, He announced that the rules that normally govern the universe were on their way out the door. The power of sin would be broken by a cross. Death would be emptied by means of resurrection. And that God had established a King that rules over all, even over men that dare to call themselves Caesar.
With such a big announcement as this concerning the kingdom of God, and what God is ultimately doing it redemptive history, do we really think God is looking to overthrow America for the petty reasons of there being a lack of prayer in school, or because homosexuals are getting married? Dont get me wrong, I am in no way supporting there being a lack of prayer in school (or anywhere), nor am I in anyway endorsing homosexual marriages, or making light of these issues. But if we really think it is because of these issues God is looking to overthrow America, or any other nation for that matter, we have misunderstood the nature of the world we live in, and what God is doing in history.
The truth of the matter is God has already judged, is currently judging, and will further judge America. Perpetual judgment has been ours in abundance as a nation, even from the moment we signed the Declaration of Independence. And this judgment is not against America alone, but according to the prophet Daniel, includes all the nations of this world. All of them are destined to topple over and be destroyed. Be it now, or a few years down the road. The truth of the matter is, all of the nations of all of the world are currently on fire and experiencing the wrath of God. God is always revealing His wrath from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
Why? Because the kingdom of God has come, and that kingdom is at odds with the kingdoms of this world. Why? Because God has established His King and His kingdom, and has established a new order that is displacing the old. But the old order still seeks to take a stand against God and His Christ. It opposes the kingdom of God which presently threatens its very existence.
The kingdom of this world wants men to believe the show will always go on, and that our nations will always endure, and that our systems will never fail. The kingdom of this world does not want to acknowledge that the handwriting is already on the wall. But God wants this world to know that its days are numbered and that it has been weighed in the balance and has been found wanting. God wants this world which is destined to perish to know that there is another kingdom, with everlasting foundations that cannot be seen, and this unshakable kingdom is the only one which will know no end. It alone is the only hope for this world.
So, when great calamities befall our nation, such as what took place in the terrorist attacks of September 11th, or when Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, instead of looking for the proverbial straw that broke the camels back, and trying to figure out which sin has ticked off God the most to bring about such events, we need to step back and reassess the situation in the true spirit of prophecy. We need to take up the vantage point of God, and see things as He sees them. We need to truly view these happenings in light of redemptive history, and only when we understand where in that history these events have transpired can we rightly interpret and speak to these things.