Political Systems in a Depraved World

Johan Malan, Mossel Bay, South Africa (March 2016)

The allegation is often made that God appoints and overthrows governments. However, political systems and decisions during elections arise from human choice in terms of people’s traditions, preferences and free will. Since most of the people on earth are spiritually speaking deceived and on the broad way, they are in a favourable position to enforce the devil’s agenda in a democratic election. There is a whole range of ideologies which are partially or entirely in conflict with Christian principles, for example the following:

·         Humanism, in which false promises are made on a good life for all, as well as unbridled human freedom in every sphere of life.

·         Domination by a humanly conceived and culturally entrenched system of religion, e.g. Islam, or a humanistic form of Christian liberation theology, or even an interfaith approach which is eclectic and free to all.

·         The embracing of an anti-Christian ideology such as Marxism, of which the former Soviet Union is an example, as well as the present China and North Korea. Alliances are often formed between various parties in which communism also features prominently, e.g. South Africa’s ANC/SACP/COSATU alliance. There are also other forms of the dictatorship of the proletariat, often with Marxist or radical Islamic connections.

·         Monopolistic capitalism is a political system in which the government itself is controlled by powerful tycoons from the business sector, or the government leaders are manipulated by the super-rich in society. Due to the monopoly which large corporations and banks have obtained in the economy, the principles of the free market system are undermined, the working class is exploited, while the life of the wealthy is made as comfortable as possible with, among others, minimum tax commitments. In such a system the god of money (Mammon) is openly served and evangelical Christianity is resisted.

The small minority of true Christians on the narrow way simply cannot win democratic elections against other parties who make so many false promises; they will never be popular because of their strict religious and moral standards, and therefore they will of necessity always be strangers and sojourners in a world which lies in the sway of the Evil One. God still intervenes in human affairs in reaction to the prayers of suffering saints, but that does not change the general pattern of Gentile rule, which still functions in an intimate association with the kingdom of darkness.

In the Old Testament, when Israel’s kingdom was established in association with God’s kingdom, it was common practice for God to intervene in the appointment of their kings. He also intervened in the appointment or overthrow of Gentile kings – particularly when they were in conflict with Israel. However, this situation has entirely changed in New Testament times. Israel no longer has a theocratic government in which God’s supremacy is recognised, but because of their unbelief and the rejection of their Messiah/King they were temporarily rejected as God’s Chosen People, scattered from their land, and Jerusalem has been trodden down by Gentiles for almost two millennia (Luke 21:24).

During the present dispensation, God’s witnesses on earth are the true church among all nations, which represents the hidden kingdom of God in the midst of an evil world. Our difficult situation in a spiritually dark world is clearly spelt out in the New Testament: “The world will hate you” (read John 15:18-20); “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Saved and unsaved people are like wheat and tares growing together in the same field (Matt. 13:24-30; 36-43). It will only be after the end-time judgement of evil people (v. 42) that the righteous “will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (v. 43) – i.e. in the millennial kingdom of Christ.

At the present time, Satan’s kingdom also operates from a hidden, spiritual sphere, but because of its vast popular support this kingdom has succeeded in stamping its authority on human life in general – from governments right down to the corrupt lifestyles of individuals. That is the reason why Satan and his kingdom is often described in political terms as the rulers of this world (Eph. 6:10-13). Christians are engaged in a spiritual war against him and his large number of human collaborators. These deceived people choose their own leaders – God does not appoint them. God provided for the institution of governments to ensure orderly societies (Rom. 13:3-4), but when people use their free will and evil inclinations to distort and abuse this institution, they do so under the guidance of the devil. God did not appoint these rulers or predetermined their actions. The latter is a Calvinistic tenet which has long been exposed as false and not in keeping with historic developments.

If people think that it is hard to contend “against the powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age” (Eph. 6:12), they should know that the depraved world is heading for even much harder times when the hidden kingdom of Satan is revealed under the leadership of its king, the Antichrist: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21). That will also be a time of divine judgement upon the earth. God says: “I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless” (Isa. 13:11).

However, true Christians are not destined for the revealed kingdom of Satan under the rule of the Antichrist; neither are they destined for God’s judgements upon the wicked (cf. John 5:24; Rom. 8:1). We should watch and pray that we may be worthy to escape the coming tribulation period in its entirety, and to stand before the Son of Man in heavenly places (Luke 21:36; 1 Thess. 1:10). There is not the slightest doubt that the rapture precedes the tribulation period. The tribulation period (the 70th year-week of Daniel) is the time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) trouble – not the time of the church’s trouble. The members of all the nations who – like unbelieving Jews – have rejected Jesus as Messiah, will also pass through the coming time of tribulation.

The good news is that despite the severity of the tribulation (which is rendered inevitable by the millions of people who hardened their hearts against God), this period will only last for seven years and will be dramatically ended by the second coming of Jesus Christ on the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14 & Rev. 19). The Lord Jesus will come as the mighty King of kings to destroy His enemies and set up His kingdom of righteousness on earth. He will restore the throne of David in Jerusalem and rule from it Himself. The entire remnant of Israel will be saved when He returns (Matt. 23:39; Rom. 11:25-27).

As far as the present situation is concerned, conditions will get worse as the world is heading for the tribulation period. After the rapture, life will become dreadful to the unbelievers when they suddenly find themselves in the tribulation under the dictatorship of Satan’s fierce and ruthless king. The devil will give this king “his power, his throne, and great authority. … And he [will be] given authority over every tribe, tongue and nation” (Rev. 13:2, 7). As for the Christians, the pressure on them also increases as more darkness descends upon the earth, but their moment of deliverance will suddenly dawn when the heavenly Bridegroom will take them away to be with Him (John 14:2-3; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).

Dominionists try in vain to establish Christian governments on earth before the coming of the King of kings. They even use unbiblical forms of strategic spiritual warfare to rid the world of Satanic strongholds and all vestiges of evil. In the process they actually try to revise or rewrite biblical eschatology which describes worsening conditions as the world heads for the great tribulation. Their dreams are all but shattered, because the reality of world events is moving in the opposite direction. What we really have to strive for with much fervour and dedication, is that individuals should be saved and delivered from sin and satanic strongholds in their lives. Christians should be encouraged to stand firm in an apostatising world. They should feature strongly in the moral and spiritual polarisation which now occurs in the world, so that holiness, righteousness and an unshakeable faith are not superseded by compromise, despondency, doubt and fear (Rev. 22:11).

The testing of faith

The faith of Christians is being tested as they have the obligation to demonstrate the power of their convictions in a spiritually hostile world. As people with changed hearts they must shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15). They are in the world, but not of the world (John 17:11,14,16). They should therefore not completely withdraw themselves from the sinful world with its political and social processes, its economic and educational institutions, but the nature of their involvement should always coincide with a high degree of personal integrity, transparency, and honesty. It should be demonstrated to the world that there is a Christian way of doing things in which there is no room for corruption, bribery, double standards, lies, laziness, half-heartedness, untrustworthiness and disrespect for other people and their interests. A Christian can and should be an asset to society, even though people may not agree with his/her spiritual convictions and moral principles. Daniel did not resign from his post in a corrupt government in Babylon, and never deviated from his religious principles.

While we are still fulfilling our calling as witnesses of Christ during the days of our earthly pilgrimage in a fallen world, we should always refrain from worldliness and the condoning of sinful practices. We should maintain a strong expectation on Christ’s coming, since only then will there be a truly righteous societal order and system of government on earth. We already belong to that kingdom, and that is the reason why we proclaim the coming of the King: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).