Posts Tagged ‘Saddam Hussein’

The blog posts that I write are not intended to be pastoral in nature; they are written on behalf of a for-profit entity and don’t represent any of the ministries I’m associated with. Nonetheless, religion and politics sometimes intersect, and it’s inevitable that my writing will sometimes reflect that intersection.

As a trained sociologist who is deeply anchored in biblical truth, I am beginning to wonder about the commonality of current events.

A secular-minded sociologist will view our current period in history as just another time when social and economic forces have conspired to provoke enormous global, political, and economic upheaval.

Conversely, some mystics point to what is known to be the end of the Mayan calendar and expect that a global upheaval is upon us. There is perhaps no society more secular than Australia, and yet, the Sydney Morning Herald recently reported that 1 out of every 10 Australians believe the world will end on December 12, 2012. Amazing!

The dramatic fall of many dictators in recent years, along with the apparent near-future demise of others, has caused some to wonder if the fall of those despots is a preparation for the rise of the ultimate despot.

The Bible indicates that a world-dominating character will rise at some point. That person is often referred to as the Antichrist.

The Antichrist has certain characteristics that appear to fit many past despots, which led some to speculate about Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein, for example. But speculations are not very helpful. Because of contradictory elements within suspected people, it will be very difficult to predict the Antichrist until he actually appears on the scene and identifies himself publicly.

The Antichrist will show up at a time when there’s true global, political, social, and economic upheaval. And people will believe that he is the only one capable of solving those seemingly insurmountable problems.

He will be charismatic and affable, and he’ll mesmerize people everywhere. Even those normally at odds with each other will be united in liking and following him. He will win global approval by his sheer ability to identify with people of all religions and of no religion at all. Only after he is able to receive adoration from the masses will he reveal his true character and intentions.

The followers of Jesus worship Him out of gratitude for His indescribable love, for his dying on a cross, rising again, and giving them eternal salvation. But ultimately, the Antichrist will demand the worship that is only reserved for Christ. Hence, that is the source of his name, Antichrist.

As current events unfold, believers need to be on their guards. More and more people today, including many churchgoers and professing Christians, view salvation as earthly salvation. A vast majority of people believe that missions should only be about alleviating human suffering in merely physical terms.

The growth of such beliefs, along with the fall of so many despots, makes me wonder. Is this indeed a time of preparation? Is the vacuum now being created so that the antichrist will appear to fill? It gives us something to ponder. It is something to take to heart and be warned about.

The LORD God proclaims: The sword of the king of Babylon is coming against you!  I will make your hordes fall by the swords of mighty men, the most terrifying of the nations, all of them. They will bring an end to Egypt’s pride, and all of its hordes will be destroyed. (CEB)

In Ezekiel 32, God tells his prophet to sing a lament for Egypt. This song comes in advance of God’s judgment upon Egypt, which will be exercised by the armies of Babylon. In this chapter of Ezekiel, as in several previous chapters, human history is seen as acts of God, who uses Babylon for his sovereign purposes.

Christians believe that God is the Lord of history. All things are ultimately under his sovereign care, including the affairs of nations. The Lord raises up nations and brings them down in fulfillment of his purposes and in light of his judgment.

Many Christians, confessing God as the Lord of history, try to play the role of modern day Ezekiels. They interpret contemporary history as acts of God. Yet, they do so without the clarity that comes from divine revelation. In the process, they often make a mess of things.

For example, when I was senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, I invited one of our missionaries to preach one Sunday morning. “Dave” was a man of integrity with whom we had partnered for many years. The focus of his ministry had been the Kurdish people in northern Iraq. Dave preached in the summer of 2003, a few weeks after Saddam Hussein‘s regime had been toppled.

The focus of Dave’s sermon that morning was not what I had expected. Dave was almost giddy with excitement over what was happening in Iraq (where ancient Babylon was located, by the way). His main point was that the Iraq War was a mighty act of God, something for which we should be joyfully thankful. Why did Dave believe this? Because, in his view, the end of Saddam’s rule meant a new era of freedom for Christians in Iraq. Dave talked about how oppressed believers had been under Saddam. Now they would be free to flourish and to be much more open in proclaiming the Gospel.

Nine years later, the situation of Christians in Iraq looks terribly bleak, actually worse than it was under Saddam. The persecution of Christians has grown, including attacks on churches. It is estimated that half of Iraqi Christians have fled the country. No matter what we might think of the Iraq War, it’s clear that it has not led to greater freedom for believers or a greater opportunity for evangelism. Even if one believes that the Iraq War was necessary from a political point of view, Dave’s imitation of Ezekiel has turned out to sadly mistaken.

Though I fully believe that God is working in the world today among nations, my memory of Dave’s sermon encourages me to be very careful when I start attributing historical events to the hand of God. Unless God starts speaking to me as he did to Ezekiel, I’ll leave that sort of thing to the real prophets. In the meanwhile, the fact that God is the Lord of history gives me confidence that all things are working together for God’s good purposes, even when I can’t understand what’s going on.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What difference does it make that God is the Lord of history? How do you think God is involved in the affairs of institutions such as nations, businesses, churches, and schools?

PRAYER: God of history, Lord of the nations, today I acknowledge your sovereignty over all things. You are at work in this world in ways I cannot begin to imagine. You are working all things together for good, so that they might fulfill your ultimate purposes for your creation.

Even as I confess your authority over the nations, Lord, help me to think rightly and wisely about these things. Keep me from too much confidence in my own judgment. Help me not to speak of you in ways that are untrue, even when they seem so right to me.

All praise, glory, and honor be to you, King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen.