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  • Love and Liberty

Rebellion; United And Universal

We read this in the second Psalm:

"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him."

Rebellion against the Lord has always been present on the earth. But this Psalm speaks of the united and universal rebellion of the kingdoms of men. It is not referring to all people living on earth that are forced to live under the tyranny of these kingdoms, but the rulers of these kingdoms and those who go along with their evil.

The rebellion we are seeing in the world right now is global. There are dissenting voices speaking out against the tyranny of the world’s rulers, but even many of these are living in rebellion against God. They may want liberty, but they want liberty for the wrong reasons. Then there are Christians, or those living up to the light they have received from God, those who choose to live righteously, who want to cast off the bands and cords of tyrants, while the former wants to be rid of the bands and cords of God’s moral laws.

This Psalm portrays a union of nations drawn together in a common hatred of the one true God and his anointed King, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is easy for me to say that this prediction by God is now upon us. God knew it was coming. He knew that eventually the tyranny of men would coalesce and wreak havoc on the people of the world.

In the first Psalm, we read that the Godly man meditates on the Word of God. He thinks on the things of God and seeks to obey his commandments. In contrast, the ungodly use their minds, their imagination, to find ways to avoid God and to be rid of his moral standards, to be rid of natural law. Those with the loudest voices rebel against him and the world’s sheep obediently follow them. In the process, they try to explain God away, or they merely ignore him, but they do not ignore his followers. His followers become their enemies and targets. They oppose and persecute Christians because Christian morality is a rebuke to their ungodly living. All of this is led by corrupt and immoral Heads of State and governing bodies. It is not an accident that the masses reject the Lord, his people, and his moral law. The Bible says that the “kings of the earth set themselves.” They aren’t just ignorant of the truth; they are willingly ignorant. They deliberately take a position. They make a choice. Government officials, most of them, exploit their positions of power and they care nothing for the well-being of their “subjects.” They decide that they have had enough of God and the beliefs of Christians, and even though they may use religious terminology for political purposes, and even the name of God, to back up their wicked agenda, most assuredly they take their stand against God and his Kingdom.

We read in Acts 4 where the apostles referred to this Psalm: “And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together…” Acts 4:24-27. When persecution first broke out against the church, we’re told that Peter and John, after they had been threatened, returned back to the church to tell the people what had happened. It is culminating now into a worldwide revolution against Christ as people are defying the Lord in favor of their worldly pleasures, political pursuits, and personal ambitions.

Their opposition to the Lord manifests itself in their rebellion against his precepts. People are against his bands and cords, the righteous restraints that God’s Word puts on society. They don’t want there to be moral absolutes. They don’t want marriage to be between a man and a woman, they want to practice unnatural lifestyles. They don’t want to do good unto others; they want to kill them and steal from them. They want to be able to destroy human life in the womb, and call this freedom, or a right. They don’t want God telling them what they can do or what they cannot do, they want to make the rules and they want to force their rules upon the rest of us. If we do not comply, we can rot in jail or die. Politicians and preachers alike promote confusion, corruption, and compromise – they are the blind leading the blind.

But God will not be overcome. He can only laugh at the audacity of the rulers of men and their ungodly followers. They cannot win against God. His wrath has mercifully been restrained, but in a soon coming day it will be unleashed. The tyrants and their warmongering, thieving puppets can unite against God all they want, but they are doing it to their own ruin. Christ is coming and judgment is coming with him. There will be no avoiding it.

God has been patient, not willing that any should perish. Tyrants can repent and be saved. It’s not likely they will, because usually a person that is committed to evil has been turned over to a reprobate mind and has firmly decided against Christ, but we dare not say it is an impossibility. Paul himself was a tyrant that repented and came under the yoke of Christ. The Lord met him on the Damascus Road, called him to account, and Paul was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. He yielded to the Lordship of Christ. The argument cannot just be that God can save anyone, because while that is true, the conditions have been presented to mankind and people must meet God’s terms - God does not force a person to submit to him. No, he is no tyrant. But he cares and wants all to come to repentance. We should pray for the world’s rulers and hope for the best. But many will remain his enemy, and their destruction is nigh.

Mankind has been suffering under the evils of the kingdoms of men, but Christ, the holy, just, loving, and good King has come, has returned to the Father, and is coming again. All things are moving toward the establishment of his throne on the earth. Jerusalem will be, as the Lord Jesus said, “trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”, but God says: “I have set my king upon Zion.” While I do not affirm that the modern-day State of Israel is somehow holy or favored of God, or that it is biblical Israel at all, I do affirm that the New Jerusalem will come down to us on the new earth, and it is from here that Christ will reign for eternity. Zion is a poetical and prophetical name for Jerusalem. Many people erroneously believe that the Bible is a religious Book, but it is not. It is a Book about a Kingdom, a Kingdom that stands in contrast to the kingdoms of men, and a Book that shows us the difference between those who yield to the gospel of the Kingdom of God and those who rebel.

The gospel. The most important message in the history of mankind, yet it is the most ignored and ridiculed. What’s more, it is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. What is the gospel?

First, I reject the Augustinian/Calvinistic teaching that man cannot believe the gospel until God gives him the ability to do so. I believe in the natural ability of man, given to him by his Creator, to respond to the gospel. Certainly, “No man can come to me (Christ), except the Father which hath sent me draw him…”, yet Christ further stated: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” What is this drawing that is being referred to? Some claim it is an irresistible grace, or mystical force, bestowed upon certain people of God’s choosing, and only those he draws will be saved. But Christ spoke of drawing “all” men unto himself (not just all “kinds” of men). Immediately following the Lord’s declaration that no one can come to him except the Father draws him, he said: “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” Clearly, God draws us by teaching us. He teaches us his truths through the scriptures, through creation, through natural law, through our relationships, and through his inner witness. The Bible is reminding us that “all we like sheep go astray”, but God graciously draws us to himself. No one seeks God on his own, but God is graciously calling us to submit to him, he is calling all to come to repentance. In the immediate context when the Lord was speaking, those who were following God and learning of God would consequently yield to Christ. Those who only gave lip service to God, such as the Pharisees, were rejecting Christ because they were rejecting God’s reign over their lives. This is also applicable to us who were not present during this transitional period. Those who have responded in submission to the light God has given them in their lives have positioned themselves to submit to Christ (Acts 13:48). God draws us with the truth that he has established a Kingdom that is not of this world, a Kingdom that is filled with people of all nations. Those who submit to his anointed King will be forgiven of their past sins, they will be freed from the oppression of Satan, and they will live eternally in his blessed Kingdom where his government is holy, just, loving, and good.

The way some describe it, the Bible teaches two different gospels. They say that Christ preached a gospel of the physical Kingdom, but since the Jews rejected him as their Messiah, a different gospel became the focus. Some say the gospel was no longer about a Kingdom but about certain soteriological or theological facts that must be accepted. Based on 1 Corinthians 15, we are told the gospel is that Christ died for our sins and rose again. Is this the gospel that Christ preached? Some would simply change the tense of the words and say those who preached “the gospel” before Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection were speaking about it as a future event, but is this true? There is no doubt that the death and resurrection of Christ is a foundational element of the gospel, and without it there would be no gospel. It is good news in that without it, no one can be a part of Christ’s everlasting Kingdom, but is the death and resurrection of Christ the gospel or the truths that make the gospel the gospel? Here is why I ask.

Did Christ preach the gospel? What was his message? What did his followers believe? Was it the words of 1 Corinthians 15? Christ did, of course, preach the gospel, but the focus of the gospel is different than what mainstream “Christianity” makes it out to be. Christ preached the gospel of the Kingdom.

Matthew {4:23} And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

Mark {1:14} Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, {1:15} And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Mark {9:1} Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. {9:2} And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.

Mark {18:15} And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when [his] disciples saw [it,] they rebuked them. {18:16} But Jesus called them [unto him,] and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. {18:17} Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. {18:18} And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? {18:19} And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none [is] good, save one, [that is,] God. {18:20} Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. {18:21} And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. {18:22} Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. {18:23} And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. {18:24} And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! {18:25} For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. {18:26} And they that heard [it] said, Who then can be saved? {18:27} And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. {18:28} Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. {18:29} And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, {18:30} Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. {18:31} Then he took [unto him] the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. {18:32} For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: {18:33} And they shall scourge [him,] and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. {18:34} And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.

Note the emphasis on the gospel that was being preached. The gospel was the good news of God that his appointed King had arrived. He had come to destroy the works of the devil, to turn people from their sins, to overcome death. Christ was not taking up the throne just yet, but his Kingdom was now being established in the hearts of mankind and through the actions of his followers. God’s Kingdom had arrived, and it was good news indeed.

There is only one gospel, and just as in Paul’s letters, it is the news that Christ came to be the universal King, and to liberate us from the oppression of Satan and the kingdoms of men, the penalty of sin, and the power of death. His life, death, and resurrection are referred to as the gospel in that they signify these truths, and they establish his merciful and righteous rule as the world’s true King. He died for our sins, and was resurrected, thus guaranteeing our resurrection and eternal life in his eternal Kingdom. Paul used part of this passage when he preached in Antioch, speaking about the resurrection of Christ (Acts 13:33). He was begotten from the dead. Romans 14:9 tells us this was the exact purpose for his death and resurrection – that he might be Lord of those who have already died and those who were still alive, and of course those who would live afterward.

As for the facts of Christ’s death and resurrection, the disciples did not understand these things, yet they had believed in him and had been preaching the gospel. Certainly, these truths undergird the gospel, but the gospel that is to be submitted to is that there is a righteous Kingdom to which we can belong if we submit to the Ruler of this Kingdom. There needs to be no quarrel about how the atonement works or what it means to have faith. Submissive obedience to the Lord Jesus is the condition for salvation, and those who follow him belong to his blessed Kingdom. That is the gospel.

The gospel is the story of how the kingdom of God was made a reality when King Jesus was given all authority on heaven and earth. People are not saved by believing in a certain “soteriological or theological fact about salvation”, but by submitting to the rule of Christ, by becoming subjects in his Kingdom, and they will remain in the Kingdom as long as they follow Christ as Lord. We are heirs with Christ. The Kingdom will take on physical form in a coming day, when Christ returns to the earth, and those who suffer with him now will reign with him then. We are being tested. Whom will we serve?

As much as mankind would like to get rid of God and his bands and cords, their rebellion is never going to derail his Kingdom plans.

Satan said to the Lord Jesus, “Ask those kingdoms of me…I will give them to you…if you’ll only worship me.” He refused, but God will give them to him in due time. Christ came as a servant the first time, but when Christ returns, he will put down the rebellion that has broken out. Just as he was rejected then, he will be rejected by many when he returns. Imagine the Lord walking up to the Whitehouse today, knocking on the door, and saying, “I’m King Jesus. I’m here to take over.” How many of the politicians and Government officials do you think would say, “Finally! We’ve been waiting for you!”

How many would receive him? They would try to crucify him all over again because they want someone who will set up policies that will satisfy their lusts. They will not want to give up their control. They don’t want to follow the light because they love the darkness. Hence, when Christ comes again, it will be in severity. He will break them with a rod of iron, and he will dash them in pieces.

Once again, we need to remember that the Lord takes no pleasure in judging men. He would rather they repent, and he will have mercy. In a world of war, God is offering terms of peace. However, these terms will not last forever. We can kneel to Christ now as our Lord and King, or we can face him in a coming day as an avenging Conqueror.

There is no hope for those who refuse to be ruled by him.

Those who will come under his authority will have eternal life.

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