All posts by Dr. Dickson

Warning Signs (D)

  • WARNING:   Desperation of the elite: “And many false prophets will arise and will deceive many” (Mt 24:11). In the case of the fall of national Israel, there were those religious leaders in the society as there were in the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah. They cry out “Peace! Peace!” However, there was no peace. In other words, deceived religious leaders who are participating in the social and financial benefits of the collapsing society have no desire that their profits come to an end. This was the social and economic situation among the Jews at the time of the end of Israel.

James wrote about three years before the fall of Jerusalem. He wrote to a Jewish audience, specifically in reference to the rich Sadducean Jews among whom many Jewish disciples were exploited. As he wrote concerning the rich Sadduceans of national Israel throughout the Jewish diaspora (Js 1:2), he reminded them that they were about to lose all they had.

“Come now you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded. And their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped treasure together for the last days” (Js 5:1-3).

The rich Sadducean Jews had “despised the poor” (Js 2:6). They had exploited the poor farmers for their own benefit (Js 5:4). Therefore, the judgment of God was coming upon them in the consummation of the economy in which they had reaped their wealth.

The judgment about which both Jesus and James wrote was not something that was going to transpire over two thousand years after both prophets spoke their words of judgment. James comforted his Jewish readers in A.D. 67 with the words: “You [faithful disciples] also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near (Js 5:8). This was the coming of the Lord in time in judgment on unbelieving Israel. The judgment was near. James’ readers in A.D. 67 could be comforted by these words because relief from their exploitation by the rich Sadducean Jews was near. It was the same coming in judgment that brought relief to the poor among the northern kingdom of Israel during the days of Amos.

  • WARNING:   Willful violation of covenant laws:   “Lawlessness will abound” (Mt 24:12). In a society that forsakes social norms by which relationships are controlled, “law abiding citizens” become rare, and oppressed. In a liberal society that seeks to be free from the restrictions of law, the people become a law unto themselves (See Jr 10:23). When Divine law is rejected, society seeks to establish its own moral standards of conduct, and thus, in relation to the law of God, they become lawless.

The audience of Jesus in reference to the prophecy of Matthew 24 was specifically the Jews. There was certainly lawlessness in the society of the Jewish insurrectionists as they rose up against the Roman Empire. It was this lawlessness that eventually led to the destruction of national Israel. But in view of what James prophesied, there was great lawlessness among the Jews themselves concerning the Sinai law. For example, James mentioned lawlessness in reference to the exploitation of the poor farmers by the rich Sadducean elite: “Behold, the wages of the laborers who have mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out against you” (Js 5:4). This lawlessness among the Jews themselves led to the rise of the rich Sadducean elite who exploited the poor. The times for the consummation of national Israel in the last half of the first century were the same as the final years of both the northern kingdom of Israel in 722/21 B.C. and the southern kingdom in 586 B.C.

[More Matthew 24 warnings in next post.]

Warning Signs (C)

  • WARNING:   The sign of natural catastrophes:   During the days of the prophet Amos, God had to reveal through Amos that the great locust plague that brought great suffering upon the people at the time was actually judgment sent from God.   The people thought it was just another natural plague. But God wanted the people to know that the plague was His doing in order to urge the people of the northern kingdom of Israel to repent.

This seems to be the same connecting of the dots in reference to what Jesus said in the context of the final years of the Jewish civilization: “And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (Mt 24:7). Famines and earthquakes in various places have existed throughout the world since the beginning of time. But there was something unique about these “famines and earthquakes” that would alert the disciples that something was up.

The “various places” was within their ability to know that they were occurring. Therefore, if they connected the dots between the “wars and rumors of was,” with the “famines and earthquakes,” then they would be reminded of what Jesus said in this specific prophecy concerning the end of national Israel. They would understand that these physical catastrophes of the world of nature were not accidental, but God sent. Therefore, these were certainly regional “famines and earthquakes” that would sensitize the people to the coming fulfillment of what Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24.

  • WARNING:   Painful consummation: Jesus continued, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Mt 24:8). There would indeed be sorrow in the final consummation. The end would be painful. There is social pain in the collapse of a civilization. In this context, those who were citizens of the Jewish state would suffer the sorrows of a number of family members who were not Christians, and thus would not heed the warning to stay away from Jerusalem in its final hours. There was great sorrow throughout the Jewish world among family members who believed Jesus, and thus stayed home and did not make the fateful Pentecost journey to Jerusalem, for it was on the Pentecost of A.D. 70 that Rome marched against Jerusalem.   Many Jews who believed Jesus and stayed home said good bye to their unbelieving family members whom they would never see again as they journey to Jerusalem for Pentecost. During the three-month onslaught of Rome against the city of Jerusalem on the Pentecost of A.D. 70, and according to Josephus, the Roman army slaughtered over one million Jews. Great sorrow spread throughout the Roman Empire as the news of the death of so many loved ones filtered back home.
  • WARNING:   Politicalization of society:   During the times before the fall of Jerusalem, there was great pressure imposed on the Jewish society by loyalist Jews who urged all Jews to join the ranks of the resistance. If one did not join in opposition against the unbelievers (Rome), then he or she was as the unbelievers.

Patriotism to Judaism became radical. Therefore, “they [radical Jews] will deliver you [Christian Jews] up to be afflicted and will kill you. And you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Mt 24:9). Those Christians who would not join in the rebellion were despised by their fellow Jews throughout the Roman Empire. Because faithful Jewish Christians would remain loyal only to the name of Jesus, they would be hated by those Jews who took up arms against Rome.

  • WARNING:   Social pressure invokes apostasy:   “And then many will be offended and will betray one another and will hate one another” (Mt 24:10). When the great persecutions came, the disciples should not be surprised that some Jewish Christians would think more of themselves and their safety, than standing for the name of Jesus. In view of this one prophecy of Jesus, we can better understand why Paul wrote the following words to Christians who lived in the seat of command of the Roman government that would commission the destruction of Jerusalem: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation …” (Rm 1:16).

Even while Paul was in prison in Rome only ten years before A.D. 70, some brethren disassociated themselves from him. They spoke out to bring apposition against Paul (Ph 1:15-18). Their lack of love for him was revealed in their unwillingness to stand by him in his darkest hour. This was the very thing about which Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24. Some Christians in Palestine also forgot this when the Roman army marched toward Jerusalem. The social turmoil of the time revealed that they had little loyalty to the name of King of kings when they gave in to the social intimidation of the times.

Those who denied Christ went even further.   When an oppressing army is trying to flush out all rebels, they will through torture demand the names of other rebels. And because some succumbed to torture, they betrayed others. In a collapsing civilization, one’s own self-preservation becomes more important than one’s loyalty to his neighbor. At least this is what happened while Paul was in prison in Rome in A.D. 61,62.

[More Matthew 24 warnings in next post.]

Warning Signs (B)

  • WARNING:   Stirring of fear: Jesus alerted the disciples, “And you [disciples] will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Mt 24:6). The Roman Empire was continually engaged in some war with some nation somewhere throughout the extremities of the borders of the Empire. In order to engage in these wars, Rome was built on the backbone of a strong military. The Caesars of Rome had a thirst for conquest and expansion, and thus, every effort was made to build the military. However, the wars about which Jesus spoke in this context were battles between Jewish loyalists and Rome as the Roman army marched toward Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

When Vespasian marched the Roman army from Rome to Jerusalem, he squashed every Jewish resistance effort alone the way.   Word of mouth of the battles spread like wildfire in reference to what was transpiring. This gave the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, who believed the prophecy of Jesus, time to get out of town. Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24 saved the lives of thousands of Christians who were still living in Jerusalem at the time. Because they believed the prophecy of Jesus, they fled for safety to other regions of the Roman Empire.

A previous exodus from Jerusalem, because of the persecution of Saul, was insignificant in comparison to what would come in A.D. 70 (See At 8:4). However, this initial exodus of Christians from Jerusalem set the ground work for the massive exodus of A.D. 70. There were relatives of the first exodus already settled in other regions who could receive family members who fled during the exodus before A.D. 70.

The distant wars, therefore, were the signal of the coming end. When the Christians in Jerusalem heard of these skirmishes, Jesus said, “See that you are not troubled, for these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet (Mt 24:6). The skirmishes between rebellious Jews from Rome to Jerusalem were only signals that doom was in sight for national Israel. These wars, however, were only the sign of the end.

The resident Christians in Jerusalem must not become complacent and assume that Rome’s victories over Jewish zealots in distant lands would appease Rome’s determination to once and for all terminate the insurrection of Judaism in the Empire. They must remember that Rome was determined to cut the heart out of the insurrection by the total destruction of Jerusalem. The Christians’ love for their homes, therefore, must not lead them to believe that Rome would surely not bring down the temple and Jerusalem.

(We must add here that the countless wars in which Rome involved itself in its last century of existence an Empire eventually led to almost bankrupting the Empire. The borders of the Empire had been extended to so many distant lands, that it became increasingly difficult for the central government to support the military establishment. If the military failed, then the Empire would collapse, which very thing happened at the end of the 5th century. Rome could not support a strong enough military to hold back the invading Germanic groups from the north.   But all this did not transpire for over four centuries after the events about which Jesus prophesied. At the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the strength of the military of Rome was at its zenith.)

  • WARNING:   Conflicting society: “For nation will rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom” (Mt 24:7). When a civilization is in its final years of existence, it is tormented by other civilizations that would assume their leading role in world affairs.   Civilizations exists because of military strength, for it is the military strength of a nation that builds and sustains the civilization through strength. It is a strong military that intimidates other civilizations to negotiate for terms of peace (Compare Lk 14:31,32).

Though Jesus was not educating the disciples in reference to the fall of civilizations, He was giving them historical information to which they must be sensitive in reference to the civilization of which they were a part. The Roman civilization would continue after the fulfillment of all those things about which He spoke, but the Jewish civilization, with its Roman-controlled nationalism within Palestine, would cease. It would cease because God allowed in the leadership of the Jewish civilization the existence of the false messiahs who would lead the Jews to a accomplish His will, that is the termination of national Israel in Palestine with the fall of Jerusalem.

The end of any civilization is characterized by its clashes with other civilizations. On the world stage of the rise and fall of civilizations, the first indication of the fall of one civilization and the rise of another is revealed when there are clashes of one civilization against another.   Throughout history the clashes between civilizations have often been the result of military conflicts. But military conquests do not necessarily demand the passing of the citizenship of a civilization. The fall of civilizations from within is different.   These consummations of civilizations come through revolutions. The fall from within is characterized by philosophical or religious “clashes” among the citizenship. Whether from outside forces through military conflicts, or through conflicts from within, what comes out on the other side of social chaos is something new and different. The citizenship is changed until another era of tension arises which starts the cycle of change all over.

We must never forget that dominant civilizations will always have “cold wars” or “trade wars” with one another. This is the relationship between existing kingdoms that are in contact with one another. From the beginning of time, there has always been a “game of thrones” struggle of one civilization against another. But when a civilization falls from within, the call is often not realized by the citizenship.

In the context of Jesus’ prophecy there were certainly continual military conflicts of Rome against other world kingdoms throughout the extent of the Empire. However, Jesus’ reference to clashing kingdoms was probably more in reference to isolated Jewish confrontations with Rome throughout the Roman Empire. Because of the continual clashes of pockets of Jewish resistance throughout the Empire, the Roman government sought a final solution to the problem of Jewish insurrection.   Therefore, the final solution was to march on Jerusalem, and thus destroy the center of Jewish loyalism.

[More Matthew 24 warnings in next post.]

Warning Signs (A)

  • WARNING:   Social dishonesty: We must keep in mind that Jesus makes His statements in this context in view of the Jews’ nationalistic hope for the reestablishment of an independent Israel. Even the disciples had this misguided belief unto the final hours of His time on earth (See At 1:6). In order to recruit loyalty to the national/religious state (theocracy), insurrectionist Jews would use deception to convince fellow countrymen to take up arms against Rome. If Christians were not alert to this misguided patriotic call, then some Jewish disciples could possibly join the ranks of the resistance. Therefore, Jesus warned His disciples, “Take heed that no one deceives you” (Mt 24:4).

There would arise many who would come and claim to be the Messiah (the Christ), whom the Jews believed, would restore national independent Israel (Mt 24:5; see At 1:6). These religious/political deceivers would “show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Mt 24:24). Because the nationalistic Jews had rejected Jesus as the Messiah, in the final years before A.D. 70 when political tensions began to rise between nationalistic Jews and Rome, there were numerous political messiahs who arose in order to recruit fellow Jews to rally around a nationalistic cause.

We would assume, therefore, from Jesus’ warning to His disciples that they be not deceive. The fact that they could be deceived indicates that the religious/political intimidation in the final years of national Israel would be strong. In fact, it became so strong that even Christians could possibly be led astray in answer to the patriotic call of the false messiahs. At least, when the book of Hebrews was written during the last decade before A.D. 70, there were some Christian Jews who were being intimidate into returning to the Sinai law and covenant that the nationalists were enshrining in the minds of the Jewish society (See Hb 2:1-3; 6:4-6; 10:36-39).

  • WARNING:   Popular leadership: The Jews were waiting for the coming of a national restorationist messiah.   Their expectations were earthly, not spiritual. And because Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world, He did not have a great reception among the nationalistic Jews of His day (See Jn 1:11; 18:36).

In the final years of Israel, Jesus revealed that there were those who would appoint themselves to be the messiah (christ).   These would be those who would stir up the patriotism of the people in order to gain a following to lead in rebellion against Rome (See At 21:38). These popular messiahs believed that they could lead the people to a restoration of an independent national Israel if the occupation of Roman could be overthrown. According to Josephus, even in the final days before the fall of Jerusalem, there were false messiahs springing up who were calling on the people to remain loyal to the cause.

Leaders who could make the loudest noise in appealing to the patriotism of the people were elected as the leaders of the day.   “Make Israel Great Again” was the cry, and many joined the ranks of the rebellion against the establishment. If only Israel could separate herself from the Roman community, these false messiahs preached, then she would prosper.   What actually happened in history was that all the nationalistic leaders passed on, national Israel was concluded, and history moved on.

When civilizations fall, no one individual can be the messiah to prevent the fall. Self-proclaimed messiahs can delay the process of falling, but we must not forget that self-proclaimed messiahs are always populace leaders.   They are voted into office by a popular vote because the people are simply frustrated in their oppression.   They are thus looking for anyone who will deliver them out of their social despair. But the people must not forget that their frustrations may be from within. They themselves are the problem, whether in cause or effect. There may be no outside force that is occupying the land.

If the fall of a civilization is coming from within, then the citizenship must consider the possibility that there are those from within who are seeking to overcome the land. A liberal or revolutionary movement is working from within society to change society to a new and different order.

When Jesus came into the world as the Messiah, He represented a new and different order. However, what He brought as the Messiah was contrary to the religious establishment of the day. The majority subsequently dispelled with Him because He did not conform to the religious norm of the day. He did not preach a nationalistic message that would please the populace Jews who were headed for the termination of their social order in A.D. 70.

Jesus’ message of Matthew 24 was an encouraging reminder to the disciples that they would continue to remain in the minority when the final day came. No populace messiah would change the final outcome of the misguided majority. In fact, the conclusion of the misguided majority would be the opportunity for the faithful minority to “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (See Mt 13:36-44).

[More Matthew 24 warnings in next post.]

Warning Signs

The historical setting of the prophecy that Jesus made in Matthew 24 took place in the latter part of His earthly ministry (See also Mk 13 & Lk 21). The information revealed in the prophecy was for the purpose of preparing His Jewish disciples for the fulfillment of the prophecies of both Daniel and Ezekiel concerning the consummation of national Israel. The fulfillment of the prophecy of Matthew 24 subsequently became added information for the disciples as they went forth throughout the Roman Empire from synagogue to synagogue.

The disciples’ ministry was first to preach the gospel and proclaim that Jesus was the fulfillment of all Messianic prophecies (Lk 24:44). However, they were also to prepare the Jewish Christians for the consummation of their national heritage. When the disciples went forth with the message of the gospel, they informed all the Jews to whom they went that it was indeed “the end of times.” God was going to shut the book on national Israel.

The fullness of times had come upon national Israel, and now it was time to terminate this special nation of people that God had used to bring the Messiah and Savior into the world. There would be no more Messiahs. There would be no more Saviors. Therefore, unless the unbelieving Jews who rejected Jesus should hope that the Messiah was yet to come in Israel, God shut down Israel.

Israel was no longer needed as a physical heritage from whom a Messiah or Savior would come. The Savior had come and was standing in the midst of those to whom the message of Matthew 24 was directed. What was now offered to the Jews was the only alternative they had in reference to any covenant relationship with God (See At 4:12).   All things were summed up in Jesus Christ, and thus the last excuse to respond to the gospel of Jesus was about to be taken away in the destruction of national Israel and Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Those who would seek to further their understanding of what transpired during the final days of Jerusalem should consult the Jewish historian, Josephus. Josephus wrote Jewish Wars as a personal account of the final wars of Rome against the insurrectionist Jews of the Roman Empire. As a historian who was contemporary with the events, Josephus claims to have been a personal witness of the fall of Jerusalem. His account of the fall of the city is quite revealing.

In our novice years as an interpreter of the Scriptures, we missed much of the context and purpose for which Jesus gave the information of the Matthew 24 prophecy. Instead of applying the prophecy to Jesus’ intended audience to prepare contemporary Jewish Christian families for the end of their national heritage, we sought to steal the fulfillment of the prophecy from those immediate Jews. We mistakenly applied the fulfillment of the prophecies to a time two thousand years removed from the first century Jews.

In fact, our misapplication of the fulfillment of the Matthew 24 prophecy was quite calloused. Instead of Jewish fathers and mothers, who lived with their many children in Jerusalem at the time, being warned and prepared for the final destruction of Jerusalem, we stole the warning of the prophecy from these fathers and mothers. We left these Jewish families in Jerusalem unprepared for the coming of the Roman armies, and thus condemn them to suffer the fate of being a part of the over one million Jews who were killed during that calamity that overcame Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Those propheteers today who voice their own misunderstanding of Jesus’ prophecy steal away from those early Jewish families the warning that Jesus made to His beloved resident Jewish disciples in Jerusalem. They do so by applying the prophecy to some historical fantasies that are yet to occur in the future. In doing so, they have interpreted the prophecy selfishly. They are willing to leave those early Jewish families in Jerusalem without any warning to flee the calamity that would occur in A.D. 70. They are willing to do this in order to satisfy their own misguided prognostications concerning the final coming of Jesus. Fear tactics are thus used to fill both church buildings and church coffers around the world.

We are convinced that some preachers today need to take another look at what they would be doing if their application of the Matthew 24 prophecy does not refer specifically to the Jewish Christian families of the first century. If they were themselves Jews and residents of Jerusalem in those years leading up to the fall of Jerusalem, and were standing in the presence of Jesus when He made this prophecy, surely they would want to have their children and grandchildren warned concerning the devastation of their lives that would take place forty years after Jesus made the statements of the prophecy. They, too, would want their families to flee Jerusalem.

In fact, if Jesus was who He said He was, and God was bringing national Israel to a catastrophic conclusion through the destruction of Jerusalem, then we would rightly suppose that Jesus would forewarn the Christians who lived in Jerusalem. If He did not warn them, then two things would be true: First, Jesus was totally unaware of the consummation of national Israel, but supposedly, according to some interpreters, aware of all “signs of the times” in reference to His final coming. However, if He were supposedly aware of the signs of His final coming, then certainly He could have been aware of the signs that led up to the consummation of national Israel.

 

Second, if He knew of the coming destruction, but did not give the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem warning, then He was calloused and hard in heart. Jesus was at the time at least a prophet. And as God warned of the fall of national Israel through His Old Testament prophets, then Jesus was given the same privilege. We must always remember the principle of the statement of Amos 3:7: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing without first revealing His plans to His servants the prophets.”

Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son, but My Father only” (Mt 24:36). On earth, Jesus did not reveal the “day and hour.” If He had, then we would accuse Him of not revealing that specific “day and hour” in order for the resident Jerusalem Christians to flee the day just before the “day and hour.” Instead, as God did through the Old Testament prophets, He gave them all the indications of the fulfillment in order that through faith, they would believe the “signs,” and then move away from Jerusalem the years before the fall.

Unfortunately, too many interpreters today do the same with the prophecies of the prophets of the Old Testament, as well as John’s prophecies of the book of Revelation. They leapfrog over the intended fulfillment of the prophecies in time in their obsessions to find some “signs of the times” for the end of the world at the end of time.   In doing this, they miss entirely the fulfillment of the prophecies of these books in the context of those who would personally experience the fulfillment of the prophecies.

Throughout the Old Testament prophets, God prepared His people for their fall as an independent nation when the Assyrians and Babylonians were to be victorious over both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel (See Am 3:7). In the same way, Jesus, in the prophecy of Matthew 24, prepared the resident Jewish Christians of Jerusalem for the termination of national Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem.

As He did with those empires He used to punish Israel in Old Testament times, God would eventually bring down the Roman Empire.   As God had brought down both the Assyrian and Babylonian kingdoms, He would also bring down the Roman Empire that rose up its head against His people, the church. In the book of Revelation, John would encourage the Christians of the Roman Empire concerning its consummation, which eventually took place in the latter part of the 5th century.

In the context of Matthew 24, we seek to identify those things that Jesus said would identify the “signs of the times” that exist during the consummation of a civilization. We seek to know those things that are indications of the fall of civilizations, for indeed, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus concerning Jerusalem was more than the fall of a city. As Josephus graphically explained, it was the consummation of a civilization.

In the fall of both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel through the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, Israel lost her right to the possession of the promised land and her independence as a theocratic nation. However, the people were allowed to keep their Jewish identity. Nevertheless, in the fall of Jerusalem, not only were over a million Jews killed in the actual battle of Jerusalem, but the remaining eighty or more thousand survivors were sold off as slaves across the Roman Empire, thus eliminating any Jewish establishment as a people in Palestine.   Though all the goals of the Romans were never truly realized in their war against Judaism, at least all the birth documents of the Jews were burned in the burning of the Jewish temple.   All that the dispersed Jews had to identify themselves as Jews was their memory of who they were, which information was passed from one generation to another unto this day.

Some of the social reasons for the for the consummation of national Israel in A.D. 70 are those reasons why all civilizations come to a close. When Jesus revealed the collapse of national Israel, He embedded within His message reasons for the fall. He wanted the Jews to understand at the time of the collapse of the Jewish civilization that it was their own fault. It was not that the Romans just woke up one morning and decided to end Israel.   Vespasian, the commander of the Roman army at the time, simply responded to an increasing “Jewish problem” that necessitated the extraction of the Jewish cancer from the Empire. The following are some of the surrounding circumstances that Jesus revealed would occur during the final days of national Israel:

[Matthew 24 warnings in next post.]

Preserving Moral Norms

Liberal societies never approach the problems of society through the preaching of moral norms. The liberal news media will report and cry out against the opioid epidemic and other social problems. However, they will never interview a Bible believer who has the solution for the problem of opioid addiction. The news media cannot interview the Bible student because the very definition of a liberal society is that the people seek to forsake moral norms. The lack of moral norms of the liberal society of Noah’s day led the people in the direction in which “every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually” (Gn 6:5). There was no return of that civilization to preserving moral standards. The same is true of Western society today.

We are not optimistic about the solution the liberal West will provide for the opioid epidemic. The West may build more jails, but jails are only a legal bandage to a real social cancer. The West is on its way to legalize certain euphoric drugs. But this too is not the solution. Since the West has lost its religiosity, it is doubtful that the West will ever deal with the sin beneath the sin by religiously dealing with the psychological depression of those who seek a chemical solution for social depression.   Religion represents moral standards, but the Western liberal seeks to throw off moral standards that bring relief to both stress and depression. This means that any faith that promotes an absolute moral standard must be changed, or sent out the back door of the church house. Society would rather overdose on opioids than overdose on faith.

We have now introduced ourselves to a paradox in reference to what we formerly called a “Christian” nation. Why would a supposedly “Christian” nation end up with a social sickness that leads to the death of over 64,000 people every year from opioid overdose? Why would a “Christian” nation have a decrease in life-expectancy because of the opioid epidemic ? Where are the religious guardians of this society?

The answers to these questions is quite simple.   We would suppose that a “Christian” nation would morally direct its society by moral norms that would preserve society, which moral norms are commonly stated throughout the Bible.   These moral standards were the foundation upon which the West was originally built when the first Puritan immigrants stepped off the Mayflower. But something has gone terribly wrong.

All went well until about half a century ago when the religious community of the West became simply religious, having forsaken the authority of the word of God. And in forsaking the authority of the word of God, society was released from the moral norms of the Bible. Religion in Western culture today is generally not Bible based, especially in reference to the application of moral standards. The liberal thinking of the society moved into churches. In order to keep the liberals in attendance (particularly the Millennial Generation), religious leaders could no longer preach “hell, fire and brimstone” sermons. Western religion has subsequently become biblically sterile.   And through the international communications media, this sterile religion has been broadcast throughout the world. Around the world, pastors and priest watch or hear their sermons on the communications media, and then stand up on Sunday morning with the same morally sterile, “Bibleless” sermons.   Social media as Facebook and Tweeter have brought the world together, but they have also become the engines to propagate the moral decline throughout the world. Bible study is not longer of a part of faith.

The mission of the Western church has for half a century propagated their religiosity through motivational sermons that build assemblies and draw contributions, but do not strike fear in the hearts of the those who continually violate Divine principles for gospel living. If Jesus were to speak out today to these religious groups, He would surely say,

“I have a few things against you because you have there those who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication”  (Rv 2:14).

“I have a few things against you because you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and deceives My bondservants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols” (Rv 2:20).

“You say, ‘I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing.” But you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rv 3:17).

In these times, “miracle-working” charismatic prosperity preachers have captivated audiences. The attendees are overwhelmed in hysterical faith-healing assemblies, but go home with the same immoral behavioral life-style by which they conducted themselves on the way to the religious theater. Because the people are deceived by experiential religiosity, they do not hear sermons today coming from pulpits that use the word of God to bring judgment on homosexuality, same-sex marriage, fornication and a host of other sins that destroy both the family and the moral fabric of society (See Gl 5:19-21).

Therefore, we are not surprised with the opioid addiction in a society that has rejected Divine social norms to deal with stress.   When a society is in social turmoil, stressed out about having no moral compass, then drugs, not faith, are always the solution in such secular societies. A faithless society never adopts solutions that deter the moral fall of civilizations.

The opioid epidemic is primarily among the Millennial Generation, those who are in their late twenties. According to Rainer and Rainer, this generation is only 6% religious in reference to believing in the authority of the Bible and Jesus as the One through whom one would approach God (The Millennials, p. 232). This is a faithless generation of about 80 million strong in a nation of 300 million that is bringing down the religious core of Western civilization.

And for us who grew up on a farm in Middle America, even now, America is not what it was in the days of our youth.   Unfortunately, many of those who are seeking to immigrate to America are driven to do so by a dream that no longer exists in reality. The “Christian” nation of America has long since faded into a memory of years gone by.   If you do not believe this, then consider the following moral norms that were once considered sin in the days of our youth: Abortion, fornication, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, abuse of drugs of any kind, including alcohol, pornography of any kind, premarital sex, disrespect for dignitaries in government, disrespect for the President, etc.   If we would continue listing the specifics of the sins of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, we could mention many dysfunctional behavioral sins that are now accepted by Western civilization.

A liberal society is highly critical of those societies that are governed by absolutes, especially religious absolutes.   For this reason, no Western liberal news media has been kind to the President of the Philippines, or the existing President of a divided American society. The Western news media simply cannot understand why a woman wants to wear a veil in an Islamic society. The liberal West will never understand Islamic countries, for the social fabric of Islamic countries is religiously conservative, and thus functions in contrast to liberal Western values. Islamic countries thus consider themselves threatened by the liberal West. They believe that Islam is under attack by the behavior that is promoted by liberal moral norms.

For liberals, the religiously conservative Russia and principle-driven China are to be feared because he cannot envision that we can live with absolutes in a liberal democratic world. We cannot shoot the drug offenders. We cannot execute thieves and punish adulterers.   The death penalty is considered barbaric.

A liberal society, therefore, is continually in judgment of a social order that is controlled by conservative values.   Since the liberal thrives in a social order wherein freedom from control is the foundation upon which all things can be changed to satisfy the status quo, then the liberal concludes that citizens who live in controlled societies have no freedom. This may explain why the citizens of Western civilizations are so fearful of both Russia and China, and some Islamic countries.   But the liberal has simply forgotten that there is no freedom without law.

[To be continuded.]

 

Loss of Moral Norms

The more liberal a society becomes, the easier it is for the citizens to lose their moral norms, and thus, their moral compass.   Consequently, the more liberal the society becomes in a free-market democracy, the easier it is for the people to lose their way. And in such societies, fiscal inequity invariably becomes real, and eventually the social trigger that ignites revolution.

The definition of a social liberal is that society is allowed to determine its own moral norms at any time in history. For example, if same-sex marriage is the present moral norm within the society, and subsequently agreed upon by society as a whole in the present, then same-sex marriage is right for the times.   However, same-sex marriage is not the real problem. Same-sex marriage, and a host of other social behavioral dysfunctions of the society according to the Bible, when accumulated as the behavior of the society, bring a civilization to its demise. As a liberal society, the people as a group are losing moral norms by which they identify themselves as a society. They lose those moral structures that keep society as a whole from adopting social behavioral values that would cause social continuity. The loss of moral standards is what produces divergent behaviors, which behaviors are contrary to a conservative philosophy of life that produces social continuity. Therefore, we must always look deeper into the soul of a society in order to discover those negative moral norms that bring civilizations down.

Though homosexually and same-sex marriage are social attacks against the family—the major building block of society—the moral problem of the two sins goes much deeper. There is sin beneath the sin. When a civilization is in collapse, those prophets who would stand up and voice their warnings, must focus on the sin beneath the sin that is destroying the sustaining moral norms of society. And in reference to the preceding two social behaviors, it is the attack against the central structure of the family that is the problem.

The liberal can never address the sin beneath the sin that destroys any social order. The liberal cries out in fear about generating the possibility of a nuclear war, a truly bad “sin.” But he fails to see the flawed moral norm that would push the nuclear button in the first place. In the fall of Western civilization, it will not be a nuclear blast, but a gradual decay of stabilizing moral norms that govern how we socially interact with one another. If we are liberal, and thus refuse to be directed by constant moral norms, then the majority in a democratic society will bring itself down as a society.

The extreme loss of moral norms in the Philippines encouraged a frustrated society to vote into power an autocratic leader who rightfully saw in the proliferation of drugs the end of their democratic society.   Extreme measures, therefore, were implemented to alleviate society of the problem that would bring down their democratic society, for a democracy cannot survive a cultural behavior of drug addiction. But the problem was and is not the drugs, nor a new social order of extreme police domination. The problem is sin beneath the sin. Social problems within society must be addressed before the sins of society can be corrected. Unfortunately, a liberal society exists because it seeks not to be judged by standard moral norms. It thus cannot correct itself, and thus ends up in a downward spiral.

If a society is to be morally preserved for the future, then the moral norms that make a society functional must be highlighted by society as a whole. Unfortunately, in a society that is on its way out or down, there will be no marches by liberals in the streets who encourage the binding of moral norms.   If there are marches by those who seek moral stability, then there will be voices of derision from the liberals against the moral marchers.

In the country of our present residence there was a nationwide moral march against the high number of murders, especially those committed on farms. One of the degenerate politicians of one of the parties of the nation stood up and berated the marchers with the statement, “If they [the moral marchers] don’t like the country, then let them leave the country.” This is the language of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is immoral language that brings nations down. The problem comes when the supposedly moral leaders of the country, the religious leaders, do not sense the self-destructive sentiment of such language of moral degradation.

Consider also a Western CNN interview with the new president of Zimbabwe. The interviewer asked the President, “Will you defend the civil rights of same-sex marriage?” The President replied, “Such is against our constitution, and it is my duty as President to defend the constitution of my country.” The CNN interviewer then asked, “So you are willing to keep your country in another age” (Emphasis mine, R.E.D.). We wonder if the interviewer in this matter does not represent a dysfunction society morally degenerating, while the “Third World” leader is trying to preserve a higher standard of morality in his country. At least the interviewer is a representative of a Western civilization that has fallen from the moral standards that were once cherished in the West lest than a half century ago.

Those moral dysfunctions that took down Sodom and Gomorrah have now become classified as human rights. And it is a function of the United Nations to promote human rights throughout the world. Therefore, not only has the West adopted those human rights that bring down the family structures of a society, the moral values of the West are now a mandate for the United Nations to impose on the rest of the world.

The Philippines is an example of a society that revealed through drug overdose that it morally lost its way, as the West as a society has revealed that it has lost its way in the opioid epidemic. We are awaiting what the West will eventually do in response to the opioid overdose of Western civilization. Statistics are now out for 2016 and 2017 in reference to life expectancy in the United States. Because of the opioid deaths, particularly among Millennials, average life expectancy has come down in America. Heroin related deaths tripled in America from 2010 to 2015. The New York Times, in a news release entitled, “The Opioid Epidemic: A Crisis Years in the Making,” reported:

“The current opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history. Overdoses, fueled by opioids, are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old—killing roughly 64,000 people last year [2017], more than guns or car accidents, and doing so at a pace faster than the H.I.V. epidemic did at its peak.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported through Reuters,

“Life expectancy in the United States dipped in 2016 as the number of deaths due to opioid drug overdoses surged and total drug overdose deaths rose 21 percent 63,600.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control also reported that opioid deaths have been on the rise since 1999. However, between 2014 and 1016 there was a surge of 18 percent per annum in opioid-related deaths. Of the approximately 64,000 opioid-related deaths in 2107, most occurred between the ages of 25 – 54.

There is social sin beneath the sin in this civilization. We see the symptoms of this moral cancer that is eating away at society. If what usually happens in the future in reference to solutions that are made by liberal democratic societies in the present, the solution to the opioid epidemic will not deal with the real sin that has caused the sin of opioid addiction. To address the problem, the liberal society of America has simply increased legal efforts to punish the supposed perpetrators whom they have demonized. Lawsuits, therefore, are now brought against the opioid producing corporations.

The Philippines, in different manner, dealt with the problem of drug abuse through the rise of an autocratic leader and police force that dealt harshly with the offenders. Thousands of drug users and dealers were shot dead. But in a liberal society, these measures are judged to be too harsh. Nevertheless, if all the lawsuits against the opioid corporations are won, the problem of opioid addiction will not be solved. However, and at least, the liberals of society who reject the enactment of strong moral norms will content themselves in their minor victories to prevent social destruction. Western civilization that has sluffed off moral constraints is actually overdosing itself unto death.

[To be continued.]

Inward Forces of Division

Unfortunately, at times in history in a democratic society, special interests of the society send their candidates to the center of government where social division is reflected in a congress that can no longer walk in unity for the benefit of the whole. Representatives of their respective constituencies arise to the floor of congress and express their frustrations as to why the elected officials cannot make unified decisions. The empire, therefore, has started to socially implode through an electorate that reflects the deep divisions that are within the society. Through social implosion by division, the empire is weakened, and subsequently, it is on its way to consummation from that which built the society. From the floor of the government we will begin to hear over and over again the words of betrayed compromises, “et tu, Brute.”

The more divided the empire becomes, the sooner its consummation is realized. Western civilization will not go out with a bang, as many empires of bygone years went out when militarily conquered by an invading army. Western civilization will not come to an end with a nuclear holocaust. That which we now know will slowly fade into the past. As the British Empire, upon which the sun once never set, faded away, so Western civilization will fade away in order to give way to a new order. In his book, 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, Jorgen Randers concluded,

“Western nations are not going to collapse, but the smooth operation and friendly nature of Western society will disappear, because inequity is going to explode.”

Rander’s conclusion may be correct. He added, “Democratic, liberal societies will fail, while stronger governments like China will be winners.” When in 2017 1% of the people of the world controlled 82% of the wealth of the world, then we know that there will be some dramatic changes in a society where there is such great economic inequity.

As Christians, our worry is not so much about economic inequity, but moral dysfunction. Economic inequity surely leads to change, if not revolution, but moral dysfunction leads to the collapse of civilizations. Moral irresponsibility is always the cause of fiscal inequity. The greedy will always exist because they are that part of society who have given up the social norm to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

[To be continued.]

Remembering Roots

The citizens of a civilization in transition becomes increasing dissatisfied and anxious about their future. They often lose hope. They then start assigning blame for their frustrations. But the blame is often directed to those outside their national social order. Their finger pointing is often directed to other social groups, other religions, or even other nations, or the combination of all the preceding. Or worse, they start blaming their own leadership for the cause of their own uncertain future. They are frustrated because their social transition, of which they are often unaware, seems to be chaotic and out of control. They forget that the fall of civilizations always comes first from within. Outside forces are only the mechanism by which the fall is often finalized.

In the West, specifically America, a national paranoia has set in to the point that a refugee is now considered a threat to the social existence of the empire. Immigration means the dissolving of the identity of the society that is in chaos. Even within the society itself, divisions arise between race or economic groups in order that identities and social structures be preserved. Therefore, immigration is targeted as one of the threats to the existing civilization. And for this reason, immigration in the West has become the most important social issue of the day.

In the Western civilization of America, amnesia seems to be the cause for this social paranoia. America was strengthened in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries when immigrants fled oppressive feudal systems and religious oppression in Europe that offered little hope for the future. In their frustrations, these immigrants had their hopes revived when they gazed from aboard ships that approached the statue of Liberty in New York harbor. Ellis Island become a gateway to a New World for millions who sought hope and freedom.

As immigrants congealed into a society over the next century, they realized the “American Dream.” But the present generation, whose fathers and grandfathers built America, seem to have forgotten that what made America great in the first place was the injection of immigrant energy from Europe. The existing society of America is an immigrant society that now turns its back on immigrants who come to America for the same reasons they came more than one hundred years ago. Admittedly, the origin of the new immigrant is different than the origin of the original forefathers. However, the reason the immigrant shows up at the border is the same as the forefathers of the existing immigrant society.

New immigrants from oppressive secular and theocratic nations are again looking to the liberating West. The free West has engraved on a plaque of the statue of Liberty the following words of hope:

Give me your tried,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest – tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

A civilization that forgets its roots of freedom upon which it was built, is truly a civilization that has fallen from that for which it was purposed. Every year the United States accepts more immigrants than the rest of the nations of the world combined. But we see a growing resistance against immigration that originally made America great.

In a democratic society, the society as a whole must be cautious about electing a government that would manipulate society against the very principles upon which the society was first built and continues.

The West must be cautious about any political ambitions of the new immigrant. If the new wave of immigrants come to assimilate into an existing society in order to continue the “American dream,” then the West must welcome the new social energy that seeks to escape oppression. Those who find freedom will again energize Western civilization.   But if the new immigrant seeks to conform his new society to his own political agenda or theocratic constitution, then there will be a stressful social transformation of a Western society that was founded upon freedom from either political or religious oppression.

The West was firmly built on a free democratic society that was liberated from the constraints of both feudal governments and theocratic religiosity that choked freedom of speech and faith. Any threat to these fundamental rights upon which the culture of the West was built should be shunned at all cost.

[To be continued.]

Faith Permeates Transition

When the citizens of a fading society are on the downside, they seek to find some demon on which they can place the blame for their demise. They conclude that some foreign demon has surely interfered with their continued prosperity and success, and thus has diabolically sought their demise. This outside force has surely been the cause of why they are doing so badly, and specifically, why their system of free-market democratic government has been impaired. Finger pointing and criticism of suspected demons even from within become the norm of a society that is suffering.

When we are paranoid about the rise of other contemporary empires, we know we are in trouble. A lack of confidence in the strengths of our own civilization leads us to be in fear of others. By our own telltale division and mutual criticism from within, and the rise of other competitors, we know that our civilization is supposedly under attack, or transforming into another paradigm of existence. Social division is the impetus that leads us to question our own social structures.

Whether perceived, or ignored, societies that are in chaos are seeking to give birth to something new and different. The physicist, Margret Wheatley, in her book, Leadership and the New Science Discovering Order in a Chaotic World, alerted us to the fact that both in the physical and social world, chaos always gives birth to something new and different. We may recognize this sociological conflict within of a society in transition, but we are always apprehensive about the new and different that is coming. Nevertheless, we must realize that social tension is simply a natural process in the social world that is constantly in change. The Holy Spirit knew this when He used the word “sea” as a metaphor to illustrate the restlessness of the people of society (See Rv 4:6; 5:13; 7:1-3; 8:8,9; 10:2,5,6).

The generation within a restless civilization that is most sensitive to social change is usually the older generation.   The uncertainty of the society in which this generation resides, will, in a democratic government, motivate them out of their easy chairs to go to the ballot box. They go because they perceive that there are candidates to be elected who will preserve the past, and thus, stabilize society and prevent change.

The younger generation, however, is often the engine of change. The youth are on the streets, marching in protest to the status quo. They seek for a change and the possibility of a spring that will cause the winter of the past to go away. If the society of youth who seek for a change dwell in a society of autocratic leadership in government, then the street protests become more radical. Autocratic leaders often use live bullets to maintain their power.   People subsequently die in the streets.   But if the majority of the protesting generation is young and unemployed, then they will stay in the streets and face the bullets until an “Arab Spring” is realized. If the cries of a peaceful revolution are not heard, then the peaceful turns into violent revolution.

Democracy is certainly not the most efficient form of government. But it is the most free. And that freedom is worth fighting to preserve. In the marches for change in autocratically governed societies, those in power load their guns with bullets to put down a revolution. But in a democratically governed society, the police load up with tear gas. And there is a vast difference between guns and tear gas.

Our advice to the older generation who resists social paradigm shifts is not to become indifferent. They must assume their responsibility to vote in a democratic society. We must be thankful that we can make our way to the ballot box in peace. And when bombarded with overwhelming information that pours into our minds because of our obsession with social media, we must be patient.   If the reported protest march in some area of the society is over an issue that does not involved a paradigm shift in civilization, then patience is in order, for there are those on the streets who are seeking relief from social stresses that have built up within the society.

Christians who live in democratic societies must be thankful that marches and ballot boxes exist. When these two rights of a democratic society are threatened, then it is time for Christians to be on their knees for the king. They must be there in order that they lead a quiet and peaceful life (See 1 Tm, 2:1,2). We must always keep in mind that those social forces within a civilization that change the direction of the civilization, transpire over decades, if not centuries. Therefore, it is not a time to become anxious when we are messaged a news report on our smartphones of a minor disagreement of some segment of society where a group of people are in a march for something that will soon pass away.

The beautiful thing about Christianity is that its principles of gospel living are applicable to all societies of all history.   The reality of the gospel is that it brings peace of mind that surpasses anything that can be offered by any government of any society. The Christian understands that Jesus is in control of all things, for He now has all authority over all things (Mt 28:18).

Rome fell, but the fall was because of a society that could not sustain a self-imploding government that could not militarily rule over all the people of the Empire. The people of Rome (Italy) continued to exist after the fall of Rome, but the new and different social order that continued was new and different.   So it will be with the fall of Western civilization. The people will continue, but they will continue with new and different social standards than that which we experienced in the past generations.

And most important of all in reference to the fall of Rome was the continued existence of the people of God within the civilization. After the fall of the Roman Empire in A.D. 476, Christians continued to thrive throughout the former boundaries of the fallen Empire. We must not as Christians forget this. Though Christianity was treated as a hostile “religion” in the Empire from about A.D. 150 to A.D. 311, and Christians, in that darkest hour hid in the catacombs of Rome, after Jesus took away the persecuting Caesars, Christians continued to exist, even unto this day. And thus the encouraging prophecy of Revelation was realized when Caesar Constantine issued the Edict of Toleration in A.D. 311:

These [enemies of Christianity] will make war with the Lamb and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings. And those who are with Him are called and chosen and faithful (Rv 17:14).

[To be continued.]