The Current Scene
Man has an insatiable desire to know what lies ahead. This is attested to by the phenomenal sale of Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth. So far six million copies have been sold in six years. The fascination with the future is not only religious but secular. Witness the sale of almanacs and the hopes that science and politics engender. Man needs to be striving for something more than he has; otherwise stagnation sets in.
Basically, man wants something that will captivate his hopes, for, as King Solomon reminds us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). The Communist would rob man of his highest hope, heaven, and sarcastically refer to it as “pie in the sky.” Their substitution for eternal bliss is to make a humanitarian utopia on earth. After all, to the Communist, man is a long time dead; or is he? That indeed is the question of questions, and conscience, reason and the Bible affirm that there is a heaven to win and a hell to shun. Then too, the goals of the activists of the Western World appear to differ very little from that of the Communists. Since so many are to be found in the mainline churches they have been dubbed as “Marxists with a Bible in their hands.”
The social gospelers soon discover that violence is an essential, and excusable, resort to push forward their grandiose schemes. Muitman, whom we judge to be one of them, writes: “We no longer view the structures of society as given by nature or by God but know that because they are made by man, they can also be changed by man.” It is not surprising that Multman feels that revolution may be necessary to obliterate the old society in order to bring in his brand of the new. It is true that pure Communism would cancel out the greed that capitalism engenders, but where has there ever been a more productive system? Nor must it be overlooked that Communism breeds its particular brand of evil, particularly the curbs on human freedom.
The “new man” that Marx expected his social order to produce has never been forthcoming. The system ignores that which the Bible and history prove man to be — an incurable sinner. Only the Great Physician of the soul, the Lord Jesus Christ, can effectively operate in this area. Yet this vision of Marx has succeeded in captivating half of the present world and is a serious threat to the rest. It has been well said that Communism may put a new suit on a man, but Christianity puts a new man in the suit.
Another evidence of man’s concern for the future is seen in the popularity of seers. Perhaps the most notable is Jeanne Dixon. One lone prediction catipulted her into fame when in 1956 she announced that “a blonde Democratic president will be elected in 1960 and will die in office.” Not so bad considering its source. Unlike Bible prophecy it supports no doctrine and carries no moral implications. Nor do we hear about the many failures that Mrs. Dixon has since made. Just like the divine healer’s statistics — a complete silence concerning the thousands that do not get healed. Mankind will generally believe all that it wants to believe no matter how impressive are the negatives. This accounts for the seeming poor returns of the Gospel —“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The prophecies of the Bible are an inerrant proof for its divine inspiration. In this connection the words of Isaiah 41:21-22 are bold and challenging: “Produce your cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring forth, and show us what shall happen: let them show the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come.”
Then there are the fanatical votaries of the cults who consider themselves to hold the keys to prophecy. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are perhaps the best example. Their agents have a standard approach when doing door-to-door visiting. Incidentally, they evidence a zeal worthy of a better cause. The cult’s selling card is its interpretation of prophecy. Their future is an earthly kingdom with all vestiges of the fall removed. To my knowledge no Christian that has been taught dispensational truth affords any encouragement to a Jehovah’s Witness. He should easily be able to turn the conversation in his favor. However, the mainline churches encounter little, if any, teaching on prophecy that relates to the future. Too often it is discouraged. Even Calvin gave us commentaries on every book of the Bible but the Revelation. Christians, or professing Christians, that have not been exposed to “the whole counsel of God” are likely to give a gullible ear to a line of things of which they have heard little about. Some feel that their preachers have cheated them by failing to deal with this important phase of divine revelation. The remedy for this is not to shun any area of the divine revelation.
This brings us to, What saith the Scriptures? Here we can only recommend the afore-mentioned Hal Lindsey’s book and the New Scofield Reference Bible as valuable aids. As to one of the many signs of Christ’s return, we cannot refrain from mentioning afresh the return of the Jews from their two thousand years of dispersion and their national rebirth. This sign is of very recent development. It is too unusual in history to be explained as a random event. We have only to read Ezekiel 37 to appreciate the penultimate nature of this witness to the midnight cry, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (Matthew 25:6).
Our nation, and the rest of the world for that matter, faces a problem that promises to accelerate with the years until the crisis is reached. It is the foreseen diminishing supply of oil. Former President Ford said, “Somehow, the leadership in this country has to find a way to convince the American people that we’re going to be in desperate straits by 1985 unless we move ahead.” Incidentally, Ford failed miserably in his attempts to do something in this area. So far President Carter and the Congress have come up with little more than rhetoric. Every solution is political dynamite. Some are going to hurt more than others, especially the poor.
Perhaps the fairest solution would be rationing, but it is the most impractical when one thinks of the paper work and the need for government enforcement. Already the government is in the doghouse because of too much interference in the ordinary life patterns of its citizens. Honesty and self-imposed discipline could do the job. Such commodities in society are scarce, especially today. So, the only alternative is for the government to impose eventually its heavy hand. Not only will individuals want their shakes but the nations will be crying for their equal shares. Not only is oil destined to be in short supply, but other essential commodities are on the endangered list. Oil supplies the energy and fertilizers that make possible the massive grain harvests so essential to maintain the top heavy millions of urban dwellers. The changed weather patterns are also occasion for concern.
Anyway, the Bible prophecies of a Czar of international dimensions who decides who will eat and who will not (Revelation 13:16-17). All this is feasible in the kind of world that we see shaping up. There is little doubt that many of the things so graphically described in Revelation could be applied in John’s day or soon thereafter. For instance, Nero, the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Mohammedanism. Then later the rise and arrogancy of Popery and the challenge of Protestantism. Martin Luther considered the Turks hammering at the gates of Vienna in his day as the Gog and Magog of Ezekiel. Those who paralleled prophecy with their day were neither losers nor deceived. It certainly brought them to an anticipation and need for the return of Christ. They died in faith and enjoyed the blessed hope. The momentous happenings of the past now prove to be only rehearsals of the prodigious events heretofore impossible as far as man is able to create history. Now in this computerized atomic bomb world we are catching up with the climactic scenes of the last book of the Bible.
Well, we must get back to the immediate energy problem. There are many who think that it is all a gimmick of the oil barons to raise prices and make fortunes for themselves. In fact, it has been just these people that have been warning us of what we are now facing. No one seemed to listen. Certainly scarcities raise prices on a free market. Put on controls and the black market goes into operation. The freer a society the harder it is to enforce objectionable changes. Like the proverbial ostrich man prefers to hide his head in the sand. That World War 2 was in the making with the rise of Hitler was obvious. His most implacable foes, Britain and France, could not resolve themselves to stop him before it was too late. When given a choice mankind prefers to live it up until, prodigal-like, they have come to the end of their road. Men are even more of this disposition in spiritual matters. Eternity seems to them a long way off. When old and on a death bed will be time enough to prepare for the next world. Procrastination is so convenient. When it comes to the question of personal salvation through the blood of Christ it is, “Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).
As a result of the C.I.A. abuses coming to light during the Watergate investigations a sweep of righteous indignation possessed the conscience of Congress. In one area the cure for unfair practices has been the setting up of “The Senate Committee on Intelligence.” It has recently published its first annual report. An editorial criticizes it as being active on its hunt for abuses, such as wiretapping, clandestine activities and possible abuses of civil liberties but no announcement as to the intrinsic worth of the intelligence gathering agencies.
Senator Moynihan, one of the committee’s members, wrote his reflections on the report. He suggested that one could get the impression from reading the report that American liberties are more endangered from its own intelligence apparatus than our external enemies. Not only this but it puts an intelligence activity into the mold of a strict moral code. In a world like this, such severely limits the purpose of its existence. Not without some irony the Wall Street Journal’s editorial concludes, “Maybe the next annual report will tell us a little more about how our adversaries’ intelligence operations are faring as the committee continues.” Such good ethics that have been formulated, of course, look for the enemy to also obey the rules. Otherwise, out of sheer necessity, the old adage will be resurrected about fighting fire with fire.
As a Christian, and for a Christian, we have not the least quarrel with the maxim, “Honesty is the best policy.” However, we wonder in a cloak and dagger world if there is wisdom in putting our intelligence agents and spies in a moral straight-jacket.
This world is not the kingdom of Christ in its rule with a rod of iron aspect. That is coming. Now grace reigns and accomplishes its righteousness on this principle. It is no wonder, then, that the present phase of the Lord’s kingdom is described as a “mystery” (Matthew 13). Until our Lord comes to literally reign the course of this world is swayed by “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). The Christian is not of this world. If normally adjusted to his faith he will exercise a good conscience Godward and manward. As such he is often the prey of the unscrupulous. Instead of insisting on his rights he is admonished rather to “suffer yourselves to be defrauded” (1 Corinthians 6:7). In times of persecution the believer has no recourse but to his God. His calling is to suffer on behalf of righteousness.
The nation of Israel was to obey and submit the outcome to the Lord who had ever proved Himself worthy of such trust. That is one thing, but to jeopardize this multi-everything nation to moral technicalities is another matter. Of course, where there is faith in a living, righteous God then one can afford to exercise the right as he sees it and leave the outcome to God’s overruling providence. Such will be able to say whatever betide, “Even so it seemed good in thy sight.” The Christian can trust his God and not carry a big stick. The United States had better opt for both.