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The evening before I began this essay, we heard that a Christian friend had died from Covid-19 related pneumonia. They were someone who worked hard for The LORD, and had a significant impact in the sphere to which they were called. They will be sorely missed by their family and by those who benefited from their work.
I share this here to ground what I have to say in the reality of the moment. My purpose is look at the bigger picture, but hearing of this believer's death emphasised that in the detail of current events there are crises for many, many people as their loved ones leave this life behind. We can all rejoice at reports of a non-believer in an Iranian hospital being miraculously healed when her relative’s house-church prayed. At the same time we should also know how to share the burdens of those who grieve. Romans 12:9-15.
The Covid-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down. Is this a natural event which could have been managed far more constructively, or is it a malicious manufactured attempt to push global society into unprecedented change? Are there any other questions we should be asking - because to the Christian, both the above possibilities imply that our God of righteousness and mercy is asleep! If He is, then He is no better than Baal, mocked by Elijah when he failed to respond to the prayers of his prophets. 1 Kings 18.
The internet age has made it all too easy for conspiracy theories to abound, but these existed long before the web came along. In this instance it has been suggested that the present mutation of the coronavirus was manufactured in a lab in Wuhan and was then released, either intentionally or accidentally, into the local population. I mention this for two reasons: firstly, so readers know I am aware of such claims; secondly to make clear that whether this pandemic is a conspiracy or a blunder is totally irrelevant to the most important question - have these events taken God by surprise?
For those who think I am mistaken, let me remind you of The LORD’s word to Isaiah in similar circumstances. Warning that He was about to shatter the nations, our God cautioned His prophet, “Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” Instead it was The LORD of Hosts whom Isaiah was instructed to regard as holy, to fear and to dread. He had to do this so that The God of Israel should become his only sanctuary! Isaiah 8.
The take-home message for Christians today is exactly the same; if we focus on what people may or may not be doing, we will not understand God’s way upon the earth. This is a time for us to seek our Creator that we may understand the times from His perspective, and therefore know how we should be living for Him. I have heard that many Christians are turning to Psalm 91 at present, but I encourage you also to meditate on Psalm 46, where the works of The LORD are described in very vivid terms.
It is true that technology has shrunk the world. This began a long time ago, when humans started to build ships - perhaps they had a memory of Noah’s vessel of salvation. Sea-going ships expanded trade by increasing its speed and volume. But they did not carry only good things. Recent research suggests that it was a combination of rat and human fleas which spread the Black Death in the 1300s. One thing is almost certain - without ships the plague would not have reached Britain. Now, aeroplanes are able to carry people, goods and viruses around the world very, very quickly!
Information too now circles the earth in an instant. This did not begin with Leonard Kleinrock’s 1961 vision of "Information Flow in Large Communication Nets", now known as the internet. In the 1830s Samuel Morse built on the work of others to conceive the idea that signals could be transmitted by wire, and the now outdated telegraph began to shrink the world. Some fifty years later, Guglielmo Marconi removed the need for cables, and his radio transmissions initiated the next phase of global contraction.
Human curiosity and the knowledge it has acquired have gone a long way towards reuniting the human race into one global family. Many politicians see this as good for the future, but what is beyond doubt is that when we rely on our own devices, we lack the wisdom to use our increased knowledge well.
The world is full of the unintended consequences of our actions. Henry Ford did not foresee the number of road deaths that would result from the mass production of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. Nor did anyone think seriously at the time about the pollution they would spew out. In 1869, when John Wesley Hyatt created the first synthetic polymer, no one thought of the seas being full of plastic micro-particles one hundred and fifty years later.
Most people don’t take the time to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. This is certainly true when it comes to looking after ourselves and the planet on which our Creator has placed us. Essentially, this is because humans think that we know better than Him.
In 2001 I wrote about the folly of seeking to reverse the separation of the nations after Babel. There I highlighted Paul’s assertion that The LORD had divided mankind into nations so that we might seek Him (Acts 17). The very opposite had happened at Babel. Instead of looking to their God for protection, they pooled their resources in an attempt to solve their own problems.
The political drive towards more and more globalism, which increased after the First World War, is another human attempt to solve the world’s problems without reference to our Creator. Yet, those very problems are allowed, as Paul explained, in order to drive us to call on The LORD for His mercy. Whatever form a threat takes against any nation, wise leaders will call the people to humble themselves before God and to seek His solution.
In the past the British understood this very well and took it to heart. One researcher lists twenty-one national days of prayer between 1899–1957. A different author lists seven of these being called by King George VI, with the support of Parliament, during the Second World War. It was with great sadness that I watched our Queen fail to follow her father’s good example in her recent broadcast to the nation. Her Easter message released the following Saturday had more Christian content, but again lacked a call to personal or national prayer and repentance.
Only a handful of political leaders have set such an example in response to Covid-19. In Jamaica the Governor General backed a weekend of prayer and fasting, whilst the President of the Pacific island, Nauru told the BBC that when he “went to God in prayer, [and] He gave me a scripture which I've kept to heart.”
More prominent leaders who have appealed to The LORD are Australian PM Scott Morrison, who prayed live on social media, and President Trump, who joined Vice President Pence in an online prayer session. Would that every national leader would call upon the God and Father of Jesus Christ for mercy, confessing how their nations have turned their backs on Him, and determining to do all they can to lead them in repentance.
One has only to look at the World Health Organisation’s [WHO] Covid-19 Situation Dashboard to see that this disease has been spread significantly by air travel. Whilst not untouched, the less developed nations are amongst those least affected three months after WHO were notified of the new strain on 31 December.
Would it not have been wise to stop all travel to and from China at that very point? It took 23 more days for the government there to close down Hubei Province. It was a further two weeks before British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab advised “against ‘all but essential’ travel to mainland China.” Other nations were equally as reluctant to halt international travel. Had they done so, lives would have been saved.
Why the initial reluctance to shut down air travel, especially with China? Perhaps the main factor was that China is no longer just a populous nation, it is now an economic super-power. It is currently vying with the USA to be the world’s largest economy. Its influence has increased significantly through President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative.
A year ago the BBC reported that the UK owed China just under fifty billion Euros, around twice as much as Germany did at the time. On 2 April a Daily Express article warned that tensions could rise between Europe and China in the wake of Covid-19 because of these high debt levels. Questions are now being asked about whether its offer to provide medical equipment to help respond to the pandemic could be a Trojan horse to extend its geopolitical influence!
Local isolation is a long-established principle. In 1665 the bubonic plague arrived in the village of Eyam in Derbyshire. Over the next fourteen months two hundred and sixty out of the eight hundred or so residents died. The disease did not spread beyond the village though because Anglican minister, William Mompesson, motivated its residents to isolate themselves as a community. He promised them he would do everything he could to support them, assuring them that he was willing to sacrifice his own life rather than allow the plague to spread to nearby towns and the city of Sheffield. His wife Catherine nursed many of the victims before she died of plague, aged twenty-seven.
It has to be asked why the lesson of Eyam was not applied from the very first in Wuhan, or later to China as a whole. Why are governments shutting down whole nations, rather than quarantining cities which have become Covid-19 hotspots?
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel is credited with being the first to say, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” This could be a good moment in history to ask why this is so.
The evolutionary world-view in which the majority of today’s national leaders have been schooled imagines the human race to be on an upward path. A core belief is that we are on a journey from ignorance to enlightenment.
Marx’s statement that “Religion... is the opium of the people,” is far better known than the context in which it was written. He continued, “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness.” Today, secular politicians from China to Brussels, from Washington to Christchurch in New Zealand, be they socialist or conservative, are all pursuing Marx’s vision of a global Utopia.
What should frighten us though is that these politicians really do believe that the changes they seek are for the common good. They are convinced that there is no-one other than ourselves who can guarantee our future happiness.
Their Creator is anathema to these leaders, because He says that each one of us is broken and in need of both rescue and repair. The escalating rush to save the planet, to build a better future and now “to defeat the virus” are all ways of telling The LORD that we don’t need His help.
Collectively, this generation is shouting at Him, “We will do it our way!”
It is important to recognise that the surge in atheism in the West over the last century is a direct rejection of the God of the Bible. When people turned from The LORD in earlier times, they turned to gods of their own making (Psalm 135). From the Renaissance of the fourteenth century, through the Enlightenment (as it is deceptively known), Western nations have marched into today’s secularism.
Today, societies are fashioned around the humanist worldview that Man, not his Creator, is the centre of his own universe, thus rejecting all notion of there being any form of deity. Many of these proponents of what is now known as “rationalism” were brought up in Christendom, and were seeking to free themselves from a corrupt form of Christianity. Their mistake was to discard the truth too, along with the filthy water.
But not all were disillusioned nominal Christians. A significant number of these intellectual atheists have been Jews. One of the first was Baruch Spinoza in the seventeenth century. Other names such as Marx and Freud may be more familiar.
The Institute for Social Research, sometimes referred to as the “Frankfurt School,” established by Marxist intellectuals in 1923, has been influential in the development and spread of Marxist theory for almost a century. It was founded by Carl Grünberg with funding provided by Felix Weil, both of whom were Jews. My research suggests that over ninety per cent of its prominent thinkers in its early decades were also Jewish. I highlight this not to demonise these descendants of Abraham, but to demonstrate that the secular revolution prosecuted over six centuries has not been a rebellion against religion in general.
This rebellion was not devised to overthrow Allah, Krishna, Vishnu, Osiris, Zeus or Thor, but Yahweh the Judaeo-Christian Creator. When one realises this, one’s thinking should turn to Psalm 2.
Having turned its back on The LORD, the human race is now desperately trying to save itself. Having thought it could rely upon the unity of mankind now freed from divisive religions, secular Utopianism has been shocked by the recent adoption of an “every nation for itself” approach. Italy and Spain for example were for many weeks left to their own devices by a European Union which had been standing shoulder to shoulder at the start of the year! The World Health Organisation and China are two entities which have been nominated as scapegoats in this mêlée.
Is it any wonder that proponents of globalism are sounding the alarm right now? It is not surprising to hear UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, telling the BBC that the only way out is for nations to pull together as one. In 2015, Bill Gates prophesied a future viral pandemic, saying that the only way to be ready for this was by increased globalism, rather than less - a call he reminded people about in a recent on-line conversation.
In 2008, Gordon Brown was ridiculed for a parliamentary slip of the tongue in which he claimed to have “saved the world.” In recent weeks he has made repeated calls for global rather than national action to solve this problem - first on 19 March and then a week later. In parallel with these, his long time ally and fellow former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, released a video and wrote to national leaders calling for greater global coordination. More recently, on 7 April, Brown again spoke on the Today Programme, stressing the need for integrated global response. On the same day the Daily Mirror carried a report headlined, “Gordon Brown and Tony Blair lead calls for global fund to fight coronavirus spread.”
Perhaps the most frequently repeated rallying cry of recent weeks is “Together we can defeat the virus.” Next time you hear it, ask yourself why men and women are not taking Paul’s advice to the Athenians and seeking The LORD for deliverance?
In mid-March, Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, mentioned “herd immunity” on the Today Programme. It was met with a round of ridicule led by former Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. This despite herd immunity being the only solution which will enable people to go about without fear of a stray coronavirus. “Herd immunity” is exactly what protects us from the uncontrolled spread of most infectious diseases, including all the varieties of seasonal flu. Such immunity is obtained through a combination of naturally acquired immunity, when individuals’ immune systems overcome various infections, and mass immunisation.
It is my conviction that the spread of fear which we have witnessed across the world is of greater concern than the spread of the Covid-19 virus. In England this began with a mad dash to the shops to stock cupboards with essential provisions - most strangely, toilet paper!
When panic spreads through any herd, the result is a stampede. Such a hysterical rush by any crowd is usually without logic, being started by almost anything and almost always resulting in injury. In such a climate, it soon became necessary for shops to instigate special sessions when only the elderly and vulnerable were allowed to shop. These were later supplemented with further restrictions to enable NHS staff to eat!
This survival of the fittest reaction in the shops is of little concern compared to the more important issue of “community acquired fear” which is causing citizens around the world to surrender their freedom in exchange for promises of future safety. Liberty and privacy should not be readily surrendered by anyone.
Freedom to choose is central to Christian understanding - devoid of any free will, Adam would have been a biological robot rather than a man created in his Father’s image. Jesus likened His redemptive work to the ministry of the bronze snake which Moses held up in the wilderness. No one has ever been compelled to look at either to be made whole; each person makes their own choice, to look away from their hope of salvation or to look to Him.
If our Creator values our liberty so much as not to force us to know Him, should not we value it equally? The fear of Covid-19 is causing people to surrender their civil rights without a murmur of concern. The majority of citizens of many nations have willing accepted being confined to their homes without question. What motivates people to do so is not primarily a sense of altruism, though there are many demonstrations of this at present, but fear. First and foremost, it is the fear of death - if few people were dying, others would not stay at home!
Most people are fearful for themselves, their family members and their friends, and they therefore tolerate the massive disruption to the lives they were living. The British Government’s “Save lives, stay at home” message is very hard to avoid. Its intention is to make people fearful. Few are questioning whether raising the fear level is justified, because they assume it is.
On April 8, WHO reported a total of 79,235 Covid-19 deaths worldwide from 1,353,361 confirmed cases. Four weeks earlier, the Mail on Sunday published a comparison of deaths from other diseases over the weeks since the new coronavirus was first reported. The paper’s estimate of between ten to twenty times more deaths from influenza in the same period appears to be based on WHO’s estimate of annual deaths from seasonal flu.
Whilst the gap between the two figures has now closed, Covid-19 deaths are still significantly behind WHO’s mean estimate of 135,500 deaths over a fifteen week period. It has to be asked therefore why nations don’t go into lockdown every winter. One may also ponder why a similar global effort to stamp out HIV/AIDS by enforcing social distancing has not been proposed.
It is against this background that my main concerns about this pandemic are not about the initial supermarket stampedes. These only revealed the selfishness which is embedded in human nature. Also, it is quite rational for those who think that this life is all there is to want to hang on to it for themselves and those closest to them, despite its problems.
The biggest danger I see emerging in societies around the world is that this fear of death, combined with the desire to see life return to what we think of as “normal”, will cause the majority of people to give up one aspect of their liberty after another.
A doctor has released a helpful video demonstrating some breathing exercises which may help a person to survive a Covid-19 infection. He states that patients should regularly take a series of five deep breaths, held for a few seconds each, followed by a sixth which ends with a cough.
It is my suggestion that every person should take several deep breaths before they willingly agree to surrendering their freedom from state surveillance, thinking this to be a small price to pay for getting back to the way things used to be. Attached to that same way of thinking are many liberties which men and women have died to protect for centuries. If they considered their sacrifice to be worth it, who are we to disagree? I came across this cartoon during the Brexit debate. Whichever side of that you were on, I hope you agree it is a point well made.
It is very difficult to live in these days without something which has been made in China. Nearly every piece of technology contains some Chinese-manufactured component. Now is the time for the world to recognise that this expansionist nation is exporting more than goods. Along with each product comes a political ideology which is one of the most oppressive in the world.
China’s oppression of Uighur Muslims is not very well known. Most governments and much of the media seem to be ignoring their plight. However, the BBC has been bucking this trend and recent reports include, “China Uighurs: Detained for beards, veils and internet browsing” and “China Uighurs 'moved into factory forced labour' for foreign brands.” You may also recall last December’s report of foreign prisoners in a Shanghai prison being forced to work against their will. Six year old Florence Widdicomb from Tooting found a message from one of them inside a card from a box bought from Tesco.
Sinicization is an ancient objective in China, aimed at creating a homogenous society based upon Han Chinese culture. Since the Communist Revolution, this objective has also sought to impose conformity to a secular, atheistic world-view. Over the intervening decades the enforcement of sinicization has fluctuated. However, it was reinvigorated in 2016 by Xi Jinping in a speech to the National Religious Work Conference. A year and a half later, at the Nineteenth Party Congress, he declared “We will fully implement the Party’s basic policy on religious affairs, insist on the sinicization of Chinese religions, and provide active guidance for religion and socialism to coexist.”
It is this objective which is now driving the persecution of all religions in China, even though the Chinese constitution “guarantees” freedom of religion. In recent months Christian churches have been closed and their leaders imprisoned. In the past, “registered” churches, which generally did what the state told them, were left in peace but that is no longer the case. All those with any religious conviction now find themselves being arrested, beaten, fined and imprisoned simply for not embracing atheism.
It is also common for lawyers who defend those arrested for religious misdemeanours to be imprisoned without a proper trial. (This is not the place to detail what is happening there, but two helpful websites are China Aid and Bitter Winter.)
There are several important features of the Chinese state’s desire to control its citizens. One of these is the development of Artificial Intelligence [AI] for facial recognition purposes. As recently as December, China introduced “mandatory facial recognition for mobile phone users,” and street cameras are widely used for “public shaming to crack down on jaywalking, criminals.”
Now China is being praised by WHO for its development of facial recognition AI to fight Covid-19. This policy is not without its critics, but one Beijing Law professor has defended it, claiming that Western definitions of “privacy” are wrong. He writes, “On the other hand, ‘facial features’ information does not belong to privacy in law, but facial feature as the object of face recognition information could be used for counterfeiting. As such, the Chinese government's use of technology for monitoring and obtaining personal information during the epidemic is not an invasion of privacy, since it meets the needs of controlling the outbreak.”
Singapore and South Korea were two of the first countries to follow China’s lead by using mobile phones to trace those who had been in close proximity to those who have contracted Covid-19. On 27 March “the U.K.’s data and privacy authority confirmed that the government could use mobile phone data to fight the spread of COVID-19.” In the same article which reported this, the author also observed that “the European Commission was discussing a more co-ordinated move... with the potential for a central program across more than 700 operators to collect cross-border tracking data, a travel and contact tracing database designed for fighting a pandemic.”
The recent lifting of the lockdown in Wuhan has been made possible by a smartphone app which displays a green card when a person scans a QR code at a transport hub. In other places, similar “health apps” are necessary to enter “an apartment complex or a market.” Whilst these apps have been developed by companies like Alipay (a Chinese version of Paypal), the codes are issued by local governments. To use these apps, individuals must provide their name, ID number and phone number. Typically, residents with a green code are allowed to move around freely, whilst those with yellow ones require a seven-day quarantine, and red codes impose two weeks of isolation.
After weeks of government-imposed home-based isolation, one has to ask how many Westerners will willingly trade their privacy for an app which is effectively their passport back to what appears to be normality?
In 2015 the BBC reported that by some time this year China intended to establish a “social credit” system for all its citizens. The objective was to rate everyone’s trustworthiness on a national database which includes financial and government information, including minor driving offences, to produce an official ranking for every citizen. Last year Time Magazine carried an update on its progress. Amongst other things the author observed, “Good deeds gain points; bad deeds lose them, with perks and hardships attached.” Later they quoted US Vice-President Pence describing the scheme as “an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life.” There is evidence that church membership has an negative impact on an individual’s credit score.
Covid-19 has now added another dimension to China’s social credit scheme. How will a person’s health score combine with all the other data which has been compiled on them? It could very easily be used to impose some form of house arrest on the less compliant.
I have already mentioned Bill Gates’ globalist agenda. One of the projects he is promoting is ID2020. The Digital Identity Alliance’s objective is to provide everyone alive with a digital identity. Gates recently stated, “Eventually we will have some digital certificates to show who has recovered or been tested recently or when we have a vaccine who has received it.” This supportive article explains how the provision of a digital identity could be combined with Covid-19 vaccinations. Whilst ID2020 say they want to protect individuals’ privacy, imagine how China will reason that to use such biotagging to monitor its citizens’ activities is for the greater good!
At the end of March, Former Supreme Court Justice Jonathan Sumption was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s World at One. He warned that Britain is in danger of becoming a police state. He stated, “The real problem is that when human societies lose their freedom, it’s not usually because tyrants have taken it away. It’s usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection against some external threat. And the threat is usually a real threat but usually exaggerated. That’s what I fear we are seeing now.”
If you have not already seen Tim Dieppe of Christian Concern’s analysis of the interview, I encourage you to read it. Dieppe warns, “It is incredible how quickly this has happened. Freedoms not fought for are freedoms forfeited. Our freedoms are being forfeited before our eyes in real time. Freedoms are hard to obtain, and easy to lose.”
I have been struck by the lack of leadership coming from British church leaders in this crisis. They accepted the closure of church buildings without question, but far more significantly, their joint public statements have lacked authority. In short, their Call to Prayer (19 March) and Holy Week Statement (6 April) lacked leadership and, more than anything, they were devoid of the greatness of God the Father and therefore failed to represent the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Instead of being prophetic, speaking as The LORD’s representatives, they whimpered in a most pathetic way. It seems their God is asleep!
Where then are the prophetic voices today? If God is at work in this pandemic, then His prophets must be around somewhere, for He told Amos “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3) This assertion is immediately preceded by, “If there is calamity in a city, will not The LORD have done it?” Putting those two statements together, it is clear that for calamity to arise in any city the work of God is required, and also that He will first have warned His prophets of His intended actions. Now we see a global calamity in multiple cities, so this must be His work, not Satan’s nor that of any human, and prophets will have known what was coming.
If you struggle to accept that our God is not asleep but is working His purposes out in all this, I encourage you to read this article by an experienced doctor, “What does the Bible say about epidemics? Some uncomfortable truths.”
It is important to grasp the significance of this connection. First, we need to consider which prophets it is that see His calamities approaching. As far as the Old Testament is concerned, both Jews and Christians consider the five books of Moses to be God’s words, but not specifically prophetic. However, they contain some very well known prophecies, such as the promises to Abraham, and others which we may not realise are prophecies at all.
Two such passages are Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, which list both the blessings of obedience and the curses, or judgements, that would follow disobedience. In both passages, the warnings are much longer than the promises of blessings. If you are not familiar with these chapters, I encourage you to read them at this time.
The Holy Spirit impressed on me in a Bible study a few months ago that these two chapters provide the foundation for all the subsequent prophets to Israel who warned of dangers ahead. In Deuteronomy 18 Moses described himself as a prophet, not a historian. Later prophets were simply pointing back to the warnings he had delivered, particularly on these two occasions, and reminding the people of what had been written. They were effectively saying, “Look, you are doing ‘X’ and it says here that ‘Y’ will be the outcome - come to your senses and stop!”
I shared my thoughts at the time, as I felt I should. But I did this tentatively, as I still lacked a second witness to their accuracy. (“By the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” Deuteronomy 19) A few weeks later I was watching a series of videos by Paul Penley, and in one of them he makes a similar comment about these two chapters. This was my second witness, so I can now therefore share this understanding with confidence.
In the New Testament there is a passage which similarly provides a foundation for our understanding of today’s events. Like Moses, Paul is not thought of primarily as a prophet, but he too wrote prophetically.
In 2013 I commented on the judgement already on Britain and many other Western nations. However, the problem is that many Christians cannot see these judgements for what they are. Consequently I need to restate here that the last half of Romans 1 is not a warning about the sins for which The LORD will judge any society. Rather it is a catalogue of the judgements to which He hands any society over when it has rejected Him.
Older Christian people commonly refer to homosexuality as “Sodomy,” assuming that this was the sin which brought judgement upon that ancient city. The LORD however declared their sexual habits to be a fruit of their sinful hearts. In Ezekiel 16 He identified the root sin of the Sodomites, “She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” This resulted in them becoming proud and turning to detestable things. God concluded, “Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”
Sodom’s decline began when its inhabitants became arrogant towards The LORD. This manifested itself in selfishness, before escalating to pride and sexual immorality. In Romans 1, Paul assured the believers in Rome that what had happened in the past to Sodom would happen again to any society which turned away from their Creator. This passage is both a historical review and a prophetic prediction, not only about Rome, but about any society which sets the same course.
The process concludes when, though knowing they are wrong, the people and their leaders “not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” In the last decade or so Britain and other western nations have reached that point.
Pressure has also been put on the leaders of third-world countries to follow their example. The magnitude of that pressure was demonstrated within the last year, when the Sultan of Brunei backtracked on enforcing Sharia laws which would have legalised the stoning to death of adulterers and homosexuals.
It is very regrettable that so few Christians recognise what has happened here in Britain and elsewhere over recent decades as judgement. Many are still warning that these sins will bring judgement in the future. Others meanwhile are desperately seeking ways to encourage church institutions to approve immorality more and more fully. On the whole, this latter group have been the more influential.
In 49 BC, Julius Caesar crossed the River Rubicon on Italy’s northern border, as it was then. Having already become the governor of Gaul, Caesar was an ambitious general in the Roman army. He planned to lead his army into the city of Rome, an act of rebellion under Roman law. It is said that he paused for thought before crossing this small river, because he knew this was the point of no return. He refused his last chance to retreat with the cry, “Let the die be cast!” Taken from a well known play of the time, this phrase means “Let the game begin!” In that case, the game was his attempt to conquer Rome, which he did. His victory brought the Roman Republic to an end, and laid the foundations of the Roman Empire.
The modern usage of “crossing the Rubicon” has been on my mind for some time, but it is only recently that its application has come into focus for me. Some weeks ago, before the threat of a lockdown, a friend asked me what my thoughts were on the coronavirus and its significance. At the time, I had not given it a lot of thought, apart from keeping my eye on various news outlets. As I prayerfully considered how to answer, I remembered the climax of the judgements in Romans 1, and realised that the world had now moved on from that phase of judgement into the next.
The best way I could respond to his request for further explanation was to say that if we have left the judgement of Romans 1 behind, then the only place I could see as being available to move into are the judgements described in the book of Revelation.
It is important for me to be clear here - I do not want anyone to quote me as saying that “The Great Tribulation” has begun. A few years ago The LORD asked me where a seven year “Tribulation” is described in the Scriptures. I looked but was unable to find such a passage, even though I am familiar with the many arguments in support of that belief.
I have asked others who hold that view to show me where it is plainly taught in the Bible, and they have been unable to do so. When Jesus referred in Matthew 24 to there being “great tribulation”, there is no definite article. It is now clearer to me that His Church been persecuted throughout its existence, and whilst it seems that persecution will increase markedly before He returns, His followers have always been enduring tribulation somewhere on earth for the majority of the two millennia since He ascended to His Father’s side.
The Rubicon which I am speaking about is therefore not what many refer to as the start of a seven year Great Tribulation.
When I wrote in 2001 about the dangers of reversing the judgement which followed Babel, I emphasised, “In dividing human society into many nations, He made it possible for His judgements to be local and not global.” Ever since then The LORD’s judgements have been focussed on nations or regions, because of His mercy. I then added:
“The LORD is a God of justice. His judgements are righteous. Whilst the effects of sin spread far beyond the guilty individual or nation, His judgements are upon them and their descendants. Ps. 96:13 states, "For He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth." The judgement which is still to come upon all the nations of the world, coming from God can only be just and righteous. If He is to judge them with equity, then they all must share in the rebellion.”
I also described how the political agenda was being aided by rapidly developing technology. That was three years before the launch of Facebook. Technology has come a long way in the last twenty years, and accessible global communication is no longer only for the privileged few. Apple’s first iPhone went on sale three years after Facebook began - today, most people cannot live without apps literally at their fingertips. We have never been so globally well-connected since - think about it - since Babel!
My first solemn point therefore is that this Covid-19 judgement signals that we have crossed the Rubicon from national judgements to global ones.
Like Julius Caesar, our collective rebellion has thrown us into a new phase of history, one from which there will be no return. This is not an accident as far as our Heavenly Father is concerned. It is a necessary move, towards the day He is able to send His Son back to Planet Earth to establish His long promised Messianic reign. I trust your heart responds to that prospect by echoing Paul’s cry of “Maranatha!” - Come quickly Lord!
In recent months I have been reading a blog by a brother who has been burdened for some time that Christians should understand that The LORD works through “mercy judgements.” It is important for us to see that the current Covid-19 global judgement has been permitted not to punish, but to redeem those who have ears to hear. Whilst this is a significant and irreversible step forward in history, it also provides time for those who will seek Him.
How then is our Creator’s mercy being expressed through this judgement? The list is too extensive to include here but at the end of March one commentator listed a number of areas they were aware of. I focus below on just two important matters, after first setting the scene.
Did you notice that in God’s description of the sin of Sodom, they reached a point where “pride” and “abominations” preceded their removal? The Message Bible puts it this way, “They put on airs and lived obscene lives. And you know what happened: I did away with them.” The world is indisputably in that territory right now, and we must ask how this is an expression of His mercy.
PinkNews describes itself as “the brand for the global LGBT+ community and the next generation.” Towards the end of March it carried this striking headline, “Stop hooking-up for casual sex during coronavirus lockdown. Immediately.” The article featured this graphic, but it was the headline which made me realise that God had at last got some people’s attention. He has been telling us that casual sex is bad for us for a long time!
Now let me take this a step further. Over the years since the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York, the Gay Pride movement has grown into a massive political and social lobby. It is now shaping societies around the world. In Britain, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) is a vehicle to introduce children not simply to healthy sexual practices, but to teach promiscuity and promote LGBTQ+ lifestyles. The American equivalent, Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE), is now being used around the world with the same objectives. A recent article on the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s website illustrates aspects of this global agenda.
Just a year ago, on 27 March, MPs at Westminster voted by a majority of 538 to 21 in favour of new RSE Regulations which open the way for children in primary schools to be taught that what God says is harmful, is good. The new guidance further overrides parental responsibility by removing their right to withdraw their children above a certain age from sex education classes. (You may have read about these changes and the potential damage to children’s well-being that their implementation would cause; the Christian Institute for example has a section covering this area.)
Many parents are concerned by these proposals and some have regularly protested outside their children’s schools. These protests were started and on the whole were motivated by Muslim parents, but the media have done their best to ignore them. Here is one very perceptive comment on the foolishness of this policy, “Teaching Muslim kids gay sex is like forcing their forefathers to chew pig fat.” Instead of listening to these parents, the Government and influential figures like Amanda Spielman, Head of Ofsted, have condemned them. So how does a righteous and holy God respond?
My second solemn point is that He has closed the schools, and parents and children are now spending more time together than they have done for a long time.
This judgement is not simply confined to Britain or the Western nations. According to UNESCO, since late March over one thousand five hundred million learners worldwide are affected by school closures. That is over 91% of students, the majority of whom have been returned to the full-time care of their parents.
Now please don’t misunderstand me; I am not saying that these schools are closed for good - though I will be surprised if any reopen fully before the autumn.
What I am saying is that this bout of closures is best seen as a warning shot across Mankind’s bows. This is a warning, and if people don’t change their ways, there will be much more to come.
We should take Jesus' well-known words far more seriously than we have been doing. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” Mark 9
Labour pains are an image used by Jesus to describe the upheavals the world would pass through before His return. His list of events leading up to this warning in Mark 13 includes things very familiar to today’s generations - wars, earthquakes and famines. A woman’s early contractions are not very strong, and then they fade. Mum-to-be however knows they have not stopped for good, and the next time they will be more painful. As labour gets going, the contractions become longer, stronger and closer together. This process escalates until baby arrives.
The late Lance Lambert, speaking in Jerusalem in 1986, shared a prophecy which included these words. I invite you to test them prayerfully:
“It will not be long before there will come upon the world a time of unparalleled upheaval and turmoil. Do not fear for it is I, the Lord, who am shaking all things. I began this shaking with the First World War and I greatly increased it through the Second World War. Since 1973 I have given it an even greater impetus. In the last stage, I plan to complete it with the shaking of the universe itself, with signs in sun and moon and stars.”
(If the Holy Spirit witnesses to those words, please read the rest of what he shared on that occasion.)
The “shaking of the universe” is based on a phrase in Haggai 2, which is repeated in Hebrews 12. In the latter this promise is found, “The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken - that is, created things - so that what cannot be shaken may remain.” At the start of Hebrews the author had written about Jesus being involved in the creation of this heaven and earth, saying that when these are worn out, He will “roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed.” The shakings we are living through are becoming stronger, and will at the right time culminate in this creation being discarded and replaced with a much better one.
Whilst we should look ahead to His return with joy, we should also be realistic about what we will live through in the lead-up to it. Jesus’ reference to the labour pains of judgement in the gospels was not His first. His prophetic words Psalm 48, Jeremiah 48 & 49 and Micah 4, all use the same image in connection with the tribulation which accompanies divine justice.
Paul also described this creation as “groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” This section of Romans 8 begins with his assertion “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Are you able right now to face what the future holds with a similar confidence?
The last three chapters of Judges are not Sunday school material, nor are they often discussed by believing adults. It is a very tragic episode in a rather messy phase of Israel’s history. The real tragedy is not the death of a badly disciplined Levite’s concubine, but what it reveals about the state of God’s people at that time.
There is a repeated refrain towards the end of the book of Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel.” The first time this occurs is in chapter 17 and it is followed by the words, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Throughout this period Israel had been sliding down a very slippery slope, only occasionally climbing a little way back up. This statement signals that they had now hit rock-bottom.
The death of this woman has several parallels with what happened when the angels went to rescue Lot from Sodom. The one difference is that in Gibeah, a town belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, the men willingly accepted the offer to let them gang-rape a woman instead of a man. Just as in Sodom, the mob imposed its depravity upon others.
It is very important to recognise at this point that whilst the people of Sodom were not part of God’s chosen people, the tribe of Benjamin was!
When those who self-identify as Christians ignore any aspect of the counsel of God, they follow a dangerous path. The Old Testament highlights the many hardships which Israel experienced as the price of their rebellion against The LORD. In this instance it appears that the people of Benjamin had allowed themselves to believe they knew better than their Creator. The price they paid was being almost totally wiped out - a few survivors were spared in order that the tribe might not be totally erased from Israel.
Increasingly, as we have witnessed secular governments give way to the burgeoning LGBTQ+ lobby, the leaders of one institutionalised denomination after another have been falling over themselves to declare that their sin is actually good.
Having ignored Jesus’ clear warning to those who cause children to stumble, archbishops and free church moderators have also been oblivious to the Holy Spirit’s warning through Paul that those who approve immorality are already under God’s judgement. At the start of last year I wrote strongly about how the sorry state of the Church of England’s current leadership was the fruit of the unbelief of their fathers’ generation of bishops and archbishops.
My third solemn point is that The LORD has now closed church buildings, and removed any semblance of His authority from the mouths of institutional church leaders.
The prophet Isaiah declared, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” He then added, “Therefore the anger of The LORD is aroused against His people; He has stretched out His hand against them and stricken them, and the hills trembled.” (Isaiah 5)
Jeremiah proclaimed a similar message, though he highlighted the responsibility of the people as well as the leaders: “An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so, but what will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5)
In 1975 Francis Schaeffer wrote a book entitled, “How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture.” His call for Western societies to return to Biblical foundations went unheeded. Two years earlier Basilea Schlink’s much shorter work “Countdown to World Disaster: Hope and Protection for the Future” had been published. The latter left a long-lasting impression on my heart and mind.
Looking back at it now, it is very dated. Her concerns are very much of the time, but despite that it has great relevance to today. I still remember appealing to The LORD when I read it that He would help me to be ready for all that lay ahead. Somehow I sensed that I could not prepare myself, and had to look to Him to do the work in my heart.
Her words on page 70 are still relevant:
“When disaster strikes, we can experience help and deliverance only if we lead a life of prayer, forming a deep relationship of love with Jesus and the father, since prayer changes everything.”
The LORD has been far more faithful than I have over the intervening forty-five or so years, though I have been taught much by Him in that time. The most important of all has been the need to be led by the Holy Spirit in every aspect of life.
Sadly, this is a neglected area of teaching amongst Christians. Even the charismatic movement which began in the 1960s concentrated on the gifts of the Spirit, whilst seemingly ignoring the need to walk by the Spirit. This is surprising, because we read in Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” This is the hallmark of every true child of our Father.
Nearly every Christian I know who considers themselves to be Bible-believing is hoping for revival. The aforementioned charismatic movement has abounded for the last fifty years with prophecies of revival. None have been fulfilled.
Alongside these have been a small number of words bringing warnings - to those willing to hear them - warnings of the need to prepare for very difficult times. This is one I remember from a meeting in 1982, where it was received with a long, stunned silence:
concept of me is too small; I am the God of darkness as well as
Will you still seek for me when I lead you in darkness?
Some of you will die for me - not the death you imagine - dying is painful.
Will you still seek me when you are experiencing terrible pain?
Will you still love me when you are in this darkness?
Your concept of me is too small.
This prompted me to study the Scriptures to verify whether The LORD is indeed a God of darkness as well as light. I am only able to share this because I discovered it to be true. (A PDF copy of my notes from that study is available.)
I will point to just one other word which I was reminded of in recent weeks. David Noakes is a brother with a longstanding Bible teaching and prophetic ministry - but each person is responsible to test whatever they hear, be it teaching or prophecy. This is because The LORD is continually testing our love for Him. (Deuteronomy 13)
In 1994 David shared a word for testing. It has been given the title, “Walking on Water.” I share it not because of its warnings of storms ahead, but because of the encouragement regarding how God’s people can survive them. In one place it reads,
“As each member learns to recognise and obey the instructions of the Head, so all together will begin to be able to function as one body. This will never come about through human organisation, but only as they learn to walk continually under the direct leading of my Spirit.” [Emphasis added]
My fourth solemn point is that if you are not already learning how to be led by the Holy Spirit, seek our Father earnestly in the midst of this pandemic that He might teach you this reality.
One thing is certain; even when this contraction subsides, the earth will continue to reap what its inhabitants have sown. Don’t think that everything will be back to “normal” in the future. The rations of sin are indeed death, and only our Creator can give life in all its fullness.
James reprimanded his readers, urging them to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4)
I conclude with some practical suggestions to help you to make the most of the increasingly bad days in which we find ourselves living. (Ephesians 5) These sensible steps however will be of little use to you unless you take to heart the call to seek God that you might learn to be led by His Holy Spirit.
Schools are closed, churches are shut down, and no-one knows how long this will go on. Life as we knew it has come to a grinding halt. The bus we were all travelling on is parked by the side of the road. Whilst you are being told it will be ready to go again soon, who knows what will happen when it does?
Can I suggest that the time whilst we are all sitting waiting for it to set off again is a very good time to consider seriously if it is really taking you where you want end up?
The secularisation of society discussed earlier has not served any of us well. Combine this with the advance of labour-saving technology which has managed to fill our minds and lives with busyness, and the result is a society which is neglecting the important matters whilst chasing after trivia.
Most Westerners are spending their lives for that which they cannot carry over into eternity - “that which is not bread.” (Isaiah 55) Even in the churches there is a preoccupation with the things of the earth. Few are seeking those things which are above. Having our hearts focussed on the future is a theme found in Philippians 3, Colossians 3 and Hebrews 11. (I have also written about this previously.) In order to be some earthly use to our Father, we need to be heavenly minded, for heaven is where He speaks to us from.
Whatever age you are, wherever in the world you live, whichever denomination you are affiliated to or if, like so many these days, you are outside the organised churches, I encourage you to make the most of this time when normal life has been put on pause by the press of a divine finger.
Please don’t sit at the side of the road waiting impatiently for the bus to restart without making sure if it is taking you in His direction.
The last century of progressive politics and technological advancement has changed the world, whilst obscuring our understanding of our Creator. The former in particular has pursued a policy of undermining family life, aided and abetted by two world wars which killed millions of people, most of them men. The biggest casualty in all this, however, has been family life. The LORD told Eve that a consequence of her transgression would be conflict between husbands and wives. (Genesis 3:16)
Throughout history, with encouragement from Satan, the human race has sought to extinguish God’s wisdom from society. We live at a time when the concept of the family has been ripped apart. Have you ever wondered why this is so?
One important indicator is that it is fathers in particular who are being treated as unnecessary. Fatherhood is a central characteristic of mankind being created in the image of God. Secularism seeks to erase every aspect of our resemblance to Him. Eighteen months ago I wrote about every family taking its name from our Heavenly Father - we know this because the word in Ephesians 3:15 commonly translated as “family” would be better translated “fatherhood.” The devaluing of fathers is having a profound effect on societies at large.
At the end of February Jackie Sebire, Assistant Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police, and the UK’s top officer on violence, spoke about knife crime and commented, “It’s not only about public services, it’s absent fathers, absent capable guardians in the community, it’s lack of role models.” She later added, “We talk about the stereotype absent father whether they’re physically absent - or too busy working every hour God sends.” Whilst no national debate opened up as a result of her call, the Independent did point out that we now have a Prime Minister who is also an absent father.
Some churches have gone along with this breakdown. Others have been very concerned about it and have sought to counter it. But the roots go deep and this is not the place to explore them or the radical solutions needed. Generally speaking, we have mimicked the society around us for far too long. Church activities more often than not separate families, rather than helping them to grow together.
On the whole there is little or no helpful teaching in local fellowships on all aspects of a healthy, Christ-focussed family life. Much of the teaching in the New Testament addresses the practicalities of living. The word “doctrine” occurs in 1 Timothy more than in any other book, yet it is one of Paul’s more practical letters.
My final solemn point is that this lockdown of normal life has provided an incredible opportunity to rediscover family life - I urge you not to miss it now and not to lose it later.
As families, we are used to spending our days apart. Now that schools are closed, ask The LORD to help you make the most of your time together. Even teenagers aren’t able go out and be with their friends. Dads and Mums, take the opportunity to get to know them better. Your children are His gift to you! (Psalm 127)
Both Old and New Testaments emphasise that it is the role of parents to train their children in God’s ways. (e.g. Deuteronomy 6:7 & Ephesians 6:4) Fathers however have not been encouraged to be the spiritual heads of their families, nor have they been equipped to lead them in His paths. Now that the churches are closed, your local congregation is your family. Fathers, ask your Father in Heaven to teach you to be both their prophet and priest.
There are pitfalls in the current situation in both respects, however. Modern technology is helping the majority of us through this indeterminate lockdown, but please don’t allow it to become the substitute for a better way. Online tutoring may be a help for a while, but think hard about whether you really want your children being taught a godless worldview, albeit now in your own home. You are your children’s God-given teacher, charged with training them in His ways.
The New Testament pattern for when Christians come together is that each one contributes for the benefit of all. (1 Corinthians 14) Church history has all but expunged this important aspect of Spirit-led believers building one another up in the faith. Your lounges and dining rooms are excellent places to begin to rediscover this. Yes, by all means use online resources if you are not musical, but don’t succumb to taking the easy option of allowing others to spoon-feed you in bits and bytes.
Fathers, feed the flock The LORD has assigned to your care.
Two radical thoughts in conclusion:
You do not need a teaching degree to teach your own children.
You do not need to be ordained by any church institution to remember your Saviour’s death, burial and resurrection by breaking bread and drinking wine together.
At the end of a day of prayer last year, The LORD drew our attention to the closing verses of the Old Testament. It is a burden which has been growing in my heart ever since. I quote them here for your prayerful consideration. They seem very relevant in this Covid-19 situation., especially so if they are read in the context of the whole chapter:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of The LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:5-6
This Covid-19 judgement signals that we have crossed the Rubicon from national judgements to global ones;
The LORD has closed the schools, and parents and children are now spending more time together than they have done for a long time;
The LORD has closed church buildings, and removed any semblance of His authority from the mouths of institutional church leaders;
Those Christians who are not already learning how to be led by the Holy Spirit, should seek our Father earnestly in the midst of this pandemic that He might teach you this reality;
This lockdown of normal life has provided an incredible opportunity to rediscover family life - I urge you not to miss it now and not to lose it later.
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