John McCain is widely honored as a war hero for the suffering he endured in a North Vietnamese prison camp. Barack Obama inspires his supporters like few politicians since John F. Kennedy. As the United States prepares for an election that may change the course of the nation, we ought to consider our Savior's perspective on the matter.
Across the United States, the Presidential election campaign is in full swing. Fully months before the Democrats held their nominating convention in August and the Republicans held theirs in the first days of September, the media had begun bombarding our senses with partisan appeals: "Change we can believe in: Vote for Barack Obama!" or "Ready from day one: Vote for John McCain!"
Claims and counter-claims are being traded. Advocates of one side say their opponent is merely a continuation of another man's failed policies. Partisans of the other side say the other candidate is too leftist and too inexperienced to serve as Commander in Chief. Vicious "mudslinging" accusations label one as a possible "Manchurian Candidate" who aided the enemy during wartime, and the other as a chameleon who is not being honest about his religious and national loyalties.
What should a real Christian do? How should we respond? Most importantly, how would Jesus Christ respond in this politically charged atmosphere?
American troops have been in Iraq for more than five years. Should they leave? If so, how? The U.S. economy is being pummeled by debt and massive international loss of confidence in the soundness of the dollar—and of America's ability to make the right choices to weather a coming economic downturn. Who can lead the U.S. out of the morass of its plummeting morality, its insecure economy, its declining standard of living and the increasing social, ethnic and racial tensions affecting the very fabric of its society? Who?
We all need to recognize that a true Christian is one who has Christ living in him through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul wrote: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, KJV).
A true Christian must learn to live as Jesus Christ actually lived—not as many people incorrectly imagine He might have lived. Jesus Himself told us: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4). The genuine answer as to how we ought to live and function in a democratic nation is to be found in the Bible—the inspired word of God. For we are to have the "mind of Christ" (Philippians 2:5). And the Bible is the revelation of God's mind—telling us how the Father and Jesus Christ really think about the fundamental issues of life.
All through this past summer, Americans have been deluged with messages urging voters to support one candidate or another. Looking at the men who would be President, we ask ourselves: "Does he really believe he is fit to lead the world's only superpower? Does he think that any human being is fit for the task?"
Where is God in all of this?
From the beginning, human beings have tried to rule themselves without God's direct leadership. Most professing Christians do not even realize what Jesus Christ has to do with government. For they have been told far more about the "little Lord Jesus, away in a manger," than they have about the biblical Jesus Christ who is now standing at the right hand of God in heaven (Acts 7:55–56). The real Christ will soon return in majestic glory as the literal King of kings over the entire earth! To most people, this Jesus is unknown.
Remember, very few professing Christians realize that Jesus' gospel was about world government. One of the most clever, Satanic deceptions ever spread is that Jesus Christ's message was principally about Himself. The starting point of true Christianity is accepting the shed blood of Jesus Christ after truly repenting (seldom mentioned elsewhere!) of sin. However, Jesus' main message—the gospel He preached—centered on world government and the willingness of each human to genuinely surrender to God and eventually become part of His divine Family. This divine government will soon rule over this entire earth!
Though many have been led to believe that this is now God's world, the Bible tells us something entirely different. The Apostle John was inspired to write: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).
During the temptation of Jesus Christ, He was taken to a mountain and shown the glory of all the kingdoms of this world: "And the devil said to Him, 'All this authority [to govern] I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish'" (Luke 4:6).
Did Jesus contradict Satan and tell him that he was not in charge of the kingdoms of this world? No. He did not. Rather, near the end of His ministry, Jesus spoke of Satan in this way: "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out" (John 12:31). As He also said: "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me" (John 14:30).
Later, Paul wrote: "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" (2 Corinthians 4:3–4). Satan the Devil is the invisible ruler—the "god" of this age, which has covered about 6,000 years of human history since the creation of Adam. But this age will end at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ as King of kings! God inspired Paul to reveal to us that Satan is "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). So the invisible spirit ruler—the prince—over this world's society is actually Satan the Devil!
Nevertheless, the true Creator God intervenes when necessary, to accomplish His purpose. In Galatians 1:4, Paul taught that Christ "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age." But egotistical human beings, who think they know it all, are actually unaware that they are under the powerful sway of the invisible Satan. They think that their ideas about society and about government—often diametrically contrary to those of God—make sense. But God says: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12).
Satan deceives this world in a thousand different ways! In the book of Revelation, John foresaw a spirit war just ahead when "the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9).
Later, God reveals to us that at the beginning of Christ's reign on earth, Satan is cast into a bottomless pit "so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished" (Revelation 20:3). The Bible makes it exceedingly clear that this present society is Satan's. Rather than truly seeking God's will, today's civilization is based on vanity, competition, deception and fraud.
Jesus told Pontius Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here" (John 18:36). Clearly, Jesus had no intention of trying to get into this world's politics and wars. He represented another world, another government—the Kingdom of God. Therefore, Jesus would definitely not try to reorganize this world and get into the midst of a lying, scheming political system under the sway of Satan the Devil!
Probably within this very generation, the biblical Jesus Christ will return to sit on a real throne in the city of Jerusalem. His government will be established throughout the entire earth—a literal government empowered by Almighty God, ruled by the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:15–16). And what will Jesus' followers—the true saints of God—be doing? "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?" (1 Corinthians 6:2–3). In the next few verses, Paul went on to expound how the Christians in Corinth were supposed to learn to practice God's government in the Church by correctly "judging" problems among themselves. From Genesis to Revelation, a position in God's government has always been filled by appointment—not by politicking or otherwise making deceptive promises to people to buy their votes. It was in this context that Paul could ask: "[Why] do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?" (v. 4).
Christians are in training, now, to be kings and priests in the soon-coming Kingdom of God. Jesus stated: "He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'—as I also have received from My Father" (Revelation 2:26–27). So we need to overcome our human ways and human selfishness—and learn to practice God's government now. Notice this "prayer of the saints" in Revelation 5:9–10: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth." Clearly, the true saints of God will soon have rulership—not up in heaven, but on this earth!
Carefully study the parable of the pounds in Luke 19:11–27 in the King James Version. Here Jesus is pictured as going off to heaven to receive His Kingdom and to return. When Christ returns, He rewards His servants according to how well each has done in using God-given time, talents and wisdom in serving God. What reward did Christ give His faithful servants? "And he said to him, 'Well [done], thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities'" (v. 17). And to the servant who had only gained five pounds? "Be thou also over five cities" (v. 19).
Do you see any indication of politicking or voting here? Not at all. Rather, it is just one more scriptural example to make clear to Christians that the best form of government—God's government—is not in any way based on human politicking, compromising, wheeling and dealing, and coming up with half-baked solutions to our problems.
Jesus said: "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). He certainly would not lower Himself to be part of this world's incorrect approach to governing. In fact—setting us an example—Jesus Christ in His human ministry never made any overtures to the human leaders of His time, never involved Himself in any political situation and never taught His followers to try to change the political situation or straighten out the human governments of His time!
Rather, Christ will deal decisively with the kings of this world when He returns: "And in the days of these kings [those ruling immediately prior to Christ's return] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Daniel 2:44).
Later in Daniel, God clearly describes how the true saints will be given authority, under Christ, over all the governments of this earth at the Messiah's return. "Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him" (7:27).
Although Jesus Christ did not actively participate in the governments of this deceived world, He did set us an example of obedience to civil law, showing respect to those in office. When the Pharisees came to ask Jesus about paying taxes, He answered: "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21).
God inspired Paul to write: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves" (Romans 13:1–2). And Paul further explains: "For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor" (vv. 6–7).
Paul tells us to pray for those in positions of authority. "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" (1 Timothy 2:1–2).
True Christians—who make up the church (Greek ekklesia, literally, the "called-out ones")—are like foreign ambassadors. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20).
A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to act as deputy chancellor of a small college near London, England. Because of this and other responsibilities, I attended a number of distinguished gatherings in London and at the home of the U.S. ambassador to Her Majesty's government. On two of these occasions, I met the American ambassador.
The U.S. Ambassador to Britain—or to any other government, for that matter—is expected to obey the laws of the land in which he or she is residing, to respect the authorities and to give honor to whom honor is due. On the two occasions when I visited Winfield House—the ambassador's residence—a toast was proposed to the Queen. All rose and lifted their glasses in honor of the gracious lady who is still monarch of the British people. On each occasion, the U.S. ambassador—Elliot Richardson in one instance and Walter Annenberg in the other—joined in the toast. Showing this kind of respect to those in authority is clearly reflective of the attitude that God wants us all to have. And certainly to obey all the legitimate laws of the land and to pay our taxes is required. Of course, if some totalitarian government ever tried to make us directly disobey the higher laws of Almighty God, then we should follow the inspired example of the Apostles who said, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Even then, if we decide to stay in that nation, we should expect to suffer any penalty or punishment such authorities might impose—looking in faith to God to take care of us (cf. Daniel 3).
But, as Paul wrote, we are "ambassadors for Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:20). We should conduct ourselves with love and respect for all human beings—including those in political offices. But we must always remember that our ultimate citizenship is not in or from the governments of this Satan-inspired society! Although we should serve others and do good on an individual basis, we cannot and must not get involved with military or political efforts to reorganize or to clean up Satan's deceived world. For the system itself is not< God's system! He is only allowing deceived human beings to go their own way and experiment with various types of government during this present 6,000 years of human experience.
Paul wrote: "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?" (2 Corinthians 6:14–15). Referring to the religio-political system that will dominate most of the developed world when Jesus Christ returns, God commands His people: "And I heard another voice from heaven saying, 'Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues'" (Revelation 18:4).
What would Jesus do in this election year in the United States? He would be so busy proclaiming the good news of the soon-coming Kingdom of God that He would have no time—and no interest—in politicking, voting or taking part in any groups pressuring to clean up Satan's world. For He would know that—although often well-meaning—human attempts to save this world are doomed to failure because they are under Satan's sway and are part of his system, which God Himself calls "Babylon" (Revelation 14:8).
The mission and calling of all true Christians is to help prepare the way—as advance emissaries—for the Kingdom of God, the literal government that the living Jesus Christ will soon set up. It will replace all the misguided human governments of this earth. "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'" (Revelation 11:15).
As the specific end-time events prophesied in God's inspired word begin to occur all around us, we need to understand deeply that Christ's soon-coming Government is real! As the American dollar plummets in value, as American and British prestige around the world continues to decline and Almighty God continues to break the "pride of our power" (Leviticus 26:19), we had better realize that Christ really is coming soon! And we better truly understand that everything around us is soon going to change. When our real focus is on that paramount fact, we will finally go "all out" in preparing to be overcomers (Revelation 2:26), and in doing our part to prepare to actually assist the returning Jesus Christ in ruling this world—God's way!