Friend or Foe?

CHANGES ARE HAPPENING so rapidly in the world today that it is hard to keep up with them. From one day to the next, friends and enemies reverse their roles. Currently, leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union—traditional foes—are pictured on the front pages of newspapers, amiably shaking hands in agreement on how to deal with the newest enemy to come upon the world scene—Iraq.

And—of all things!—instead of President Gorbachev admonishing the United States against taking military action in the present crisis, he is quoted as warning Hussein of Iraq not to provoke the United States to use their army. That’s a switch!

On the other hand, the country of Iran, a former bitter enemy of Iraq—their animosity was so intense that they engaged in a bloody war for over seven years—is now beginning to make friendly overtures toward their former antagonist.

Some would like to see the principles of Christianity come to the fore in this situation but indications of this are not evident. The fact is that the major stimulus for present day action is basically that of selfishness and economic self-preservation. For reasons of survival many stronger nations of this earth cannot allow a shift of power among the Arab countries that would in any way jeopardize their vital stake in the valuable oil under that land. Kuwait, so rich in oil, cannot be left in the hands of an unfriendly government for very long. Political observers apparently agree that the present smoldering stalemate cannot last long. If Hussein does not pull out soon he will have to be driven out, and that probably means war.

The main problem, of course, is the same one that has plagued mankind for many thousands of years, hindering solutions which would lead to world peace—and that is selfishness. A selfish desire for the wealth of Kuwait inspired the invasion in the first place, and the self interest of those impacted by Iraq’s action, has brought about the strong reactions by nations needing the oil.

In this respect the world has not changed since the dawn of history, and looking to the future there is no reason to expect improvement coming from human sources. Men seem to lack within themselves the capacity for altering their subjective attitudes of mind and heart which have kept this world of ours in a topsy-turvy state throughout history, right down to our very day.

So we find, depending upon what is politically or economically expedient, that friends and foes can often change overnight. The instability of our world today was described by Isaiah in prophecy with these words: “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.”—Isa. 24:20

This is a graphic description of a world order headed blindly and staggeringly toward inevitable destruction. In this same chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy, almost all of which is similarly prophetic of the overthrow of Satan’s world, we are told that the earth is “made empty,” and is “laid waste.” The prophet also declares that the earth is “turned upside down,” and “mourns.” The same earth, according to this prophecy, is seen to “fade away,” and to be “broken down,” “dissolved,” “moved exceedingly,” and “removed like a cottage.”—Isa. 24:1,3,19,20

The earth here mentioned is not this literal planet upon which we live. The term is used symbolically to denote what we call the world, or world order. In the 4th verse of the chapter, the words earth and world are used interchangeably. Just as the term earth is symbolic, so all the various expressions which are employed to describe how the symbolic earth is destroyed, are also pictorial. The use of so many of them conveys the unmistakable thought that Satan’s world or empire is to be completely destroyed. Satan’s world must indeed be put down before God’s new world can be established—that world described by the Apostle Peter as one “wherein dwelleth righteousness.”—II Pet. 3:13

There can be little doubt that we of the present generation are witnessing the foretold death throes of a world order. It is what the Scriptures elsewhere describe as the end of the world. (Matt. 13:39) World distress incidental to the transitional changes now occurring have caused men and women of all nations to long for a new and better world. We can well understand the desire of the democracies to do all in their power to make sure that the new world will be a free and happy one. We are not speaking disparagingly of human efforts when we say that there can be no ideal world order until the kingdom of Christ is established.

There is nothing which should better engender such hope and courage in the hearts of humanity today than to know that out of all the chaos and trouble experienced by the present generation there is soon to emerge an era of genuine and lasting peace and joy. It is just this that we can and should expect, not because man will finally triumph over his selfishness, but because God has intervened in the affairs of men and will establish divine control over the nations. In the last verse of the chapter from which our text is taken, we are given the assurance that “the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.”—vs. 23

Jerusalem was the capital city of Judea, and Zion Hill in Jerusalem was where the government of Israel centered. The promise of God to reign in Zion would, therefore, denote actual God-control in human affairs. This symbolism of the divine kingdom and divine rule is mentioned many times in the prophecies of both the Old and New Testaments. In Psalm 2:6, God declared: “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” The psalmist then explains that God’s king, who is Christ Jesus, will dash the nations to pieces like a potter’s vessel.

In Revelation 14:1, Jesus and his entire church are shown to be together on Mount Zion. The prophecy of Obadiah gives us an Old Testament portrait of the same kingdom, declaring that “saviours shall come up on Mount Zion, … and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” (vs. 21) It is clear from these references that the term ‘Zion’ is used in the Scriptures to denote the exalted status of Christ and his church as they reign together for a thousand years to uplift and bless the sin-sick and dying world.—Rev. 20:4

Micah 4:2 declares that “the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” This is another of God’s promises in which the term ‘Zion’ is used symbolically to represent the divine Christ. There is good reason to believe, also, that the use here of the name ‘Jerusalem’ describes the earthly or visible operations of the new kingdom. The laws of that kingdom emanate from Zion—from Christ and his church. Because of this there will be no need for legislators—there will be no occasion to change or amend the laws—nor will new laws be needed to meet emergencies.

But God’s laws will need to be made known, and the people will need instruction in their proper application. This will be done through the earthly representatives of the kingdom—the word of the Lord going forth from Jerusalem. Those who will represent the Christ in the Jerusalem activities of the kingdom have already been selected and prepared by God for this high position of trust as world educators under Christ. In Matthew 8:11 and Luke 13:27,28, they are identified by Jesus as being Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the faithful prophets. In Psalm 45:16 they are referred to as the fathers of Israel, and the promise is given that they shall be made “princes in all the earth.”

When we view this Scriptural portrait of God’s new world from the human standpoint, it would probably seem quite impractical, and we would have good reason to ask, Will it work? But we must remember that this is not a humanly devised Utopian arrangement. If it were only that, it would be a fool’s paradise indeed. But, thank God, it is his plan for a sin-sick, war-weary world. The Creator of the universe, the great First Cause of all life, has planned it, and certainly he would not make promises to the human race which he is not able to fulfill.

Selfishness in Power

Hope that is based upon human plans and accomplishments is indefinite and weak. Human selfishness and sin stand in the way and are basically responsible for all the problems of the world. Well-meaning but imperfect human lawmakers and administrators are unable to do anything about sin and selfishness, for they have afflicted the human race since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. A new foreign policy will not change the hearts of world rulers or diplomats. The phenomenal increase of knowledge of our day is not bettering the hearts of the people. It is simply showing them more efficient ways to further their own individual ends.

Only the Lord God can change the hearts of the people, and this he has promised to do through the agencies of the long-promised messianic kingdom. Those who believe in the promises of the Bible realize that world conditions today are signs that the kingdom of Christ is about to be established in the earth. They are looking for a new administration of government which will truly solve the problems, not only of the United States, but of the whole world. This is the new government promised in Isaiah 9:6,7: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Students of the Bible agree that this is a prophecy of the birth of Christ. The next verse reads, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. … The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Jesus is the Creator’s choice to be the new king of earth—a king who also will be the Prince of Peace. Not until this ruler actually takes control of the people of earth, or until his administration begins to function for the blessing of the people, will the problems arising out of human selfishness be solved.

Selfishness Destroyed

Christ’s millennial kingdom will be a time when the Lord will enter into a covenant with the people. Entering into a covenant suggests a reconciling of the people to God. Ever since man’s fall, the human race as a whole has been estranged from God, but by the close of the messianic kingdom, all the willing and obedient will have been made ‘at one’ with him. They will be in covenant relationship with him.

A promise of this is given by the Lord in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Here this “New Covenant” is said to be made “with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Adam was created in the image of God, and by nature was in covenant relationship with God. But he broke this covenant by his disobedience. Hosea 6:7, Marginal Translation, reads, “They like Adam have transgressed the covenant.” The entire human race since then has been drifting farther and farther away from God, and the divine image in their hearts has become dulled. Selfishness has replaced the spirit of love, and now the world is reaping the terrible harvest of rebellion against the Creator.

But in due time Christ, the great Mediator between God and men, will begin to change this condition by bringing the people into covenant relationship with the Creator. The laws of that covenant will be written in the hearts of the people. This, obviously, will not be an instantaneous work, for it implies the restoration of the people to that original godlikeness possessed by Adam. The work of making this covenant complete will require the entire messianic age.

But when the Spirit and the law of God are implanted in the hearts of the people, it will mean that selfishness and sin have been eradicated. This having been accomplished, and with divine authority and power working through God’s elected rulers, all the problems of the world will be solved. At present, human selfishness is threatening the destruction of all mankind in a time of tribulation such as the world has never known. Jesus said that this tribulation would be shortened in time to prevent total destruction.—Matt. 24:21,22

We know that even now we are living in the time of this threatened destruction, and we are thankful for the assurance that these days shall be shortened. But we are even more thankful for the promised divine intervention in the affairs of men through God’s elect, for we have the assurance of his Word that this in reality means the setting up of the long-promised messianic kingdom; and this, in turn, will mean universal and lasting peace on earth.

Not only will there be freedom from war, but that blessed rulership will solve all the other perplexing problems of earth. With human hearts purged of selfishness, and the spirit of love and goodwill motivating human behavior, the ownership and control of oil or any other of the earth’s resources, will no longer loom up as a menace to mankind’s peace and safety. All will share equally in the good things that God has provided for humanity on this earth. When man is restored to perfection, and sin and selfishness is no longer present, the problems of humankind will automatically have been solved.

As the pattern of a changing world unfolds, the more we study that pattern the more apparent it becomes that Isaiah’s prophecy of a reeling, staggering world is being fulfilled. This is encouraging to those whose hopes are centered, not in the maintenance of the old world’s status quo, nor in a new world order formed by man, but in the kingdom of God.

Let us continue to pray for that kingdom, knowing that when our prayers are answered there will be security, peace, and joy for all, and that all will then “call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent,” because they will have come under the influence of God’s message of truth, and peace, and love.—Zeph. 3:9

Dawn Bible Students Association
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