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Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Moses' Third Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
This may be a good time to explain the difference between the Kingdom of God and a Christian Nation, especially in connection with yesterday’s study of idolatry in the nation.
In the Kingdom of God, idolatry is absolutely forbidden. Only Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and their citizenship is registered in the records of heaven. Idolaters are excluded from the Kingdom of God, for Acts 4:12 says,
12 And there is salvation [“Yeshua”] in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.
Only God knows for sure who are those citizens, for it is based on each one’s faith in Jesus Christ.
A Christian Nation is not a nation where all men have genuine faith in Jesus Christ. It is an earthly nation that supposedly conforms its laws to Scripture. In past centuries the nations of Christendom have never had a proper understanding of biblical law, but rather their laws have been based upon Church law, that is, the “traditions of men” or man’s understanding of the law. Their kings were devoted to Christian religion, but their actions proved that their faith was in religious men, rather than in God. Yet they were called “Christian,” even though most of those kings were guilty of gross immorality and murder. Their citizens included everyone from overcomers to blatant criminals.
These nations were definitely NOT the same as the Kingdom of God, for government officials had no way of knowing for sure whose faith in Christ was genuine—nor did they really care, as long as they were devoted to the Church as a religious organization.
Individual churches might have had more success in determining who was a true believer and who was not, but their standard reflected that of their religious leadership, which was concerned primarily with loyalty to the Church. As the Church spread its dominion to other nations, pagans were allowed to continue worshiping idols at home as long as they expressed loyalty to the Church leadership. Of this, I can personally testify, because I saw this widespread practice in my early years in the Philippines.
In other words, Christian nations of past centuries held very low standards when it came to their citizenry, compared to the standards of the Kingdom of God. The first required faith in the Church, while the other required faith in Jesus Christ. The first required men to accept Church laws, while the other required men to accept the laws of Jesus Christ (Yahweh).
We should all become citizens of the Kingdom of God. To do so requires faith in Jesus Christ—and particularly in the work that He did when He came to earth. In other words, it requires accepting His sacrifice for sin, His resurrection from the dead, and His ascension to heaven as the Heir and King of all creation.
These are the “essentials” that are required for entry into the Kingdom of God. Once we are citizens, of course, we are required to learn His ways (laws) and to begin to conform our minds to the mind of Christ. Although many lag behind in this regard, hindered by antinomian (lawless) teaching, it is clear that perfection of either doctrine or behavior is not a requirement to be a citizen of the Kingdom. If it were, there would be no Christians. Nietzsche’s cynical statement would be true: “The last Christian died on a cross.”
Christian nations are earthly, geographical, and political nations that identify themselves in some way with their particular understanding of Christianity. They are vastly imperfect as entities, and their citizens range from very good to very bad. No Christian nation has ever been formed fully according to biblical law since the days of Moses.
When the Emperor Justinian scrapped the entire Roman law system in 529 A.D. and substituted “Church law” in its place, he greatly improved the legal system. But it was still imperfect, because it was based upon the Church’s limited understanding of the law, rather than upon Bible law itself.
Nonetheless, he should be credited with making a good attempt to conform the nation’s standard of righteousness to biblical law. Even so, we have to be realistic about it, especially in view of subsequent history and the Church’s failure to bring righteousness to the earth.
In fact, even if Justinian had enacted perfect laws, he would have failed for the same reason that Israel failed. No amount of law can change the rebellious human heart, for Church history itself shows how the Church as a whole has degenerated into corruption over the years. There have been too many zealous religionists, but too few real Christians. There have been too many who have put on the mind of the Church, but too few who have put on the mind of Christ. Men’s loyalty has been to religious organizations, rather than to Jesus Christ Himself, for they confused the Kingdom of God with an earthly religious and political organization.
The bottom line is that the Kingdom of God will not emerge into an earthly reality until at least a core group of people on earth are filled with “all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 2:19). Under Moses, the Christian nation of Israel enjoyed only a Passover level of anointing. In the New Testament, the believers enjoyed only a Pentecostal level of anointing—that is, a downpayment of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:5).
We expect to see the fullness of the Spirit some day when the feast of Tabernacles is fulfilled on a historic level. Only when this occurs will it be even possible to have the type of leadership necessary to bring forth the Kingdom of God from the hearts of believers into the outward realm of geography and politics. The first two attempts have already failed, due to an insufficient endowment of the Holy Spirit. We need more than what they received, if we hope to succeed where they failed.
Hence, our present task is to “study to show thyself approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15). We are to learn the ways and laws of God and learn how to apply them in our own personal lives. This trains us for leadership roles in the age to come, when we are called upon to exercise authority on every level of government and daily life.
So how do we deal with the problem of idolatry today? Are we to take up stones and execute anyone who suggests that we follow other gods? No! No! No! If God Himself had done so, the earth would have been depopulated long ago. His forbearance is our present example. In the context of that first Christian (or Messianic) Nation known as Israel, Moses engaged in nation building. He established the laws of a Christian nation, but God did not give the people “a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear” (Deuteronomy 29:4). In other words, God did not pour out His Spirit upon all flesh at that time. Hence, the nation was doomed to fail, because only the Spirit of God can open eyes and ears and change the hearts of the people.
Under Moses, the people experienced Passover, but not Pentecost or Tabernacles. Years later in Acts 2, when the Pentecostal Age began, the people experienced both Passover and Pentecost, but not Tabernacles. While the Pentecostal Church had an advantage over the Passover Church under Moses, it too failed to bring righteousness into the earth. Indeed, we know that it was a “Saul” Kingdom, pictured by the rebellious king that preceded David. He was crowned on the day of wheat harvest (Pentecost) according to 1 Samuel 12:17, and the Spirit of God came upon him (1 Samuel 10:6). And yet he became a rebellious king despite his Pentecostal anointing.
Saul attempted to eradicate witchcraft by legislation (1 Samuel 28:9), but his own rebellious heart was infected by the spirit of witchcraft. Samuel told him in 1 Samuel 15:23 that “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” No king will succeed in eradicating witchcraft when it is lodged in his own heart by rebellion (lawlessness).
We must understand the causes of failure in the past in order to know how to conduct ourselves today. We must understand that unless the Holy Spirit is poured out, no amount of law or legislation is going to change the hearts of men. When the Holy Spirit is given, then hearts are changed and eyes and ears are opened. Only then is there a possibility of establishing a nation with higher standards than are found in the unbelieving world.
A partial endowment of the Spirit has been given twice before. While there was much that could be accomplished under each anointing, they both proved to be insufficient to fulfill the divine expectations for the earth. The power of Pentecost waned in the Church, but occasionally sputtered to life again under various revivals. Nonetheless, instead of the law being written on the hearts of Christian people, the vast majority of them, like the scribes and Pharisees before them, soon settled for legalism.
They did not understand the difference between lawfulness and legalism. Legalism occurs when men do not truly understand the law of God, but have read some of its words without knowing its intent by the mind of Christ. The law is then applied in a partial or rigid manner, for it is a dead word, where rigor mortis has set in. When we are lawful, the word of God itself is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).
Legalism deals with behavior; lawfulness deals with one’s being, nature, and character. Legalism is written on tables of stone or paper; lawfulness is written on the heart. Legalism is satisfied with outward behavior, dress codes, and religious rituals; lawfulness looks inwardly and is not satisfied until one’s heart is changed.
To be lawful, one must know the law as Jesus knew it. One must apply the law by the revelation and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. A judge must know more than the outward actions or behavior of the lawbreaker, for he must know the whole truth to judge properly, including the thoughts and intents of the heart.
As lawful believers, we are learning to judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2) as Jesus will, for we are the body of Christ, and to Jesus Christ has been given the authority to judge all men. John 5:26 and 27 says,
26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.
Jesus has authority to judge the earth, “because He is the Son of Man.” He received this authority on earth by virtue of being born as a man on earth. He had to take upon Himself a body of a man in order to receive the dominion (authority) given to men in Genesis 1:26. For the same reason, we too as part of the body of the “Son of Man,” are given the same authority. Yet at the present time, our authority is limited, for we are not yet ready to shoulder such great authority. We are still too legalistic, too ignorant, too foolish, too quick to condemn, too much lacking in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to judge the world of men and of angels. The day will come, however, when this will be our job as part of the body of Christ, and then the world will rejoice.
And so, when we study Deuteronomy 13 and see how Moses says to stone those who would suggest that we turn to false gods, Moses does not take the time to explain the whole truth to us. To learn how to apply this properly, we must study the rest of Moses’ instructions, along with the prophets, psalms, and the New Testament. Above all, we must be led by the Spirit.
We have already shown how such judgment was not to be carried out hastily, but only at the mouth of two or three witnesses—and even then, only if the person refuses to repent. But there is more to it than this, for we today are not living in a nation where Jesus Christ is recognized as its King. One cannot apply that law in an ungodly nation, for until such a law becomes the law of the land, men are not accountable on such a high standard.
At present, the laws of God are applicable only in the Kingdom of God, which is alive in the hearts of men but has not yet found expression in the governments of the earth at large. Hence, God in Heaven may condemn a man to death (mortality) for following false gods or for attempting to evangelize men to follow those other gods, but current earthly governments do not hold men accountable for such actions.
It was different in the days of Moses, where the nation was actually established upon the laws of Jesus Christ (revealed as Yahweh at that time). The people had agreed unanimously to adopt His laws (Exodus 19:8), whereas in earlier times, no such government existed on earth, nor were the people accountable to such government to obey the law’s prohibitions against idolatry.
The government established by Moses ended with the Babylonian captivity. Since then, the four beasts have ruled in succession, bringing us to the present time, when we expect to see the end of those beast-like governments on earth. When the last beast is replaced by the “stone” kingdom of Daniel 2:35, then divine government will be reinstated—this time under the rule of the overcomers. Jesus Christ will then inherit the earth, and we will be joint heirs with Christ.
Accompanying this time will be a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that sufficient numbers of people will be available to bring divine government out from the heart and into the world at large. This will start small, of course, but as Daniel says, the “stone” will grow until it fills the whole earth. The law of God will apply to those nations who declare Jesus Christ to be their King, and the few remaining idolaters will have to repent or move to the “outer darkness” of some other nation that allows them the religious freedom to worship the false god of their choice. Those who remain in the Stone Kingdom, however, will be required to obey the laws of Jesus Christ alone and will not be allowed to recognize other gods or their laws.
Only in that day might some be stoned for idol-evangelization in the Stone Kingdom, if there are least two witnesses of their sin, if they refuse to repent, and if they refuse an offer to live in exile.
Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Moses' Third Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.