Romans 13, Part 3
Jan 04, 2011
In speaking of ruling authorities, Paul says in Rom. 13:4,
(4) for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil. (5) Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.
In the first century, Paul had to deal with two governments: Rome and Jerusalem. Rome was the highest ruler of the day, ever since it had subjected Judea in 63 B.C. The political environment in Jerusalem, with which he was intimately familiar, was filled with the spirit of dissatisfaction and revolt. There had already come many messiahs, each claiming divine empowerment to throw off the yoke of Rome and set the people free.
Jesus had already prophesied the overthrow of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20-24) and the complete destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:2). He prophesied of the coming war and told His followers in Matt. 24:16 and 21, "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains . . . for then there will be a great tribulation." Because of these prophecies, the Church in Jerusalem fled at the first opportunity at the beginning of the war with Rome. Eusebius, the 4th century bishop of Caesarea, wrote of this:
"Furthermore, the members of the Jerusalem church, by means of an oracle given by revelation to acceptable persons there, were ordered to leave the City before the war began and settle in a town in Peraea called Pella. To Pella those who believed in Christ migrated from Jerusalem..." [Eusebius, The History of the Church, III, 5]
This flight from Jerusalem occurred only ten years after Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans. He obviously knew Christ's prophecies, because his companion and scribe (Luke) wrote about it in his gospel. Paul was concerned that the Christians would be caught up by the spirit of patriotic revolt in the Roman war. He understood the message of Jeremiah and the prophecies of Daniel and knew that God had appointed the iron kingdom of Rome to rule Judea as part of the judgment against the people for making the temple a den of robbers (Jer. 7:11; Matt. 21:13).
If the people had accepted the divine judgment upon them and had cheerfully submitted to Rome, they would have found the Romans to be far less oppressive. God would have blessed them and made them prosper while in captivity. But there were too many "rotten figs" (Jer. 23) among them who stirred the people into revolt, telling them that God wanted them to be free. Such was a half truth, for God did indeed want them to be free--but NOT after selling them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and the four kingdoms of Daniel's prophecies.
God's purpose in selling Judah and Jerusalem into the hands of foreign rulers was to teach them the art of submitting to authority. The people had refused to submit to the authority and laws of God, so God put them into bondage to the laws of men. This was to show them by hard experience how oppressive men's laws are, and to make them realize that the laws of God are not as oppressive as they had previously believed.
Hence, these foreign rulers were ministers of God "for good." It is good because "all things work together for good" (Rom. 8:28). For this reason, Paul says in Rom. 13:5, "it is necessary to be in subjection." They were to submit to authority, not only because they feared the "sword" and the "wrath" of judicial displeasure, but also for the sake of conscience itself. In other words, their conscience should have told them, through the reading of the Word, that God was the One who gave authority to Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.
To revolt against any of these empires was to resist the authority of God Himself. In that light, revolting against Rome was evidence of Contempt of Court. To persist in such Contempt could result in the death penalty (Deut. 17:12), if the person did not repent after being warned. While few would have absolutely refused to obey the verdict of the court under such threat of wrath, the nation certainly was guilty of Contempt of Court when it revolted against Rome. This crime is what killed the nation of Judea in the first century.
Paul sought to warn the Christians to stay far away from that revolt which was already brewing in his day.
The Taste of Freedom
About a century and a half before Christ's birth, while Judea was ruled by the Greeks, the king attempted to stamp out the Hebrew religion in Jerusalem by converting the temple to an Epicurean shrine. This five-year desecration ended in 163 B.C., at which time God allowed the people of Judea to be independent for one full century (until 63 B.C.). This was a temporary interruption in the long captivity prophesied by Daniel.
The problem is that the people then forgot that there was yet to be an iron kingdom that God had authorized to rule Judea. And so, after a century had passed, and Rome took control of Judea and Jerusalem, the people did not understand God's reasoning. They assumed that God would be on their side in any revolt, because, after all, God wanted them to be free to serve Him. Remember Moses' words to Pharaoh? "Let My people go, that they may serve Me" (Ex. 8:1).
So there were many religious and patriotic reasons to revolt against Rome, but all of them ignored God's verdict in the Divine Court. It seems to me that Judea's century of freedom gave the people a false sense of independence, because they did not know the divine plan or how the judgments of God worked.
The same has been true in America. Because we Americans got a taste of independence in the late 1700's, and because God appeared to be fighting on the American side of the revolt, we thought that independence was our divine right. We thought we could violate the laws of God and still remain independent. We thought God was on our side when we broke treaties with the Native Americans and treated them inhumanely.
God thought differently. He brought us back into bondage to Mystery Babylon in 1914 with the passage of the Federal Reserve Act. This was done precisely 2,520 years after the original nation of Babylon was formed in 607 B.C. The time frame was a period of "seven times" (7 x 360 years). The Federal Reserve System has dominated and oppressed much of the world since then. The main difference between the old and new Babylon is the "mystery" factor. God made this new Babylon a "mystery," that is, a SECRET GOVERNMENT.
God knew that Americans were independent minded and would revolt against their new rulers if they had known the real situation. So He kept it a secret from them, so they would submit to it. That way, America's captivity was classified as a "wooden yoke," rather than an iron yoke. We were allowed to remain in our land without war and bloodshed, whereas in Jeremiah's day, the people saw the Babylonian armies and decided to fight--contrary to Jeremiah's word (Jer. 27:12).
The Federal Reserve Act was even signed by President WOODROW WILSON. He was a sign of the coming "wooden" yoke. Patriotic Americans attempted to sound the alarm and warn the people of their new Babylonian rulers, but most of their warnings fell on deaf ears. God had blinded the people for a good purpose, for if the people had revolted against the judgment of God, I believe that America would have been destroyed as a nation, even as Judah and Jerusalem were destroyed in the days of Jeremiah.
This is the third part of a series titled "Romans 13." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones