How did the human race ever go so far from God’s original plan of self-government to the thing that Nimrod did—having a man be in the place of God? In Romans 1:21–23, Paul tells us how it happened. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [Him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” These verses give us an idea of what some of the idols looked like. It also gives us some principles, kind of a step-by-step process, of how this thing got so far.
It says, for one thing, that they did not retain God in their knowledge. Then they made idols in the place of God. Then they put themselves in the place of the idols, and to hold this position, they had to use force. That is how the monarchy came to be. God has always been opposed to kingdoms. Yet He has allowed them, and He has even approved of them to a point. Why would that be? Because even bad government is better than no government at all. As we learned in part one of this article, God had to destroy the earth with a flood because there was no government. So He allows governments or kingdoms, and He even sanctions them. He will tolerate them for so long, and then He does something different.
Governments After the Flood
The first phase of history after the flood was the development of empires changing over from the government of the individual to the establishment of kingdoms, from Nimrod up until the time of Nebuchadnezzar. It was called Imperialism, that is another name for men in subjection to other men.
The second phase of history was empire, with full and undisputed sway, a world empire where one nation ruled the whole world. Four empires, in the history of the world, ruled the whole world. Only four, and there will never be another one, according to Daniel. These four empires were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and pagan Rome. When Babylon got wicked enough, God manifested His protest against Babylon by handing it over to the Medes and the Persians with a writing on the wall, apparently by His own hand—MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. (See Daniel 5:25.) God gave Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson a warning and basically told him it was over. He turned the kingdom over, because it had become so wicked. God continued to hand these kingdoms over until it got down to Rome.
Pagan Rome was the last of these world empires. During the time of this last world empire, God did something really special. He gave the ultimate demonstration of what self-government looks like. He did that by sending His Son.
Way of Self-government
Everything Christ did He did of His own free will. That is part of self-government. You choose to do it. He was not forced by His Father to do it. He chose to do it, but He helped identify some interesting principles of self-government through His life. Those principles include “I am thy servant” (Psalms 116:16; 119:125); “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law [is] within my heart” (Psalm 40:8); “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30); “The Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the work” (John 14:10); “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me” (John 7:16). Jesus even spoke what His Father wanted! His words were not His own; He got them from His Father. “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me,” “and to finish his work” (John 6:38; 4:34). All these things Jesus did by His own free choice. He was governed with His own consent. He volunteered. He not only showed the way of self-government but He became the way of self-government.
The last of the world governments, Rome, fell. Something happened about that time. The apostate church of that day wondered why on earth all these great governments fell. They thought these kingdoms were great. They thought they could see the power involved. They watched these kingdoms take over cities, control men, oppress people, and conquer the world. Of course they did not see things from God’s perspective, so they thought all these actions were great.
They did not know that “[He that is] slow to anger [is] better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Proverbs 16:32. Neither did they understand that the people of God are overcomers, because “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” 1 John 4:4. If you want to be great in God’s eyes, you do not conquer cities, you conquer self. Self-government is what is really great and powerful. These leaders of the apostate church did not understand all that, so they stood back and wondered why these great empires fell.
As they analyzed the situation, they came to a logical conclusion. They thought, “You know, the reason these empires fall is because bad men control them. But what if we had an empire that had good and godly men in control of it. Why this would be heaven on earth!” That was their logical thinking. So thus began the third phase of civil government on this earth since the flood. It is called ecclesiastical empire. It is the church controlling the state. It sounded like a good idea; it looked good on paper. But the results are in, and we now know what those results are. We know that it is the worst form of government that has ever happened on this planet. It resulted in the worst oppression, the fiercest tyranny that this world has ever seen. It was an unequaled curse—politically, morally, and socially—and it resulted in what is now known as The Dark Ages.
This combining of church and state was so terrible that God gave it several labels throughout His Word: “that man of sin,” “the son of perdition,” “the mystery of iniquity,” “that Wicked,” “Babylon the Great,” “the mother of harlots,” and “abominations.” (11 Thessalonians 2:3, 7, 8; Revelation 17:5.) It was organized Christian idolatry. It was organized apostasy by force. It was a formation of the beast that we read about in Revelation 13, that first beast that came up. It was the one that would, “wear out the saints of the most High.” Daniel 7:25. It was Roman Catholicism controlling the governments.
God sent Christ and Christianity into the world to save the world from pagan Rome, but then Christianity became corrupt. God sent Christianity in its purified form to save the world from Rome the second time. Christianity in its purified form is known as the Protestant Reformation. Through the Protestant Reformation, God gave again to the world the opportunity to see the way of self-government and the way of rebellion, side by side, so people could choose.
Protestantism and Republicanism
About this time, just shortly after the Reformation began, God did something really special once again. He raised up a special nation. That nation was to be a safe haven for God’s self-governed people. People were to be able to escape ecclesiastical oppression in this country. It was to be a safe haven from the union of church and state. This nation’s laws would protect the two principles of self-government, Protestantism and Republicanism.
The United States of America was formed as a republic. Now many of its citizens brag that it is a democracy. If that is true, we have taken a step backwards. In a democracy, the majority rules. In a republic, the rights of the minority are protected. We need to become a republic again. That’s what we started as, a Protestant republic.
The founders of this country stated some strange things that the world had not heard before. They stated things like all men are created equal with inalienable rights. It blew people’s minds, because no one had been born equal for thousands of years—you were either born royalty or you were born in subjection to royalty, and there was not much in between. To say that all men were created equal was a very unique and strange thought. They said some other things that all the other nations looked at and said, “There is no way that this can work. You guys are crazy.”
The founders said things like the government is going to be the servant of the people. All through history, as long as there have been governments, the people have been servants of the government. But this was to be a new experiment—a government that was of the people, by the people, for the people instead of the people being for the government. That was a very new thought; it was a strange idea to the rest of the world.
There was a wall of separation between church and state in this new government. That was a new thing, too. For the last 1,200 years, the church and the state had been combined, bringing a horrible curse on the earth. Some people today do not understand these things, and they are trying to make it look like that wall of separation never even existed. The Bible makes it very clear that God wants that wall of separation there, because we learned earlier that He ordained civil government. The question is, How much authority do they have?
Paul gives us some principles in Romans 13:6–9: “For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute [is due]; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if [there be] any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Here Paul is talking about the last part of God’s Law. He is talking about the ones that deal with relationships between created beings, but he does not even mention one that deals with the relationship between the creature and his Creator.
Civil vs. Moral
Actually, Paul lists the last five commandments, not the last six. The one dealing with the relationship between parents and children has not been included. I will leave you to make your own conclusion about that, but it is something to think about. Why did he leave that out? There is no way that Paul just could not remember this one commandment. Paul was making a line of demarcation right there between what civil government has authority to do and what they have authority not to do. He was making very clear a principle. Civil government is responsible for keeping people civil; it is not responsible for keeping people moral. It is not moral government; it is civil government. Government does not have the authority to make people moral.
There is a big movement to bring this nation back to God. You hear about it all the time, if you listen to any Christian radio stations. They do not understand that this nation was raised up to protect us from such a movement. It is to keep government and religion separate. The founders realized that this nation’s form of government would only work as long as the people were self-governed. They realized that as soon as people stopped being self-governed, we would not be able to build jails fast enough to hold them all. Nevertheless, they still were never to force people to be moral. They were to keep them civil. They were to protect God’s self-governed people from those who chose not to be self-governed. Church and state were never to be combined. We were always to have that wall of separation between church and state.
Image of the Beast
Just as a great apostasy from Christianity led to the formation of the first beast, apostasy from Christianity the second time is going to lead to the image of the beast. Apostate Protestantism and Catholicism are going to combine.
Have you ever thought about, when natural disasters hit the United States, how little the damage is compared to other nations? We have some serious stuff, but we do not have anything compared to other nations. The actual physical damage to the buildings is not as great; the death toll is a smidgen compared to what happens in other parts of the world. There are thousands and thousands of people killed in other nations when an earthquake, a hurricane, or another disaster hits. In the United States, we might lose 20 or 30 people. That is a lot of people, and it is always sad to learn about such loss, but that is nothing compared to thousands and thousands. The only reason that happens is because God has His hand of protection over this nation because of the principles of religious liberty.
We are told that, as soon as this nation turns around, that national apostasy will be followed by national ruin. “The people of the United States have been a favored people; but when they restrict religious liberty, surrender Protestantism, and give countenance to popery, the measure of their guilt will be full, and ‘national apostasy’ will be registered in the books of heaven. The result of this apostasy will be national ruin.
“By the decree enforcing the institution of the papacy in violation of the law of God, our nation will disconnect herself fully from righteousness. When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government, and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near.” Maranatha, 216.
Sealed . . . or not
In Revelation 7:1–3, we are told that the four angels are holding back the four winds, protecting this world until God’s people are sealed in their foreheads. We are told that the sealing means to settle into the truth intellectually and spiritually to where we cannot be moved. The four angels are holding back all this strife that is going to come upon this world, including this nation, until God’s people are sealed. Everyone on this planet right now is making a decision. We are either settling into the truth intellectually and spiritually to where we cannot be moved, or we are settling into rebellion against the truth to where we cannot be moved.
Soon probation will close, because everybody on this planet will have made a decision from which they cannot be moved. There will not be a reason for probation to be available any longer. If it went on another thousand years, nobody would switch sides, because they are settled, they are sealed, either in rebellion or truth.
Soon the Sabbath–Sunday issue is going to be agitated, and it is going to come under civil law. The image to the beast will be formed over that issue.
In Mark 12, Jesus gave some principles of how to discern between what civil government can do and what it cannot do. “When they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see [it]. And they brought [it]. And he saith unto them, Whose [is] this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.” Mark 12:14–17. Whose inscription was on the coin? Caesar’s. And so He said, “Give it to Caesar, it’s his. It’s got his inscription on it.” That is an important principle, when you think about it.
Whose inscription is on the Sabbath? In Exodus 20:10 it says, “The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God . . . .” God’s inscription is on it. Civil government needs to keep their hands off of it. They do not have any rights regarding it. God forbids that civil government deal with it, because it does not have their inscription on it.
We need to finish the Reformation. We need to protest again. We need to help people understand the principles in God’s Word. There is no reason to be deceived. We need to help people that are open-minded to understand these things, so they can make intelligent decisions and not join the group enforcing the mark of the beast. They can become the eleventh hour workers who take the place of the Adventists that apostatize when the heat is turned up. As Ellen White wrote, “The law of God is made void, and even among those who advocate its binding claims are some who break its sacred precepts. The Bible will be opened from house to house, and men and women will find access to these homes, and minds will be opened to receive the Word of God; and, when the crisis comes, many will be prepared to make right decisions, even in the face of the formidable difficulties that will be brought about through the deceptive miracles of Satan. Although these will confess the truth and become workers with Christ at the eleventh hour, they will receive equal wages with those who have wrought through the whole day. There will be an army of steadfast believers who will stand as firm as a rock through the last test. . . .” Selected Messages, Book 3, 390.
We have been given the great privilege to understand these things, but with information comes responsibility. We have a God-given duty to make these things known to anyone who will listen. We need to ask God to give us the strength and the willingness and the burden for souls to do what He has called us to do.
Steve Currey is a Bible worker for Steps to Life Ministry. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.