Summary: What are some specific circumstances that signal oppression by a government? And, as believers, what should be our first course of action, and when should we speak the truth?
In our last message in this series, I asked the following questions: “What would we, as believers, do if our country ever came under siege by a foreign nation that did not believe in God or His Son, Jesus Christ?” “How could we practice our Christian faith and live according to biblical principles while living under a godless government?” Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord admonished the captives in Babylon to “seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7). Our first course of action should be to exhibit peaceful, Christ-like behavior, obeying the laws of the land, while praying for our national leaders. But is there ever a time when Christians should openly stand up and resist those in authority; and what does it mean to take a stand for Christ?
In our message today, we will learn some of the signs to look for in knowing when captivity is just around the corner. We will identify some specific circumstances that could signal oppression by a reigning government; and we will briefly discuss what our first course of action should be in response. We will also learn the proper time in which to stand and speak the truth. Today’s message should hopefully inspire us to stand up for our faith in Christ and biblical morality.
Be Cautious of Universal Decrees (vv. 8-12)
8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews. 9 They spoke and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image; 11 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.”
In our last message from this series, I mentioned how when we find ourselves in captivity or under an oppressive government that we must be certain to live according to biblical principles, working “as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23). When we do, then those in leadership will take notice. We will receive the Lord’s favor and be promoted to a place of prominence. However, those who are favored by God are usually envied and hated by the world. Jesus said, “They will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9). When the Lord bestows His favor on you then watch out! Never let your guard down, because the Enemy will always be watching and waiting for the first opportunity in which to accuse you, similar to how the Chaldeans accused the Jews (v. 8).
I wish to caution you that the beginning of tribulation and persecution for believers will begin with some kind of “universal decree.” In verses 8-11, we read how the Chaldeans, who obviously hated God’s chosen people, the Jews, reminded King Nebuchadnezzar about a decree that he had earlier made, “that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image” (v. 10). Notice how, in verse 10, we see the words “decree” and “everyone” used in conjunction in the same sentence. This wording indicates the establishment of a universal decree. The word “universal” means, “applicable everywhere, or in all cases,” and “affecting, concerning or involving all.”(1)
Non-compliance to a universal decree can result in swift blame (v. 8) and severe consequences, such as we see in verse 11: “Whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” Pastor Harold Heiney once served as missionary with the North American Mission Board, shepherding a small church in Havre, Montana. He shared with me the true story of a little old Russian lady in his church, who had immigrated to America during the communist dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. She described how many of her friends and family members had been brutally killed for having guns in their possession. When Stalin established the universal decree of gun control in 1929, anyone discovered or rumored to be hiding weapons was hunted down and shot. From 1929-1953, about 20 million dissidents were executed.(2)
The Bible says that leading up to the last days, and beginning even before the rapture, you will begin seeing universal decrees which will lead to the culmination of an oppressive one-world government. For example, John said in Revelation chapter 17, verses 12-13 and verse 17, “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast . . . For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” The ten kings are ten nations that will give their authority and power to the Antichrist; and the description about being “of one mind” means that they will be in universal agreement with one another.