Authority: The Crucial Issue of These End Times

Wisdom's Friend

Authority: The Crucial Issue of These End Times

Why should I submit to and serve and obey God? Why shouldn’t I be the one in charge of my life?

That comment by an unbeliever pretty much said it all for me. After a lifetime of trying to understand the antipathy if not outright hostility to God and the gospel by many in this world, that one statement summed it all up. That was what it all came down to.

It makes no difference whether such an attitude comes from a pharaoh of Egypt (Ex. 5:2) or an ordinary citizen of this world (Nehemiah 9:29, Is. 24:5). In the lives of many in this world, throughout its history, it is the matter of authority that lies at the bottom of all that happens.

It might surprise some readers that the reason people do not accept the sovereignty of God over their lives is not necessarily because they don’t believe he exists, although many claim that is the reason. For God has created us with an innate awareness of the truth of his existence, which must be suppressed (Rom. 1:18) in order to go on with our lives as though he did not. No, it is more often just a refusal to give up control of one’s life to anyone at all, not even to God. It isn’t a question of God’s existence but of his authority.

Jesus understood this perverse nature of human beings. In the parable of the 10 talents (Lk. 19:11-27), he spoke of a king whose authority was rejected by the people:

“His citizens hated him and sent an embassy after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us'” (Lk. 19:14 RSV).

Many human beings do not want to be owned by God (see Who Owns Your Soul?); they want to be “free”, in charge of their own soul. Or, as William E. Henley put it in his famous poem, “Invictus”: “I am the Master of my fate; I am the Captain of my soul.”

There is terrible irony in this statement. Those who claim it as a statement of their fierce independence from God think that in standing by this philosophy they are free from God and all his laws, that they are free beings. They do not understand (1 Cor. 2:8, 1 Cor. 2:14) that just the opposite is the case. For the truth of God says that all human beings are sinful by nature (Rom. 3:23) and that unless a radical change is made to that nature, all human beings are enslaved by that sinful nature. This is a truth clearly announced by Jesus:

“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin'” (Jn. 8:34 NIV).

Jesus spoke these words in reply to those who were smug in their knowledge of religion and trusted in their adherence to religious laws to make them right in God’s eyes. They were totally blind to the fact that they were prisoners to sin. So when Jesus spoke of his coming to set them free from their slavery to the power of sin, they did not understand.

“They answered him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?'” (Jn. 8:33 NIV).

It would be amusing if it were not so tragic that many adamantly refuse to let anyone else (including and especially God) rule over their lives. They think they know better than anyone else how their lives should be lived and that no one else has a right to interfere in that God-given birthright–you know, “all men are created with certain inalienable rights” and so forth (U.S. Declaration of Independence, for those of you of other countries not familiar with American history–and including, sadly, even many who are Americans). Amusing because those who are so staunchly opposed to anyone else ruling over them because of their inalienable birthrights were, with no exceptions, all once in that very situation: They were all infants who had no rights at all under the total care of their parents and were totally at their mercy for their care and sustenance. By birth, they were totally ruled by others.

That changed, of course. As infants grow into children and then adults, they increasingly become less and less dependent upon their parents and others, and frequently rebel against those parents’ authority over them when they become teenagers–until they became parents themselves or at least mature adults (hopefully). The irony is that the ones who scream the loudest about anyone else interfering with their right to do as they please are the very ones who complain the loudest when their own children rebel against their parental authority. They fail to see the ungratefulness which they exhibited towards their parents until they see it in their own children towards them.

This blindness also includes failure to see such rebellion not only against parents but against teachers and many other authoritarian figures who guided them towards self-reliance and independence; they fail to see how much they owe to others for enabling them to become independent beings. Once they have achieved that status, they become very offended should anyone bring up the truth that they are not as independent of other people as they think. In the worst cases, these are the ones who become criminals, flaunting the law, thinking that they do not have to obey it. But there are lesser degrees of this same mindset; they are just not as easily discerned. For instance, those who are unwilling to yield at all in a marriage relationship, a political or governmental situation, employment situations and many other areas of life. The Bible speaks of each of these situations and the need for authority and the proper respect thereof.

If proof is needed of the importance of authority in every area of life, look at how the people reacted to Jesus’ teaching. What was it that so struck them about it? It wasn’t the content, because they had plenty of religious teachers who taught the same ancient truths handed down to them in the Scriptures. No, it wasn’t any new content but the way in which Jesus taught this unchanging content. He taught them with authority.

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Mt. 7:28-29 NIV).

Or, look at the key issue which the religious leaders focused on when challenging the disciples’ work among the people after Jesus’ resurrection. Did they question what they did? That would have been suicidal to their position, for it was blatantly obvious to all that miraculous power was at their disposal for healing:

“But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. . . . ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it'” (Acts 4:14-16 NIV).

But what cannot be denied because reality plainly reveals it can be questioned regarding the authority by which it stands. It is an evasive maneuver to hide reality under a cloak of deceptive questioning of authority. When another party threatens the power of the ones who are used to holding sway over the people (Jn. 11:48), all kinds of cunning and subtle trickery is quickly unleashed to prevent loss of power over the people and one’s status before them. This is what the Bible calls “the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14).

No better description could be given for how the devil and the world seek to usurp the authority of God. It has always been so, even from the beginning, when the devil caused the first humans to question the authority of God to forbid the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why shouldn’t humans know good from evil? Why shouldn’t they be like God? (Gen. 3:1-5). Thus, because it was the first temptation, the questioning of God’s authority over man, and all else, is at the heart of all things; it is the crucial issue of all that exists.

This truth takes on increasing importance to us who live in the end times–the fact that God’s authority reigns supreme over all things, not just human beings, but over all creation, the physical or material realm as well. The reason for this is being demonstrated before our very eyes as the natural world begins to crumble before us, with all kinds of extreme weather becoming more and more commonplace. This is a result of this world rejecting the authority of God over it. As human beings reject God’s authority over them, the consequences of that rejection become more and more visible in the natural world in which human beings live. Thus we see extreme rainfall beyond the ordinary; extreme storms of all kinds; earthquakes, tsunamis; extreme heat, extreme cold. All of nature continues to go against the bounds prescribed for it by God (Job 38:8-11). This is because God is in the process of letting this world reap the consequences of what it has sown.

“See, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants. . . . The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The LORD has spoken this word. The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left” (Isaiah 24:1-6)

It is no accident that all of the varied extremes of weather and the natural world mentioned in Job 38 are also mentioned in Scripture’s description of the end times (Lk. 21:11, Rev. 6:6, Rev. 6:8). As it was in the beginning, so will it be in the end. From Genesis to Revelation, when God’s authority is questioned, the result is chaos, upheaval and death (Gen. 2:17, Rev. 6:8, Rev. 18:8).

As we who are now alive upon this earth witness these prophecies being fulfilled before our very eyes, as the world continues its slide down into destruction and death and the natural realm disintegrates piece by piece (2 Peter 3:10), surely it behoves all to bow before the Lord’s authority and submit to him fully. For he is the mighty King of kings, with all authority in heaven and earth. For Jesus has come to us once and submitted to the proper authorities in his life, his parents (Lk. 2:51), the Scriptures (Mt. 26:52-54), and his God (Jn. 8:29, Heb. 5:7). But he is coming a second time to us, and this time it will not be in submission to this world but to exercise his rightful authority over it.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me'” (Mt. 28:18 NIV).

It is more than a little interesting that after Jesus told the parable of the man of noble birth who went away to a far country to be appointed king (Lk.19:11-27), and the citizens he left behind rejected him and his authority over them (Lk. 19:14), that Jesus ended that parable with two sobering statements.

First, those who disdained his authority over them were slain (Lk. 19:27). And second, Scripture records that “after Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem” (Lk. 19:28). Jesus continued on to achieve the purpose for which he came to this earth, to go to Jerusalem and die for the sins of human beings. He achieved his purpose, despite the insults and disdain of those for whom he died (Mt. 27:39, Mt. 27:44). When he comes to Jerusalem a second time, it will be as a returning conqueror, taking full authority over all that exists. It both instances, both the first and the second coming of Jesus to Jerusalem and this world, it makes no difference what reaction and attitude the world has to his coming, as far as the final outcome goes. Whatever God has ordained beforehand is what will happen (Acts 4:28). His Son, the living Word of God will accomplish all God intends.

“My word that goes out from my mouth . . . will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Is. 55:11 NIV).

This passage from Isaiah not only confirms this ultimate truth about authority, but also contains within it a warning not to reject God’s authority.

“Seek the LORD while he may be found (2 Cor 6:2); call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Is. 55:6 NIV).

I pray that all who read this have submitted to the authority of Jesus Christ, to whom all authority has been given, so that they will not have to fear God’s wrath and thus suffer the outpouring of that wrath upon this world and be destroyed with it. Look and see the beginnings of that collapse and disintegration already happening before our very eyes. The current disintegration of the natural world about us, along with the collapse of governments and moral decay and wars, are all signs we should heed (Mt. 24:6-8, Mt. 24:32-33) to bring us ever more into full submission to Jesus Christ. It is the only salvation.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Act 4:12 NIV).

Be saved. Submit to the authority of Jesus over your soul.

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