• David Schrader, PhD., National Pastor

God Has the Last Word



As I write this blog, the world is on edge as Russian troops have invaded Ukraine. Unlike previous world wars, we can see the horrors of this war from our own living rooms. Words cannot describe the utter shock we feel at the atrocities being committed against the Ukrainian people.


We have seen the indelible images of people's homes lying in rubble, of Ukrainian women and children fleeing their homeland with nothing more than a suitcase, and of husbands and fathers saying goodbye to their wives and children as they remain behind to defend their country. We have also been heartened by the images of people's compassion and kindness as they seek to feed and shelter the refugees from this war.


It has been seventy-seven years since the world disposed of its last despot in Adolf Hitler. Since then, we have lived in mostly peaceful times, at least globally. Yes, there have been wars and rumors of wars since then. But none have seemed to rattle the world as much as this Russian and Ukrainian conflict. Don't get me wrong, the wars of the past seventy plus years have not been without great destruction and the deaths of thousands of people.


But something seems different about this invasion. Why is that? Perhaps it's because nearly the entire world has been united in its condemnation of Vladimir Putin and his bullish invasion. Most people know a grave injustice when they see one; and they have correspondingly been quick in expressing their condemnation. Countries and corporations have also been rightly united in their strong resolve to sanction Russia for this reprehensible act of war.


But people are also experiencing a nervous paralysis – an intense feeling of angst – as they wonder what can be done to mitigate Ukraine's suffering and to stop Russia's evil aggression. The world collectively seems to understand that there is little they can do beyond sanctioning Russia. Why? Because many fear that any attempt to stop Putin militarily might trigger World War III, or even worse, a nuclear war. That's the threat that makes this conflict so unnerving.


The Ukrainian people were brought into this war, not by their own choosing, but because Putin, a despot, has maniacal delusions of bringing the Ukrainian people back into his "glorious vision" of the former USSR.


Putin's boastful arrogance and egotistical ambitions have been on full display for the world to see. His ego has even been bolstered by none other than a religious sycophant. On February 27, 2022, the APF News Agency reported that the Patriarch of Moscow Kirill, supreme head of the Russian Orthodox Church, commenting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, stated that Moscow’s opponents in Ukraine were “evil forces.” In 2012, the Patriarch even called Putin’s rule a “miracle of God” and criticized his opponents.[1] Such statements by the head of one of the world’s largest Orthodox jurisdictions, are obsequious and morally tone deaf.


Fortunately, many of his priests and deacons don't share his sentiments. More than 280 priests and deacons of the Russian Orthodox Church are calling for reconciliation and an immediate end to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, stressing that “the Last Judgement awaits all.”[2]


Also, more than 400 ministers of Evangelical churches in Russia have also signed an open letter against the invasion of sovereign Ukraine. They said, “Our army is conducting full-scale military operations in another country, dropping bombs and rockets on the cities of our neighboring Ukraine. As believers, we assess what is happening as a grave sin of fratricide."[3]


Remarkably, these leaders are not making these comments in a vacuum. They do so under the threat of punishment, imprisonment and even death. Thankfully, we have Christian leaders that have the moral fortitude to speak truth to the evils of our age. I suspect, the call to do so will present itself many times before the second coming of our Lord.


When Jesus discussed his return to earth and when it might happen, he told his disciples, "And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come (Matt. 24:6-8)."


Jesus didn't sugar coat the world's future. He categorically told his disciples that until he returns, wars would be a part of our existence. And now, after 2,000 years of history the validity of Jesus' words has proven true. How could Jesus be so accurate in his predictions? Because he knew the proclivity of our sinful nature to embrace greed, hate and evil.


Jesus' prediction about the certainty of wars, though, does little to calm our fears. People still wonder, "Where is God in all of this tyranny and misery?" First the short answer is: "God reigns above the nations, sitting on his holy throne (Ps 47:8)." Now, while some may see that statement by the Psalmist as doing little to assuage their fears, it is still important to recognize that God remains in control of His world. He has not left it to its own devices.


Daniel puts it this way: "He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings (Daniel 2:21)." In other words, God is very much involved in the affairs of his world. And, while we cannot see God's bigger plan as the world moves closer to the return of his Son, we can still draw comfort from the fact that he controls the world's past, present, and future.


Now for the long answer – there is a present caveat – Satan is still the ruler of this world. The Apostle John said, "the whole world is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19)." That's why we have the tension between good and evil. Thankfully, Satan's day of reckoning is coming. Paul assured us in Rom. 16:20, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet."


Until then, evil is made incarnate through action, just as holiness was made incarnate through the sinless life of God’s only Son! Under the influence of evil – murderous world dictators like Stalin, Hitler, and Putin are vivid examples of evil incarnate.


Satan and his minions are very much involved in this world and with influencing its leaders. It's not just some maladjusted psychological aberration we are witnessing in Putin. Don't let the media and its pundits convince you otherwise. Do you remember what happened to King Saul after an evil spirit overtook him? It wasn't pretty.


How else are we explain the personification of evil in world leaders, or account for their atrocities, unless Satan and his demons are controlling them? Their actions are more than the manifestations of someone with a personality disorder. They are evil, and their actions have been scripted in hell by the Devil himself. Therefore, we must remember what Paul said in Eph. 6:12, "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."


Satan and his minions have always been instigators of evil, murder and destruction, and Satan's penchant for evil will reach its apex as we draw closer to the return of Christ. In Rev. 12:12, John speaks of this intensity, "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that his time is short.” John saw the devil and his demonic spirits influencing world leaders at the battle of Armageddon. He says, "And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon (Rev.16:16)."


Thankfully, the Devil's future is not a good one. Rev. 20:10, points out, "Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."


Having such a terrible future awaiting him, it was not surprising why the Devil tried his best to thwart God's plan of redemption by plotting the death of Jesus. In Luke 23:3-4 we read, "Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them." Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. Judas, a disciple who had spent three years with Jesus, had his heart commandeered by Satan. Satan thought he had escaped his future demise when Jesus died. But Jesus' death was a part of God's plan. God was controlling the course of world events and would have the final word.


Consider how Peter, John and all the believers framed the death of Jesus after they were threatened to never speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again:


O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’* “In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed. But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will (Acts 4:25-28).

As these verses indicate, evil rulers and their followers plotted to destroy Jesus. But everything they did was determined beforehand by God. Friends, nothing catches God by surprise, not Herod, not Pontus Pilate, not Covid and not even evil rulers like Putin.


While we cannot understand the evil atrocities being committed by Putin and his soldiers, neither can we understand the evil hearts that called for the death of Jesus. He did nothing but go around healing people and doing good. But what we can understand is that it was God's plan for Jesus to die. And yes, Putin, and all who plot evil and destruction, including Satan, will stand before a holy God someday and face judgement. Satan didn't win when Christ died. Putin won't win if he destroys Ukraine. He will stand before a holy God someday and give an account for his actions. God always has the final word.


The resurrection of Jesus was God's final word to Satan and to all the evil rulers of this world. Jesus rose from the dead bringing eternal hope to all who receive him as their Saviour and promising that he will come again as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.


Paul tells us that Christ's resurrection put the world on notice of better things to come: "Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power (1 Cor. 15:24)." Yes, even the Putin's of this world will come to an end.


Until then, let us pray for the Ukrainian people and do all we can to support them in their time of need.

 

[1] Anugrah Kumar, "Over 280 Russian Orthodox priests call for end to Russian invasion of Ukraine", The Christian Post, https://www.christianpost.com/news/russian-orthodox-priests-urge-end-to-russian-invasion-of-ukraine.html?uid=ce8fdcf89d&utm_source=The+Christian+Post+List&utm_campaign=CP-Newsletter&utm_medium=email, March, 6, 2022. [2] Ibid. [3] Ibid.

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