To see the way the world is today one would think that Christianity has become irrelevant. Basic moral norms, once taken for granted, are now openly flouted. The courts have virtually said that separation of church and state means separation of morality from public life. Church attendance is dwindling, and large numbers of young people, raised in conservative, Evangelical homes, are turning away from the faith, leaving behind increasingly gray-haired congregations. Does this mean that Christianity is finished?
It may seem so, but we must never lose sight of certain basic facts. First of all, God still exists – eternal, immutable, and omnipotent. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, He will still be upon the throne and we are still accountable to Him. Our lives are in His hands.
Moreover the basic principles of morality never change. Right and wrong are what God says they are, and His will is not variable – it is not subject to Supreme Court decisions, acts of Congress, or Hollywood fads. It is God with whom we have to do, not the changing tides of public opinion.
What, then, do we make of the situation in the world today? The answer is that it is ultimately all a part of God’s plan, and history is moving towards its final conclusion. We are told in Scripture that “in the last days perilous times will come” (II Tim. 3:1; NKJV), but that Christ will return and establish a reign of universal peace and righteousness. This is, in fact, a central theme of the Bible.
There has always existed in in human society a moral contradiction or tension. On the one hand the world was created by a single omnipotent Deity. One would expect, then, that His creation would conform to His will. Yet when we look at what actually goes on in the world we see something quite different. The world is full of crime and violence, war and poverty. And if we are honest with ourselves we will admit that the problem lies right within our own hearts. On the one hand we have a conscience which tells us right from wrong. We see injustice and oppression, and we are rightly angered. And yet we ourselves do what we detest in others, driven by some inexorable urge. We are slaves to self-interest, even when it tramples on the right. We have met the enemy, and he is us. There is no question that there is evil in the world; the question is, will there ever be justice?
Three thousand years ago the ancient psalmist reflected on the paradox of human behavior and said:
“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
He goes on to describe how apparently well-off the wicked often are, enjoying the comforts and pleasures of this life. Is this not proof positive that crime pays, and that nice guys finish last? What is the benefit of doing right?
“Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocence” (v. 3).
The answer to this perplexing dilemma escaped the psalmist until he put life in its eternal perspective.
“When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me –
Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.” (vv. 16,17)
What he then realized is that the prosperity of the wicked is only temporary – their final ruin is eternal..
“Surely You set them in slippery places,
You cast them down to destruction.
Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.” (vv. 18,19)
God is just, and His justice will prevail. How that plays out in history is a major theme of biblical prophecy. The end, as we shall see, will be dramatic. It is a sober reminder to us all.