The church must see more deeply into the horror of men and women leaping to their death from high up on burning towers or perishing in the collapse of those towers than do the talking heads on television or the reporters in the newspapers. The church must see more deeply than do most religious commentators.
The deliberate crashing of planes into the towers in New York and the destruction of another plane with its passengers in Pennsylvania were cruel acts by heartless men. They demonstrated the truth of the gospel’s verdict, that fallen mankind are totally depraved: “Their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known” (Rom. 3:15-17).
The terrorist act was an act of war upon the United States as our president declared. The right response is attack upon the terrorists and the nations that harbor and support them. This is the calling that God Himself gives our government as His servant. A fundamental duty of government is the defense of its citizens from aggression. For carrying out this duty, God gives the civil government the sword (Rom. 13:1-7). A war of defense against aggression is a just war. Those who counsel turning the other cheek in the name of Jesus are utterly confused interpreters of the Bible and a threat to the nation.
Not only was the act of terror a declaration of war against the United States, it was also naked aggression against Western civilization. The Western nations perceived this quickly enough. They have banded together to repulse and eradicate the aggressors. This too is right. Failure to do this would be fatal. It would indicate such softness on the part of the Western nations as to invite the ruthless, determined enemies to impose their will upon the West and ultimately bring these nations down.
These facts, almost everyone sees.
But the terrorist attack upon the United States on September 11, 2001 and its aftermath were more than these earthly facts. And in the “more” is the truth of these events, that is, their reality in relation to the triune, one, true, living God and in the light of the coming of Jesus Christ.
The present time is the last hour. It has been the last hour since Christ ascended into heaven. Time is rushing on to the one great work of God that is still outstanding: the bodily return of Jesus Christ and the final judgment. It is now late in the last hour.
Preparatory to the coming of Christ, God is pouring out His awful judgments upon a wicked world that is fast filling its cup of iniquity. This wicked world of totally depraved men and women is by no means limited to the pagans, who worship and serve their cruel idols. It includes multitudes in the nominally Christian West. They have changed the truth of God, whom they knew, not only from His revelation in creation, but also from His revelation in the gospel, into a lie. They are now worshiping and serving creatures rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:18-25).
God has already been judging these apostates, who have besmirched His glory. He has given them over to the dishonoring of marriage, the shame of homosexuality, and such loss of natural affection that mothers butcher their own unborn (Rom. 1:18-32). His judgments fall also in the form of wars, social strife, and disease (Rev. 6:3-8).As the end approaches, God increases the severity of His judgments (Rev. 8, 9).
The effect of these judgments is “distress of nations.” The turmoil of the nations is like the “sea and the waves roaring” (Luke 21:25).Out of this troubled sea of the nations will come the world-kingdom of antichrist, speaking “great words against the most High,” wearing out “the saints of the most High,” and thinking “to change times and laws” (Dan. 7). This union of all the nations under one head—the “little horn” of Daniel 7—will take place by the direct working of Satan. For a long period of time—1,000 years—Satan has been bound, not so that he can do nothing but so that he cannot deceive the nations. Toward the very end of history, Satan will be loosed a little season, so that he can deceive the nations into the union that claims to be the long-awaited kingdom of God and that promises everlasting, blessed peace, but which is, in fact, the cursed kingdom of the devil (Rev. 20). In this supposed kingdom of God, they will worship the dragon and the beast (Rev. 13).
A powerful instrument in realizing this monumental achievement will be the churches. As a result of centuries, even millennia, of apostasy, the churches will come together in a grand ecumenical alliance. They will come together, not in the pure doctrine of the gospel, which is the unity of the true church (Bel. Conf., Art. 29), but in toleration of false doctrine. This enables them to unite with the other religions of the world in the name of a common god. This great religious federation will then serve antichrist by exerting its considerable influence upon all the peoples of the world to look to the union of the nations as the hope of mankind (Rev. 13:11-18).
One nation will be excluded. This is the holy nation, the church, whose citizens confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ, worship the triune God and Father of Jesus Christ alone, rebuke the ungodly for their blasphemy of the one true God and for the unrighteousness of their lives, and warn of the impending judgments upon the kingdom of Man.
We see these things taking form before our eyes. We have no timetable. But Jesus’ prohibition in Mark 13:32 of speculation about days and hours, as well as months and years, is not intended to dissuade us from a sharp-eyed observance and keen-minded interpretation of the signs of His coming that He Himself took the trouble to give us.
An astonishing result of the terrorist attack against the United States and the West is the uniting of all the nations of the world. This has been happening for some time. “Globalization” has been a pronounced movement since the collapse of Soviet communism. God’s division of the human race into nations is challenged by internationalism. What drives internationalism is economics, technology, especially the technology of communications, and religion, particularly the message of universalism. The terrorist attack on the West has given internationalism a mighty boost.
The present union of the nations promises to be lasting. The war on terrorism will be long-term. In addition, the nations are discovering that their union can be beneficial to all. Of course, it will prevent such calamitous, costly deeds as were recently perpetrated upon the United States. It also bids fair to resolve old conflicts and to solve festering problems such as poverty and disease. In their union, the nations can bring about a settlement of the strife between Israel and the Palestinians, and enforce it. They can also address the needs, or wants, of the poor nations by vast re-distribution of the wealth of the West.
The churches come together, in concert with the other religions of the world, in order to support a political power and to promote the union of all nations. There it was before the eyes of all in the impressive prayer and worship service in Washington, D. C. Conservative and liberal Protestants, Protestants and Roman Catholics, Christians, Jews, and Moslems, all worshiping and praying to one and the same deity on behalf of the union of the nations.
Even the fissure between the nations of the nominally Christian West and the nations of the non-Christian East that will eventually rupture the kingdom of antichrist is apparent in current events. The non-Christian East may for a short while cast in its lot with the West, partly for the benefits and partly out of sheer awe at the military might of the West, but its hatred for the “Christian” West, religious and otherwise, will never permit a lasting union. Armageddon is a certainty (Rev. 16:12-16).
Just as their insight into recent events is deeper, so also must the response of believers, particularly in the United States, go beyond that of their unbelieving neighbors. We share the anger and the grief. We are as resolute as any in our support of the United States as it defends itself against its murderous attackers. We are loyal citizens of the United States of America. For myself, I never knew how much I loved our country until the past months.
But we are also citizens of the kingdom of heaven, looking for the coming of King Jesus. That coming, and only that coming, will usher in universal, everlasting, blessed peace in a world of righteousness, in which the triune God will be all in all.
Therefore, we are not perplexed or fearful. Christ Jesus is risen from the dead in the body. He governs all, including terrorist attacks and their aftermath. Denial by prominent Christians that God, much less Jesus, had anything to do with the terrorist attacks on the United States is as much a blasphemous denial of the God of Christianity as is Islam’s worship of Allah. The God revealed in Scripture is Almighty, governing the evil as well as the good. Jesus Christ sits at God’s right hand actively realizing the counsel of God concerning all things that take place (Rev. 5). In all things, Jesus is coming quickly. And He has told us beforehand, in broad outline, what will, indeed what must, take place before He returns to deliver His elect, believing, confessing people and this groaning creation.
Out of the recent events and the ensuing developments that have so shaken our nation and the world comes the reminder to the saints: Think eschatologically, that is, in terms of the last days and the soon coming of Christ. View what is happening in light of the books of Daniel and Revelation.
Let us ourselves then repent of our own idolatries, unrighteous-nesses, and worldliness. Let us take refuge in the cross of Jesus Christ to escape the coming wrath.
And live in hope! “Look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).
Christ comes quickly.
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”