Freedom Includes Freedom to Worship God
Either you have religious freedom or you don’t. Freedom of religion is in Scripture called ‘the constant feature’ because it was first challenged at the very beginning of human history. This is an important point because the constant feature is something that society will attempt to do away with.
Either religious freedom is enshrined in law or it isn’t.
The case study that illustrates this has been running in Russia. Check online and you will see a number of references to these events that are well documented. In brief, in July 2016 it was decided in Russia that they would introduce laws that would usher in much tighter restrictions on things having to do with missionaries and evangelism. Despite any attempt to influence this decision and questions as to religious freedom, this would become law. This would include laws against sharing your faith in your home, online or in fact anywhere but a recognized church building. These laws went into effect and continued an attack on Christian teaching and belief that has been well established in Russia.
Russia Restricts Faith
It is hard to believe that in the 21st century a nation such as Russia would take such an attitude against the very teachings of Christ which include at their very core the religious freedom to share good news about God. The results of this are easy to find online with a large number of organizations prosecuted for demonstrating their faith in public. Pentecostals and Baptists as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses have been among those groups severely affected for alleged violations of these restrictions.
The laws associated with freedom of religion in Russia are clearly open to interpretation and this has resulted in imprisonments. It is clear that in supporting these laws Russia is siding against people with genuine Christian belief. It was Jesus himself who told his disciples to share what they believe. He said that the good news of the kingdom would be preached in all the inhabited earth. He told his disciples to ‘go therefore and make disciples of people and baptize them’ an unambiguous instruction. If a state chooses to take away this freedom and chooses to put secular law above religious freedom, then they are siding against what is written in the Bible.
Choosing to pick a fight with God is not a wise decision nor is choosing to fight against Christ at the head of the incoming Kingdom.
In the first century the religious leaders of Israel were very much opposed to the emerging teachings of the Christ and wanted to severely curtail the efforts to spread the message regarding Jesus. One of the teachers of the law was a man named Gamaliel who warned the court to be incredibly careful not to fight too forcefully against the apostles lest “we find ourselves fighting against God.” [ Acts 5:38-39 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest ye be found even to fight against God.] It would be good for the Russian authorities to think very seriously about this point. If God wants a message to be preached and if Christ as the king of Gods incoming Kingdom directs the message to be preached, then it would be a prudent man who would consider very carefully the need to respect the word of God.
In fact, over 50 organizations have been targeted as a result of these laws. These laws make Russia a nation that opposes people for doing what Christ said a Christian should do, to share their faith. Protestants, Evangelicals, Witnesses and Baptists have all faced pressure and persecution
We need to be clear on this point as some religious organizations have claimed that it is just them that is the focus of the ban. In fact, over 50 organizations have been targeted as a result of these laws. These laws make Russia opposed to Christian values because they attack people for doing what Christ says a Christian should do. Protestants, Evangelicals, Witnesses and Baptists have all faced pressure and persecution. Basically, if you want to talk about your faith in Russia then the message is to stop. In fact, you could attract the attention of the authorities simply by carrying Bible based literature or even a Bible. No wonder people are nervous in Russia.
In describing the events that would unfold in the time of the end in the lead up to Christs return the Bible describes the move towards the removal of the ‘constant feature’ of society which is freedom of religion. Freedom of religion came under attack shortly after the beginning of man’s exit from Eden when Cain killed his brother Abel. Freedom of religion is enshrined in law in many countries. It guarantees that people are free to worship God according to the tenets of their faith as long as these are reasonable. However, the Bible reveals that the world would move towards a secular society and remove the constant feature of freedom of religion. In other words, it would remove freedom of religion exactly as is being outlined in Russia currently. Russia in prosecuting and persecuting people of a Christian faith are playing a role in the outworking of this prophecy. Unfortunately, it puts them on the losing side of history as the Bible clearly explains the outcome.
All people who respect the Christian faith disagree with what is unfolding in Russia and similar nations. We pray that the authorities will rethink this stance against the teachings of Christ. In the meantime it would be good for all countries surrounding Russia who can make a home for genuine Christians to open their borders and make it easier for people who are genuine in trying to live a Christian faith, to find a new home in a society that respects Christian values.
Regardless of what human society does today the fact is that shortly God’s Kingdom is returning with Christ at its head. At that time, informed individuals who have actively persecuted genuine Christians will have no defense in the face of the fact that this is obviously an indefensible course of action.
Already in various parts of the world authorities are clamping down on freedom of religion. Some do it very openly and aggressively and others do it quietly. But the fact is that religious belief and the freedom to worship according to the tenets of your faith is under attack. That this was prophesied in Scripture is certain however the outcome will go very differently to what people imagine. Consider this: Christ as the head of God’s kingdom is on his way back to the earth at the very time when nations are interested in curtailing freedom of religion. So on the one hand we have Christ as the head of God’s Kingdom and on the other hand we have ideologies determined to oppose freedom of religion. It is obvious who has more power because who can challenge the authority of God? And yet despite knowing these facts and despite claiming respect for religious freedom some governments seem intent on destroying religious freedom.
It remains to be seen whether in attacking Christian belief Russia is making itself open to any other action before Christ return. Given the range of options open to God as described in the Bible books of Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation it might be prudent for Russia to quickly back away from this persecution and have a much more welcoming attitude toward Christian belief. Revelation describes people adopting a more welcoming attitude to Christ and this surely is a wiser course.
As this case study demonstrates we are at a pivotal point in human history. People of all the earth are praying the Lord’s prayer “let your Kingdom come and let your will be done as in heaven also on the earth.” Jesus promised that he would return, and world events demonstrate that this return is imminent. In the decade that remains before Christ returns it will be good for all of us to examine how we view freedom of religion and to examine Christian teaching. The Bible indicates a large swing towards a secular society. However not everyone will go along with this change. Acknowledging the power of Scripture and acknowledging the need for God’s Kingdom is the wisest thing that we can do as the time winds down towards the appearance of the Christ and all his angels with him as he arrives in Kingdom power.