Grabbing the world’s attention nowadays, as I write, is the just over two-month-old “martial law” declared in May 2017, throughout the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, by President Rodrigo “Digong” Roa-Duterte. Martial law was imposed by Duterte because of “rebellion” and threat to national security and integrity by the ISIS [Islamic State]-inspired “Maute” group, comprised mainly by ethnic Maranao Muslims and led by one with the family name “Maute.” The 90% Islamic City of Marawi, in the Mindanao Province of Lanao del Sur, was the target of the “Maute” group for establishing a province of the Islamic “caliphate,” much like what happened in Syria and Iraq. [See: The Children of Abraham.]
Understandably the President’s declaration has received mixed reactions from public officials and ordinary citizens alike.
The phrase “martial law” has had a deep and intense emotional reaction from many Filipinos who experienced, or whose family experienced, the sufferings and injustice during the previous “martial law” rule decades earlier of the late Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos. That, too, grabbed world headlines for a long time. Memories of that difficult period still ripple through the minds of many.
The word “martial” conjures up images of warfare or show of military strength. We talk of the “martial arts” as ways of defense and offense against a rival or enemy. “Martial law,” therefore, has been associated with a power or force (usually of government) imposed upon a society as a drastic measure to expel or eliminate a serious threat to the stability of the society. The measure almost always imposes, to a small or large degree, some limits to individual freedoms that people enjoy in a non-martial law situation.
As of this writing, the Philippine legislature (the Senate and Congress in joint session) has voted overwhelmingly to extend Duterte’s martial law (ML) declaration until the end of the year. Like in any political matter, there are those who oppose martial law and there are those who appreciate it for the relative peace and order it has brought about to the larger community. [See: Leanings.]
As of now, government troops are still quelling the last vestiges of the extremists’ stand in Marawi. No one can tell for certain when it will all end. But already Duterte is warning about threats of similar extremist attacks to other places, especially in Mindanao. People can only hope and pray that some peace will be achieved in Marawi and environs soon and that from the ashes of the ongoing war, restoration will come about.
Longing for peace and prosperity
Deep in the heart of most human beings is the longing for peace, and the attendant prosperity — both physical/material and emotional/psychological. Who’s crazy enough not to desire peace and prosperity? But the fact is that there are enough crazy people in this world who, like what Psalm 120:7 describes, “are for war” and not for peace! And many who want peace want it only for themselves!
Much as we human beings desire peace — which is basically, though not exclusively, a cessation of war — peace has eluded us. Our Creator says of us: “The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways; they have made themselves crooked paths; whoever takes that way shall not know peace” (Isaiah 59:8). And “There is no peace…for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22). We human beings need to be taught the real way to lasting peace! [See: Is There Ever Any Good in Man?]
And who has the perfect right to teach us peace? None but “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:8) — Jesus Christ, whom the apostle Paul called “our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Only through Christ — His sacrifice and resurrection to cleanse us of sin that earns us God’s death sentence — can we have peace with God, and eventually with ourselves and all of mankind and all of creation. [See: Two Goats Together and Freed From Bondage.]
As the living “Word” of God, Jesus has laid out in the Bible the way to true peace. But the problem is that mankind has not accepted that way of peace. Men would rather establish peace their own way. Men have tried to impose some “pax-this-and-pax-that” — but every time it has only ended up in war and more wars. Men and nations have even desired to wage a “war to end all wars.” But none has succeeded so far. World War I was hoped to have been a “war to end all wars.” But no sooner had it ended than World War II broke out!
The true war to end all wars
There is a coming war to end all wars! And it is our Creator God Himself who will wage it — against wicked human beings and God’s enemies who have urged men to sin and war against God: Satan and his demons. This is called “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14). The climax of that battle will be the pouring out of the “seven last plagues” of God’s wrath as the seventh trumpet of God is sounded (Verses 17-20; 17:1-20:3).
With the mighty power of His Word as His sword (Hebrews 4:12), Jesus will “strike the nations” (Revelation 19:15). The conquering Christ will then take power over all the nations (Revelation 11:15) and, as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS,” He will rule the surviving nations “with a rod of iron” (Revelation 19:15-16). Those whom He destroys at His coming will mostly have their chance to be saved after His 1,000-year rule (Revelation 20:5). [See: This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation and Predestination.]
Jesus’ martial law rule
At His victorious return Jesus will impose His version of “martial law” on the earth while He rules with His glorified saints (Revelation 2:2627; 5:10; 20:6). During all that reign, God’s righteous and perfect but benign law (Psalm 19:7; 119:137-138, 164, 172; Deuteronomy 4:8) will be imposed upon all nations. Those who will not observe that law will be severely punished, but in love (see for example: Zechariah 14:16-19; Hebrews 1:5-6; Isaiah 2:2-4). [See: No Walls, No Ceiling? The Great Wall, The Law of Christ, The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love, and Of Dungeons and Prisons.]
Compared with God’s perfect law, human-devised laws often lead to benefiting a few while disenfranchising the many. [See: A Law-abiding Universe — But Man! and Devising Evil by Law.] Only a perfect God can lay down perfect laws. It is, after all, God’s sole prerogative to determine what is good and what is evil. [See: The Divine Prerogatives and “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”]
The result of God’s “martial law” will be a peaceful world! As God promises: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go. Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea [meaning endless]” (Isaiah 48:17-18).
While rogue nations and individuals continue to run others roughshod, there will not be peace in this world (Proverbs 28:28; 29:2). Christ’s rule will get rid of these nations — either by destroying them (see a prophesied case of this in Ezekiel 38:1-39:16) with a chance to be judged for salvation at a later time (Revelation 20:5), or by granting them the wherewithal to repent and continue to exist under His reign. [See: “The Next Chapter of History,” World Peace — At Last! and This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]
While waiting for that peace
While waiting for the peace that Christ alone can bring about in the world, how do we regard the powers that be this side of Christ’s perfect rule? God tells us to be subject to the existing human authorities. The apostle Paul, under God’s inspiration, exhorts us:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain, for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due, taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor (Romans 13:1-7).
See also 1 Peter 2:13-17.
Some people justify their non-subjection, even defiance, to authorities who are patently vile, profane, uncivil or in other ways unacceptable. But those with such an attitude toward authorities should consider what Babylon’s emperor Nebuchadnezzar realized: “That the Most High [God] rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest [KJV, ‘vilest’] of men” (Daniel 417; see also Verses 25 and 32). [See: Of Elections and Appointments and The Sin of Rebellion.]
For his violence and cruelty, King Nebuchadnezzar could well be considered as among the lowest or vilest of men. Yet, for all that, God called him “My servant” (Jeremiah 276; 43:10) to punish the sinful kingdom of Judah. God called Assyria “the rod of My anger” (Isaiah 10:5-6) to punish His erring people Israel. [See: God’s Kingdom and Israel.] God appoints leaders — whatever their qualities or character may be — to suit or fulfill His purpose at any given time. However, for the evil that these leaders also have done, God will judge them in His set time (Daniel 4:24-37; Isaiah 10:12-19).
This being the case, righteous people should rather pray for those whom God has placed in seats of authority instead of vilifying them for their imperfections. Paul exhorts us further: “Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior…” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
This does not mean, however, that the people of God don’t have anything else to do with human government. The examples of Joseph (Genesis 39-48), Daniel and his three Jewish friends (Book of Daniel), and Esther and Mordecai (Book of Esther) suggest that God’s people, through their example of wisdom and righteous living, can exert some positive influence upon government officials. These people of God even suffered unjust punishment for obeying God in a God-defying society, but their heavenly reward for righteous living is sure (Matthew 5:10-12; compare with 1 Peter 3:13-17).
Pray for God’s kingdom
It is the kingdom of God — which Jesus Christ will establish at His return to this war-torn earth — that will ultimately bring about the peace that has eluded mankind all these millennia of history. Thus this should be everyone’s prayer to God” “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Before then, and before the end of this present age of man, Jesus said that the gospel about the coming kingdom “will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations” (Matthew 24:14). The true Church of God has been preaching that same gospel over the centuries, but not quite reaching the whole world. Only now, with the amazing wonders of electronic communications, has it been possible to do that. That gospel-preaching will culminate in the worldwide testimony of God’s “two witnesses” (Revelation 11:1-14).
We need to be watching — and praying — for that testimony, because then the countdown to Christ’s return won’t be far away! Jesus tells His disciples: “Watch [keep awake spiritually] therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). Under the Godly influence of the “two witnesses” God’s people will come to spiritual purity — and unity in the same faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ (Daniel 12:9-10; Ephesians 4:13). [See: Leanings and The Whole Counsel of God.]
Paul also exhorts us: “But concerning the times and seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord [Christ’s return] comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep [spiritually], as others do [like the foolish virgins of Matthew 25:1-13 did], but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6).
God’s “children of light” will not be caught flat-footed when Christ will finally return to establish God’s perfect “martial law” on earth. As Amos 3:7 promises: “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” God’s servants will know when Christ will return, shortly before He does return!
They will watch and pray for God’s kingdom, and they will be subject to all human authority in the meantime.
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.