The Two Authority Mandate—The Book of Revelation
This week we will continue with Revelation 6:3-4:
When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come."
And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.
Last week we compared this second seal to the obvious parallels with the church of Sardis, the second church that the Lord addressed in Revelation.
We ended by asking if this implies that the Gospel message itself had been tainted red by war. The answer to that is “yes,” and this is a corruption. The bride of Christ is to be clothed in white reflecting her purity, not red or any other color.
War is an ultimate defeat for Christianity, but are there not righteous wars and righteous warriors? Yes, but to understand this we must tackle a basic theological issue that I call “the two authority mandate.” This is explained in Romans 13:1-7 when the Apostle addresses the Christian’s relationship to secular authority:
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;
for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil (Romans 13:1-4).
Earthly, secular governments have a different mandate than the church. For the church, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (physical) but spiritual. Our weapons are truth, love, compassion, and forgiveness, etc. We see here that secular authorities’ weapons are carnal, and they are in disobedience to their God-given mandate if they fail to use the sword to avenge evil. Many Christians, and governments, sometimes confuse these two mandates, and they often stumble because of the confusion.
So what do you do if you’re a Christian soldier or policeman? John the Baptist was asked this question, and basically his answer was not to use the position for unrighteous gain, but he never told anyone to quit their job. You are under the civil government’s authority while on duty. They gave you a weapon for a purpose, and you would be in rebellion against God’s mandate for civil authorities if you do not use it when needed. When off duty, pray and use weapons that are not carnal. This does not mean that we cannot use our spiritual weapons, such as truth, compassion, and the character of Christ when on duty, but don’t turn the other cheek or give away your coat to crooks when on duty!
We are also subjects of the kingdom of God. We are not just ambassadors, but sons and daughters of the King of the universe. Yet while in this life, we are commanded to be subject to the civil authorities, respect them, and pay our taxes as the next verses in Romans 13 commands:
Therefore, it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.
For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.
Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor (Romans 13:5-7).
This brings up an important question: does this mean that we should submit to someone like Hitler? First, when the Apostle Paul wrote this, Nero was the Roman Emperor. Nero was possibly the most wicked of all—he fed Christians to the lions and ended up taking Paul’s life.
So the answer to that question is “yes,” unless they command us to do something that is in direct contradiction to the clear dictates of the Word of God. In case of such a conflict, we must do as the apostles and declare that we must obey God rather than men.
So what about the gray areas where we are not sure? That’s why we’re told in places like John 10 how important it is to know the Lord’s voice. Throughout the Old Testament, which addressed so much of the daily behavior of His people, when there was an exhortation to obey the Lord’s commandments, “and heed His voice” would be added.
The Bible does not, and could not, contain instructions for everything, and if it did, then the New Testament would be another law. We must know the voice of the Lord too, and obey His voice.