Being at Peace with Governments
Paul writes in Romans 13:1,
1 Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
Paul did not divide his epistle into chapters, so we must consider Romans 13 to be a continuation of chapter 12. When he speaks of being in subjection to the governing authorities in 13:1, it is simply a further application of what he said in 12:18,
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
Romans 13:1 is also an extension of the previous verse in 12:21,
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Paul was well aware that governments could be quite oppressive. Their laws were often unjust (by biblical definition). Officials often could be bribed. Roman law itself was geared more toward suppressing rebellion and deterring crime than toward justice. To Rome, the purpose of government was to maintain "Law and Order."
Submission to Roman Rule
Jews in the first century were divided in two main camps on the question of submission to Rome and, in general, the manner in which Jews ought to treat non-Jews. The two main schools of thought were those of Shammai (died 30 A.D.) and Hillel (died 20 A.D.). The School of Shammai was known for its hatred of all things non-Jewish, while the School of Hillel was known for its tolerance and kindness. Hence, the followers of Shammai were militant in their hatred for the Romans, while the followers of Hillel were far more tolerant.
The grandson of Hillel was Gamaliel I, the teacher of Saul, who was later to be known as the Apostle Paul (Acts 22:3). It was Gamaliel who issued the statement of toleration in Acts 5:34-39. The school of Shammai wanted to kill Peter for his testimony of Christ (Acts 5:33), but Gamaliel said,
38 And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action should be of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.
Of course, Paul later discovered that in his persecution of the Christians, he was actually fighting against God (Acts 9:4, 5).
And so, when Paul penned Romans 13:1, we can see his thoughts in the context of his earlier training under Gamaliel as well as his personal revelation on the Damascus Road. The lesson is clear: be careful who you fight, because you may find yourself fighting against God without realizing it.
Submitting to the Babylonian Succession of Empires
The deeper problem in Judea was their refusal to submit to the verdict that God had decreed in the days of Jeremiah (Jer. 7:9-16). Jeremiah was finally cast into prison as a traitor for telling the people to submit to God's judgment and to King Nebuchadnezzar, God's "servant," the king of Babylon (Jer. 27:6).
According to the laws of tribulation (Lev. 26; Deut. 28), if the nation persisted in violating God's Law, He would put them into captivity to other nations. In other words, God would give foreign kings the authority to rule over Israel and Judah in order to teach them how oppressive it was to be ruled by the laws of men. And so in the days of Jeremiah, God put Judah under the authority of Babylon.
The people were given a choice. If they submitted to the verdict of the heavenly Court (and to Nebuchadnezzar), they could remain under the "wooden yoke." They could serve their sentence in the land of Judea without further bloodshed. But if they refused to submit, God would send them into exile under the "yoke of iron" (Deut. 28:48; Jer. 28:13). The people chose the latter.
Their sentence under the yoke of iron lasted 70 years (Jer. 25:11), and then they were allowed to return to Judah. Meanwhile, however, it had been revealed to Daniel that this captivity was to be extended for a very long time. Babylon was merely the "head of gold," or the first of four empires that would rule Judah and that part of the world. Hence, when the Judahites returned from exile after 70 years, their captivity continued under the second empire, Persia, though their sentence could then be carried out under the lighter sentence of the wooden yoke.
After two centuries had passed, the Grecian Empire of Alexander the Great overthrew Persia and by 330 B.C. became the third empire of Daniel's prophecy. The Greek empire was divided into four pieces after the death of Alexander, and Judea became the main battleground between two of those pieces. They were Syria and Egypt.
When the Syrians controlled Judea in the second century B.C., they greatly abused their position, and so God allowed Judea to become independent for a full century (163-63 B.C.). This taste of freedom seems to have caused the people to forget that the iron kingdom had not yet been given its time to rule the land. Hence, when Rome took control of Judea in 63 B.C., the people had a difficult time accepting their rule as being God's will.
A few decades later, Jesus was born into a land full of the spirit of revolt. The Judeans of the first century chafed under Roman rule. Many false messiahs arose, promising to deliver them with God's help, but all failed. None of them understood that the rule of the iron kingdom of Rome had only just begun. Jesus submitted to Roman rule and taught His disciples to do the same. As a result, the people rejected Jesus as the Messiah, for they desired a great general to overthrow the Romans. Jesus did not meet their expectations.
Every time a new Jewish messiah arose to overthrow Rome, the Romans responded with force and often with brutality in order to instill enough fear that would overpower the Jewish desire to rebel. Finally, from 66-73 A.D. the Jewish Revolt brought about the end of the wooden yoke and the beginning of a second "yoke of iron" which forcibly dispersed the Judeans once again into foreign lands.
Christians and Jews conflicted over the choice of Messiah. The Jews were taught the spirit of revolt against Rome; the Christians were taught to submit to God's judgment and live at peace with all men, if possible.
This is the background of Paul's admonition to submit to the ruling authorities in Romans 13:1. Paul's teaching is based upon his belief in the absolute sovereignty of God, which he set forth in Romans 9.
Paul recognized that God Himself had placed Rome into its position of authority over them, for this was prophesied by Daniel. Rome had been given an unknown time period in which to exercise that authority. Where Daniel left off, John's book of Revelation continues the prophecy, giving greater details that Daniel had not been given.
Understanding the sovereignty of God, Paul concludes, "there is no authority except from God." Rome's authority was not based upon their army, but upon the divine mandate. God had raised up Rome as the fourth kingdom that was called to enslave the people of the Kingdom because of the sins of their forefathers. "Therefore, he who resists (Rome's) authority has opposed the ordinance (verdict or decree) of God."
Paul continues in Romans 13:2 and 3,
2 Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 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.
There is a difference between lawful authority and misused authority. Lawful authority is when the one authority has been appointed by a higher power and really does occupy that seat of authority. Someone who lawfully holds a position of authority may either use it according to the will of the higher power, or else misuse it for his own benefit.
In the case of misused authority, it is the responsibility of the higher power to make the correction or to remove his servant from his position. Those who are subject to authority have the right to appeal to that higher power, but they cannot revolt without revolting also against the higher power.
This issue becomes more complex when we believe that God is the highest Power and Sovereign. God claims ownership of the earth by right of creation (Jer. 27:5; Lev. 25:23). He invented the idea of authority in the earth (Gen. 1:26). He appointed Moses to his position of authority over Pharaoh, saying in Ex. 7:1, "See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh." The term god literally means "strong authority."
God appointed Joshua after him (Deut. 31:14), and many years later God chose Saul (1 Sam. 10:1) and then David (1 Sam. 16:1). Though imperfect, David did not abuse his position of authority, and when he did, he repented. On the other hand, Saul misused his authority without repenting. In both cases, God took the credit for anointing them as kings, and God judged both kings in His own manner.
Solomon, too, was genuinely called to be king, but he greatly misused his position of authority. When he died, the Israelites revolted against his son over high taxes without representation (1 Kings 12:14-16). This caused a breach in the Kingdom. God called Jeroboam to rule the northern kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 11:26-31), while Rehoboam was called to rule two tribes in the southern kingdom of Judah (1 Kings 11:36).
This revolt was fomented by God Himself, because He had decreed judgment upon the house of Solomon. Here is where the idea of submitting to lawful authority becomes complex and difficult for most people to understand readily. When is a revolt not a sin? The biblical answer is simple: It is not a sin when God Himself has decreed it, because in such a case the people are merely obeying the voice of God.
The tricky part is in knowing that God has indeed authorized such a revolt. It is too simplistic to claim that a ruler has misused his position. There will always be some who feel this way, no matter what a ruler does. Furthermore, God always gives men and rulers time to repent. Men do not usually know anything about timing, so they do not know the proper time to revolt, much less IF they should revolt at all. Apart from hearing God's voice, such things cannot be known, and in Scripture a revolt is to be determined, not by individuals hearing God's voice, but by the word of prophets who are recognized by the people and even by government as having that position.
From the standpoint of the people themselves, most of them function on a lower level of awareness and are motivated largely by their own political or economic interests. Believers generally look at some higher standards of right and wrong. Few of them understand the purposes of God or the divine plan. For example, Solomon's son did not understand the divine plan to strip him of ten tribes, for we read in 1 Kings 12:15,
15 So the king did not listen to the people [in their appeal for lower taxes]; for it was a turn of events from the Lord, that He might establish His word, which the Lord spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
In other words, God hardened the heart of King Rehoboam in order to cause the people to revolt. The people were concerned about high taxes without proper representation. God was concerned about the sins of Solomon.
America's Revolt against King George
The breach in the kingdom of Israel occurred when Solomon died in 931 B.C. It represented a split between Judah and Joseph, and between the Scepter and the Birthright. Many years later (13 x 210 years), God raised this issue once again. It occurred in the year 1776, when the Americans (representing Joseph) revolted against King George III of Britain (representing the throne of Judah/David) over high taxes without representation.
America won this conflict, and the kingdom was split once again. The Americans felt justified in revolting, because their petitions had gone unheeded. It was a virtual repeat of the situation in 1 Kings 12. America won their independence, and thus Americans have settled on the idea that revolting against the misuse of authority is righteous in the sight of God.
But is it really? It is only right if God decrees such a thing. Obviously, God did make such a decree in 1776, for the outcome proves it. The parallel found in 1 Kings 12 provides us with the double witness. But we see in the biblical story that the northern tribes of Israel were no more righteous than the southern tribes, nor was Israel's king more righteous than Judah's. Israel's success was not based upon their own righteousness, but rather upon the fact that God had judged the king of Judah.
So also was it in 1776. The Americans were no more righteous than their counterparts in England. Yet it was in the divine plan to bring judgment upon the king of England for his misuse of authority. Stepping back even further to look at the bigger picture, it was God's intent to re-create the breach in the kingdom—the same breach that He created in 1 Kings 12—in order to resolve the ancient breach and to unite the Scepter and the Birthright under one Head at the appointed time.
The repair of the breach between America and Britain is only a small part of a much bigger breach that God is repairing at the same time. It goes back to the breach between Israel and Judah and to the breach between the Birthright and the Scepter.
There are many other breaches that God is repairing as well. Ultimately, these are all repaired through Jesus Christ, who is prophesied in Hosea 1:11,
11 And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one Leader. . .
Paul Foresaw the Judean Revolt against Rome
In speaking of government authority, Paul says in Rom. 13:4,
4 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 upon the one who practices evil. 5 Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.
In the first century, Paul had to deal with two governments: Rome and Jerusalem. Neither was really "good" government insofar as biblical standards were concerned. Rome was pagan, and Jerusalem had usurped the Scepter of Judah from its rightful Heir, Jesus Christ. Somehow, Christians had to navigate between these two governmental forces in their lives.
Rome was the highest ruler of the day, ever since it had subjected Judea in 63 B.C. The political environment in Jerusalem, with which he was intimately familiar, was filled with the spirit of dissatisfaction and revolt. There had already come many messiahs, each claiming divine empowerment to throw off the yoke of Rome and set the people free.
Jesus had already prophesied the overthrow of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20-24) and the complete destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:2). He prophesied of the coming war and told His followers in Matt. 24:16 and 21, "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains . . . for then there will be a great tribulation." By the time Paul wrote his Roman epistle in 58 A.D., the Judean revolt against Rome was fast approaching. When the war finally began in 66 A.D., Paul and Peter were nearing the day of their deaths.
Because of these prophecies, the Church in Jerusalem fled at the first opportunity at the beginning of the war with Rome. Eusebius, the 4th century bishop of Caesarea, wrote of this:
"Furthermore, the members of the Jerusalem church, by means of an oracle given by revelation to acceptable persons there, were ordered to leave the City before the war began and settle in a town in Peraea called Pella. To Pella those who believed in Christ migrated from Jerusalem..." [Eusebius, The History of the Church, III, 5]
This flight from Jerusalem occurred only about eight years after Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans. He obviously knew Christ's prophecies, because his companion and scribe (Luke) wrote about it in his gospel. Paul was concerned that the Christians would be caught up by the spirit of patriotic revolt in the Roman war. He understood the message of Jeremiah and the prophecies of Daniel and knew that God had appointed the iron kingdom of Rome to rule Judea as part of the judgment against the people for making the temple a den of robbers (Jer. 7:11; Matt. 21:13).
If the people had accepted the divine judgment upon them and had cheerfully submitted to Rome, they would have found the Romans to be far less oppressive. God would have blessed them and made them prosper while in captivity. But there were too many "rotten figs" (Jer. 23) among them who stirred the people into revolt, telling them that God wanted them to be free. Such was a half truth, for God did indeed want them to be free. But sin brings judgment, and thus God sold them to Nebuchadnezzar and the four kingdoms of Daniel's prophecies.
God's purpose in selling Judah and Jerusalem into the hands of foreign rulers was to teach them the art of submitting to authority. The people had refused to submit to the authority and laws of God, so God put them into bondage to the laws of men. This was to show them by hard experience how oppressive men's laws are, and to make them realize that the laws of God are not as oppressive as they had previously believed.
Hence, these foreign rulers were ministers of God "for good." It is good because "all things work together for good" (Rom. 8:28). For this reason, Paul says in Rom. 13:5, "it is necessary to be in subjection." They were to submit to authority, not only because they feared the "sword" and the "wrath" of judicial displeasure, but also for the sake of conscience itself. In other words, their conscience should have told them, through the reading of the Word, that God was the One who gave authority to Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.
To revolt against any of these empires was to resist the authority of God Himself. In that light, revolting against Rome was evidence of Contempt of Court. To persist in such Contempt could result in the death penalty (Deut. 17:12), if the person did not repent after being warned. While few would have absolutely refused to obey the verdict of the court under such threat of wrath, the nation certainly was guilty of Contempt of Court when it revolted against Rome. This crime is what killed the nation of Judea in the first century.
Paul sought to warn the Christians to stay far away from that revolt which was already brewing in his day.
Paying Taxes to Ungodly Governments
Paul says in Rom. 13:6 and 7,
6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 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.
Viewing the world through the lens of the sovereignty of God changes the color of everything.
When we study the book of Judges, we view the various captivities of Israel from the divine perspective, rather than from the normal patriotic spirit of nationalism. We view God as the King of Kings, having the right to demand obedience to His Laws. He has the right to penalize us when we reject his rule and His laws.
In Judges 3:8 we read that God "sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia" because of Israel's refusal to be obedient. In the second captivity, we read that "the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord."
Never does Scripture indicate that Israel's captivity was caused by the power of the enemy. Never does it attribute a captivity to the intelligence or military might of the foreign invaders. God always takes credit for it, and the reason for captivity is always the same.
The only difference between then and now is that today the captivity is to a "mystery" power, that is, a secret or hidden power. In the time of the Judges, the captivities were always visible and open for all to see. Yet God's purpose in making the present captivity a "mystery" is to prevent us from making the same mistake that the people of Judah made in the days of Jeremiah. They saw the army of Babylon coming, and being patriotic but carnal in their thinking, they decided to fight. But God, in His mercy upon us, took into account our carnality and hid our captivity from the eyes of most people. That way, we submitted to the judgment of God and remained under the lighter yoke made of wood.
With every captivity throughout Scripture, the primary factor of the wooden yoke was "paying tribute," or TAXES. Hence, Judges 3:15 says of Ehud, "the sons of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab."
Americans do not like taxes. I am one of them. Our nation was essentially founded on a tax revolt, much like Israel revolted against the son of Solomon in 1 Kings 12. In 1776 the biblical pattern was Israel's revolt, and so we can understand the divine will and plan for that time. However, since 1914 the divine plan has shifted, because America fell into the same sin that had caused both Israel and Judah to go into captivity.
With this captivity to Mystery Babylon, marked by the signing of the Federal Reserve Act in 1914, God sold America into the hands of ungodly bankers. A short time later came the Income Tax Act of 1916, by which these new rulers exacted tribute from their new subjects in America.
We are without excuse, for God poured out His Spirit upon us from 1900-1910. The early Pentecostal movement had opportunity to change the hearts of the people and cause them to re-establish the rule of Jesus Christ in America. Yet in 1910 they denominationalized the move of the Spirit, rejected the direct rule of Jesus Christ, and installed men as little kings. This was the same problem that Israel had when they desired a king in the days of Samuel. There God told the prophet, "they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them" (1 Sam. 8:7).
God went on to reveal that the results would be that the king would be a TAKER. In other words, he would tax the people to support his carnal desires. Saul was crowned on the feast of Pentecost, called the day of "wheat harvest" (1 Sam. 12:17), and he is the classic Pentecostal type in the Old Testament. Saul is both a political and a religious figure. Throughout much of the Church Age, the Roman popes fulfilled the prophetic type of King Saul. But in the early 1900's the new Pentecostal denominations played the role of Saul as well.
The Pentecostal people themselves did not realize that in setting up a man over them, they were actually rejecting Christ as their King. Neither did they understand that they had been called to determine America's future and the future of much of the world. Thus, even as the denominations demanded tithes from their members, so also did the new Babylonian government demand taxes from all men.
Saul demanded the tithes from the people (1 Sam. 8:15) to pay for his government, and no doubt he legitimized his demands on the grounds that he had been anointed by Samuel. So also did the denominational leaders legitimize their claims to the tithe on the grounds that they were divinely called to rule the people in the place of Christ.
Samuel told the people that this new system of human government could actually work out alright, if they would follow God with all their hearts (1 Sam. 12:19-25). If the king understood that he was only the administrator of God's laws and decrees, then there would be no problem. But if he usurped power and ruled by his own carnal mind in rebellion against the laws of God, the ensuing oppression would judge the people.
In the rise of the Pentecostal movement in the early 1900's, the people came to believe that the law had been put away, or that it was evil. Somehow to them the Law of God appeared to conflict with the leading of the Spirit. They thought that one could be led by the Spirit without regard to the Law, not understanding that "the Law is spiritual" (Rom. 7:14) and that God does not command us to do something that conflicts with the Holy Spirit.
Thus, in rejecting the Law of God as well as the direct rule of Christ, the Pentecostal movement was unable to prevent the captivity that was to come shortly. While the denominations were being formed in 1910, the bankers were meeting on Jekyl Island to plan their takeover through the Federal Reserve Act, which was then passed in 1913 and signed into law in February of 1914.
The Income Tax Amendment was then passed in 1916, designed to make Americans pay tribute. It came in the guise of a tax on corporate "income" only, but in practice, it was soon applied to personal "wages" as well.
It is not our purpose here to discuss the various ways of avoiding taxes, but I will say as a general principle that the government distinguishes between tax evasion and tax avoidance. There are lawful ways to avoid paying taxes, and it is both legal and morally acceptable to do so.
Yet in the big picture, we should recognize that God has taken credit for the overthrow of the Republic and for subjecting us to the secret government of Mystery Babylon. It is my purpose as a Bible teacher to impart understanding so that we may repent of the CAUSES of this captivity. It is not our calling to overthrow those to whom God has sold us for our sin. It is our calling to repent from the sins of our forefathers, which caused God to bring such judgment upon us and upon the whole world.