God has created two “sides” in human history: the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). The Son of God, Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and man, is the Head of the seed of the woman. Satan, the prince of this fallen age, is the head of the seed of the serpent. The historical identity of these two sides is progressively revealed in Scripture. The seed of the woman is known as the righteous, believers, the godly, the daughter of Zion, the sheep, the Bride of Jesus Christ, the church of Jesus Christ, the new Israel of God, the city of God. The seed of the serpent is called the wicked, goats, tares, and by extrapolation, the city of man. There is no third side. As Jesus said: “He that is not with me, is against me” (Matt. 12:30). Nebuchadnezzar’s vision summarizes this fundamental division. All the kingdoms and expressions of the city of man, of Satan and his mad attempt to resist God, are united into one colossus, one statue of various strengths that develop in various epochs of history. Then, one little stone, which is not of human origin, topples the statue, then grows into the true colossus of history, the kingdom of God. Practically speaking, every man, woman, and child is either part of man’s colossus that is toppled and blown away, or built upon the rock that is Jesus Christ.
History must be interpreted along these lines. In other words, it must be interpreted absolutely by God’s revelation of what is happening: unbelieving man trying to rebuild his colossus, or believing man seeking first God’s eternal kingdom and righteousness. Since the Enlightenment, which was Satan’s dark response to the Reformation, the church has not consistently or clearly seen each conflict in history along these two lines. Other divisions, which foster other methods, have been designated; liberal and conservative seems to be most preferred in the present. Most men, even within the church, no longer see history as the conflict between these two seeds, with Jesus Christ already victorious and reigning, and the city of man doomed to progressive weakness and destruction.
One reason for our dullness is the slowness of the growth of self-consciousness of these two sides. Both sides are composed of men. The righteous, as Paul teaches in Romans 7, are never as good as they want to be, and still struggle with indwelling sin. The wicked often find that prosperity requires them to adopt at least some of the trappings of the city of God, for unbelieving principles simply will not work for long in God’s world. The wicked will often feign friendship with God’s people, hoping that some of their success and blessing will rub off on them. Much of our American political system manifests such “borrowing,” which is one reason there is so much confusion about whether our original system was truly Christian or a hybrid of unbelief and belief, with unbelief being the root. For my part, I adopt the latter.
Sometimes, however, there are seasons of harvest, when the roots bear fruit, when God in his providence and mercy brings the two sides to greater self-awareness of their deadly antithesis. Only in very severe periods of conflict is this self-awareness expressed at the presuppositional level: as between the Reformation and the Enlightenment. Both sides usually try to get along as best they can, at least in broader society, else there could be no peace. If pressed too hard, the seed of the woman, the church of Jesus Christ, is aroused to the realization that she is hated, as her Lord warned, pulls out of the burning city of man, and watches God bring judgment upon it. This has happened many times over the past two millennia. Thus, the seed of the serpent deceives, schemes, and soothes. Let us get along, work together, and put aside ultimate commitments for the greater good of prosperity and peace. We are too enlightened to allow religious differences to divide us.
But God’s original word of enmity must prevail, and the uneasy peace must sometimes be more evidently broken (Gen. 3:15). Remember that in the midst of this conflict, Daniel’s stone “made without hands,” the Stone of Stumbling and Rock of Offense, the Son of God incarnate, was born, died for our sins, brought in everlasting righteousness, and fundamentally destroyed the works of Satan (1 John 3:8). He is the promised Heir of all things. He will divide the spoil with the strong. Every high thing that exalts itself against him must be exposed, toppled, and blown into the dust bin of history. To exalt his Son, God directs that old deceiver to overplay his losing hand. The city of man begins to persecute the righteous. Significant moral differences expose the radically opposing underlying principles: belief verses unbelief, love for God versus hatred of him and his word, submission to Jesus Christ versus rebellion against him; purity versus perversity. The church is aroused from her slumbers. She feels that there is no ultimate prosperity and peace to be found by living contentedly under the shadows of the walls of Nebuchadnezzar’s colossus. She begins to feel her danger, that she has been deceived, that Satan’s unwilling agents of smooth talking, common ground, and “let us be understanding and tolerant” were really plotting for her destruction all along. She returns to the Bible. She calls upon God with urgency. From the Living Vine, she draws strength to resist, refuses to compromise, and suffers for a time. God responds by coming with vengeance upon his enemies, chastening yet purifying the Bride of his Son. One more layer of purity, righteousness, and faith is laid upon the immeasurably high and glorious walls of the city of God.
This may seem esoteric, so allow me to bring it down to earth. We may be seeing a season of growing self-awareness between the two sides. The battle lines are becoming clearer now, so that even the most sluggish should realize that something is terribly wrong with the system, with the underlying principles of the city of man. Natural law and pluralism should never have been trusted. They yield perverse and fragmented families, freely available, unspeakable filth, and political pluralism, which is idolatry. Satan’s real colors are unmasked when government policies of supposedly peace-loving nations result in the wholesale displacement and persecution of the church. There will be no tolerance for those who are intolerant of unbelief and wickedness. We squirm a little. How can we support a government that intends to bomb a region – unprovoked, illegally – when many Christians will be killed as a result? We realize: whatever flag is being flown, whatever causes are being invoked, Satan hates the church: here, there, everywhere. He hates Jesus Christ. Feed the beast here, and it can wreak havoc upon the church in other lands. With the power it gains through aggression, it can then turn its sights upon Christian homeschoolers, churches that will not permit gay and lesbian weddings, and businesses that will not do business when it violates their conscience. One thing is certain: the other side, the seed of the serpent, is definitely coming to greater self-consciousness of what it will take to win (it thinks). Marginalize, vilify, then crush dissent; crush Jesus Christ, his word, and his Bride. Satan is behind this: bound but still stalking. He uses the unwitting, the well-meaning, and the hardened alike. He cares not. He hates everyone. He only wants to kill and maim and tear as many as possible.
For us, the question is whether the seed of the woman, the church of Jesus Christ, is coming to greater self-consciousness. If the pressures we are feeling and the events we are witnessing with horror are leading us to call upon God with faith and passion, if we are confessing “Jesus Christ is Lord,” if we are seeking to live more righteously, then, yes, we are awakening. A brighter day is coming. Jesus Christ is building his church. If, however, we are hoping that some knight on a white horse in the city of man will ride out and save the day, we are still sound asleep. There is only one Rider on a white horse to whom we should be looking: the risen Lamb of God, with his garments dripping with the blood of his enemies (Rev. 19:11-16).
Confessing, loving, and serving him, we must be more consistent with our ultimate commitments, not more open to compromise. Reject pluralism and embrace theocracy or Christocracy – the rule of God and of his Christ over all (Rev. 11:15). When hated, we must love. When encouraged to buy into the methods and goals of the nice people in the city of man, polite decline are our Savior’s marching orders. This may seem suicidal, that the church must go along in order to survive. This is unbelief talking, treachery whispering. There is only one King, and all the kings of the land, and all men from the highest to the lowest, must give him heartfelt allegiance, or feel his wrath. He will prevail. He is marching now, stirring his enemies to greater heights of impiety and violence and treachery, so that their fall may be all the more devastating. He is allowing his people to be persecuted so that we will be awakened from our slumbers and call upon his name. He will ride forth to our defense. Awaken, sleepers! The Lamb marches forth! And who may abide the day of his coming, or stand before his appearing?