"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VIII No.I Pg.58-60
June 1945

VIII. Civil Government And Universal Empire

T. B. Wilkinson

Universal empire is civil government but not altogether what the Lord intended when he ordained civil government for man. Universal empire is not government with the consent of the governed, it is government based upon pagan power alone, the power of the sword. The great mass of humanity are held in a kind slavery, and lose the dominion God gave them. This prevents the development of the proper kind of civil government, the kind God ordained for man, and leads to many evils common among which is idol worship.

God broke up the first effort of man to form a universal empire at the Tower of Babel by a miracle, usually referred to as the confusion of tongues. But he probably formed the different races by the same miracle, and scattered them over the face of the earth. This confusion of tongues, and the creation of the races, would prevent another effort to form a universal empire for many centuries, and would result in the formation of many independent civil governments in different parts of the world, of the kind ordained of God. The Lord had a use for these nations. He used them as checks upon each other, one nation used to discipline another. The materialist overlooks the hand of God in the development of the nations, and sees only the hand of man, but God has been present in them from the beginning.

Perhaps the next near approach to universal empire was in Egypt, and it had reached a high state in the days of Moses. But it was not universal in the proper sense, where were many other governments in the world in the days of the Pharaohs, among them Mesopotamia, and many small ones near by including the one to which Moses fled to escape the wrath of the King of Egypt. Then the Assyrian Empire became great, and Mesopotamia, at a date before Babylon became the first nation strong enough to merit the title of a universal empire. These nations had great armies which they sent out in wars of conquest, and were feared by other nations.

These wars of conquest were against smaller nations who had incurred the enmity of the greater nation, or who had something in the way of goods and chattels which

they coveted. They were often wars of extermination, only those who could flee to the mountains and forests escaped death, or slavery, and the property of the conquered nations were carried back to enrich the mother country, along with men, women and children, to be used as slave labor. Babylon seems to have been the first nation to bring the idea of universal empire to a more perfect state, and it is in this Empire that we are able to see more clearly the hand of God working in the midst of it. After Babylon, only three other such empires ever existed, and we know from Daniel's prophecy that no others will ever exist.

While the evidence is clear that God recognized them as civil governments, and worked through them for man's good, the evidence is also clear that He was not pleased with such a development. It was not in harmony with his plan when He ordained civil government for man. It led in the direction of human slavery, idolatry, despotism, oppression, ignorance for the masses, and other evils which are the natural products of human slavery.

Therefore it was while Babylon was in her greatest glory that God spake the doom of such empire through his prophet Daniel. The King had a dream in which he saw a mighty image, it had a head of gold, arms and breast of silver, belly of brass, and legs and feet of iron, mixed with miry clay. This showed how many such empires the world would know, and why. The kingdom of God would come to earth, and smite the image on its feet, and destroy the image. They would become chaff before the wind, and no place would be found for them. God's kingdom did come, and it smote the image on the feet, and introduced such ideas of human liberty and freedom, and human responsibility to God as to make such human governments impossible.

But it did not smite civil government of the kind God ordained for man, just because man had corrupted it. It did restore, and make possible for mankind the kind of civil government which God intended when he gave it. Satan did the same thing to the church which Jesus and his apostles established in the world, he led it off into apostasy. But God did not forsake the church, nor count the work of His own hands an unclean thing just because Satan led it into apostasy. He still loved His church and it is here today saving souls as never before.

We cannot help but see the parallel between the manner in which Satan corrupted the church, and the manner in which he corrupted civil government when he led it into universal empire. There is the same appeal to human pride and the vainglory of this world, the same concentration of power we find in the papacy we also find in universal empire. It was an easy road to lead ambitious men into, and to human wisdom it looks more promising than the road the Lord planned. But man could not see to the end of that road, he could not see the pitfalls, nor the sin and corruption to which it led. All he could see was the worldly glory it promised, and if it led through rivers of blood that only added to its glory.

It was only after these pagan, empires were smitten by the kingdom of God, and scattered like chaff before the wind, that the civil governments of the kind ordained of God could again begin to develop in the world, just as it was only after the papacy was smitten that the church of the Lord could again emerge from the great night of darkness into which it had been plunged.

Men's attitude toward war has changed all over the world during the present decade. Ninety per cent of the nations of the earth are not only tired of perpetual wars, but are determined to do something toward seeing that they shall not occur. Ninety per cent are ready to lay the sword to rest forever, and to do something to see that the other ten per cent leaves it at rest. Why not? We use the sword to curb criminals at home and keep peace between our citizens, why not use it to keep peace between the nations? God gave us that sword. He gave no nation a sword to make wars, or raise wars of conquest, but he did give civil governments a sword to keep the peace by executing wrath upon evildoers.

Daniel's prophecy covers all time from the head of gold to the feet and legs of iron mixed with miry clay, and this is the image he said the kingdom of God would destroy. This embraces the four universal empires which ruled the whole world, and no more. To force it to include more is to misuse it. It cannot include the civil governments which preceded the image, nor those which have followed it. The kingdom of God would smite this image on the feet and destroy it. It would destroy not only the feet, but the entire image, the belly of brass, the breast of silver, and the head of gold. It would destroy the ideal of universal empire.

You may wonder how it could destroy those empires which had been destroyed already by the carnal sword, or why mention them since they had long since been destroyed. But they had not really been destroyed, that is the weakness of the carnal sword when separated from proper ideals. Taken alone it can destroy, crush, and punish, but will not destroy the ideals of evildoers. It cannot produce moral reforms unless it is combined with moral ideals. The pagan sword lacks all moral ideals, but the sword God gave civil government always has moral ideals. The gospel furnishes the world with the moral ideals which those pagan powers lacked. In their case it was a mere matching of carnal power, Cyrus did not overcome Babylon because it was evil, he coveted the riches and glory which Babylon had. In each case it was a mere transfer of pagan power from one ruler to another, powers of the same kind.

But the kingdom of God, when it came, planted a different idea of government in the world. It was to be over all other governments, but it was to be over them through the ideals it planted in them through the gospel. Jesus was made head of all government when he ascended on high, King of kings and Lord of lords. From that time his was to be the only universal empire in this world, and it would be effected through the gospel he gave. He was to rule over the governments of this world through the gospel. It would be foolish to claim that he now rules all of them in all of their acts, but it would be equally as foolish to deny that the principles of the gospel have not permeated them, and like the leaven hidden in the meal is gradually leavening the whole lump.

The kingdom of heaven did not destroy the Roman Empire the very day it was established in the world, it does not work that way. But it set in motion the leavening power which did destroy it, and Jesus went back to heaven, from henceforth expecting until his enemies be made his footstools. The same gospel influence, and principles, which destroyed universal empire from the earth, brought back to it independent civil governments of the kind God ordained for man. Representative government in which man in the generic has the dominion, and is responsible to God for the kind it is. The gospel did root up the one kind of government, and banish it from the earth, never to return, but it fosters and encourages the other kind, and they have not been rooted up, nor will be while man needs them. God ordained the latter kind for man's good, and gave him dominion in them.

I have mentioned the weakness of the carnal sword when separated from moral ideals. That is the weakness of paganism, and always has been. That is a mere matching of carnal power in which the strong overcomes the weak. It only proves one thing, it proves which pagan power is the strongest. But it does not lead to permanent peace, nor work any moral good to any one. Time will shift the balance of power, the weak will became strong, and the strong weak, and the same struggle will be renewed on a bigger and grander scale.

Let us apply this principle to the war we are now fighting. If we are fighting this war just to overcome Germany and Japan, and demonstrate our power over them, we are fighting it in vain. If our ideals in this war are the same as theirs, victory for us would mean no more to the world than victory for them would mean. If we have ideals of conquest, and power over others, as they have, we are not better than they are, and no more pleasing to God. But we have different ideals, we have ideals which were planted in us by the gospel of Jesus. We have ideals of human liberty, freedom to worship God without let or hindrance. They are fighting a war that broke the peace of the world, we are fighting to restore peace to the world, and bring an end to war.

They are using the sword of Satan, we are using the sword of God. The difference is the difference between God and Satan, between heaven and hell, between the gospel of Jesus and paganism. All we ask of them is to lay down Satan's sword, and we are ready to help them back to the ways of peace. While they wield the sword of Satan we must wield the sword of God, for we are His ministers, trusted with this sword for this very purpose. We are ready to help them heal their wounds which they have unwittingly brought upon themselves. We always have been ready, and we have always helped them, and never did harm them.

All we ask when they are ready to lay down Satan's sword is permanent peace for the world among all nations great and small. We will help to feed their hungry people, clothe their naked, and rebuild their economic life which they have so ruthlessly thrown away. Is this gospel principle, is this what Jesus preached? This is what we are fighting for, and all we are fighting for. Is this returning good for evil? Is this doing good unto them which despitefully use us? We will do all of this, and much more, when they lay down Satan's sword, and return to peace.