The teachings of Jesus Christ show incredible intelligence and wisdom of design, including the separation of church and state. In Matthew 22:15-21, Jesus responded to a question about this issue by saying, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Romans 13:1-7 instructs Christians to submit to and honor local authority, but there is no command for the Church to get involved in political activity. The Roman government was one of the most brutal and abusive political systems to ever exist on this planet, but Christians did not attempt to change it politically.
The Russian war on Ukraine has shown the consequences when churches get involved in politics. The Russian Orthodox Church has 260 million adherents, half of them living in Ukraine and half in Russia. The Russian leader of the Orthodox Church is Patriarch Kirill, who has supported Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. As a result, 350 Russian Orthodox priests have rebelled against Kirill, and the Orthodox Churches in Ukraine have left the control of Kirill to form the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The fundamental problem is that the Orthodox Church has moved away from the Bible as a source of authority, replacing it with human patriarchs who dictate doctrine and follow traditions. Relying on human wisdom and politics instead of God’s Word has resulted in the Orthodox Church’s present situation.
Jesus taught a message of peace, love, and service to fellow human beings no matter their politics or national identity. When humans depend on human values instead of God’s Word, the result is conflict at all levels. The situation in Ukraine is a lesson for Christians throughout the world. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). The separation of church and state is not only biblical but essential to the well-being of the followers of Jesus.
Any rational human being has to be horrified by the tragic acts of Vladimir Putin as he orchestrates a military attack on innocent people. As Putin directs the killing of babies, he is also causing incredible loss of resources needed for the peace and well-being of millions of people. This is the act of a madman drunk with power and in total rejection of God. In America, we are disheartened by teachers of end-times religion. Those people are supposed to be Christian leaders, but they are showing incredible ignorance of the teachings of Jesus.
End-times religion is based on the doctrine of dispensationalism. One of the best known of these leaders is Pat Robertson. He claims that Putin “is being compelled by God to invade Ukraine, but that wasn’t his goal. His goal was to move against Israel.” Robertson attempts to base his claim on his interpretation of Old Testament prophesy.
Robertson is just one of several end-times religion preachers who misinterpret prophesy and fail to understand what the Kingdom of Christ is all about. It is “Christian Zionism,” which promotes the idea that Jesus is going to return in something called the “rapture” to take his people away. The doctrine says that He will return to conduct a war against Arab countries, Russia, China, and Iran. Then He will establish Israel as the one world power with Jerusalem as the world’s capital and Jesus as the supreme king. This teaching is destructive, and it opposes the Bible on every turn.
The word “rapture” comes from the Latin “raptus,” which is the translation of the Greek word “harpazo,” meaning to be caught up or caught away. We find “harpazo” used in Acts 8:39, 2 Corinthians 12:2, and Revelation 12:5. Christian Zionists misuse Matthew 24:39-41; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; and 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 as references to back up their teaching. There are several versions of this teaching, but they are all in contradiction to the words of Jesus, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
The biblical picture of Christ’s second coming is not political, nationalistic, or geographic. Second Peter 3:10-12 indicates the entire physical universe will be annihilated. Revelation 20:1 and 21:1 tell us that the cosmos and Earth will vanish. This material world will be dissolved, and all the ills that go with it will be gone.
End-times religion conveys a discouraging false promise. None of us wants more war, pain, politics, hate, racism, pollution, or tears. The invasion of Ukraine is the result of atheism, greed, power struggles, and materialism conducted by a madman. It is not endorsed by God, and it opposes all that Jesus taught. Jesus weeps with us at the pain inflicted by Satan’s agents as they show that they are without compassion or empathy.
One thing that distinguishes humans is our extensive use of symbols for communication. The ancient Persians were amazed to see life come from an egg, a seemingly dead object. They presented each other with eggs at the spring equinox, marking the beginning of a new year. In the Western world, eggs became a symbol of spring and the start of a new year on April 1, until 1582, when the Gregorian calendar moved the New Year to January 1. People who refused to accept the new calendar were called “April Fools.”
It was a natural thing for religions to use eggs as symbols. In Judaism, eggs are an essential part of the Passover seder plate. People who celebrated Lent, when they could not eat eggs for 40 days, collected eggs and decorated them with vegetable dye. Crimson eggs honored the blood of Christ. In parts of Eastern Europe, people put intricate designs on eggs with wax resist technique before coloring. Those intricately decorated eggs are called pysanky and are still common in Ukraine today. In Germany, people pierce eggs and hollow them to hang them from trees during Easter week.
The New Testament shows the use of symbols for communication. In Matthew 26:26-30, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, which Paul refers to as a symbol in 1 Corinthians 11:23-30. Peter tells us that baptism is a “like figure,” or symbol, of the kind of salvation that Noah received (1 Peter 3:20-21). Symbols can change their meaning. In Acts 18:24-19:5, we see baptism changing from a symbol of John’s baptism of repentance to Jesus Christ’s baptism to wash away sins.
Problems come when a symbol used in one culture is misinterpreted in a different culture or time. A classic example of that is in Revelation. Twentieth-century Christians often misinterpret symbols in that book that first-century Christians would have understood. Only by studying the symbols’ meaning when the author wrote the book can we get an accurate picture of what they meant. Using symbols for communication only works when we all understand the meaning.