NORTH KOREA – A WARNING BELL?

The last blog featured the apocalyptic horsemen of Revelation.  Apocalyptic though it may have been, it spoke clearly about the world we live in!  This week’s blog features a real life illustration of the warning behind one of those apocalyptic horsemen.  I have in mind the current North Korean threat which seems only too well to relate to the red horseman who took peace away from the world.

Why has such small country, exactly half the size of the UK and with less than half the population of the UK, suddenly become the source of much apprehension and alarm in the world?  It has become a powder keg big enough to blow apart the delicate balance between much greater super-powers who have atomic weapons and have learned, so far at any rate, to live without using them.

The first reason we can give is that North Korea is geographically in a prime strategic position between China and the USA. The USA has great influence in the Far East on account of its military presence and connection with South Korea and Japan.  This has always been an embarrassment to the rapidly developing China. North Korea (attached to the Chinese border) is something of a buffer against this USA presence and China watches North Korea’s independence of the USA very closely and jealously.  The Chinese are not prepared for North Korea to come under American influence. This has been the case ever since the Chinese unleashed their army to control North Korea in the early 1950s when the US army looked like taking the whole of Korea from the communists. The border between North and South remains an impregnable flash point nearly 70 years later. Thus, because of its communist affinities with China and because of its border with China, North Korea has been able to develop relatively undisturbed, and in particular able to develop its atomic weaponry.  Hidden and shielded it has grown into a monster.

Perhaps a more crucial explanation of its present threatening behaviour lies in the nature of the political structure and its philosophy which has developed since 1948 when the North was separated from the South by a U.N. resolution.  In the seventy years from that resolution there have been three generations of ruthless autocratic government centred on one family.  Their power is absolute and the veneration of them is constantly demanded of the people (and seemingly willingly given); two huge statues of the two “Kim”s that have died are placed in the area of the central government buildings and Koreans constantly kneel before these statues. Elsewhere there are 70 bronze statutes and tens of thousands of other monuments of the founding Kim further encouraging this pseudo-religious personality cult.  The founder is called the “Eternal President” and his son “The Eternal General Secretary”.  It is a type of idolatry that recalls the Pharaohs of Egypt and other god-like rulers of history. This is a communism with an extraordinary idolatrous twist.

Alongside this, the vulnerability of the nation has inevitably led to an autocracy which is very heavily militaristic.  For its size North Korea has an enormously powerful army, ready and fully equipped, presenting a massive threat to South Korea. The military is the one great boast of the regime to its people.  This is part of the ideology of “Juche” (self-determination or self-reliance and “action with reference to no other power”).  All this has been achieved through immense deprivation among the people of North Korea. The development of atomic weaponry which is a threat to the USA is a crucial part of this militarism.  It is seen to be a critical factor in undergirding the regime, and it will allow North Korea to put enormous pressure on South Korea and even to get it under the North’s control.  The unification of Korea has always been a prime aim of the Kim.

After so many years of such entrenchment and development the fact is that the world is in very real danger; a deluded autocrat with an iron grip on his country and with a deadly ambition of the most destructive type is a world threat.  The present Kim is more likely to die in the destruction his ambition brings than to give it up.  Talking to him is highly unlikely to bring about a change of mind;  and mockery of Kim by the USA at Presidential level is certainly not helpful; it can only harden the determination of the dictator.

However, there is one great weakness for the regime.  It is not in any way a self-sufficient economy; indeed it has been very heavily dependent on outside aid and support from its inception. Starving the economy of an already starving population would inevitably bring huge pressure on the regime. China, though reluctantly, is at last tightening its grip and making its sanctions bite (this week it has sent home all the N. Korean business men – or so it seems).  The question is whether the sanctions will achieve their aim and prevent Kim getting together his atomic warhead and long range missiles or whether they will be too late. The situation is critically poised.

What I have written so far is an analysis of the human factors in the situation; is there a “spiritual analysis?  We might make a start in that direction by asking how it is possible that men of the stamp of Kim, deluded and destructive, gain power and control?  Why do they appear? History has always been full of them.  The 20th century had a surfeit of such rulers, and the 21st century is following suit.  The answer lies fundamentally in the fact that “the whole world lies in the hand of the evil one”. “The Prince of this world” is active in the human principalities and powers (rulers and leaders) of this world by means of the principalities and powers of the unseen world.  The “unseen spiritual powers” impinge on the “visible human powers” and bring their evil character to them.  So this world’s rulers very frequently live through imposing fear and violence both on their own domain and on others.  Satan’s imprint is to be seen in many other ways.  We need to give full weight to the fact that Satan was able to offer all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus in an effort to thwart the coming of the Kingdom of God.  Sadly this kind of fundamental truth is all too often lost in much of our secularised Christian thinking.  But Satan is the Prince of this world, a world ruler, and he has placed many tyrants in power in that world. Thankfully it is also true that God is God and has the ultimate rule over the world and over the Prince of this world and what he can do.  When God allows Satan to raise up destructive leadership in nations (or even confusion in a nation) it is always in order that God’s purposes might be fulfilled.  In particular he allows such happenings as a form and measure of judgement on the world.  We have very clear examples of this in the rise of Assyria and Babylon in Old Testament history.  It is God who writes the essential narratives of history, and he is writing our current history! “His judgements are in all the world”!

Professional historians are given to debating whether events are caused by momentary human decisions or by long term trends or by some combination of both. For them God is not a factor. And for all their historical knowledge they can never be accurate in forecasting events. But for us God is the fundamental factor, the key to proper understanding of events.  Thus with regard to the present great danger, we cannot say for sure how the Korean threat will ultimately work out. Any number of contingencies are possible, some leading to peace, some to destructive war. But the essential fact is that God holds the reins . The decisions that matter are always made in the courts of heaven, not in the ruling bodies of humanity.  It is for this reason that we must address ourselves to having a clear spiritual analysis and, as a watchman for the world, to seeking God for his mercy.

The one thing we may be sure of is that the situation with Korea is a warning bell from God!

 

Bob Dunnett

“THERE WILL BE WARS AND RUMOURS OF WARS”

This blog comes to you in Holy Week. The title and subject hardly sounds appropriate! It looks much more like an everyday current newspaper heading. Perhaps a more devotional or religious topic would be preferable? On a closer look, however, it is really very much more appropriate than it might first seem. To begin with, these much quoted words came from the lips of Jesus and, furthermore, they were spoken right in the middle of Holy Week, only a day or so away from his crucifixion. How did that happen? Why at that time?

You may remember that last week’s blog on the subject of Palm Sunday revealed Jesus in awesome prophetic mode, riding on a donkey and deliberately fulfilling a prophecy of Zechariah concerning his messianic kingship, and then prophesying with tears the downfall of Jerusalem. That “prophetic cloak” rested on him throughout the week that followed. At one point during that week, as he was leaving the temple the disciples were speaking of the wonder of its construction.  Jesus abruptly told them that every stone of that temple would be “thrown down” Matt 24:2ff; he was re-iterating the Palm Sunday prophecy about the fate of Jerusalem.  The disciples wanted to know when that would happen, and more significantly what would be “the sign of his coming and the end of the age”, since to them the destruction of Jerusalem would equate with the end of the age. That was a serious question; when would this age end, when would Jesus show his full glory and the Kingdom of righteousness come? Jesus chose to give them a full and serious answer. He was glad to give them a vision beyond the cross.

He spoke first of the coming of false messiahs, famines, earthquakes and wars among nations. That would be the unhappy shape of life in the world in the future, but none of those things would be a sign of the “end”, or of his coming. As far as “wars among nations” is concerned many idealists and earnest peacemakers have tried to bring wars to an end, but have never succeeded. On the contrary the fact is that since Jesus spoke these words, every generation has seen war somewhere in the world. The 20th century attempts to prevent war in the shape of the League of Nations and the United Nations, grandiose and far reaching as they are, have not succeeded. World leaders have always made treaties, and always broken them. I am writing in Holy week and even as I write an American strike on Syria has just heightened tensions in a war-torn Middle East, whilst at the same time a task force is on its way in the Pacific toward North Korea, and this  is not to mention the terrorist strikes in Sweden and Egypt this same week. The current “rumours” are very serious. Such is the way of a sinful world where there is always more than a few self-seeking, power-seeking, ambitious and unprincipled leaders at the head of the nations.  Jesus’ comment about wars was, “these things must happen but see to it that you are not alarmed”. That is a call to trust and to pray, a call to patience. No wonder Paul instructed Timothy with these words: “I urge, then, first of all that petitions prayers, intercessions be made …. for kings and all those in authority, that we might live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” 1 Tim. 2:1. Only the restraint of God can bring about some sort of peace.

The bombing of two Egyptian churches on Palm Sunday not only points to wars involving terror, but also to another aspect of Jesus’ reply to his disciples about what was to come. He underlined very clearly the persecution to which Christians would be subjected: “You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated of all nations because of me” Matt. 24:9. In a few short and very recent years many tens of thousands of Christians in the Middle East have been dispossessed of their homes, and many have lost their lives, simply because they are Christians. There has been much suffering. One thing is certain; it is not inappropriate to Easter to dwell on Jesus’ words concerning the persecution of his church. Quite the contrary: His sufferings and death were unique, but the church’s trials nonetheless reflect his sufferings to a degree. An article in a leading newspaper today in Holy week has made a plea for the world and its leaders to recognise how much Christians are being persecuted world-wide, and not to continue to ignore it. It is unfortunately a matter much glossed over.

But none of these future things Jesus had mentioned would be a “sign of the end”! They “would only be the beginning of trials“. However, in sharp contrast Jesus did clearly speak of a sign that would indeed herald “the end”. He said, “This gospel will be preached in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”. Matt. 24:14. The end would not come until a world-wide spiritual harvest had been gathered. In saying this, Jesus was putting a focus on the real work that lay ahead of the disciples; they were being challenged with the task of speaking out the good news right across the world. Until that happened the end would not come, but when it had happened the end would come, he would return. It was something to really watch for. This, of course, was an audacious prophecy by Jesus. He had a small following, he was due to be crucified and would leave a hapless, fearful, band. It seemed utterly absurd. Yet here we are this week celebrating Easter along with millions of Christians world-wide. What a vindication of Jesus’ prophetic ministry! What a matter of thanksgiving! We are watching a sign being fulfilled. Perhaps we are “at the beginning of the end”? We should not forget at any rate that it is our work of “mission” that will bring about the end! We are involved.

Finally, Jesus told the disciples that at the coming destruction of Jerusalem the Jews would be dispersed throughout the whole world. (Lk. 21:24). An astounding prediction, and remarkably fulfilled! It is important for Christians to know and understand the history of the Jewish people; it has many lessons to teach. It is very appropriate, as is the custom of some Christians, to pray particularly for Jewish people at Easter. But he spoke of a hope for those people when he said the “trampling down of Jerusalem by gentiles would come to an end when the harvest of the gentiles had been fully gathered in” – an enigmatic comment but full of meaning and well worth contemplating in our age!

Have a very happy and thoughtful Easter.

Bob

P.S. If you want to pursue further the themes above please go to pamphlets 46 and 47

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