Should Christians obey authorities? What about if those authorities are corrupt and evil? This question will become more and more important as our society and governments continue to go downhill. It will be even more important for those people who must live during the Tribulation time when the Antichrist rules the world. I would like to examine what the Bible says about authority and how Christians should respond to it, in hopes of learning how to deal with authority in a godly way.
The Bible Says to Obey Authority
For a starting reference point, lets look at the clear statements about obeying authority that are contained in the Bible:
- "The Lord wants you to obey all human authorities, especially the Emperor, who rules over everyone. You must also obey governors, because they are sent by the Emperor to punish criminals and to praise good citizens." (2 Peter 13-14)
- "Remind your people to obey the rulers and authorities and not to be rebellious." (Titus 3:1)
- "Obey the rulers who have authority over you. Only God can give authority to anyone, an he puts these rulers in their places of power. People who oppose the authorities are opposing what God has done, and they will be punished. Rulers are a threat to evil people, not to good people. There is no need to be afraid of the authorities. Just do right and they will praise you for it. After all, they are God's servants and it is their duty to help you."(Romans 13:1-4)
- "You must also pay your taxes. The authorities are God's servants, and it is their duty to take care of these matters. Pay all that you owe, whether it is taxes and fees or respect and honor." (Romans 13:6-7)
Additionally, Jesus did not challenge the authority of Herod or of Pontius pilate, or even the Sanhedrin, when he was being tried and put to death. The apostles obeyed the authorities and went to jail when they were arrested for preaching about Jesus. However, God used both of these situations for good. Jesus could have called down armies of angels to rescue him (Matthew 26:53), but knew that it was part of God's plan to be arrested and die. Paul used his time under house arrest in Rome to preach to many Roman soldiers and spread the news about Jesus (Acts 28:30-31).
There Are Times to Disobey Authorities
Yes, we should give authorities respect if they are enforcing good laws which go along with God's laws, and we should pay taxes so that our countries can run and pay for public services. However, I believe one of the most telling passages about when to obey authorities and when not to is: "Give the emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God." (Luke 20:25). If the authorities are demanding what belongs to God, instead of just what belongs to them, then they have crossed the line and should no longer be obeyed. What is it that belongs to God? "Do not worship any god except me. Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth. Don't bow down and worship idols. I am the Lord your God, and I demand all your love."(Exodus 20:3-5).
There are many times when the leaders have tried to be worshipped as God, or have interfered with worshipping God, and this is not right. We will see several examples of this is the Old Testament, and will again see this in the future when the Antichrist comes to power. These types of authorities should not be followed at all costs. I believe authorities should also not be obeyed if they require a person to go against any of the 10 commandments. If the authority asks you to do anything that would cause harm to another person, it is wrong. If they give you a gun and say to shoot innocent people, or to hand over people to the state to be murdered or tortured, this is wrong. If they tell you that you must cheat on your spouse (I can't imagine why, but you never know), that is wrong. These are just a few examples of when it would be wrong to obey authorities.
Biblical Examples of Disobeying Authority
We can learn more about obeying authority from several interesting examples in the Bible. There were times when people have legitimately disobeyed authority and were right to do so. Let's examine some of those times.
- Esther - the king approved a law requiring all Jews to be killed (Esther 3:10). Esther was chosen by God to become queen, and used her position to petition the king to repeal this law and saved her people. This is a good example of how Christians can peacefully and legally challenge laws. However, there may be times when this does not always work.
- David - King Saul attempted to kill him many times. David fled into the desert and hid out there. Even when he had the chance to kill Saul, he refused to, because he recognized that Saul had been chosen king by God (1 Samuel chapter 24).
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - refused to worship the golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar and were thrown into a furnace. God protected them even in the furnace, and not even their clothes were burned.(Daniel chapter 3)
- Daniel - king Darius approved a law that made it illegal to pray to anyone but Darius for 30 days. Daniel knew it was wrong to not pray to God, and so he openly prayed to God when at home. The king liked Daniel and was sorry that he approved this law, but had to legally throw Daniel into a pit of lions as punishment. Daniel didn't resist, and God protected him from the lions.(Daniel chapter 6).
- Joesph, Mary - when Herod decreed that all children under two years old near Bethlehem to be killed, Joesph was warned by God to leave and to go to Egypt to avoid Herod and save baby Jesus' life (Matthew 2:13-17).
As we have seen, even though there have been times in the past when followers of God have specifically disobeyed authority, they always did it the same way. They never responded violently to their oppressors. Usually their response involved running away and hiding, or else standing up for their faith and God protected them. It appears that Jesus does not approve of violence resistance to authority when he told the disciples to stop attacking the priests who came to arrest Jesus before his crucifixion (Luke 22:49-51).
The Antichrist and One World Government
I believe the time for the appearing of the Antichrist and the one world government is approaching quickly. So it will be important for Christians (those who missed the Rapture, and those who convert afterwards) to know how to deal with this government. Here are some of the things the Antichrist will do which goes against God's will:
- He will stop the Jews from worshiping God with sacrifices in their Temple. (Daniel 9:27)
- He will set up a statue or "horrible thing" in the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple, which desecrates it. (Daniel 11:31)
- He will insult God and claim to be the only true God. (Daniel 11:36-37, Revelation 13:5-6)
- He will force people to worship him as God and kill all people who will not. (Revelation 13:12-16)
- He will force everyone to take a "mark", which controls all economic activity and shows devotion to the Antichrist (Revelation 13:16-17, 14:9)
The Bible gives specific warnings to people to not follow the Antichrist and to not take his mark. "If you worship the beast and the idol and accept the mark of its name, you will be tortured day and night. The smoke from your torture will go up forever and ever, and you will never be able to rest. God's people must learn to endure. They must also obey his commands and have faith in Jesus." (Revelation 14:11-12). There are going to be a large number of Christians who refuse to worship the Antichrist, and will be killed for it. "I also saw the souls of the people who had their heads cut off because they had told about Jesus and preached God's message. They were the same ones who had not worshiped the beast or the idol, and they had refused to let its mark be put on their hands or foreheads. The will come to life and rule with Christ for a thousand years.". God will probably not supernaturally protect them, as he did with Daniel and the others in the Bible, because the Antichrist is "allowed to fight against God's people and defeat them."(Revelation 13:7).
What should Christians do during the Tribulation?
So what should Christians do during the Tribulation besides not worshiping the Antichrist and not taking the mark? "Don't be ashamed of me and my message among these unfaithful and sinful people. If you are, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38). Keep preaching to those you can about Jesus, even if it gets you killed. If you say that you're not a Christian just to not be killed, this will mean Jesus will be ashamed of you when he returns at the end of the Tribulation (assuming you survive until then). Christians should also "Love your enemies and be good to everyone who hates you. Ask God to bless anyone who curses you, and pray for everyone who is cruel to you." (Luke 6:27). Even if you are being oppressed, don't hate your enemies.
Jesus warns those who are alive at the time of seeing the "horrible thing" set up in the Temple to flee into the wilderness: "If you are living in Judea at that time, run to the mountains. If you are on the roof of your house, don't go inside to get anything. If you are out in the field, don't go back for your coat... and pray that you won't have to escape in winter or on a Sabbath."(Matthew 24:16-21). This mostly applies to the Jews in Israel, but I suspect that a large number of Christians will also have to either run away or go into hiding when the Antichrist starts threatening to kill them and requiring everyone to get a mark. In most of the Christian tribulation movies it shows Christians either hiding out or having to go "underground", and even then some get discovered and killed or thrown in jail. But the ones who are killed don't fight back, just like how Jesus didn't fight back.
Some survivalists suggest having a bag of supplies ready to go and a location to run away to just in case of a disaster or totalitarian government. However, in the case of the Tribulation, it will last for 7 years and will not just be the problem of an oppressive government, but also horrible worldwide natural disasters. Christians may be able to get help from sympathetic people who have the mark, but probably Christians will be depicted as terrorists or other threats, and most people would turn them in to the authorities. It would be hard to have enough supplies to last for 7 years while avoiding nearly all "marked" human contact even without crazy disasters happening. I believe it's ok to be prepared and to attempt to run away, but Christians should not resort to murder in the name of defense. It's better to do as Jesus did, and let yourself be killed, knowing that you will be rewarded and resurrected later.
As we have seen, the Bible says that in everyday life we should respect authorities, pay taxes, and not break the law. However, should the government start getting to the point where it demands people to stop worshipping God or to do immoral things, we should then disobey them. But when Christians disobey, we should follow the examples of those in the Bible, and try at first legally to change the laws. If that doesn't work then we should run away and depend on God to protect us, and never respond violently. This is important to remember for those who may have to live during the Tribulation, where the Antichrist will demand people to worship him instead of God.
However, there is still time before the Antichrist and the one world government show up. If the Rapture hasn't happened, you will never have to worry about surviving the Tribulation as long as you turn to Jesus. Say you're sorry for your mistakes and sins to Jesus, believe that Jesus' death has paid for them (which it has, you just need to accept it), and follow Jesus with what is left of your life. Then when the Rapture happens you'll be taken to heaven to avoid all the horrible things in the Tribulation. Some scholars believe that the Tribulation may be coming very very soon (some say 2011-2018), so there is no better time to turn to Jesus than now. Plus, no one knows when they may die, and it is better to know Jesus and to be secure knowing you will go to Heaven.