By Thomas King
What is the biblical justification for Christian empire?
The foundation of a Christian empire really has roots in the Old Testament itself beginning first with Moses, Joshua and Caleb. Moses was given the commandments by God of not only the laws of purity, morality, ritual, etc. but was also commanded to expand into the new territory of Canaan. Although Canaan was the land of milk and honey, it was also a land filled with hostile, corrupt and evil peoples whom God had commanded their elimination. (Exodus 3:8, 17).
God did not command the elimination of all those peoples mentioned for the sake of elimination but rather because, as with Sodom and Gomorrah, the deeds of those people was so evil ranging from worship of evil false gods to performing human sacrifices to all manner of sexual evils. This is clear when Yahweh/Jehovah made it clear that they were not to follow: “after the doings of the land of Canaan” and “whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in the ordinances.” (Leviticus 18:3).
After going into detail over their sins which the Israelites were forbidden to partake of, Yahweh/Jehovah thus states: “Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you. And the land is defiled: therefore do I visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.” (Leviticus 18:24, 25). Notwithstanding, Yahweh/Jehovah also warns the Israelites that if they partake in any of the evil deeds, they too would be vomited out “as it [the land] spued out the nations that were before you.” (Leviticus 18:28).
It is noteworthy also that God stated this regarding the Amorites even at the time of Abram (Abraham), which was well before Moses: “…for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Genesis 15:16). Clearly, since the time of Abraham, and even since the time of Adam, these Amorites and others were given many opportunities to repent from their evil and serve the true and living God, but had continued in evil and added sin to sin. (Isaiah 30:1). God is just and when any nation has reached its zenith of wickedness and sin, then judgment is only fitting. God is also impartial in judgments too, since He made it clear that should Israel forsake the Law of God to follow after the ways of the evil peoples around them, then they would experience: “like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which the LORD threw in his anger, and in his wrath.” (Deuteronomy 29:23).
By the time of Moses’ demise at 120 years of age, the mantle of warfare and expansion fell on both Joshua and Caleb, who were amongst the faithful spies that believed God’s commands to take the fruitful land of Canaan, and thus were promised to enter therein. (Numbers 14:30, 38; Deuteronomy 1:36-38). Joshua and Caleb continued the war against the wicked Amorites, Canaanites and other wicked peoples, amongst which were slain giants, including Og, king of Bashan (Deuteronomy 3:11-13).
Just as they were about to continue their campaign against Jericho, Joshua met our Lord Jesus Christ as the Captain of the host of the LORD, whom he worshipped in the same manner as Moses did (Joshua 5:13-15). Clearly, Christ our God was encouraging him to continue his fight against the evil people! The campaign against the evil ones in the land was to continue even unto the dying day of Joshua and Caleb. Joshua was not in the least discouraged but rather, even at 85 years of age he stated: “As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in.” (Joshua 14:11). Caleb was also acknowledged for his faithfulness and thus was granted Hebron for an inheritance (Joshua 14:13, 14).
However, we discover after the death of both Joshua and Caleb, that the children of Israel fail to eliminate all the evil inhabitants, and worse yet, even follow after their corrupt practices of idolatry and other immoralities, to the point that the Angel of the LORD (our Lord Jesus’ Christ’s preincarnate appearance), has to personally appear to rebuke the people, stating: “Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.” (Judges 2:4). Tolerating evil people and tolerating their ideologies led to judgment and corruption. The greatest tragedy was the fact that due to not training up the next generation to fear God and to hate evil, we have the following: “And also that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10).
And hence the battle against the evil inhabitants would continue all the way through the days of the Judges of Israel even right through the days of King David. It was during the time of King David that the Empire of Israel would become more secure and at its zenith. We have for the first time, the establishment of Jerusalem as the capital, which was originally called Jebus and its inhabitants Jebusites since the days of Joshua (Joshua 15:63).
At this point, the godless Jebusites insulted David and his men stating that to get the city, he must take away the lame and the blind. (II Samuel 5:6). After putting the lame and the blind to the sword as well as many of its inhabitants through Joab, he established it as the main city. (II Samuel 5:6-9; I Chronicles 11:4-8). The Scriptures thus honoured his establishment of the Empire and states: “And David went on, and grew great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him.” (II Samuel 5:10 and also I Chronicles 11:9). The empire would continue to the point whereby Solomon would establish the Temple in Jerusalem until Solomon’s apostasy and the split of the Kingdom into 2 major factions: Israel and Judah. Due to overall apostasy and wickedness of successive ruler, God brought an end to the Kingdom and allowed foreign invaders to take over in many instances of history. God is not mocked! When even His own people commit evil and apostasy, the judgment will most surely come.
From this we see the base of a godly Empire beginning with Israel, whom God chose first to be a light unto the nations. Bearing in mind that the greater fulfilment would be found in the Messiah, Yeshua or Jesus our Lord sitting on the throne of David forever. (I Kings 2:45; Isaiah 9:6, 7). Bear in mind that according to Scripture, Christ came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8), and thus when He not only suffered crucifixion and also rose again from the dead, He also gave a commission to the disciples: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19, 20)
Since Christ is also the Jehovah of the Old Testament that called for the obliteration of unrepentant evil peoples, why do the modern day Christians think the attitude has changed? Since Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), how can modern day Christians think that the fight against evil is no longer necessary? Notice that not only did He tell the disciples to 1. Baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (That is the Trinity is to be the baptismal formula and the focus of teaching, hence the singular use of “name” rather than names). 2. Teach the world to “observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”. Since Christ is the God of the Old Testament as much as the New Testament, then the disciples are commissioned to bring the Law of God to the world as much as the Gospel of God is to be brought. Putting 2 and 2 together, we thus have a clear basis whereby there would be a need for godly empire to preach Christ to the world lost in darkness and evil and also to enforce with the sword of Christ against evildoers in the world. The Christian empire is based in Christ fighting the devil and we as Christians are part of that battle, whether we like it or not. We are told to resist the devil and he will flee from you as well as submitting to God. (James 4:7).
Not only do we do this on an individual level, but in the broader realm, such as government, military and so on, we as Christians should apply this concept and it will reap great results. Bearing in mind that when Christ returns to sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem to establish the true Millennium before the Final Judgment, St. Paul urges the Christians at Corinth to be sober and wise in their behaviour using this concept: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (I Corinthians 6:2) Since the Church partakes in the Millennium, what better way for Christians to prepare themselves than to have godly rulers and godly empires.
This is the true base of Christendom, which many Christians are either unaware of or have overlooked due to many theological errors regarding eschatological matters. We should bear in mind however, that Christendom as an Empire is NOT THE MILLENNIAL REIGN OF CHRIST! IT IS A MATTER OF FAITHFUL STEWARDSHIP BEFORE THE REAL THING! Hence, both amillennialism and postmillenialism are in error based either on negating or allegorizing clear prophecy or mistaking seemingly ideal circumstances for the event itself, which tragically, a number of our brethren in Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches have fallen prey to. I digress slightly, but the truth is that Christian Empire based on the above Scriptural principles is a matter of faithful stewardship, and is brought out clearly when our Lord gave the account of the faithful servants who multiplied their lord’s talents whilst he was away and thus were rewarded with being in charge of greater cities. (Luke 19:16-19).
Our Lord’s Second coming to establish the throne of David in Jerusalem and to bring in the true Millennium should be a great motivation for doing good and being faithful, since rewards are inevitable in that period for those faithful believers, especially those that valiantly fought evil on earth.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a direct disciple of St. Polycarp, who was a direct disciple of the Blessed Apostle St. John, whilst criticising the pagan Roman authorities for their perversion of justice in his time, nevertheless concluded this regarding the purpose of government and rulership: “…in these things shall they also perish; for the just judgment of God comes equally upon all, and in no case is defective. Earthly rule, therefore has been appointed by God for the benefit of the nations….” (Against Heresies, Book 5). [Emphasis mine]. He clearly understood that the purpose of government was to be a benefit and light to the nations rather than for evil means.
St. Cyprian of Carthage in his Treatises XI,5, 6: “God is so wrathful against idolatry [of the Israelites worshipping the golden calf] that He hath even commanded them to be killed who entice that offer and serve idols…in remembrance of strict commandments, Mattathias slew him which had come to the altar to sacrifice [referring to the incident in I Maccabees of Mattathias slaying a Jew who came to offer pagan sacrifices to the Greek gods]. But before the coming of Christ these commandments were kept concerning the worship of God and the spurning of idols, how much more are they to be kept since Christ’s coming.” [Emphasis mine].
Clearly, even St. Cyprian saw the need to eliminate evil, particularly idolatry and heresy from the earth and saw it as part of the New Testament Church as it was Old Testament.
To hell with the false notion (which came as a result of the Protestant Reformation) that seeks to abandon the Old Testament in the name of upholding the New Testament! St. Thomas Aquinas, when discussing about Natural Law as the reflection of God’s nature, makes it clear that the purpose of government is also to reflect this basic principle: “Good is to be done and pursued and evil avoided.” (Summa Theologica, I-II, 94.2 ). Thus government, whilst indeed governing within its realm those who are under it are also meant to be a light to other nations who see it. The former advisor to 2 Czars and defender of Orthodoxy in Russia in the 19th century against secularism and “separation of church and state”, Konstantin I. Pobedonostsev, mentions in his book Reflections of a Russian Statesman, the error of toleration of idolatry even in the extended borders of a Christian Empire.
He cites Moses dealing with the error of the children of Israel who stated once they made the golden calf: “These be thy gods, O Israel, that brought thee from the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:4, 8). Multiculturalism and toleration of evil in the borders, especially heresy and modern evil, which is what relativism of today is, has no place in the Scripture or the Fathers, yet sadly most of the Church today has swallowed it!
Saintly Emperors such as Constantine, Justinian and Theodosius, understood the importance of maintaining a Christian Empire based on the above principles outlined clearly in Scripture and earlier Fathers, and hence sought to maintain a Christian Empire through outlawing evil and using the sword when needed. Sodomy, child sacrifices, murders, rapes and other unspeakable evils were outlawed and were met with the full force of the sword. These Emperors were also known for putting an end to the evil practice associated with Ancient Rome of the Colosseum, whereby people performed senseless gladiatorial fights for entertainment as well as throwing people to wild beasts. Heresies of various sorts were also fought against. Paganism was also uprooted from many parts in the Empire along with the evil associated with it.
Constantine personally saw the destruction of a pagan temple filled with sodomite priests, whom he put to the sword. In addition, most of Europe and the Middle East as well as parts of Africa and Asia were not only evangelised as a result of righteous rule, but also many of these kingdoms that were filled with the utmost savages, had savagery removed from their lands and truly became holy lands and generally holy people. Such was the case with Russia, which was utterly pagan until the conversion of both St. Olga and her famous grandson, St. Vladimir in the 10th century.
In fact, it was because of a Christian Empire (Byzantine Empire), that we saw the evangelization of the Slavic peoples [Bulgarians, Ukrainians, Serbs, Slovenes, Macedonians, as well as Russians and others] through the efforts of 2 missionary monks, who were brothers, from Greece, Saints Cyril and Methodios, thus seeing not only the establishment of Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, but also the beginning of a language system named in their honour: Cyrillic Alphabet .
This also was the recurrence in Norway under Kings Olaf I and II. But it did not end here. A Christian Empire also expanded from these rulers to the point of further evangelization of the world.
Even in what is considered more “modern” history beginning with the 16th century, we saw the Spanish Empire under King Phillip II and its expansion of the Church in the American Continent, well before the arrival of the English. It was under his leadership that we saw the commissioning of Hernando Cortes and the Conquistadors to enter into Mexico and other parts of Latin America to convert the Aztecs to the Gospel.
It is no secret of history that the Aztecs were not only known for their human sacrifices to their demonic gods (Psalm 96:5) but also were known for both cannibalism and sodomite paedophile behaviour. When Hernando Cortes was spending time in Mexico and noticed all these evil practices, he not only sent a letter highlighting their evil deeds, but also sent a request to King Philip II to send Dominican monks as missionaries to these heathens. This request was entertained promptly with interest, since not only were monks and priests sent, but so were soldiers sent too. One cannot help but read when seeing the history of the Spaniards in Mexico, the account of the above discussed Old Testament Scriptures regarding how God commissioned the Israelites to eliminate the various natives of Canaan based on their evil practices of sodomy, human sacrifices, etc.
In a similar manner, the Catholic Spaniards engaged in a righteous war against the godless Aztecs and their godless practices. [An interesting side note: As there were in the days of the children of Israel, giants, so too did the Aztecs of Mexico have giants whom the Catholic Spaniards have to combat, with both the cross and the sword. This is found in the accounts of a number of the Spaniards who went to Mexico as part of the missionary journey.]
Thankfully, it was successful and not only was the evil practices of human sacrifices and so forth were wiped out on the tip of the sword and musket, but the gospel was also preached to the natives, a number of whom converted to the Church. Similarly, in the 19th century, when England had controlled India, we saw the outlawing of the evil practice of suttee practiced by Hindus, whereby when a man died, his wife was forcibly buried alive or burned alive with the deceased. This occurred through the efforts of both Christian missionaries, particularly William Carey, as well as the army of the British Empire under Queen Elizabeth II. In addition, we saw the British Empire ending slavery in the parts of Middle East (Egypt in particular) as well as in many African nations, through both the efforts of a godly Christian, William Wilberforce, as well as the House of Commons in Britain.
The Muslim nations have never forgiven the British Empire for this since they lost a lot of slaves, hence their rhetoric against “imperialism”. As a result, we have seen the end of slavery in the colonies of the British Empire and also in other Western nations. Christian Empires did not just merely preach the Gospel. Christian Empires also brought about true civilization, light out of darkness and also moral and social change through both the sword of the Spirit and the sword of righteous rule.
In conclusion, the basis of Christian Empire has its basis in the Holy Scriptures and is an extension of the Great Commission of Christ given to the Church. It also has further expansion in the Fathers and Saints as well as many godly examples in history of uprooting evil practices of nations and replacing them with good morals based on the teachings of Holy Scripture. The concept of Christian Empire is therefore a matter of faithfulness and stewardship to the teachings of Christ extended to the secular realm and not merely confined to the Church.
Whilst it is erroneous to state that any Christian Empire in history is the Millennial Reign of Christ or the actual physical rule of Christ on earth, yet it can be said that Christian empires are a matter of good stewardship and practice before Christ our God finally does return to sit on the throne of David forever in Jerusalem and institute the real Millennium before the Final Judgment. In light of this, Christians should be motivated to do good on earth and seek to be agents of bringing about godly rulership, and thus reaping greater rewards in both heaven and also in the Millennial Reign of Christ.
God bless dear Christian reader and if any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema. Maranatha! (I Corinthians 16:22)