"Why Do the Heathen Rage?"

The terrorist attack against the United States on September 11, 2001, shook our nation to its very core. It was indeed a “wake-up call” for America, for we now realize that we must be strong, alert and aware of the fact that liberty requires vigilance and that enemies, who are willing to go to inexplicably terrible ends to see America destroyed, abound without and within our country. Clearly, national security and the administration of justice are required as never before.

But the Islamic terrorist attack also caused many to look to the Scriptures for an understanding of how this all fits in with God’s plan for the ages. Was this a fulfillment of a specific prophecy? Is the end upon us? Has Armageddon arrived? Or does the Bible even tell us what we are to believe and what we are to know concerning these perilous days and the outcome of it all? Yes, It does! We need to look to God’s Word for the answers. The attack is just one more event that coincides with what the Bible prophesies for our present time, for the age in which we live.

The Continuing Conflict

The second psalm provides an encapsulated prophecy of the course of the ages and the end for all who set themselves against the one, true God. What He has revealed will surely come to pass! A continuing battle rages between light and darkness, between God’s plan for the ages and Satan’s attempt to replace what is of God with a religious counterfeit. The days of ever increasing deception and wickedness ahead will eventually culminate in the Great Tribulation when the whole world, except for the redeemed, will worship the Antichrist (Rev. 13:1-10).

The psalmist asks in verse 1, “Why do the heathen rage?” The answer: because they have rejected the God of the Bible and are energized by the god of this world to oppose what is God’s plan through the Lord Jesus in the present Church Age and through Israel in the coming Kingdom of Christ on the earth (vv. 2-3). The Islamic hatred toward Israel, the United States and whoever else refuses to bend the knee and say that “Allah is the one, true god and Mohammed is his prophet” is readily apparent. But the same hatred is also true of atheistic communism and humanism. All religions and ideologies that “set themselves … against the LORD, and against His Anointed” (v. 2) are in conflict with the God of the Bible. Those who believe that the Bible is God’s only and all-authoritative Word, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Savior and that the Father’s will shall, indeed, come to pass in heaven and on earth are viewed by false religions and ideologies as the greatest hindrances to “world peace and justice.” The unsaved scorn what the Word of God declares to be absolutely true.

What does the Word have to say about the future—and the present? First of all, God has promised a coming Kingdom in fulfillment of the promises made to the patriarchs of old, and He will perform those promises and keep those unconditional covenants with a believing remnant of Israel when the King of kings—the Lord Jesus Christ—returns to rule with a rod of iron “upon My holy hill of Zion” (vv. 1-6). The “heathen” certainly do “rage” and “imagine vain things” against what God says He will yet accomplish through a refined, redeemed and regathered chosen people following the purging of the Great Tribulation and the subsequent return and rule of God’s “Anointed,” the King of all the earth (Zech. 12:1-3; 8-14; 14:1-4; Matt. 24:29-31). Jerusalem, as well as all of the land promised to Abraham and his seed, is included in God’s plan for Israel. Can there be any wonder, therefore, why Satan stirs up animosity and rebellion against such a coming reality. The second psalm’s references to the “rage” of the heathen certainly includes the religious fervor of the Islamic jihad (“holy war”) against the Jews and any who align themselves with Israel. This holy war even extends to the Westernized world, which in the eyes of the Islamic fundamentalist, has “corrupted” many Muslims from rigidly following the Koran due to the overreaching influence of Western culture and ideals.

The Times of the Gentiles

Psalm 2 speaks prophetically of God’s response to those who set themselves in opposition to His future plan for Israel. He “shall laugh … [and] shall have them in derision” (v. 4). Judgment will fall upon all who withstand “the LORD, and … His Anointed” (v. 2). But until that day when the wrath of God is vented during the “seventieth week” (Dan. 9:27), which precedes Christ’s second coming to the earth, continual raging and satanically inspired hatred will be leveled against God’s plan and against His people. During this “time of the Gentiles,” the Jews remain under the chastening hand of God.

Luke 21:24—“… Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” This verse speaks prophetically of the animosity and desire dominion that all the surrounding nations have regarding Israel during this present dispensation. This “trodding down” of the Jews and the land of Israel began with the Babylonian reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, the first kingdom in the dream summarized in Daniel 2:31-45. The fourth and final kingdom described in the dream will be the revived Roman Empire with the ten toes. The key truth revealed in this prophetic vision of Nebuchadnezzar is that the opposition of the heathen will exist toward Israel until the “stone cut out … without hands” smites the image upon the feet, the final empire of which the Antichrist will be the head. That destruction will take place when Christ returns “in power and great glory” and stands upon Mt. Zion. At that time (the end of the Tribulation), He will destroy all nations, which are led by the Antichrist himself and marshaled against Jerusalem (vv. 4-9 cf. Zech. 14:2-4; Joel 3:9-14). After the utter destruction of the Antichrist and his host, the smiting stone “[becomes] a great mountain, and [fills] the whole earth” (Dan. 2:35; 7:21-27). This will mark the “end of the times of the Gentiles” and the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ over the whole earth.

Therefore Israel, though presently under the chastening hand of God due to their apostasy, still has a future regathering and blessing that is promised to a refined remnant following the Tribulation. God is not finished with the Jews, and they will yet experience a literal fulfillment of all the promises that God made to them in the Old Testament, when Israel was under the Law that God delivered to Moses on the Mount.

Again, “Why do the heathen rage?” Why is there such intense opposition to God’s plan for the future blessing of Israel and His present plan for believers in the Church Age, even to the terrorist extreme we witness today? Why is there fervent scorn leveled at any who believes the Bible and the one, true God of the Bible? It is because that is the prophesied, satanically inspired mindset of the unregenerate “heathen” (Eph. 2:1-3; 1 Jn. 5:19, 20), those who religiously reject God the Father, God the Son and the only Divine Revelation, the Bible. Terrorist activity by Islamic fundamentalists is simply a “worst case scenario” of satanically motivated opposition to God as predicted and described in the Word. Was the September 11th attack a fulfillment of a specific prophecy? No! Was it a continuation of the prophesied course of the “times of the Gentiles”? Yes!

The Church's Response

In the current dispensation, God is working in the world through His Church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles who trust the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior in this Church Age (1 Cor. 10:32; 12:13-14). Read Acts 4:18-29. Notice that when the Jewish religious leaders threatened the early church to stop preaching Christ, the believers quoted the second psalm. The pagan Roman government then stepped in and tried to intimidate the believers and force them to stop preaching Christ as the only Savior. But the persecuted church aligned itself with the glorious truth given in the second Psalm: God is the Almighty Creator! His will shall perfectly come to pass! Rather than praying for peace, safety or ease, these believers prayed, “Grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy Word” (vv. 25-29).

Christian, we are in a similar situation today. The heathen are raging, and the powers that be are threatening. Will we pray and purpose to speak the Truth, preach Christ, stand true to God’s Word and contend against whomever or whatever is set against It? We should. Cowering in silence is not an option, for we have the divine Record of how those faithful saints of old responded to the thrcatenings of those who opposed God and His Word. But always remember: As believers, ours is a spiritual battle, not carnal (Eph. 6:1lff). Our desire must be to seek the salvation of all men, not their defeat through a military or political conquest (which is the aim of the terrorist). The early church sought to speak the Word boldly so souls would be saved and Christ would be magnified.

In light of the recent events, a growing sentiment among influential figures and organizations is that no religious group should have the right to criticize another religion or to give the impression—let alone declare!— that their particular faith is the only true faith. Many view the narrow nature of “fundamentalism” as lacking in sensitivity and respect for all the other religions, which are supposedly all bona fide avenues to God.

Christian, the same political pressure and threats that the early church faced are leveled at the Bible-believer today who openly, boldly and with Spirit-wrought conviction proclaims, “Jesus Christ is the only Savior! The God of the Bible is the only God! The Old and New Testament Scriptures are the only revelation of God to man!” The early church was “commanded … not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). What was their response? We will hearken unto God, not man, “for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19- 20). The same is true for us today— we must speak what the Word of God declares to be true, for at stake are the salvation of all who will hear and heed the Gospel and the Church’s testimony before the world.

What was the impetus for the believers to stand strong and true when confronted with the raging of the unbelievers? The early church met together for prayer and claimed the promises of the second psalm (Acts 4:23-29). They acknowledged the sovereignty and might of their God and requested His enabling grace to counter the threats of the unsaved with a “Thus saith the Lord …!”

The conclusion of this psalm gives the sum of the whole matter: “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son [believe on Jesus Christ], lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little [judgment lies ahead for all who refuse to believe and receive by faith the Son]. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him” (vv. 11-12). Oh, dear Christian, we must preach the Gospel! We must stand firm in the Faith. We must strive to please our Lord in all things. And for all who do, “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Amen! — Dennis Costella