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China raging

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What is happening in China?

Why is Chinese leader Xi Jinping, raging against religion, including Buddhism, Islam, and especially Christianity?

Psalm 2 poses the question rhetorically, in the context of what has proven to be a historic phenomenon:

Why are the nations in an uproar (a rage)

And the peoples devising a vain thing?

The kings of the earth take their stand

And the rulers take counsel together

Against the Lord and against His

Anointed, saying

‘Let us tear their fetters apart

And cast away their cords from us!’

From Nero to Lenin and Stalin, Hitler, the Kims of North Korea, and many more, there have been despots across history unusually determined to destroy anything that smacks of worship of transcendent Being.

Recent events have shown Xi Jinping’s strategy: the consolidation of his power as the leader who restores Stalinist Communism to China, and strengthens its policy of state atheism. This inevitably results in the tightening of freedoms and the attempt to stamp out the worship of God. Under such tyrannies, the dictator allows no one on the throne but himself—not even God.

So, though Xi Jinping previously said he was opposed to being president-for-life, he did not back away when, last May, the Communist Congress removed term limits, and he took that power for himself.

One thinks immediately of the spirit of antichrist.

This is not to say that Xi Jinping is the Antichrist, but that what is happening now in China reveals the spirit of antichrist is at work.

A favorite tactic of the antichrist spirit is fomenting, and then exploiting division and fragmentation in the nations. Perhaps this also is driving the political upheaval tossing the United States currently.

In his Revelation visions the Apostle John sees a beast rising from the turbulent sea. (Revelation 13:1-3)   The “sea” in Revelation’s prophetic symbolism is “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.” (Revelation 17:15)  The Antichrist to come will emerge from global chaos. The antichrist spirit presently at work foments the turbulence, then imposes its cruel control over nations in turmoil.

The aim is always displacement of the peace and freedom-giving Kingdom of God. The fundamental temptation is power, and the demonic will always cluster at centers of power. Therefore, as Jesus warned in Matthew 24:24, “many false Christs” will arise across history, along with false prophets. They will be in lofty governmental perches as well as loony but sinister backwaters.

The Apostle John also writes: “Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18)

The “last hour” is the summary period of all history. It begins with the atoning death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and moves toward Christ’s return. A clue is in the fact that the Apostle Paul refers to the first century Christians in Corinth as being people “on whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)

Therefore, by that reckoning, we are living in the “last”, or consummate, period of history. It is in this era that the antichrist spirit works with intensity.

That work is described in the Greek prefix, anti, meaning opposition and imposition. The antichrist spirit therefore opposes Christ, and also seeks to displace Christ as Lord, imposing itself on the world’s thrones.

Thus, human despots across history inevitably target Christ’s church—the “body of Christ” in the world today—for destruction.  Any other faith community that embraces worship of the transcendent will be persecuted as well because the antichrist spirit tolerates no sovereign but itself.

“China’s current leader believes in the absolute power of the Party and wants his government to exert control over every aspect of Chinese life,” said George Thomas, in a CBN report. Xi Jinping and the Communist Party “are really trying to establish a totalitarian rule of Chinese society and the Christians are standing in the way of totalitarianism, so that’s why they’ve become a target,” said China religion specialist Fenggang Wang, cited by Thomas.

China was opened to the West and the rest of the world through President Richard Nixon’s trip there in 1972. As I have written previously I was working in the White House in that period and can say from direct experience that Nixon’s China mission was bathed in prayer. The president himself requested that we mobilize people to pray.

In China, Nixon met with Chairman Mao and Premier Chou en-lai. Nixon’s initiative and the Chinese leaders’ receptivity bore much fruit across decades.

But now, Xi Jinping and his Communist government is arresting Christian leaders and members of their flocks, ripping crosses off steeples, closing down the churches, and demolishing the buildings.

Xi Jinping boasted in a recent speech that “China is the world’s second largest economy.” However, China attained that status especially under post-1972 leaders like Deng Xiaoping, who instituted a measure of freedom of worship and relaxed Marxist-style controls on the economy.

Xi Jinping is living in a delusion if he believes that undercutting the worldview that produced the world’s freest and most prosperous societies and remaking China into a Stalinist state will enable the country to be a major player midst the world’s free nations.

It’s an even greater delusion if he thinks he can stamp out worship of the God who is transcendent over him and all else.

Xi Jinping is just one more in a long line of tyrants who have tried to destroy the church, and found out the hard way that, according to Psalm 24, “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.”

Xi Jinping needs to squelch his rage.

Wallace Henley is senior associate pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. He is a former White House and Congressional aide, and co-author of "God and Churchill", with Winston Churchill's great-grandson, Jonathan Sandys.

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