2020 had been a tumultuous year, hasn’t it? A global pandemic splashed fear across the globe while racial tensions and political polarizations deepened divisions in our nation. The rich grew richer and the poor grew poorer. Both religious fervor and atheistic apathy flourished.
It seems the light of God’s Word is fading. Will it go out entirely, we wonder?
The events that shook our nation in 2020 should remind us of another time in history when reason reigned and division destroyed a nation.
Two hundred years ago France was rocked by similar issues. Wealthy aristocrats and clergy found themselves at the mercy of angry peasants. Riots and ruthless killing drenched the streets in blood. Bibles were burned and reason enthroned as queen. In the “age of enlightenment”, France was shrouded in darkness.
The light went out in France.
The French Revolution offers striking parallels to our world today. Today, in our “information age”, we find our nation shrouded in darkness. The light of the Bible no longer illumines the hearts of men, and our society is fast becoming divisive and chaotic.
Let’s examine the parallels between the French Revolution and today. What lessons are we to learn? As Christians, how would God have us respond to the darkness around us?
The Seeds of Revolution
Sixteenth century France is often remembered for its extravagant wealth and lavish lifestyles. Yet this was only true for a handful. France had developed into a tyrannical hierarchy. The clergy and nobility heavily taxed the commoners. Most peasants needed at least two jobs in order to provide for their families, pay taxes, and return tithe to the church.
Any attempt to go against the state church could lead to death. Religious war against Protestants was constant. Seeds of anger towards the church and state festered in this feudalistic society. Over the next two hundred years, the people became increasingly weary of a corrupt monarchy and a power-hungry church.
Then, on July 14, 1789, angry Parisians converged on the Bastille, a prison and royal fortress that symbolized everything the people hated about the monarchy and church. The capture of the Bastille sparked revolution and resulted in tragic bloodshed. An angry nation protested and rioted and sought to overthrow the government.
The Light Goes Out in France
The removal of civil authority was only the beginning in France. All Christian resemblance was removed from French life. The dechristianization of France began with the church; priests and clergy were massacred by angry mobs, legislation stripped the church of all its power. In 1793, the council of Indre-et-loir abolished the word Sunday, removed the Gregorian Calendar, and set up a 10-day week. The French Republican Calendar abolished the Sabbath, saint’s days and any reference to the church. All church iconography and biblical reference including street names and buildings were removed. Churches were converted into “temples of reason”. Bibles were used as kindling and France became a wholly secular nation.
A Nation Divided
On May 25 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, George Floyd, a forty-six-year-old African-American Male was killed during a police arrest. This abuse of power proved to be the tipping point that pushed America, and the world, into a politically divisive era. Like the people of France in the 18th century, our nation became enraged with the systems of authority. Activists took to the streets, preachers to pulpits, politicians to the news outlets and the President to Twitter. Peaceful protests turned violent, riots filled the streets of our cities, and police departments were burned. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used on American citizens.
Many Americans have come to see the institutions of authority in the U.S. as a threat, just like the French saw the Bastille as a symbol of tyrannical authority. The shadows of the French revolution are upon this nation.
Will the light of the gospel which promotes peace and brotherly love cease to exist?
Paul describes our day well. “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power, and from such people turn away” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Today, we see Paul’s warning coming to pass. While 40 million Americans filed for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, billionaires became $647 billion richer. Pornographic sites gained a massive increase in website visits since the beginning of the pandemic. A large sector of American’ Christianity seeks to align itself with political parties in order to gain earthly power, instead of focusing on the mission of Christ.
Unforgiveness, slander, unkindness, ingratitude, brutality, pride… we see Paul’s list of sins in every corner of our society. If we are honest, we find them in ourselves. We too need to be transformed by God’s grace.
The book Education pg. 228, by Ellen G. White, perfectly depicts how the history of France is repeating itself; “At the same time anarchy is seeking to sweep away all law, not only divine but human. The centralizing of wealth and power; the vast combinations for the enriching of the few at the expenses of the many; the combinations of the poorer classes for the defense of their interest and claims; the spirit of unrest, of riot, and bloodshed; the world wide dissemination of the same teaching that led to the French Revolution—all are tending to involve the whole world in a struggle similar to that which convulsed France”. Though the French Revolution was far bloodier and violent than the events of 2020, the darkness that wishes to engulf the light of the Bible is again creeping over the world.
If history is repeating itself, what are we to do as Christians? Are we to stand by and watch the world spiral into chaos?
No! Let us remember the words of Jesus, “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:10-14).
Did you catch that? The “love” of many will grow cold. Friends, it is the love of God—seen in the Scriptures, experienced in our hearts, and played out in our lives—that will enable us to endure to the end.
Regardless of the hate, the betrayal, the lawlessness that has surrounded us in 2020, we are called to love. The gospel must be preached for it is the good news of God’s love for fallen man. This is our only mission. We must not allow the light to go out. Darkness cannot cover the face of the earth. We must let the light of Christ’s love shine so bright within us that others will be drawn to it.
The world is being thrown into chaos because of the seeds of dissension that Satan has sown. We must not allow the pattern of divisiveness that tore France apart and is tearing America apart now, to be mimicked within the body of Christ, for “every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and a divided household falls” (Luke 11:17). Let us be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) so that we can complete our God-given task.
The Bible accurately predicted the events of the French Revolution (see Q&A on the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11). The Bible has prophesied that this world will come to an end, and that no kingdom on earth will stand against the kingdom that Christ will establish. Jesus is coming soon. Yet the light of the gospel must be preached to nation, city and town before we will see Him. Are you doing your part to share God’s good news with everyone around you?
Let us not be discouraged by the darkness that fills the hearts of humanity. The light of God’s love will shine supreme in this world very soon.