“Caesar is Lord”

From The Days of Vengeance, by David Chilton
Pages 6-10.

From his exile on the island of Patmos, St. John addressed the Revelation to the churches in seven major cities of Asia Minor. These seven cities, connected by a semicircular road that ran through the interior of the province, served as postal stations for their districts. “So a messenger from Patmos landed at Ephesus, traveled north through Smyrna to Pergamum, and thence southeast through the other four cities, leaving a copy of the book in each for secondary circulation in its district. The number ‘seven’ is of course constantly used in the symbolism of the book of Revelation, but this fact should not be allowed to obscure the circumstance that the book is addressed to seven actual churches in cities ideally placed to serve as the distribution points.”[1]

You gotta get the word out: and, in an age without internet messaging, the telegraph, or even movable type and cheap paper – that is, the solid bulk of human history – you’re going to need circuit riders.

Asia Minor was a significant destination for two reasons: First, after the fall of Jerusalem the province of Asia would become the most influential center of Christianity in the Roman Empire: “The province of Asia emerged as the area where Christianity was strongest, with Ephesus as its radial point.”[2] Second, Asia was the center of the cult of Caesar-worship. “Inscription after inscription testifies to the loyalty of the cities towards the Empire. At Ephesus, at Smyrna, at Pergamum, and indeed throughout the province the Church was confronted by an imperialism which was popular and patriotic, and bore the character of a religion. Nowhere was the Caesar-cult more popular than in Asia.”[3]

For a while in the early-mid 20th century, the Caesar-cult (under another) name was VERY popular once again in Europe.

Right now, Our Betters prefer to enjoy the absolute powers of Caesar — to take what they please, and make into law any reality-defying commands they wish — but, generally, without actual Caesars. Hiding behind bureaucrats and gowned lawyers on courts suits their bureaucratic style.

I can see a return of the Caesars though within a generation, though. Broken-backed Caesars, without the grandeur of the originals, the ideological fervur of the 20th century dictators, and without the money, media control, or the timid compliance today’s low-profile, bureaucratic Masters enjoy.

After Julius Caesar died (29 B.C.), a temple honoring him as divus (god) was built in Ephesus. The Caesars who followed him didn’t wait for death to provide such honors, and, beginning with Octavian, they asserted their own divinity, displaying their titles of deity in temples and on coins, particularly in the cities of Asia. Octavian changed his name to Augustus, a title of supreme majesty, dignity and reverence. He was called the Son of God, and as the divine-human mediator between heaven and earth he offered sacrifices to the gods. He was widely proclaimed as the Savior of the world, and the inscriptions on his coins were quite frankly messianic-their message declaring, as Stauffer has written, that “salvation is to be found in none other save Augustus, and there is no other name given to men in which they can be saved.”[4]

With no more welfare money to use as a reward for obedience, I can easily see a stealthy return of strictly naturalistic religions as tools of Establishment command. “Glory to the Race!”, or Nature, or Unity and Harmony

Their might be a return to some parody of a Christian church as a population control tool, but only after it has been unified as a state church, under the authority of the president or prime minister (a la the Russian Orthodox Church.)

This pose was common to all the Caesars. Caesar was God; Caesar was Savior; Caesar was the only Lord. And they claimed not only the titles but the rights of deity as well. They taxed and confiscated property at will, took citizens’ wives (and husbands) for their own pleasure, caused food shortages, exercised the power of life and death over their subjects, and generally attempted to rule every aspect of reality throughout the Empire. The philosophy of the Caesars can be summed up in one phrase which was used increasingly as the age progressed: Caesar is Lord!

These are better days. Actual active compliance is no longer demanded from the masses, for most secular states. (But note that active obedience is demanded from businesses and guild members – i.e. lawyers, doctors, etc. “Animals and proles are free.”) The establishment is satisfied with the submission, obedience, and passive, silent compliance of fearful Christians.

For now.

This was the main issue between Rome and the Christians: Who is Lord? Francis Schaeffer points out: “Let us not forget why the Christians were killed. They were not killed because they worshiped Jesus…. Nobody cared who worshiped whom so long as the worshiper did not disrupt the unity of the state, centered in the formal worship of Caesar. The reason the Christians were killed was because they were rebels…. They worshiped Jesus as God and they worshiped the infinite-personal God only. The Caesars would not tolerate this worshiping of the one God only. It was counted as treason.”[5]

Today’s rulers don’t care what deity you verbally claim to worship, as long as your actual life, work, and profession reflects the priorities of people who hate you and your deity.

“Say what you want. Do your mystical ceremonies as you please. But you live, speak and work according to the dictates and commands of your real Master.”

For Rome, the goal of any true morality and piety was the subordination of all things to the State; the religious, pious man was the one who recognized, at every point in life, the centrality of Rome. “The function of Roman religion was pragmatic, to serve as social cement and to buttress the state.”[6] Thus, observes R. J. Rushdoony, “the framework for the religious and familial acts of piety was Rome itself, the central and most sacred community. Rome strictly controlled all rights of corporation, assembly, religious meetings, clubs, and street gatherings, and it brooked no possible rivalry to its centrality…. The state alone could organize; short of conspiracy, the citizens could not. On this ground alone, the highly organized Christian Church was an offense and an affront to the state, and an illegal organization readily suspected of conspiracy.”[7]

Long, long ago, the organized denominations became tools of Our Betters. The seminary system saw to that! “Cripple any possible resistance at the root, and the rest is easy.”

The witness of the apostles and the early Church was nothing less than a declaration of war against the pretensions of the Roman State. St. John asserted that Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God (John 3:16); that He is, in fact, “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20-20. The Apostle Peter declared, shortly after Pentecost: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “The conflict of Christianity with Rome was thus political from the Roman perspective, although religious from the Christian perspective. The Christians were never asked to worship Rome’s pagan gods; they were merely asked to recognize the religious primacy of the state. As Francis Legge observed, ‘The officials of the Roman Empire in time of persecution sought to force the Christians to sacrifice, not to any heathen gods, but to the Genius of the Emperor and the Fortune of the City of Rome; and at all times the Christians’ refusal was looked upon not as a religious but as a political offense….’ The issue, then, was this: should the emperor’s law, state law, govern both the state and the church, or were both state and church, emperor and bishop alike, under God’s law? Who represented true and ultimate order, God or Rome, eternity or time? The Roman answer was Rome and time, and hence Christianity constituted a treasonable faith and a menace to political order.”[8]

So our current Masters believe as well.

The charge brought by the Jewish prosecution in one first-century trial of Christians was that “they are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus” (Acts 17:7). This was the fundamental accusation against all the Christians of the Empire. The captain of police pleaded with the aged Bishop of Smyrna, St. Polycarp, to renounce this extreme position: “What harm is there in saying Caesar is Lord?” St. Polycarp refused, and was burned at the stake. Thousands suffered martyrdom on just this issue. For them, Jesus was not “God” in some upper-story, irrelevant sense; He was the only God, complete Sovereign in every area. No aspect of reality could be exempt from His demands. Nothing was neutral. The Church confronted Rome with the inflexible claim of Christ’s imperial authority: Jesus is the only-begotten Son; Jesus is God; Jesus is King; Jesus is Savior; Jesus is Lord. Here were two Empires, both attempting absolute world domination; and they were implacably at war.[9]

Note that the pastors and the priests of all the major demonstrations (and practically all of the minor denominations as well!) are all strong supporters of the Two Kingdom theology, relegating Jesus and His hated Laws to some mystical magical spiritual realm in some other time, and strongly backing Caesar and his laws in the real, physical world, the world that actually matter.

In contrast, I am confident that God is still in the business of burning treasonous temple complexes down to the ground, with not one stone left on another. And that spiritual whores to Power are going to be ground under the heel, in time and on earth.

(A bit more on the White Flag Christians here, compared to the pray and work people we should imitate.)

It was necessary for the churches of Asia to recognize this fully, with all its implications. Faith in Jesus Christ requires absolute submission to His Lordship, at every point, with no compromise. The confession of Christ meant conflict with statism, particularly in the provinces where official worship of Caesar was required for the transaction of everyday affairs. Failure to acknowledge the claims of the State would result in economic hardship and ruin, and often imprisonment, torture, and death.

Some Christians attempted to compromise by drawing an unbiblical distinction between heart and conduct, as if one could have faith without works. But Christ’s Kingdom is universal: Jesus is Lord of all. To acknowledge Him truly as Lord, we must serve Him everywhere. This was the primary message of the Revelation to the Christians in Asia, and one they desperately needed to hear. They lived in the very heart of Satan’s throne, the seat of Emperor-worship; St. John wrote to remind them of their true King, of their position with Him as kings and priests, and of the necessity to persevere in terms of His sovereign Word.

God doesn’t back half-hearted obedience, bringing in only “family and church” under His authority.

God rightfully demands it all.

[1] C. J. Herner, “Seven Cities of Asia Minor,” in R. K. Harrison, ed., Major Cities of the Biblical World (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985), p. 235.

[2] W. H. C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), p. 127.

[3] H. B. Swete, Commentary on Revelation (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, [1911] 1977), p. lxxxix.

[4] Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955), p. 88.

[5] Francis A. Schaeffer, How Shall We Then Live? (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1976), p. 24.

[6] Rousas John Rushdoony, The One and the Many: Studies in the Philosophy of Order and Ultimacy (Tyler, TX: Thoburn Press, [1971] 1978), p. 92.

[7] Ibid., pp. 92f.

[8] Ibid.,p.93.Rushdoony cites Francis Legge, Forerunners and Rivals of Christianity: From 330 B.C. to 330 A.D. (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, [1915], 1964), vol. I, pp. xxivf.

[9] Cf. Swete, p. Ixxxi.

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