Herbert E. Douglass, Th.D.

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Four Death Decrees—All With Happy Results

No one looks forward to a death sentence. I have seen several men die in the gas chamber at San Quentin.  When I taught ministerial training at Pacific Union College in the 1950s, I had three off-campus appointments for the seniors every year.  One was to Imola, the State Hospital for the Mentally Ill; one was to Sonoma State Hospital for the unfortunate born with severe physical deformation; the third was to San Quentin and the gas chamber. I wanted these future pastors to get a taste of reality before they get into the real world.

The death chamber is six feet across and eight feet high. We heard the clang of metal doors closing.  We witnessed the strapping of the prisoner’s arms and legs.  We saw the fumes of the hydrogen cyanide gas—a mix of sodium cyanide and sulfuric acid. (Today it is a lethal injection.)  We saw the prisoner’s last look out to the spectators—that helpless look!  In a few moments, the patient loses consciousness.  None of them died at peace.  Nothing pleasant about a death decree!

The Bible describes three times when God’s people faced the death sentence.  Of course nothing would please Satan more than to have all of God’s loyalists silenced once and for all.  Satan’s primary purpose, his Number One Job for centuries, has been to rule this Planet without those troublesome, irksome, men and women of faith getting in his way.

First, let’s see how Satan almost won the battle in Daniel’s day. In Daniel’s third chapter, Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten his conviction that Daniel’s God is the God of gods, and the Lord of kings (2:47). Worldly prosperity had fed his vanity.  Driven by his pride, he now reproduces the image that he had seen in his dream that Daniel had explained a few years earlier—but this time, the whole image would be made of solid gold, not just the head. Nothing like it had ever been built—a colossal image of gold about 60 ft tall!

There you have it!  The test of gods!  The government ordering religious legislation!  Satan would do anything to defeat God’s purpose of using the captive Israelites to be a blessing to all the heathen nations.  Satan did it by engineering a death decree.

You know the story. No matter how high Nebuchadnezzar raised the threat level, three Hebrews quietly stood their ground.  The integrity of these three was well known to the king— that made the whole deal most embarrassing. But proud Nebuchadnezzar challenged them, not wanting to show favorites, taunted them: “Who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”

They politely said: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O King.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (3:16-18).

The main issue on the plains of Dura was freedom of religion— freedom of conscience against government law. Death decrees bring out the best and the worst in people

You know the rest of the story. The Lord of Heaven did not forget His own during this death decree.  The good news of whose God was greater traveled around the world when the representatives of the nations went home with the miracle they had seen with their own eyes.  Let’s all remember this story when troubles get worse in this crazy world in the end time—another death decree is in the works.

Now, #2. Some years later, the Medes conquered Babylon.  And strange as it may seem, Daniel, the counselor to Babylonian kings, became the prime minister under Darius, the new world emperor.  Satan was more furious than ever. He just couldn’t win! So Satan worked through evil men to arrange a death decree to get rid of Daniel once and for all.  Every boy and girl here knows the story of the lion’s den and how evil men tried to destroy God’s best witness on earth.

The main issue again: freedom of religion—freedom of conscience against government law.

But there is a little twist to this story in Daniel 6. Here King Darius was caught in the vice of the laws of the Medes and Persians—that nothing “which the king establishes may be changed.”  Darius had no Plan B but he had much respect for Daniel and for Daniel’s God. Darius said: “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you” (6:16).

The next morning Darius saw his trust in Daniel’s God come true.  Almost as if he were singing, he wrote out another world decree: “I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” (6:26).

Satan lost again! Death decrees bring out the best and the worst in people.

The third death decree happened about 70 years later.  Darius’s decree was forgotten as new generations arose.  Ahasuerus was now king and he made Haman, the Agagite, prime minister.  Haman was a descendant of the Amalekites, that ancient tribe that was so vicious to the Israelites on their way from Egypt to Canaan. Years later, Samuel told Saul that God wanted them destroyed—all of them! But Saul did not finish the job.  Some escaped.  And 500 years later, the Amalekite Haman hated Jews from the day he was born.

He especially hated men like Mordecai, the respected Jew. Mordecai sat “within the king’s gate” (Esther 2:19).  He hated Mordecai even more because he didn’t bow at his feet after he became prime minister as everyone else did.  So, with his new powers as prime minister, he plotted to avenge what the Israelites had done to the Amalekites—he would kill all the Jews just as they tried to kill his forefathers.

“Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus—the people of Mordecai” (3:6).  The death decree was sent throughout the then known world—“annihilate all the Jews” (3:13). Talk about a death decree! Sounds like Hitler!

What was going on here? The same scenario we saw with the three Hebrews before Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel before Darius. Satan was trying to rid the earth of those who preserved the knowledge of the truth God.  He never gives up! Now in Esther’s day, all that we now know about Moses, all that we now know about much of the Old Testament, would have been lost forever!

But God again worked through the best He had—through Esther that brave Jewish queen and her uncle Mordecai.  You know the rest of the story.  Haman was exposed and Satan defeated.

What was the main issue?  Freedom of religion, freedom of conscience on one side and, on the other, those who wanted to destroy Mordecai at the gate.  Why? Because He represented the God of Heaven and His holy laws.  Death decrees bring out the best and the worst in people.

The fourth death decree is on your horizon.  The fourth death decree is not something in the far-off future.

In Revelation 13 we read that in the last days  Satan would give power to the “image of the Beast” and “cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (13:15).  Sound familiar!

I know that such thoughts are hard to believe today.  In a few short years, countries such as the United States, the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” will suddenly have a judicial system that will permit government powers to persecute a religious minority.  Not just persecute but will grant permission to kill the Mordecais at the gate.

How could this possibly be? We shouldn’t be surprised! Revelation has already given us Satan’s battle plans: “And the dragon [Satan] was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (12:17).

This is the same Satan that tried to destroy those three heroic Hebrew young men on the plains of Dura.  The same Satan who tried to eliminate God’s best representative in Darius’ lions den—and we would never have had the Book of Daniel with its marvelous prophecies of world events down to the end of time.  The same Satan who tried to annihilate the Jews and thus destroy the Old Testament in Mordecai’s time is alive and well today..

How does Satan do his work?  He is real good at what he does.  He has had many centuries to practice.  He works in four areas at the same time:  1) He is a pretender—he is good at using smart, destructive lies and deceptions. 2) He is a scapegoater—he blames others for the damage he is doing. 3) He practices confusion—he is a master of clouding the issues with confusing logic and changing the meaning of words. 4) When all else fails, he destroys those whom he cannot persuade.

I know that is a mouthful.  But look at His record. Since he started his rebellion in heaven he has been using at least one or all of these characteristics of evil in his attempt to control Planet Earth: Lies, Blaming others, Confusion, and Coercion, whether verbal or physical.

In other words, those on the highway of evil learn ways to pretend they are respectable, law-abiding, and deeply concerned about the feelings of others, and, yes, they pretend to be champions of individual rights.  Their logic will persuade the majority that to preserve a nation and to secure its citizens, national unity and security is more important than individual freedom.  In times of crisis, freedom of conscience, that sanctuary of individual freedom, must give way to the will of the majority.

Do we see anything like this happening today? We have heard about “the perfect storm.”  It is the title of a book about a horrid winter storm off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1991—when two monster Atlantic-ocean-storms collided making a meteorological hell for those at sea, especially the Andrea Gail that never returned.

This world is moving toward its “Perfect Storm” that will exceed all the troubles of history put together.  And it will be all manipulated by Satan working through evil men and women—a true hell on earth.

Think of Storm Number One: Fear—when the largest natural disasters ever will become more “more frequent and disastrous” (GC:590), disastrous because more people will be involved. 

Think of Storm Number Two: Fear—think of the coming financial crash worldwide when the sky-high mountains of debt that all countries are foolishly building will be unfundable—when our own country faces a predicted “national ruin” that abolishes all pension funds, never mind 50% unemployment and a tsunami of bank foreclosures, and the list goes on (LDE:133. 134).

Think of Storm Number Three: Colossal mental confusion—the stunning upside-down manipulation of language.  George Orwell’s 1984 is no longer science fiction—it is being lived out every day.  In his novel, war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength. “Freedom” is the freedom to say two plus two equals five.  And remember his emphasis on “Thoughtcrimes?”  Pure prophecy of what is happening today.

Think of what you read in your daily newspaper or see on your TV news: quoting certain Bible texts become hate crimes; anything negative against a person’s religion is cause for imprisonment; progressive means progress; centrist means fairness; diversity in many instances means perversity; Absolute truth is a fiction.

Think of Storm Number Four: Colossal moral confusion—note the blizzard of false advertising claims, media bias, outrageous political lies and cheating scandals—a world wherein it has become fashionable to deny truth,  fashionable to revise history to suit current opinion; where political correctness is legislating a new society of victims and tolerance for what once was unacceptable conduct.

In other words, when the world is used to hearing mere opinion rather than absolute truth, when the end justifies the means, where everyone’s opinion and lifestyle is as good as anyone else’s, that world is set up to believe anything if promised by a charismatic leader who appeals to feelings and not to heads that value truth

Think of Storm Number Five: The pretense of the legal system when we talk honor and justice but limit freedom of conscience, when evil becomes so deceptive that the whole world “marveled and followed the beast” (Rev. 13:3, 14). Public opinion always trumps constitutional law—think Germany and Hitler in 1933; think the United States in 1942 when we put our Japanese citizens in internment camps in California; think of the end time when Congress and the Courts and religious leaders will unite to “bribe, persuade, or compel all classes to honor” Sunday laws, “yield[ing] to the popular demand for a law enforcing Sunday observance” (GC:592).

Soon we will see  pretense, confusion, scapegoating and coercion all focused on a world-wide Sunday law—that leads to the Mother of all Storms: After probation closes, during the crashing crescendo of the Seven Last Plagues, all the storms collide without any heavenly restraint.

The world power that promises world peace amidst stunning natural disasters, world financial collapse, and moral confusion will speak with the shrewdness of Caiaphus.  Remember when that religious leader counseled the Jewish nation: “It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish” {John 11:50).

Notice how John saw it: “He [Satan and his earthly powers] granted power to give breath to the image to the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (13:15).

For the sake of world peace, as the Perfect Storm is developing, it will  not be the time for truth but tolerance, for the union of world brotherhood in allegiance to the Father of peace who calls all to worship the fourth commandment on the day he has proclaimed to be the Lord’s Day, Sunday!

It is difficult for truth to survive when we lose the language of truth.  Difficult yes!  But not impossible. At the height of the Perfect Storm, the world will see a white cloud and the return of Jesus, the reaping of the world’s harvest, for the Lord’s harvest is fully ripe (Rev. 14:15, 16).  Evil has played out its hand. Satan can do no more to wrestle this Planet from those who keep the commandments and the faith of Jesus.

You and I are making our decisions even today as to what side we will be on in the Perfect Storm in the near future.  Does pretense, blaming others, confusion of principles and the coercion of others who get in our way, mold our own habit patterns.  If so, we can see where we will end up.  But if truth and honesty, kindness and graciousness motivate you, you will endure the Storm with a song in your heart. I assure you young people that it is easier to have God smoothing your paths than it will ever be when you  take shortcuts of pretense and blaming others and hope somehow to end up on the New Earth.

Trust the Hand of the One who has faced the Perfect Storm Himself—just think about Gethsemane and Calvary-- for those same hands are reaching down to walk you through all the storms in your life.  That’s His promise, not mine.  Trust Him!

- Herbert E. Douglass, Th.D.
 27 April 2005

This Site Last Updated: Friday, October 10, 2014 03:20 PM
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