Monday, June 6, 2011

What About Conspiracies?

I have heard people many times ridicule or criticize those who believe in conspiracies. They label them as conspiracy theorists. Believing in conspiracies is not fashionable. It’s considered foolish, narrow-minded and ignorant. I agree that not everything is a conspiracy and we need to verify our facts before we start claiming that something is a conspiracy. Those who think everything is a conspiracy can border on being a bit paranoid.

And many times, the actual conspiracies are so complex, and the diabolical plans so cloaked in darkness, that they are only seen or understood in part. This is why the theories that seek to explain the conspiracies are themselves sometimes merely partial truths at best.

With that said, the Bible has much to say about conspiracies, so we should try to understand what it says and align ourselves with God’s Word.

Conspiracy Against Jesus Christ
The most famous conspiracy of all time is the one against God’s Son, Jesus Christ. King David foretold it prophetically when he wrote: “Why are the nations in an uproar 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!" (Psa 2:1-3). When rulers counsel together against someone, that’s a conspiracy. In this case, rulers counseled together against the Lord and His Anointed Son Jesus.

We can be certain that this passage refers to Jesus, because it is confirmed in the New Testament. Peter and John had been arrested for healing lame man who was more than 40 years old. Here’s the passage:

On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.'”

Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Act 4:23-31).

So the first apostles and the church of their day understood that this psalm of David referred to the conspiracy against Jesus Christ by the religious leaders in Jerusalem. They said the rulers met “to conspire against your holy servant Jesus.” And the same rulers who had conspired against Jesus were conspiring against the apostles. God confirmed their prayer by shaking the placed where they were gathered and filling them with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Himself predicted this conspiracy saying, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. "They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again."
(Mar 10:33-34).

Later on it happened just like Jesus said it would. There was a conspiracy among the Herodians and Pharisees to destroy Jesus. “The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” (Mar 3:6). After Jesus cleansed the temple, he said that His Father’s house would be a house a prayer. “The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.” (Mar 11:18). “So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.” (Joh 11:53)

“When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say.” (Luk 11:53-54)

In fact, He told a parable about a man who planted a vineyard. The man sent one slave after another to collect some of the fruit, but the vine growers beat each of them shamefully. In the end, they even beat and killed the son of the man who planted the vineyard. Jesus concluded by declaring that He Himself was the Stone the builders rejected. “And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the people, for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away. Then they *sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement.” (Mar 12:12-13)

Jesus spoke openly to the conspirators about their plot to kill Him. "But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.” (Joh 8:40).

Should We Be Naïve and Throw Caution to the Wind?
Once the conspiracy to kill Him had begun, He was cautious to stay away from the places where Jews were seeking to kill Him. “After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him.” (Joh 7:1). While He was never afraid, He did use wisdom and kept Himself out of harms way until the time came for Him to be crucified.

He predicted that the apostles and prophets He would send after Him would also be persecuted as well. “For this reason also the wisdom of God said, 'I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute.’” (Luk 11:49).

"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake.” (Luk 21:12). "But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name.” (Luk 21:16-17)

And knowing that this would happen, Jesus taught His disciples how to handle persecution. "So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves.”
(Luk 21:14). So we are not to defend ourselves.

But just as Jesus was cautious to stay away from cities where there were obvious threats against His life, He advised His disciples to do the same. "But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next.” (Mat 10:23).

Should We Be Paranoid?
People are considered paranoid who go through life peering through the curtains or looking over their shoulder, always afraid that someone is going to kill them. Usually these people are plagued by an irrational fear of something that does not exist.

There are some people who are always calling everything a conspiracy. Is that how we should act? The Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah saying, "You are not to say, 'It is a conspiracy!' In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.”(Isa 8:12). Not everything that people say is a conspiracy is really a conspiracy.

But even if there is a legitimate threat to our lives, Jesus taught us not to fear the ones who threaten us. "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mat 10:28). Ultimately those who conspire evil plots can only kill the body. They cannot destroy body and soul. Only God can do this.

Jesus was not paranoid. As I already said, He used wisdom and stayed clear of the Judean region where they were plotting to kill Him. And God protected Him. But when the time came for Him to be crucified, He headed resolutely for Jerusalem, the heart of that dangerous place. “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luk 9:51, KJV)

And on the night He was betrayed, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray as usual. He did not hide in a secret place, but went to the same spot He usually went to. And when His betrayer came to turn Him over to those who plotted to take His life, He didn’t run. Instead He said, “Then He *came to the disciples and *said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. "Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!" (Mat 26:45-46)

He did not try to escape. His disciples were prepared to defend Him with deadly force, but He refused to allow it. He could have called upon a legion of angels and the Father would have sent them to rescue Him, but He gave up that right. Instead he recognized that the time had come for his betrayal and He willingly accepted it. (Mat 26:52-56).

Like I mentioned, this conspiracy against Jesus is the most famous one of all time. Yet there are many others recorded in Scripture.

The Conspiracy Against the Apostle Paul
Just as Jesus predicted, His apostles were persecuted, too. There were conspiracies to take their lives. This happened to the apostle Paul. “While they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion.” (Act 21:31)

“And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul, and they were urging [Festus], requesting a concession against Paul, that he might have him brought to Jerusalem (at the same time, setting an ambush to kill him on the way).” (Act 25:2-3).

People even tried to warn Paul not to go to Jerusalem where these threats awaited him. And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, "This is what the Holy Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Act 21:11-13).

This was no surprise to Paul. The Lord had already been telling Paul that these things were going to happen. "And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” (Act 20:22-24). He was determined to fearlessly march right into the mouth of the lion.

Conspiracy Against Daniel
Most people who have read the Bible are familiar with the conspiracy against the prophet Daniel. “Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. Then these men said, ‘We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.’ Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him…” (Dan 6:4-6).

Conspiracy Against the Jews
In the Book of Esther, we find the plot to annihilate the Jews. "Then Esther spoke again to the king, fell at his feet, wept and implored him to avert the evil scheme of Haman the Agagite and his plot, which he had devised against the Jews.” (Est 8:3). She dealt very wisely in this situation and God averted the disaster to save His people.

Conspiracy Against Rulers
There are many conspiracies against rulers recorded in Scripture. Time does not allow us to mention each one in detail. But some of the better-known ones include the conspiracy against David when his son Absalom usurped the throne (2 Sam 15:12), the conspiracy against King Joash (2 King 12:20), and the conspiracy against King Pekah (2 King 15:30).

Conspiracy Against the Lord God
In fact God revealed to the prophet Jeremiah that there was a conspiracy against the Lord Himself. “Then the LORD said to me, "A conspiracy has been found among the men of Judah and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. “ (Jer 11:9). In this case, there was a conspiracy among the people to turn back to the iniquities of their ancestors and the people who refused to hear the Word of the Lord. They decided to break their covenant with God and go after other gods.

Post Biblical Conspiracies
Of course, many, well-known conspiracies have happened since the first century, and these are well documented. Many of these are recorded in Fox’s Book of Martyrs. There were the ten primitive ones against Christians under the Roman Caesars, Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, and Severus.

In the fourth century, there was a great conspiracy against Christians in Persia that began under the emperor Sapores. According to John Fox, “George, the Arian bishop of Alexandria, under the authority of the emperor, began a persecution in that city and its environs, and carried it on with the most infernal severity. He was assisted in his diabolical malice by Catophonius, governor of Egypt; Sebastian, general of the Egyptian forces; Faustinus, the treasurer; and Heraclius, a Roman officer.” He goes on to write: “If a man, accused of being a Christian, made his escape, then his whole family were massacred, and his effects confiscated.”

Then there was the conspiracy under Julian the Apostate. Many people suffered from this conspiracy. Persecutions continued from the early part of the eighth, to near the conclusion of the tenth century. This was followed by the Papal conspiracies. Fox states that it was “a period when persecution, under the guise of Christianity, committed more enormities than ever disgraced the annals of paganism. Disregarding the maxims and the spirit of the Gospel, the papal Church, arming herself with the power of the sword, vexed the Church of God and wasted it for several centuries, a period most appropriately termed in history, the ‘dark ages.’”

We learn from Fox that “In the twelfth century, the first persecutions under the papacy began in Italy.” These were followed by the inquisitions of the thirteenth century. According to Fox, “Courts of Inquisition were now erected in several countries; but the Spanish Inquisition became the most powerful, and the most dreaded of any. Even the kings of Spain themselves, though arbitrary in all other respects, were taught to dread the power of the lords of the Inquisition; and the horrid cruelties they exercised compelled multitudes, who differed in opinion from the Roman Catholics, carefully to conceal their sentiments.”

Following the persecution of Martin Luther in the sixteenth century, the pope was so enraged at the reformer’s success that he conspired with the emperor of Germany against all Protestants. According to Fox, “The emperor undertook the extirpation of the Protestants, against whom, indeed, he was particularly enraged himself; and, for this purpose, a formidable army was raised in Germany, Spain, and Italy.” This was a very successful conspiracy. In fact, in the year 1732, over 30,000 Protestants were driven from Salzburg by the campaign. This conspiracy even spread to the Netherlands.

This conspiracy spread even to Great Britain and Ireland prior to the reign of Queen Mary I. Fox recounts: “For, in the said parliament, the king made this most blasphemous and cruel act, to be a law forever: that whatsoever they were that should read the Scriptures in the mother-tongue (which was then called ‘Wickliffe's learning’), they should forfeit land, cattle, body, life, and goods, from their heirs for ever, and so be condemned for heretics to God, enemies to the crown, and most arrant traitors to the land.” There were also terrible persecutions in Scotland during the reign of King Henry VIII. This continued in England during the reign of Queen Mary.

And we are all familiar with the conspiracy against Jews under the Nazi regime of Germany in the twentieth century, as well as the conspiracy again Christians and Jews during the communist era of the twentieth century in Eastern Europe, Russia, and China. In fact, the conspiracy against Christians continues to this day in places like China, India, Algeria, Uzbekistan, and North Korea.

Conspiracy of the Final World Ruler
A simple reading of the only prophetic book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse shows that the final world ruler will organize a conspiracy against the people of God. “There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.” (Rev 13:5-7).

He will make war against the saints and overcome them. He will deceive the masses, he will perform signs and wonders, and he will demand worship from everyone. He will also make laws and establish an economic system that makes it possible to kill those who don’t conform to his system. “And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.” (Rev 13:16-17)

Putting it All Together
Let’s face it – the Bible is full of examples of conspiracies. It’s quite obvious from the Bible that there have been conspiracies for thousands of years, and that they will continue until the end. We know that not everything people call a conspiracy is really a conspiracy, and we should be careful not to simply believe every theory that’s circulated, especially since some may only be partial truths. But if we have a biblical worldview, we will not deny or reject the possibility of a conspiracy, until we have done the research ourselves to verify the facts.

Even when we have verified there is, in fact, a conspiracy going on, we don’t need to fear those who can only kill the body. We should fear the One who can destroy both the body and the soul in hell. As Martin Luther wrote in his lyrics to his famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”:

Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.

While we don’t need to fear what man can do to us, we do need to be wise as serpents yet gentle as doves. Jesus taught His own disciples that they should flee from any city where they were persecuted, rather than remain in harms way. But then they were to continue the Lord’s work in the next place.

Finally, based on the example and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should not focus on conspiracies or possible ones, but rather upon Jesus. We should simply decide ahead of time not to defend ourselves and know that God will be glorified by whatever happens to us.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the Home page for this blog, and you can also find my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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