Since the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage I have been receiving a host of messages from Christians alarmed about where our own nation is going. On one level I share their alarm about the consequences of equal-marriage for life and ministry. On another level I see the Sovereign Lord at work bringing to pass a spiritual transformation that can come only as the Church is forced to the margins (Luke 24:26). Scandalously perhaps, just as I stopped praying for a honeymoon image of “revival” years ago, I believe we have entered a space God explained to his prophet; ““As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you.”” (Jer 7:16). The handing over of Israel to the Babylonians was necessary because God’s people had abandoned him for idols; just like today. Since the political always follows the spiritual this article presents a few prophetic remarks about what I see happening in the spiritual realm.
The Ascended Image
Praying over the actions of our real opponents in the marriage struggle, the evil spiritual forces in the heavenly places, I received a clear but highly repugnant picture before my inner eyes (Eph 1:18; Eph 6:12). It was of a human being highly exalted and in an ascended position. Such personal elevation is the ultimate ambition of Satan and those he inspires. Seeking to be higher than God the devil lost his created station, tempting Adam and Eve to “be like God” they lost their glory as the divine image; in his final assault the devil will resurrect a figure given up for dead that “exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship” (Gen 3:5; Isa 14:12ff; Rom 3:23; 2 Thess 2:4; Rev 13:3). Whilst it has always been God the Father’s goal to lift us up to share his heavenly glory self-exaltation is a route posed by the “father of lies” (Isa 43:6-7; John 8:44; Rev 21:11).
Fallen human beings deeply long for the glory of being “wise in their own eyes” (Prov 3:7; Isa 5:21; Rom 1:22). Thus the great drive for equal marriage is to achieve spiritual and moral enlightenment before our own eyes and other “progressive” nations (cf. Gen 3:5, 7). Such an idolatrous disposition “exchanges the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man” (Rom 1:21). This falling away from godliness swaps the climactic image of God as a man and woman joined together in covenant by the Creator (Gen 2:24) for a marital state wholly constructed by human imagination (Acts 17:29). We have become our own creators! From “the beginning” the great spiritual issue in the struggle between God and Satan, is the suppression of the revealed glory of God (Mark 10:6; John 8:44; Rom 1:18). The primary issue is not the status of marriage, family or being a “Christian nation”, but robbing God of his glory. The elevation of same sex couples to share the pinnacle point of cosmic revelation with male-female in the image of God has massive spiritual implications (Gen 1:26-28).
As God took Israel into Babylonian exile in to cleanse her from idolatry so the Australian Church must be prepared for its transforming exile. I was born into a world where almost all Australians considered themselves “Christian” and church-going was as normal as the religion lessons at school. But lore and culture never made us a “Christian nation”. I believe the public narcissism involved in the legalising of the idol of equal marriage will eventually force the Church to let go of the mythical elements of Australia as the “Great South Land of the Holy Spirit…our future…our hope” (Steve Grace). We are moving into a cultural political and moral shadowland which holds immense promise.
When the first martyr Stephen spoke in the shadow of the Jerusalem Temple he knew Christ alone could save him. Dying for his counter-culture preaching he “saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (John 7:55). When the Ephesians rioted against the preaching of Paul in the vicinity of the great temple of Artemis the apostle knew he was being confronted by a great power of darkness. As Paul reasoned at Mars Hill under the shadow of the Acropolis he experienced a region infested with idols and demons (Acts 17:16ff; 19:23ff; 1 Cor 10:19-20). The skylines of the cities of the 7 churches of Revelation were all dominated by the icons of an anti-Christ Caesar cult. Friendship with the world was impossible for faithful Christians (James 4:4). The spiritual icon of a fiercely anti-Christian new age of moral and spiritual “enlightenment” is equal marriage.
I see the Spirit moving the faithful Church of God underground, but in a surprising way. Gatecrashing a Christian organisation’s board meeting in Melbourne recently I found myself in a lofty glass filled space with vistas over the Yarra, the MCG and the Rod Laver Arena. Some of the brethren irresistibly took snaps of the view. Since this location was arranged through a former Governor General surely this is a sign that Christians are still “influencers” in this world? Quite oppositely, I thought of Satan taking Jesus to a high mountain and offering him worldy glory (Luke 4:5-7). But an even more pivotal text comes to mind.
“In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?” (Eph 4:9). The image of God that will remain forever exalted is of the one who descended from the heights of heaven to the depths of our afflicted humanity; a descent even into the hell of the cross (Mark 15:34). The ultimate object of beauty in the universe is not ungendered but Bridegroom/Christ-Bride/Church indwelling the glory of God (Rev 21:9-11). We taste this “high and lofty” reality only when we possess “a contrite and lowly spirit” of Christ-crucified (Isa 57:15; Phil 2:5-11). Faithful Christians can certainly enter the “board rooms” of this world but only in the spirit of the early persecuted believers who met in the catacombs underground the city of Rome. In the Spirit of the entombed one God will certainly share his glory with his Church; but this weakened Body will find its affinity with the weak of this world instead of the strong (Acts 2:24-28; Eph 3:20-21).
The days of the conquering cross of a post Constantine world where the Church was privileged to rule besides the state are fast drawing to an end. As the social elite of the first century saw Christians not as “do-gooders” but “do-badders”, followers of a criminal and heretic, so it will soon be for faithful Christians who hold the testimony of Jesus (Steve McAlpine). With the elevation of gay marriage as the image of spiritual and moral enlightenment the Church must be increasingly forced to the margins of culture. In this place Christ’s Bride can once again begin to realise her heavenly origins and destiny (Gal 4:26-27; Heb 12:22-24; Rev 19:6-9). This suffering Bride will shine marvellous celestial wisdom, enormous creativity and a deep sacrificial godliness of character (Eph 3:10; Phil 2:15). I believe that the pathway imaged by equal marriage will prove to be God’s way back to the suffering glory of the Early Church. A most painful journey for us and for the Australian nation; but such is the way of the crucified and ascended Lord!
“Marriage equality in Australia” Open Letter: to incumbent Local Federal Member
Open Letter: Re strategy to force same-sex “marriage” by Lachlan Dunjey
Letter to Bill Shorten
Do you think Australia’s marriage laws should be changed to allow same-sex marriage?
Bill Shorten plan to redefine marriage: Beware the red herrings!
Email addresses of all Australian MP’s “Say No to Same Sex Marriage!”
Thirty-eight of Australia’s Religious Leaders Call on PM and Parliament to Uphold True Meaning of Marriage
Turning Point: Equal marriage and the Future of the Church