“Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster on themselves” (Isaiah 3v8-9 – NIV).
First a point needs to be made about responsibly interpreting Old Testament prophecy. In the run-up to the English Civil War, too many Christian preachers would have drawn a direct line from Judah in the mid-8th Century BC to England in the mid-17th Century AD. That interpretative approach was irresponsible and fuelled violence.
The Judah in which Isaiah prophesied was a unique theocracy subject by divine edict to the Old Testament Law of Moses. That was not true of 17th Century England and it is manifestly not true of Britain in 2016.
But though the political and social differences between Judah then and Britain now are more significant than their similarities, the features of their respective national declines do bear a resemblance. Judah when Isaiah preached was on the brink of political and social collapse, the underlying spiritual and moral cause of which was the widespread refusal by individuals to embrace the rightful authority of the Lord God Almighty over them.
The same grim prospect would appear to be in view for 21st Century Britain for the same reason.
Judah collapsed in the early 6th Century BC through foreign invasion by the Babylonians. Isaiah’s prophecy of disaster came true then. Britain is surely unlikely to collapse through foreign invasion. Unless, God forbid, the Islamic State succeeds in dominating mainland Europe, what country would want to invade us?
Surely the more likely cause of the collapse of Britain’s parliamentary democracy, whether this country remains in the European Union or not, would be internal social and civic breakdown. Were not the summer 2011 riots an early warning of an impending social tsunami, possibly around the middle of this century, if the nation stays on its present spiritual and moral trajectory?
The idea that Britain needs an evangelical Christian revival of 18th Century dimensions for its national rescue is broadly right but it needs explaining. The nation that was transformed by the mass field preaching of the likes of John Wesley and George Whitefield had been impacted profoundly by the evangelical Reformation of the 16th and 17th Centuries.
Yes, Britain’s ruling elite had become corrupt and dissolute in the wake of Charles II’s decadent reign (1660-1685) but the spiritual soil was very different from what it is now. Our 21st Century soil has been poisoned by the spiritual and moral disaster that was the First World War, a disaster that eventually transmogrified into the permissive society of the 1960s. There is now no conceptually Christian bonfire in Britons’ minds and hearts that can be set ablaze by mass public preaching.
The biblically Christian revival that is more conceivable in this century would be incremental – people becoming disillusioned with Islam and political correctness and turning to the Lord Jesus Christ for personal salvation. Such incremental revival does depend, under God, on the spiritual health of local churches, which would act as the rescue boats under such a scenario.
It is important to stress that even if everybody in Britain became a Christian it would not become a perfect society. Christians remain sinful until Christ returns when, in the Apostle Paul’s words, ‘by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control (he will transform) our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body’ (Philippians 3v21 – NIV). Until then, in the words of Article IX of the Church of England’s 39 Articles of Religion – Of Original or Birth-sin – ‘this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated’.
But it is certainly true to say that in terms of Britain’s future as a stable, viable, independent, sovereign State only the Lord Jesus Christ can save it through an outpouring of his Holy Spirit on a significant number of people living on this island.