‘Vote leave’ supporters seemed as surprised as everyone else that Britons decided to exit the EU on 23 June 2016. At the time of writing this article no asteroid strike had taken place. Even the rumbling Icelandic volcano failed to erupt in disgust.
And there was no earthquake. Or was there an earthquake? In Revelation 11:13, we read, ‘And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven’.
There has been no geological earthquake in Britain, but there has certainly been a metaphorical earthquake, that rumbles on. Amidst leadership affirmations that the will of the people mustbe respected, there have been also demands that the resultbe overturned.
When an earthquake takes place, its consequences have to be faced. We are to lay to heart great changes and meditate upon them. It is no good pretending everything is unchanged or that the clock can be turned back.
But what is the way forward? The book of Revelation encourages us to see that great changes on earth originate in heaven and convey something of God’s view of things.
Christian reaction ought to begin with the sovereign, omnipotent God. What we have experienced is an earthquake not a ‘heaven-quake’. In the heaven of heavens there is no such thing as quaking and the English language lacks a word for such an impossible thing. God is exactly the same now as he was on 22 June, and this would be true had Britain voted to remain in the EU.
He sits enthroned above it all: ‘Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness … The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness … The Lord sitteth upon the flood; yea, the Lord sitteth King for ever’ (Psalm 29).
As God is unchangeable, so are his purposes for his people and his standards for our behaviour. We must not react like those around us, as if the earthquake is just a temporal matter with no spiritual significance. For believers, the earthquake is a call to a Christian response.
When John saw that ‘the tenth part of the city fell’, it was a signal of God’s displeasure and of worse to come for sinful structures. In a recent ET comment (May 2016) I drew attention to three spiritual concerns over the EU — formerly promoted as the European Economic Community — there has been a truth deficit (Proverbs 23:23), financial stewardship deficit (1 Corinthians 4:2), and, for some Christians, justice deficit (Psalm 94:20).
The ‘tenth part of the city’ reminds us that there were ten plagues in Egypt (Exodus 7-12). When the fish died and the river stank, Pharaoh had opportunity to humble his heart and spare his people nine-tenths of their troubles, but he hardened his heart. When God acts, it becomes all men, even kings, to take note.
The Israelites in Egypt were not to view the first tenth of the plagues as the end, but the beginning. Much hardship still lay before them in the unfolding of God’s victory, but God’s great triumph comes on by parts. In Revelation 11, the fall of the tenth is set out as a signal of the total fall of ungodliness.
Whatever feelings Christians might have about ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the EU, no Christian should approve of the EU’s ungodly aspects. These will bring it down eventually, unless it reforms (without referring to ‘righteousness’, some EU leaders are already acknowledging the need for reform).
The way ahead
John records that ‘the remnant … gave glory to the God of heaven’ (Revelation 11:13). This response was good, as far as it went, and yet heavenly things were not spirituallyembraced by them.
If Christians voted merely on political and economic grounds, it would be to our shame. The same can be said concerning our approach to the way ahead. Important as social, economic and political factors are, they are not the most important things. God has a purpose beyond economic welfare and human morality, even. It is to magnify Christ in this world of sin.
When the seventh angel sounded, ‘there were great voices in heaven, saying, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever’ (Revelation 11:15).
Our generation knows the disastrous litany of recent national policies: the abolition of the death penalty for murder, the death sentence for living babies by legal abortion, departure from the biblical (and EU treaty!) definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. It also knows the litany of those who have suffered oppression for conscience’s sake: Lillian Ladele, Asher’s Baking Company, Richard Page, and various open air preachers.
But Christians should have no doubt that our future lies in the triumph of truth. The present national insecurity is a golden spiritual opportunity to recall our nation to that from which it has fallen.
The UK is now a ‘Disunited Kingdom’, not just because of all the political considerations, but because Britons have sidelined the one thing that united us and made us great, namely, the claims of God.
With God’s help, his true saints in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland can unite around the Lord and his purposes. There need not be division between ‘Brexiteer’ and ‘Remain’ Christians, or between younger and older generations.
Once our family was on a train where all passengers were told to alight. Soon after, another train came in to the station and everyone got on the second one, though we were not told where the train was going! We had to trust to go somewhere instead of staying marooned.
Providence is much more reliable than railways! We can go forward in faith, confident in the Lord. Abraham ‘went out, not knowing whither he went’ (Hebrews 11:8). The exact destination was not clear, but he went in faith in God and prospered. May God grant us grace to seize the spiritual opportunities that post-Brexit presents.
Roy Mohon is the minister of the Presbyterian Reformed Church, Stockton-on-Tees.
Editor’s note: We welcome this eirenical article, arising out of what has been a politically divisive national issue. Further constructive articles on this subject are invited from readers.