The church is and always will be in occupied enemy territory. This is a spiritual reality. The Bible teaches that the world is a fallen place, existing in a spiritual realm inhabited by demonic hosts and filled with people in rebellion against God.
Thus, it is not unfair to say that the church is always in some degree of danger, both from within and without. The dangers from outside the church are ominous. At an AFA retreat several years ago, Alex McFarland, author, apologist, and co-host of Exploring the Word on American Family Radio, highlighted a trio of threats about which Christians should be knowledgeable: (1) atheistic secularism, (2) militant homosexualism, and (3) radicalized Islam.
AFA Journal will address these threats in upcoming issues. Unfortunately, they seem to exist only in the periphery of most Christians’ minds. The threat is “out there” somewhere. Many Christians pay little attention, shrug their shoulders, and continue life as usual.
Knowing God’s time
Both biblically and historically, national disasters, while frequently the result of external forces, are often rooted internally in moral or spiritual evils. In Luke 19:41-44, Jesus warned God’s people of coming catastrophe.
In the case of Jerusalem, the rejection of Jesus Christ – and the religious rot that led to it – would bring judgment in the form of the armies of Rome. These pagan soldiers, Jesus said, “will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another.”
An unimaginable devastation was just over the horizon, but the people were unaware – and unconcerned.
Annihilation would come “because you did not recognize the time of your visitation”(v.44). Jesus Christ had come offering salvation, but the spiritual sickness of the majority of the Jewish people blinded them. In fact, their spiritual blindness was actually part of the judgment of God. The truth that was rejected would be withdrawn; it would now be “hidden from your eyes”(v.42).
Are we any different today? Is there anyone who believes that most Americans know “the things which make for peace”(v.42)? How about most Christians?
After all, in this passage, Jesus was not pronouncing doom against the pagan nations around Israel who sacrificed to idols; catastrophe was coming upon a nation in covenant with God, a people who sacrificed according to the law of God.
Charging enemy lines
In the 17th century, Christian Europe was divided not only religiously between Protestants and Catholics, but also politically – not the least of which was the intense rivalry between France and the Habsburg Empire.
The city of Vienna was the capital of that empire, and for centuries, the powerhouse Muslim empire of the Ottoman Turks held designs on it.
The Ottoman expansion that began in the 14th century incorporated not only Muslim lands in Asia Minor, the Middle East, and North Africa, but also the Christian lands of Greece and the Balkan states.
If the Ottomans could capture Vienna, they would possess the gateway to the rest of Europe, as well as control a critical juncture for European trade routes. The loss of Vienna would be a catastrophe for Christendom.
In 1683, on behalf of the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, the grand vizier Kara Mustafa led an army of 150,000 infantry and cavalry, along with 100,000 support personnel, from Hungary to Vienna. In tow were 300 large artillery pieces with which Mustafa intended to level the walls of the city.
The siege was established, and for two months the defenders were slowly decimated. Finally, Mustafa had taken a portion of the city’s walls and prepared the
Much of Christian Europe had temporarily set aside their political differences and sent an army in relief of Vienna, numbering between 65,000 and 75,000 men. Mustafa was not concerned. He believed the makeshift and polyglot Christian army would crash upon his larger, experienced, and entrenched troops.
The relief army, under the leadership of Polish king Jan Sobieski, arrived on the Kahlenberg Heights overlooking the besieged city on September 11. Unknown to Mustafa, Sobieski, who had experience fighting the Ottoman Turks, had among his army a total of 20,000 cavalry, including 3,000 of the famed “Winged Hussars” – Polish shock cavalry.
Each Hussar was armed with a deadly lance 15-20 feet in length, a piercing sword, a broadsword, a curved saber, a wheel lock pistol, and a carbine rifle. In addition, many carried war hammers, battle-axes, and the curved bows of eastern horse archers.
But they were perhaps most famous for their huge “wings.” Each Hussar had a wooden frame attached either to his saddle or armor, upon which were fastened eagle, falcon, swan, ostrich, or goose feathers. Most historians believe these wings created a loud, frightening clamor as the cavalry charged their enemies.
The next day the largest cavalry charge in human history began – 20,000 in all, including the Winged Hussars. At a critical juncture in more than 12 hours of fighting, the cavalry struck the flank of the Ottoman army and broke their lines. The Turks were defeated, and two months later, Kara Mustafa was executed. The Ottoman Empire never again threatened Vienna or Western Europe.
Understanding the times
These early Christian leaders recognized the time of their visitation. They had been fractured and would afterward still be divided. But at this crucial point, many of them knew they had to act. Christian Europe faced the possibility of subjugation to the armies of the Ottoman Empire.
Today, the church in the West – and especially here in America – is under assault by forces that will not agree to compromise. There’s no “live and let live” with the standard-bearers of these three movements – atheistic secularism, aggressive homosexualism, and radicalized Islam.
First Chronicles 12 lists the tribes of Israel and the men among them who would be at David’s side to make him king. They were prepared for battle. One tribe, the sons of Issachar, are called “men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do” (v. 32).
There comes a time when Christians have to understand the times and know what God’s people should do. They have to do what’s necessary, regardless of how difficult it is to do it.
It is past time for the church in America to recognize the threats. It is time for Christians to put on their spiritual armor, stand firm on God’s truth, and be prepared to metaphorically charge the enemy lines.
Indeed, the time of our visitation has come.
Learn more about challenges facing the church and the culture with The Progressive Threat to the American Republic by Ed Vitagliano, available for a suggested donation at afastore.net or 877.927.4917.
▶ This one-hour DVD pinpoints the core principles of secular humanism and traces how progressivism has reshaped the U.S.
▶ A 37-page booklet echoes the same insights, revealing how the nation is on the brink of losing personal freedoms.
Part 2 next month: Atheistic secularism – religion of rebels
(Editor's note: This originally was published in the print edition of the AFA Journal and can be found online here.)