Standing in the city square of Kiev last July, I saw something that prefigured the downfall of the communist government one month before it happened.
I was visiting a small church in the Ukraine made up mostly of young people – teenagers and young adults – five of whom are establishing a newspaper in the Soviet Union similar to The Forerunner. That day we had been to the River Dnieper. Three young converts had been baptized in the river by their pastor, completing a Christian tradition that has been taking place for two thousand years. But for the Kievan beach-goers it was a strange novelty. Many stopped and watched the event and stayed and listened to the pastor’s sermon on the meaning of baptism.
Remarkably, this group of young Christians then decided to preach the gospel in the city square. One of the young men who had just been baptized wanted to publicly declare his faith to the thousands of people passing through the square after working hours. As I stood and watched, I noticed above us a large hammer and sickle insignia on a building. In the background was the Ukrainian government building ornate with communist symbols engraved in stone. Directly across the street was a three story high statue of Lenin. I then realized that only a few years before preaching the message of Christianity in public was forbidden.
Scores of people gathered to hear, some immediately rejected the message and walked on, and others stopped to listen intently and asked questions. Many were given the address to the church and were invited to a service. It was still a novelty – like the baptism an hour before – most Kievans had never seen such a spectacle.
And yet I realized that the “spectacle of the message of the cross” has always been the life-blood of the Christian movement. This is exactly how the gospel originally spread throughout the World during the Early Church era (33-325 AD). The New Testament has a lot to say about the “spectacle” or the “foolishness of preaching.” According to one description the Christian message has always been divisive (2 Cor. 2:15-17). People hearing the gospel message either embrace it for its life-changing simplicity, or they mockingly scoff at its foolishness and reject it.
On American campuses the story is the same. From Harvard Square to the UC Berkeley campus, preaching evangelists often show up. Most will walk on by undistracted by a common event. A few students will grasp at the heart of what is being said. Others greet the preacher as a buffoon, a clown, a sideshow of entertainment.
But on this warm, sunny day in the Ukraine, the preaching was incredible. Gazing up at the Soviet flag, the statue of Lenin, and the communist symbols in the square, I felt that the power of a kingdom was being shaken … and it was. This wasn’t simply a public square; it was an arena for displaying the power of God through the Church. These young people were an army and the legions of hell – the communist legacy in the Ukraine – were about to be vanquished through the power of their words.
In the Bible God says: “Is not My word like a hammer that breaks a rock into pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29).
Upon returning to the United States, I watched the hourly news reports of the failed coup attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev and the resulting ouster of the communist governments of all 15 republics. The most incredible scene was that of the city square in Kiev. On my television screen, I saw the demolition of the communist insignia in the very same square which I had just visited. Hammers were smashing the name of Vladimir Illych Lenin on the base of his statue to pieces.
All over the Soviet Union statues of communist heroes were being toppled. One Latvian man – obviously a Christian – said: “We just tore down a monument to Lenin, perhaps there should be something to be put in its place. It should be replaced by a monument to Jesus Christ.”
The Christian movement in the USSR, so often ignored by the western media, was now being recognized. There was certainly something miraculous about the failure of the coup. Communism wasn’t defeated from the earth, it was vanquished by the powers of heaven. The New Testament speaks of “the principalities and the powers of the heavenly realm.” This is a description of spiritual beings – angels and demons – which war over cities and towns, battling for the hearts and minds of men. The Church is described as the showcase for God’s spiritual power.
“His intent was that now, through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the principalities and powers in the Heavenly realms” (Ephesians 3:10).
In our Western culture of materialism – often devoid of lofty spiritual ideas – many would scoff at the idea of demonic forces holding power over a city. But was there ever a force so rightfully described as demonic as the scourge of Stalinist Russia? From the viewpoint of the physical sciences, there are theorums in the field of quantum mechanics which allow for the necessity of parallel universes. Would it be strange to discover that there are other created beings besides ourselves which inhabit our world?
A good analogy of the natural realm and the spiritual realm would be to consider what we can see with the human eye of the total light spectrum. If we could see past the natural colors that we discern with the unaided eye, we would discover a vaster spectrum. Likewise, there is a vaster spectrum of experience than what we can see in the material world.
It is as if there is a one-way mirror that divides the universe. We see only the reflection; but on the other side we are being watched by spiritual rulers – the principalities and powers of the spiritual realm. And it is the Church that is being watched most intently.
As I watched young Christians preaching to their Ukrainian countrymen, I also was aware of some other groups – Hare Krishnas passing out literature near the subway entrances, anti-nuclear protesters stimulating the political consciences of the people, etc. – but I knew that there was only one message that was being heard by the powers that controlled that city.
How strange it must have been for those powers to look down on the earth and see young Christians with a message going forth like a hammer to smash their power, like a fire to consume them. And how strange for them to know that their allotted time of rulership was almost up. The last sands in the hour glass had almost sifted away. And their kingdom was about to be supplanted by another Kingdom which would last forever.
- Jay Rogers
Managing Editor, The Forerunner
Editorial Consultant, Predvestnik