FH asks this great question:
I have read a number of passages and heard a number of preachers and Christians, but I am still trying to understand whether God puts into place and takes down every single king, leader, and president in every nation past, present, future. No matter if they are good or bad, godly or ungodly, believer or unbeliever? Am I to understand that God even put into power the bad leaders?
What language does the Lord Himself use concerning rulers?
“There is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Rom 13:1).
So, rulers are “from God” and are “appointed by God.” That does not mean that God forces nations or states or cities to choose ungodly rulers. But it also does not mean that God simply set the world in motion and then left all the details up to men. In some sense, God puts rulers in place.
Biblica.com (see here) says, “What we have to keep in mind is that whether a leader is good or bad, God continues to accomplish His will. He is sovereign. He is responsible for setting leaders in place (often for reasons and purposes we do not understand).”
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Prov 21:1). The point here is that God gives rulers limited freedom. They may think that they are totally free. But evil rulers like Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin ultimately lost power. And even when they were in power, they were not free to do all the evil that they would have liked to do.
I find this issue grievous, as it sounds like FH does. Why does God allow ungodly men and women to rise to power?
We must recognize that except in monarchies, dictatorships, and communist countries, people choose their own rulers. And even in those other countries, people chose at some point in the past to be part of the revolution that led to the dictatorship or communist regime. Or they chose to be a monarchy and to appoint a king. Remember Israel’s experience with King Saul.
If the people of the world had chosen to follow the Lord after the Fall or after the Flood, then the governments of the world would have been good governments.
We cannot blame God for our leaders.
But isn’t this really a concern about why God allows evil in the world at all? Why does He sometimes allow godly believers to die young? Why does He sometimes allow ungodly people to prosper financially and to live long lives?
The answer is because the kingdom has not yet come. When Jesus’ millennial kingdom comes, He will rule and He will keep all the rulers of the nations in line so that there will be no terrible rulers (Zech 14:9-19). Then the good will not die young (Isa 65:22). Then the wicked will not prosper or live long lives (Isa 65:20). Then righteousness, justice, and peace will flow on earth like rivers.
See Paul’s lament in 2 Cor 5:1-8. We groan in these bodies due to pain and suffering. But we know that the kingdom is coming (2 Cor 4:18), and we walk by faith in that coming kingdom, not by sight of our pain-filled bodies or in the inequities we see today (2 Cor 5:7).
FH is right. It should grieve us that many of the world’s rulers are far from righteous and just in the way they rule. It should make us long for Jesus’ soon return.
But we are not to join a revolution and seek to overthrow our government. Liberation theology is contrary to God’s Word. We are to obey the governing authorities (Rom 13:1) and to pray for them that God sees to it that they allow us freedom of worship (1 Tim 2:1-4).