In the book of Jonah, we learn that God called the prophet to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. Famously, Jonah resisted that call and ran as far as he could in the opposite direction. God demanded obedience and convinced Jonah through his adventure with the whale to go do what he’d been told.
Jonah had good reason in the natural to oppose God. Nineveh was a mighty city of 120,000 people that was part of the Assyrian empire. Assyria had the rightly deserved reputation of conquering its enemies by using sheer terror as part of its strategy. The thought of Assyria marching onto your nation’s doorstep made its victims tremble with abject fear. In Jonah’s fleshly estimation, Nineveh had no right to escape God’s judgment and wrath. The best thing for all concerned, particularly Israel, would be for God to pour our utter destruction upon the city.
But God thought otherwise at that particular point in time. Astonishingly, there were people in that city whom He wanted to reach. Grudgingly, Jonah traveled to Nineveh, preached his message, and saw the entire city turn from its wicked ways so that God relented of His death sentence.
The pertinent questions for this essay are: Why did Nineveh repent? How was it even possible for this pagan city to turn to God? And: How does America compare with Nineveh?
Nineveh in Assyria, in what is now Iraq, was part of the wider Ancient Near East (ANE). Israel was a tiny part of that larger ANE culture, but oversized in terms of her importance and influence. Yahweh was Israel’s God, the One true God. After the Tower of Babel incident, God scattered the peoples, confused their language, created nations, and set His divine sons over those nations. We see this in Deuteronomy 32:8:
“When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.”
Because God had essentially gotten fed up with mankind’s rebellious ways, He decided to take a time-out. Rather than deal with all these disobedient peoples, God took a break after the Tower and required His spiritual sons to point these nations back to Him. In the meantime, He called out Israel as a special people, which is what Deuteronomy 32:9 tells us:
“But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.”
That didn’t work out so well, which is what Psalm 82 outlines. However, the point is that the peoples of the ANE knew about God. He had been integral in the affairs of man since the Garden, the Flood, the Tower, and in the life of Israel since its inception. Everyone in that surrounding culture knew about Yahweh and what He could do. It’s simply that He wasn’t the God of these other nations, per se, as far as all of them knew. The divine son of God placed over a particular nation ended up becoming its god because of the disobedience of these sons as shown in Psalm 82. In the case of Assyria, that god was called Ashur. Other gods in the ANE were Baal, Molech, etc.
When Jonah came preaching repentance to Nineveh, the people of the city faced a huge decision. They all knew that Yahweh could do what Jonah claimed. They’d seen or heard about Yahweh’s judgments in the past. This was the God who had destroyed the world by the Word of His mouth through the Flood; this was Yahweh who had delivered Israel from Egypt with ten horrible plagues. The threat that Jonah brought was no idle one.
That was the scenario when Jonah declared that Nineveh had forty days to repent. Because of all they knew, the people made a wise and informed decision. And there was true repentance; otherwise, God would have destroyed the city, which would have made Jonah quite happy. The bottom line in Nineveh’s repentance was knowledge of God and of His capabilities.
When we look at our situation comparatively in America, this is one of the many problems I have with the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and its prophetic declarations. Time and again, NAR’s prophets, through magazines like Charisma, have declared that a great revival is coming to this nation. When I first began reading this several years ago, it never sat right with me. Immersed in Bible prophecy as I’ve been, what these folks said ran absolutely counter to my reading and understanding of Scripture. How could there be this great soul harvest without the Bible telling us about it? (Actually, it does tell us there will be many turning to Christ, it’s just that they’ll do so during the Tribulation.)
I later learned that many NAR adherents are preterists. They believe that Biblical prophecy was all essentially fulfilled by 100 AD. If that was the case, then Revelation is symbolic and not literally applicable to today. No Revelation – No Tribulation. In fact, as I understand it, even the Rapture is up for grabs with many NAR people. With these minor inconveniences out of the way, that makes room for a massive revival and the Christianizing of the world, NAR can take Dominion, and bring about the Kingdom Now.
As far as I can tell, this is all a part of the Biblical illiteracy that has been growing over the years. Relatively few Christians read the entire Bible. Many think that if they read a devotional plus the verse of the day, they’re all set and right with God. Who needs more than that? Thus, when NAR pastors, apostles, or prophets come along and say that revival is coming, with no mention of the Tribulation, a false understanding of what God intends is foisted upon these unsuspecting NAR followers.
Compounding this is the absolute falling away of America from God. Our nation has turned secular. Worse, those people that go to churches other than NAR churches are generally subjected to the social gospel, homosexuality is peachy-keen, and other aberrant teachings which bring forth anything but the true Word of God.
Compared to Nineveh, we’re in big trouble. Yes, that city was a fraction of our 330 million people, but I think we still have to consider the knowledge base. Whereas probably most of the inhabitants of Nineveh knew about God and feared Him, the percentage of those in America with those same sensibilities are minuscule. Today, truly, there is only a remnant in America who actually know and fear God. Yes, of course, God can do anything. That’s a given. He can bring a massive revival and not forewarn us in His Word. But He also reaches the point of no return for a person, a city, a nation, and a world. (Yes, He even reaches that point with individuals. See Jeremiah 11:14.)
The Tribulation is coming for this world, and America will be cast into the heart of that wrath. But, here’s the most important promise that God has made that I want to point out. For those who love Him, He will deliver them from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). He will keep us from the hour of trial coming upon this entire earth (Revelation 3:10).
We do not have to be afraid. What we’re currently facing now with the coronavirus, the lockdowns, and the increasing governmental control over daily life are simply pebbles in our path to when Jesus comes back to Rapture His church. The things we see happening all around us will be magnified many times over in the Tribulation. Rejoice! We who love the Lord won’t go through that.
Yes, life is getting more difficult, but we who follow Bible prophecy knew that it would. Didn’t Jesus say that we as believers would face trials and tribulations? But again, I say: rejoice! Because we are seeing and experiencing all these things, His coming is soon. The leaves on the fig tree are becoming greener. It will shortly bear fruit. Even if it’s just with your fingernails, keep hanging on. It’ll all be worth it.
Gary W. Ritter is a lay pastor, Bible teacher, and serves as Missions Director at his church. He is also a prolific author. His Whirlwind Series is comprised of three books: Sow the Wind, Reap the Whirlwind, and There Is A Time. These books are contained in the collected volume of the Whirlwind Omnibus. Gary has been given the Christian Redemptive Fiction award for two novels: The Tattooed Cat and Alien Revelation. He has recently released Looking Up – Volume 3, a non-fiction work that contains essays and devotions on end-times and prophetic events. Gary’s intent in all his writings is to bring a strong Christian witness to what people read. You can reach him at his website: www.GaryRitter.com or his Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/gritter3390. You can also see his video Bible teachings on his Gary Ritter YouTube channel – look for the fish symbol.