Better to Reign in Hell than Serve in Heaven?

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Saul AlinskyThe midterm national elections are upon us in a few weeks. Some have called politics "a blood sport" and with all the drama and personal destruction going on, one might wonder what makes people want to run for office at all. Surely some want to help and serve others and make the world a better place. For some the motive may be more about pride or ego to make a name for one. But if we are honest, it seems clear in this hour that some of our leaders run for office to gain power and control over others. Sadly, for some, power appears to be a drug or narcotic that becomes as addictive as alcohol or cocaine. A few leaders just crave the "high" they get when they taste power in office and seem willing to do anything to get elected...literally anything.

Now deep down inside we all feel powerless at times. We live in a fallen world and there are times when we all would like to be in control and gain personal power. This attempt to gain personal power and control is humanity's way to deal with the need to replace the Lord and His power and control. After all, if we believed the Lord is the Lord, Almighty and in control of everything, we wouldn't go after power and control at all because it doesn't belong to us. However, since most people don't believe this truth they go after power and control anyway.
This vain search for power and control to compensate for our lack of faith and trust in the Lord's power and control explains all the battles going on in the world today. Without faith and trust in the Lord, people become so hungry for power and control that they will literally sell their own souls to get it. However, when we see this pattern emerging, the issue begins to move from politics and personal need to spiritual warfare. You see we are in an intense battle between competing kingdoms, God and Satan, Heaven and Hell.

All of these issues about power center in the Christian Faith and what it teaches. The Bible tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ gave up His power and control over Creation as the Son of God and became as nothing for our redemption (Philippians 2:5-11). When our Lord died on the Cross, He experienced a yielding of His power that made Him powerless to accomplish our redemption. Our Lord had to die in our places and pay the penal, substitutionary penalty for our sin. It was this powerlessness that brought us redemption. So, when a person is redeemed, they can give up their vain search for power and control, which in and of itself is a form of sin, and receive grace, forgiveness and a new identity from the Lord. When a person comes to this new place they become powerful again because they can rest in the Lord's power and control over their lives. So, the Lord shows us that relinquishing any of the power we think we have to Him and His redeeming love, actually gains us the real power we need to live as His servants.

Once a person surrenders their vain attempts to gain power and control in life to the Lord, they are able to use their lives to serve others with the power and control the Lord gives them in His name. This is the heart of the Kingdom of God and this is what the Lord is looking for from His people, namely serving others for His glory. This ultimate goal of power for servanthood is what every politician needs to seek after. When politicians start to serve others and not themselves, they begin to reflect the Lord Jesus Christ, the True Leader and Servant of life. This is the same battle today as it was in our Lord's time. Our Lord reminded the disciples of this fact in Matthew 20:25-28 when He said,
Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Our Lord reminds people that power without servanthood cannot work in His Kingdom. Jesus used His power to serve us as our Savior and pay a price to redeem us for our desire take power and use it for ourselves and not as a gift to serve others.

Now the major issue going on today is that many politicians and people want power as an end, a goal of their lives, not as a means of serving others for their good. This sad situation is well reflected in one of the classic works of literature entitled "Paradise Lost" by John Milton. Milton wrote this work in the 17th century as a spiritual poem and story describing the battle for power and control between God and Satan. Milton used a Biblical storyline to show the spiritual battle that always draws the whole world into it both then and now. In Milton's work, Satan's lust for power became so strong that he refused to submit to the Lord. Satan wanted to rule and have power no matter the cost. This desire led to one of the most famous lines in literature as Satan said, "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven." Satan was so corrupted by his lust for power that he was willing to be damned in order to have power and authority in Hell. The idea of submitting to the Lord and serving in Heaven was just repugnant and something he could never accept.

Sadly, this lust for power by Satan in Milton's classic work is alive and well today in our current political cycle. One of the clearest examples of this is seen in the life and influence of Saul Alinsky, pictured here, in American politics. Alinsky received a degree from the University of Chicago in 1930 and spent his life trying to teach people how to gain power. His seminal work, "Rule for Radicals" was written in 1971 and became a manual for people looking to gain power by overthrowing the establishment bases of power that held it. In the beginning of the book, Alinsky thanks and acknowledges Lucifer (Satan) as the first "radical." Alinsky writes the following,
Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.
Now all of this discussion might seem somewhat irrelevant until we consider the fact that two of Alinsky's most well-known disciples are former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Both of these national and world leaders have acknowledged connections to Alinsky's thinking and tactics in their campaigns and rise to political power. Exactly how much of Alinsky's life and teahing is behind these individuals is hard to say. One thing we can say is that it is impossible not to connect politics to the spiritual realm. Any attempt to seek and gain power is always connected to the spiritual realm and warfare, as discussed by John Milton in "Paradise Lost' and the Bible. To try and make sense of our world without this spiritual consideration would completely ignore this reality and all that is happening around us.

As we increasingly watch the politics of destruction and growing violence unfolding around us, it is an important time for Christians to discern what is going on. Much of what we are seeing today is some form of Alinsky tactics being implemented that reflects a spiritual, if not demonic source. The things going on in the news today with Antifa and many other groups are right out of Alinsky's book. When you consider the source of that book and the rebellion against the Lord it promotes, it is hard to think the times we are living in today are just about "politics as usual." We seem to be increasingly moving to another level of cultural disdain and enmity for the Lord and His laws. Our political discourse is increasingly revealing a spiritual conflict that Milton knew well and that the Bible clearly speaks about.

It is a sad and tragic thing that there are people today who would rather go to Hell than yield their search for power to the Lord by serving Him and others. One day this epic battle will be over. One day soon our Lord's glorious Kingdom will come, and we will see the final fulfillment of all our prayers, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven" (Matthew 6:10).

As the national elections draw near, it is time to seek the Lord anew, pray for our Nation, vote and speak up. May the Lord Jesus Christ use each of us to share the only hope that comes from receiving the gift of His grace that frees us from the vain search for power and control. May we all embrace our Lord and His everlasting Kingdom of love and servanthood for one another.