By Not Known

The Roman Empire was the monolith of New Testament times. All roads led to Rome, all power belonged to Rome and all revenue flowed to Rome. Other powers quaked and fell before her and Roman hegemony threatened to crush all before it.

Many European countries have archaeological digs and museum projects to study and preserve the artefacts of the Roman Empire. The effects of her influence can be traced in Western civilisation, but it is only vestige. Rome exists only in her ruins.

The same is true of all great empires. Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and Greece all had their dawn, noon, dusk and nightfall. The great Khmer Empire is now only decaying rubble at Angkor Wat. Where is the Qing Dynasty of China, the Vijayanagaran Empire of India or the once-great shogunates of Japan?

All earth’s kingdoms go to the dustbin of history within temporal time and pass to insignificance in eternal time. Augustine summarised it thus in the dying days of the Roman Empire: the cities of men fade while the city of God endures and flourishes.

Meanwhile we live in earth’s cities. Jesus paid his taxes and submitted to the civil legal process. Paul teaches us to submit even to bad government (Nero was emperor when Paul wrote Romans 13:1-7). Peter urges submission to earthly authority (1 Pet 2:13-17) and was probably himself martyred in Rome under these same authorities. Further, we are told to pray and give thanks for kings and those in authority with the goal of being free to live quiet and peaceful lives (1 Tim 2:1-2).

All these help us relate to National Day as Singapore enjoys the noonday sun of history. Christian people should be thankfully and positively engaged with our earthly city – knowing that it is God who has placed us here. Let us be good citizens of this earthly city. But let us know that Singapore’s day in the sun will pass. Future tourists and scholars will peer at her ruins and vestiges. Can we imagine Shenton Way and Orchard Road strewn with rubble and relics where archaeologists pick and poke?

Above all, let’s keep the great love and hope of our hearts on the city that is to come – which is the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God (Heb 12:22; 13:14). This heavenly city is our lasting nation, for the rest is ruins.

David Burke