Sobriety: in an Age of Intoxication
Robert Wurtz II
“And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts (Rev. 9:21).”
“The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived” (Rev. 18:23 NKJV).
“Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:6–8 KJV).
I have chosen these three passages as a starting point to lovingly and sincerely express a deep concern I have had for many years regarding a certain strategy of the enemy in these last days. A cursory reading of the Bible, unaided by Bible College or Seminary, will reveal a disturbing trend in the narrative about certain people. That trend is the tendency to recklessly give themselves to intoxication of one form or another at a time when they most desperately need to be sober-minded, that is, in their right mind.
Some passages of prophetic scripture (such as Rev. 9:21 and 18:23) made very little sense to the original hearers because what was being discussed was impossible when it was published. Even in regards to grace and salvation, prophets would enquire diligently and search carefully about these prophetic things. But there was no way to understand certain eschatological (end-time) sayings when they were first penned because the time was not yet. This brings us to Rev. 9:21 and 18:23.
The masses in Rev. 9:21 refused to repent of and were rather deceived by “sorcery” a word translated from the Greek pharmakeia from which we get pharmacy. Deceived is a word translated “to go astray,” “to err,” and “to be deceived.” On pharmakeia the late great Greek scholar A.T. Roberton wrote in the late 19th century, pharmakia, old word (from pharmakeuō, to prepare drugs, from pharmakon, sorcery, Rev. 9:21), in N.T. only here and Gal. 5:20 for sorcery and magical arts. If one is puzzled over the connection between medicine and sorcery as illustrated by this word (our pharmacy), he has only to recall quackery today in medicine (patent medicines and cure-alls), witch-doctors, professional faith-healers, medicine-men in Africa. True medical science has had a hard fight to shake off chicanery and charlatanry.”
Much of the “cure-all” medicines in those days were not antibiotics because they had not been discovered yet. They were not mild pain killers such as you can buy at the local convenience store, but were often extremely addictive and intoxicating liquids. One example was Laudanum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laudanum) which was prescribed for many ailments for adults and children and usually contained alcohol, almost all of the opium alkaloids, including morphine and codeine. It could be purchased over the counter globally until it came under government regulation between 1914 and 1920.
In modern times, we understand the intoxicating (mind-altering) and addictive qualities of all these drugs. But that has not slowed the trend towards the so-called “recreational use” down much. At present, only alcohol is available over the counter. But the trend is towards legalization (for so-called “recreational use”) and taxation of intoxicating substances–including THC (Marijuana). One only needs to step outside their front door today almost anywhere in the midwest and the repulsive and nauseating skunk smell is present in the air. Some envision a wide-open society that emulates the standards of a Cheech and Chong movie of the 70s and 80s. What will the world be like once all the restrictive laws are finally removed and the multitudes of mind-altering substances, invented in the last 100 years, are available over-the-counter?
Have you ever tried to rationalize with a person who is drunk or bombed out on drugs? It is a powerful and deadly strategy of the enemy to destroy minds with drugs until the Gospel is incomprehensible and irrelevant to them. There used to be a commercial in the 1980s where an egg was dropped into a hot frying pan with the voice of a narrator saying “this is your brain on drugs.” Yet today, mind-altering drugs are being normalized. We would all be shocked if we knew the percentages of adults and children that are taking some form of mind or behavior-altering drug. Intoxication is wide-spread and in a multitude of forms. Does this not bring us to Rev. 9:21 and 18:23?
At a time when alcohol and drugs are normalized and even promoted, how can a Christian maintain their sobriety? In most countries, it is illegal to drink more than a few beers and then get behind the wheel of a car (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_alcohol_content). That’s if the person weighs over 200lbs… the less the weight the less alcohol it takes to intoxicate. Why? Because it is dangerous. Hold on a second. If secular society says I’m too impaired to drive after one or two beers, is that their definition of being intoxicated (drunk)? It must be if I can be criminally prosecuted for doing it, especially if I’m involved in an accident where there are casualties. It’s really just common sense.
I suggest that in these last days multitudes of professing Christians are going to follow the trend of the world and imbibe every mind-altering substance that’s legalized and do it in the name of “Christian liberty.” They will elevate liberty over sobriety. And all of this at a time when we need our wits about us like never before. These are dangerous times. We have a real and deadly enemy who is walking around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Satan isn’t a man in a black cape with a pitchfork. He has damned millions upon millions of souls. He isn’t depicted as a lion in scripture for nothing. Who would be foolish enough to travel out into the jungle after a few shots of hard liquor or a few puffs off of a marijuana cigarette? They would soon be lunch for the lion. If you believed a lion was out there waiting to kill you, you would be as sober-minded and alert as the scriptures repeatedly call us to be (1 Thess. 5:6, Titus 2:2-6, 1 Pet. 1:13. 4:7, 5:8, et al).
I’m not trying to legislate what Christians can and cannot do or condemn anyone, but we need to recognize the times we are living and the perpetual dangers we face. It’s not too late to rethink these things. This generation might need what some old-timers used to call, “A come to Jesus meeting.” We need to wake up and recognize that we are at war with sin and the war is getting hotter by the day. The enemy is looking to take people out. It’s not time to get high or drunk, it’s time to be as sober as we can possibly be. Who goes onto the battlefield “tipsy” or “after a buzz?” It’s not time to experiment in the name of Christian liberty. How many more people do we need to see walking the streets bombed out on drugs or drunk to know that there is danger? It is madness to know that adults are now promoting things that 30 years ago we warned our children about.
The dangers of mind-altering substances (of all kinds) have not changed, society has drifted more towards the apocalypse. Christians simply cannot follow this trend. What happens when Christians are open partakers of the very things the world is in bondage to? How will we ever witness to or bring deliverance to the alcoholic or drug addicts?
I’m not condemning anyone for what they do in Christian liberty, I’m calling us to deeply and sincerely think about what we are doing. Why get offended and reactionary? I’m trying to help people see the pitfalls. Can I witness to an alcoholic with alcohol or weed on my breath? How can I preach deliverance to people when I am partaking of the very things they need to be delivered from? Will I even have a right perception of their need for deliverance? What message does it send to the addict if I do the same things they do? What did Paul say, “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves” (Romans 14:21–22 NKJV).
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13 ESV).