By mid-1939, war and the threat of war had spread throughout the entirety of Europe and beyond. On August 23 of that year, the Adolf Hitler-led Nazis and the Joseph Stalin-led Soviets signed a non-aggression pact—a pact that the Nazis clearly intended merely as a postponement of hostilities.
In September 1940, talks fell apart between the two sides, and Hitler made plans to invade the Soviet Union.
Stalin was warned by his spies of Hitler’s impending attack, but Stalin refused to believe these warnings. He permitted limited fortification of his western border, but otherwise determined not to do anything that might provoke the Germans. Stalin’s spies kept warning him, but he refused to believe that the Nazis would attack. Richard Sorge, a German spy with Communist leanings, microfilmed detailed reports of Hitler’s planned invasion, including troop numbers and even the date—June 22, 1941. But Stalin brusquely dismissed Sorge’s efforts, responding, “We doubt the veracity of your information.”
The Americans and British both tried warning Stalin of an impending attack, to no avail. Stalin would not even listen to British prime minister Winston Churchill’s warnings, as Stalin believed Churchill particularly was trying to provoke Hitler’s attention to the east and away from Britain.
On the very eve of invasion, a German deserter crossed the border into the Soviet Union and informed the Red Army of the Nazis plans. Instead of first thanking him for the warning and then making the necessary preparations, Stalin instead ordered the German shot for spreading misinformation. Stalin continued to send food and metal exports to the Germans, as agreed in their pact, and forbade evacuating civilians living near the German border or setting up defenses.
So on June 22, 1941, when Nazi forces crossed into the Soviet Union, they found bridges unguarded, aircraft not dispatched, and defensive positions unmanned. Nearly 60 percent of the Soviet front-line armor was in Kiev, hundreds of miles from the front line of battle. Why? Stalin simply refused to pay any attention to the warnings they were given.
Stalin’s stubborn denial of the truth almost gave the Nazis the easy quick-strike victory they sought.i
People continue to make the mistake of refusing to heed legitimate and vital warnings. At this very minute, men and women all over the world face momentous impending danger. Every man and woman has within him a spirit that will exist forever (Zechariah 12:1; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Genesis 35:18). If that spirit is found in any way tinged by sin when one’s physical life is over, that spirit cannot go into the eternal fellowship of the One who made it and in whose image it was made, as God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13). The only alternative to eternal life with God is eternal destruction in hell fire (Matthew 25:31-46).
So is it not appropriate and beneficial that God warns us in His word of dangers regarding our spirits and our eternal destinies? Is it not appropriate that faithful Christians warn their brethren and the world of these dangers? “[Christ] we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28, emphasis LM).
At this very moment, numerous and dire spiritual threats face individual brethren, entire congregations, and the brotherhood at large. There is the threat of denominationalism and compromise with denominationalism (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:23, 25;1 Corinthians 12:13; 1:10). There are the threats of unscriptural divorces and unscriptural “marriages” (Matthew 19:3-12). There is the threat of worldliness infiltrating the church in the form of “social” drinking, immodest dress, dancing, and covetousness (Romans 12:2; James 4:4; 1 Peter 1:13-16; 1 John 2:15). There is the threat of fellowship with and endorsement of false teachers (2 John 10-11). Unfortunately, this is far from a comprehensive list of present spiritual threats to the precious bride of Christ, but these threats are certainly among those of which brethren absolutely must be warned.
Yet when faithful Christians attempt to warn others of these dangers, all too often people respond as did Stalin: “We doubt the veracity of your information.” Sadly, the day has come in which spiritual Israel has become like rebellious fleshly Israel of old: “To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it” (Jeremiah 6:10). As the late brother Ira Y. Rice, Jr. used to say, “You just can’t warn some brethren.”
We would agree that one is well served to confirm allegations he hears about another brother or sister before accepting them as true (Proverbs 14:15; 20:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). But one should not reject another’s warning outright and refuse to consider it further simply because he does not want to believe it is true. “Some shall depart from the faith” has always been the reality to some extent or another, and presently it is reality to a far larger extent than we wish were the case or than was the case a few decades ago.
“Few nations have been better warned of impending invasion that the Soviet Union in June 1941, yet despite this, and despite the fact that the Soviet Union had spent more than two decades trying to insure herself against surprise attack, the Soviet Union was totally surprised by the German invasion on 22 June 1941.”ii Why did Stalin refuse to heed the warnings he was given? He simply did not want to believe that he faced a serious threat. As a result, numerous lives, and almost the nation, were lost to Hitler.
If we insist on refusing accurate spiritual warnings, whether given directly by God’s word or by human agency, we give Satan the easy quick-strike victory he seeks.
i The aforementioned information is taken from H.P. Willmott, The Great Crusade (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2008), pp. 156-158; Rupert Colley, “Stalin’s Breakdown,” <http://www.historyinanhour.com/2011/07/01/stalins-breakdown/>; John Lukacs, Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), p. 28; Rupert Colley, World War Two (London: Harper Press, 2011 edition), pp. 23-26.
ii Wilmott, p. 157.
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