In this issue of Straightway we consider the complex theme of history. What is history and what does it involve? More importantly, how does history in all its most integral parts unfold the whole plan of God, revealing the purpose of His creation of time?
History has been defined as “all we know about everything man has ever done, or thought, or hoped or felt.” But if one believes in evolution, that chance is ultimate, and thus that the world has no meaning and life has no direction, then history really has no story to tell. It is merely an amalgamation of disconnected and empty events. It would be as Shakespeare's Macbeth said of life, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” To such a man, history is nothing because life is nothing.
For secular men (including atheists) who believe there is some purpose to history, the meaning of history is being determined solely by man. Therefore, they write history in terms defined by only man himself. But for a biblical Christian, the meaning of life and of history comes not from man but from the Triune God.
God Is the Author of History
The worldview of a Christian includes the truth that all things visible and invisible are made by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Since all things are made by God, this means that all things derive their meaning from God and His purpose for them. Therefore, the meaning of history does not come from within history or from man. The meaning of history can only come from God its Creator.
At the outset of these articles, we must establish the biblical fact that God is eternal and dwells in the dimension of eternity. He has no beginning and He has no end. Therefore, there is no past or future with God. He dwells in the infinite present tense of His continual holy existence. He is not a part of nor a product of the concept of time. All His purposes and plans can only be found in eternity.
When God created the universe (including the angels in Genesis 1:1), it was in dateless time. Our human concept of time only comes into existence in Genesis 1:3, “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”When God created the dimension of time, He automatically declared the concepts of beginnings, a past, a present, and a future.
It is important to note that the concept of time regarding the universe and angels is different from the concept of time on earth. Our time is based on our solar system, which is very small compared to other heavenly systems. Time to us, both circular and linear, is based on the rotation of our planet and its revolution around the sun. In contrast, angelic time is not based on our solar system.
Although God inhabits eternity, He has chosen in His sovereign will to work in time and through time! The universe was created by God before this physical earth. It may be that our earth was initially a psychical or spirit world in Genesis 1:1, 2. We do not know the concept of time God worked through to create the universe. But we are clearly told in Scripture that God worked in the time dimension of six days to bring about the creation of this present physical earth, rather than choosing to make the earth in a moment of time.
The importance of time in God’s thinking for planet Earth and mankind is presented in several chapters in the Book of Leviticus. Additionally, a full chapter is dedicated to time in Ecclesiastes 3. The Book of Ecclesiastes is carefully addressing the natural man “under the sun.”We are told that all the timings under the sun are in the hands of God. Twenty-eight times the word time is used in chapter 3; fourteen pairs of opposites are employed in an effort to cover the widest possible aspects covering human life.
In Ecclesiastes 3, life’s beginning and end are first mentioned. Then everything between one’s appointed time to be born and to die unfolds. These are mentioned to clearly reveal to us that the time for all things has been determined. Everything rests on God’s will and good pleasure, both the time when such a work is to be carried through as well as the carrying through of that work itself.
The End-Time Infatuation with Prophecy
God also has chosen to reveal His plan for the history of this planet and humanity within His book, the Bible. We must remember that approximately thirty-five percent of the Bible is prophetic literature. If we would include prophecy’s shadows and types, this amount could reach fifty percent. We believe, according to prophecy, we are in the End Time of the last days. There has been a growing global infatuation to know the future by many, especially political leaders throughout the countries of the world.
There has been a proliferation of soothsayers to arise in the earth in several countries. The world seems to be “craving” to find out about the future through any means or methods. A most prominent book of prophecies has come from the French astrologer and physician Nostradamus (1504–1566).His Les Prophéties is a poetic work of 942 quatrains that many look to for a global understanding of the future.
Another work is the Prophecy of the Popes by the Irish archbishop Malachy (1094– 1148). It reputedly lists the future popes who would come in the Roman Catholic Church. From his visions, these prophecies are composed of a series of 112 cryptic Latin phrases which supposedly predict the Roman Catholic popes from the time of Malachy down to the last pope before the destruction of Rome. Interestingly, Malachy predicted there would be only one more pope after Pope Benedict, who is the present Pope Francis I; it was predicted that during his reign the end of the world would come.
Still another more recent individual is Baba Vanga (1911–1994), a blind Bulgarian, sometimes called the “Nostradamus of Bulgaria.” She was sought after by many political leaders hoping to gain insight into future global events. And the list could continue with a host of more contemporary soothsayers who have arisen to reveal the future history of mankind and governments. These individuals would fall under the categories of soothsayers, via astrology, tarot cards, and simply prognostication. Governments are paying a great amount of money to find the history of the future, either through black magic or white magic.
The reason for this infatuation for future events knowledge at this crucial hour in world history is that we are plagued with a surplus of confusion and scarcity of global leadership. Most believe that truth in government has been lost in our present season of history. It is also evident that amidst our amassing of mountains of knowledge, there is very little wisdom. We have come to utter chaos regarding the future. It is evident that the world leaders have come to deny the very existence of God. And to those who may believe in Him, questions arise about Him merely because of the intensity of wickedness and uncontrollable trouble our world is in. Does God exist? Is He omnipotent? Did He create a few things, or everything, or is there the concept of theistic evolution? If God does exist, does He communicate with His creation? Can He act in history? Is He in control of history? Does He even have concern for us on the earth?
God Knows History and the Future
Among the many presuppositions and truths we must believe as Christians, we must also believe that God has told His own much of what He is doing. Amos 3:7 states, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” In several contexts, God has told us what He is going to do. In both the Books of Isaiah and Daniel, God makes it plain that He is the author of history. In verse after verse in Isaiah 40–48,He shows that He is the One bringing about whatever comes to pass. Our God is in truth the Sovereign Lord of history.
Man, however, has rationalized history into three theories. One viewpoint is that history is open ended, meaning it just goes on and on in an evolutionary manner, made up of human experience but having no purpose. This belief assumes man’s goodness and human wisdom will lead us to some dream of Utopia, or our evil and folly will lead us to destruction from which another world will emerge from the rubble. According to this view, either is possible and nature seems to afford no preference. Another view is that history is cyclical. History just keeps repeating itself. Civilizations flourish and die. Nations come and go, and mankind never learns. Still another view is that history is climactic: we are living toward some great climax.
Nevertheless, to the Christian there is a purpose to history, a designed goal, a destination for the whole of creation. This view involves human responsibility; it involves an accounting for man’s behavior. Everything that happens moment by moment is carefully and in plenary power and wisdom brought together. The Christian biblically understands there is a judgment, a harvest, and a day when God triumphs over everything! Yes, this is the biblical view!
Since God has told us the story of time from the beginning to the end, we can follow His revelation by looking at history. However, several things should be noted. We should study the selection of a people from out of the world to be God’s servants in the earth. This is a story we can trace throughout the Bible and continuing into history. We must also view the rise and fall of empires, which are outlined in several chapters of the Book of Daniel, other books of the prophets, and in the Book of Revelation. But the principles of biblical history also must take into consideration world powers such as the Papacy (which exercised political domination over the nations of Europe for thirteen centuries) and Islam (which held sway over the Holy Land for thirteen centuries) as well as the End-time nations and modern enemies to Christianity. We should also view great movements, such as the spread of the Early Church, the Reformation, and the modern phase of World Missions.
Other Subjects History Must Include
In reference to modern world missions, we must clearly acknowledge the significance of the last two hundred years in which the Gospel has been taken all over the world. However, now over half the population of the world has shut its doors to Christian missions. We must also consider the great apostasy at the end of the age preceding the Second Coming of Christ. A proper interpretation of history should include all these subjects regarding the Church (the public view of the Church) and the Kingdom of God. We must even distinguish between the terms Israel and Jew. We must also take into account the concept of the world system that goes under the name of Babylon in the Bible—Political Babylon, Ecclesiastical Babylon, and Economic Babylon, as described in the Old Testament and in the Book of Revelation. But we must also note in history the continuing work of Satan and the greater work of the Holy Spirit. History will include every individual who has been conceived and lived—his life, his doings, and his effects upon history. Yet it seems that history has become more complex in the End Time than any other time. Only God can resolve history ultimately to His Glory.
World History, in the light of biblical prophecy, has become a complicated subject within the public Christian world. There are four general theories of the relationship between history and prophecy. The first view is a Symbolic theory that states biblical prophecy is scriptural literature meant only to teach spiritual truths, even though it may use the phraseology of history.
The second view is a Preterist theory that limits all historical references as applied only up unto the days of the Roman emperors when the Christians were severely persecuted. They state that this history is all finished now, and we are not to look for anything else as a historical fulfillment of the prophecies except the developing world under the influence of the Church.
The third view is a Futurist theory of prophecy which claims that the main events described by the prophets have not yet begun. They are postponed until the time of the Second Coming at the end of the world.
A fourth view is a Historical theory which states that all of history is included in the messages of the prophets. There are no gaps, and even the intervening centuries since Christ was here are all very much included in the prophetic messages.
One of the great commands in the Scripture is to “watch!” What does watch mean? It means to be aware of what is going on about us. Note Ezekiel 12:27, 28: