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The End of History

Sep 1, 2020

Be comforted; human history is something God is in control of:

History is going somewhere. For the Christian, we believe God is not aloof or out of touch with the affairs of men but is actively involved in them. And he does not just interact with individuals, but with nations as well. His purposes are being worked out, and believers can take great comfort in that.

Scripture throughout speaks to these realities. We certainly find this in the book of Daniel. This is my third and perhaps final piece on it, and some of the major themes found therein. But let me preface my remarks by saying that when you have been a Christian for a long time, certain biblical books may wax or wane in your attention. You may be more interested in some books for a while, and then maybe not so much.

That was the case for me with some of the apocalyptic books such as Daniel and Revelation. As a new Christian I was a gung-ho prophecy and eschatology buff, so I of course gobbled up these biblical books. And I fully ran with all my fav end times’ points of view and eschatological theology.

But over the years I have come to see that alternate viewpoints on these matters can carry some weight, so I grew a bit less passionate about my particular take on these issues. I tended to be less interested in these biblical books as a result. But both of them have again captured my attention, partly because of looking at them in a somewhat different light.

That is, instead of just obsessing on particular details and how they might fit into the prophetic calendar, but looking at the overriding themes of these books has given me renewed interest in them. As stated in my previous articles on Daniel, the sovereignty of God and his authority over the nations comprises the bulk of the book’s key message.

Whether we see this played out in human history with particular rulers, such as Nebuchadnezzar and others in the first 6 chapters of the book, or whether seen in the grand sweep of history as discussed in the final 6 chapters of the book, this is the key teaching we should be focusing on.

My earlier piece did look at Nebuchadnezzar: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/08/27/this-is-what-happens-to-tyrants-who-think-they-are-gods/

And my next piece looked at Belteshazzar: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/08/30/arrogant-leaders-will-be-dealt-with/

This piece will look at the visions of Daniel found in the second half of the book, with chapter 7 as my point of entry. There we find the famous vision of the four beasts. Here I want to highlight two sections of the chapter which both assure us that God is the one who is in charge, not mere human rulers, and his kingdom will prevail, while all others will perish.

In verses 13-14 we read these encouraging words:

I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
    and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed.

And then in verse 27 we read these words:

And the kingdom and the dominion
    and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
    shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
    and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

This is where all of human history is heading. Elsewhere in Scripture we find these majestic promises, not least of which in Revelation. They are comforting words indeed for all those who are so very weary of all the hardship, oppression and injustice they must endure under evil human rulers. Their suffering will not go on forever, nor will these wicked rulers.

There are many commentators I could draw upon here but let me run with just two of them. They both really help to make my case: history is going somewhere, God is in charge of it, and therefore we have hope. All human dynasties and powers have and will come to an end.

First, I draw upon a devotional commentary by James Montgomery Boice – but his commentary on the Psalms, not on Daniel. His thoughts about Psalm 47 are well worth featuring here. Verses 7-8 say this:

For God is the King of all the earth;
    sing to him a psalm of praise.
God reigns over the nations;
    God is seated on his holy throne.

Boice offers these remarks:

In 1934 the great British historian Arnold Toynbee began a study of world history that occupied him until 1961 and eventually filled twelve large volumes. In this massive work Toynbee isolated thirty-four distinct civilizations, including thirteen “independent” civilizations, fifteen “satellite” civilizations, and six “abortive” civilizations. Each of these came upon the pages of history for a time and then passed away. Egypt was once a great world power, but it is weak today. Babylon was mighty, but its territory has been divided, and even the discovery of great stores of oil in that area of the world has not restored it or the surrounding nations to a dominant position on the world stage. Greece and Rome, once wonders of mankind, have fallen. The Soviet Union fell apart. Even the United States of America, though now at the very pinnacle of world power, is in decline and will not escape the inexorable law of history, namely, that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34).

When they are strong and victorious, nations fondly suppose that they control their own destinies. Yet it is not they but God who is “King over all the earth.” Moreover, the God who is King requires righteousness. So when the nations depart from his ways and arrogantly exalt themselves, God brings them down.

The Bible book that makes this point most empathetically is Daniel…

Image of Daniel (Apollos Old Testament Commentary)
Daniel (Apollos Old Testament Commentary) by Array Amazon logo

And I very much like what Ernest Lucas has to say in his 2002 commentary on Daniel. He speaks of the “Hebrew worldview that lies behind Dan. 7. It was sorely tried at times. The Babylonian exile was one such time. While some were led to wonder whether Yahweh had forgotten them as they languished in exile (Is. 49:14), others seem to have gone so far as to wonder whether he really had the power to save them (Is. 50:2; 59:1).”

He goes on to explain the significance of the vision:

The essence of the vision is not a series of predictions about historical events but a theology of history. Whether we like it or not, or understand it or not, the Most high has given a measure of sovereignty to human rulers. As a result, from time to time history does seem to be in the grip of chaotic, bestial forces, as has been all too true at various times and places in the last hundred years. At times God’s people are ‘devastated’. Yet it is also true that in history there have been amazing turnarounds, and deliverances of the godly in which the faithful have seen the judgement of God at work, giving them the assurance that the Most High still rules over the beasts. It is far more important to grasp this message than to ‘decode’ the vision in terms of specific historical references…

Faced with suffering, injustice and oppression, and with no deliverance or remedy at hand, hope has to lie in the belief that there is more to reality than is apparent. However, belief that there is a transcendent dimension to reality is not necessarily comforting or encouraging in itself. It might leave believers feeling at the mercy of forces over which they have little or no control, and which may be either indifferent or malevolent towards them. That is why it is important that there is a throne occupied by a righteous Judge, who will act to deliver the faithful from their oppressors.

Yes, all Christians must keep this in mind. Indeed, as I have been typing this, I have also been praying about a vote taking place in the Victorian upper house about the extension of dictatorial powers to the Premier. I have prayed that God would somehow intervene and not allow this to go through. Yet I see one press item reporting that a Greens MP has decided to return from maternity leave just to cast the deciding vote in favour of it.

If so, this is devastating news, and from a human point of view it looks like once again evil reigns, Satan is getting his way, and God is taking a back seat. But the biblical material remains clear. Temporary wins by those opposed to God and his people are just that: temporary. One day this Premier and others like him will be long gone and will be long forgotten.

All those leaders who are arrogantly pursuing power and their own glory will one day be no more, but the eternal God will forever remain. Let me close by repeating what Daniel 7:27 says:

And the kingdom and the dominion
    and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
    shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
    and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

[1574 words]

9 Responses to The End of History

  • The Golden (Babylon), Silver (Medo-Persia) , Bronze (Greece) & Iron (Rome, with the “feet of clay”) described in the Book of Daniel are no more.
    The mighty British Empire has declined into a Commonwealth a pale shadow of its former self.
    Same with the French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Austro-Hungarian & Ottoman Empires.
    The Sovereign Lord God determines the rise and fall of nations (Acts 17, Romans 13)

  • Yes, I agree we will rule and reign under Lord Jesus. ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’ Matthew 5:5 also comes to mind. I often wonder why God let Hitler’s Nazi party come to power. Why didn’t those six million Jews rise up and defend themselves instead of being led to the slaughter? Why wasn’t there an Esther and Mordecai to help save the nation? Some Germans even tried to assassinate Hitler only to fail and be tracked down and killed. Perhaps UK and US were supposed to come and save the Jews but they were too late. But look now, Israel has been restored as a nation state and the Nazi Party is no more except for their demons trying to come to power in the form of BLM and others.

  • There is a great bittersweet comfort in knowing that “This too shall pass” and yet that God reigns over it all. Thank you, Bill, for revisiting both the biblical and historical works that demonstrate these truths so well.

  • Hitler was responsible for 12 million deaths +/-, Mao 42 million +/-, Stalin 20 million +/- . In the US, there have been 60 million abortions since 1973. I’m not familiar with the abortion industry in Australia but from a quick scan of the statistics, there’s been millions. Can God turn a blind eye to this? Going by what he did to Sodom Gomorrah, can America and Australia expect a pass? I’m not saying he’ll do the same thing as he did to Sodom but his character demands justice.

  • Good point William Diller. Australia’s Covid toll so far is about 2-days worth of abortions in Australia.

  • Hi Bill, if you check the Hebrew usage of the word Satan in the Bible, you may be encouraged. Those that work evil may do so, just as Cain killed Abel, but our Creator has the last say. But what if the answer to your prayer was that Greens MP? The great Creator of the Universe’s ‘foolishness’ is greater than the highest human wisdom (1 Cor 1:25). There is much written of the foolish and evil being destroyed in their own evil and foolishness. “Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish; (Isa 44:24-25) .. what if that one Greens was needed to set in train a set of events that leads to God’s victory and plan in the matter of freeing thinking and finding truth? – Keep on praying – it’s not over until the matter is played out!

  • Thanks Janet. As I said in this article, and in many others like it, yes God is in control and he is working out his purposes. I have been saying that repeatedly during these dark times, eg: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/08/30/arrogant-leaders-will-be-dealt-with/

  • Hi Bill, I have read of the fall of the arrogant leaders. I found it interesting – Have you considered that it is to God’s glory to let such rise up? Consider Paul’s point: For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. (Rom 9:17)
    By doing so the Israelites went into slavery, it got worse and worse..
    Was there any glory to God in Pharaoh being nice and saying ‘please go’? Pharaoh was able to show how awful and ‘powerful’ he was, only to be demolished suddenly by truly Great Power.
    In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. (Job 33:15-17)
    It is interesting that of all sins, pride is the greatest: the iniquity of Sodom was pride (Ezek 16:49). Pride, only, can totally separate us from God’s thinking. Any humility, even such as King Ahab’s, allows us to see some of the Divine.
    As to the dark times, that too is an encouraging sign of the era to look up for our salvation draws near: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: (2Tim 3:1-5) I note well the darkness of this era of the – “Despisers of those that are good” – Keep up the good work.

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