How God Works In History
From The Message Of
Bread Upon The Waters Ministry;
In the "BABEL RISING!" page, something was said that may bother some Christians: The soon Second Coming of Christ is mandated by circumstances. God must intervene in history in a big way soon (within approximately the next 50 years) if the prophecies of the Second Coming are ever going to be fulfilled in any way that resembles Christian expectations. This page is included to hopefully answer any questions arising from this statement. This idea will be considered in the context of what the entire Bible and Christian belief show about how God works in history.
God Must Intervene In History
Some Christians may be disturbed by the use of the phrase, "God must ". To explain this idea, we will look at what the Bible, and Christian belief about the Bible, say about how God works in history. Our understanding of this issue must begin with a concept at the very core of Christian theology: the belief that humans have a free will. It has been argued that if humans do not have a free will, then God in justice could not punish anyone for his sins. This idea has its beginning in Genesis 2:15-17, when God forbade Adam to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. The prohibition, with the warning of consequences would have been meaningless if Adam had not been free to disobey. If God had not given man a free will, there would be no sin and no necessity of salvation. In order to allow man to have a free will, God must for the most part allow men to do as they please. So He allowed man to sin, and then began to work on a plan of salvation. To fulfill His plan, and still give man a free will, God uses the tactic of from time to time intervening in history in an overt or covert way, instead of exercising constant, absolute control. A pattern of overt divine intervention is so obvious in the Bible that this writer once heard an atheist admit that the Bible is the only religious scripture that shows a real God stepping into real history.
We Aren't Robots
We aren't robots. Even the best of Christians can suddenly fall away and rebel against God, to the point of being overtly opposed to the Christian Faith. The worst of sinners can suddenly repent and turn into heroic saints overnight. There is no guarantee that any person will or will not do God's will at any specific moment. Only the Lord Jesus Christ always obeyed. So to get things done, and keep His plan on track, God often has to intervene and make things happen. This divine tactic is also why it is possible for us to get our prayers answered.
Relevant to the idea of mankind having a free will is the fact that there is a chance factor in life. We could not have a free will if there were not such a thing as chance. Everything would be predetermined. Yet some Christians do not believe that there is such a thing as chance. The Bible however, in Ecclesiastes 9:11&12, clearly says that there is. "...time and chance happen to every man." From the scientific standpoint, this truth underlies Quantum Physics. Albert Einstein refused to accept quantum theory because, as he is well known for having said, "I do not believe that God plays dice with the universe". The idea of chance does seem contrary to the idea of Divine Sovereignty. So how do we resolve the seeming contradiction?
The answer is that God could be said to be playing a game with the universe, but it isn't dice, it's "chess"! In a game of chess a good player considers every possible move his opponent could make for the next four or five turns, and then makes the move he thinks will give himself the best position down the line. God plays much better "chess" than that. He knows every move that every player will make from the Beginning to the End. He plans His moves - His interventions - to counter or take advantage of the moves the other players make, so He always wins.
This idea is reflected in Romans 8:29, where Paul speaks of God predestining those "whom He foreknew". His works are an expression of foreknowledge, not absolute control. Otherwise, He would never have to overtly intervene. Things would just seem to always work out right if He was exercising absolute control.
The Scale of God's Interventions
The scale of God's overt interventions varies enormously. In the Bible, they can be a small as giving thirsty Samson a drink (Judges 15:18 & 19) or as great - and terrible - as the Flood. In our lives, God intervenes in both great and small ways (to us) in answer to our prayers. Again, for the most part, He allows people to do as they please. If He didn't, there wouldn't be so much sin and suffering in the world. But He intervenes in a big way whenever man's sin threatens His plan of salvation. Sometimes, as at Babel, He intervenes long before the problem comes to the point of crisis. At other times, such as the destruction of Sennacherib's army, He waits until the last minute. Either way, the whole historical aspect of the Bible is a record of God's interventions. He may intervene to stop things that He doesn't want from happening, as shown, or He may intervene to make things happen that He does want, like the Exodus and the First Coming of Christ. Even so, He only overrides a person's free will when His purpose can't be achieved any other way. Pharaoh was a case in point. See Exodus 8:15.
When God Intervenes
When God does override a person's free will, He is capable of taking control of that person so gently and subtly that the person doesn't realize that it has happened. Thus a person that this has happened to may look back later and be amazed by what he did at a particular time and place. But what the person did may have changed the course of history. It is a little known fact of Church History that Saul's persecution of the Church in Jerusalem did as much to spread the Gospel as did his later ministry as St. Paul. (This is an example of God using an unsaved person.) When Saul started his persecution, there were over 5000 Christians in Jerusalem but very few anywhere else. God used Saul to start the spread of Christianity "to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The persecution was an example of a divine intervention to accomplish His will, and it is also an excellent of how rough He will get with His own people when they don't do what He told them to do. (Special note: The God who wouldn't allow His people to suffer, dear to the hearts of Pre-Tribbers, can't be found in the Bible.)
Up until the martyrdom of Stephen, things had been generally going very well for the Christians in Jerusalem. So well that they probably expected to see the whole city converted (Acts 5:14-16). So well that they all stayed in Jerusalem even after the Apostles got whipped (Acts 5:40-42). It took Saul's persecution to get the Christians moving out to the rest of the world. Saul meant to put out the fire of Christianity, but his persecution was like putting water on burning gasoline. It only spread the fire! Christians scattered to the four winds, but wherever they went, they preached the Gospel and started Churches (Acts 8:14). Saul got his first experience in ministry at the Church of Antioch, which was started by people who fled from his persecution in Jerusalem.
If God gets that rough with His own people, how will He deal with the unsaved when they threaten His plan of salvation with their corrupt creativity? "If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner?" (Proverbs 11:31). "For the time is come for judgment to begin at the House of God, and if it begin with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the Gospel of God?" (I Peter 4:18).
God has intervened in history many, many times by overriding a person's free will. In the process, as shown, He will sometimes even exploit a person's sinful nature to achieve his purpose. This was the case with Pharaoh and Saul, and it was especially so in the case of the Crucifixion of Christ. Note, however, that the sin is still the sinner's own decision and God will still hold the sinner accountable for it. St. Paul recognized this, and made reference to it in II Timothy 1:12. He did not excuse himself for what he did. Neither, in God's sight, can anyone else.
A Post-Bible Intervention
God's most fearsome interventions in history are when He uses the forces of nature as He did in the Flood. (By the way, "nature" was originally "God's nature".) You might be interested to know that God's intervention with the forces of nature didn't end with the Old Testament period. Did you ever notice that most of the ancient pagan temples of Greece, Rome and the Middle East are in ruins? (Except the Roman Pantheon, which was turned into a church.) They were some of the most massive and splendorous structures ever built, and they didn't fall into ruin by vandalism or neglect. It just so happened that on July 21, 376 AD, just about the time that the Christian Faith was getting the upper hand over idolatry throughout the Roman Empire, one of the biggest earthquakes in known history shook the entire eastern Mediterranean region. It leveled most of the pagan temples. That left the pagans without places of worship, and by that time, the pagans didn't have the resources to rebuild. That left a lot of useable cut stones laying unclaimed. The Christians happily confiscated the stones and used them to build churches. It was divine intervention through the forces of nature that terminated Greco-Roman idolatry.
The Next Big Intervention
If this writer is correct in what he understands certain passages of the Scripture, especially in the Book of Revelation to mean, then during the Great Tribulation God is going to intervene with the forces of nature that in ways that will make the Flood look like mercy killing. (It was!) Which brings us to another major aspect of God's interventions in history: He usually lets His people know what is going to happen. These warnings are a major part of Prophecy. In Amos 3:7 we read;
"Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the Prophets."
This, of course, is a direct allusion to God's tactic of overt intervention. Before He intervenes, whether through dreams or visions or "a still, small voice", God lets one or more of His prophets know, and they in turn warn others, whether the others are obedient or not. It is a regrettable fact that those who are not obedient, yet are deceived into believing that they are obedient (a common condition in Bible times, and in our day as well) will not receive the warnings. In fact, they will often persecute the prophets, even unto death. But God warns them just the same.
The reason He does this is that He wants people to know that whatever happened was His doing, and not just a chance event. It is all too easy for godless people and even disobedient Christians to dismiss acts of divine intervention as coincidence and happenstance. This has been done even with things as bad as the great earthquake of 376 AD, which is why so few people today know about it.
Note: This writer initially stumbled onto knowledge of it by chance, and had to do some real digging to come up with additional information about it.
What God Wants
God is not just concerned that people know that it was His doing when He acts; He is concerned that people simply believe that He exists. Perhaps the most basic of all spiritual problems is unbelief. In the Book of Isaiah, chapter 44:6-8, God claims proof of His existence by His being able, through His prophets, to accurately predict the future. (In fact, Biblical prophecy can be seen as God telling us what He intends to do, as opposed to simple prognostication.) In the Book of Ezekiel, we find God saying again and again that some specific thing is going to happen " and they will know that I am the Lord". Elijah's fire on the altar was proof of God's existence. Yet, even with incidents like that, it took a lot of convincing for the Old Testament Israelites to fully accept that the God of Israel was the one true God. In fact, it took the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile in Babylon to do it. But after that, the Israelites never engaged in widespread, wide open idolatry again. The ministries of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc., and the terrible events that fulfilled their prophecies finally got the message across. What will it take to get the message across to the lukewarm, apostate Christians of today? Let alone the unsaved?
When God tells His prophets that He is going to do something, He also puts Himself in the position of being obligated by His own divine nature to bring to pass the thing He said He would do (Isaiah 48:11). If this were not so, He would be a liar and no better than a man. It is true, however, that once in a while, as in the case of Nineveh following the ministry of Jonah , God relents. If He does, then there is always a clear-cut reason for it. Jonah's preaching produced what had to be one of the biggest mass revivals in history. In that case, the mass repentance that this precipitated would have been meaningless if God had not relented. The Bible shows that He will also "repent" of His intent to bless if the people He intends to bless are disobedient. But most of the time, what He says will happen, happens!
God has prophesied the Great Tribulation. He has promised the Second Coming of Christ and the Resurrection of the Saints. He is obligated, required by His own divine truthfulness, to bring these things to pass. And if circumstances threaten the fulfillment of these prophecies, as it is shown in the "BABEL RISING!" page that they do, then God must act quickly. He had to pour out the Flood on the earth. He had to confuse the languages at Babel. He had to send His Son to die for our sins, and He had to raise Him from the dead.
And now, He has to step into history in a big way again.
Contact Author, William D. Brehm, firstname.lastname@example.org