18 March 2022

Theology of History

Both Revelation and Daniel proclaim the absolute sovereignty of God over the course of history and the fate of nations

History Library - Photo by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash
Revelation, the “beast” is “GIVEN” the authority over the “inhabitants of the earth,” and the right to “wage war against the saints” for a set period. Satan’s creature cannot wreak havoc upon the earth or against the church until authorized to do so, and only for the time allotted - [Photo by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash].

And in Revelation, this pattern repeats Jesus is the “ruler of the kings of the earth,” the one who possesses the “keys of death and Hades.” Consequently, he now reigns over the Cosmos from his “father’s throne” and has “all authority.” His power is absolute – (Revelation 1:4-6, 1:18-19 3:21, 5:11-14).

The book is not teaching an abstract doctrine about the “sovereignty of God” or suggesting that Jesus delights in the sufferings of his people or anyone else. Instead, his authority over events on the earth assures his beleaguered churches that he remains in firm control of history.

Persecution and suffering may be necessary to achieve his purposes, but he will not allow the enemies of the church to exceed certain limits. Try as hard as he might, the “Dragon” does not succeed in his efforts to annihilate the “saints.”

Revelation is not unique in its perspective, and some of its language and ideas are derived from the book of Daniel. For example, the prophet Daniel declared that the “Lord GAVE the king of Judah and the vessels of the Temple” into the hand of “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” the very king who later destroyed the Temple, Jerusalem, and the kingdom of Judah - (Daniel 1:1-2).

The Hebrew verb rendered “gave” is applied repeatedly in the first chapter of Daniel. Thus, for example, God gave Daniel “favor and sympathy with the prince of the eunuchs.” He gave him and his Jewish companions “knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom.” And Daniel was “given” understanding in “all visions and dreams.”

When God granted Daniel the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great image, he blessed the “most-high God” who “changes times and seasons, He REMOVES KINGS AND SETS UP KINGS.”

In the interpretation, Daniel presented the future rise and fall of great empires, beginning with Babylon and ending with the kingdom of God. In response, the ruler of the mighty Babylonian Empire acknowledged that Daniel’s God was “God of gods, Lord of kings and the revealer of mysteries,” and thus, he acknowledged Yahweh to be the sovereign over the earth – (Daniel 2:20-49).

In chapter 4 of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar again recognized the sovereignty of Yahweh over history. God removed him from power for “seven seasons,” then restored him to the throne. In the process, the king learned that “the Most-High rules in the kingdom of men, and GIVES it to whomever He will, and sets up over it the lowest of men.” After his restoration, he declared to one and all:
  • I praise and honor the One whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation. Before Him, all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and according to his own pleasure, He deals with the Host of Heaven and the inhabitants of the earth.”
History remembers Nebuchadnezzar as a great builder of magnificent buildings and a successful conqueror. Scripture remembers him as an unwitting instrument employed by God to achieve His purposes.

On the final evening before the fall of Babylon, its last ruler, Belshazzar, saw a frightful sight when a disembodied hand wrote strange letters on the wall. Summoned, Daniel interpreted the writing. God had found Belshazzar wanting and declared, “Your kingdom is divided and GIVEN to the Medes and Persians,” and the very next day, “Darius the Mede took the kingdom” - (Daniel 5:22-31).

Once more, the sovereignty of the God of Israel was on display as the World-Power was transferred from Babylon to the kingdom of the “Medes and Persians.”

Later, after God rescued Daniel from the den of lions, Darius decreed that “all the peoples, nations, and tongues that dwell in all the earth” must revere the “God of Daniel His kingdom shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.” Thus, the new ruler of Babylon publicly acknowledged the absolute sovereignty of Yahweh, just as Nebuchadnezzar had done - (Daniel 6:25-28).

Thus, Daniel presents the reign of God over the course of history. The plans, intentions, and dictates of even the most powerful rulers cannot thwart His purposes. He uses their designs and even evil intentions to accomplish His purposes.

And this is what I mean by a “Theology of History.” God reigns over history and His creation. This is NOT fatalism, and it does not mean that He predetermines every event that transpires in life. It certainly does not mean that He approves of everything that does occur. But since He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and infinitely merciful, He works in and through history to help His children and to bring events to His intended conclusions. Evil results from the bad intentions and actions of men and women, but He even uses their nefarious plans to accomplish His purposes.

And this very same view is reflected in the visions and language of Revelation, only now, sovereignty is in the hands of the sacrificial “Lamb” who reigns from the throne of God. He employs his authority to “shepherd the nations,” but as we shall see, in the most unexpected and paradoxical ways.

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