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18 March 2022

A Theology of History

In the thirteenth chapter of Revelation, the “Beast from the Sea” is “GRANTED” authority over the “inhabitants of the earth” and the right to “wage war against the saints and to overcome them.” Satan’s imperial creature cannot wreak havoc against the church until he is authorized to do so, and only for the time allotted, the “short season.”

And 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 and has “all authority.” His power is absolute – (Revelation 1:4-6, 1:18-19 3:21, 5:11-14).

The book of Revelation is not concerned with teaching an abstract doctrine of the “sovereignty of God.” Instead, Christ’s authority over events assures his beleaguered churches that he remains in firm control of history, and, in the end, his kingdom will triumph over all opposition.

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” will not succeed in his efforts to annihilate the “saints.”


And Revelation is not unique in this perspective. Some of the phrases it uses 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, the king of Babylon,” the very ruler who would go on to destroy the Temple, the city of Jerusalem, the kingdom of Judah, and end the sovereignty of the Davidic kings - (Daniel 1:1-2).

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

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

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

In Chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar again recognized the sovereignty of Yahweh over history. God removed him from power for “seven seasons,” and 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 He sets up over it even the lowest of men.” After his restoration, the king 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 used by God to achieve His purposes for His people.


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 Empire was transferred from Babylon to the “Medes and the Persians.”

Later, after God rescued Daniel from the den of lions, Darius the Mede decreed that “all the peoples, nations, and tongues that dwell on 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 the province of Babylon publicly acknowledged the absolute sovereignty of Yahweh, just as Nebuchadnezzar did - (Daniel 6:25-28).

In such ways, the Book of 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 occurs.

But since He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and infinitely merciful, He works in and through history for His children and brings 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 the book 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 in the most unexpected and paradoxical of ways.