Behind all history is God.
It is His hand that raises up kings and puts them down. He named Cyrus before he was born. Isaiah 45:1-4. He gave Nebuchadnezzar all the kingdoms of the world for his. realm. Daniel 2:37, 38. But no less is this true of all the other kings of this earth.
It is Gods world to do with as He pleases, to place on the throne whom He will and for as long as it pleases Him. And our children must see that all historical events are the work of His hands. That is of extreme importance. We may not deny God before them by ruling Him out of any event whatsoever.
But in all history also is God.
Implied in the expression that this is our Father’s world is the truth that every single historical event in this world realizes His good purpose. He moves all things and men, causes all historical events to take place because of what HE has in mind with that world.
And although we can distinguish between church history and world history, we are never to consider world history apart from church history. We are not to identify any particular nation upon the face of this earth with the kingdom of heaven. But neither are we to consider church history and world history as two parallel lines that run through time from creation to the end of the world with an occasional converging of these lines for short periods of time. The Church and the world began in Adam and Eve. Church and world history “converged” again in the ark when the world’s population was the Church’s membership. In some lands Church and State were for periods of time united and seemed to share the same history. However these are not parallel lines or even converging lines.
We need not take much time again to point out that the Church was not born on Pentecost, as it so widely but erroneously maintained. Stephen in Acts 7speaks of “the church in the wilderness.” This was no oversight on his part. This was not a slip of the tongue. He was infallibly guided by the Spirit of Truth. Likewise, of all things, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews quotes Psalm 22:22 with this significant variation, or should we say clarification, “I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee.” We say, “variation” because the Hebrew in Psalm 22:22declares: “. . . in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.” This again is no slip of the tongue. And remember that the author of the epistle to the Hebrews is writing to the JEWS. This must be borne in mind by those who want to maintain an everlasting (distinction between Jew and Gentile believers, so that the Jews are the Kingdom of God and the Gentiles are the Church of God.
Paul in Ephesians 2 speaks very clearly of the middle wall of partition being broken down and of Christ making of twain one new man and of all the believers forming one temple. Mind you, the Gentiles are in this passage presented as a temple together with the Jews. Peter declares the same thing on the day of Pentecost when he addresses Parthians and Medes, Jews and proselytes and declares to ALL of them that the promise to Abraham is also to them and to their children and all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Acts 2:39. He uses the singular, “promise,” and that can refer only to the covenant promise given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
But to return to Hebrews 2:12, the Spirit very plainly identifies through the mouth and pen of the author of this epistle the congregation of the Old Testament believers with the Church of the New Testament believers. Psalm 22:22 which speaks of the Old Testament congregation speaks as well of the New Testament Church. And that the author made no slip of the tongue is also evident from his further quotation in Hebrews 12:22, 23 as he is still writing to the Jews, the Hebrews, and declares to them, “But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of men made perfect.”
We may therefore say that church history as well as world history begins in Paradise. From there two seeds appear. In the one we find in the narrow and strict sense of the word church history. And following the actions and course of life of the other seed we trace world history. Until, as we said a moment ago, these two are again combined at the Flood; and from the ark issues forth the church with its own peculiar history—which is recorded in Holy Writ until shortly after the ascension of Christ. But in the loins of those that came out of the ark there is also that other seed that will be considered to be the world.
What we find from then on is not two parallel lines that have no connection or relation and only cross each other occasionally to part and become parallel again. Nor is it correct to look at world history as a trunk of a tree with church history one of the branches that touches the trunk at a certain point and contributes to that world history. It, world history, is not a line from Paradise to the Parousia with the church and its history a line that shoots off from it and aims in another direction as the branches on the tree may reach east or west, north or south while the trunk points upward. There are not divergent goals of church history and world history as far as this being God’s world is concerned. Both end in the Parousia, the appearance of Christ. And both are pointed also to that end or goal. The world, the ungodly in the world, do not have this as their conscious and willing aim in life. They do not live in its consciousness and longingly hope for its realization. But nevertheless, exactly because this is our Father’s world, and He moves all His creatures with HIS goal in mind, the goal of all history is the coming of Christ. That which happens in the Church is God working by His grace, in that segment of the human race that He has chosen and redeemed in Christ, to present it to Him as His bride who will live with Him on the new earth in holiness and perfection. World history is the work of that same God in His providence whereby He leads all the ungodly also upon a definite prescribed course to serve that Church and the coming of Christ.
If we are to use any figure then to illustrate this truth, it is not as though world history is a river that rushes through time ever downward towards its goal and that Church history is a tributary of that river which contributes to its flow although for a time at least remaining quite distinct from that river. It would be more correct—although not the full picture—to call that main stream Church history, and world history, even though it embraces thousands of thousands more people, deals with events of global magnitude, is a tributary to that stream and serves it by emptying its content into that stream.
Better still it is to visualize a series of concentric circles, a series of three circles, some larger than others but all having the same center—if you will visualize a bull’s eye—and then put Christ in the very heart of that series of circles. Next to Him and centered in Him place the Church which also is facing Him. All its life flows out of Him and all its life flows unto Him in service and praise and adoration. The outer circle then becomes the world that did have its physical inception in Paradise and after the good in the very sphere of the Church; and although it does not intend to do so, nevertheless serves that Church. There are so many, many examples of that in Holy Writ; and all this is true exactly because it is GOD’S world. World history is HIS work, and that just as surely as Church history is His work. The Book of Acts is usually misnamed. It is’ called “The Acts of the Apostles” while actually it is the Acts of the Glorified, Ascended Christ. And world history as well is His work, which Revelation 5 andRevelation 6 clearly maintains. HE has the book with the seven seals, and He causes all that which is written in it to take place that He may return and glorify His Church in the new creation.
But let us see that once, that we may appreciate this work of our Father Who is in heaven. It was the ungodly world that led man in the invention of tools and devices that were necessary for the building of the ark. Tubal-Cain, who is the father of all who work in brass and iron, who taught the use and power of fire to melt and mold metals for the production of “labor saving” devices. There can be no doubt about it that Noah made use of the tools so devised; and with a view to that ark God gave this wicked son of Lamech the ingenuity to be “an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron.” More clearly still is the curse upon Canaan the son of -Ham an indication of this truth of the world serving the Church. Ham’s descendants, the Canaanites settled in the region east of the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt and the River Euphrates. They cleared the land of stones, prepared themselves farms, vineyards and olive yards. They dug wells and laid out roads. They built cities and constructed houses. Yet they did this for the Church that was still in the wilderness. In due time God gave all this over to Israel, and His promise through Noah that Canaan and his descendants would be servants to Shem’s descendants was fulfilled. Unconsciously and surely unwillingly they in their history served the Church in her history. No parallel lines here, though for a time it was parallel lives. No Church contributing to the stream of the world; but very particularly the world serving in its history the Church in her journey from Paradise to Paradise, from one tree of life to the everlasting tree of life.
So also the world served that most glorious of all historical events: Christ in His birth, atoning work and royal priesthood! From the confusion of tongues onward in world history man strove to unite and fought in bitter nationalism against the neighboring kingdoms. Nations appeared and disappeared. Kingdoms grew and kingdoms vanished. Mighty nations subdued other nations only to be subdued themselves by a still mightier nation, until Rome ruled the whole world, united it commercially, politically and linguistically. Travel was possible from one end of the then-known-world to the other. People could speak Latin, the language of commerce or Greek, the language of literature, and make themselves known in their travels and business transactions. All the world is under Caesar. All must be taxed. The fullness of time has come; and Joseph and Mary must go to Bethlehem. Church history is and must be served by world history! Caesar sends Joseph to Bethlehem that the glorious event of Church history may take place as prophesied by God ages before. Pilate gives the death sentence! Roman soldiers drive the nails in His hands and feet! A Roman sword pierces His side as He hangs on a cross furnished by the Roman government! World history serves the Church in its history! And the way is now prepared after the resurrection and ascension of Christ for the gospel to be spread ever farther from Jerusalem, unhindered by national boundaries but instead made possible by world history as the ungodly with their own sinful ambitions yet serve the fullness of time.
And no different is it today. We hope next time to point this out, for this is one fundamental truth that covenant seed must know and see. The world in its history always serves the Church; and together they go in the direction of Christ and His return in glory.