“I will say that he must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here below of which we have the honor to be the faithful servants,” said Winston Churchill.
This great British prime minister played a crucial role in preventing Western civilization from being crushed under the Nazi jackboot. And as he made history and recorded it prolifically, he recognized a crucial truth: God is deeply involved in human affairs.
The study of history, properly understood, is an exhilarating realization of how God steers events to serve His purposes. You can read more about this fascinating subject in last month’s article “How Much Does God Shape History?”
Here are four specific reasons why God intervenes in history.
1. God ensures His prophecies are fulfilled.
God uses prophecy to reveal Himself to man. It is a powerful proof of His existence. Only the one, true, omnipotent God has the power to bring His prophecies to pass.
“‘Bring forward your plea,’” God challenges in Isaiah 41:21-23 (Ferrar Fenton). “‘Bring your reasons,’ demands Jacob’s King. ‘Approach! Foretell things that will happen, beforehand, Inform what they are,—we will lay to our heart.—And will hear you teach future events. Tell events of the future and show you are gods; Be kind, fierce, or gracious, and then we shall fear.”
It is a bold challenge. But clearly nobody but God can foretell an event and ensure that it happens.
In Isaiah 55:10-11, God says that, just as the rain comes from heaven and nourishes everything on Earth, so shall His Word go forth out of His mouth: “it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
In Isaiah 44, 45 and 46, God specifically prophesied of Cyrus the Great, king of Persia. He further specified that the temple of God would be destroyed and that He would use Cyrus to rebuild it. And He further specified how Cyrus and Persia would defeat Babylon. He describes certain gates, the materials they were made of, the fact that they would be left open. Cyrus was born, he rose to lead Persia, and he conquered Babylon in exactly this manner. This is confirmed by Herodotus and Xenophon and other Greek and Roman writers, and by archaeological evidence.
God inspired Isaiah to write all of this 150 years before Cyrus was born! Critics say the biblical description matches what actually happened so precisely that passages such as Isaiah 44 through 46 must have been written after the events they describe. These theories, however, are conjectural, based solely on the supposition that fulfilled prophecy cannot be true. But such theories also introduce several new textual and historical problems that require explaining.
The first century historian Josephus rejects this skeptical view. He recorded that Cyrus actually read this prophecy about himself in Isaiah. It is possible Daniel showed it to him personally.
And thanks to his contact with God’s prophets, Cyrus knew that it was God who had blessed him. Ezra 1:2 shows that this great king knew that God rules in the kingdom of men. And God used him to enable some of His people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.
This points to a second reason God intervenes in history.
2. God ensures His people have freedom to operate.
Many examples in history show God shaping events to ensure His people can do His work—even prosper and thrive. Sometimes He intervened directly through His people in significant ways.
Genesis 14 records the history of Abraham destroying the four top leaders of a great empire at that time. This would ultimately enable Abraham and his descendants to live in Canaan without fear of this empire for generations to come. It would also open the way for Egypt to grow into a leading nation. At other times—such as the instance in Ezra 1:2—God used Gentiles to open doors for His people.
In the time of Jonah, Israel was under severe oppression from the kingdom of Syria. But after King Jehoahaz, an evil king, prayed for relief, God answered by causing Assyria to invade Syria. The Assyrian army swept in and weakened Syria’s power over Israel and Judah.
Soon after, King Jeroboam ii came to power and recovered a lot of territory for the kingdom of Israel.
The True History of God’s True Church, by Gerald Flurry, records many examples of world events that caused the Church to spread out and enabled it to work. You can clearly see this demonstrated in the religious freedom that America’s founders fought for and established, which enabled the modern eras of the Church to exist and flourish.
In 1800 to 1803, God bestowed birthright blessings that He had promised to Abraham’s descendants on Britain and America. The newly established United States was blessed with the Louisiana Purchase, which immediately and dramatically expanded its power and potential. (For a full explanation, request your free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy, by Herbert W. Armstrong.)
Napoleon had become emperor of the fifth resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire and was conquering much of Europe. Then he warred against Britain. He went to extraordinary lengths to accomplish his ambition. The British went to extraordinary lengths to defeat him. Their exertions at the beginning of the 1800s were even more dramatic than the immense efforts they went through during World Wars i or ii! “By 1805 about 800,000 men were doing some form of armed service—20 percent of the active male population, and up to 50 percent in threatened coastal counties,” Robert Tombs writes in The English and Their History. “This is comparable with the total wars of the 20th century and was a far higher proportion than in any other country—the government calculated that France had only 7 percent under arms.”
The British suffered terrible losses in the war with Napoleon’s French Empire. But Viscount Palmerston wrote this about their leaders at the time: “If [such men] had not worked as hard and competently as they did, Britain would not have survived the onslaught.”
This struggle actually strengthened them—right at the time they were receiving the birthright blessings! Britain triumphed, and—unlike the aftermath of World War ii—that triumph led to a tremendous boost in its power. The sore trial against Napoleon led to Britain becoming the largest, greatest and best empire in world history.
Satan the devil is active in world history as well, and he is always working to “blot out the name of Israel” and to frustrate God’s purposes. But God has often used the devil’s own efforts against him and caused the opposite to occur.
World War ii had a similar effect on the United States. “In 1939, the U.S. Army had only 100,000 men, making their army about the same size as Bulgaria’s,” writes The Storm of War author Andrew Roberts. Hitler looked at the puny U.S. military and told Molotov that “the United States will not be a threat to us in decades—not in 1945 but at the earliest in 1970 or 1980.”
By 1943, the U.S. was building every two days the same number of planes that it lost in Pearl Harbor. By 1945, the U.S. had 14.9 million men serving in uniform.
“Roosevelt sent the American economy into battle, with results that the German and Japanese production figures could not hope to match. By the end of the war, the usa had provided for her allies 37,000 tanks, 800,000 trucks, 2 million rifles …. [T]he sheer quantity of weaponry being produced by America outstripped anything the Axis could match. … The U.S. spent $350 billion on the war, even more than Germany and as much as the ussr and Britain combined. She also mobilized 14.9 million Americans, more than Germany’s 12.9 million and twice Japan’s 7.4 million” (ibid).
The United States began World War ii as a foreign policy and military pigmy, and ended it a superpower. A few decades later, the Soviet Union collapsed and the U.S. was now the world’s sole superpower.
We can only speculate on the exact role God played in those events to ensure they would happen that way, but it is clear that He was—and is—involved.
3. God strengthens enemies to punish His people.
On the flip side, God also intervenes in history to punish the people of Israel, as well as other nations. While at one time He used Abraham and his household to defeat the Assyrians, millennia later, He used the Assyrian Empire to defeat Abraham’s descendants in the kingdom of Israel. Then He used the Babylonian Empire to conquer the kingdom of Judah.
Consider that. How difficult is it to raise an empire? How many strings must God pull? How many factors must He influence to cause the necessary combination of sufficient population, resources, technology, wealth, culture, ambition, will, obedience, motivation, military prowess, capable leadership and comparative strength against neighboring powers? “God raised the Assyrians” is a simple statement, but how many thousands or millions of people in all their multifaceted complexities must be influenced in order to coalesce as an empire at the right time to make that reality?
“For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation,” God foretells in Habakkuk 1:6. “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation,” He says in Isaiah 10:5. These are direct biblical statements that God intervenes to raise up nations, and forges them into tools in His hand, for the purpose of punishing.
The same Bible says that this same God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” and that He “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4). So how could bitter, hasty, deadly nations and empires be used by a loving God?
You can understand the answer only if you understand the biblical teaching of the resurrection and the fact that God created human beings—all human beings, Israelite and non-Israelite, whether they are living or dead—to repent of their sins, build godly character, and be born into His Family.
There is clearly a spiritual dimension to history. There is a back-and-forth between God and Satan. History unfolds like an ultra-complex game of chess with very high stakes.
Satan has implemented all these schemes, plans and grand strategies to frustrate God or defeat His plans. But time and again, God makes moves that turn Satan’s efforts into serving His ultimate purpose. How many times has Satan thought, I’ve got you now, only to realize that God still has him in checkmate?
Look at any development in history and think about what God was accomplishing with it. The better you understand those events and know God’s master plan for mankind, the better you realize that He has plotted His next move 10, 20, 30, 100, or 1,000 moves in advance!
This understanding leads to the fourth aspect of God’s involvement in history.
4. God is planting seeds for the resurrection.
God created the first human beings, they rebelled against Him, and the 6,000 years since that decision have contained an estimated 150 generations making the same wrong choice and experiencing the same dire consequences.
The most historic event during that time was one of the two God Beings becoming a man. Jesus Christ came 4,000 years after creation, but in terms of generations, it was near the halfway point. And in each of those generations, with all of its communities, societies, kingdoms and empires, there have been a range of human beings who have been influenced by God and by Satan to varying degrees. On one end of that spectrum are those who have seen the laws of God implemented in the nation of Israel or the kingdom of Judah during the times it was ruled by righteous kings. On the other end are those who have been cut off from God and have been heavily influenced by Satan to devise abominable practices.
“One First Dynasty royal Egyptian tomb included 318 sacrificed humans,” historian Rodney Stark noted in How the West Won. “Their average age was estimated to have been 25. … And late in the second millennium b.c., each Chinese royal funeral saw thousands put to death.”
The Sumerians engaged in disgusting paganism, using snakes and spiders in their bloody, sexualized religious ceremonies, as well as human sacrifice. The Canaanites engaged in unspeakable sins, including child sacrifice. Much later, the Aztecs committed what are surely some of the worst atrocities ever, performing utterly satanic religious rites—in which human beings were scalped, killed and eaten—on a vast scale.
If you want to know what Satan loves to do to human beings when he has full rein, these cultures show how appallingly evil and disgusting his influence is!
Knowing that this is how much Satan can influence large cultures, you have to marvel that there are not many more cultures at that end of the spectrum. Human history has been a bloody, miserable, unjust litany of suffering. But the stability, the civility and the extraordinary accomplishments of mankind has been far different from how it would be if Satan could fully exert his influence. This then shows the extent of God’s influence to exert considerable restraint against Satan.
Here is one example. Shortly before Jesus was born, the Roman Republic was about to collapse in civil wars. Strongmen such as Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Crassus, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony vied for control of Rome while the Parthian Empire rose to power in the East. The main reason the Roman Republic did not completely disintegrate at that time was the administrative genius of Caesar Augustus. It was Augustus who created the fourth world-ruling empire foreseen by Daniel the prophet. Yet even the beastly Augustus knew that his new empire would not survive without strong families. Extravagance and adultery were widespread, so Augustus passed a series of morality laws that encouraged marriage and criminalized adultery. These laws helped stabilize Rome to the point where the Apostle Paul could sail throughout a stern, yet peaceful empire preaching the gospel (a feat that would have been much harder if Rome disintegrated during the crisis of the Roman Republic).
The Bible clearly teaches that God proactively cut off Adam and Eve from their relationship with Him when He banished them from the Garden of Eden. He stopped directly governing mankind as a whole. Yet He was still involved in important ways.
Romans 13:1 states that even as man developed governments over the ensuing millenniums, “there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Daniel 4 states four times that God wanted people to know that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men.” God has power, and “giveth it to whomsoever he will” even, at times, “the basest of men” (verse 17).
Yes, God cut mankind off from Himself for 6,000 years. God does not directly govern. Satan is indeed the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). But God does rule overall, and He intervenes to choose who will rule over men. Paul taught true Christians that even when living under governments ruled by “the basest of men,” we must learn how to live under government because ultimately God is still at the top.
Paul calls the ordinances of these human governments “the ordinance of God” (Romans 13:2) and calls human officials “the minister of God to thee for good” (verses 3-4, 7). Without some form of government, this world would look worse than the Aztec Empire. It would quickly devolve into something more like Lord of the Flies.
God’s plan is to bring all men into His Family, ultimately coming to repentance either now or in a resurrection. To that end, He has ensured that—though we still experience the results of our choice to disobey God—there is some kind of government in every nation and for every people so that they are being governed.
As men have lived and died for 6,000 years, God has been sowing seeds in their lives, knowing that He is going to bring them back to physical life again in a resurrection. And when He does, He wants the lesson of the life they lived to help them choose repentance, choose life. He wants to save every last one of them, build His character in them, and give them eternal life in His Family!
In addition to ensuring that everyone has some kind of government and that those governments very rarely descend into outright satanism, God has often put His own righteous representatives into positions where they can influence world leaders. God took Joseph from nothing to becoming second in command of the greatest nation on Earth at the time: Egypt. The Prophet Daniel instructed King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in prophecy, as well as King Darius of Persia. A later king of Persia, Ahasuerus, married a godly woman named Esther. Another Persian king had Nehemiah as bodyguard. Philosophers in Athens, the heart of the Greek Empire, heard a message in person from the Apostle Paul. Paul also spoke in person to leaders in the Roman Empire, as did Jesus Christ.
God has not always sent His servants to world leaders in this way, yet in modern times, He revived His true Church using Herbert W. Armstrong, whom He also sent to literally hundreds of legislators, judges, presidents, prime ministers, emperors and other elites in government. God was not calling those men into His one true Church or giving them His Holy Spirit, but He will be working directly with them in their next waking moment, and He has been preparing them for that already.
In fact, He has been doing this throughout human history. He has revealed Himself through His creation. He has created physical family. He has required work. He has given experiences, supplied blessings, and performed miracles and other demonstrations of His power. Although mankind as a whole has rebelled, He has still given us these things, and even hints of the truth. Men look up at the stars, and they recognize an orderly universe, created by one mind—a mind that has a name for each of the 1 septillion (or more) stars. And it is a mind that knows everything there is to know about each one of the more than 100 billion people who have ever lived.
The Bible shows that God is a Father. Jesus Christ is a Son. Both of them yearn to save every last one of the human beings they have created. The Father is deep into His master plan to bring every human being to the knowledge of the truth and to give them the best possible opportunity to choose the truth—a choice that each one will have to make for himself or herself.
God is not distant. He is not ignoring mankind. He is no impartial, passive observer. He is actively watching what is happening to each of the inhabitants on this jewel of a planet with which He has gifted us. He is measuring, discerning, considering. Each man, woman and child in the human family is a potential member of the God Family.
God called out Abraham, then Israel, then the one true Church to use as a tool for the purpose of helping all humanity. He is working with all human beings, mainly by cutting them off and giving them what they have chosen when they chose rebellion against Him. But He is also scattering the seeds of His truth and watching how people respond. He is observing how people respect the conscience that He has implanted within all men. He is looking for qualities of character that He will later be able to use. He is blessing individuals and punishing individuals based on their choices, protecting them or allowing Satan to attack them. He is keeping track of sins that He will later show them in the judgment. He is setting apart some in preparation for when He will call them in the future.
On top of all that, God is steering events to fulfill His prophecies and purposes. God has been deeply involved in history. And He is deeply involved in world events today.