PRESENT AND THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE IN THE LIGHT OF THE WORD
God's Overruling Providence
By Dr. David L. Cooper
ON THE MORNING OF November 8, 1960, a friend told me very emphatically that Nixon would be elected President of the United States. Immediately I asked her why she knew he would be elected. Her reply was that she had prayed that he would be elected and therefore he would be. Then she said that there were hundreds of thousands of Christians throughout the country who had been praying to the same effect.
She quoted, "Prayer changes things." I rejoined by saying, "Prayer changes things; prayer changes men; and prayer brings victory--when the things prayed for are in the will of God." "These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him" (I John 5:13-15).
In Acts chapter 5 is an account of the arrest of the apostles by the Jewish authorities and of their being thrown into prison over night. In answer to prayer an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and delivered them out of the hands of the officials. In Acts chapter 12 appears the account of Herod's persecution of the church in Jerusalem. Herod killed James, the brother of John, and planned to kill the Apostle Peter because he saw that by persecuting the church, he curried favor with the Jews. He therefore put Peter into prison, intending to bring him forth after the Passover to the people, "but prayer was made earnestly of the church unto God for him" (Acts 12:5). In answer to prayer the Lord sent an angel who unlocked the prison doors and brought the Apostle out. Peter then went to the place where the church was gathered together in prayer. We may be certain that if the brethren knew of Herod's intention to kill James, they prayed for his deliverance also. Yet God did not deliver him, but He did deliver Peter. In the light of all the facts, we may conclude that James had completed his life's work, whereas Peter had not completed his. The sequel to the story proves this point. What a loss the church would have suffered if Herod had killed Peter at that time. Someone has correctly and tersely said that "man is immortal until his work is done."
Let us bear in mind that God has a plan for every born again person: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). There are, therefore, no "happen so's" in the lives of the children of God. Such was the conviction of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:28: "And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to His purpose." If God so works out His plan in the life of the individual Christian, we may be sure that He will work out His plan for the entire body of Christ. In God's working out everything for good in the lives of the believers, we may also be certain that God overrules everything that is opposed to the Kingdom of God, in which Satan and the demons are in control. There is therefore a constant warfare raging all the time. Study most carefully Ephesians 6:10-20.
No believer can understand fully his standing, state, and the environment in which he lives, who does not see clearly the fundamental principles and facts that are found in such passages as I Chronicles 29:10-19:
"Wherefore David blessed Jehovah before all the assembly; and David said, 'Blessed be thou, O Jehovah, the God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. Thine, O Jehovah, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Jehovah, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou rulest over all; and in thy hand is power and might; and in thy hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as all our fathers were: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no abiding. O Jehovah our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee a house for thy holy name cometh of thy hand, and is all thine own. I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, that are present here, offer willingly unto thee. O Jehovah, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee; and give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep thy commandments, thy testimonies, and thy statutes, and to do all these things, and to build the palace, for which I have made provision."
I can touch only upon the outstanding points of this glorious passage. In verse 10 David is said to have blessed Jehovah, and here is the way he did it, saying, "Blessed be thou, O Jehovah, the God of Israel our father, for ever and ever." One blesses Jehovah who acknowledges God's place in the universe and His relation to mankind. Notice particularly the following words in verse 11: greatness, power, glory, victory, and majesty. We may be certain that God's greatness is infinite; that His power is unlimited; that His glory is unspeakably great; that His victory is sure; and that His royal majesty is eternal. He is KING of KINGS and LORD of LORDS. He is the Creator of all things in heaven and in earth. To Him belongs the Kingdom. He is exalted as head above all.
According to verse 12, riches and honor are of God, who rules over all. In His hands are power and strength to make one great. According to verse 15, we are pilgrims and sojourners in this world.
Such is the message of I Peter in the New Testament. Every good and every perfect gift comes down from the unchangeable God. On this occasion the Jews had most willingly and bountifully brought gifts for the construction of the Temple. Concerning these gifts, David said that what they had brought was only of what God had given them. We are dependent upon God for life and all material blessings. "... our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no abiding" (v. 15). From I Chronicles 29:10-19 one can properly get his bearings and can see that he is living in a spiritual, as well as a material, realm in which God is supreme; in which the Lord is ruling and overruling all events in carrying out His plan of the Ages-and in bringing the richest blessing to the individual that He can bestow in His love and righteousness. Let us now turn to Psalm 33:10-19, for in this passage we see that God is in control of all things:
- "Jehovah bringeth the counsel of the nations to nought;
He maketh the thoughts of the peoples to be of no effect.
- The counsel of Jehovah standeth fast for ever,
The thoughts of his heart to all generations.
- Blessed is the nation whose God is Jehovah,
The people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
- Jehovah looketh from heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men;
- From the place of his habitation he looketh forth Upon all the inhabitants of the earth,
- He that fashioneth the hearts of them all, That considereth all their works.
- There is no king saved by the multitude of a host:
A mighty man is not delivered by great strength.
- A horse is a vain thing for safety; Neither doth he deliver any by his great power.
- Behold, the eye of Jehovah is upon them that fear him,
Upon them that hope in his loving kindness;
- To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine."
Note in verses 10 and 11 that Jehovah brings to naught the counsel of the nations and their rulers. At the same time God is carrying out His own plan of the Ages. From verses 13-15 we see that God looks from His throne in heaven, observing all men and events: "The eyes of Jehovah are in every place, keeping watch upon the evil and the good" (Prov. 15:3).
In this connection, study Psalm 139, which shows the omnipresence and omniscience of God. A dictator, for instance, may wade through blood to a position of an absolute ruler of a given realm; or he may come into possession of power by political maneuverings. He may seemingly hold in his hands great power and vast resources and unlimited weapons of war. In such a case, who holds the balance of power? In this connection let us remember Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin. They built up great war machines, which at the time seemed to be invincible. See Psalm 33:16-19 quoted above. The next passage having bearing up on our question, which I wish to examine, is Proverbs 21:30, 31: "There is no wisdom nor understanding Nor counsel against Jehovah. The horse is prepared against the day of battle; But victory is of Jehovah."
Those who are well acquainted with modern methods of conniving politicians and unprincipled aspirants for governmental authority and powers were undoubtedly before the mind of the inspired writer of these verses. Such characters will lay aside all principles of justice and righteousness and will go to any lengths in order to reach their objectives. In making this statement, I am certain that all right thinking people will agree with me. For it has been proved and demonstrated times without number. History of the past and of the present shows that unscrupulous connivings have been and still are the order of the day, with some notable exceptions.
In these two verses, the implication is that many men and groups of men often lay plans which run counter to the purposes of God, and of good men. The plans of a certain group may be popular and may guarantee success. Other groups by their human wisdom may up set the entire scheme proposed. No matter how thoroughly the scheme has been thought out and how brilliantly executed; no matter who is backing the movement; and no matter how many are sponsoring it, in due time God will bring the diabolical schemes of wicked men to naught. "The horse is prepared against the day of battle; But victory is of Jehovah" (Prov. 21:31). The trend of events may promise success to the movement which is absolutely against the plans and purposes of God. The born again child of God need have no fear, for at the psychological moment God takes the situation in hand and makes all things work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).
A fourth passage, one that has a special bearing upon the subject under discussion, is Daniel 2:17-22: "Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: that they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his companions should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever; for wisdom and might are his. And he changeth the times and the seasons; he removeth kings, and setteth up kings; he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that have understanding; he revealeth the deep and secret things; he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him." By faith in the living God, Daniel assured Nebuchadnezzar that he could reproduce the vision which God had shown him and which had vanished from his mind, and that he could interpret it to the king. Daniel called his three closest friends to a special prayer meeting in which they implored God to reveal to Daniel that vision which Nebuchadnezzar had had.
God answered their prayer. The special thought to which I wish to call attention is found in verse 21: "And he [God] changeth the times and the seasons; he removeth kings, and setteth up kings ..." According to this verse, God changes the times and the seasons, the trend of events and existing conditions. If there is a good work to be done, God uses good men to accomplish the same; if the work to be done is of questionable character, He will use evil wicked men. For instance, the crucifixion of the Messiah was an evil work; God therefore used Judas Iscariot to betray the Son of God. If a person or a nation needs chastisement, often the Lord, overruling events, gives the authority and power to such men as can deal with the situation at hand. When, however, He has accomplished His purpose, and they are no longer needed, the Lord withdraws His power and places it in the hands of others: "He setteth up kings and removeth kings." Thus God at any given time uses the good, bad, and indifferent to advance the cause of righteousness.
Speaking in terms of our set up in America, I would say that when one political party or group of individuals can no longer be used to advantage in the development of the Divine plan of the ages, the Lord withdraws His power from one and turns it over to another in order to accomplish His special work. Figuratively speaking, God knows where He is going, what changes are necessary to be made, what obstacles are to be encountered, and what problems are to be solved, as He steers the course of human events toward the consummation of this age and the glorious Kingdom Era. God has a timetable, and He is running events on schedule time. "And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28).
The following passage in this phase of our subject is found in Deuteronomy 23:5: "Nevertheless Jehovah thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but Jehovah thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because Jehovah thy God loved thee." Balak, king of Moab, hired Balaam, a false prophet, to pronounce a curse upon Israel. Instead of Balaam's doing what Balak wanted him to do, he was impelled by the Lord to pronounce a blessing upon Israel (Read Numbers, chapters 22-25). From this one incident we get a very clear picture of God's overruling providence. We may be assured that for all those who know and love God, the Lord turns whatever is intended to be a curse for them into a blessing.
The Efficacy of Prayer
As I have said before, I am convinced that prayer changes things and brings victory when the things prayed for are in harmony with God's will. God threatened to wipe out the Hebrew nation and to make of Moses the chosen race. The lives of approximately three million people were involved. Moses, in real meekness and in faith, implored God not to wipe Israel from the face of the globe. "Therefore he said that he would destroy them Had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, To turn away his wrath, Lest he should destroy them" (Ps. 106:23). The prayer of Moses changed the entire situation of the Jewish people. "Prayer changes things." There are times, however, when the prayers of such men as Moses, Aaron, Samuel, Noah, Daniel, and Job avail nothing:
- "Moses and Aaron among his priests,
And Samuel among them that call upon his name;
They called upon Jehovah, and he answered them.
- He spake unto them in the pillar of cloud:
They kept his testimonies,
And the statute that he gave them.
- Thou answeredst them, O Jehovah
our God: Thou wast a God that forgavest them,
Though thou tookest vengeance of their doings" (Ps. 99:6-8).
Through Jeremiah the Lord revealed the fact that there were none righteous in Jerusalem, of the Prophet's day: "Then said Jehovah unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind would not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth. And it shall come to pass when they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith Jehovah: Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for captivity, to captivity. And I will appoint over them four kinds, saith Jehovah: the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear, and the birds of the heavens, and the beasts of the earth to devour and to destroy. And I will cause them to be tossed to and fro among all the kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem" (Jer. 15:1-4). This passage is a terrific judgment against the people of Jeremiah's day. If Moses and Samuel had been living at that time and had prayed for the deliverance of Jerusalem, God would not have heard. Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeremiah, declares that the prayers of Noah, Daniel and Job would not have altered this condition in the least:
"And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, when a land sinneth against me by committing a trespass, and I stretch out my hand upon it, and break the staff of the bread thereof, and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast; though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord Jehovah. If I cause evil beasts to pass through the land, and they ravage it, and it be made desolate so that no man may pass through because of the beasts; though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, they should deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only should be delivered, but the land should be desolate. Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword go through the land; so that I cut off from it man and beast; though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, they should deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only should be delivered themselves. Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my wrath upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast; though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live saith the Lord Jehovah, they should deliver neither son nor daughter, they should but deliver their own souls by their righteousness" (Ezek. 14:12-20).
There often comes a time in the life of the individual, as well as in the life of a nation, when petitions of the greatest prayer warriors of all times avail nothing. Prayer in these cases does not change things.
In the light of the Scriptures studied in this article, we see that God rules and overrules all events and works them together for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose. At the time of the election on November 8, God was not sitting idly by, but was taking note of everything: "The eyes of Jehovah are in every place Keeping watch upon the evil and the good" (Prov. 15:3). The future will prove the correctness of this statement.
One World Government
For years some prophetic students have been telling us that the Scriptures foresee a world government in the end time. In America, Wendell Wilkie popularized the view of a one world government. Since his day many of the leading statesmen, educators, and scientists are convinced that the only hope for the world is a world government. In their thinking, the nations of the world must make a choice between an atomic war, which will wipe out civilization, and a world government. Many of the advocates of a world kingdom and a world court are convinced that what is to be done in the matter of disarmament and introducing a warless era must take place within the next few years.
In Daniel, chapter 7, the march of empire through the centuries, from the Babylonian Captivity to the Tribulation is set forth under the symbolism of four wild, ferocious beasts. Daniel sees a sea agitated by the four winds of heaven. When the winds first blow upon the sea, and the waters are whipped into a raging fury, a lion like beast appears upon the land and becomes master of all it surveys. Again the waters are agitated, and a second beast, like a bear comes forth upon the land. It takes the place of the first one and becomes master of all it surveys. The third time the waters are agitated, and a leopard like beast emerges and takes the place of the second. Once again the waters are lashed into a veritable tempest. Then appears a nondescript beast, a fourth one, "terrible and powerful, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet" (See Daniel 7:1-8).
It is generally believed by all conservative, evangelical scholars that these wild, ferocious animals symbolize four world empires: Babylon, Medo Persia, Greece, and Rome. The reason for this identification is the statement of the angel to Daniel: "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, that shall arise out of the earth" (Daniel 7:17). Each of the beasts represents a king. From Daniel 7:23 we learn that the fourth beast is a fourth kingdom. We logically conclude that each beast symbolizes a kingdom and its ruler.
The second beast follows the first; the third comes after the second; and the fourth beast succeeds the third one. We may think of Daniel as viewing a moving picture. There are no dull moments for the Prophet. Each kingdom follows its predecessor in rapid succession. According to verse 12, the transition from one government to another is very quickly effected. "Their lives were prolonged for a season and a time"--that is, for a year or two. This statement is true of the first three. But the transition of the fourth to the Kingdom of God is catastrophic, because it is effected by the sudden coming of the Son of Man (See Daniel 7:9-14).
The fourth Kingdom immediately succeeds the third one. According to Daniel 7:9, the fourth continues from the time of its appearance until the Ancient of Days on His judgment throne orders the immediate slaying of the last Roman Emperor, the Dictator, at the Second Coming of Christ. Thus we are forced to believe that Rome follows the Greek Empire. Rome continues from its rise to power through the centuries to the Second Coming of Christ. Has Rome literally continued through the centuries? No. But the Roman type of government, imperial dictatorship, was introduced by Rome when it succeeded Greece and continues to the end of the Tribulation. For a full exposition of this point, see my volume The World's Greatest Library Graphically Illustrated.
According to Daniel 7:23-24, the Roman type of government, in this present dispensation, is "diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And as for the ten horns, out of this kingdom shall ten kings arise: and another shall arise after them; and he shall be diverse from the former, and he shall put down three kings." This prediction has never been fulfilled, but it will be in the last days. This Roman type of government will devour the whole earth, tread it down, and break it in pieces. The words whole earth mean exactly what they say--the whole earth. Moreover, it will break in pieces and tread under foot our civilization. The fulfillment of this prophecy will follow in the sequence of events as surely as night follows day.
The destruction of this final phase of our civilization is also foretold in Haggai 2:21-22: "Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother." John in Revelation 11:15 sees the end of this world government and its becoming the kingdom of our Lord: "And the seventh angel sounded; and there followed great voices in heaven, and they said, The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever."
Are there any indications at the present time pointing toward a world government as set forth in the Scriptures above? I am confident that there are. As I said before, according to press reports, the leading statesmen say that the only hope for the world today is disarmament and the formation of a world court and government, or an atomic war which will practically blot out civilization. We can be assured that it will not be the latter, because the Word of God tells us that there will be a world government. At the same time the Communists throughout the world are advocating peaceful coexistence of the nation. President Eisenhower continually speaks of the establishment of a permanent and just peace. That this idea is going to prevail, and that there is going to be a camouflaged peace for a short time, at least, in the end of this Age is shown by the Apostle Paul: "But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that aught be written unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. When they are saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in no wise escape" (I Thess. 5:1-3). These two lines of prophecy, which seem to be diametrically opposed, one to the other, are in perfect harmony. The emphasis upon disarmament can become universal. Then suddenly there can develop a world government which will wreck our civilization, as Daniel foretold.
Brethren, friends, we are living in momentous days. Let us keep our eyes on the prophetic Word and on the trend of events which are now moving rapidly. At the same time let us be certain that we are correct in our interpretation of the times in which we live. Let us profit by the mistakes of other brethren who have set dates and made out time tables for the Lord to follow.
May The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon each reader of this message from God's Word.
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