One way to understand the future, in addition to reading the plain promises of Bible prophecy, is to notice the trajectory of God’s work throughout history.
This is Part Two. Here is Part One.
A few Bible verses describe the spread of Christianity as a trajectory – a slow but steady growth from God’s seed. For example:
Mark 4:26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; 27 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. 28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. 29 But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. 30 And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: 32 But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.
But how can we recognize this trajectory?
By studying God’s seed: God’s blueprint for perfect human relationships: between governments and citizens, husbands and wives, churches and Christians, the young and old, and all of us and each other. (Those are the categories listed in 1 Peter 2:13, 3:1, 5:2, and 5:5.)
And then by noticing the resistance to God’s blueprints in each of these relationships from the planting of God’s seed until now, and how that resistance has worn down over the centuries as mankind has made progress towards God’s goals for us. Christians are not used to thinking of history as a record of spiritual progress – every generation is used to thinking it is going downhill in contrast to “the good old days”.
Ecclesiastes 7:10 Never ask, “Oh, why were things so much better in the old days?” It’s not an intelligent question. (GNB)
Finally we can notice the gaps that still remain between God’s plans for us and our acceptance of them, and project what life will be like in the future when the resistance of our generation has finally melted away – when our descendants have finally tired enough of suffering and evil to accept the rest of God’s Gifts.
There is a trajectory charted by churches and governments, of which the United States of America has been a prominent feature. Let’s consider where it points.
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There is an amazing prophecy in Daniel 2 about a “stone…cut out without hands” which is small at first but becomes a great mountain and fills the whole earth, smashing all the world’s tyrannies into dust carried off by the wind as it grows.
What do we see in history that matches such a metaphor?
I can’t think of a better match than the gradual spread of Christianity through the Roman Empire until it became “legal”, then its growth until all Europe tolerated it, then a refined seed of it planted in America, then its growth into freedom whose example inspired most nations to abandon their dictators and whose might contains the rest.
Freedom did not impose itself on nations by force, which is why its spread took time. It was spread by saints who lived as if they were free and spoke truth as if truth mattered, without waiting for savages who hated truth to stop slaying them.
Wherever it went, it reduced if not ended centuries of unspeakable savagery. Human sacrifice was usually the first to go, followed by “trial by ordeal” (where one’s innocence was proved in court by whether he miraculously survived some ordinarily crippling or lethal test such as immersing one’s arm in boiling water) instead of court trials featuring evidence and witnesses.
Child abandonment stopped. Torture and slavery became less acceptable, eventually became scandals, and ultimately were outlawed.
Christianity became a force which tyrants had to accommodate, and pay lip service to, which softened their tyranny until during the Middle Ages the greatest persecution of Christians came from bureaucrats of “the church” itself, who tried to keep the Bible hidden in a foreign language, and who tortured Christians to death over sincerely held disagreement about Biblical concepts.
Something magical happened as Freedom of Conscience broke the shell of heresy trials held by the Roman Catholic Church, later under John Calvin in Geneva, and under the Church of England. It wasn’t just Protestants who tired of the torture and honored Freedom of Conscience; Catholics did, too. Today, no Christian church in the world tortures anyone to death for “heresy”.
But there was something perhaps more magical: as Freedom of Conscience broke out among Christians, it broke out among governments. Political freedom grew, first restraining and eventually displacing most monarchies around the world. How could it be a capital [death penalty] crime to criticize a mere human king if it can no longer be a prosecutable capital crime to criticize established interpretations of the Word of God? Freedom of Speech became one of the defining qualities of what we now call “Western Civilization”, and tyranny does very poorly where there is Freedom of Speech. Which helps explain why tyrants to this day suppress Christianity. There is no government today which is both tyrannical and which allows Freedom of Conscience for Christians. (Although there are several countries where persecution comes mostly from mobs instead of government.)
Christians do not generally associate the growth of the Freedoms of Religion and Speech, culminating so far in the United States, with God’s “stone cut without hands”, because Christians are not generally taught that Freedom of Religion and Speech is even in the Bible, much less that they are among the pillars of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which they are. So some Bible study of that will be ahead.
Because of the general disconnect between these freedoms and spiritual growth, it is more obvious to most people that there is more freedom of religion and speech today than ever before, than that there has been any spiritual progress.
Of course, there is more growing to do, since there are still plenty of tyrannies around the world. Yet it is remarkable that since the U.S. became a great nation calling the world to Freedom, especially during World War I, most of the world’s monarchies have fallen or at least been restrained, out of a world governed by monarchies in the whole rest of the world. Tyranny has been under pressure to conceal its worst abuses. Even communist China and North Korea hide their torture chambers from the world. ISIS is the uncivilized exception, flauting its savagery, but so far (February 2016) it is more a band of thugs than a nation, being economically unviable, unable to produce much of anything or to govern, other than to destroy.
and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the earth; Christ’s kingdom, from small beginnings, has increased, and will more and more, until the whole earth is subject to it: this began to have its accomplishment in the first times of the Gospel, especially when the Roman empire, as Pagan, was destroyed by Constantine, and the kingdom of Christ was set up in it; and it received a further accomplishment at the time of the Reformation, when Rome Papal had a deadly blow given it, and the Gospel of Christ was spread in several nations and kingdoms; but it will receive its full accomplishment when both the eastern and western antichrists shall be destroyed, and the kingdoms of this world shall become the Lord’s and his Christ’s, Rev_11:15. – John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible. Gill lived from 1690 to 1771.
People unfamiliar with the Bible or who are unfamiliar with U.S. law can hardly be expected to see the correlation between the two. But I have studied both and would like eventually to show the correlation, and to show how other religions inspire radically different legal and political systems.
I describe this movement – this growth of God’s “stone” – to describe the movement I want to be part of. I want to be part of God’s next step. This movement will never stop growing – it will always have a next step, according to Daniel 2, so why should anyone insist on remaining on the last step, not growing, not interacting, not fellowshipping?