|HIGHLIGHTS OF DAWN||September 1991|
God’s Hand in the Affairs of Men
IN A WORLD engulfed by trouble and uncertainty we hear people inquire as to whether or not God is really interested in the affairs of men, and in their ultimate future. To these it seems that the forces of evil have been successful, and that the future holds only trouble and disaster, politically, economically, and in every other way. The faith of many has been shaken, both in the Bible and in God, the Author of the Bible.
However, a close examination of the Bible discloses that God has a specific plan for the human race, and that much of it has been revealed to those who have committed their ways unto the Lord. In Ephesians 1:9-11 we read: “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”
God’s plan, or purpose, is unchangeable, for we read: “The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” (Isa. 14:24) Again: “So shall my Word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”—Isa. 55:11
What, then, has God been doing since his great creative acts recorded in the Book of Genesis? Some would have us believe that he has been trying to convert the world, and that this is the chief mission of the church. But let us remember that God never ‘tries’ to do things. Everything is subject to his will, and nothing can interfere with the accomplishment of his plans.
The Bible informs us that for the period of time we call the ‘Patriarchal Age’, God laid his hand upon certain individuals and worked with them in his own peculiar manner. Among these were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God dealt with these through the medium of a covenant—promising them that through the ‘seed’, or offspring, of Abraham, all the families of the earth were to be blessed.—Gen. 12:3; 22:16-18
Various nations have employed covenants of law in order to bless their subjects. There was the Magna Charta of England, issued in A.D. 1215, under King John. In the United States, in A.D. 1776, there came the Declaration of Independence, followed by the Bill of Rights—which was made up of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. These have been a blessing in that they have served to maintain law and order, and to preserve the priceless privileges of liberty and freedom.
In 1945, a good part of the world subscribed to the Charter of the United Nations. This was referred to by some as “the world’s last hope for peace.” Now, after forty-six years of faltering efforts, many wonder if the United Nations can ever bring peace to the earth, that genuine and lasting peace which the people so eagerly and sincerely desire. The image of the United Nations received quite a boost, however, in the recent Desert Storm operation in Kuwait and Iraq. But despite their victory over Iraq, and the return of control over their own government to Kuwait, overwhelming problems still await solution, to which the United Nations has not found the answers.
Across from the United Nations Building in New York City, there is inscribed, on a stone wall, that wonderful prophecy which states, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Mic. 4:3) This is what all nations desire, but it cannot be brought about by human effort. It can only come through the one who has been given the title, “The Prince of Peace.”—Isa. 9:6
The Prince of Peace will establish peace in fulfillment of that outstanding declaration made to Abraham by God, when he said to him, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”—Gen. 12:1-3
After Abraham proved his faith by his willingness to offer his son, Isaac, in sacrifice at God’s command, the Lord spoke to him again, saying, “Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; … because thou hast obeyed my voice.”—Gen. 22:16-18
Abraham died without this promise being fulfilled. But it was confirmed to his son, Isaac, to whom the Lord repeated the promise, saying: “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; and I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because that Abraham obeyed my voice.”—Gen. 26:2-5
Isaac also died, and still the promise was unfulfilled. However, God confirmed the promise to Jacob, saying, “Thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”—Gen. 28:14
The promise was not fulfilled in Jacob’s day. Following his death, God began to deal with Jacob’s twelve sons, who became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel, Jacob’s name having been changed to Israel. Now the Lord’s hand was shown in his dealings with a nation—the nation of Israel. The Lord said to Israel as a nation, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.”—Amos 3:2
God’s favor with Israel lasted a period of 1,845 years. Through Moses he gave them his Law. He sent his prophets to this people to counsel them, and to reprimand them when they were unfaithful to their covenant with him. When faithful to him, God blessed the Israelites in basket and in store, and gave them victory over their enemies. Under the terms of the Law Covenant the people of Israel were also blessed with an opportunity to gain everlasting life. This called for full obedience to the Law, which, however, as members of a sin-cursed and dying race, was beyond their ability to accomplish—and this was the very lesson they were to learn.
God Sent His Son
At the close of the Jewish Age, God’s hand was manifested in the greatest event known to man. He sent his beloved Son to redeem mankind from the curse of sin and death. The Prophet Isaiah wrote, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” (ch. 9:2) Jesus was that “true light” which eventually will lighten “every man that cometh into the world.”—John 1:9
Jesus confined his message to the nation of Israel. Thus the Israelites were the first to receive the invitation to become his disciples. Jesus said to his apostles, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”—Matt. 10:5,6
Only a small minority of the Israelites accepted Jesus. They are spoken of as a ‘remnant’. After his resurrection Jesus instructed his disciples to widen their ministry, and to be his witnesses to all nations throughout all the earth. (Acts 1:8) But the purpose of this worldwide witness has not been to make converts of mankind, or to insist that they become followers in Jesus’ footsteps. Rather, as stated by James, its purpose was to ‘take out’ from the world a people to be associated with Jesus in his future work of blessing mankind.—Acts 15:14
The way in which these are invited to walk is not an easy one. Jesus said that those who would be his disciples would have to deny themselves, and take up their cross and follow him. (Matt. 16:24) This means suffering and dying with Jesus. Not many throughout the entire Gospel Age since Jesus’ First Advent have been willing to pursue this course of self-denial and suffering. Jesus refers to these as a “little flock” to whom it is the Father’s good pleasure to give the kingdom.—Luke 12:32
A High Reward
To the rich young ruler Jesus said that if he would give up all that he possessed, and leave his home and family, to follow him, he would receive “treasure in heaven.” (Matt. 19:21; Luke 18:18,22) One of these treasures will be the divine nature. (I Pet. 1:4) Those who are faithful will receive “glory and honor and immortality.” (Rom. 2:7) They are also to reign with Christ.—Rev. 20:4
The Apostle Paul informs us that Jesus and his true followers, Christ’s “body” members, are the “seed” which God promised to Abraham, the seed that was to bless all the families of the earth. (Gal. 3:8,16,27-29) The purpose of the thousand-year reign of Christ is to bestow God’s promised blessings of life upon individuals of all nations, who then accept the provision made for them through the sacrificial death of Jesus, and who obey the laws of his kingdom.
God’s hand in human affairs throughout the present age has been operating in the selection of this true church of Christ. This work has gone on unknown to the world, but gloriously blessed by the Lord. After this work has been completed, God’s hand will be manifested to the whole world through the agencies of Christ’s kingdom.
The word church, (‘eklesia’, in the Greek language) means ‘selected’, ‘or called out’. After this class has been called out from the world, all others will be given an opportunity to hear and obey. James said that then the “residue of men” and “all the Gentiles” will have an opportunity to “seek after the Lord.” He also explains that “known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”—Acts 15:14-18
A New Day
We believe that God’s work of selecting from the world this people to be associate rulers in Christ’s kingdom is nearly complete, which means that the time for the world’s enlightenment and deliverance is near. We are today living in the most important period of the world’s history. Little do people realize as yet that God’s hand is being manifested in present world events, even as foretold in the prophecies of the Bible. Darkness still covers the earth, but soon the people will see the dawn of a new day; a day that will be born, as it were, in clouds of trouble.
This new day dawns as a result of the Second Advent of Jesus. The clear testimony of the Bible is that Jesus returns to earth as a glorious divine being, invisible to human eyes, but with all power to control in the affairs of men in keeping with the divine plan. Jesus said to his disciples, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye [shall] see me: because I live, ye shall live also.”—John 14:19
Jesus’ true followers will be able to see him, because, in the resurrection, they will be exalted to the same divine nature which he possesses. John wrote, “We know that … we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is,” not as he was, “in the days of his flesh.”—I John 3:1-3; Heb. 5:7
When Jesus was on earth nineteen centuries ago, his disciples asked him what the signs of his second presence would be. He said that there would then be “upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”—Luke 21:25-27
Much of this is symbolic language. The world will ‘see’ Jesus in a ‘cloud’. A similar thought is expressed in Revelation 1:7. But we know that literal clouds conceal. Here, clouds are used to symbolize the trouble and distress described by Jesus. This “tribulation” will eventually help the unbelieving world to “see,” or discern, the hand of God in the affairs of men through the crumbling of their own sinful social order, or world.—Matt. 24:21,22
This is the world over which Satan is “god” and “prince.” (II Cor. 4:4, John 16:11) It is an “evil world.” (Gal. 1:4) And it is the destruction of this world that is foretold in the Bible, not the burning up of the earth. (I John 2:15-17) We can rejoice that such an evil world is coming to an end!
Jesus said that the tribulation which was to come upon Satan’s world at the end of the age would be so great that unless the period of distress was shortened all flesh would be destroyed. But he assured us that this great “time of trouble” would be shortened “by” the elect—as indicated by the Greek text—that is, by Jesus and his true followers exercising their divine power to intervene in human affairs through the establishment of the messianic kingdom.—Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:22
Another manifestation of God’s hand in the affairs of men is foretold by the Prophet Daniel. In a reference to the rulers of the earth at the time of Christ’s return, Daniel’s prophecy states, “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”—Dan. 2:44
Zephaniah 3:8,9, reads, “Wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth [symbolic] shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then I will turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.”
This is powerful language, and plainly indicates God’s hand in the affairs of men, bringing to an end man’s selfish social order. In our generation we have witnessed the beginning of this foretold gathering of the nations. We rejoice that the complete fulfillment of the prophecy is so near; that soon, through Christ and his true church, God will turn a pure message of truth to the people, causing the knowledge of his glory to fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.—Isa. 11:9; Hab. 2:14
Centuries before Jesus came to earth at his First Advent, the Prophet Isaiah foretold: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shalt be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”—Isa. 9:6,7
This prophecy began to be fulfilled with the birth of Jesus, but its preview of the messianic kingdom in the hands of Jesus has not yet been realized. However, we are now living in “the day of his preparation” for this. (Nah. 2:3,4) And we know that when the new world government is firmly established on the “shoulder” of The Prince of Peace, all the present perplexing problems of mankind will be solved. Then the nations will not even learn war any more.
Even the distressing problems of sickness and death will then be solved, for Jesus will also be the world’s “everlasting Father,” that is, the one who will give everlasting life. Paul wrote that Christ will reign until all enemies are put under his feet, and that the last enemy to be destroyed is death. (I Cor. 15:25,26) It is difficult to imagine a world in which there will be no sickness, no pain, no tears, no death. But Jesus’ death as the Redeemer of mankind from sin and death, provided for just such blessings, and they will be available to the people through the agencies of his kingdom.
The Apostle Peter explained that during the second presence of Christ there will be “times of restitution of all things,” and added that this glorious time of blessing had been foretold by the mouth of all God’s holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:19-21) Restitution means restoration, and among the things to be restored to mankind are health and life.
And this will include those who have died, as well! The Bible uses the word “ransom” to describe Jesus’ work of redemption and resurrection, and Isaiah wrote that “the ransomed of the Lord shall return … with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads,” that “they shall obtain joy and gladness,” and that “sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (I Tim. 2:3-6; Isa. 35:10) The only ones who will not be thus blessed will be those who ultimately completely oppose the righteous laws of the new government. Peter said that these will be “destroyed from among the people.”—Acts 3:23
Then all will know and serve the true God. They will have learned that “great and marvelous” are his works. No wonder John asked, “Who shall not fear [reverence] thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.”—Rev. 15:3,4