The Biggest Picture

If you had been told two years ago that Donald Trump was to be the next president of the United States of America you would have probably have laughed. As you realized that what appeared to be a joke was, in fact, true, the laughter would have turned to incredulity and eventually, to out and out unbelief. Now that it has actually come to pass, some people are finding that their incredulity has turned to anger. Their inability to accept the facts as being reality has left many people confused and disillusioned with the democratic process. And, as strange as it seems to be faced with such an unexpected turn of events, we must face the facts, even when we don’t necessarily like them.

The same sort of incredulity at Donald Trump’s election also happened here in this country when, last June, the nation defied all predictions and voted to leave the European Union. On both occasions, the outcome was beforehand deemed as both unlikely and unwanted. The aftermath of both the US Presidential Election and the UK Referendum have seen adverse reactions from people who didn’t get the result they wanted from either event.

I have spent some time considering what is going on in the world and have found myself wondering why I was surprised that either event turned out the way it did. The results of both the US Presidential Election and the UK Referendum revealed the true bewilderment of the masses who had previously be certain of the outcome. Protests followed. The Rule of Law and democracy appear to no longer be subject to the usual conventions and observed practices. There was a time when people on the losing side simply accepted the outcome of elections and referenda. Today, there is a cry of the outcome being unfair, despite over 59 million people voting for Donald Trump and over 17 million voting for the UK to leave the EU. In both events of the past year, the only people who were happy to accept the outcome were those who had voted for it. Interestingly enough, I strongly suspect that had the outcomes gone the other way, there wouldn’t have been any protests at all – because the expected outcome had been achieved.

It made me wonder if there weren’t other forces at work in both events.

It’s not just the actual outcome of each event which has people complaining that they have somehow had their personal rights infringed. Despite knowing exactly what we are getting ourselves into when we go to vote in either an election or referendum, both of which you could liken to placing a bet on a horse in the Grand National, a wave of discontent at the outcome is sweeping across our nation. You just have to take a look at Scotland. As a country, the people of Scotland voted, by and large, to remain within the European Union. Naturally, those that did, don’t like the outcome of the referendum. But, they knew exactly what they were getting into. The protests we see now, albeit mainly from the political party with the most seats in the Scottish parliament, should have really been lodged BEFORE any referendum. But, no one protested beforehand, did they? Why? Because they believed they knew what the outcome would be. Just like in North America.

So, what is happening?

That’s a very good question, and one that we will have to look to the past to answer. But before we do, I must consider my own position as a follower of Yeshua when it comes to world events. I am not saying that all believers should adopt the same position as me. I am merely telling you where God has led me over the past few months of considering these things. It might help you to find some peace in a turbulent world. I hope it does.

The psalmist wrote that even if the earth was moved and the mountains were to fall into the heart of the sea, he and his people would not fear (Psalm 46). It must seem to many both in this country and across the Atlantic that the things they once trusted in are sliding into the sea. I’m not here to make any comment on either the shortcomings or virtues of Donald Trump, nor to address the issue of Brexit (except to say how much I dislike that word). But, as a believer in Yehovah and His great hand being in ultimate control of the things that go on, I feel duty bound to encourage other believers to take the stance of the Psalmist – to fear not, regardless of whatever is going on in the world, God has it all in His hand.

The apostle Paul, in His seminal letter to other believers in Rome, who themselves would have been wondering exactly where God was in a city such as Rome, wrote this:

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinances of God, and those who resist will bring judgement on themselves.” [Romans 13:1-2 NKJV]

Question. Do you believe what Paul wrote to be true? You should, for he spoke the truth. The is no authority except that which God has established. Including Donald Trump. Including Teresa May. Including Nicola Sturgeon.

Paul was being very clear. Only God can promote people to rule over other people. Now, this will make uncomfortable reading for some, especially when they consider the likes of Robert Mugabe or Kim Jong Un. If what Paul wrote was true, then we have to accept that God has allowed, or even ordained, for these dictators to rise to power and that the authority which they possess comes from God, Himself. I can sense a struggle within you. You might be thinking that God would never allow a dictator to rise to power, especially a godless man. Well, that will be the teaching of the modern church which lacks a more than a little understanding when it comes to kingdoms and authorities.

You see, God has been in the business of giving out power and authority for a very long time. It is His to give. There is no kingdom, nor government, nor ruling power, that has not received its power from God beforehand. There never has been and there never will be. Whilst, it is correct to say that God does not ever condone the violence and oppression of men such as Robert Mugabe or Kim Jong Un – He cannot, it is still God who gives them the power in the first place. Of course, they will all have to stand before God on the Day of Judgement and answer for what they did with what God gave to them – we all will. However, regardless of what they did with the power and authority given to them, the truth remains – kingdoms and authority belong exclusively to God and He gives them to whom He chooses with the express purpose of achieving His will and purposes. Evidence of this can be seen throughout the pages of the Old Testament.

Let’s take a look at two examples of kingdoms that God raised up and used for His purposes. You will note that in both examples, the kingdoms in question were pagan nations with pagan kings. God uses whom He chooses to do His will. You should keep that in mind whilst looking at these examples and when you refocus upon what is going on in the world today.

In order to set the scene and contextualize these examples we must first turn our attention to Isra’el. It is important to do this because it is the land and nation of Isra’el that is at the centre of every prophecy regarding the future. Every event in past history, and every event yet to be revealed in the future, has Isra’el as its frame of reference. Today, the modern church is preoccupied with where it fits into God’s plan. The truth is, the purpose of the church is something other than the church imagines. All prophecy which remains unfulfilled will be fulfilled. All of that prophecy was spoken out and written down with the nation of Isra’el and the land given to them at the centre. I’ve spent a great deal of time studying prophecy and I am convinced that there is almost nothing prophetic concerning America, and likewise for this country too. In fact, of the prophecy that remains unfulfilled, there is no mention of anything west or north of Turkey, or east of Iran, or south of Saudi Arabia. That may suprise you. Take a read of the likes of Daniel and Zechariah and Isaiah. You will see what I am talking about.

The first example I would like to show you is that of Nebuchadnezzar. I chose him for two reasons. Firstly, the narrative in the book of Daniel reveals how God works with kingdoms and how they are predefined by Him. And secondly, it reveals a great deal about the nature of prophecy.

In Daniel chapter two we have the account of Daniel interpreting a dream for Nebuchadnezzar. Back in Babylonia in the 6th century BC, dreams came to kings as a way of showing their sovereignty. This was common among pagan kings across the entire Middle East. They believed their ‘gods’ would give them dreams about what was to come in order that their subjects would be amazed and convinced that these gods had put their king there. It was a method of consolidating their power. On this occasion, Nebuchadnezzar was given a dream which, in the moment of waking, he was no longer able to grasp the substance of. This would have been of great frustration to him and goes someway to explaining the brutal treatment promised to his magic men with whom he was surrounded. He asked them not only to reveal what the dream meant but what the actual dream was too! No mean feat.

Of course, you will know the story – his magic men couldn’t do either, and Daniel spoke up and said that the God of heaven was the one who gave the dreams and was more than able to interpret them too. Nebuchadnezzar accepted Daniel’s offer and God revealed both the dream and the interpretation to Daniel in a night vision. Here’s Daniel revealing Nebuchadnezzar’s dream:

“You O king saw; and behold a great image! This great image was excellent and whose brightness stood in front of you, and the form was terrible thereof. The head of the image was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his things of bronze, his legs of iron and his feet of part iron and part clay. You continued looking until a stone was cut out outside without hands and it struck the image on his feet of iron and of clay and made pieces of them. Then were crushed at the same time were the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors and away the wind took them to a place that was not to be found. The stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” [Daniel 2:31-35 direct Hebrew translation]

I am sure that you have a picture in your mind by now. And Daniel, showing that His God, the one true God, Yehovah, is totally in charge, continued by revealing the actual interpretation of the dream:

“You O king are a king of kings, for the God of heaven a kingdom, power, glory, and strength has given you. And over all the children of men where they dwell, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heaven, He has given into your hand and has made you ruler over them all.

You are the head of gold, and after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours, and a third kingdom of bronze that shall bear rule all over the earth, and the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron forasmuch as iron breaks all things in pieces and bruises. And whereas you saw the feet and toes of part potter’s clay and of iron, the kingdom shall be divided and part shall have the strength of iron but there shall be forasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with miry clay. And the toes of the feet part of iron and part of clay, the kingdom shall be partly strong and part of it broken. Whereas you saw iron mixed with miry clay they shall mingle themselves with one another in the offspring of men but they shall not cleave to one another evenly because iron and clay do not mix.

And in the days of these kings the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom that forever shall destroy the other kingdom and the people shall be left but it shall be broken into pieces and all kingdoms will be consumed and it shall stand forever. And insomuch according to what you saw outside the mountain, the stone was cut outside of hands and it broke into pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. The great God has made known to the king what shall come to pass.” [Daniel 2:37-45a direct Hebrew translation]

Now, there is a lot here so I will grow through it bit by bit. What is revealed here is not just about how God gives authority and power to kings and rulers but also how He uses prophecy and dreams to ensure His word is spoken out. The Bible teaches us that God does nothing without first informing His prophets. Daniel had to speak out the interpretation so that what was said would come to pass. This is how God has chosen to work. It is a mystery that is yet to be revealed.

What is interesting about this particular prophecy is that it starts in the present (Daniel’s present) but ends up with the final kingdom. The final kingdom we shall look at in the next article. But, for now, let us look at the head of gold, which is Nebuchadnezzar.

I don’t want to make this too confusing so I will be brief, but I want to set Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom into some kind of context. Whilst Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of five kingdoms, the book of Revelation shows us that there are, in fact, eight kingdoms in total before the coming of the final kingdom. In chapter 17 Revelation contains the description of the scarlet beast upon which the woman sits. The angel explains to John that the seven horns on the beast are seven mountains upon which the woman sits, and:

“There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is one of the seven, and is going to perdition.” [Revelation 17:10-11 NKJV]

So, seven kings and seven kingdoms. Everything in biblical prophecy has layers of meaning. Let me explain these eight kings so that we can set Nebuchadnezzar into context.

First kingdom – Egypt
Second kingdom – Assyria
Third kingdom – Babylonia
Fourth kingdom – Medo-Persian Empire
Fifth kingdom – Greece
Sixth kingdom – Roman Empire
Seventh kingdom – Arab / Islamic/Ottoman Caliphate
Eighth kingdom – Resurgent Arab / Islamic/Ottoman Caliphate

Now, in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the head of gold, we know, is him and the Babylonian Empire. The Babylonian Empire was brought down by Cyrus the Great and that brought the Medo-Persian Empire to power, which is represented by the arms and chest of silver – the two arms showing an alliance of two nations of the Medes and the Persians. The Medo-Persian Empire was smashed by Alexander the Great, so the torso and thighs of bronze represent the eastern and westerly parts of the Greek Empire.

Now, you might perhaps be expecting that the legs of iron in the dream would represent the Roman Empire. That is, after all, what most study Bibles and preachers will tell you, but it simply can’t be the Roman Empire. Here’s why – Rome never conquered Babylon. It’s reach was never into that part of the world. It only extended as far as modern day eastern Turkey. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was centred upon Babylon. Effectively, the Roman empire’s eastern arm became the Byzantine empire which was consumed by the Arab / Islamic Caliphate.

So, the fourth kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was actually the rise of an Arab Islamic Caliphate which didn’t start until the 6th century AD. After Alexander the Great died, his kingdom was split into four and given to his generals. The area once controlled by the Medes and the Persians was allowed to fall back to them until the caliphate rose.

The two legs of iron represent the two branches of Islam – Sunni and Shiite. The caliphate became the Ottoman Empire, which was defeated in 1922 when Turkey became a republic. The eighth beast will be a resurgent Islamic Caliphate meaning that Islam is the counterfeit religion which will fool even the elect. This explains the iron mixed with clay. The clay has always represented Isra’el or God’s chosen people. We know from Daniel chapter 9 that in the final seven years, Isra’el will agree peace with her Arab neighbours. This agreement will be between Isra’el and nine other Arab nations – as represented by the ten toes of iron and clay.

I will leave a full explanation of this eighth kingdom until the next article on the final kingdom. There is a great deal to cover and I want to try to stick to the point. The brief explanation is just to whet your appetite.

To recap, the image with the head of gold, which Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of, was set in the middle of the seven (eight) kingdoms:

Head of Gold – Babylonian Empire
Chest and Arms of Silver – Medo-Persian Empire
Torso and Thighs of Bronze – Greek Empire
Legs of Iron – Arab / Islamic Caliphate
Feet and Toes of Iron & Clay – Israeli / Arab Islamic Caliphate

Nebuchadnezzar was given this power and authority not because he was a godly man. In fact, he was completely ruthless and worshipped the sun and moon gods. God gave this kingdom to him for one primary purpose – to carry off Isra’el into exile and captivity because of their continued refusal to follow God’s word. Throughout the books of Isaiah and then Jeremiah, God used His prophets to warn Isra’el that if they didn’t return to Him wholeheartedly, that He would send another nation to carry them off into exile. Nebuchadnezzar was whom He raised up and sent against Isra’el. God chose to use a third party to ensure His purpose was carried out. We know that Nebuchadnezzar didn’t even realize that this was the case until God caused him to crawl around on all fours like an animal.

The second example, which is inextricably linked to the first is that of Cyrus the Great. Isaiah prophesied around 150 years before the event, when Isra’el still had a temple and were still living in Jerusalem that God would raise up a great king who would set Isra’el free from captivity and help them rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem. Isaiah even named this king:

“Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” and to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.” ‘

Thus says Yehovah to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held – to subdue nations before him and loose the armour of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut.” [Isaiah 44:28 – 45:1]

It must have been extraordinary to hear Isaiah speak these words out – the temple still stood, the city was built up and secure, and this Cyrus was, as of yet, unheard of. But, eighty years later, Nebuchadnezzar came and sacked Jerusalem and burnt the temple and the city to the ground. Seventy years after that, Cyrus attacked Babylon – the gates had been left open for him, and set the Hebrews free. He even paid for the temple and the city to be rebuilt. When he was shown the scroll of Isaiah, he bowed before Yehovah and worshipped Him.

You see, the point I am trying to make is that God uses whom He chooses for His purpose. He always has done, and He always will. He will always use the ones who will get the job done. It is entirely possible that Donald Trump’s election is part of getting the pieces into place for the coming of His final kingdom. Trump is, unlike his predecessor, a strong friend of Isra’el. And, it is all about Isra’el.

And, here in the UK, who has long been a friend of Isra’el, we suddenly find ourselves being extracted from the union of Europe, who have long despised Isra’el.

The events of the past year or so are difficult for some to accept. I believe that is because they fail to see God’s hand at work.

We need to look at the bigger picture – the biggest picture of all – God’s plan for the salvation of mankind which is dependent upon that salvation coming through the nation of Isra’el. His plan has never changed and He will see that it is done. The mountains might well fall into the heart of the sea and the earth will definitely be moved, but I shall not be afraid. God has this. He’s got it covered.

In the next article we shall examine the final kingdom and what must happen before it arrives like, a rock cut without hands and smashes to dust all existing and previous kingdoms.

Shalom.

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