WHAT'S GOING ON NOW?
THE MEANING OF HISTORY
With the falling away of man from the true God and with the beginning of Satan's functioning as the rebellious god of this world, there began history as we now experience it. History is the unfolding of three movements, not one. Each movement has its own protagonist, or central actor, and each protagonist works to fulfill his own will and plans. The three protagonists are Man, Satan and God. Each operates from his own perspective, and Thessalonians perspectives are very different from each other.
Wisdom calls aloud... Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, they would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies (Proverbs 1:20, 29-31).
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes... (Proverbs 21:2)
Man personally and corporately strives instinctively toward complete self-sufficiency (i.e., "doing what I want"). However, he is burdened with mutually contradictory compulsions which make such self-sufficiency quite impossible, no matter how prosperous he might become, for his wants contradict each other. He tends to believe that he is free to choose, and so trusts his own intuitions in making decisions and defining values or goals. He is, however, in great deception about himself, and very inconsistent -- driven now by communal instinct and now by personal lust, now by thirst for meaning and purpose and now by satanic prompting, etc.
Satan strives toward complete supremacy of the earth, to impose his kingdom of spirits upon the kingdom of man so that he may incarnate his invisible kingdom -- now cut off from its home in heaven -- into the world of matter. He was intended by God to have been the "cherub that covers" man as a servant (Ezekiel 28:14), but he intends to be the spirit that covers mankind as its god. He has been seeking from the very beginning to enthrone himself at the center of the world's history through his antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10; Revelation 13), a man who will apparently be fully possessed by Satan himself and walk in all the power of Satan and his kingdom. At that climactic period in world history, he shall finally receive the worship from men for which he has always hungered (e.g., Luke 4:5-7), but has only been able to receive indirectly through deceit and disguises (e.g., as the "god" of this world's religions).1
He is a great deceiver of man. He flatters man's pride so that man is blind to his power and intentions for the human race. At the same time he manipulates the compulsions of man so that man will freely yield his will and his possessions to serve Satan's ambitions. He is obviously under great compulsion himself, though: he knows that his time of victory will be short (Revelation 12:12), and yet this only increases his wrath and his eagerness to devour all that he can (1 Peter 5:8). He knows God is greater in power than he, and backs down in fear when that power is exercised (James 2:19, 4:7), yet he will not let that knowledge alter his intentions. Because of the evil compulsions that spring from his evil nature, he apparently cannot resist the "easy pickings" from the human race, even though he shall pay dearly throughout all eternity. He has a purpose for you too, if you will play into his hands.
God, as we have already seen, continues His original plan: to fully reveal His Son, and to bring glory both to His elect and to His creation. Now, however, He works out that original intent in a different and far more complex context than would have existed had man and Satan not gone into rebellion. Now He has to work out His intentions in the face of their determined opposition; but He is history's Lord and Master, and is fully up to the task:
Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure..." Indeed, I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it (Isaiah 46:9-11).
History is quite an unusual three-stranded rope, isn't it: two of its strands are trying to pull away from the third! Yet God will be completely successful, and has announced it in advance. On a given date known to God, history will end.
Man will ultimately discover his great deception and foolishness (without repenting of them -- Revelation 16:9, 11, 21, 20:7-9). He never will attain his goal in history, the goal of complete self-sufficiency. Satan will be allowed to attain his goal, but for only a few years (three and a half? -- Revelation 13). After a thousand years of God-imposed restraint, he will be allowed another attempt at the throne (Revelation 20:1-10), a "frontal assault," as it were, but he will fail and be cast into the hell of fire that had been waiting for him, his servants and his captives. And God's authority will never again be challenged!
What does all of this tell us? It tells us that we are engaged in a profound struggle. It tells us that it is primarily Satan we must resist and combat, not deceived men (John 18:36, 19:11). It tells us that only man's movement in history has no carefully thought out, long range plan to it. Indeed, it tells us that man is not the primary author of history at all -- that he rather occupies a position somewhat analogous to the mayor of a French city during World War II after the invasion of Normandy, with Allied and Axis giants fighting each other all around him, striving for his loyalty and cooperation. It tells us that each historical event or movement is the expression of one or more of Thessalonians three forces. Therefore, the believer must learn to exercise discernment concerning the historical events going on in the world or in the Church: that he may see which aspect of them may be from man, which from Satan and which from God.2
It tells us that "human" history is not merely "happening," but that it is moving purposefully toward a climax and an appointed end. However, its purposefulness is not to be likened to a play that is written by one author, but to a chess match consisting of moves and countermoves. One reason why the meaning of history is not self-evident is because there are three meanings of history, each competing with the other two.
It tells us that we who have given our loyalty to God need have no fear, even though Satan will appear to have the upper hand in our corporate history at any given moment: OUR TRIUNE GOD IS LORD OVER HISTORY! HALLELUJAH!