Monday, July 23, 2012

A Philosophy of History

There are multiple ways to understand history. Some cultures view history as a never cycle, continually going around and around. What has happened has happened multiple times in the past and will happen again multiple times in the future. Other societies see history as simply a collection of random events. There's no pattern or reason to what has happened or what will happen in the future. Still others understand history to be linear in nature where things get better and better over time. These views are humanity's attempt to understand its relationship to the rest of the universe. I submit that they are wrong, divorced as they are from the One who has revealed to us His purpose for creating the universe and His plans for its future. Where others see no overriding arch of story, Scripture tells us explicitly where we've come from and where we're going.

There are five classic "W" questions: who? what? when? where? and why? In the first verse, Genesis opens with answers to four of these questions.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. -- Genesis 1:1
  • When: In the beginning
  • Who: God
  • What: created
  • Where: the heavens and earth.
The rest of the Bible explains "why." Beyond the first first, the entirety of Scripture reveals the arch of the narrative from the beginning to the end of the beginning.

It starts with God creating a perfect place in which to meet on a daily basis the one creature He created in His image. There are at least three reasons He created mankind in His image. First, so He could walk with us in relationship, so we could have fellowship together. Second, so we could join with Him in rulership over the rest of creation; we are uniquely given authority over the rest of the universe to tend it and care for it. And finally, so there would be a frame into which He could place Himself when the time came to redeem us from our fallen state. He needed a creature that He could clothe Himself with when He became incarnate.

Genesis tells how He made a man and transformed him first into a family and then into a nation, Israel. He worked uniquely in this people group to create a culture through which He could reveal Himself. The whole Old Testament is the story of God working in people and nations as they interact with both Him and Israel to show who He is and the type of relationship He desires with people.

Like a fruit on a tree at the end of the growing season, when time was ripe, God took on flesh and came to live with us. Over the course of about 33 years, God, in the form of Jesus, showed us the heart of the Father. He showed us His compassion for the poor, the downtrodden, the hurting, the seeking. And He showed us His anger against those who would place barriers of various kinds for others to access Him. But His primary purpose was to reveal His love for each one of us. And He showed this by paying the ultimate price for us: He laid down His life for us.

However, He also demonstrated His power and authority by taking this life He laid down and picking it up again. Death could not hold Him. The grave had no power over Him. He then returned to His throne with the Father.

We're now in a temporary time where each one of us is given a free choice either to agree with His rule over creation or to reject it. Things will not always be as they are now. Just as there was a time ripe for His coming the first time, there is a season of growing that will culminate in the planet being ripe for His return. As the season progresses, the fruit of our choice to either accept or reject His leadership will mature. In this process, we're going to see an increased polarization between these two groups resulting ultimately in global conflict.

There will be fighting. There will be persecution. There will be war. There will be bloodshed.

When this conflict is at its height, when it's about to destroy everything, He will step in and put an end to it. And what an end it will be! When they see Him, every person will bow their knee. Some willingly as they have done even before that time. Others against their will, forced to acknowledge the powerlessness of their rebellion before Him.

He will restore justice. He will restore righteousness. He will restore creation to the original intent. We will walk with Him in unbroken fellowship, ruling and reigning over the earth with Him, according to His original design.