The prophecies of the Bible yet unfulfilled mostly refer to events on a grand scale. A time of world trouble, the worst ever. Such sweeping statements as “no man might buy or sell” (Revelation 13:17) imply the exercise of power so great as to limit the contact individuals have with one another the world over. No authority of that magnitude exists today. Some use the fear of its coming to exercise total control of their own over the naive or uninitiated. We can see the results of this type of abuse, and they are not the fruits we have been instructed to cultivate.
We can also see in our increasingly connected and interdependent lifestyle the potential for the rapid enactment of a one-world system. But mankind has not yet completely ceded self-determination to centralized civil engineering. Bastions of freedom, democracy, and representative government still exist, but often men give away their sovereignty willingly and feel gratifyingly righteous about it.
Free will is God’s gift to man. If God had wanted robots, He could have made robots. He made us in His image–-we bear it both physically and mentally. If you understand God’s plan for us, you know that mankind is intellectually independent. We must learn to resist the tugs of our fleshy nature, repent of our transgressions, and with the help of the Holy Spirit endure temptation until the end of our lives.
We have the capacity for understanding, for observation, for innovation and, using the raw materials God has put at our disposal, even a limited type of creation. Medicine, mechanics, music… Man is unique among the creatures of the earth, yet subject to all the same necessities of the flesh.
The book of Hebrews quotes the 8th Psalm to explain the nature and current position of man, but goes on to show that we can become the brethren of Jesus Christ–literal members of the family of God.
“For unto angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.
“But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him?
“Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:
“Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
“Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
“And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
“And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
“For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
“For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:5-18).
Man was made in the image of God, but man was made flesh. Our physical necessities occupy a great deal of our time and interest.
Christ said, “…Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
“Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
“And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
“And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
“Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
“(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:25-33).
In addition, He created us on earth, the very place to which rebellious angels have been bound. We are subject not only to our own weaknesses, but tempted and tested both physically and spiritually by outside sources. Deviating from God’s expressed will in our own behaviors can take us out from under God’s protection. Metaphorically, it exposes a gap in our armor, a weakness to be exploited if we do not constantly appeal to our Lord for mercy and cultivate the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The gift of eternal life is freely given, but it will only be received by those with the character to handle such an awesome responsibility.
In all we do, whether defiant or obedient, we exercise our free will. This small measure of control, though often buffeted, prodded, manipulated and outright misled, is ours. Its expression is life, it is who we are. “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right” (Proverbs 20:11).
What, how, and why we do the things we do defines us. Yhe actions and their accompanying motivation are the criteria for the coming judgment. Man is in a position of authority over the earth. God intends for that authority to be greatly extended and permanently established in those whom He will clothe with immortality.
So our lives are spent. Recorded history bears witness to our endeavors whether good, bad, or indifferent. This gift God has given us, to think and act, often showcases the worst and weakest parts of human nature.
The small measure of self-determination we have been given is distorted, blown out of proportion by ego and misused against those similarly endowed. In this the wisdom of God is made manifest. No generation is without its examples of obedience and disobedience. As the parable of the talents makes clear, it is not how much we are given, or how little, but what we do with it.
Those who lived in the ancient world saw power concentrated in a way few of us can comprehend. Imagine living under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, or Alexander. Christ and the apostles spent their entire lives under the power of the Roman Empire. These entities controlled most of the known world in their day.
Illustrating what was undoubtedly thought by most early Christians, Paul wrote, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:15). They thought Christ would return during their lifetimes. Certainly many of the events to come must have appeared even closer then than they do now. Take the abomination of desolation for instance. With the temple standing and Roman emperors already in the habit of claiming divinity it is easy to see how quickly that prophecy could have been fulfilled.
Today, these events may not seem so immediate. Indeed, much of Christianity pays no mind to prophecy at all. Many don’t even believe in the literal return of Jesus Christ. They exercise their free will and turn a blind eye to the larger questions posed by life entirely. It is easy to be lulled to sleep by the daily grind of work, eat, sleep, etc. To think only of satisfying our immediate wants and needs.
Selfishness and the demands of ego can quickly become our main motivators. Greed and lust or sloth and ease can as well if we do not carefully and diligently guard our minds. Should we succumb to complacency, then this record of life that each of us is creating will be filled with nothing more than frivolous vanity. Is that the kind of character that God wants to make immortal?
As Solomon said, “God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Fear can cause us to hide our talents, and so we oppress ourselves, squandering both our gift and our opportunity. It can also cause us to give up our self-determination, to willingly subject ourselves to the rule of another. Safety and security sometimes come at a price. A lack of necessities such as food or water could quickly cause you to surrender sovereignty. In times of war or unrest desperate allegiances can have unintended consequences.
The modern era has showcased man’s attempts to balance self-determination with centralized control. How well is it working? In throwing off monarchy and empire, societies have been set up that more closely resemble what God outlined for man. The seed of Abraham, both physical and spiritual, largely prospered on this account.
The divine concept of liberty in law, when coupled with deeply moral personal convictions, produces and has produced a fountain of blessings that profits the entire world. Naturally the bulk of this prosperity settles closest to home.
Then, just as the first generation to be born in the promised land, those born after begin to take these blessings for granted. They did not believe the report of their fathers, breaking the fifth commandment, and sought the gods of their neighbors, breaking many more. The results are automatic: Poverty, calamity, persecution. These are the effects of breaking the natural law, the laws of nature and nature’s God. These are the laws to which men must look to direct their way.
After creating man, God gave him a job. “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Have you ever done any gardening? It is work! Tiring, time consuming work. Adam was to maintain and beautify what he was given. In doing so he was blessed and provided for. He was not micromanaged. He was given responsibility and autonomy.
When he listened to his wife repeat the lies of the evil one, he was not prevented from partaking of her sin. Consequently he bore the penalty and was driven out of the garden. Their transgression had physical consequences. Adam and Eve’s lives were significantly harder outside of the garden.
This freedom of decision we have been given is at once a great blessing and an ever-present stumbling block. We can eschew evil and reap the reward or indulge ego and suffer accordingly. God has given us the choice. In whatever measure we cower before this responsibility we will suffer.
When the children of Israel rejected the system of government God had given them, they asked for a king. They eagerly gave some of their sovereignty to a fallible man. The result? Read 1 Samuel 8. How different are the requests we make of government?
People are constantly asking for more laws, new regulations, more benefits, free health care, free college, and so on. Those who empower these systems end up being the ones who suffer the most when they get out of hand. The maxim “might makes right” is adhered to most often. Men become drunk on controlling their brethren and evil is the typical result.
This is what we can expect to find at the end of the age. Mankind will pledge its allegiance to a system so vile that it will literally fight against Jesus Christ on His return. We may not know the day or the hour of His return but we know something about the nature of this system: its coming will be deceitful and insidious. What will you allow to control you? Do you have the courage to be firm in your convictions? Would you cling to the truth, even when faced with death, like Daniel or Stephen or our Lord Jesus Christ?
When this system begins to assert itself, when men are coerced, pressured and pushed into allegiance with it, it will not be easy to resist. How many people are self-sufficient in such staples as food, water or shelter? How long could most last without buying or selling?
This is not a call to get off the grid and start prepping. Relatively few generations ago, the majority of humanity was in the habit of providing for themselves. They grew their own crops, raised their own animals, and even made their own clothing. Now the average individual is almost entirely dependent on commerce. The implications of a single power controlling all of it are enormous. Many will feel like they have no choice but to comply.
“If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:9-10). And those who refuse to receive the mark? This system will not be tolerant of dissent.
“And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).
Notice that last part, “reigned with Christ.” Those who demonstrate the character necessary to control their own flesh will be given authority. They will have proven themselves equal to the task at hand. They will have passed the test.
This is our goal, to be in the kingdom of God, to be part of the family of God and to exercise the character of God. It is the ultimate reward. Should we prove weak or unwilling, we will lose control of even this temporary flesh we have been given. God is truly in authority, He set the plan in motion and He will bring about its conclusion.