The world would prefer its biography a little more sanitized.
I’m a writer, so when I find something good on television, I’ve got to fight the urge to rewrite it in my head. Plots, sub plots, character arcs, etc., are things that occur naturally to me. It could have been better, I tell myself, If only this were taken out, and that added.
These days it’s more popular than ever to critique the program we’re living through, called “History of the World.” Truly, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, but some folks spend a lot of time shouting at it, deconstructing it, trying to erase it. A few have even taken the extra, delusional step of attempting to rewrite it. They think history would be better if only they were allowed to retroactively control it from a twenty-first century perch.
The harder the effort to redact our past, though, the more it refuses to change. No matter what mind games anyone tries to play with it, history seems to insist on a particular flow and direction.
That’s because only the Sovereign over this universe, God, knows how history should unfold, and what it takes to arrive at His eternal plan.
“Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals” (Rev. 5:1). This scroll contains the Father’s will, His script.
But when Christ opens it in Revelation 6:1, that’s where it gets confusing. The scroll contains things we don’t like. Of the first four of its seals, only the initial one first seems positive (if you’re willing to grant that the white horse is the gospel).1
The others, representing war, famine, and death, are things you’d like to redact. We wonder why God would have included such barbaric elements at all. That very question, though, demonstrates that it is hard for humans to transcend their limited, faux-progressive views. Truly, as Paul wrote in Romans 1, ”professing to be wise, they became fools.”
Does God’s use of negative factors mean He likes them? No. But only a plan that is true in this world respects the following conditions:
It must do so in the blessed wake of the work of Christ, making grace available to all.
It cannot set aside the ugly world system, while working in a Pollyanna-like environment.
It must not rely upon the heartfelt cooperation of unsaved humanity.
It must not pretend sin and all sinful permutations don’t exist.
It must not skirt the most miserable and dark factors of the fall, including war, famine, pestilence, and death.
And so, the legislator God, and the executive Son, not only accomplish the divine plan in spite of evil, but through its very turbulence.
For instance, the Father does not make people wage war in Revelation 6:4, but “permits” humanity to do so (some versions even say, “grants them power”), that is, to act according to its depraved, violent nature.
Meanwhile, His redemptive hand acts according to His own nature, channeling all those destructive properties unto the fulfillment of His plan.
History, therefore, becomes one long account of our darkness and His glory. We’d love to rewrite this into something we could brag about, but even if we changed all our textbooks, it would be a dishonest fantasy.
Now the world, having been socially “enlightened” to see everything it did wrong, will try to control its way into a Utopian future, where we think we will make none of our past mistakes. Instead, we’ll hold hands, have a Coca-Cola, and sing a song together.
Our sin nature winks at the naive intention, but will never let us do it.
It just won’t.
You’ll have to stay with God’s developing trajectory in order to arrive at His future. It deals with gritty realities, but if you grab onto the first thing released—the gospel—it will carry you right into an eternity of blessing.
1. I do. If you’d like to see why I think so, read my post, Troubling Canvas.