Volume 9, Issue 3: Repairing the Ruins
Biblical Prophecy and Western Culture
"Time like an ever rolling stream bears all its sons away." This line from a wellknown hymn reveals a striking fact: time, like a river, is progressive, not instantaneous. Proverbs 21:1 tells us that God directs the flow of the rivers of water. All rivers flow exactly where and when God has sovereignly decreed them to flow. The route that rivers follow, all the twists, turns, and bends, are controlled by the omnipotent hand of God. Just as a river may have its start with a small spring in the midst of a barren, dry desert, and then slowly wind its way over the terrain leaving a trail of new life and verdure until it reaches its final destination, so too, time has its start with the Sovereign Creator God and progresses steadily until it reaches its terminus.
Just as a river bed bears testimony to the previous passage of a river, history is the academic accounting ledger that we use to record the events that occur over time. For us to know where we are going, it is first essential to know where we are and where we have come from. Our culture is indeed a western culture. History clearly and abundantly bears evidence of this fact. But how can we know that our western culture was truly ordained by God and not just the work of impersonal time and chance or the construct of some occidental culturocentric mindset? How can we see that history is truly following a sovereignly decreed route just as the rivers of water?
In the book of Daniel are recorded several prophecies that Daniel was told would happen in the future based on Daniel's reference point in history (Dan. 2:9). These prophecies as they were revealed to Daniel were progressive in nature; that is, each successive prophecy provided greater details of future events than the preceding one. But all of the prophecies concerned the history of God's people from the time of Daniel until Christ. Each prophecy provided an ever more detailed timeline of events that were to occur in history to ensure that the advent of the promised Messiah could not be missed. Coincidentally, those prophesied events in history chronicled the development of western culture. But some may feel a bit skeptical at this point thinking that we can't really know this for sure. Let's take a cursory look at the data.
In Daniel 2, the first of the prophecies is King Nebuchadnezzar's dream of a great image, whose "head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay." Daniel identifies Nebuchadnezzar as the head of gold, and then explains that three other kingdoms shall arise after his (Dan. 2:3643). There is also the prophecy of a fifth and final kingdom, set up by God, ruled by one described as a stone cut out but not by human hands, which shall never be destroyed, shall consume all the rest, and shall stand forever (Dan. 2:44,45). This prophecy brackets the timeframe from the then existent kingdom of Babylon and the coming earthly manifestation of the kingdom of Christ.
The subsequent prophecies clearly identify the second kingdom as that of the Medes and the Persians who conquered the Babylonian empire (Dan. 5:2531), followed by the conquest of the Medes and Persians by Greece, the third kingdom (Dan. 8:2021), and the subsequent development of the Hellenistic Period comprised of four lesser Macedonian kingdoms (Dan. 8:22). History demonstrates that Alexander the Great of Macedonia conquered the Medes and Persians, and out of his kingdom four lesser kingdoms subsequently arose: the Seleucids of Syria and Mesopotamia, the Ptolemies of Egypt, the Attalids of Pergumum, and the Antigonids in Macedonia. The Ptolemies, and particularly the Seleucids, pursued an aggressive plan of hellenizing their domains. The Seleucids under Antiochus IV Epiphanes went so far as to eventually stop all Jewish sacrifices and even to set up an idol in the Temple in Jerusalem with the requirement that the Jews sacrifice pigs to it. A comparison should be made with the above and the detailed prophecy of Daniel 11. In fact, Daniel's prophesies of the period between the Jewish exile to Babylon and the coming of Christ is so precise that some historians consider the book of Daniel to have been written after the fact.
History records that the Romans conquered Greece. Rome was the fourth kingdom in Daniel's prophecies. Rome, like the durability of iron, crushed all of the former kingdoms and brought them under its sway. Christ was born under the reign of the second Caesar, Augustus (Lk. 2:1ff), and started his public ministry during the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar (Lk. 3:1ff), the successor to Augustus. Christ also was crucified under the reign of Tiberius, resurrected, and exalted to the right hand of God the Father. Christ, the King of the fifth and ultimate kingdom in Daniel's prophesies, was the rock that was cut out of the mountain without human hands and is conquering all of the lesser kingdoms (Dan. 2:45, Ps. 2:8, Matt. 28:1820).
The prophesies in Daniel were an indication from God as to the course of history. However, we do not have a detailed series of prophesies, as did Daniel, about the future course of events. But just as a stream flows from its source, so history flows from its source. As a spring in the desert flows until it covers all the surrounding terrain, Christian western culture will continue to move forward through time over the face of the earth until it has inundated the world (Is. 11:9). God has not excluded any nation, people, tribe or tongue (Rev. 5:9). The river of time is still flowing, and it will produce the verdure of a culture that is both Christian and western as it wends its way along.