History with Prophecy

During my teenage years I realized that I had a disdain for history. It wasn’t that I couldn’t appreciate a good story from the past, but I just couldn’t stir up any enthusiasm for reading the dry facts and endless historical dates in my history textbooks. My simple mind didn’t really understand all the wars and political drama. And my grades reflected my lack of enthusiasm.

I remember one time during my college years I had a history assignment, and I went to the library to dig around in the old history periodicals, hoping to unearth an interesting story from an earlier century. It was hard to find anything truly interesting to me, and I vaguely remember wondering if it would ever be possible for me to enjoy history. I felt kind of discouraged.

But the day finally came when I found myself getting enthusiastic about history. Unfortunately for my grades, it came years after college. But what really changed my mind about history was being able to see it in context of how it fulfilled prophecies in the Bible. Suddenly it had relevance and importance. So, I can personally affirm the following statement, which tells why studying history from the context of the Bible is so valuable, as opposed to a study of either history or prophecy independent of each other.

“There is a study of history that is not to be condemned. Sacred history was one of the studies in the schools of the prophets. In the record of His dealings with the nations were traced the footsteps of Jehovah. So today we are to consider the dealings of God with the nations of the earth. We are to see in history the fulfillment of prophecy, to study the workings of Providence in the great reformatory movements, and to understand the progress of events in the marshaling of the nations for the final conflict of the great controversy.

Such study will give broad, comprehensive views of life. It will help us to understand something of its relations and dependencies, how wonderfully we are bound together in the great brotherhood of society and nations, and to how great an extent the oppression and degradation of one member means loss to all.”

– The Ministry of Healing, p. 441-442 {MH 441.2 – 442.1}

It continues, describing how history and theology are usually taught…

“But history, as commonly studied, is concerned with man’s achievements, his victories in battle, his success in attaining power and greatness. God’s agency in the affairs of men is lost sight of. Few study the working out of His purpose in the rise and fall of nations.

And, to a great degree, theology, as studied and taught, is but a record of human speculation, serving only to “darken counsel by words without knowledge.” Too often the motive in accumulating these many books is not so much a desire to obtain food for mind and soul, as it is an ambition to become acquainted with philosophers and theologians, a desire to present Christianity to the people in learned terms and propositions.”

– The Ministry of Healing, p. 441-442 {MH 442.2 – 442.3}

Here is another way this is described, from the book Education

“As with language, so with every other study; it may be so conducted that it will tend to the strengthening and upbuilding of character.

Of no study is this true to a greater degree than of history. Let it be considered from the divine point of view.

As too often taught, history is little more than a record of the rise and fall of kings, the intrigues of courts, the victories and defeats of armies–a story of ambition and greed, of deception, cruelty, and bloodshed. Thus taught, its results cannot but be detrimental. The heart-sickening reiteration of crimes and atrocities, the enormities, the cruelties portrayed, plant seeds that in many lives bring forth fruit in a harvest of evil.

Far better is it to learn, in the light of God’s word, the causes that govern the rise and fall of kingdoms. Let the youth study these records, and see how the true prosperity of nations has been bound up with an acceptance of the divine principles. Let him study the history of the great reformatory movements, and see how often these principles, though despised and hated, their advocates brought to the dungeon and the scaffold, have through these very sacrifices triumphed.”

– Education, p. 238 par. 1-4 {Ed 238.1 – 238.4}

There are many deep and profound things to think about in those quotes, but I especially want to bring out one sentence from the first paragraph of the first quote in The Ministry of Healing {MH 441.2}.

In that first paragraph it mentions three things we are to do as we study:

We are…

  1. to see in history the fulfillment of prophecy
  2. to study the workings of Providence in the great reformatory movements, and
  3. to understand the progress of events in the marshaling of the nations for the final conflict of the great controversy

I won’t go into detail about these right now, but later blogs will probably cover these ideas more fully. I just want to summarize these points here, to stimulate some thoughts.

1. How do we see the fulfillment of prophecy in history? We must first understand prophecy and what it means. In order to understand what it means, we need to study the figures and symbols, as in William Miller’s Rules, to understand the types and characteristics of events we are looking for in history.

2. What does it mean to study the workings of Providence in the great reformatory movements? First, it means that we should see “the footsteps of Jehovah” in these histories. We should look to see how God has been dealing with the nations through His providence. We especially need to understand how God has been working in the stories of history which have led to reformations. What are some of these histories? Noah, Moses, Elijah, Ezra, Christ, Martin Luther, William Miller are just a few examples of people who have led reforms. If you study the history surrounding these men, you will see that the reforms of their time all have a similar pattern, and that God’s “workings” or “dealing” is always the same.

“The work of God in the earth presents, from age to age, a striking similarity in every great reformation or religious movement. The principles of God’s dealing with men are ever the same. The important movements of the present have their parallel in those of the past, and the experience of the church in former ages has lessons of great value for our own time.”

– The Great Controversy, p. 343 par. 1 {GC 343.1}

So, this is saying that if we mark the important movements in a particular story of history, and we mark the important movements in another story of history, then we place them parallel to one another, we should see similarities between the events and movements of each history. Studying the Bible in this way has revolutionized my understanding of the Bible. I am continually amazed at the parallels I find from one story to the next.

3. What is the “progress of events”? Progress means to proceed onward or forward, to advance. We need to understand how events are proceeding forward, from cause to effect, which will lead into the final conflict. You can best understand these events by understanding prophecy and by understanding the order that they must come in. And also, when you have studied the patterns and similarities in the histories of reform, you will better understand the pattern of things to come… you will recognize the pattern as you see the progress of events and “movements” in our own time.

References

Quotes taken from the Ellen G. White Writings, Comprehensive Research Edition 2008 CD

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