Welcome to The Berean Call podcast. I’m T. A. McMahon, TBC’s Executive Director. We’re currently re-airing a discussion I had with Dave Hunt in 2003 featuring his book Countdown to the Second Coming.
In this program, Dave continues addressing God’s plan for humanity but makes the important point that not everything that takes place in history is what He has planned. He does not cause everything to happen.
That’s a wrong idea about His sovereignty, which can lead to the teaching that He is the author of evil. That error also denies the doctrine of man’s free will, which allows humanity the choice to obey God or not obey Him.
Dave also discusses how amazing biblical prophecy is in that what takes place historically works in conjunction with God’s overall plan of salvation without forcing His will throughout. For example, all the events surrounding Jesus being born in Bethlehem were orchestrated but not imposed or coerced upon human decisions, thereby negating their volition.
Lots of good information here, so thanks for tuning in.
Tom: In this program, we’ve been going through Dave Hunt’s book Countdown to the Second Coming, and currently we’re concluding chapter 3. But we took a little side trip last week, which we hope our listeners found helpful. And if you missed the program, I went through a chronological list of key biblical events from Genesis to Revelation, and Dave added a brief commentary on each incident, and we got as far as the first coming of Jesus.
Now, Dave, I think one of the values of this exercise is that it demonstrates that God has a plan for humanity—past, present, and future—and what’s taken place in history has not been random. What do you think? What are your thoughts?
Dave: Well, definitely God has a plan, but not everything that happens is planned. In other words, God does not cause everything that happens. Otherwise, we would have to say, well, God planned World War I, World War II, planned the slaughter of the Armenians by the Turks, planned all the rape and murder and so forth. God said to Israel, “Don’t do this abominable thing that I hate! If you do, judgment will come.” And in fact, he sent His prophets, pleading with Israel.
So the Bible foretold the waywardness of Israel, its idolatry, the judgment that would come upon it. But beneath all of that, of course, behind all of that, God is going to fulfill His purposes and His will. And ultimately, He will bring Israel back into her land, and there will be a full restoration. So—plan? Yes, He has a plan. But not everything that happens is God’s will. Otherwise, Jesus would not have us pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
Tom: Yes, and we can and that no one, no man, thwarts God’s will.
Tom: He’s going to bring about what He knows.
Dave: But He does allow sin.
Dave: He does allow sin, because He has given man the power of choice. And I don’t know how many times we’ve said that, Tom, but without the power to choose, we couldn’t love God. We couldn’t love one another. You can’t force love, and even man knows that. That’s why you have a heart on Valentine’s Day. Without the power of choice, we could not receive Christ. The Bible says, “As many as receive him, to them he gives the authority to become the sons of God.” If we couldn’t believe, we couldn’t receive the gift of eternal life. You can’t even receive a gift without choice. You can’t force a gift on somebody.
Tom: It wouldn’t be a gift.
Dave: That’s right. So we have to recognize that and kind of have a balance. Because, Tom, so many people say, “Well God’s in charge!” “Well God’s still on his throne!” And they take great comfort in that. Well, God was in charge when Satan rebelled, wasn’t He? He’s in charge of the universe. He hasn’t lost control of the universe. But God was in charge—He was in control when Adam and Eve sinned and rebelled and brought all of this horror upon this world. That doesn’t mean that God caused them to do that, or that God wanted them to do that. God knew they would do that, and He had a provision for the redemption of mankind. But to say, “Well, God’s in charge; He’s sovereign.” “Well, I believe in sovereignty,” people say.
“Well, I believe in sovereignty.” Yes, well, I believe in sovereignty too. We have a sovereign government, city. The city government is sovereign. So is the state government, the county, the federal government sovereign. Does that mean that they control everything that happens? That’s why we have policemen. That’s why we have courts. And God is going to bring the world into judgment one day, because the world has rebelled against Him.
Okay, well I spent a lot of time on that, Tom, but…
Tom: Yeah, but that’s important…
Dave: Yeah, it really is.
Tom: …to make that distinction.
Dave, last week we covered, again, key events. The creation; the fall—that is, the rebellion of man; the promise of a Redeemer; then the flood; the rebellion at Babel; the establishment of a people through whom the Messiah would come; the promise of a land for the Jews; the Exodus from Egypt and entrance into the Promised Land; the rebellion of the Jews in the Promised Land; the 70-year removal of the Jews to Babylon; and then the restoration of the Jews to the Promised Land. And that led right up to the first coming of the promised Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Now, Dave, we know a lot about this. We’ve studied it. We’re evangelicals—we’ve studied the Bible and so on. But I know, growing up Roman Catholic, I had no idea about these things. We weren’t—our orientation wasn’t toward the Bible, toward events, and so on. And a lot of this, not just for Roman Catholics out there, but for others, a lot of people don’t know about these things.
Dave: Well, of course, it’s part of history, Tom, and that’s what is so amazing. When you read the Bible, you are reading history. You read in Genesis, you are reading about real nations, real people, historic events. No one can deny that.
Now, you mentioned Israel was restored to their land, somewhat. It was not what God had promised in its fullness. We read in Ezekiel 36 and 37, Jeremiah 31, and other places of a full and final restoration to the land (Ezekiel 38 and 39). But Israel was back in her land, but she was still under heel of various conquering invaders—and finally, when Jesus came, under the heel of Rome.
And that’s interesting, if I can digress for a moment: How did Jesus get born in Bethlehem? Well, “There went forth a decree from Augustus Caesar [we read of this in Luke 2] that all the world would be taxed.” And Joseph was of the lineage of David. Some people say, “Well, why did Joseph have to be of the lineage of David? He’s not the father. Mary is the mother, and you would just trace it back through her.”
Well, but because Joseph—and the father is the head of the household—because he was of the lineage of David, everybody had to go back to the town, hometown, from which their ancestors came. And that meant that Joseph took his bride-to-be, as his wife at this point, who was “great with child,” the Scripture says, he took her back to Bethlehem because that’s the city of David, and this is his family.
And that’s how Jesus was born in Bethlehem. How about that? Amazing—a decree from Augustus Caesar and this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria, and you know, it goes on and on. So Christ had to come at a certain time in history. Galatians:4:4 says, “In the fullness of time, God sent forth his son.” And by the way, the Antichrist must come at a certain time, as well. Second Thessalonians 2 says, “You know what prevents him from being revealed in his time.”
I’m probably running ahead of you, Tom.
Tom: Yes, but let’s go back Joseph.
Dave, earlier you just mentioned that God doesn’t determine every little event. But we do find His orchestration of events, which we find phenomenal—exciting—because it shows that God is…not only is He foretelling these things, but we see it come to pass, and not in a random way. As you said Jesus has to be—His lineage has to go back through to David, to Abraham, and so on.
Dave: Right. Well, Tom, it’s a puzzler. It’s beyond my comprehension, beyond anyone’s comprehension. And you know, I’ve often said it—I don’t know whether I’ve said it on this program, but I could prove the existence of God by the people He sits me next to on airplanes. And it happens over and over and over, and sometimes my airplane breaks down and I have to get on a different one. But I don’t think God broke the airplane down.
The very seat of a person sitting next to me in this seat on a particular airplane—I’ll just mention one example: The Lord sits me next to a woman; her live-in boyfriend has just tried to kill her. Well, how many people is she going to sit next to on an airplane who could help her out in that situation?
He sits me next to a young man…
Tom: Well, how do you help her out? Because I think some people may not quite get the gist of what you’re talking about.
Dave: Okay, well, I’m going to tell her what the purpose of life is and how she can be rescued from this horrible life that she’s been living, and the fact that Christ came to redeem her and pay the penalty for her sins. And we have to be right with God before we can be right with one another, and this is the whole problem in the world.
Or He sits me next to a young man—he’s just broken up a relationship with a Mormon of several years. Apparently they had been living together. And he says, “I never could get straight this Mormonism—I mean something just didn’t make sense to me. And they’ve had me out to Salt Lake City….”
“Well,” I said, “I wrote the book!” How many people are you going to sit next to that wrote a book about Mormonism on an airplane?
And I get off the plane, and I say, “God, You did it again! How did You do it? I don’t know how You did it! You didn’t force me to get on this airplane; You didn’t force me to get this seat. You didn’t force that person….” But somehow, God knows what’s going to happen, and He can make things happen.
But that doesn’t mean, then, that he controls everything. If we say that, then He is causing sin. He’s causing the rape and murder and evil thoughts and crime—and no, He doesn’t. But He can effect His will. He is perfectly capable of bringing this about.
And we could, Tom—we started on this, let me just take a little bit longer…
Dave: …let’s take Pharaoh. You know, this is a big problem. Romans 9 talks about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, and in Exodus it says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. But before it ever says God hardened his heart, twice it says Pharaoh hardened his own heart. And God tells Moses, “I know he won’t let you go.” Well, it says, “I raised you up for this purpose.” Well, does that mean then that God made Pharaoh the evil person that he was? No! God knew this man inside and out, and God saw to it that he was born into this family, that he became Pharaoh, that he was there at this time.
Well, then what about hardening his heart? Well, the point came where Pharaoh would have let the children of Israel go. He was scared to death! He would have let them go for the wrong reason. But God hardened his heart. And the word in the Hebrew means He strengthened—He gave him the guts to keep saying no. That’s what he wanted to do.
Anyway, Tom, it’s a big subject, but God does not cause sin. He does not cause rape and murder, but He is in charge. And He can use—it says, “He can cause the wrath of man to praise Him.” And one day His purposes will all be worked out.
Tom: Dave, I just want to go back—you’re telling us about who you sit next to on airplanes. You’re not unique, you know. I mean, you are unique, but you’re not unique. This is something that’s available for anybody and everybody who knows the Lord and wants to be used of Him. You just have to pray for opportunities. I mean, you look forward to that, and when you come back from your trips, we get excited about what the Lord has done! But then as staff members here at The Berean Call, we think, Well, wait a minute, this could happen to us in the line at Safeway. This could happen to us any place, if we’re willing.
And again, even for young believers—I mean, you know the Word better than, I think, anybody I know. But at the same time, whatever we know, whatever God has encouraged us in, given us understanding, and all of that, we can use whatever God has given us…
Tom: …then and there…
Tom: …to His glory and to be fruitful.
Dave: It is so wonderful to have the Creator of the universe as our heavenly Father.
Dave: And we do not deserve anything. But, well, He wants to take us and use us and guide our steps.
Tom: What does Ephesians:2:10 say? “We are his workmanship….”
Dave: “Created in Christ Jesus unto good works…”
Tom: There you go.
Dave: “…which he hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Dave: Yeah, it’s amazing and it’s wonderful.
Tom: Well, we’re at the first coming. As I mentioned earlier, as a Roman Catholic I knew about the first coming, about what we called Christmas and Jesus being born in Bethlehem and so on. But there’s a Second Coming as well, and…
Dave: But, Tom, as a Catholic, you didn’t know the prophecies…
Dave: …for the first coming of Christ.
Tom: No, these were just traditions, events, and so on.
Dave: He came, but how would the world recognize, how would Israel recognize, the Messiah when He came? God laid it out through His prophets, foretold exactly how they could recognize this. And that was why Jesus—well, I was going to say castigated, that’s too stern…
Tom: He chided.
Dave: That was why Jesus rebuked the rabbis. He said, “How come you can tell the weather? You know the signs of the weather, why don’t you know the signs of the time?”
Had they known that, they would have known that Daniel 9 foretold the very day that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on that donkey. They would have known this was the day. And he chides his disciples, you know, the two on the road to Emmaus: “You fools! Slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” It says, “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself.” Had they known the Scriptures, had they paid attention, they would have known that this is the Messiah. The rabbis would have known it.
Tom: So we have the first coming foretold by the prophets. As you said earlier, you can prove there’s a God just on the basis of prophecy.
But Jesus came—and He’s rejected. That’s also foretold. So we have the first coming of the promised Redeemer, then we have the rejection of Him—of God’s Savior—His death, burial, and resurrection.
I think I mentioned last week when we were talking about this, that as a screenwriter I’m fascinated—I mean, more than that, I’m in awe—that I could write from the Old Testament prophets the scenario of Christ on the Cross and all the events that led up to that, and took place in such detail! It’s tremendous.
Dave: But, Tom, this is one of the reasons why Jewish people to this day say Jesus could not have been the Messiah—because He didn’t establish peace. He didn’t set up His kingdom. But…and the rabbis mocked Jesus on the Cross. You know, they thought that by nailing Him to a cross they were proving He wasn’t the Messiah. Well, if they had known the prophets, I mean…
Tom: Isaiah 53.
Dave: Right. Paul says, “Because they didn’t know the prophets, they fulfilled the prophets.” That’s in Acts 13. They fulfilled the prophets in crucifying Him.
So it was all laid out ahead of time. In fact, in Daniel 9 that I just mentioned, it says “sixty-nine weeks of years until the coming of Messiah the Prince.” And then it says, “He will be cut off, but not for himself.”
You mentioned Isaiah 53. “He’s despised, he’s rejected, we don’t esteem him at all. In fact, we esteem him smitten of God and afflicted.” We think He’s been rejected by God. This was foretold—that this was the reception He would get by His own people Israel. It says that, “Yahweh laid on him the sins of us all.”
And yet, Isaiah:9:7 says, “Of his kingdom and peace there will be no end.”
So it’s kind of confusing. He’s coming to establish an eternal kingdom, peace that will never end. And yet, He’s going to be—Isaiah 53 again: “He is cut off out of the land of the living and for the transgression of my people is he smitten.”
So it was foretold that He would be crucified. Psalm 22: “They pierced my hands and my feet.” Zachariah 12:10, the piercing of the spear in His side. When He returns in the midst of Armageddon in the Second Coming, “They will look on me”—Yahweh, Jehovah, the God of Israel is speaking—and says, “They will look on me whom they have pierced.” And there the word in the Hebrew is a piercing to the death with a sword or a spear in the side, as they did to Christ on the Cross.
Dave: So, Tom, it was all laid out if they had paid attention. And that’s why we’re encouraging the people to search the Scriptures daily, because it is in the Bible.
Dave: This is what we go by. We’re not making this up. We want to know what has God said to man, not what are man’s ideas about God?
Tom: Right. Dave, at that time, we have—well, as I said before, Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Then we have the establishment of the church. Now, we’ve been talking about that, about distinctions: Israel, the church, the Gentiles.
Dave: Jesus said, “I will build my church.” So apparently the church had not begun yet, and apparently Christ is the head of the church. Apparently the church is something unique. “On this rock….” The confession of Him—Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ. And it is on this rock—in fact, as you know, the Catholic Church never even imagined that Peter was the rock on which the church was built, until—what?—eighth or ninth century.
Dave: At least, they always said it was the “confession of Peter.” So the church, something new, comes into existence.
Tom: Dave, we have about two minutes left. Last event, at least that we can get to: the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world—70 AD, at least initially. And then I think finishing the job around 135—AD 135.
Dave: Well, 130, the Romans rebuilt it as a pagan city dedicated to Jupiter and put a temple to Jupiter on Temple Mount. But 70 AD, well, going back to Daniel 9 again—it says, “Sixty-nine weeks of years until the coming of Messiah the Prince, and then he will be cut off.” And it says, “And the people of the Prince who will come [that is, the Antichrist], his people will destroy the city and the sanctuary.”
So Christ had to come just before the temple and city of Jerusalem would be destroyed. He also had to come when they were there, because Malachi:3:1 says, “The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come into his temple.” And when Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 24, He said, “You see this?” (They are showing Him the temple. I mean, this was built for Him, as though He didn’t know). He said, “I tell you, there’s not going to be one stone left upon another that won’t be thrown down.” They were shocked! They should have said, “Oh, you must be the Messiah, because the Bible says just after the Messiah comes, Messiah will be crucified, and then the city and the temple will be destroyed!”
But again, they did not understand it. But God had laid it all out.
And this is why we study His Word. And there is so much, Tom, we don’t know. But we keep trying to understand better and to share what we have with others. But don’t take our word for it. Search the Scriptures daily and check us out.
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