God is Sovereign Part Five
We have examined the fact that God exercises sovereign rule over the universe, angels, history, nations, rulers, counselors, judges, ministries, nature, and individuals. Now we will consider another sphere of God’s sovereign rule.
Sovereignty Over Time
Time Cycles. When God created the universe, He established time cycles (day, night, seasons, years) to benefit life on Earth (Gen. 1:14–18; 8:22). He ordained when the land promise He swore to Abraham would be fulfilled (Gen. 15:7, 13–16; Acts 7:17), set the time of Isaac’s birth (Gen. 17:21; 18:14; 21:2), and appointed a set time to destroy Egypt’s cattle (Ex. 9:5–6).
Calendar System. God established a unique calendar system for the nation of Israel that consisted of the following features: seven-year cycles with six years of sowing the land and reaping the harvest and each seventh year being sabbatical (letting the land rest and no harvest reaping—Ex. 23:10–11; Lev. 25:1–7); weeks consisting of six work days and a seventh day sabbath (a day of rest—Ex. 23:12); and each fiftieth year being a jubilee (letting the land rest and no harvest reaping, plus restoring lost land possessions to original owners and acquired servants to their families—Lev. 25:8–17).
God appointed three times each year for Israel to keep God-ordained feasts (Ex. 23:14–16) and three times each year for all Israelite males to appear before Him (Ex. 23:17; Dt. 16:16).
Duration of Punishment. Because of Israel’s unbelief at Kadeshbarnea, God sentenced the nation to forty years of wandering in the wilderness before it could enter the Promised Land (Num. 14:26–34).
As a result of King David’s sin of numbering the people of his kingdom, God inflicted three days of pestilence on Israel (2 Sam. 24:13, 15).
The “Indignation.” The angel Gabriel told Daniel that the end of the indignation would take place at “the time appointed” (Dan. 8:19). The expression “the indignation” refers to the period of history during which God is indignant or angry with Israel because of its rebellion against Him. It is the time when God chastens Israel, usually at the hands of the Gentiles.
It included Israel’s conquest and cruel treatment by Assyria (Isa. 10:5, 25) and conquest and captivity by Babylon (Lam. 2:5–6; Zech. 1:12), and it will continue through the end of the Tribulation (the end of Antichrist’s rule at the Second Coming of Christ, Dan. 11:36).
The indignation basically parallels the times when the Gentiles are the predominant world power. Gabriel’s use of the word appointed for the time of the end indicates that God sovereignly determined the time of His indignation against Israel. He ordained when Israel would be chastened and when that chastening would end.
The Great Tribulation. Several other time-related items over which God exercises sovereign rule are closely related to Gabriel’s comment about the indignation and its end. Daniel 12:1 refers to a future, unparalleled time of trouble that will have terrible implications for Israel. Jesus applied the term great tribulation to this time (Mt. 24:21). He indicated that time will begin when the Antichrist instigates “the abomination of desolation,” which, according to Daniel 9:27, will start in the middle of the seven-year Tribulation (Mt. 24:15).
In Daniel 12:5–6 an angel asked how long this time of trouble will last. A heavenly being raised both hands toward heaven, swore an oath by God to assert the truthfulness of the answer to the angel’s question, and gave a twofold answer: The unparalleled time of trouble will last “for a time, times, and an half”(12:7). In Daniel this refers to three and one-half years, the latter half of the seven-year Tribulation (Dan. 7:25; cf. Rev. 11:2; 12:6, 14; 13:5). Second, it will end when Israel’s rebellion against God is finally shattered.
Clearly this unparalleled time of trouble, the Great Tribulation, will be the last phase of the indignation—the period of history during which God is indignant or angry with Israel and chastens it because of its rebellion against Him. Since God sovereignly determined when His indignation against Israel will end, He obviously ordained how long the Great Tribulation, the last phase of the indignation, will last: three and one-half years after Antichrist begins the abomination of desolation in the middle of the seven-year Tribulation.
The Abomination of Desolation. In Daniel 9:27 Gabriel also indicated that Antichrist’s abomination of desolation against Israel will continue “even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” This verse signifies that Antichrist will be able to desolate Israel until the complete chastening that God has sovereignly determined for it has been poured out.
Israel’s worst time of suffering will be God’s sovereign means of breaking the nation’s stubborn rebellion, shattering its unbelief, and bringing it to faith in the Messiah.
“Shortened” Days. After referring to the unparalleled time of trouble in Mark 13:19, Jesus said, “And except the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days” (v. 20).
This statement does not mean that God will shorten the Great Tribulation to less than the full three and one-half years foretold in the Bible. New Testament scholars indicate that the tenses of the verbs in Jesus’ statement indicate the following: God in the past had already shortened the Great Tribulation, determining to cut it off at a specific time (three and one-half years) rather than let it continue indefinitely.
God knew that if the Great Tribulation were to continue indefinitely, all flesh would perish from the earth. To prevent that from happening, God sovereignly set a specific time for the Great Tribulation to end.1
Times of the Gentiles. Jesus said, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Lk. 21:24). The expression the times of the Gentiles refers “to the whole period during which the Gentile world-powers are in command, until the time comes for the ‘saints of the Most High’ to possess the kingdom.”2
Thus the expression relates to the indignation, when God chastens Israel, usually at the hands of the Gentiles. Jesus’ reference to the times of the Gentiles being “fulfilled” indicated that “an end of the time of dominion of the Gentiles has been fixed by God.”3
Course of History. Daniel declared that God “changeth the times and the seasons; he removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (Dan. 2:21). Daniel said this after God revealed to him the content and interpretation of the dream He gave to King Nebuchadnezzar, revealing the course of Gentile world dominion with its rise and fall of kingdoms and rulers from ancient Babylon to Christ’s Second Coming.
Thus, in that context, Daniel referred to God’s sovereign rule over the course of history. His point was, “God determines when in history events are to take place and how long each process or phase in history is to endure….The rulers of earth may imagine they have attained power by their own might, but it is only by God’s choice that they are permitted their transient authority. At any time he may remove them from their throne and set up others in their place.”4
The apostle Paul declared that God “hath determined the times before appointed” for mankind (Acts 17:26). Gerhard Delling claims that here the word for “times” refers to a “historical epoch.”5 Thus Paul asserted that in eternity past God determined the epochs of time that would impact mankind throughout history.
God revealed ahead of time that the Babylonian Captivity of the Jewish people would last for seventy years (Jer. 25:11–12; 29:10). Daniel indicated that God told Jeremiah He “would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem” (Dan. 9:2). The word translated “accomplish” signifies “the completion of a fixed time.”6 The significance of this word and the fact that God revealed ahead of time the specific length of the captivity indicate that He sovereignly determined its duration.
God revealed that after the end of the Babylonian Captivity He would continue to chasten Israel for an extended time. Through the angel Gabriel, God signified that seventy weeks were “determined” upon Daniel’s people (Israel) and their holy city (Jerusalem, Dan. 9:24). The word translated “weeks” literally means “sevens,” referring to the seven-year cycles of Israel’s God-ordained calendar system. Thus God revealed that He had sovereignly determined this chastening program for Israel to consist of seventy periods of seven years (a total of 490 years).
God sovereignly “appointed” times related to Antiochus Epiphanes (Dan. 11:27, 29).
The apostle Paul wrote, “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). This statement, together with the comparison phrase “until the time appointed of the father” (v. 2), implies that in the past God had determined the point of time in history that would be right for sending His Son to the world.7
The fact that Christ knew beforehand the time of His rejection and death (Mt. 26:18; Jn. 7:8) and the Father knows the day and hour of Christ’s Second Coming (Mk. 13:32) indicates that God sovereignly set those times.
The language of 2 Thessalonians 2:6–8 signifies that God has determined the time of Antichrist’s revelation to the world.
- For an in-depth study of this issue see Renald E. Showers, Maranatha Our Lord, Come! (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1995), 50-54.
- Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 536, n. 27.
- Gerhard Delling, “pleroo,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 6 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 294.
- Gleason L. Archer, Jr., “Daniel,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 43.
- Gerhard Delling, “kairos,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1965), 461.
- Walter C. Kaiser, “male,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 1 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 505.
- J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (Hendrickson Publishers, 1995), 167.