The Repetition of History

Does history really repeat itself? According to the late American writer, Mark Twain, “History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme.” But according to Scripture, King Solomon would not agree with that statement. In the book of Ecclesiastes, he writes, “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, ‘Here is something new!’ But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new” (Eccl. 1:9-10 NLT). Do we really believe this? Keep in mind, these are not mere words from a man, these are words that are spoken under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Yes, some may argue and say that’s not true from the viewpoint of technology and medical advancements; but that’s not the biblical meaning of the expression, “there is nothing new under the sun.” What the Scriptures have in mind with this statement is that the cycle of human life on earth is repetitive. Regardless of new inventions, and a new calendar year, human actions, and the response and consequences to those actions have and will remain consistent. The advancement of a culture will not suppress or hide the pattern of humankind’s depraved inclinations; it actually magnifies them.

Several years ago, I watched the anniversary coverage of the Jonestown Massacre, where over nine hundred people lost their lives under the direction of cult leader Jim Jones. One particular scene caught my attention—it was horrific and somewhat cryptic at the same time. A photo showed the many deceased bodies spread out around Jones and his concocted makeshift “throne.” A huge sign hung on top of the throne that read, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I thought to myself, what a compelling and prophetic warning. I remembered reading that quote before; and it was a statement made by the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, in 1905. These words speak to the situation that America and the church, in America, are in today. We have become silent to history on so many levels, and it’s frightening. But I’m also reminded of what the late author, Leonard Ravenhill, once said, “The thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.” When we don’t learn from history, we do it to our own peril.

C.S. Lewis, a British apologist, wrote frequently about what he called “the great cataract of nonsense,” which is our tendency to concern ourselves only with the present and divorce ourselves from the past. Lewis’ prophetic statement still rings true in our era, for to truly understand our current times we need a historical perspective. Divorcing ourselves from the past makes us blind in the present. Furthermore, when believers—who are called to be salt and light in the world—are without knowledge of the past or simply ignore it, they are reduced to spiritual infants in the hands of the Ancient Seducer and Fallen Angel. In the Scriptures, we see that every time God’s people forgot their history, apathy, anarchy, apostasy and abandonment soon followed. And whenever the church turns her back on history, she will embrace appealing spokespersons who teach a future devoid of any type of reality.

Having said this, when looking at America, and the destructive division that’s going on today, one cannot help but see a similar path of deterioration that turned Rome into an empire: an autocratic system. Those who are acquainted with Bible prophecy and the role of nations during a period known as the Great Tribulation are aware that the Bible mentions a shift in power back to the Middle East and Eastern countries. In Jesus’ first coming, the power of the nations were shifted from the East to Western countries (i.e. Rome). But before His second coming, it will be the opposite. Why is that significant? Because it implies a diminishing role of America in the world. America, a great superpower in the world for many centuries, is not without sin. Actually, the sin of this nation has filled the cup, and we are seeing the judgment of God among us. Nations cannot be judged in the afterlife; they are judged in time. Since his name has been used frequently in today’s political climate, let’s listen to the prophetic words of Abraham Lincoln. In his 1838 Springfield, Illinois, speech, he spoke these words, “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Lincoln stated that if we as a country would ever be destroyed, it must come from within. It’s happening before our eyes. We are so driven by the present we don’t actually see that history is coming to past. The weakening of our image in the eyes of other nations is not only stunning, it’s shameful. Make no mistake about it, this is the judgment of God pulling the thread of a tattered nation. We have been weighed and have been found lacking. We have been measured and God’s plumb line has found us crooked. What does history have to say? I mentioned previously about how this nation was on a similar path with ancient Rome before their democracy decline. Let’s look at some similarities and you be the judge. Rome, in the final days of a representative republic, experienced: partisan gridlock; political anarchy; politicians driven by self-gratification and self-focused agendas; an accelerated inequality in wealth; an abuse on liberty and freedom that led to a suspicion on democracy, and an absence of devotion to personal honor and national service. Does this sound familiar? The people of Rome sat back and allowed their democracy to become unraveled by not standing up, defending and protecting once-trusted political institutions.

In this political charge, vitriol and an unstable climate ascended the final death blow to Rome as a republic: Octavian, better known as Caesar Augustus. He arranged for the Roman senate to give him the title Augustus, which means “chosen” or “exalted.” He was ambitious but a very self-absorbed man that helped tear down a long standing representative government. The timing of his accent to power seemed almost other-worldly. Augustus delivered the knockout blow to a fragile and divided country. How? He undermined the significance of the election results, that subsequently, eliminated the process of elections entirely. Those who were chosen by the people, to represent the people, betrayed the people over fear of not pleasing Augustus. Many of those who were judges, and those who had a seat in the senate, were in his back-pocket; therefore, he faced minimal pushback, resulting in an end of democracy and the start of a dictatorship. And if that was not enough, what was really alarming was that the people were willing to choose the false prosperity and freedom of an autocracy over the challenges of democracy. You see, democracy is not a perfect form of government. There is only one government that’s perfect, and that’s the one where the King of kings and Lord of lords reign. But in order for democracy to remain healthy, virtues and morals are required. And one of the essentials that is necessary is truth. Augustus’ rise to power came at a time when the people of Rome were no longer bent for the truth. Truth-seeking was gone, and personal persuasion and passion were the “new truth.” Loyalty to personal desires outweighed obvious facts. Mark this down: when persuasion takes over a culture, the first casualty will be truth; and an assault on truth is a clear indication that a nation is experiencing the abandonment of God.

What was the condition of God’s people during this time period? It was one of compromise and gross deception. When Augustus was in power, Herod the Great was made king over God’s people. Herod was a great builder of projects but he was brutal and blood thirsty. He killed family members to maintain his power, and when the wise men came looking for the true king (Jesus), they were warned in a dream by God to return in a different direction; Herod was furious and decreed that boys two years old and younger were to be killed (Matt. 2:1-18). Not only was his character repulsive, but what made Herod kingship an insult to God, was that he was an Edomite, or Idumean. Edomites were descendants of Esau, who was the oldest son of Isaac (Gen. 25:19-34). And according to Scripture, kings were supposed to be from the tribe of Judah, which was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, Esau’s brother. Herod sitting on the throne in Israel was a clear sign of the judgment of God upon a people who had forsaken God and His ways.

The Pharisees, who were the spiritual leaders of God’s people, initially refused Herod’s rulership due to his character and his lineage, which was a great violation of God’s Word. But Herod, being the businessman that he was, used his wealth to buy the Pharisees’ favor; therefore, they convinced the people to respect the king because he was God’s choice. Their support helped undergird Herod, which in return, made him acceptable in the eyes of the people. Such deception brought a great spiritual darkness upon the land even so that the people who claimed they were waiting on the Messiah, rejected the very One when He showed up.

Does this sound familiar? Are we seeing history repeat itself? It’s one thing for the world to lose sight of history, but it’s consequential when those who are supposed to be filled with God’s Spirit are delusional. When God’s people begin to embrace lies and become mouthpieces for conspiracies, then the culture around them will turn putrid. God’s prophecy is His history written in advance; and when He judges, He uses history as an instrument of correction.

The wheels of history are turning. To make sure we don’t become a casualty of history, let us rise up to defend and submit to the Word of God. Let us divorce ourselves from the politics of this world. When the church marries politics, the spirit of politics will turn her from a glorious bride into a shameful harlot. Discern and hold accountable those who are pretending to speak on behalf of Christ. Any pastor or Christian leader who slights the lessons from history cannot be God’s present voice. Why? Being blind to the past makes one a target to deceiving spirits that will introduce revelations and insights appearing fresh and relevant, but are actually far from the heart of God. Discern the difference between today’s Jeremiah and Hananiah. Both are speaking a “Thus says the Lord,” but one is on Satan’s payroll (Jer. 28:1-17). God is allowing us to see the false from the genuine. God is allowing us to see the false so that we may disunion ourselves from the celebrity personalities of men. Keep in mind, when a lying spirit is in the land, confirmation does not mean a word is always from God. Ahab had four hundred confirmations and not one of them was from the Lord (1 Kings 22:1-40). Stop chasing confirmations, self-appointed prophetic voices and social media postings that agree with your personal biases. Get in the Word of God and search the character of God and His ways; this will help you to know the difference between the Ancient of Days from the god of this age. Understand that liberty and freedom are not rights but gifts from God! Many are confused, thinking that God is on the side of freedom, but not when He is judging a nation. Find your freedom in Christ; not in a political “savior.”