I recall someone once pointing out that it is popular in history to speak of the rise and fall of nations in natural terms like lifecycles, nations being young and growing old, and similar kinds of expressions, but the Bible speaks of these same issues as nations being raised up by God and then destroyed for their rebellion.
In Revelation, we are seeing that the same events can be looked at from one perspective as God testing and perfecting the faith of believers, and punishing the rebelliousness of unbelievers while foreshadowing for them their ultimate punishment. And war is one of these events.
And when we look at history, does it not very often seem to be the case that nations grow strong and then as a result grow proud and engage in wickedness, particularly the oppression of the faithful? It was true of the Romans and the Greeks before them, and then the various barbarian nations that arose after Rome. The Catholic kingdoms of the Middle Ages followed suit, and then the rise of nations such as France, Italy, Germany and England all followed the same pattern.
Looking at the tremendous cataclysms of the first part of the twentieth century, then , we can see these events rightly as a test of the faithfulness of the righteous caught up in those events, as well as a warning and punishment for the wickedness of the nations involved. All of those nations were wicked nations, especially the ones who suffered the most- Italy, Germany, Japan and Russia. And England and America were already in various stages of their slide away from orthodoxy, falling into apostasy and immorality, and their judgment would likewise come as well.
And these events continue today. Is it possible that the Muslims are being raised up by God to punish the unbelief of the West? And if that were so, the Muslims would be being themselves punished at the same time, for if they were to inflict full-scale war on the West they would suffer greatly themselves. I don’t know that this will happen, but it certainly could, and it certainly has happened over and over again throughout history. We ought not suffer under the impression that the course of events over the last ten or twenty or fifty years will repeat itself or continue forever. Nations rise and fall. Or more accurately, nations rebel against God and are destroyed. This is inevitable. Can we say that America has rebelled against God? And if we have, isn’t that the only historical calculus that really matters? Our punishment may come swiftly and it may come centuries from now, but it will come. And it will be a punishment, and a foreshadowing of an even greater day of judgment when the inhabitants of the earth will cry out for the rocks and hills to hide them from God.
But for the righteous, for those who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, these same events will be something entirely different- a vindication of the truth of the Gospel, a testing and perfecting of our faith, and the means by which God will work our salvation.
It’s easy to be gloomy about events in the world. And really, as we see history played out and interpreted by Scripture, there’s absolutely no basis to be anything other than gloomy in our evaluation of the state of the world. The world is cursed, reserved for punishment and destruction, and we will see the reality of this play out on grand scales and on small scales. If men are cursed in their dealings with each other as husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, then the international scale just becomes a replay of the same curse on a grand scale. If men cannot deal with each other individually in love without the gospel of Christ, how will they successfully deal with each other en masse?
But we have nothing to fear. All of these things are contained in God’s plan for the completion of His redemptive plan. Times will be difficult; there will be suffering. Perhaps on a personal scale and perhaps on an international scale, but it will happen. And we who believe in God’s hand of providence should rejoice to see God’s plan being put into action, though for a time it will cause pain and sorrow. For the pains and sorrows of this life are not worthy to be compared to the glories that await. And for the rest, their judgment is just and their punishment due. Let the Muslims destroy Europe, if that is God’s will. Let them destroy America too, for that matter. The Muslims will receive their own judgment from God. And we who believe will be preserved and perfected for eternal life.