The Creator God is a god of patterns.
There are some sayings about history I can’t attribute, and can’t quote verbatim, but here are my paraphrases:
“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
“History teaches us that people don’t learn from history.”
And here’s one I really like:
“History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.”
The Bible is full of such rhymes.
Many Bible prophecies have multiple fulfillments. One obvious example is the “abomination of desolation” warned of by Daniel (Daniel 9:27; 12:11). It was fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphenes, and a matter of historical record before Jesus was born. Yet Jesus, when giving His “Olivet discourse,” warned that it would have another fulfillment in the end times (Matthew 24:15).
Abraham, worried that he might be killed by men who wanted his wife, told Abimelek that Sarah was his sister. (Genesis 20:1-13)
After the death of Abraham, his son Isaac moved into that same jurisdiction of Abimelek…and used the same exact deception about his own wife, Rebekah (that she was his sister, and not his wife Genesis 26:7-10).
The whole episode of the homosexual siege of Lot’s house in Genesis 19 is echoed in Judges 19:14-25.
Gideon’s son committed fratricide against his brothers in a scheme to become king (Judges 9). David’s son, Absalom, who also wanted to be king, committed fratricide as well. The scenario was so familiar to people at the time that they initially reported that Absalom had killed ALL his brothers, as Abimelek had done generations before.
There are other patterns that jump out, too: the rapture of Enoch and Elijah; the genocide against Hebrew children around the birth of both Moses and Jesus; the ministries of Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist. For the most glaring pattern in the Bible, read through the historical books of the Old Testament and track how many times you come across the phrase: “And again the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord.”
The Biblical canon closed long ago, but the same human race, with the same sinful nature, still lives on the same Earth, created by the same God. And even through the fog and bias of secular/humanistic documentation, discernible patterns are still there to be found.
I only recently discovered the “generational theory of history” developed by Neil Howe and William Strauss. These are two secular historians with a different worldview from mine, who disagree with me about economics, spiritual matters, and probably many other subjects; yet I find their theory revolutionary. It’s had a major impact on me in a very short amount of time.
As I said, I believe Strauss and Howe are wrong about a lot. Those building on their work get stuff wrong, too. For instance, on the page I linked above, the writer purports that the signing of the Declaration of Independence launched the American Revolution. (The Revolution began over a year before that, when British authorities attempted to disarm an American militia.) However, the theory and its implications may prove very helpful, inasmuch as it dovetails with Biblical truths.
Some of my college professors tried, and failed, to convince me of the validity of the ancient, cyclical view of history. Strauss and Howe did more in an afternoon of reading than my professors could do during all my undergraduate years to cause me to rethink my linear view of history.
We recognize that every year has four seasons (except for some places like Ohio and Florida). Spring gives way to summer, which transitions to autumn, which turns into winter, before giving way to another spring. In much the same way, history plays out in a pattern of four seasons, eras, or “turnings,” which last approximately 20 years. There are four such eras every saeculum, which lasts roughly 80-90 years. Then the cycle repeats. This pattern is not dictated by our calendar or any arbitrary metric, but by the life-cycles of the generations who pass the baton through the saeculi.
The era we are passing through now has many parallel characteristics with the one that occurred four turnings ago. The generation in mid-life now is a reflection of the generation in mid-life at this point in every saeculum. The generation in young adulthood now resembles past generations in young adulthood at this era, stage, or turning, in the cycle. To an extent, we can make predictions about the future based on the patterns we see in the past.
Keep in mind: neither Strauss, Howe, nor those who build upon their research, are prophets. They have merely decoded a historical pattern and made it possible to extrapolate more accurately. Just as ungodly people know that summers will be hot, winters will be cold, and that spring and fall will transition between those seasons, Biblical familiarity is not required to know that America will move from it’s present unraveling into a stage of crisis. The cycle of High Point; Awakening; Unraveling; Crisis has repeated itself so many times in history, it is as predictable as spring; summer; autumn; winter. But it has its limitations.
A prophet can warn in advance that there will be an “Indian summer” in November, a freakish snow flurry in June, or a hail storm and flash flood on April 13 at 3: 46 p.m. in Butte, Montana. Non-prophets can’t give accurate warnings about such flukes, but they can accurately warn you that the leaves will turn brown in autumn and fall off the trees, and flowers will bloom in the spring. By the same token, a prophet could have warned people in advance about the Great Depression and World War Two, in detail. A non-prophet could not do that. But, if aware of the generational cycle, they could have accurately predicted that there would be a great crisis during that era. After all, our Creator has integrated patterns into everything, including humanity in its generations–which is both the cause and effect of history.
As a Christian, we can read the books of the prophets for specific details, and we can use generational theory to place them in context. Jesus warned us that nobody besides the Father knows the day or the hour of our Lord’s return; but as Dr. David Reagan often says, we can know the season.
Another disclaimer: Strauss and Howe developed this theory while studying American history, specifically. The application of it has been limited to America, so far as I know. But it would be unthinkable to me if all of humanity didn’t follow some sort of generational cycle as well. I intend to see if a similar pattern can be clearly defined in the historical books of the Bible. It would only make sense.
In my next several posts, I plan to explore the generational theory and how it meshes (or doesn’t) with the Word. I’ll be blogging as I travel this journey, and fully expect to make some mistakes along the way. Please bear with me.
A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4)
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations. (Isaiah 58:12)
“When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (Matthew 16:2-3)
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:32-35)
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4)