John Bradshaw - Who Really Controls the World
We are so excited that you have joined us. I am your host, Joseph Ikner, and I want to welcome you to Answers in Prophecy, brought to you by It Is Written. Today we're going to be talking about "Who Really Controls the World"? And that's a really important question during this time. Is it our president? Is it a world leader, or is it God, or someone else working behind the scenes? We are glad that you have joined us for this very important subject. So welcome again to Answers in Prophecy.
— Today we're gonna be talking about "Who Really Controls the World"? I am your host, Joseph Ikner, and I'm so glad to introduce our speaker and our friend for this presentation, John Bradshaw. John, how are you?
— Really well, thank you for being here. It's great to see you, as always.
— Oh, I'm glad to be here. How are you feeling today?
— Yeah, pretty good. You know, what a year! Everybody's still trying to figure out where this year is going. It's been a year like no other.
— Yeah, yeah, yeah, and you know, John, there's been a lot of interruption in 2020, right?
— Because of the coronavirus, a lot of things have been placed on hold. Have you had any interruptions?
— I have, as a matter of fact, some of them relatively insignificant, some of them significant. We were supposed to have a memorial service this year for my mother.
— She passed away, not COVID-related, nothing to do with that, but the memorial service never went ahead. We were gonna have family gather from all around the world and farewell our dear mum. Couldn't happen.
— Sorry to hear that.
— Yeah, there's been a lot of that, weddings that haven't taken place...of course, that hadn't affected us in our family, thankfully. Travel, there has been none of that. That's been put on hold this year; even if you wanted to go somewhere, there's hardly anywhere you can go.
— Yeah, yeah, that's true. We've had to put our own summer vacation on hold. My wife says we're not going anywhere during this coronavirus, but you know, churches have been placed on hold.
— Absolutely, yeah.
— Church doors have been closed. I know that mine have been closed during this time, and we've been worshiping virtually. Schools have been closed.
— Yeah, schools have been wrestling with that. Do we, do we go distance-learning?
— Do we get the kids in the classroom? If we do, how do we do that? How do we distance together?
— It's been a real challenge.
— Yeah, my son, he finished his last semester in his junior year in high school online, and it was different, John.
— Yeah, my daughter, same, exactly the same. Her junior year of high school, online. It was kind of weird, and you get the kids... I watched the graduation at her school online. It was very well done.
— But it was, it was weird, you know? What I mean is, not usual. They did a great job, but it was different, and those kids couldn't graduate like they wanted to, and many of them were saying, "Oh, we're so bummed. We couldn't do our senior trip and all those things that we looked forward to for many years". Interrupted.
— Life has just been different...
— ...these last five or six months.
— That's right, it's strange.
— But you know, John, we talk about interruptions in this life, in 2020 particularly. But then I think there's been some interruptions that we see in the Bible as well.
— Yeah, that's true, and this is when people have plans. Maybe God has other plans.
— Mmm. Mmm. So, you got some examples of it?
— I do. I gotta be careful not to let the cat out of the bag here.
— Come on, just give us a little teaser, would you?
— Well, you go all the way back to Egypt. Here you have Pharaoh, now, he's on the wrong side of the equation, but his intent was that the Israelites would never get out of there, would never get out of there, which, you know, if you think of that spiritually, that relates to where we are today. Moses squared off with the Pharaoh and said, "Let my people go," and eventually away he went. Now, you know how that story ended for Pharaoh and his army: not good. He had a purpose. God had a purpose. Ultimately, God's purposes are gonna be worked out.
— John, I think you slipped up. That's what you're preaching on tonight: Pharaoh and Moses.
— Nuh-uh, now, now...
— Now, that lends itself to where we're going.
— That's just a little, that's...we're just hinting here.
— Yeah, yeah, you know, we kinda come around, think about interruptions; I think about Hezekiah; you know, he was getting ready to die, and his life was getting ready to come to an end. It was kind of an interruption, right?
— Sure, sure it was.
— And then he went into his room and he prayed, and God turned that thing around for him and actually extended his life.
— Yeah, yeah, that was a good one. I'll give you another good one.
— You got another one?
— Jesus was walking one day, and coming towards Him was a funeral procession; a woman was about to bury her son.
— And the funeral was interrupted. As a matter of fact, the funeral was canceled. They expected a burial that day, and instead a woman received her son back into her arms and into her heart. That's a good interruption.
— That's the story that happens at Nain, right?
— That's it.
— That's what you're preaching about today!
— No, that's not, either, but it lends itself... I think we're introducing this thing pretty nicely.
— Okay, okay. So today, you're gonna be talking about, you know, who's really in control of this world.
— Yeah, that's right.
— We're excited about this presentation. John, you just didn't give it up for me. It's not Moses and Pharaoh. It's not Hezekiah. It's not the mother, the son, and Jesus at Nain. We don't know exactly what it is yet, but we're gonna find out. John is coming to you with this very powerful message: "Who Really Controls the World"?
— Thanks so much for that. We ought to pray together before we begin. We do that every time; we always will. Let's pray now and ask for God's blessing and guidance. Let's pray.
Our Father in heaven, thank You that we have the opportunity to consult the Holy Bible. Lead us in Your way. Speak to us from Your Word. Give us answers in prophecy. Thank You for leading us now by Your Holy Spirit. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away last month, Washington and the media predictably went into overdrive. Republicans wanted to nominate a Supreme Court justice right away, Democrats demanded Republicans not do so, and they made it clear they were prepared to fight to stop a nomination going forward and being confirmed. Looking in from the outside, say, outside the United States, you might wonder what all the fuss is about, but the president of the United States nominates Supreme Court justices. And if his or her party...that's the president's party... controls the Senate, that nomination is gonna be approved, meaning the party in power gets to wield an enormous amount of influence over the Supreme Court, the, and I quote, "guardian and interpreter of the Constitution".
The Supreme Court is massively influential in the land, and therefore in the world. It could be said, or maybe it should be said, that no political party would or could control the Supreme Court. But the idea of a court that is sympathetic more to one side of the political spectrum than the other has political parties salivating at the prospect of what could be achieved with all that influence. But there are people who want more than influence. They want control, at least control as far as possible. Throughout history there have been many who have attempted to seize control of the world or regions of the world. Hitler was trying to seize control of Europe. Germany annexed Austria in 1938, making Austria a German state until the end of World War II. Then, Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939. In April of 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and then Norway; in May, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France; almost a year later, Yugoslavia. And in June of 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Hitler's grand design was to conquer all of Europe.
Now, in a few moments, I'm gonna to tell you why he absolutely couldn't do that. But, it was an interesting time in Europe; the instability and the insecurity of the 1920s and the 1930s gave rise to political extremism in some European countries. People tolerated authoritarian leadership. Fascist leader Benito Mussolini came to power in Italy in 1922, and almost all aspects of Italian life came under state control. Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933. And he established a one-party state, making sure that political oppression was violently repressed. The popular belief was that Germany had been humiliated after the First World War, and Hitler played on that. He promised economic recovery, national revival, and that Germany would return to international prominence. And as German aggression increased, other European nations did essentially nothing.
Britain's prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, found out too late that appeasing Hitler wasn't in Britain's, or anyone else's, best interests. Some historians believe that Hitler's plans were to simply dominate Europe, but others say Hitler wanted to use European conquest as a springboard for eventual world domination. Hitler's propaganda minister said, "Whoever dominates Europe will thereby assume the leadership of the world". Hitler's plans didn't come to fruition, and he's certainly not the only one to ever try to dominate the world. We looked last time at the rise and fall of kingdoms, and these were great, mighty kingdoms. The prophecies of the Bible bring into view four great kingdoms, starting with Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon. It was represented in Daniel chapter 2 by the head of gold on the image he saw in his dream and by the lion with eagle's wings in Daniel chapter 7. Babylon gave way to Medo-Persia, which took Babylon on that night Nebuchadnezzar's grandson Belshazzar had a great feast in his palace in Babylon.
There's a Bible story about mysterious writing just appearing on a wall in the very room in which the party was going on, when God told Belshazzar that his kingdom was at an end. That's where we get the phrase "the writing on the wall". Belshazzar was told by God that his kingdom was given to the Medes and the Persians. Now, the next great power on the scene was Greece. It was led to greatness by Alexander the Great, who was born in Pella in 356 BC. By the age of 30, he'd created one of the largest empires in the ancient world, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was never defeated in battle. He founded 20 cities that were named after him, from cities in Bulgaria all the way to India, including the famous Alexandria in Egypt. Then Greek culture influenced the world. The Greeks gave us Greek architecture, philosophy via Socrates and Plato and Aristotle. Medicine's Hippocratic Oath comes to us from Hippocrates, who was Greek. And Greek culture influenced Roman culture. Rome took Greece's place as the great power of the ancient world when it conquered Greece in 168 BC.
Then it was Rome's turn to rule. These nations were looking to control the world. After Rome, it was really the church that ruled. It had the greatest influence. But then in later history, you find Napoleon styling himself as a modern-day Roman emperor. You had people such as Charlemagne, even Adolf Hitler. So who controls the world today? Let's think about this from another perspective. The richest man in the world today, the richest person in the world today, is Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. It's said that he's worth more than $175 billion, even after a divorce settlement cost him around $40 billion. Bill Gates, he's worth just $113 billion, just ahead of a Frenchman named Bernard Arnault. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, he's worth more than $90 billion, which, of course, is a fair amount of money.
So how much control do the ultra-rich have? Some people say, an awful lot. Since 1971, the World Economic Forum has been meeting in Davos, Switzerland; it's a small town in the east of Switzerland, close to its border with Austria. Business and political leaders, and now celebrities, entertainers, and other popular figures have gathered there to discuss important global issues. Now, these people who go there, they're the global elite. Mukesh Ambani sits on their board of trustees. He's the world's fifth-richest person. So does Jack Ma, the man who founded Alibaba, the "Amazon" of China. Now there's also the Bilderberg Group; that's another smaller group of global elites. It gathers once a year. Extremely important people managed to clear their schedules to gather together and talk about...well, who knows? No minutes are taken; no details are released. So conspiracy theorists see this as a sinister group that has plans to usher in a new world order. We could go on; we could talk about the Illuminati.
What about the Freemasons? People speak of these groups as having out-sized influence and designs to control or steer the world. Now, having looked at all of this, we need to look at the Bible. In the Bible, you often find that truth is stranger than fiction, and tonight, what I wanna do is look at several chapters of the Bible, from the prophetic book of Daniel, and doing so will help us to understand who really controls the world. Because when you look at prophecy, you read this stunning statement found down here in the book of Revelation, starting in chapter 13: "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast".
That's Revelation 13, verses 1-3. Well, now, verse 8, it says, "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world". So you see what's going on there. One day in the very latter days of the history of this world, you'll have an entity that will be so powerful it will be said that the whole world follows after it. That's some real power. In fact, the prophecy goes even further and says that this entity, called a beast, will enforce some kind of mark on everyone in the world, and that everyone in the world will have to receive this mark if they want to buy and sell. And after that, they'll have to have that mark if they want to live. If we're close to the last days of this earth's history, then you'd have to think that this power already exists in some form. It's a very genuine attempt to seize control of the world and cause everyone to fall in line, really, to yield, to submit to this authority, which will be illegitimate authority.
It says in the same chapter, Revelation chapter 13, "He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and [bond], to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name". You've heard of that before. I'll tell you this much right now: Much, or even most, of what you hear about the mark of the beast is fantasy. No, it isn't a barcode, and no, it isn't a computer chip that will be implanted in people. The challenge is Revelation is a deeply spiritual book, and when you reduce salvation down to "you got a chip and you can't be saved, and I didn't, so I can go to heaven," you've made a very important issue only skin-deep. God's issues go all the way to the heart. You don't want to forget that.
Now, before you ask the obvious question, let me tell you something. That obvious question is, how in the world is that ever gonna happen? The answer is, no one would seriously ask that question after COVID-19. Before the coronavirus...or before this coronavirus, we got on planes, and we sat next to other, and we went shopping, and we didn't wear masks, and people went to sports games, and the bottom line is that life went on as normal. Now, because of a very serious public health concern, life as we knew it came to a screeching halt, and it did so just about overnight. Suddenly, there were travel bans. Suddenly, people weren't allowed to go to work, or go shopping, or go to church anywhere. This was global. Yes, it was handled differently in different places, but this became an issue in all 190-plus countries on the face of the planet. The whole world has coalesced around a single issue, with restrictions in place, very tight restrictions in many cases, and even penalties for noncompliance.
I'm not speaking critically of this. I'm simply saying what has happened shows you that things can change incredibly quickly. And it's possible for the whole world to march to the beat of the same drum, especially when there are concerns about safety and well-being and questions of health and life and death. It happened practically overnight, and it was literally global. This is an issue from A to Z, or zed, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Now, when you read in the Bible about a global issue, where behavior will be forced, where people will yield to some power in the world, we now don't doubt that this can happen. It has happened in the past, and it will happen again. So if there are factions looking to gain control, and there are, we need to ask ourselves, who is really in control? We can see political powers seeking to control, or you might say, influence the world.
The United States is a global superpower. China is expanding its influence. The European community is significantly influential. Think of financial interests. Think of the "country" Walmart...huge. It's a colossal company, a behemoth. The "Walmart effect," as it's called, is well-known. Walmart is big enough to change communities and businesses and affect the way even industries operate...one company. How powerful is Apple? Launches a phone, changes life as we know it. Microsoft, the same. Amazon has changed the way we live, and it's growing like you wouldn't believe. There are much larger companies such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which has trillions of dollars in assets. And then you have to ask about powerful religious groups. You need to consider that there are religious groups that control entire countries... in some cases, many countries. In the Middle Ages, or the Dark Ages, if you like, most of Europe was under the control of a church, and that's not something that we should ever want to see again.
So who's in control? And who will be in control? I want to show you a succession of Bible stories that helps us find the precise answer. So what we'll do is we'll open up the Bible. We'll go to the book of Daniel, and we'll start in Daniel chapter 1. Shall we do that? Daniel chapter 1, and we'll begin in verse 1. It says, "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hands, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god". He took a number of the young people captive, and it says later in Daniel 1, "And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah".
Now, I want you to notice what it says in verse 8. They were captured from Jerusalem, taken to Babylon; the king was feeding them. Verse 8: "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself". Now, keep this in context. Daniel is a slave. He's a captive; he's in a foreign country. The king is doing him a major favor by not only feeding him, but by feeding him his own delicacies, at least, as the king saw it. And Daniel says, "I'm not eating that".
Now, this reticence regarding eating the king's food was born of Daniel's desire to honor God. He didn't want to eat food that was unclean. He wouldn't do that. It may well be that he didn't want to eat food that had been offered to idols, and he knew that that food was just plain bad for him. Same as the alcohol, he wouldn't drink alcohol. He didn't want to slow himself down, jeopardize his health, cloud his mind. He knew that he would continue as he began, so that if he started out eating Babylonian food, it was gonna be really hard for him to ever change course later and impossible to say to the king, "I've now changed my mind, king, and I don't want this anymore". Daniel was clear to make this a question of principle and not a question of preference. So he refused to eat the king's food.
Now, just how well do you think this was gonna work out for Daniel? You could get executed for a whole lot less than that in Babylon, but here's what Daniel was doing. Daniel was honoring God and giving God the opportunity to show that He, or God, was in control of all. The man who'd been appointed to watch other Daniel and the others said, "I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink". You can't blame the man for that. But Daniel said this: "Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king's delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants". In other words, Daniel was saying that he knew God was in control, and if God was given the opportunity, God would deliver Daniel and honor Daniel, and everything would be okay.
Have you ever done that? Ever given God an opportunity to work? Have you ever said, "I'm gonna put this completely in God's hands and let God work it out the way that God sees fit"? When you do that, you're giving God the opportunity to work. You're saying, "God, I'm trusting only in You". That's what Daniel did. And the outcome was really quite astonishing. No one could have expected what happened next. Verse 14: "So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days. And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies. Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables". And it goes on to say this; look at this next verse: "And as for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm".
Isn't that amazing? Notice these two things: They were found to be 10 times wiser than all the rest of the king's counselors. That's impressive, but even more impressive is that God gave Daniel understanding in all visions and dreams. Daniel honored God; God honored Daniel by making him a channel of divine communication. Daniel preserved himself, physically and spiritually, and God used him in incredible ways. He wrote the book of Daniel, which contains some of the most remarkable communications ever between heaven and earth. And we'll see that Daniel forms the basis of later prophetic communications. So let's ask the question about control: Who was in control here? Not King Nebuchadnezzar, not the chefs and the waiters of Babylon. The command was, "Eat this". Daniel said, "No. I wanna give God the opportunity to be God, to show that He has the final say". Which He did, in spectacular fashion. So when humans are urging you to dishonor God, to do things another way, God has the final say. God rules over all.
Now, let's go to Daniel chapter 2. We've seen this before but we will recap. In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. He doesn't know what it was that he dreamed, he forgot, and therefore he has no idea what the dream meant, but he wants to know the meaning of the dream because he believed that the gods communicated with him via dreams. When his wise men couldn't interpret the dream for the king, he commanded they all be executed. And because Daniel and his three friends were among the king's counselors, they were under this execution order as well, and they would lose their lives. Daniel prayed that God would give them wisdom. And God did. Daniel then revealed the dream to the king, telling the king that he had dreamed of an image, an idol, a statue made up of gold, silver, brass, and iron. The head was made of gold, the chest and arms silver, the midsection and thighs brass, the legs were iron, and the feet were made out of iron and clay mixed together.
Daniel was speaking to a mighty king, and he told him that the dream meant that kingdoms would rise and fall. He told Nebuchadnezzar that he was the head of gold. Babylon was represented by the head of gold. You know, he took his life into his hands telling this to the king, because he was telling the king that the great kingdom of Babylon was gonna pass away and be no more. He told the king that after Babylon would come other kingdoms, which would turn out to be Medo-Persia, then Greece, and then Rome. Them Rome would divide into 10 nations, and something else would happen. So what does this reveal to us? It shows us that Nebuchadnezzar, the mightiest monarch on the planet, was not in control. For all of his might and power, his kingdom would pass away. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that He, God, "changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding." That's Daniel 2, verse 21.
Who's in control? God. And what's all this really about? Well, when in the vision Rome divided into 10 nations, the Bible says, "You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces.... And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth". This is a beautiful picture of the return of Jesus. Jesus is gonna come back to the earth, and Daniel 2 shows us that there isn't a kingdom on this earth that can stop the return of Christ. Remember when I said I'd tell you why Hitler couldn't possibly be successful in taking control of Europe? This is why. God had said that the nations of Europe "will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay". That's Daniel 2:43.
Hitler was fighting against the Bible. This was a fight he couldn't win. There isn't a king who can frustrate the purposes of God. You have any idea how powerful Genghis Khan was? It's easy to forget that the Mongolian Empire was great, mighty, powerful, feared. Today, Mongolia has a population of a little more than 3 million people. It's a wonderful country, but it isn't by any means an empire. Genghis Khan's been dead for 800 years. No one even knows where his grave is. He's gone. For all his greatness, gone. Joseph Stalin led the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. He imprisoned countless people and killed millions. According to some estimates, possibly 20 million. He was dreaded, he was feared, but after he died, even the Communist Party went through a period of what's been called de-Stalinization. His dead body was relocated and interred in a place that accorded him much less honor than where he had been buried for all to see.
People are only people. We come and we go. Greatness here? Stalin lived to be 74. Hitler lived to be 46. Churchill died at 90, did a little bit better. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at the age of 56. James got it right when he said in James 4, verse 14, "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and the vanishes way". God, however, still lives and still reigns. In Daniel chapter 3, King Nebuchadnezzar has a 90-feet-tall golden statue built. It's a likeness of what he saw in his dream, but instead of building it out of the various metals depicting the rise and the fall of nations, he had the entire thing constructed out of gold, indicating that his plans were that Babylon would last forever. On the day he had the statue inaugurated, he instructed a who's who of the ruling class to assemble at a place called the Plain of Dura, and he commanded everyone to bow down to the image when the music began to play.
Now, this was a challenging time for Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. There was no way they could bow down and worship anyone or anything other than the true God, but the penalty for not doing so was death; they would be thrown into a furnace and burned with intense flames. The music played, and the boys did not bow down. The king threatened them, and their reply was bold: "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up". You've gotta love that reply. God is able to save us, but even if He doesn't, we are still not going to worship that image.
And so the king had the band start playing again. And when the boys refused to bow down, he had them cast into a burning fiery furnace, which he'd had heated up seven times hotter than usual. And we read that "these three men...fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace". But something happened that amazed the king: "Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, 'Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?' They answered and said to the king, 'True, O king.' 'Look!' he answered, 'I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.'" That was Jesus in the furnace with them, and the flames had no power to hurt them. It says that everyone there "saw these men on whose [body] the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them". Their hair wasn't even singed.
Now let's talk about who's in control! We get this confused often, because things don't go our way. There was a tragedy, so clearly God isn't in control. There was an untimely death, so clearly God's power isn't what we thought it was. But that's a narrow way of looking at things. Even on a bad day, God causes the sun to rise and set. God is in control over all. The time allotted humans on this earth is pitifully small. What's 6,000 years in comparison with eternity? God was here before this world was created. He created the world and He'll be here when it's re-created. Even when the king tried to kill three young men, God intervened, and Nebuchadnezzar's plans came to nothing. That's who we're dealing with here. Of course Nebuchadnezzar did plenty that was awful. He sacked Jerusalem. There's no telling how many people died. It is likely, it is probable, that the families of Daniel and his friends were killed, maybe right in front of them. They'd been through traumatic stuff, but they trusted God was with them, and that trust was validated again and again, They trusted God, and God showed up with them in the fire.
Friend, God is with you when you walk through the fire. God is with you. You think all hope is lost, and you forget to realize that Jesus is with you in your toughest moments. In Daniel 4, something happens in Babylon, and because it was ignored, there was another issue like it in Babylon 2,000 years later. As leader of the country of Iraq, Saddam Hussein had a lust for power. After his attempted invasion of Iran was unsuccessful, he turned to shoring up support in Iraq. Iraq is home to the ruins of ancient Babylon, where more than 2,500 years ago King Nebuchadnezzar reigned as king. Saddam ordered the reconstruction of Babylon, wanted the whole thing rebuilt. He built an enormous palace. When he learned that Nebuchadnezzar had had his name stamped onto bricks used in the building of ancient Babylon, Saddam followed the same practice, had his own name stamped on bricks used in construction. But Saddam was fighting against more than Iranians and then US forces. Saddam Hussein was fighting against God.
Look at this; it's from Isaiah chapter 13; I'll read it for you: "And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation; nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there. But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, and their houses will be full of owls; ostriches will dwell there, and wild goats will caper there. The hyenas will howl in their citadels, and jackals in their pleasant places. Her time is near to come, and her days will not be prolonged".
Saddam Hussein was fighting against God. His predecessor Nebuchadnezzar was doing the same thing. Now, what we're about to see is really important. Daniel chapter 4 was actually written by Nebuchadnezzar himself; in it he tells his experience of coming to faith in the God of heaven... or you might say, dictated by Nebuchadnezzar. You'll see what I mean when you read it in Daniel 4. He talks of being in his palace and having a dream which frightened him. The magicians and astrologers couldn't interpret the dream. You'd think he'd catch on. So he calls for Daniel. In his dream he'd seen a tree cut down and indicated that someone would be sent into the wilderness for a time. "Let his heart be changed from that of a man, let him be given the heart of a beast, and let seven times pass over him. This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomsoever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men".
So you see that? This is going to show that God is truly in control. Daniel told the king that this dream applied to him. He said, "They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field"...they shall make you eat grass like oxen. "They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever He chooses. And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that heaven rules". God is trying to get through to Nebuchadnezzar, but Nebuchadnezzar wasn't listening. A year later, he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon, admiring what he saw, when he said, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty"? Did you hear that? "Is this not great Babylon, that I have built"?
Nebuchadnezzar's talking about his own greatness, as though there isn't a God. But God wanted more; God wanted something better for Nebuchadnezzar. "While the word was still in the king's mouth, a voice fell from heaven: 'King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.' That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws". But remarkably, Nebuchadnezzar responded to God. "At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down".
You see what God was trying to do? That entire time He was trying to reach the heart of a man you might've thought was heartless. He was trying to get through to that cruel, tyrannical King Nebuchadnezzar, and He did. God reached Nebuchadnezzar's heart, and the king surrendered his life to God. He realized God was truly God, that there was no point fighting against God, that God is in ultimate control. About 50 miles north of Hong Kong, in the south of China, there's an enormous shopping mall outside the city of Dongguan. It opened in the year 2005. It was called by some one of the new wonders of the world. It was the largest mall on earth at the time. Alex Hu was the Chinese billionaire who made his fortune selling instant noodles and who had the idea of building this mall, a really big mall, and he built all 10 million square feet of it, 230 acres, more than 1/4 of the size of Central Park in New York City. The mall would have 2,350 retail outlets. It was built in seven zones, modeled on international cities, or nations, and regions.
There was a zone modeled on Amsterdam, one on Paris, one on Rome...you've probably guessed there was a Venice zone; there was an Egypt zone, a Caribbean zone, and one modeled on California. The mall would feature a replica of the Arc de Triomphe, 82 feet high; it would have a canal 1.3 miles long. But you know how they say that in real estate the three most important things are "location, location, and location"? Mr. Hu was expecting 100,000 shoppers a day, but the shoppers couldn't be bothered traveling 2 1/2 hours one way to get there from the big city. Eight years after it opened, only 1% of the retail spaces were in use. It's a virtual ghost town today. Not the best bit of planning ever. Not exactly "great Babylon, which I have built," but another example of excess, another example of "I did it because I could," or, "Just how smart and wealthy and fantabulous am I"?
We think our monuments mean something, but really, they do not; our plans don't always work out well. Life has a way of showing us we're really not that smart. Life has a way of showing us that our money isn't all that impressive, that our power is really pretty small, and that life is ultimately very short. God is the one with the power. God is the one who's in control. So here's a question for you: How are you responding to God's influence? How are you relating to God's control? You don't think you see God work? Let's think about that again. Where has God been active in your life? Where has He been showing you that, as God, He's at work, doing things for you, blessing you?
Friend of mine was visiting in a prison; he got talking with a man in there who was one of the... one of the more respected inmates... you might say one of the more feared inmates. And so my friend asked this man about his relationship with God. The man was dismissive, told my friend he had no time for God. Why? "Because God doesn't exist". So my friend asked him a thoughtful question. He said, "Was there ever a time in your life that you saw God working in your life? Just one time when you had to say, 'That was God'"? So the man thought about it. He said, "Yeah, there was one time. There was a time I was driving a stolen car. The police were chasing me; I was trying to outrun them". He said, "I was going too fast. I lost control of the vehicle; I hit a bank," like a pile of gravel or something. He said the car launched into the air.
As the car was launching into the air and flipping as it went, he said, "I called out, 'God, save me!'" Then the car came down and landed on its roof. Pow! He said, "Everyone who saw that car was absolutely positive no one could have got out of there alive". He said, "Even though I wasn't wearing a seatbelt, I got out without a scratch; I wasn't hurt at all". My friend listened. The man said, "So I guess that was one time God was with me and helped me. And I didn't deserve His help". My friend said, "So why don't you think about that? That sounds like a time God was very real. Maybe He does exist after all". A week later, my friend was back in that same prison, saw the man again, who approached him and said, "I want you to know my life has changed. I've turned it over to God. I've accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I'm now a follower of Christ".
You see, God is at work in your life. Just as verily as He's keeping the planet moving through space at 67,000 miles an hour, just as He's keeping the earth spinning at a rate of about 1,000 miles an hour, God keeps the stars in the sky, birds in the air, the gentle breeze in your face, the rain falling to water the earth, and He's at work in your life. While God is in ultimate control, He's a patient God. He doesn't force anyone's will. That's just not God's way. He gives you the evidence, reveals to you that He is a God of love, and then He allows you to make your own decision. You'll hear voices, plenty of them, that say there's no God, or that if there is a God, He's an unfair God. But you know better. God was there for Daniel in the midst of Daniel's pain and tragedy; He was there drawing the heart of hard King Nebuchadnezzar, revealing his dream, speaking to him through the miracle of the fiery furnace. And finally, He reached the heart of that stubborn king. He could take away all your problems, all your pain. He could alleviate all of your financial challenges, but instead He says, "I'll take care of all of that one day. In the meantime, trust me".
That's what God asks of you. Can you trust God? I believe you can. The prophecies of the Bible tell us there are answers, because God is the one in ultimate control. He's influencing your salvation. He's speaking to you. He's appealing to you, influencing you about heaven, and eternity, and righteousness. Can you respond to that God and tell Him that you want Him to be in control of your life? I wanna give you the opportunity to respond to God right now. You've heard enough to know that there is a God who sits on heaven's throne, that there is a Jesus who came to this earth to die on an old, rugged cross. What'd He die for? The Bible says Christ died for our sins. And I wonder if you would make a decision for that God, right now, whether you've been a follower of God all of your life, or whether today was the first day you ever heard the name of Jesus. Here's what I'd like you to do. I want you to fill out a little card and make a decision for Jesus right now.
Here's how. Take your phone and send me a text message. The number you're gonna text is this: 423-264-2575. That's the number I want you to text. There's a message I want you to send me. I'll tell you that in just a minute. The number is 423-264-2575. Just send me the word "hope," as though you were sending me a text message, and the entire message was "hope". Send that word to this number: 423-264-2575, area code 423-264-2575. Now, when you send that message, I'll send you a message. You're gonna get a link; click the link. It's 100% percent safe. You click the link, and it'll give you the opportunity to answer or make decisions for Jesus. Three points I want you to see. Are you following with me? I know someone's saying, "Oh, where's my phone"? I know somebody's thinking, "Why should I bother"? But I want you to bother, because you want to make a decision for Jesus, and I want to be able to pray for you and your decision. 423-264-2575, just text the word "hope" to that number. I'll send you a message back. It'll have a link, click that link, the form appears, and when you see that form, you'll notice the first line says, "I understand that God is in ultimate control of the world".
We need to know that. It's not a politician. It's not a president. It's not a secretary general. It's God. It's not a church; it's God. It's not circumstance; it's God. It's not fate; it's God. And so you mark there: "I understand that God is in ultimate control of the world". Point number 2: "I want to be ready for Jesus' return". Are you ready? If you are, then mark that anyway and say, "Thank God I am ready". If you're not sure, then mark it, and you are saying, "I wanna be ready for Jesus' return". And if you can honestly say in your heart of hearts, "I'm just not ready," then you mark right there next to that second option, and you are telling God, "I want to be ready for Jesus' return". And then the third point is this: "I want Jesus to be my Lord and Savior". And I want you to mark that.
Now, someone is thinking, "Why would Jesus save me"? Well, He died for sinners, and if you're a sinner, that's why He would save you. Someone's thinking, "But I've gone too far". Someone's thinking, "Why am I even watching this tonight? I've given up on God, but somehow here I am watching this message". But you know why? Because Jesus is calling you back. If you gave up on Him, He didn't give up on you. Point number 1: "I understand God is in ultimate control of the world". Number 2: "I want to be ready for Jesus' return". Number 3: "I want Jesus to be my Lord and Savior".
Also let us know if we can pray for you. You'll see there that there's an option that you can let us know, and you can even tell us what your prayer request is; if you want to, spell it out. Or just say, "Yeah, pray for me". Either way is good; we will pray for you. Fill out the rest of that form so we can pray for you and get in touch with you if we need to. If you're still fumbling around, trying to figure it out, you should know the number now: area code 423-264-2575. You just arrived back; you've got your phone. "What was that number again, John"? 423-264-2575. You just text to me the word "hope". I'll send you a link, click that link, fill out that form, and tonight make a decision for Jesus. Can I pray for you? Can I pray about your decision for you? Come on, let's pray:
Our Father in heaven, we are truly grateful that You're in control. It's not the weather; it's not happenstance; it's not the politicians. You are in control; this is Your world. And tonight, Lord, You are calling to us all to make a decision for You. Bless the decisions made. Keep that man, keep that woman close to Your heart and grow them and bless them as they continue to grow in Your grace and goodness. We thank You, we praise You, and we pray in Jesus' name, amen.