The Great Census

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Almost 2000 years ago Caesar Augustus issued a decree throughout the Roman Empire that everyone must be enrolled in a great census, and in order to facilitate this he ordered people to return to their own cities to be counted. He thus set the world in motion, little thinking that he was but working out God's purposes. He probably thought only of knowing the greatness of his empire and the number of the multitudes of people over which he reigned, but God had decreed that His beloved Son should come into the world in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:22But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)), and so to Bethlehem Joseph and Mary must go in time for the child Jesus to be born there. The great Caesar was but a cog in the wheels that were carrying out God's decrees.
Later, when the world cast that blessed One out—Pilate, Herod, chief priests, leaders of the Jews, Roman soldiers, and common populace, all having a part in it—they but carried out (as the apostles said in their prayer in Acts 4:2828For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. (Acts 4:28)) "whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done." How puny and insignificant is man, although he imagines that he is master of all.
Today we see the whole world put in motion again—this time in an all-out preparation for war and conflict. Is man the master or the servant of the situation? Surely, but the servant! Those in high places make decisions and issue decrees, but it is evident that they are powerless to turn back the course of the world; they may as well try to reverse the tides of the mighty oceans; all their efforts will prove to be futile, except so far as they are carrying out the divine purpose. The world is heading for the time of "tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." Matt. 24:2121For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21).
The United States, in cooperation with other nations, has embarked on building a war potential destined to dwarf anything heretofore known. May we ask why? The answer may be given, Because of Russian threats; but back of all is the working out of God's own counsels. It is being said that all this great military might will be placed at the disposal of the head of the Western European armies. And men are looking forward to the time when all this materiel and manpower will be available to check any further Russian moves of expansion or conquest. They are anticipating the time when they can look at the balance of power and say, We have found the solution; from now on there will be "Peace and safety" (1 Thess. 5:33For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:3)).
The present state of things brings Rev. 6:22And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. (Revelation 6:2) strongly before us. (Remember that the Church will be gone from the earth before the events mentioned in this verse take place.) When the Lamb opens the first seal, at the beginning of those providential judgments which will only pave the way for the three and one half years of "great tribulation," there will be a rider go forth on a white horse, with a bow in his hand, "conquering, and to conquer." Though we cannot say positively how this will be done, or who this great personage will be, yet we can see how easily the present situation could fit into this picture. Under the overruling hand of God, it could very easily be that when all this great array of military might, now being contemplated, is placed under the head of a United Western European Army, such a one would be the man who will go forth "conquering, and to conquer." The bow may signify distant conquest; the white horse may denote the bloodlessness of his victories, or that he wages war in the name of peace, all of which would be possible when the great leader of Western armies has an irresistible power behind him.
There is another point in this verse: this Man starts without a crown, or without any designation of being a ruler himself—he may begin as only a general charge, or a coordinator of defense—but later "a crown was given unto him." Perhaps in this way "the beast"- that great head of the revived Roman Empire—may come into being. From both Daniel and Revelation we learn that the revived empire of that day will have ten separate kingdoms under one head. Until now, humanly speaking, it seemed incredible that ten nations would sacrifice their own sovereignty to the extent of giving such power to one man, but events are fast making them willing to do just that thing in order to survive at all. Well did the poet Cowper write:
"His [God's] purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour."
The head of the revived Roman Empire is to be the Jews' protector, and make a league with them for a period of 7 years. He will give them their temple worship again and guarantee them the right to their own land (Dan. 9:2727And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Daniel 9:27)). Perhaps this may be a part of the conquests of this man of men—the world's man. His number will be discerned in that day; it will be 666, or man, man, man; -.but God describes him as "the beast." It reminds us that when Nebuchadnezzar saw the vision of Gentile supremacy, he saw an image of a man (Dan. 2), but when God informed Daniel of these same powers, He showed him four ravening beasts (Dan. 7). The head of the coming Roman Empire will be a man, and a man of men's choice, but like his predecessors he will be but a beast in God's account, for surely Gentile dominion became bestial at an early date, and its character will culminate in this man, "the beast."
Dear fellow-Christian, it is almost 2000 years since our blessed Lord said, "I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." John 14:33And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:3). He went back to the Father's house and directed our gaze to Himself there; He desired that the Church should remain in the constant hope of His return, but early in its history it went to sleep and forgot to watch for Him (Matt. 25:55While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. (Matthew 25:5)). Then over 100 years ago this precious hope was revived, and today many Christians believe in His return as a doctrine, but is there the living in the good of it? Do we really believe it, so as to expect Him today? How differently would we evaluate the things about us if our hearts were stirred with loving expectancy! And how can we remain indifferent to the imminence of His return when we see the heavings and tossings of everything that formerly was considered stable and enduring, when we see everything being readied for a man to ride across the scene according to the Word of God, knowing that we shall see His blessed face ere that man rides?
Our Lord's last words were "Surely I come quickly"; may, in heart respond, "Amen-even so, come, Lord Jesus." Rev. 22:2020He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20)