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About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI


Vol.7: The Hidden Things of God's Revelation

Part I



Chapter 1.  Four Centuries of Silence
Chapter 2.  The Silence is Broken
Chapter 3.  Silence Again: For Ninteen Centuries



Publishing History:
1971: Doorway Paper No. 23, published privately by Arthur C. Custance
1977: Part I in Hidden Things of God's Revelation, vol.7, The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing Company.
1997:  Arthur Custance Online Library (HTML)
2001: 2nd Online Edition (design revisions)

     pg 1 of 6      

Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence. . . .  
Gather my saints together unto Me;   
those that have made a covenant with Me.   
Psalm 50:3,5   



     WHEN WE survey the evidence of the overruling providence of God in the course of human history, we soon discover some periods in which His activity was more than ordinarily manifest, and other periods in which He seems to have withdrawn and allowed things to take their course -- usually to the distress of His people and to the rapid deterioration of society as a whole. These periods of comparative withdrawal may usefully be referred to as the silences of God, and it is in this sense that we speak of silence here.
     These periods of silence can be viewed on the one hand in respect to mankind as a whole, and on the other hand with respect to the individual in particular. Probably every child of God has had the distressing feeling at one time or another of being abandoned by the Lord. No longer does he receive answers to prayer, no longer does he sense the Lord's presence in the daily round: the heavens seem as brass and the wonderful promise, "when they call I will answer," rings hollow. At such times not merely does he receive a no as an answer, he receives no answer whatever.
     Then there is the broader aspect of the silence of God. It is His seeming indifference, at times, to the needs of human beings when appalling suffering overtakes them. Countless millions of people have suffered because of famine or war or drought or disaster in circumstances in which it hardly seems appropriate simply to say they deserved it. At such times, thoughtful men do not become atheists because they find it irrational to believe in a spiritual world which is above and beyond demonstration by ordinary means; rather, because of emotional insult, the feeling that if God is really such a Being as we His children claim Him to be, He could not possibly remain silent He would have to act manifestly, mercifully, savingly, publicly.

     pg.2 of 6     

     So this brings me to a second aspect of such silence. There is a public silence, and there is a private silence. There is, on the one hand, that silence of God marked by the total absence of any manifest and public display of His power. And there is, on the other hand, the silence an individual may experience. The former may last for centuries, indeed for millennia; the latter is temporary, though nonetheless distressing for the child of God. This distinction between public and private silence is an important one in the present context, because it is the former kind of silence and not the latter that we have in mind throughout this discussion. When God acts or fails to act in the private life of an individual, the circumstances may never be known to anyone else. When God gives a public manifestation of His power, the situation is entirely different. In this situation, the whole world may become aware of it, or at the very least a whole community, willy-nilly.
     But the silence of God, viewed as public manifestation of His presence, may take several forms. There may be an absence of miracle, or there may be an absence of revelation: or there may be an absence of judgment, in which circumstance the wicked prosper and the righteous perish and heaven does not intervene.
     Between the closing of the canon of the Old Testament with the Book of Malachi and the birth of Jesus Christ, there was a period of some four hundred years in which God added nothing to what was written in the Old Testament Scriptures, nor was any prophet apparently inspired. In this period some remarkable events occurred in world history which suggest that God's silence in this respect was no accident. It seems that it was not until Paul's visit to Athens did the significance of this period of silence become clear to him, as we shall see.
     After the martyrdom of Stephen we have a second period of silence of another kind. The Gospels are filled with a record of signs and wonders, and Acts opens with a continuation of these phenomena. Yet signs and wonders soon begin a steady decline in frequency, until by the end of Acts they are rare and no longer observed even in circumstances in which they had been prominent only a few years before. This comparative scarcity of manifest demonstration of the power of God to act in miraculous ways has continued almost up to the present time. But in recent years there is some evidence that signs and wonders are once more being manifested publicly in displays of God's power to act. It is as though after Stephen's death, silence was imposed gradually until it was almost complete for nearly two thousand years. And now God is once again beginning to speak as

     pg.3 of 6     

He did in New Testament times.
     The same may perhaps prove to be true of God's activity in judgment. When the church was first founded and began to grow, there is evidence that even the children of God who were disobedient were apt to be punished suddenly and dramatically. As the years went by, such sudden judgments became rarer until they appear to have virtually ceased. As we look at the history of Europe during the past sixty years, it seems that wickedness is still unpunished in any such dramatic way as it was in Acts and in some of the earlier epistles. The appalling cruelties against individuals which characterized both world wars and the period between them -- not merely in Germany and Russia, but in other parts of the world such as China also -- seem to have gone largely unpunished. Now and then we hear of individuals who were marvellously saved from gross personal indignity and suffering, but in the background we know that millions were not. Men cried out against their oppressors, but heaven was unhearing. And even the saints did not escape these indescribable tortures of both body and soul. Although they must undoubtedly have been comforted by the Lord in the midst of their fiery furnace, the fact remains that their oppressors went virtually unpunished.
     It is this fact which I want to underscore, that judgment in any sudden way has been largely suspended. And not only judgment of the wicked, but even judgment of those who, knowing the Lord's saving grace, have preferred rather for their own safety and advantage to betray the Lord and to side with the world against the family of God. In the New Testament, during the infant period of the church's growth, there are numerous references to the swift judgment of God which fell upon those who, knowing the Lord, nevertheless betrayed Him in one way or another. Such judgments, beginning with the instant death of Ananias and Sapphira, are intimated throughout Paul's epistles, but they become less and less frequent; in one case, at least, the judgment threatened by Paul appears never to have been realized during Paul's own lifetime. We shall look into these in the third chapter, but for the moment it is necessary only to observe that such things do not occur apparently at the present time except upon very rare occasions indeed. I know of only one instance. There does not appear as yet to be any break in the silence of God in this respect; but we do seem to be witnessing the re-appearance of some other kinds of signs and wonders in our day which, I believe, are highly significant.
     The reasons for these different kinds of silence are well worth

     pg.4 of 6     

some reflection -- and this is the object of this Paper. Such reflection sheds a wonderful light on certain otherwise puzzling phenomena of the past and the present alike. Indeed, we are led to believe that there is one often overlooked evidence that the coming of the Lord draws nigh.
     My purpose is to explore in this Paper the idea (by no means a new one) that the public manifestation of signs and wonders is always directly connected with God's covenant relationship with Israel, and that these signs and wonders (which include the giving of revelation, the performing of miracles, the gifts of healing and of tongues, raising of the dead, the effecting of great deliverances, the imposition of sudden judgment and divine vindication) have all waxed and waned as this covenant relationship has been strengthened or weakened by Israel's national behaviour.
     By the term "covenant relationship" is intended this: that God chose the nation of Israel out of all the other nations to become the special vehicle through which He would reveal Himself to mankind. Through their national history He demonstrated how He will judge the world and how His providence operates to reward righteousness and punish wickedness in society. Through His dealings with individuals within the nation He demonstrated how He is willing and able to enter into the personal lives of those who seek His face in the daily round. Through their prophets He demonstrated how history is, and will always be, a record of the unfolding of His purpose. Through their appointed system of worship He showed what He requires of men in their moral behaviour and how He will deal with sin both in judgment and in redemption. Through them came the Scriptures: and through them came the Saviour who is yet also to be King and Lord of all. Throughout their history He gave them assurance that this unique covenant relationship was real and effective by constantly stepping into the normal course of events and acting in a miraculous and wonderful way both in deliverance and in judgment. So much a part of His covenant relationship was the performance of these signs and wonders throughout their history, that it became part of Jewish mentality to demand them from anyone who claimed to be in any special way an emissary of God.
     As this covenant relationship was strengthened or weakened, so signs and wonders increased or declined in number. Whenever Israel's behaviour was such that the covenant relationship was held almost completely in abeyance, at such times signs and wonders virtually ceased. Where divine interference in a publicly manifest way would not be, or could not be, or was not allowed to be a testimony

     pg.5 of 6     

to Israel, it has been withheld in any public sense; for as we shall see, the Gentile nations, unlike the Jewish people, have never been moved or impressed by such signs and wonders to anything like the same extent. Much is explained in the light of this circumstance that is otherwise unaccountable in the dealings of God, not only with His children, but with the Gentile world as well.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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