The Five Cycles of Discipline

When I wrote my post “Do Nations Owe God Anything?” a few weeks ago, I was leading in to this topic. Of course I do believe that nations do owe God their allegiance since all of their authority comes from God Himself. God does not delegate His authority and then conveniently look the other way as they do evil.

That being said, I also don’t believe that all nations are held to the same standard. This is a completely foreign concept to most Christians. For those of you who have read the Old Testament will know, ancient Israel was held to a higher standard than all of the other nations in the world. The reason for this is that they were given a great responsibility to spread God’s truth throughout the world. When they succeeded they were blessed and when they failed they were punished. The same pattern holds today for nations whom God has given the responsibility for disseminating the gospel throughout the world. Colonel Thieme called these nations Client Nations:

A client nation is a national entity under the principle of divine institution number four, nationalism. The client nation is sustained by a pivot [the Church Age version of the remnant] of mature believers and is responsible for the custodianship of the Word of God and is the base of most of the world’s missionary activity.

The Roman Empire was the first Client Nation and the United States is right now a Client nation unto God. God still uses nations (the fourth Divine Institution) to distribute the Gospel throughout the world.

I am providing the version of the Doctrine of the Five Cycles of Discipline as written up by Pastor Mark Perkins for your reading enjoyment. You will notice that Pastor Perkins states that the Five Cycles of Discipline apply to all nations but that is not the way I remember it being taught. I suppose you all can read this and make up your own minds.

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Whom the Lord loves, He chastens, whether it is an individual, a city or community, or a nation. Because God loves the whole world, there has always been a lot of chastening going on. The history of the Jews as a nation is, in part, a story of the cycles of discipline and recovery they experienced throughout all their generations. There are many parallel lessons to be learned by individual believers regarding the way the Lord handles the individual and nation in Grace when either is disobedient.

This is a study of the doctrine of the Five Cycles of Divine Discipline, as seen in God’s dealing with the nation of Israel in ancient times.

I. The First Cycle, Lev. 26:14-17.

14 “‘But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands,
15 “and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant,
16 “then I will do this to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror in the form of wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it.
17 “I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you.”

A. Verses 14 and 15 serve as the introduction to the five cycles of discipline.

B. The criterion for invoking the five cycles of discipline is simple: the failure to carry out the laws of Divine Establishment [Note: another doctrine I will post on in the future].

C. Each cycle of discipline is worse than the one before, although often in the same forms as a previous cycle.

D. The first cycle includes five forms of discipline:

1. Discipline in the form of illness and disease.

a. The sudden terror is a title – the diseases are described under it.

b. The first form of disease is consumptive diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis and AIDS.

c. The second form of disease is a fever which wastes the eyes and drains away the desire to live. This is mental illness.

2. Discipline in the form of crop destruction.

a. Understand this in the time in which it was written.

b. In the industrial age we have many businesses and corporations that come under this category even though they are not agricultural in nature.

c. The enemy of business can be many things:

1. Inordinate taxation.
2. Greed and graft and corruption.
3. The inordinate demands of labor unions.

d. The seed is investment capital, and the normal crop would be profit. The enemies of business eat up the profits, and put business under a strain.

3. Discipline in the form of defeat on the battlefield.

a. The effectiveness of the military is undermined by poor leadership, immorality, and cowardice.

b. This ineffectiveness leads to defeat in battle.

c. This does not include the destruction of the nation.

4. Discipline in the form of sneering authority.

a. Those in national authority will sneer at the citizens of the nation.

b. Instead of serving the nation, the leadership will serve itself, and only use government benefits to grab more power for themselves.

5. Discipline in the form of sublimation.

a. Flight when no one chases is folly.

b. This is sublimation – getting involved in all categories of distraction, rather than facing the truth.

c. Sublimation is a flight from reality. Reality does not chase anyone.

d. Sublimation becomes painful discipline because it causes damage to the soul, and increases torment from neurosis.

e. Sublimation is based on the lust pattern of the soul, and often results in addiction.

E. The people of the nation will have a chance to respond to God in repentance after this cycle has been administered.

F. Our nation is currently under this cycle, and we have not repented.

II. The Second Cycle, Lev. 26:18-20.

18 “If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over.
19 “I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze.
20 “Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of the land yield their fruit.”

A. This cycle is a multiplication of the first cycle by a factor of 7. This number is not to be taken literally. The number seven is a common metaphor in Biblical literature which means, “a lot”. Here, you would say, “I will punish you for your sins over and over.”

B. In this cycle, the land and the environment itself becomes the enemy of the farmer.

C. The modern analogy would be advertising, marketing, and the consumer, all of which are necessary for the production of profits.

D. Also included by analogy are the raw materials from which products are made. They will become more expensive and less available.

E. This cycle of discipline also begins an economic depression in which food supplies dwindle and poverty begins to take hold in earnest over a large segment of the population.

F. This cycle of discipline factors in the bad decisions made by the people from their position of mental weakness.

1. Bad decisions concerning the environment.

a. Decisions which are destructive to the environment.

b. Decisions which protect the environment too much, and so cause damage to the economy.

2. Bad decisions concerning trade.

3. Bad decisions concerning labor and management.

4. Bad decisions concerning investment.

5. Bad decisions concerning production.

G. The people of the nation will have a chance to respond to God in repentance after this cycle has been administered.

H. Our nation is currently under this cycle, and we have not repented.

III. The Third Cycle, Lev. 26:21-22.

21 “If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve.

22 “I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted.”

A. The third cycle of discipline multiplies the effects of the second cycle by a factor of seven.

B. The third cycle begins the predominance of the criminal element in society, as the wild animal is a metaphor for crime.

C. In this cycle, there is a great deal of crime against children, and against business.

D. Because of the predominance of crime, the roads are deserted, which means there is virtually no commerce.

E. The people of the nation will have a chance to respond to God in repentance after this cycle has been administered.

F. Our nation is under this cycle, and we have not repented.

IV. The Fourth Cycle, Lev 26:23-26.

23 “If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me,
24 “I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over.
25 “And I will bring the sword upon you to avenge the breaking of the covenant. When you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you, and you will be given into enemy hands.
26 “When I cut off your supply of bread, ten women will be able to bake your bread in one oven, and they will dole out the bread by weight. You will eat, but you will not be satisfied.”

A. This cycle multiplies the effects of the third cycle by a factor of seven.

B. This is the cycle of civil war, or perhaps war but not yet final defeat. The uprising of the anti-establishment element in society will trap the rest of the people of the nation.

C. In the ancient world, the civil war would begin in the countryside and surround the city or town where the rulers of the nation lived.

D. Without the logistical support from the countryside, a siege ensues and food becomes scarce.

E. In addition to this, being trapped in close quarters means that the potential for widespread disease is great, and will happen. These are desperate times.

F. The people of the nation will have a chance to respond to God in repentance after this cycle has been administered.

G. The United States is flirting with this cycle right now, although it is not quite a reality.

V. The Fifth Cycle, Lev. 26:27-39.

27 “If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me,
28 “then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over.
29 “You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters.
30 “I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you.
31 “I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings.
32 “I will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled.
33 “I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins.
34 “Then the land will enjoy its Sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths.
35 “All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the Sabbaths you lived in it.
36 “As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them.
37 “They will stumble over one another as though fleeing from the sword, even though no one is pursuing them. So you will not be able to stand before your enemies.
38 “You will perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will devour you.
39 “Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their fathers’ sins they will waste away.”

A. This cycle multiplies the effects of the fourth cycle by a factor of 7.

B. This cycle describes the total destruction of the nation by foreign enemies.

C. There will be cannibalism because of food shortages, even cannibalism within the family.

D. There will be widespread death directly attributed to involvement in the addiction cycle. People will be killed by the foreign enemies while participating in their idolatry.

E. The industries of the nation, and most of the buildings, public and private, will be destroyed.

F. The people will be carted off to the foreign countries as slaves.

G. Fear will be the modus operandi of those who are left.

H. It is too late for this generation to repent. It is destroyed.

I. This cycle of discipline, even this, may not be too far away for the U.S.! It may be many years, or it may be only a few.

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5 Comments on “The Five Cycles of Discipline”

  1. Charles Elmore Says:

    What denomination do you belong to? I would like more information on the difference between a reformist and a dispensationalist.

    • Glenn Says:

      Hi Charles,

      All of the dispensational teaching that I have heard has been from non-denominational churches. If you are looking for a local church that teaches from a dispensational perspective your best bet is a “Bible Church.” If you do a web search, or look in the yellow pages, there should be a Bible Church in your area.

      Of course there is no creed that Bible Churches have in common and there is a lot of variation between them. You can usually tell where they fall doctrinally by looking at their statement of faith. Most churches that believe the nation of Israel has a prophetic future are dispensational.

      If you are interested in reading about the differences between dispensational and reformed theology I would like to recommend “THERE REALLY IS A DIFFERENCE: A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology” by Renald Showers. The author is dispensational and the book has been highly recommended. There other books which deal with the differences between the two theologies but they tend to be polemics and mean spirited.

      Let me know if you need any more information.

      Glenn

      • Charles Elmore Says:

        Glenn,
        Thanks for clearing up the confusion. Is the Gentile church under covenant theology? Will the Jews receive the Covenant after the church age ends?

  2. Glenn Says:

    Hi Charles,

    I believe covenant theology to incorrectly interpret prophecy and God’s plan for history.

    The way that you are using the term “covenant theology” I believe you are referring to the covenants God made with Israel (i.e. the Abrahamic Covenant, the Land Covenant, the Daivdic Covenant, etc.). These is not the covenants that Reformed scholars are referring to. They have inferred other Covenants from scripture that are not explicitly stated in scripture. I strongly disagree with them about that.

    I believe that the Church and Israel are separate entities and the church has not replaced Israel in God’s plan for history. The Church is not under the Mosaic Law. My post above is based on scripture from the Book of Leviticus which is part of the Mosaic Law. In order to believe that it still applies today you have to accept the idea that the way God dealt with Ancient set a pattern for how He deals with other nations even today.

    The explicit covenants God made with ancient Israel have never been completely fulfilled (some of them have been partially fulfilled). In order for God to be a God of His word He will have to completely fulfill them in the future.

    Middletown Bible Church has an extensive set of online resources if you are interested. I have not read every one of the articles so understand that I cannot guarantee that I will agree with every statement they make. Please check out the following sections of their website:

    * Dispensationalism
    * Reformed Theology

    I hope this helps.

    Glenn

  3. Glenn Says:

    Hi Charles,

    I have one more link for you. Arnold Fruchtenbaum (a Hebrew Christian) has some good resources in the Come and See section of his website. One of those is a write-up on The Eight Covenants of the Bible which I highly recommend.

    The covenants that Dr. Fruchtenbaum discusses are different than the covenants that Reformed theologians talk about. This may also help clear up what I mean when I talk about covenants in the Bible.

    Glenn


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