PERHAPS no era in the history of the "church" has seen such a deep desire for the coming of Christ, and a widespread discussion concerning it, or so general a feeling that the time is near. There have been occasions of more intense excitement, such as occurred in the year one thousand, or during the Millerite movement, or in 1914, when some freely predicted the rapture of the saints. But these were confined to comparatively small bands of believers, who based their belief on chronological computations which seemed to them infallible, but which were not received by the mass of those who love His appearing.
It is doubtless true that the present undercurrent is due in some measure to a similar cause. Though without any scriptural warrant, many imagine that the "times of the gentiles" must be 2520 years in duration, hence must end somewhere within the next seven years. Others suppose that we are entering the seventh millennium from the creation of Adam, which, they take it, must be the millennium.
Such a tense state of expectancy is liable to lead to many extravagances. Not many months ago the air above us was filled with flying messengers of doom, dropped from an airplane, foretelling the exact day, as received in a vision by one who proclaimed herself a prophetess. Only today I received a postcard with the startling statement: "The day is near at hand. Jesus is coming. Tell the people. Pray the message will be heard through the world." Nothing else. No name or address.
The spirit of such warnings is false. The words may be true. At least we devoutly hope these are. But we are not dreading the coming of a day. We are not disturbed by its nearness. The only date we have ever set was "today," so that we are always on the alert and eager and expectant. However, we are not waiting for a time but a Person. Throughout this whole administration of God's grace believers have waited for the Son of God. His return has always been imminent. Nothing has ever been put between His saints and Himself. This expectation should be a continual source of joy and strength every day of our lives.
I do not wish to know the day, nor even the year, for it would rob me of the daily and hourly and momentary attitude of joyous expectation. Perhaps, if I were certain of its nearness, I would fall into feverish and futile preparations. Were it far off, I also, like the slaves in the parable, might take advantage of His delay. In either case it would be an abnormal experience, and not that happy expectation which should be the constant companion of all who long for Him Whom they have learned to love, and yearn to be with Him.
Yet, while we do not depend on chronological miscalculations and signs of the approach of the next eon, we know that He will come for us before He comes to Israel and the world, and if that advent is near then His call for us is nearer. Whatever there is in the world or among His people Israel which indicates that the era of the end is nigh has a voice for us, bidding us lift up our heads, for our Deliverer is very near.
There is much in the world which presages His advent. Only recently has the universal empire of the end time become practicable. The whole earth can now be swayed as a unit. A single man can claim the attention of continents in the course of a single day.
|The Signs of the Son of Man |
Moreover, the nations are seeking to unite as never before. The machinery for a world empire is at hand. The public mind is becoming reconciled to the idea of a dictatorship. Since the war many men have seized the reigns, and have given a good account of their action. Notwithstanding all the efforts for peace there are constant preparations for war. The eastern nations are rousing from their lethargy and are determined to fight for their rights. Little, indeed, is needed, to plunge the world into the great struggle of the end time, out of which the Man of Sin will arise.
Much more significant and striking are the signs in Judaism. The return to Palestine, the rehabitation of the land, the national spirit, the softening in the attitude toward the Messiah -- these and a thousand details point to a national revival which can have no other object than the fulfillment of the prophecies which precede the return of the Son of Man. All of these things are more in keeping with the next administration of God's indignation, rather than the present grace. We are being crowded out. Often we wonder why God allows us to linger longer.
The early believers waited for Him. We not only have the same promise, but a world of external intimations of His return. How much more should we encourage our hearts by the prospect! He is waiting. It is not natural for us to be separated from One Whom we adore. It is not normal for Him to withhold Himself from us. Let us live each moment in joyful anticipation of that meeting. Let us exult that it will not only satisfy our longings, but fill His cup to overflowing just to have us with Him. That is the delight of love.
THE TIME OF THE END
[authorship not attributed]
[Unsearchable Riches; Volume 5; Number 6; August, 1914]
IS THE TIME of the End upon us? This is the question asked by many Christians as the canons of the warring nations roar from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. For the last fifty years alarmists have been pointing to current events as sure signs of the approaching end. The alarmist preachers have received as axiomatic that prophecy is a condensed text book of history tracing the continuous course of events, and the efforts of expositors have been directed towards the discovery of such a series of events as in their judgment best answers the language of prediction. Some have found in prophecy the history of the Maccabean era recorded very fully; others say it is not to be found there at all! Some discern the rise, progress and fall of Islam portrayed so distinctly that they are amazed their view is not universally accepted, and yet others, just as diligent students, say of such expositions that they are utterly mistaken, for no mention of this phase of religious and political power is made. Some there are, again, who find the history of the Papacy down the centuries written so distinctly that it should be visible to the humblest reader, while yet others state that the Popes and the religious system headed by them must first be read into Scripture, else they cannot be found there. It is really no marvel, in view of these confident assertions and as confident denials, that many should give up the study of prophecy as an obscure hieroglyphic which cannot be deciphered.
The very phrase "time of the end" does not convey to many minds any distinct idea. Some entertain the notion that the phrase implies that the whole social and political fabric, as well as the whole material universe, will sink into a chaos similar to that described in the words, "the earth was waste and void." Others think that something is coming to an end, but just what that something" is they do not know.
In seeking to arrive at an understanding of this term we are to be ruled entirely by what the Scriptures say. The first thing to observe is that the phrase "time of the end" is nowhere used outside the book of Daniel, where it is found five times (8:17; 11:35,40; 12:4,9). Now the chief element of the book of Daniel is that of the possession of world-supremacy by the nations. It deals with what our Saviour calls "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). Every incident and prediction revolves about this idea. In the opening chapter we have Nebuchadnezzar's triumphant march against Jerusalem; in the last chapter the Gentile kingdoms are laid low by the heavy stroke of Divine judgment, and Daniel's people are delivered as the resurrection morning gilds the sky.
Expositors have taken for granted that the prophet's declaration to Nebuchadnezzar "thou art the head of gold" denotes possession of the people, the city, and the land of Israel. If this is so, why are none of the seven kings who possessed the land of Israel in the time of the Judges ever called "heads?" They possessed the land of Israel as truly as the Babylonian monarch ever did, the Philistines having taken even the ark of the covenant. Daniel's explanation should once for all dispel this popular error. "Thou, O King, art king of kings, unto whom the God of heaven hath given the kingdom, the power, and the strength and the glory; and whithersoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee to rule over them all: thou art the head of gold" (Dan.2:38,39). Nothing is said here about Israel's land: it is a question of dominion "whithersoever the sons of men dwell." The Book of Daniel deals with world-supremacy. Opening with the account of the transfer of this power from the Judean monarch to the Babylonian, the supremacy is seen passing from kingdom to kingdom, until, slipping from the drunken hands of the Grecian king it temporarily leaves the possession of men, to be taken up again for a short time by a great ruler, who, like former monarchs, "shall do according to his will".
Before proceeding with our inquiry it will be well for the reader to firmly grasp the fact that "the times of the Gentiles" are bounded by the reign of Nebuchadnezzar in the past and Jerusalem's deliverance in the future. Our Saviour, speaking to his disciples, pictured the horrors of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, and concluded his address by saying: "And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led captive into all the nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24). Since A.D. 70 Jerusalem has been trodden down by the nations. In 1187 it was captured by the Turks under Saladin and has remained in their power ever since. The crescent is still over the place where Jehovah's house once stood. From this we know that the Times of the Gentiles still run their course.
The Hebrew word qets is derived from a verb which means to cut, and its force may be seen from such passages as "the end of all flesh is come before me" (Gen.6:13); "at the end of two full years" (Gen.41:1); "at the end of the four hundred and forty years" (Ex.12:41). It denotes a cutting off, a finishing. Hence the expression "time of the end" refers to the finishing of a time: it denotes the terminus of the Times of the Gentiles, which is the dominant theme of the book of Daniel. We have seen already that Daniel and Christ unanimously affirm that Jerusalem's deliverance marks the close of the Times of the Gentiles. This great event marks the conclusion of the Time of the End, which is the converging epoch of the period of Gentile supremacy. The terminal point of the Time of the End is thus clearly established.
But where does it begin? How long does it last? The Book of Daniel gives definite answer to both of these questions in chapter twelve, verses 9-11. Here we are informed that the taking away of the continual burnt offering, and the setting up of the abomination of desolation, is the starting point of the Time of the End. Its duration is expressly declared to be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.
If we take God's word at its face value, everything is plain. It is expositors moved by the exigencies of preconceived theories who have caused confusion by altering the meaning visible in the words by permutative spiritualization. We must take the words in their fundamental and unquestioned usage, and not think of proposing arbitrary or speculative senses for them. To do this is to make the prophecies of Daniel the convenient material for every kind of private interpretation, as the confusing variety of opinion among expositors manifestly proves.
The utmost confusion has been introduced into men's minds by the unworthy method of "spiritualizing" the plain and clear declarations of the prophet. There are those who say that when Daniel mentions days, as in 8:14; 12:11,12, not days, but years, are meant. But we ought not to allow ourselves the liberty of changing the meaning of words to accommodate His word to our presumptions. When Daniel speaks of days we will agree that it means days, and nothing else, unless there is a specific statement to the contrary. History has fully vindicated this position. The "year-day" theory stands discredited in the light of fact. Experience has demonstrated its fallacy. According to Dan.2:11, as has been shown, the 1290 days begin with the taking away of the continual burnt offering, and the setting up of the abomination of desolation. Hence, the historic interpretations which apply this prophecy to the profanation of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes or the capture of Jerusalem by the Mohammedans, are wholly wrong, whether or not they spiritualize the term "day." As to the first view, we have historic testimony to the effect that the profanation of the temple by Antiochus did not last 1290 days. It commenced on the 15th of Chisleu, in the 145th year (1 Mac.1:54), and ceased on the 20th day of the same month in the 148th year (1 Mac.1:52). Therefore the period of its total continuance was 1085 days. The year-day theory affords no relief, for 1290 years after Jerusalem fell into the hands of Antiochus Epiphanes nothing happened which answered to the terms of the prediction even in the remotest way.
The second view, which reckons the 1290 days (taking them as years) from the conquest of Jerusalem by the Moslems under the caliph Omar in 636 A.D., is wholly beside the mark. At the time Omar took Jerusalem there was no temple and the sacrifices had ceased several centuries before. The fact is there were no sacrifices for Omar to take away, nor did he set up any abomination. All he did was to convert church buildings into mosques. And those churches, with their images, paintings and spectacular ceremonial, were more idolatrous than the system which superseded them.
Upon examination we have found that these historic interpretations cannot stand the test of reality. Where, then, is the ground for these interpretations to stand upon? They have no true foundation, surely. They cannot abide the test of historic fact or the touch of Scripture. Who, then, wants to cling to interpretations which time has proven defective?
The apostle Paul, in his discourse to the Athenians, declares that God has determined the appointed seasons of the nations, and the bounds of their habitation (Acts 17:26). All nations have their place in the Divine working of things: they all contribute, in a greater or lesser degree, their share, and play their part in the great epoch of the Times of the Gentiles. All national movements and activities converge in the Time of the End. Doubtless the present general European crisis will contribute powerfully--perhaps more powerfully than antecedent crises--to bring about the condition of affairs which will eventuate in the final crisis to be unfolded in the Time of the End. But just what it will contribute, and to what extent, remains to be seen. For a Christian observer of contemporary events the first essential requirement is restraint. To venture predictions is gratuitous and risky. Our prognostications can only be based on probabilities, and are tentative at best. The improbable and unforeseen is what usually happens.
In conclusion, it remains only to reiterate that while the terrible conflagration that has engulfed all Europe brings us nearer to the Time of the End, it is not the Time of the End. This is made abundantly and unmistakably clear by the fact of the inaugurating event being the taking away of the continual burnt offering from the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. Before ever the Time of the End dawns the Jews must rebuild their temple and resume their sacrifices prescribed by the Mosaic law.
A. E. Knoch
[Unsearchable Riches; Volume 31, Number 4; July, 1940]
HOW LONG, O LORD? This is the cry which ascends from many a heart in these turbulent and trying times. We are satiated with man's day, and long for the day of Christ. We are weary of the world's ways, and ardently look forward to the delights of His presence. All this has turned the thoughts of the saints to the pages of prophecy. Many have written concerning the predictions of Daniel and the revelation of John. Much speculation has been rife for years and many have put forth their predictions or picked out the antichrist. I have just seen a magazine which insists that 1940-44 will see the end. Years ago the head of the Italian government was held to be the lawless one by some. Later they changed to another world figure.
There is great need of sobriety in dealing with this theme. So many predictions have proven false that the truth of our Lord's return has been discredited and brought into ridicule. Many dates have been set and turned out to be bitter disappointments. From the viewpoint of a magazine which seeks to interest its readers we realize that such sensational matters are likely to stimulate the subscription list, and aid greatly in galvanizing students into action. But we have avoided all such methods, and hope to do so in the future. Nevertheless we have probably failed in supplying real edification along the lines which are engaging the hearts of the saints, and hope to do better in the future.
We hope, in our next issue, to begin a series of articles dealing, with the time of the end. Such subjects as The Four Wild Beasts and The Man of Lawlessness will be dealt with in more detail than hitherto. We hope to go into matters so thoroughly that much of the current confusion about "the Antichrist," and "the Man of Sin" will be removed. We also hope to show that most of the ideas concerning the beasts of Daniel are not in line with the Scriptures. That is why they are continually changing. We have the same tendency which has led the saints astray down the centuries. We exaggerate the present and seek to force it into the outlines of the future. We follow our prejudices in filling in the picture of prophecy. We have long intended to explore these matters, but we were waiting until our version of Daniel had been thoroughly revised. Now, however, that the interest is so intense, it seems wise to do our best under the circumstances. This will, at the same time, fit in our studies of the Thessalonian epistles, of which these articles will form a part.