A NEARING CRISIS IN HEAVEN AND EARTH
D. M. PANTON, B.A.
A tense, extraordinarily pregnant crisis, involving the vastest issues, balances two hostile forces in the unseen. Jerusalem - a ‘woman’, in the Apocalypse, always symbolizes a city - sums up God’s redeemed of all dispensations, for one City has been the mother of them all, from Melchizedek to Christ - twelve stars - the Patriarchs - around her head, the moon - the Law - under her feet, and the sun - Christ, clothing her; and she is on the brink of giving birth. Watching her with concentrated venom is a Serpent, a red Dragon, for he is responsible for the blood of all the martyrs; and his passionate concentration is on the destruction of the ‘child’ about to be born. It seems exceedingly probable that this is the exact situation at the present moment, though no man living can tell how prolonged the period may be during which Satan watches in intense anxiety.
THE CHRISTIAN ESCAPE
Suddenly the Child is born. That this ‘child’ is a body of saints is obvious from the words in which (verse 11) the Angels describe it:- "they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb";* and the birth, like our Lord’s (Heb. 1: 5), is a birth out of the tomb.* It is a rapture in which these saints are caught up to God and His Throne. The holy angels hail with joy their arrival in Heaven: the evil angels draw the sword for the first and last time to prevent it. They are very definitely and sharply defined as fellow-kings with our Lord in His coming Reign, for it is "a man child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron"; and they are ‘overcomers’ - "they overcame him," thus falling exactly under our Lord’s words to Thyatira (Rev. 2: 26) - "He that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron."
[* The fact that the ‘birth’ ushers in the final three and a half years of Satan’s activity alone makes it impossible that the ‘child’ is Christ. Christ, unlike this Child, was the first-born of His mother, nor did evil angels dispute His ascent, only His exit from the tomb (Col. 2: 15).]
[** There is no mention of any resurrection of the dead ‘out of the tombs’ until the Great Tribulation has ended, and Christ returns to establish His millennial kingdom. The rapture here is of living saints who “prevail to escape” the Tribulation. 1 Thess. 4: 16; Luke 21: 36.]
sudden ascent of overcomers precipitates an immediate war in heaven, a
desperate conflict between the angelic powers, Satan disputes the
ascent; his supplanters,
who will supplant him both in heavenly
standing and in power over the on earth, he stakes all to block; and
struggle of the Satanic hosts with the holy angels involves his final
fall. But he is not
yet cast into the
THE JEWISH ESCAPE
So now the Great Tribulation opens, and the second great escape, the escape into the wilderness, occurs. Satan, "having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time" - therefore he believes God’s prophecies, for in no other way could he know the brevity of the time left him: "the demons also believe and shudder" (Jas. 2: 19) - first concentrates on that with which the world is already seething - the attempted extermination of the Jew. The Woman - the godly in Jerusalem - obeying the word of Christ, "When ye see the abomination of desolation" - Antichrist’s image - "standing in the holy place" - set up in the Temple precincts - "let them that are in Judea flee unto the mountains" (Matt. 25: 15) - is in instant flight. Any Israelite who breaks the condition of the earthly escape - immediate flight - is doomed; but the armies sent in pursuit of the Woman the earth - as millenniums before, the Red Sea - opens and engulfs; and in the desert, earth's only spot of safety because of its very famine of all food, God’s earthly saints are again fed by manna or equivalent food from Heaven.
both escapes are accomplished, so far from earth now being emptied of
godly, the enraged Dragon concentrates on both the groups who
conditions of escape, and so failed to disappear. "The
war with THE REMNANTS of her seed" - ‘remnants,’ that is,
sections identical with those
escaped, but who are left;* and
there are two of these remnants - (1) "which
the commandments of God, and (2) which hold the
testimony of Jesus."
commandments of God’, the Law, are a definition of Israel:
they who hold
- that is, those in whose keeping is - ‘the
of Jesus’ **
description impossible of any but a Christian; it has been a definition
Christians for nineteen centuries; it is the only name given to
throughout the eighteen prophetic chapters of the Apocalypse, and
even the Apostle John himself (Rev. 1: 9).
The Dragon impales these two groups on his Ten Horns - that is, he
them by means of the Ten Dictators who are masters of earth’s chief
as the Divine plan is a prior escape, God
withdraws protection from those that are
left, who flouted His design. Two-thirds
[* That is, “left unto the coming (‘presence’) of the Lord” after others were previously rapt into heaven. See 1 Thess. 4: 15.]
[** Apparently the Ten Dictators (or the majority of them) at first collaborate with the Roman Beast in support of the Harlot, so that she can and does become drunk with the blood of the saints; but on Satan’s descent, and manipulated by him, what happened in Spain [some years ago] - the destruction of more than 1,000 Catholic churches - becomes universal, and includes every Christian group. We can readily imagine how the great apostasy from the Christian Faith now occurs.]
HINDRANCES TO ESCAPE
Now since it is probable that the birth of the Child may occur at any moment [prior to the last three and a half years of the Great Tribulation], it is wise that we should keep in our minds as vivid as lightning, the hindrances that block the way to escape; because, that the Israelite is godly, or that the believer is regenerate, will deliver neither from the consequences of disobedience. (1) The hour coming "is to come upon the whole inhabited earth" (Rev. 3: 10), our Lord says, and therefore the only possible earthly escape is the Wilderness, the uninhabited earth; and the flight is to be so instantaneous - if a Jew in the field has left his cloak in house, he has no time (the Lord says) to fetch it (Matt. 24: 18) - that disobedience in rapidity forfeits escape. So to the Church our Lord's words - for both critical commands are from the Son of God to each group - could not be more explicit :- "Watch ye and pray always that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21: 36). The escape of God's earthly people [Israel] is physical, and therefore turns on instantaneousness of flight; but the escape of His heavenly [regenerate] people is moral - passive and static: to be set before the Son of Man - and therefore turns on prayerful vigilance: and failure to watch and pray will be as fatal to the one as failure in instant flight will be to the other.*
[* It is pregnant with meaning that neither the rapt nor the left are said to be the Church: for those who ascend are not the Church but a section of it; and those who remain are not the Church, for church-standing ceases with the arrival of the Day of the Lord. Thus it is unscriptural to say either that the Church escapes the Tribulation, or that the Church passes through it: the Church does neither; and therefore no 'church’ is named throughout the prophetic portion of the Apocalypse.]
CONDITIONS OF RAPTURE
So we are shown, by Heaven itself, the exceedingly high standard of the upward escape. (1) "They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb:" not only the fundamental cleansing in [initial] salvation, but a constant confession and abandonment of known sin which re-invokes the Blood. "They washed their robes" - their own conduct: Christ’s robe, the robe of imputed righteousness, needs no cleansing - "and made them white in the blood of the Lamb: therefore are they before the throne" (Rev. 7: 14). (2) "Because of the word of their testimony." The truths of God they stand for are the platform on which they ascend: an abandoned testimony is a collapsed platform. Or, to borrow Paul’s figure, the ‘blood’ is the foundation, and the ‘testimony’ is the superstructure of gold, silver, costly stones which they erect upon it. (3) "And they loved not their life even unto death." It does not say that they are all martyrs; but they were, to a man, ready to be martyred: they never compromised, ever to save their life. What a standard! Yet it is a standard perfectly possible for every one of us to achieve.
That what remains on earth is a ‘remnant’ - the rest, the remainder - from those who have gone is proof wholly decisive that it is Christians who remain; but if any reader still doubts it, let him ponder a recent revival scene (World Dominion, Oct., 1936) on the Congo; and let him ask himself - Were these Christians that were ‘revived’? and if so, how does their pre-revival condition fit Heaven’s description (ver. 11) of the rapt? "Judgment began at the house of God. Christians were awakened to a deep distress for sin. Sometimes the revelation was so overwhelming that people under conviction cried out in anguish, and trembled, or even fell to the ground. It was the sham and secrecy of Church members in former times that determined the early character of the revival, for it came naturally to be felt that men who had preached and taught in Christ’s name while cluttered up with all manner of sin must make public confession. In the eyes of the heathen, all that had veiled the face of Christ must openly be renounced. For weeks and weeks there was a constant stream of men waiting their turn to make public avowal of the sins that had besmirched their lives and betrayed Christ’s cause. Time fails to tell even a fraction of the stories that broken hearted men and women poured into our ears during these amazing weeks when judgment had begun at the house of God. Through a valley of humiliation like this all our leading men passed save one." *
are purged as is the
will bring the third
part through the fire, and will refine them"
Both were warned to
If Christ had come a week before the revival, would these have been rapt? and if so, what becomes of Heaven's summary of their life and character before removal? and will anyone say that no such believers will be on earth when the Lord does come? Let it be carefully pondered that this is no mere detail of a disputed prophecy, but a fearful practical urgency for us all; for all will agree that if rapture turns on fidelity, he who influences others to believe that escape is safe for an unsanctified life not only makes a most painful blunder for himself, but, in a moment of intensest crisis, does a grave disservice to the whole church of God.