PROPHECY

 

 Hign up above the sunset of literally a dying world, a sunset black and lurid, there hung one lonely blazing star - Enoch, the only saint of God lifted up before us in a prelude to the last judgments, the Epistle of Jude. There was born into the world a child who has never died; a man whom the Holy Spirit carefully calls "the seventh from Adam" (Jude 14) - that is, a type of all who will enter earth's seventh millennium, the "sabbath-rest" that remaineth, without seeing death, the man who, as the first preacher of the Second Advent in the oldest extant bit of literature in the world, held aloft a blazing head-lamp of prophecy pouring a stream of light down five thousand years; and a man who fulfilled his own peculiar rapture-prophecy by never dying. His years were three hundred and sixty-five: it was a completed life, a finished work, an ended discipline, a won crown: it pictured God's year of grace rounded off with the deathlessness of the rapt.

 

1 - Prophecy Delivers Us from Dangerous Illusions

 

Prophecy presents us with the fixed termini to which all things are streaming; so that we understand the present by means of the blazing headlamp in front, illuminating all the shining lines that run from our very feet up to the far goal. Dr. Clifford says of the Great War:- "At first we were stunned when the blow fell upon us so suddenly and unexpectedly. Speaking for myself, I felt as though I could not pray for two or three days. The hopes that had been cherished for half a century and seemed to be approaching their realisation were speedily and suddenly blighted." Those who ignore or disbelieve prophecy are under dangerous illusions, and coming events will shake and possibly shatter the very foundations of their faith. God does not say that prophecy is a dark place, in which it is unwise for us to grope: He says that it is the lamp, and the only lamp, that luminates the darkness of a mysterious and otherwise unintelligible world. How dangerous these illusions are! The religious leaders of Israel never believed for a moment that their dispensation would end in the awful catastrophe of Calvary: yet it did. The unimaginable consequences that can only be averted by prophecy, should lead us to its study in spite of its difficulties. Says a prophetic student:- "One excellent man advised me not to trouble myself about secret things which belonged only to God: he seemed to imagine that I was seeking in revelation for something not revealed. Another observed that much in Scripture was purposely concealed in order that faith might be exercised. Here, however, common sense rebelled and forced me to conclude that if God had really given us a revelation, He must have intended the teaching to be understood; since any part that was incomprehensible, of necessity ceased to be a revelation at all. A third bade me beware of the Apocalypse, which, said he, almost always finds a man mad, or makes him so: whereas we are distinctly told that the Lord gave it 'that He might show unto His servants things that must shortly come to pass.' A fourth insisted that prophecy can only be interpreted by the event. But Noah's prediction was surely intended to be understood by those to whom it was addressed. I began to perceive that if differences of opinion, even among good men, as to the particular teachings of the Bible, were to be converted into reasons for neglecting the study of it, the Book had been given in vain." Prophecy disillusions of this world that it may entrance us with the next.

 

2. - Prophecy Alone Can Shape the True Conduct of the Church

 

A sharp cleavage now (as ever) sunders the Church of Christ. Prophecy says that our Lord, employing the enormous forces of the Godhead will absorb and master the kingdoms of the world on His return, establishing righteousness; while, according to the ordinary view, the Church must permeate and leaven society until she has made the world fit for Christ to return. The two attitudes are un-reconcilable. "But," says the objector, "both you and we look for the same ultimate triumph; you by revolution, we by evolution; why, then, make such a fuss when our goal is the same?" Because the practical issue of the difference between us is what is bringing the Church to the edge of total ruin. If the task of converting and mastering the world belongs to the Church, the Church must plunge into politics, redress all wrongs, reform all kingdoms, and enthrone itself upon the nations of mankind - the very attempt the Papacy has made; and since by no torture of exegesis can such conduct be made to square with the Scriptures, the Scriptures must be abandoned as uninspired and out of date. The goal of the one is Rome: the goal of the other is the Apocalypse of the Lord. "Depend upon it, gentlemen," Dr. Chalmers once said to his students as he left the lecture hall, "the Millennium will come in one day like a hammer smash." Prophecy instructs us what forms spiritual perils are going to take; by revealing what is to come, it prevents our wasting energies on what is impossible and unwise; it enormously strengthens our faith by showing us predictions fulfilling under our very eyes and it keeps hope burning deathlessly in our hearts.

 

3 - Prophecy Foretells Approaching Evil in Order to Prevent Its Advent

 

Prophecy is no easy acquiescence in coming evil: rather it creates what a mother feels when she sees a serpent gliding stealthily towards the cradle. Edmund Burke unconsciously expressed the whole philosophy of prophecy when he said:- "If they (the moderate reformers in the French Revolution) had thought it possible such things would happen, such things would never have happened." Had the Antediluvians believed Enoch and Noah, and turned to God, there would have been no Flood: the whole world perished because it did not heed prophecy. "The long-suffering of God waited (1 Pet. 3: 20) for a repentance which never came. Nineveh's destruction was foretold, that it might not happen, and - because they believed - it did not (Jonah 3: 4, 10). Untold harm is done irreparable harm - by sceptical doubts expressed by one believer to another, doubts chilling, bewildering, paralyzing the mind which at the very moment is opening to fresh truth. Doubts had better not be propagated. While Rome (to take a single example) is advancing by leaps and bounds, nine out of ten believers scout the very idea, with the consequence that, while the Church doubts and discusses and debates, almost unopposed and unhindered the leaven of Mystic Babylon does its deadly work. We ought to pour out our life's blood to resist evil foretold. Thus we can so take heed to the Lamp shining in the dark place as to defeat all evil prophesied for ourselves. Prophecy is the anchor which keeps the soul from despair, and the face filled with the light of another world; it lives on the table lands with God, looking, like Deity, before and after; it absorbs the mind of God, the purposes of God, the plans of God; it walks in the radiant certainty of Divine control, and the utter triumph of goodness at last.

 

4 - Prophecy is Bound by the Holy Ghost upon every Child of God

 

"Whereunto ye DO WELL that ye take heed" (2 Pet. 1: 19), that ye "bend your mind" in systematic and continuous study: God approves, endorses, and commands prophetic study; and even the greatest prophets studied prophecy, as Daniel studied Jeremiah. "The prophets sought and SEARCHED DILIGENTLY what time or what manner of time the Spirit of God did point unto, when IT [HE] testified beforehand" (1 Pet. 1: 10). Seventeen books of the Old Testament, four of the New, and immense portions of the rest - it is said, a third of the Bible - are pure prophecy. Prophecy is God's mind concerning the future projected into the present; its study brings us into peculiar intimacy with God, even as Jehovah, when about to destroy Sodom, said,- "Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do?" (Gen. 18 : 17); and the future that God has revealed is the future that I ought to know.*

 

[* Jude states that mockers at Second Advent truth will abound at the last. Dr. A. E. Garvie, in an address which "captured the assent" of the International Congress of Congregationalists in Boston (July, 1920), said:- "As most thinkers to-day have abandoned the idea of fore-ordination, so I am convinced they must give up the idea of fore-knowledge. All prophecy is conditional, and all calculations of times and seasons based on a misinterpretation of Daniel and Revelation may be unhesitatingly discarded as superstition." When an infidel once interrupted Duncan Matheson in a Northern town with the taunt, "Well, when is He coming?" the evangelist, taking the Bible in his hand, exclaimed, - Oh, this is a wonderful Book! Eighteen hundred years ago it foretold scoffers, walking after their own lusts, who would say, Where is the promise of His coming? I call you to witness that this Scripture has been fulfilled to-day in your ears."]

 

5 - Prophecy is an Extraordinary Incentive to Service

 

No mightier missionary force has moved the modern world than the impetus which has put more than a thousand missionaries in the vast land of China. What did it? Hudson Taylor says:- "Very early in my life the Lord's near return gave me to see that the hope of His Coming is the paramount motive given us for earnest, holy service here. Someone speaks of it as 'cutting the nerve of missionary effort.' I wish to bear personal testimony that it has been the greatest personal spur to me in missionary service." Few evangelists of this generation have swept more souls into Christ in world-wide evangelism than Dr. Wilbur Chapman. Dr. Chapman says:- "I confess with shame that, prior to reading Mr. Blackstone's 'Jesus is Coming,' I had very little passion for souls. That book completely revolutionised my thinking, giving me a new conception of Christ, and a new understanding of what it meant to work for Him." It is said that Mr. Moody never preached a sermon without the thought that by that sermon the last soul might be called into the Body of Christ for rapture.

 

6 - Prophecy Makes This World a Preparation for the Next

 

One of the only two men ever honoured, throughout the history of the world, with immediate translation to God lived in the midst of a society encompassed with domestic cares and marriage problems. "Enoch walked with God after he begat Methusaleh" (Gen. 5: 22). Marriage is no bar to achieving one of God's highest honours, and the home can be the nursery of the saint. But Enoch's life proves much more: it proves that a life can be the most shining in a darkness that is as pitch. "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually," "and the earth was filled with violence" (Gen. 6: 5). One of the most eminent statesmen in Europe, and a member of the British Cabinet, said:- "People talk about the world on the morrow of the Great War as if somehow we had all been transformed into a sphere which is definitely lower than that which we had attained in the days before Armageddon. Never was there a time when people were more disposed to turn to courses of violence, to show scant respect for law and country and tradition and procedure than the present. There never was a time when more complete callousness and indifference to human life and suffering was exhibited by the great communities all over the world." Our times demand, exactly as Enoch's, that we should live at our best; and Enoch not only proves that we can, but that God takes supreme notice, and puts supreme honour on the best when others are worst. Oh, that we may succeed in being most holy in the most unholy times! Prophecy prepares us for the other world; for it is based on the First Advent, and lives for the Second. "Everyone that hath this hope set on Him (the returning Christ) purifieth himself, EVEN As HE IS PURE" (1 John 3: 3).

 

7 - Prophecy Brings Us into the Closest Intimacy with God

 

"Enoch walked with God after he begat Methusalch"; "and Enoch walked with God": a repetition which is not a tautology, but an emphasis, revealing the ground of all that followed. God created man that he should walk with Him, even as they walked together in Eden; and Enoch walked with God while all others were walking away from God. Enoch was not, so to speak, thrown accidentally into God's company; he lived in the society of God; their aim was one: walking with God means progress all the time, and being really, actively, eminently, perseveringly godlike - godly; walking in the ways of God, walking in the ordinances of God, walking in the commandments of God. To walk with God is simply Old Testament language for what in the New (Heb. 11: 5) is to please God. We must walk with someone ; and "the sum of my experience," said a dying saint, "is this, that the sweetest life is to walk close to God." "It is heaven on earth," said Tennant, the friend of Whitfield, "to live near to God." Enoch must have paid the everlasting cost. Mr. Moody has well expressed what walking with God involves:- "I will venture to say that Enoch in his day, was considered a most singular and visionary man - an 'eccentric' man - the most peculiar man who lived in that day. He was a man out of fashion - out of the fashion of this world, which passeth away. He was one of those who set their affections on things above. He lived days of heaven upon earth; for the essence of heaven is to walk with God. He did not go with the current and the crowd. God and he were companions here on earth, and they went up together to the world of light and rest; and they walk together for evermore. Oh, dear friends, though we may be children of God, how much we shall lose if we sacrifice, for any earthly thing, that close intimacy with God in this world and through the ages of eternity." Are we walking with God? It is now or never. Some of the unconverted Greenlanders heard that the world would be destroyed; and as, in that case, they would have nowhere to go, they expressed the wish to be converted; but they added, "as it will not be this year, we will come in next season." But the people at the Flood never found another season. It is only a constant walk with God that can meet the emergency of sudden rapture. Every other man walked towards the grave, but Enoch walked towards life and light and God.

 

So we arrive at the tremendous climax. Enoch's star suddenly disappears in the Dawn. "And he was not"; or as Paul puts it, "he was not found" - happy is the man who is missed! not found, for his body was gone: "for God took him"; the Hebrew means, took to Himself (Calvin); and Paul makes what is meant unmistakable, adding, "that he should not see death." Death never dared to look into the eyes that kindled into immortality. The setting of the statement is extraordinary. Ten patriarchs, in whose every case but one the chief thing noted is that he died; in the chapter fullest of death in the Bible, suddenly, at the seventh name, there comes the flash of immortality; one deathless life illumines a chapter of constant death. The manner of Enoch's disappearance must have been secret, for, since he was "not found," he must have been searched for: his removal was a representative removal, and so shows the secrecy of the coming flight: we are told that every eye shall see Him descending, but we are never told that any eye shall see them ascending. God showed in the very dawn of the world that the body is to be redeemed as well as the spirit [soul]; that godliness is extraordinarily profitable; that the ultimate home of His heavenly people is in a world beyond; and that personal holiness, as well as personal faith, is to characterize the removed. "By faith Enoch was translated" - not only the act of faith, but the life of faith; first saving faith, then faith step by step as he walked with God; including a passionate faith in the Second Advent (Jude 14): "and he was not found because God translated him; for before his translation he hath had witness borne to him that he had been well-pleasing unto God" (Heb. 11: 5). What wealth of meaning lies hidden in - "he was not! " "He was not" any longer a toiling, suffering, sorrowing servant of God: "he was not" any more baffled by Satan, tempted by the world, struggling desperately with the flesh: "he was not vexed any more with the filth and savagery and horror of a devilish world: "he was not" any longer sternly battling in the midst of an unbelieving Church and a godless world: "he was not" face to face with the agony of horror-struck multitudes, with faces white with terror, flying up the mountains.

 

D. M. PANTON.