THE EPOCH BETWEEN OUR AGE AND THE GREAT TRIBULATION

 

By D. M. PANTON, B.A.

 

It is of intense interest to enquire how the Most High will act in the years probably nearly ahead, when the Day of Grace is dying, and yet when full judgment has not yet burst upon the world; and we discover that He adopts a process unique in the history of the world. Definite judgments are launched, of the most warning character; but they are attached, apparently solely, to two men; and these men are themselves so unique in their history, and so amply empowered of God, that they expound and explain the ominous miracles they are working, on a stage watched by the whole world: so that the last appeal of love could not be more forcible or convincing. It is a tremendous fulfilment of the divine work - "At the mouth of TWO WITNESSES shall every word be established" (2 Cor. 13: 1).

 

WITNESSES

 

We find that two startling figures are suddenly on the earth. Exactly as Elijah appeared of old, without genealogy, without record, suddenly stepping out of the unknown, so these two Witnesses - universally acclaimed as Enoch* and Elijah in the Early Church - are sent, without warning, on to the earth. They are a Jew and a Gentile, to witness to the whole world; the only two men that have never died, and who come charged with the Oil of the Spirit out of the heavenlies; prophets, that "prophesy a thousand two hundred and three score days" - that is, for forty-two months they expound to mankind the reason of the judgments they are inflicting on the world - and they do so "clothed in sackcloth" (Rev. 11: 3); for as white is the colour of the robes for victors with Christ in the Kingdom, so black-sackcloth, the ritual of judgment - is the clothing of Godís representatives in and before the awful Kingdom of the Antichrist.

 

[* Some believe Moses (on account of his appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration - a type of the coming millennial kingdom, [Matt. 16: 28]) - will accompany Elijah.]

 

FIRE

 

The first proof of their power is an extraordinarily vivid revelation of our modern age, and how they meet it. These are two men who, never having died, are therefore still liable to death; and they are sent to face a world armed with all modern science-bombs, poison gas, the Black Death dropped in cans, and every rank of society soaked with spies. Therefore, most remarkably, their first power is purely protective, and absolutely unique. "If any man desireth to hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies" (Rev. 11: 5). Without such power they would not survive for a week; and it is purely supernatural, for it even destroys a plot, ere its attempted fulfilment. "And if any man shall desire to hurt them" - even plotting in a concealed cellar - "in this manner must he be killed": the lightnings find them out. Here at once we are off Gospel ground. This, the first record of restored miracle, by its very nature could not be in the Church of Christ: the Apostolic Church had miraculous powers, but, like our Lordís when on earth, they were never used for destruction and death. Paul raised from death, he never inflicted it.

 

DROUGHT

 

Next, the nature of their mission is revealed. It is, as throughout all the past ages of human history, judgment with a view to rouse repentance, when the sin borders on the hopeless; and it is judgment so manifestly supernatural as to be indisputably from God. Both were formerly prophets of judgment. Enoch, the Gentile, warned the whole world of the Flood, and prepared a godly seed to re-people the earth; and Elijah, the Jew, while he called down fire on the enemies of Israel (2 Kings 1: 10), warned Godís own people of judgment. So they now carry on their ministry. "These have the power" - licensed, lawful power, as the word implies (Govett) - "to shut the heaven, that it rain not during the days of their prophecy." It is peculiarly in the manner of Elijah, whose sudden appearance, totally unknown, brought immediately an identical drought. So the Apostle James:- "Elijah prayed fervently that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth for three years and six months: and he prayed again; and the heavens gave rain" (Jas. 5: 17). But with awful significance, the two Witnesses never repeat Elijahís prayer for rain. Solomon had said at the dedication of the temple :- "When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against Thee; if they turn from their sins; then hear thou in heaven, and send rain" (1 Kings 8: 35); and our Lord recalls the fact that "in the days of Elijah the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the earth" (Luke 4: 25). But Elijah never repeats his prayer for rain. No repentance involves no cancelled drought.

 

PLAGUE

 

A further fact reveals the power of these two Prophets as wholly unique in the history of mankind, as we should expect in the last, supreme crisis of the world. "And they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they shall desire." Such power has never before been committed to men in the history of the world: so far from being themselves killed, they can plague whomsoever they will throughout the whole earth, as often as they choose. The thousands of years spent in the heavens - Enoch, four to five thousand, Elijah, two to three thousand - together with a possession of the Holy Ghost so ample as to make them Olive Trees, Lamps of Oil, make their wills so conformed to the Divine, will that thev can be entrusted with these unparalleled powers.

 

ASSASSINATION

 

Next follows, in one of the most astounding facts ever recorded, the greatest miracle an evil man will ever work. The coming of the Lawless One, we read, is "according to the working of Satan with ALL power and signs and wonders [wrought on behalf] of falsehood" (2 Thess. 2: 9). "The Wild Beast shall make war with them and overcome them, AND KILL THEM." The reason is given: "when they have finished their testimony": "man is immortal till his work is done", and now their death can produce more fruit than their life. But the enormousness of the miracle remains. In his personal combat with them on the streets of Jerusalem, the Antichrist, himself risen from the dead, cannot be killed: therefore the lightnings from the Prophetsí mouths are now powerless; and he strikes them dead. The effect is magical and worldwide. "They that dwell on the earth rejoice over them, and make merry": nothing (they will imagine) could so prove Antichrist to be God as his personal assassination of men who had smitten earth with every plague, and plotting assassins with lightnings out of their mouth. So therefore "the whole earth wondered after the Wild Beast", and the cry goes forth:- "Who is like unto the Wild Beast? and who is able to make war with him?" (Rev. 13: 4). He kills with his own hand the two mightiest divine Prophets of all history, thus to all appearances proving his godhead.

 

TELEVISION

 

One detail in the drama is one of the most striking proofs of prophecy ever given. For three and a half days "they suffer not their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb"; exactly as, a few years ago, when a youth attempted the life of Mussolini, his corpse was left in the city streets for three days, for the rancour of the crowds; and "THEY THAT DWELL ON THE EARTH" - the population of the whole world - "rejoice, over them".* But how could the world know the fact within three and a half days, before the Prophets are risen and gone? Early commentators felt the difficulty acutely: to-day, the telegraph in a few minutes tells the whole world the facts; and television will reproduce the corpses to the ends of the earth.

 

[* It is remarkable that an identical degradation occurred just before the Roman storming of Jerusalem. The High Priest Ananus, and his colleague Jesus, were murdered; and "they who had worn the sacred garments", says Josephus, "and had presided over the public worship, and had been esteemed venerable by those that dwelt on the whole habitable earth, were cast out naked, and seen to be the food of dogs and wild beasts."]

 

RESURRECTION

 

But now we get a more enormous miracle by which the Most High instantly out-balances what He has allowed the Lawless One to do. He grants the godless a momentary victory only to reveal their enmity and folly to the whole universe. "The breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and they went up into heaven in the cloud." For the first time in the history of the world the godless crowd sees dead bodies coming to life, and actually watches a rapture: "they went up into heaven, and their enemies beheld them". Doubt is for ever buried in sight, so that absence of repentance now proves sin beyond hope, and the earth-shock which, as in our Lordís case, accompanies their resurrection, wrecks a tenth of the city, and slaughters "seven thousand men of name", that is, persons known and distinguished (Bp. Wordsworth) - how many of the ordinary population is not stated * - and so proves to the crowds that they are dealing with the Lord of earth as well as with the God of heaven, when they killed Prophets who "stand before the Lord of the earth" **.

 

[* Again proving that we are off Gospel ground; for none was slain at the earthquake of Calvary, nor the earth-shock of the empty Tomb; and an earthquake that shook Paulís prison to its foundations (Acts 16: 26) actually saved.

** Plurality of rapture is thus proved beyond contradiction. (1) Our Lord, and probably those who broke out of the tombs accompanying Him, has been rapt, and as the Ďfirst-fruitsí (1 Cor. 15: 20) of the one harvest; (2) a body of saints, specifically named Ďfirstfruitsí, are on high before the Tribulation (Rev. 14: 4); (3) here are two prophets visibly taken up in a separate rapture; and (4) the martyrs under Antichrist, on high (Rev. 20: 4), could not have been rapt before the close of the Tribulation. The disappearance of the Witnesses, removing by far his greatest obstacle, appears to date the commencement of Antichristís reign of three and a half years.]

 

FEAR

 

The tragedy closes for the world in terror only. "The rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven." So it was with the Roman soldiers when they saw the Angel at the Lordís tomb. "For fear of him the watchers did quake, and become as dead men" (Matt. 28: 4). The world. suddenly realizes that judgment is at the doors. But their prayer of terror is no prayer to God. "They say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6: 16).

 

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"Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy of this book" (Rev. 1: 3). He who has mastered the Apocalypse - or rather whom the Apocalypse has mastered lives in another world: his outlook has been revolutionized for ever.

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THE RETURN OF ENOCH AND ELIJAH

 

ByJ. A. SEISS, D,D.

 

The apocryphal Gospels, Acts, etc., which, though we go not to them for doctrine, belong to the early literature of the Church, and hence are competent witnesses as to the opinions current among Christians at the time they were written, are also very positive and clear in the assertion that Enoch, with Elijah, is to witness again upon the earth. In the History of Joseph the Carpenter, Jesus is represented as saying: "Enoch and Elijah must, toward the end of time, return into the world and die, namely, in the day of commotion, terror, perplexity, and affliction; for Antichrist will slay them" (Chap. 31.). So in the Gospel of Nicodemus, two old men are found living in their bodies in Paradise, one of whom says :- "I am Enoch, who was well-pleasing to God, and who was translated hither by Him; and this is Elijah the Tishbite; and we are also to live until the end of the world; and then we are to be sent by God to withstand Antichrist, and to be slain by him, and after three, days to rise again, and to be snatched up in clouds to meet the Lord" (Chap. 9. alias 25.).

 

So also in an ancient book called Revelation of John, a voice from heaven is represented as saying, - "Three years shall those times be. And then I shall send forth Enoch and Elijah to convict him [Antichrist]; and they shall show him to be a liar and deceiver; and he shall kill them at the altar, as said the prophet." So also Tertullian (De Anima, 50):- "Enoch was translated, and so was Elijah; nor did they experience death; it was deferred; they are reserved for the suffering of death, that by their blood they may extinguish Antichrist." Arethas (on Rev. 11: 13) declares the two Witnesses to be Enoch and Elijah, and claims that this was held with one accord in his day - concorditer affirmatur. Ephraem the Syrian, in quite another section of the Church, speaking of the Antichrist and the great day of judgment, says:- "But, before these things, the merciful Lord will send Elijah the Tishbite, and with him Enoch, to teach religion to the human race; and they shall preach boldly to all men the knowledge of God, exhorting them not to believe in the tyrant through fear. They shall cry out and say, ĎThis is a deceiver, O ye men. Let none of you in any way believe him: for in a little while he will be utterly abolished. Behold, the Lord, the Holy One, cometh from heaven!í "

 

So also Ambrose, who reproves Victorinus for substituting the name of Jeremiah in the place of Enoch as the companion of Elijah in the last years of this present world. And scarcely, until after the first half of the Christian ages, do we hear of any other testimony on the subject. Whenever we hear of the last great Antichrist and the Witnesses who withstand him unto death, Elijah and Enoch, Enoch and Elijah are the names we hear from the lips of the most eminent teachers, bishops, apologists, and martyrs, from the time of the Apostles onward. Modern Christendom has well nigh dropped these names from all such connections, as it has also well nigh dropped most of the characteristics of primitive Christianity itself; but nothing that it has substituted in place of these names can claim even a moiety either of the Scriptural or the traditional evidences, which still, in spite of everything, continue to proclaim Enoch and Elijah the Two Witnesses.

 

Of all men that have ever lived, Enoch and Elijah are the judgment prophets. We do not know of a single other word that Enoch ever uttered save on this theme of "judgment from above". There is no evidence that he ever preached on any other subject. The all-absorbing, all-comprehending, as all-characterizing topic of his entire ministry, as attested by the New Testament, was this, that he prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Jude 14, 15). He was, therefore, the great prophet of judgment before the Flood, and hence one special witness of Christ in the specific character of the strong Angel coming down from heaven in the clouds to execute vengeance upon the guilty.

 

As to Elijah, he was also pre-eminently a messenger and prophet of judgment. The Book of Ecclesiasticus says of him, that he stood up as fire, and his word burned like a lamp; he brought sore famine upon the guilty, and by his zeal he diminished their number, and brought kings to destruction, and anointed kings to take revenge (Eccles. 48: 1-8). Words and works of death and portent to the wicked constituted the great outstanding characteristic of his whole prophetic career, interspersed with the power of resurrection. His spirit was not the evangelic, but the judgment, spirit.

 

That wild figure, that stern voice, those deeds of blood, that vehemence of judicial administration, which stand out in such startling relief from the pages of the old records concerning him, have become somewhat silvered over in the Christianís thoughts with the light of the Mount of Transfiguration; but the fiery zeal, and destructive wrath, and rugged outline of the old prophet of woe and death to Ahab and Jezebel, Baal and Ashtaroth, is still the true and characteristic picture of Elijah, identifying him, of all others since his time, as a peculiar Witness and Messenger of the judgment Angel. We search in vain for any other two prophets so peculiarly, intensely, and characteristically judgment-prophets, or that so specially take on the features of heralds and representatives of the coming of the mighty judgment-Angel.

 

"Even after the lapse of eighteen centuries," says Herschell, "the Jews at their marriage feasts always place a chair and knife and fork for Elijah. In the celebration of the Passover two large cups are filled with wine. After the blessing, the second, ĎElijahís cupí is placed before the master of the house; the door is opened, and a solemn pause of expectation ensues. It is at this moment that the Jews expect that the coming of Elijah will take place to announce the glad tidings that the Messiah is at hand. Well do I remember the interest with which, when a boy, I looked towards the door, hoping that Elijah might really enter."

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