THE OLIVET PROPHECY, MAINLY FROM LUKE 21.

 

ByG.H. LANG.

 

 

1. Lukeís Gospel not Jewish.

 

The Gospel by Luke and the Acts are distinguished from all other inspired writings by the unique feature of having been written by a Gentile, not by a Jew.The "beloved physician" being with Paul during his long imprisonment in Judea, and finding himself amidst the scenes of the Lordís life and ministry,* devoted his cultured mind to a strict investigation (Luke 1: 3) of the facts of that life.Then, under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit, he wrote his narrative giving the facts as they had impressed a non-Jewish inquirer.Moreover, he had before him as the addressee another Gentile convert, through whom, as it transpired, the Lord was instructing the multitude of Gentile disciples to whom, as He knew, the letter to Theophilus would duly pass.

 

[* Note the "us" of Acts 20: 5, frequently repeated to the end of the book; 28: 16.]

 

In this twenty first chapter we have, therefore, the record of those elements of our Lordís Olivet discourse as to things future which fastened upon a Gentile heart, and which the Spirit saw good to transmit through him to other Gentile disciples.Of such there were now many, for over a quarter of a century had lapsed since Christ ascended to the Father, and the good news had been carried far and was bearing fruit in all the world (Col. 1: 6).To this result Paulís labours had contributed more than those of all the other apostles (1 Cor. 15: 11); and it was fitting and wise that a valued Gentile companion of the great apostle should be used of the Spirit to write a history that should extend the knowledge and establish the faith of these Gentile believers.

 

2. The End Distant.

 

The first point of Christís remarks, one to which each of the narrators draws attention, is that the period termed "the consummation of the age", ending in the return to the earth of the Son of Man, was not to be expected immediately: "the end is not yet" (Matt. 24: 6); "the end is not yet" (Mark 13: 7); "the end is not immediately" (Luke 21: 9).

 

This, therefore, each Evangelist, one of them, Matthew, being, moreover an apostle, was still impressing upon the Church from twenty to thirty five years after the Lordís departure.Yet in spite of this it has been diligently taught by some that the apostles from the first, and the early Church by their instruction, held that Christ might return at any hour in their day! and that Peter asserted this possibility only a few weeks or months after the Ascension! (Ac. 3: 20).

 

But teachers inspired by the one Spirit will give only consistent testimony, and what Peter declared was that the sending again of the Messiah must await "the times of the restoration of all things whereof God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets who have been since the world began".So that until there are seen the coming to pass of the many and great events which the prophets have declared must usher in the restoration of all things Peter is witness that the coming of the Lord is "not yet," but that the heavens must still retain Him.

 

Further, the assertion in question ignores (a) that the earthly Church knew that the Gospel had first to be spread to ďthe uttermost parts of the earthĒ (Acts 1: 8), and (b) that the Apostles knew, from an express statement of the Lord Jesus, that Peter was to die a violent death, and this not till he was an old man (John 21: 18).Christ having given to Peter this definite intimation, how could the Spirit of Christ shortly after instruct Peter that perchance he might not die at all, because the Lord might immediately fulfil the word "I come again, and will receive you unto myself" (John 14: 3)?Or how could Peter have any right to think that he might not die since Christ had said that he would die?

 

The Lordís remark to Peter concerning John, "If I will that he tarry till I come" (John 21: 23), led the rest of the brethren to say that that Apostle should not die.On the occasion in question there were seven disciples present (verse 2), so that these intimations were not private to Peter and John; and this John makes clear by the statement that the saying that he should not die "went forth among", that is, spread to the knowledge of all, "the brethren." That the notion had become very widely spread is to be inferred from the fact that John thought it needful specifically to correct it at the late date when he wrote the Gospel.His making the correction shows that he knew of no ground for the expectation; and the very facts that it needed such a word from Christ Himself to create any such idea, and that in any case the thought was limited to "that disciple", show that the possibility of all disciples of that day not dying was not entertained.

 

But if some of late have forgotten these things, Peter did not forget; and so we find that he, and Paul also, made provision for the maintenance and extension of the faith after their departure (2 Pet. 1: 13-15; 2 Tim. 2: 2).Paul contemplated at least two generations following, saying to Timothy that he should teach faithful men, that they in turn might teach others also; and so far was he from thinking that Christ might at any time descend, that he distinctly informed the Ephesian elders that a time of declension would follow his own removal from the scene (Acts 20: 29, 30).His language is emphatic : "I know that after my departure," etc.He who being a prophet knows thus positively what shall take place after his death, cannot entertain a notion that perchance he may not die at all.

 

Of Paulís case Acts 23: 11, affords a crucial test.Two days after the riot in the temple and his arrest, "the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer; for as thou has testified concerning Me at Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness of Me at Rome."Is it not manifest that until Paul had testified in Rome he could have had no divine warrant for thinking either that he would die, or that the Lord would return and remove him by rapture?The Lord does not falsify His word.

 

The assertion that at the time Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, early in his European ministry, he did expect and teach a speedy return of Christ, but that later he learned better, involves that the Lord, Who knew it would not be so, at first led His Apostle to think and say that it would be so, and presently gave him true light upon the point, or, in the alternative, utterly invalidates any notion of Paul being a God-inspired teacher.Moreover, this assertion is wholly at variance with his excellent exhortation to those Thessalonians that on no account were they to be misled into thinking that the day of the Lord, with which he connects the Parousia and our gathering together unto the Lord, was then present, since certain developments of evil must first take place (2 Thess. 2.).

 

The fact that Paul wrote, "We that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord" (1 Thess. 4: 15) cannot be pressed to mean that he thereby intended himself and those Thessalonians.To Titus he says : "we also were aforetime foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another" (3: 3).But is it not evident that he did not mean that he personally had gratified divers lusts and pleasures or lived in malice and envy?Of himself he could say boldly, before enemies with whom he was formerly friendly and intimate, "I have lived before God in all good conscience until this day" (Acts 23: 1).He could aver that "as touching the righteousness which is in the law (I was) found blameless" (Phil. 3: 6); and even his persecuting zeal arose, not from malice, but from a conviction that he "ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 26: 9).These assertions seem incompatible with such a life as he describes to Titus."There is here scarcely any particular suitable to Paul when a Jew, whereas all of them are very similar to those by which the Apostle describes the heathens at Rom. 1 and elsewhere" (Bloomfield).

 

It is scarcely a question of whether the Apostle "knew more on the subject than he taught", but rather of whether what he taught had been revealed to him by the Lord. He himself asserts that it was thus that he received it : "This we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive ...". But if the "we" meant himself and the Thessalonians the simple fact is that time quickly falsified the statement.Those that believe that Paul was a divinely inspired apostle do well to pause ere needlessly forcing this alternative.Surely it suffices to take the "we" to mean, Those of our Christian fellowship who shall be living at the coming of the Lord.

 

At the close of his life Christ definitely denied, and sought to remove from the minds of the disciples, the supposition they then entertained, that "the kingdom of God was immediately to appear".He showed the prospect to be the exact reverse, for he was as a nobleman going into a far country (Luke 19: 12), which under the conditions of travel of those days, implied a long absence.Only a few days later He re-emphasized this; first hinting that the "bridegroom" would be so long away that whilst he tarried all the waiting virgins would slumber, and then saying distinctly that only "after a long time" would "the lord of the house" return from that other country to which he was going (Matt. 25: 19).This was in amplification of the remark He had just before made that "the end is not yet."

 

All the disciples heard the former statement at Jerico; Peter was one of the four to whom shortly the Olivet discourse was given: how then could they or he, only a few weeks later, have been expecting the very opposite, and this immediately after the Spirit of truth had been poured upon them to remind them of what Christ had said, and to lead them into all the truth, particularly the things to come? (John 16: 13).

 

When it was said that truly they did not expect the return of the Lord to the earth in visible glory to restore the kingdom to Israel, but that this did not affect their expectation of His at any moment removing the Church from earth to heaven, the reply is obvious.(1) It was that very event, the establishing the kingdom, to which Peter referred in the words "that He may send the Messiah Who hath been appointed for you (men of Israel)" (Acts 3: 20, 12).This then is proof that Peter was not at that moment speaking of the rapture of the church; so that his words ought not to be used to teach that he meant that the Lord might remove the church at any moment.(2) In those first days it was known by believers that one Apostle was to die in old age.(3) They knew that they had to carry the gospel to the remotest regions of the earth, in order that the church might be gathered (Acts 15: 14).How should the Church be rapt to heaven before she was formed completely?The "other sheep," not of the Jewish fold, had to be brought in (John 10: 16).Such sane men knew that this colossal task was not the work of a day or year, but would involve prolonged efforts, many tribulations (John 15: 20, 21; 16: 33: etc.), and some of them in violent deaths (John 16: 2; 13: 36; 21: 18).

 

In this last connection it is also to be remembered that Christ had pictured His people as being during His absence a "widow" engaged in a protracted law suit against a cruel adversary; and that though by persistent prayer the elect should ultimately gain their case, yet, for wise reasons, God, the Judge, would be "long-suffering over them" (Luke 18: 1-8)Commenting upon the term "shortly" (entachei) in Rev. 1: 1: "the things which must shortly come to pass".Alford shows that the phrase "the things which must shortly come to pass," means not Ďwhich must soon begin to come to passí, but, in the well-known sense of the aorist, which, in their entirety, must soon Ďcome to pass.í"This expression," as De Wette well remarks, "must not be urged to signify that the events of apocalyptic prophecy were to be close at hand: for we have a key to its meaning in Luke 18: 7, 8, where long delay is evidently implied", the same term (en tachei) being employed.

 

In the light of these patent facts and considerations it was only consistent that at the close of that first generation, and on into the next, the evangelical writers were all still reminding the saints of Christís intimation that "the end is not immediately".Neither wars, rumours of wars, tumults, nor the rising up of false Messiahs, were to be thought sufficient evidence that the end was at hand.They were expressly warned against being deceived upon this matter; and though the interval was intentionally left undefined, it was certain to be lengthy.

 

If it be said that our Lord exhorted disciples to be watching for His own return, and that this attitude cannot be maintained if it is known that other events must first take place, it is to be replied that the Scripture usage of terms is contrary to this assertion.Christ indeed said, "Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning; and be ye yourselves like unto men looking for their lord, when he shall return from the marriage feast; that, when he cometh and knocketh, they may straightway open unto him" (Lk. 12: 35, 36).Leaving the interesting question as to just what class of His "servants" will be on earth when the Lord shall "return from the marriage feast", and confining attention to the force of the term "looking for", we observe that the servants of the parable could not have expected their Lord to return immediately after he had departed, for they knew that three things must first transpire: (1) his journey to the house of the brideís father; (2) the customary marriage ceremonies and functions there: (3) the return journey.Yet inasmuch as they did not know precisely how long these things might take, their safety and duty lay in constant readiness; not lest the bridegroom might come "at any moment" - this is a human gloss; but lest when he did come, he should "find them sleeping" - Christís own words (Mk. 13: 36); for if they slept at all they might oversleep his absence.The Oriental settles into a profound slumber, from which it is difficult to awaken him as we have found more than once when returning home in the East late in the evening.The "coming suddenly," then, means, not directly he had left, that is, without interval, but without the servants receiving the notice which the bustle of the return of a festive eastern procession would always give to the watchful.

 

The marriage ceremonies of this parable are parallel to and additional to the business of "receiving a kingdom" upon which the nobleman went into the far country (Lk. 19: 12).The latter picture suggests even more powerfully a protracted absence, as will be recognized by those at all acquainted with the oriental and ancient type of diplomacy. In the reality, the "receiving a kingdom" includes no less a matter than the ousting of Satan from his present office and power as the divinely acknowledged "prince of the world," and in turn will involve the entire rearranging of the present elaborate administration of the universe by angels.For "not unto angels hath God subjected the inhabited earth to come" (Heb. 2: 5).Christ is then to be the Sovereign, and the heavenly, glorified saints, His royal executive (1 Cor. 6: 2, 3; Rev. 2: 26, 27; 3: 21; 22: 5). Thus both the heavenly affairs and the gathering out of the Church are stupendous; and the latter body is to include persons of "every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev. 5: 9): how then could any but a considerable period of time suffice for the accomplishment of those purposes?

 

The above view is entirely supported by the usage of the word which Christ employed."Looking for" (prosdechomai) is elsewhere used (a) of expecting "the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 21), that is, the "looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit. 2: 13).The assertion that "the blessed hope" is one event, namely, the catching up of the church, and the Ďappearingí a subsequent event, namely, the later descent of the Lord to earth, is erroneous.It is not "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing": it reads simply "hope and appearing"; the effect of which is that "hope and appearing belong together" (Alford); and so Bloomfield cites with approval the rendering of numerous ancient and modern scholars "the blessed hope, even the, etc." . So Conybeare and Howson: "that blessed hope, the appearing": and Weymouth: "our blessed hope - the appearing".That two substantives introduced by only one article, and governed by one, and the same verb, joined by a copulative, must be read together is not open to question.

 

(b) The term is used of the coming of the kingdom of God in the visible, Old Testament sense, including the "redemption of Jerusalem" (Lk. 23: 51; 2: 25, 38): and (c ) of the general hope of resurrection as held by Jews (Acts 24: 15).

 

Now it is admitted that these events, for which Scripture calls us to be looking, are to be preceded by the last days, with the advent, rise and rule of the Antichrist, and one of them (c ) by the Millennial Reign.

 

Similarly another form of the same word (ekdechomai) is used of expecting events definitely known to lie in a more or less remote future: as John 5: 7, expecting the moving of the water, which event might be all but twelve months later: and James 5: 7, expecting the harvest season - which also might be distant the more part of a year, with seasons to come and go and much work to be first done: and so Hebrews 10: 13, of Christ expecting the time when His enemies should be subdued under Him; concerning which He surely never entertained false hopes of its immediateness after His ascension: and again in Hebrews 11: 10, of Old Testament patriarchs expecting the final consummation in the heavenly city.

 

In Luke 12: 46, following directly the parable before considered of the servants looking for the bridegroom, a cognate word of the same force (prosdokai) is used by Christ of the same servants expecting the return of their lord, and it is also employed of Jews awaiting the Messiah (Matt. 11: 13), and of our expecting events - the establishing of the new heavens and earth - which are to be after the Millennium itself, (2 Pet. 3: 12, 13, 14 ; and comp. Rev. 21: 1).

 

It is therefore evident that such a looking for Christ as the Word of God enjoins can be maintained though it be known that events must intervene.The joy and power of the hope of the gospel are in no degree dependent upon a belief that the Lord might come at any moment, nor are diminished by knowing that predicted conditions and events must precede.This is matter of apostolic and modern experience, as well as of Scripture testimony.Paul lived in the power of the Hope through knowing he must see Rome, and Peter though assured that he must die; and great saints and scholars in our day have so lived though not expecting the return of the Lord till after the Great Tribulation.*

 

[* As George Muller, Robert Chapman, B. W. Newton, Dr. Tregelles, James Wright, Frank N. White, A. T. Pierson.]

 

3. Signs of the End.

 

Having thus intimated that the end was not in the then near future, but that there must elapse an interval generally marked by wars and tumults, the Lord proceeded to mention the features that would indicate that the period of consummation had been reached."Then" - that is, having made clear that it was in a more or less distant future that the end would come - "He said unto them, (1) Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be (2) great earthquakes, and (3) in divers places famines and pestilences: and there shall be (4) terrors and great signs from heaven".

 

The age would be marked by wars - armies against armies; whilst the peoples from which those armies came might as a whole be little affected; but the consummation of the age by entire nations and kingdoms being forced into the horrors of sufferings of conflict.A leading actor in the first world-war is reported to have sought to justify the wanton and persistent destruction of non-combatants by the very plea that this, unlike former strife, was not a war of armies but of nations.The thoughtful cannot but inquire whether the events of these times may not be highly significant; yet that the end-time has come will not be unquestionable until the other features named are added to this, and there are known, in conjunction with international commotion, signs (2): (3) and (4).

 

It is particularly to be noted that in the records by Matthew and Mark the three former of these series of sorrows are described as being the "beginning of travail" (Matt. 24: 8; Mark 13: 8), following upon which are given details of the Abomination of Desolation being set up in Jerusalem, with the consequent persecution of the faithful in the Great Tribulation; and only then do these evangelists mention (4) the terrors and great signs from heaven.

 

Now the use of the figure "birth-throes" fixes the point in the discourse at which the Speaker passes on to the short space of the End.For though the preparatory period be indeed lengthy and distressing - and this age has from its beginning shown the mystery of iniquity developing, and throughout its course tribulation in varying degree has been common - yet the onset of birth-pangs intimates that the end is come, and all will be quickly over.Therefore signs (1), (2), and (3) mark the commencement of that awful crisis period of unparalleled world anguish, the duration of which God, in mercy to His chosen ones, has strictly limited (Matt. 24: 22); whilst sign (4) indicates the close of that tribulation; for it will be "immediately after the tribulation of those days that the sun shall be darkened" and the other "terrors and great signs from heaven" shall appal the godless (Matt. 24: 29; Mark 13: 24).So that in Lukeís narrative (ch. 21) verses 12-24 form a parenthesis in verse 11, coming after signs, (2) and (3) and before sign (4), the terrors from heaven, and elaborating that interval and then verse 25 resumes the sequence by expanding the last clause of verse 11, detailing those signs from heaven at the subsequent events, so leading on to (5) the appearing to the world of the Son of Man (verse 27).The passage therefore will stand thus:- "Then said He unto them, (1) Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: (2) and there shall be great pestilences; (here read verse 12 to 24), and (4) there shall be terrors and great signs from heaven": (here go on to verse 25) "and then (5) they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" -

 

4. Early Persecution of Christians.

 

But a further detail must be noticed.In Matthew and Mark the predicted persecution of Christís disciples follows the national conflicts and the earthquakes, famines and pestilences.But Luke adds the important statement that "before all these things they shall lay their hands on you, and shall persecute you." (21: 12).Reading the narratives together it would appear that the very earliest intimation that the close of the age is at hand will be a general hostility to true Christians.This will be followed by the afore-noted signs that the "end" has set in, those national wars and other troubles which are "the beginning of travail".But throughout all the ensuing period of the last days the persecution of the godly will continue, at last intensifying under Antichrist into the Great Tribulation of Matt. 24: 21, "the hour of trial" of Rev. 3: 10, and "the tribulation, the great" of Rev. 7: 14.

 

For it is clearly intimated (a) that it is, during the progress of this persecution that the Beast will arise - the narrative reads straight on to the words, "when ye see the Abomination of Desolation ... standing in the holy place ... then ... flee ... for then shall be great tribulation" (Matt. 24.Mark 13.Luke 21.); and (b) it is thus plain that it is the same company against whom the hostility is shown "before all these things", that is, before the end times properly so called commence, that must "endure unto the end" if they are to be "saved".The Lordís intimations upon this persecution read on without interruption, and without any intimation that the sort of godly persons first in view presently give place to godly men of another order.It is no question of pious but non-Christian Jews, the Remnant, for the hatred is displayed before the "end" has arrived, or that Remnant is recognizable, and also it is against disciples for Christís nameís sake. (Matthew 24: 9; Mark. 13: 13; Luke 21: 17).Indeed, can it be shown that Jews as such are, in the end times, to be the objects of any particular persecution prior to the middle of Danielís seventieth week, when the Antichrist will break his covenant with them and demand that idolatrous worship of himself which the godly will refuse to give.Up to that point will not the nation rather be under the protection of the kings and the Beast by reason of the covenant?

 

The whole question of this persecution is important as showing that, whereas the Great Tribulation will burst suddenly upon Israel, disciples of Christ, will have been previously and continuously subjected to much persecution, which for them only comes to its culmination in the Great Tribulation.So far from Israel enduring this preliminary hatred it would rather seem that Jews will join to inflict the trials of that time, for disciples will be delivered up to synagogues as well as be brought before Gentile kings and governors (Mark 13: 9; Luke 21: 12).

 

Nor do we lack other intimations of this extended persecution.In Revelation 12: 1, a "woman" is seen who is at once in heaven, adorned with the heavenly glories, and on earth in acute anguish, the special object of the Dragonís malice (1-4).This is prior to the casting down of Satan from heaven and to his then bringing up the Beast on the earth; and thus we are brought to exactly the same epoch as is referred to in the words in Luke "before all these things".The Woman is said to be "travailing in birth", even as the Lord had before said "these things are the beginning of travail".Then, after the birth of her son, the "man child", Satan, being greatly enraged by his ejectment from heaven and his being limited to the earth as his sphere, determines to do his worst in the short time that is left to him (12, 13), and proceeds to persecute the Woman.Upon her being supernaturally empowered to escape from his presence (6, 12, 13, 14) he launches a further attack (15); and though she is delivered from that sudden and complete destruction which he then attempts (16), she is yet put to the necessity and toil of a hasty flight, and this though in the weakened condition consequent upon the pains of travail, and for a long season she must endure the hardships of desert life. It is only at this point that the Devil brings the Beast on the scene to carry on a detail and ruthless war of extermination against all her family (Rev. 12: 17; and ch. 13).

 

In Ephesians 1: 3, and 2: 6, the saints are spoken of as blessed in and seated with Christ in the heavenly places, whilst their actual experience is that of ch. 6: 12, even wrestling with Satanís hosts.This simultaneous heavenly position and earthly conflict is peculiar to the church of God of this age, and reveals the identity of the Woman of Rev. 12; and the rest of this chapter and ch. 13 show the conflict intensifying into the persecution which will extend throughout the days of the end and culminate in the war of the Beast against the "saints" (13: 7).

 

The description of the "rest of the Womanís seed" is significant: they "keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus" (12: 17).Thus they are Christians, not pious Jews not yet knowing Christ.The term "the saints" was the appellation commonly used by the early Christians for one another (Rom. 1: 7; 1 Cor.1: 2; 2 Cor. 1: 1; Eph. 1: 1; Phil. 1: 1; Col. 1: 2; Heb. 6: 10; Ac. 9: 13, 32, 41; 26: 10; Jude 3; Matt. 27: 52), and therefore in the apostolic writing it should be taken in its usual apostolic sense as understood at the time by writer and readers.It is "saints" whom the beast attacks (Rev. 13: 7), and these are described later as "they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (14: 12).So that the four terms before us are all synonymous, applying to the same company; and of this company John the Apostle declares himself an early member by describing himself as he "who bare witness of the Word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1: 2).Still more distinctly does he include all Christians with himself under this double description by the words of ch. 1: 9, where he classes himself with them as being their brother and co-partner in tribulation on account of "the word of God and the testimony of Jesus".This again is endorsed by the angelís words to John: "thee, and thy brethren that hold the testimony of Jesus" (19; 10).

 

This comparison of our Lordís utterances with the Revelation thus establishes (a) that the church will be subjected to keen travail just prior to the end days; (b) that this persecution will continue until it culminates in the war waged against the Womanís seed by the Beast; (c ) that the "saints" then in question belong to that company of which John was a member, the Church of this age.

 

To the consideration of the figure "the man child" we hope to return, but now let us turn to Rev. 17 for further information as to this preliminary persecution at the end.Here also is seen a "woman", but how great the contrast to her of ch. 12!The latter is heavenly; this other is of Babylon, Satanís earth centre.The one flees into the wilderness for safety; the other is seated in a wilderness, for to a moral desert does she reduce the regions under her fell control.The one is nourished by God on supernatural sustenance; the other, like the besotted drunkard, has no appetite for wholesome food, but "is drunken with the blood of the saints and the witness of Jesus".The former is the object of the fiercest malice of Satan and the Beast, the other is at first seated "upon the Beast," supported by him and dominating him.

 

Here then is the agency employed by Satan for harassing the saints, the witness of Jesus, prior to the hour when the Beast shall himself stand forth as supreme, shall first destroy this bloodthirsty, gaudy Harlot (verses 16, 17), and then himself proceed to persecute the "rest of the Womanís seed" (c. 13).

 

That the Harlot is the system we still know as the Church of Rome is clear from vv. 9 and 18, descriptions true in Johnís day of no other city than Rome; for it was the Seven-hilled city, and it alone then had over-lordship of the other kingdoms.In Rome this Woman was the dominant influence, actually if not nominally, but that she originated in Babylon is indicated in verse 5, which is corroborated by ancient secular history.That she will as a system yet remove again to her own original place, in the land of Shinar, that is, Babylonia, is to be expected from Zechariah 5: 6-11, and is indeed hinted in Rev. 17 in her being seated upon the Beast, for Babylon will be his centre.More than once of late years it has been mooted in the public press that the Papacy was contemplating moving its head quarters from Rome.

 

It therefore appears that persecution will be a general and continuous feature of the end times; both before that period properly so called sets in, and throughout its course.In the earliest stage Satanís object will, it would seem, be the destruction of the "man child".Failing in this, he will persecute the "woman", the system out of which that child was produced; and hurl against her a fierce and sudden attack - "a flood out of his mouth".This also failing of its first and full intention, he will wage war against every individual witness of Jesus, the Beast being his principal and final agent.

 

To the Christian "travail" is inevitable: it is still the case that "through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14: 22).The Christless temper of the times; the rapid organizing of all strata of society into corporations, to one or other of which each individual must belong or be ostracized and hated; and especially the diligent federating of the worldís religions under the aegis of Rome - all forewarn that the day of toleration and individual freedom is passing and the night of combination and iron intolerance falling.Our Lord has forewarned His followers that Satan will study to "lead astray the elect," and that "because iniquity shall abound the love of the many shall wax cold" (Matt. 24: 12).To give no heed to these warnings, or to calmly pass them on to others, as being no direct concern of ours, is highly dangerous, leaving the disciple exposed to the peril of that day coming upon him "suddenly as a snare" (Lk. 21: 34).We are not in darkness about that time, for we have the light of Scripture: let us then walk in the light, not sleeping, as if no peril were ahead: and against these accumulating and advancing dangers let us arm ourselves with the same mind with which Christ our Leader came into this world and its conflicts, even the expectation of suffering in the flesh (1 Pet. 4: 1).

 

The particulars of this persecution should be noticed.(1) Jews and Gentiles will co-operate in its infliction, as before observed.(2) The populace will be universally infected with hatred against disciples - "ye shall be hated of all men".(3) It will be anti-Christian - "hated for My nameís sake".(4) Prosecutions at law will be common.To be a Christian will be a crime.Thus councils, synagogues, governors, and kings will aid in the oppression.(5) Consequent upon this universality of persecution there will necessarily be drawn forth a universal testimony to Christ - "the gospel [of the kingdom] must first be preached unto all the nations" (Mk. 13: 10).And because by these very events saints will then know that the end is at hand, and will be filled with the joyful expectation of the kingdom of God, and with absorbing longing therefore, their message will naturally take the form of testimony to that kingdom.Cured at last of the vain notion that the world-kingdoms can be bettered, even Christianized, the apostolic hope and gospel will be restored in theme and tone; the witness will again be concerning "another King, one Jesus", and His servants go about "preaching the kingdom of God" (Acts 17: 7; 20: 25; 28: 31), and encouraging men to embrace the opportunity of qualifying for that kingdom into which God is calling them by the gospel of His grace (1 Thess. 2: 12; 2 Thess. 1: 4, 5, 11; 1 Pet. 5: 10).(6) The sharp antithesis in this message between Christ and Satan, the kingdom of God and the empires of this day, and between the present and the future, will again prove to be a dividing sword; so that many believers shall grow cold toward Christ, shall stumble, and shall betray one another to the foe.Family life also will be riven, and relatives betray their dear ones.(7) Public floggings, imprisonment, and death, will be amongst the penalties, and at the last there will be ordered an absolute commercial boycott, prohibiting trading with, and so threatening starvation to, the faithful Christian (Rev. 13: 15, 16).

 

But over against these dread experiences there are set adequate, yea superabundant encouragements. (1) There is promised a definite and immediate inspiration by the Holy Spirit as to the answers that should be given when the believer is put on trial. So sufficient shall this be that the saint need give no anxious thought or premeditation, "but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit" (Mk. 13: 11).Any who have had experience of courts know how extremely harassing may be the weeks and days and hours that precede the hearing of the case, and such will appreciate the marvel and the relief here guaranteed.And what a remarkable testimony to the grace of Christ in His people will be the serenity of demeanour thus produced and the not-to-be-refuted arguments which they will offer: "I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to withstand or to gainsay" (Lk. 21: 14, 15).

 

(2) As a result of this witness they will win the conflict in which they will seem to be crushed. For then, as now, Satanís objective will be the silencing of their testimony, even more than the injuring of their persons, the latter being with a view to the former.To stop this witness, so that he alone, in the Beast his embodiment, shall be worshipped, will be his first concern. But in this he will be defeated: "they overcame him because of the word of their testimony," in maintaining which "they loved not their life even unto death" (Rev. 12: 11).Like Paul, these, his brethren, each could say, "I hold not my life of any account, as dear unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20: 24).

 

(3) It is guaranteed by the Lord that "not a hair of your head shall perish", not even of those who shall be killed (Lk. 21: 16-18).For concerning these saints John says, "I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; for their works follow with them" (Rev. 14: 13); and yet later he sees these of this time, with others, sharing the first resurrection and reigning with Christ (Rev. 20: 4).Their light affliction, which was but for a moment, has thus worked for them more and more exceeding an eternal weight of glory; for they looked not at the dark and dreary things that were seen, the lash, the prison, the sword, but at the eternal things that were not seen, the Lord, the crown, the kingdom. (2 Cor. 4: 16-18).

 

(4) Thus "in their patience they won their lives", by sharing the first resurrection, if they had died, or by the gathering together unto the Lord at His descent to the air, if they were of those who "endured unto the end" of those days and were "saved" by the rapture, and were thus "rescued out of this present evil age" (1 Thess. 4: 16, 17; 2 Thess. 2: 1; Gal. 1: 4).For in either case their "life" was not misspent on other interests than Christís, and so lost; but having been seemingly lost for Him it was really saved, since for it, and its sufferings for His name, they will be fully recompensed by sharing His heavenly kingdom and glory.

 

"They climbed the steep ascent of heaven

Through peril, toil, and pain".

 

We all have sung it often : are we each seeking that path? This is the royal road which the King Himself trod, and there is none other to the place which He reached.

 

4. Seals 1 to 4.

 

From this general view of the experiences of the godly we pass to the condition of the world as outlined by the Lord.

 

Whilst men are engaged in venting their desire upon those disciples who will refuse to join in the united schemes which will be a dominant feature of the times, a period of wide and terrible unrest and violence will set in: "Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdoms against kingdom : and there shall be great earthquakes, and in divers places famines and pestilences".It is not necessary to suppose that these features must be consecutive, for it is to be noted that in Matthew the order is wars, famines, and earthquakes, but in Mark it is wars, earthquakes, and famines, to which Luke adds pestilences.The period throughout will be marked by all these events, in varying measures in different places and times.

 

We understand that the first four seals of the revelation, picture this same period.

 

In chapter four of that Book the eternal God is seen sitting upon His throne, with four and twenty rulers sitting upon thrones around Him. A book of judgments is in His hand, and shortly the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ, comes before the Father, takes the book, and proceeds to act as the Executor of the purposes of the Almighty.

 

The parallel with the vision of Daniel, ch. 7, is too plain to be missed.The prophet, describing the rise and doings of the fourth wild beast, says that he saw thrones placed in position, ready, as was explained to him, for the holding of an assize.*He describes the appearance and majesty of the Ancient of days, but it was left to John to show the sitters upon the other thrones.He then seems to hint how astonished he was to see in that heavenly world and glory "one like unto the son of man", who, being brought near to the Ancient of days, was invested with the universal and everlasting dominion, glory, and kingship.

 

[* Not as A.V. "cast down,Ē as if overthrown, but set in position and officail state, as R.V.]

 

Now the angel when explaining this vision expressly says that it is a court of judgment held for the particular purpose of dealing with that last of earthly potentates, the "little horn" which grew out of the head of the last wild beast, and for the establishing of Messiahís kingdom in the place of his.This makes clear that the corresponding vision of John has to do with the times of the end, and the Antichrist in particular.The main subject of the Apocalypse, then, is the career and judgment of the Beast, and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness with the advent of the Word of God (Dan. 9: 24; Rev. 19: 11, 13).

 

1. Hence it is impossible to regard the rider on the first seal (Rev. 6: 1, 2) as picturing the going forth of the gospel throughout this age on a career of peaceful conquest.The meaning is as incongruous to this figure as it is to that other figure, long wrongly taken in the same sense, the boulder from the mountain-side crashing suddenly upon the great image and crushing it to dust (Dan. 2).Both are visions of violence and destruction, and both refer to the end of this age, not to its commencement or continuance.The stone falls on the toes of the image, its last stage, and, as we have seen, the first seal looks on to the same epoch.But these two are symbols of very different events: the falling of the stone pictures the open intervention of Christ to destroy Antichrist, as in Rev. 19; the first seal pictures the first going forth of antichrist on his career.The latter precedes the former by several years, as many as may be required by the events of chs. 6 to 19 of the Apocalypse.

 

This first rider cannot refer to Christ, for one sufficient reason, even where there no others.The Lamb is shown as standing in heaven opening the seals: He cannot at the same time be on earth actively and personally acting there, as is this rider.Moreover, the latter supposition involves that Christ will come to the earth at the commencement of the end times, which is at complete variance with all other scriptures.

 

(1) The rider is a sovereign: a crown was given to him.It says not by whom this was given, but we know from ch. 13: 2, that the Dragon gives him his own throne; but this is by the permission of heaven, as the seal shows.(2) He goes out on a career of conquest - "conquering" (nikown, the present participle).Thus also the Antichrist, as shown in Daniel 7, opens his activities by attacking and conquering three of the ten kingdoms.(3) He will reach complete supremacy: he is "to conquer" : kai hina nikese, and that he should conquer. In the times of the end there is to be only one such Personage.(4) His weapon is the bow, which in the Greek-speaking world - and it was to Christians in that sphere that the Revelation was sent - had a well-known significance.The Greeks customarily spoke of Eastern monarchs as "the drawers of the bow", in contrast to themselves who relied chiefly on "the might of the spear".*The Antichrist will be the king of Assyria, with Babylon as his centre (Isa. 10: 5, 12; 14: 4, 25; Jer. 51. 52, 53; etc).(5) He rides a white horse, thus forestalling Christ (Rev. 19: 11) over against Whom he purposes to set himself in the affairs of earth and the worship of men.**

 

[* See Lid. & S., Lex., s. v. Toxon, Rhllma]

** The present explanation of the seals I reached by independent reflection, and long since.More recently I have been glad to see this note by Mr. Darby: "what proof is there that this horse and his rider is Christ at all. I see none whatever. It seems to me much more like some imperial conquest, providentially permitted of God perhaps of Antichrist himself before he assumes that character.Ē Coll. Writ. iii. 135.]

 

2. The sudden onslaught of this at first insignificant king (he rises as a "little horn"), by which he quickly is found master of his own and three already established kingdoms, will be a violent interruption to the confederacy of the ten kingdoms.This menace in the near-east will call into action the western Mediterranean powers, for the purpose of relieving the situation so precipitated.This is the second seal: for the word used of the weapon which the second rider receives is that which described the straight sword of the Roman armies of Johnís day (machaira).

 

3.But they will find that this newly risen Warrior is not to be frustrated; and the desolating wars which will thus rage will bring on the wide-spread and awful famines which are the subject of seal three.At that time prices will not merely double or treble or quadruple, but the necessaries of life will reach no less than eight times the normal price, and so will be entirely out of reach of the masses in the countries ravaged.

 

4.Modern world movements are in their tendency centripetal, and they are issuing in a vast unifying of mankind, as contrasted with former national isolation.Consequently these fierce conflicts between the West and the near-East will so acutely affect all the earth that presently the great nations of the East will be sucked into the maelstrom.The word for sword in seal 4 is romphaia, which refers to the long blade specially distinctive of the East.And with these numberless hordes joining in the fray, cruel with pagan callousness and perfectly reckless of human life, the slaughter will be so frightful that these armies are pictured as led by the dread angel of Death in person, with the grim Angel of the world of the dead attending, to carry the horrid harvest to his gloomy garners.

 

One whole fourth part of the earth will thus be desolated; wild beasts will multiply unhindered and ravage at will; whilst pestilence will be the most dread weapon that this invisible, irresistible Rider will wield.

 

Thus there are mentioned under these four seals three of the features mentioned by our Lord - wars, famines, and pestilences ; and the reason why earthquakes are not detailed is probably that these seals deal not with that class of events, but are concerned with the doings of living agents, and their results, rather than with accompanying convulsions of nature. Earthquakes are mentioned under seal 6 and in later visions.

 

Above all this tumult of wild waters God sits upon the throne. His love and long-suffering having been spurned by mankind, judgment, His strange work, must at length take its course.Above all the din and smoke of battles the Lamb stands on high, directing and limiting the spirit agents who are the prime movers in these dread events.He who on earth willingly suffered the keenest pains of death that He might become the cause of eternal salvation to all them that would obey Him (Heb. 5: 9), has been rejected finally by the world, and now He acts as the just Ruler.

 

It is through all this welter and devastation that the Beast ruthlessly presses his way to universal supremacy ; and at last the ten kingdom confederacy recognizes in him the long-desired Superman; for God puts it in their hearts, all unknown to themselves, "to do His mind, and to come to one mind, and to give their kingdom unto the Beast", and in his days the words of God through all the holy prophets shall be accomplished, and the consummation and conclusion of this sad and lawless age shall be reached (Rev. 17: 17).

 

5. The Great Tribulation

 

Leaving the great multitude of details to be supplied by His hearers from the Old Testament scriptures, or to be learned from those later revelations which He knew they would receive when the Holy Spirit should declare unto them things that were to come, the Lord carries forward their thoughts to the crisis hour of that crisis epoch.

 

The Wild Beast is supreme.Using the combined weight and force of the ten-kingdom empire, he has constrained to acuiescense the remoter nations not actually members of that league; and dazzling and deceiving by the wonder of his arrival from death (Rev. 13: 3; 17: 8), he has secured the worship of the whole earth.

 

But there is a fly in the ointment - a Mordecai who has the effrontery to remain seated when all bow obsequiously before this Satan-exalted Human.This is intolerable; and those who persist in worshipping the true God and in keeping His laws, and those who, in addition to this, confess Jesus to be the true Lord of heaven and earth, these all must be exterminated.

 

The scheme for effecting this is simple, and fatally effective.Nebuchadnezzar shewed the way the last universal Emperor will perfect the method of the first. Let there be made an image of the Emperor, and let every person be required to worship it.Is he not the fit person to be honoured with divine worship?He is the embodiment of humanity, and is not humanity the full and final exhibition of the all-inclusive deity?*Also, he is the head and concentration of the State, and there is nothing higher than the state : "the life of the state is the law of the state" is a saying as ruthless as it is ancient and pagan!Again, he is the supreme incarnation of Satan, the god and prince of this world!On every account he ought to be worshipped!So the edict is issued that henceforth, not for thirty days only but for evermore, no worship or prayer shall be offered to any god save to the Beast only.

 

[* A work that cannot be too highly recommended is S.J. Andrewsí "Christianity and Anti-Christianity in their Final Conflict." (The Bible Institute Colportage Association, Chicago)]

 

And if any of these pestilential Jews or Christians will not render this homage they shall be immediately subjected to an universal commercial boycott, and it shall be illegal to buy from or sell to them; and also they shall fall under sentence of death.Nor shall there be any evading of these measures; for as soon as one has performed the required act of worship he shall be branded upon the right hand or the forehead with a mark distinctive of the beast, and whoever does not exhibit the sign, and will not receive it, shall thereby stand condemned (Rev. ch.13).

 

But hold! there is an obstacle to this measure.The Beast, for purposes of his own, had made with the Jewish people a solemn treaty for seven years, and but half the period has expired (Dan. 9: 27; Isa. 27: 14-22) Pashaw Popes have broken them with impunity, why should not emperors do so?Moreover, there is abundant and ancient precedent to show that faith need not be kept with heretics.Enforce the decree; set up the image; and let it be placed in the court of the temple of Jehovah in the holy City itself.That is the Jewish national and religious centre, and thence the yet more hateful Christian religion took its rise.There, on the great inaugural day of the perfected world-religion, shall the Beast himself take his seat, "giving himself out that he is God", and "exalting himself above all that is called God or that is an object of worship" (Dan. 11: 36, 37; 2 Thess. 2: 4).Make the sacrifice to Jehovah to cease by force (Dan. 9: 27)! let the soldiery of the fourth empire again slaughter the worshippers before the altar! spare no violence or indignity to enforce uniformity of religion!

 

But hark!What is this majestic voice that rings around the whole earth, drowning the voices of the heralds that in every city are simultaneously proclaiming the deity of the Emperor?It is an angel flying in mid heaven, "saying with a great voice, If any man worshippeth the Beast and his image, and receiveth a mark upon his forehead or upon his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of His anger ; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the Beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name" (Rev. 14: 9-11).Thus, as godlessness reaches its climax, God once more warns His foes, if perhaps some may repent.And perchance there are those who do so; for some who never openly professed faith in Christ, yet befriend His brethren during the ensuing reign of terror, and are accepted of Him at His return (Matt. 25: 24-36).But almost all submit to the Beast, join him in persecuting the saints, and incur the threatened eternal doom.

 

Thus the abomination that maketh desolate, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, is standing where it ought not, even in the Holy Place, and like as the net is suddenly thrown over the unsuspecting bird, so has come upon men as a snare that day of "great tribulation such as hath not been from the beginning if the world until now, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt 24: 1-22; Lk, 21: 14-20).

 

The evangelist Luke records an important detail.Perhaps fearing violent resistance from the Jews, or to overawe them into submission, or to be prepared to take advantage of any pretext that may justify an early massacre, the Beast has begun beforehand to concentrate troops around Jerusalem.To such as remember and believe the words of Christ, the commencement of this encirclement will be the definite sign that the worst of the trouble is imminent: "when ye shall see Jerusalem being encircled [kukloumenen, the present participle] with armies, then know that her desolation is at hand" (Lk. 21: 20).This will be the signal for instant flight at the utmost speed, and without regard to sacrifice of goods or even clothing; and sorry will be the plight of any unable to hasten (Matt. 24: 17-19; Mk. 13: 14-17).How terrible will be the lot of those entrapped in the city, upon their refusing to adore the Beast, may be inferred from the fact that life on the bare mountains, unrelieved by customary comforts and full of uncertainty as to its necessaries, is yet greatly to be preferred.

 

In this awful emergency the hated fugitives have but one resource - PRAYER: the Lord adds, "PRAY YE".And an altogether striking hint of both the limit and the power of prayer is here given.Prayer cannot avail to avert this fearful era: the end of the age must come, and cannot but be of this character, for a consumption [of the lawless] is strictly decided upon, overflowing with righteousness: ďfor a consummation, and the strict decision, shall the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, make in the midst of all the earth" (Isa. 10: 22, 23 see R.V., with Variorum Bible).But prayer has such unique influence that it can affect the matter of whether the flight must be in the inclement winter season, when rains make the mountains almost impossible as a refuge, or at a lesser rigorous time of the year; and prayer can avail to secure that the escape shall not have to be on a sabbath, when only a very short journey would be feasible in a land where no provisions could be purchased by the way, nor transport or help be hired, nor other hindrances be wanting, by reason of the bulk of the inhabitants scrupulously observing the sabbath.Well will it be if saints, before that emergency bursts, are practised in the use of this mighty weapon All-prayer, and, in view of the predicted crisis, have controlled these particular circumstances by believing intercession.

 

Note on Thes. 2: 4: "The Man of Sin sitteth in the temple of God setting himself forth as God."]

 

Objection has been taken to the application of this scripture to the literal future temple of God at Jerusalem.

 

1. It has been asserted that the term "temple" here used, namely, Sanctuary, naos, cannot be properly applied to any shrine erected by man.But it is so used in Matt. 23: 16 (twice), 17, 21, 35; 26: 61 ; 27: 5, 40, 51; Mk. 15: 29, 38; Lk. 1: 9, 21, 22; 23: 45; John 2: 20; Rev. 11: 1, 2: in all eighteen times.Obviously there is nothing to forbid Paul so using it when the subject required, though naturally enough he more often employed it in its spiritual sense since the spiritual temple of God, the Church, was his usual topic.

 

2. That there will be a temple at Jerusalem prior to Christís descent is clear from several passages.

 

1. Dan. 9: 27, The Desolator of Jerusalem will make sacrifice and oblation to cease.It is a fixed principle with the Jewish race that a temple, and this at Jerusalem, is indispensable to sacrifice.The Law (Deut. 16: 1-7) strictly prohibits the offering of sacrifices elsewhere than at the gate of the house of God; hence no sacrifices have been offered by Jews since the destruction of the temple, A.D. 70.

 

2. The prophecy of Joel unmistakeably applies to the day of the Beast. It is declared that "the day of the Lord is at hand" (1: 15.) and that the day is mentioned again in 2: 11.The restoring of temporal prosperity to the land and people is pictured in 2: 18-27, the last verse showing that the Lord is now in the midst of Israel, and affirming that henceforth His "people shall never be ashamed", which marks this as the permanent, final restoration of Israel. Then follows the blessing of "all flesh" (2: 28, 29).Ch. 3 amplifies the details of the judgments that the Lord will inflict at that era upon enemies of His people, and again He is described (verse 17) as now "dwelling in Zion", and it is guaranteed that never again shall aliens over-run Jerusalem.Now in the description of the famine and invasion that will immediately precede the advent of the lord, there are references to acting priests (1: 9; 2: 17), to the meal and drink offerings (1: 9, 13; 2: 14), and to a fast to be solemnized "in the house of Jehovah your God", that house being further mentioned in 1: 9, and 1: 16 ; while in 2: 15-17, the fast is further described, and the priests are pictured as weeping "between the porch and the altar".

 

3. That the "abomination that maketh desolate" had a foreshadowing in the acts of Antiochus Epiphanes, B.C. 110, did not hinder the Lord from declaring (Matt. 24: 15; Mk. 13: 14) that the fulfilment of that prophecy lay in the future; and the setting up of that abomination is to be accompanied by the enforced cessation of sacrifice, by the profanation of a "sanctuary", a "holy place" (Dan. 9: 27; 11: 31), all implying a temple then standing.

 

4. As we have before seen, Rev. 11: 2, refers to the treading down of the Holy City by the Beast, and this passage speaks positively of "the temple of God", "the altar", the "worshippers", and the surrounding "court".That the city is Jerusalem is clear from verse 8, it being the place "where also their Lord was crucified", and by it being identified with the Jerusalem of Isaiah 1: 10, by being called spiritually by the name that the prophet had applied metaphorically, "Sodom".

 

3. But it is asked: if it be allowed that a temple will be erected, is it conceivable that the Holy One of Israel should acknowledge it as his sanctuary seeing (a) that it will be built by an unbelieving people, and (b) that this is the age of Israelís national rejection by Him?

 

But let it be observed (a) that the temple of Christís day was built by a most monstrously wicked man, Herod the Great, and he moreover an alien by race, and that it was ruled by rationalists and hypocrites and profaned by officially-recognized merchant robbers ; and yet the Lord spoke of it as "My Fatherís house".As to (b) it should be noted that the end of the age will be the very close of the Lo ammi period (Hos. 1: 9), and a transition epoch.God will then be definitely dealing with the nation to turn them to Himself, and as a result there will be a perceptible turning of heart to Him on the part of many.It is only the majority of Israel, not the whole nation, that will covenant with the Beast : "he shall make a firm covenant with the many" = the majority (Dan. 9: 27); and it is ever Godís way to regard mercifully a godly minority (Gen. 18: 32; Jer. 5: 1); and so this minority at that time we read: "they shall call on My name, and I will hear them" (Zech. 13: 9).

 

4. But it is objected that the Lord Jesus upon leaving the temple for the last time, formally rejected the place, saying, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate", and that so no temple can be properly called the temple of God until the people accept Jesus as the Messiah, crying, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 23: 38, 39).

 

To this we answer (a) that God does most distinctly term that temple which, as above shown, is to be built "the house of Jehovah" and "the house of God" (Joel 1: 14, 16), even as He speaks of Jerusalem at that period as "My holy mountain" (Joel 2: 1) and the "holy city" (Rev. 11: 2), for it is sacred, and this perpetually, not because Israel dwells there, but because Jehovah has chosen it, and set it apart, as His centre on earth.

 

(b) Moreover, what is the true force of the word "desolate" which Christ applied to the house?The answer is given by the next words: "your house is left unto you desolate, FOR ye shall not see Me henceforth".This necessarily means; My personal, bodily presence shall once again be seen in this house; for there was not, nor had there ever been, any other divine presence in that temple.Scripture speaks of five temples at Jerusalem.(1) That of Solomon.(2) That of Zerubbabel, built on the return from Babylon (Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai).(3) That of Herod, which Christ left.(4) That under discussion, to be erected in the days of the end.(5) That Millennial temple to be built by Messiah (Zech. 6: 12, 13; Ezek. ch.40-47: 12).In the first the Shechinah glory dwelt (1 Kin. 8: 10, 11), but left it at the time of the destruction of that house by the Chaldeans (Ezek. chs. 9 - 11).That glory never has returned, and was not known in the second or third temples; so that those two houses were not dwelt by the God of Israel personally, and therefore He could not in that sense be said to leave them desolate, that is, unoccupied.Yet they were owned as being His house, though He was not in residence; and so therefore can be that one which is to be erected.

 

5. There seems not to be any proper sense in which the Man of Sin can be said to seat himself in the Church of God. That a Person is in view we cannot now discuss, but we consider it to be beyond question.The Christians on the earth at any given time are not in N.T. viewed as an organized body and are not called Ďthe temple of Godí... Antichrist certainly could not in any conceivable sense Ďtake his seatí in the Church the body of Christ, which church while it is complete in the purposes of God, will not be manifested till the revelation of the Lord Jesus, 2 Thess. 1: 7, 10, cp. Col. 3: 4, the time of his destruction, 2 Thess. 1: 8.And if he were to assert himself in any one company of Christians, he would command only local and limited attention, whereas it is implied in the passage that he will occupy the world-stage and exert a world-wide influence". (Hogg and Vine, Thessalonians, 251.).

 

As no Christian ecclesiastical edifice is ever contemplated in the New Testament, no such sense can be in view, and the term "temple of God" precludes the thought of any heathen building.

 

It remains only to take the term as we have before done, and after all, such an act of blasphemy as this enthronization in the sanctuary of God is no more than a natural and to be accepted climax in the career of one as bold and proud and ambitious. It will befit the era and the person, as well as the scheme of Satan.

 

6. Jerusalem the Vortex.

 

It is said that the year 70, when Titus approached Jerusalem, the Christians there dwelling supposed these words of Christ concerning the city being encompassed with troops to refer to that time and fled.There is no historic basis for this assertion.The Church historian Eusebius says that this flight took place, but he wrote some centuries later and he gives no sources of information on what he based the report.No other writer mentions it.And Eusebius does not connect the flight with our Lordís words but says the Christians concerned fled at the suggestion of godly men of the time.If the flight took place most certainly that time was not the era to which the Lord was referring. For He was answering the question "What shall be the sign of Thy presence and of the consummation of the age?" (Matt. 24: 3); and of that day when Jerusalem was to be encompassed with armies He declared that "these are days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled" (Lk. 21: 22).That the whole of the Old Testament predictions concerning Jerusalem were not then accomplished, and that this age did not close in A.D. 70, is unquestionable.

 

It is therefore evident that this passage deals with that last attempt to destroy Israel of which the prophets have spoken.Of old Pharoah and Haman were Satanís agents in attempting such extermination of the chosen people.But Israel is indestructible.It has been pithily said that Pharoah tried to drown them, and they would not drown; and Nebuchadnezzar to burn them, and they would not burn; and Haman to hang them, and they would not hang (Adolph Saphir).

 

But though for Abrahamís sake they be preserved as a race, yet as individuals each must either be sanctified or be destroyed from among his people. The wicked must be purged out of the holy land; "and it shall come to pass, saith the Lord, that in all the land two parts therein shall be cut off and die ; but the third shall be left therein.And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call upon My name, and I will hear them: I will say it is My people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God" (Zech. 5: 1-4; 13: 8, 9).And therefore, said the Lord, "there shall be great distress upon the land, and wrath unto this people" (Lk. 21: 23).

 

It is to be observed that the words "unto this people"* distinguish between the disciples addressed and the Jewish people. Throughout the discourse there is a uniform contrast between the disciples and others. The former are addressed by the direct terms "you", "ye", "your", "yourselves": others are described indirectly as "this people", "they"; or, "Gentiles", "men", "tribes of the earth". This negatives the notion that the Apostles were to be deemed representative of a Jewish company.

 

[*For this use of houtes forming a contrast between the speaker and hearer, on one hand, and the subjects of the remarks on the other, please see John 7: 48, 49.]

 

Thus the whirlpool which will surge around the whole world will have its vortex in Palestine.Little do the leaders of Jewry today seem to consider the issues of that resettlement in their land which is now in progress.Blind leaders of the blind they verily are, however sincere; for they believe not the voices of Moses and the prophets, though they are read in the synagogues every sabbath day; and they see not that the time of Jacobís trouble hastens (Jer. 30: 7), and that the further men are from Jerusalem in that day the less intense will be the affliction.

 

For this attack by the armies of Antichrist will succeed.There will be slaughter - "they shall fall by the edge of the sword": there will be dispersion - "they shall be led captive into all nations" (Lk. 21: 24). Zachariahís prophecy just before quoted (14: 1) continues in the same strain, and shows the same connection, as this of Christ: "Behold, a day of the Lord cometh" - so that this era is "a day when thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee" - there will be a sack of the city. "For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle" - which was not fulfilled when Titus led a Roman army against Jerusalem: "and the city shall be taken" - that is, there will be some defence offered, but it will not avail: "and the houses (shall be) rifled, and the women ravished" - the amenities of "civilized" warfare will be a thing of the past, for the sufficient reason that Christian sentiment is the only softening influence, and this will have been deliberately crushed: "and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city".

 

The last clause appears to show that this is not the final stage of the intended destruction, for the sparing of some of the inhabitants is foretold, and time must needs be taken in sending the others into captivity. Perhaps the eleventh chapter of Daniel throws light upon the doings of the Beast just at this point, and the reasons for a temporary cessation of the destruction at Jerusalem.The thirty sixth verse shows him triumphant, "doing according to his will" and magnifying himself as god; and this is the time of special divine indignation against Israel. Verse 39 reveals him overrunning the land and dividing it out to those who acknowledge him.But at this point resentment against him, which was smouldered hitherto, bursts into open hostility by a rebellion on the part of the king of the South (Egypt), and it would appear likely that this development diverts him for a time from Jerusalem.That there should be such a rebellion at all shows that the slavish adoration which he at first inspired in all men is waning.

 

In battle with the king of the South the Beast is wholly victorious (vv. 42, 43); but whilst he is engaged in reaping the fruits of this campaign, and in tightening his grip on further regions (Ethiopia and Libyia), the grave news reaches him of trouble east and north of his home base. The kings of Media, which country of old lay east and north of Babylonia, and was of great extent, have sacked his capital, Babylon ; (Isa. 13: 17; Jer. 51: 11) and this has been accompanied by catastrophic convulsions so terrible that the city, whilst still in flames lighted by the invaders (Rev. 18: 8, 16), has disappeared from the earth as suddenly and completely as would a millstone flung into a river (Rev. 18: 21; Isa. 47: 11; Jer. 51: 61-64). With great fury he turns northward, and purposing to leave no Jewish troublers in his rear, and probably discerning the hand of God in this irremediable disaster, he decides to complete now the extermination of the nation, and to blot out Godís earthly centre as completely as God has just destroyed his own : "he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas at the glorious holy mountain" (verse 45).

 

This drama Joel vividly delineates. The already existing desolation of the land is described in ch. 1, and in ch. 2 the final and irresistible attack on the city is portrayed with intense vigour and animation. With the city captured (2: 9), with nature joining to terrify by itself trembling, rocking, and darkening, what shall the "very small remnant", that alone are now left, do? The answer is in ch. 2: 15-17: let them assemble in the temple, and weep, and cry unto Jehovah.

 

Thus, at the end of the days, "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles"; and this right on, uninterruptedly, from the time of Antichristís first attack "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled". And as showing that the Lord was speaking of the very last of the days, and not of any siege of the city already past, the term "trodden down" should be noted. In the New testament it has a quite distinctive force and always implies great violence, as when men crush underfoot the purple clusters in the winepress (Rev. 14: 20 ; 19: 15), or, still more vigorously, as when a man springs upon a snake and grinds it into the earth with his heel. As will be recognized by dwellers in the tropics, the instinctive and intense antipathy which the human race has to the serpent tribe, coupled with the acute sense of danger from the lightning rapidity with which the snake strikes, urges a man to attack this foe with the extreme of violence.

 

Hence, this word points not to any peaceful occupation of Jerusalem by a Gentile power. Not even the general and severe mal-administration of the City by the Turks for a thousand years is pictured by the word. Such mal-administration is common to Muslem-ruled cities, and would have no special application to Jerusalem. The Muslem, moreover, has ever regarded the City as one of his most sacred spots, by reason of its association with Abraham, who, as the father of Ishmael, was progenitor of the Arab race; and there he has had one of his most famous shrines, the Mosque of Oman. And certainly the like British protectorate of the Holy City, ushered in as it was by a deliberate and wise care not to train a single gun upon the walls, and accompanied as it was by measures for civic improvement, was the very reverse of a "treading down".

 

But as if to show beyond doubt to what event the Lord pointed, a voice from heaven, speaking to John, employs this very word which he had heard Christ use to declare that "the holy city shall the nations tread under foot forty and two months" (Rev. 11: 2). This is the only other use of the word in the New Testament, and its context shows that the treading down is to be by the Beast during the period of the Great Tribulation.

 

But at length those months, which to the oppressed must seem each as years, run their course. For His electís sake God has determined that the period shall be brief; and once again Godís care for His own indirectly benefits the world, even when at its worst, for had that era been left to drag on "no flesh would have been saved" (Matt. 24: 22). So terrible shall be the prevailing mutual hate and rage that the race would have succeeded in self-extermination.

 

At the commencement of the Beastís sovereignty, when a war-worn world sees in power one seemingly competent for universal rule, men will again breathe freely, and will cry, peace, peace, at last! But when the Tyrant fully unfolds, and the gorgeous flower develops into the ripened fruit, it shall be found that it is but a bitter and deadly crop. And shortly every evil passion of God-forsaken men shall burst forth with devil-driven and unexampled madness; the wild beast of human empire shall be found a wild beast to the end; and the last hours of manís day, which lately shone with such golden but deceptive glory, shall die out into blood and fire and pillars of smoke. A God-less world is a doomed world , and verily when the Devil drives the pace is killing.

 

7. Seal 5.

 

It is as the Great Tribulation nears its close that there takes place in the other world the event described in the fifth seal, "I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And there was given them to each one a white robe ; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little time, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, which should be killed even as they were, should be fulfilled" (Rev. 6: 9-11).

 

(1) The vision bears decisively against the assertion that disembodied saints are necessarily unconscious, for these are not so at the time in question. (2) From the fact that they are still not resurrected they know that the earth drama is not yet completed, that vengeance has not yet been executed. (3) Saints so circumstanced are capable of appealing to God, and of receiving communications from Him. (4) Adjudication upon their cases has been made in heaven, and they have been approved, for to each one a white robe is given. This connects them in status with the great multitude that come out of the Great Tribulation (7: 9-14). (5) There is no such thing as a portion of deceased saints being glorified in the first resurrection before other such. These must rest as they are until the whole number that are to be killed as they were has been completed. Apart from these last those who earlier departed this life cannot be perfected (Heb. 11: 40); hence the resurrection of the just has not yet taken place. (6) In but a "little time" the noble army of martyrs will be complete, for their fellow-servants are "about to be killed" (Darby), so the end of all tribulation for the saints is very near.

 

It is urged that these cannot be Christian disciples because they cry for avengement, contrary to Christís precepts for his disciples today. It is indeed true that the Christian is prohibited from avenging himself, and this for the reason that the executing of judgment is the prerogative of God, and is to be left till such time as He shall appoint (Rom. 12: 19-21). Further, it is the privilege of the saint to follow our Lord in rather seeking forgiveness for the one who wrongs him, as did Stephen (Luke 23: 34; Ac. 7: 60). It is often overlooked that the ground of the Saviourís appeal was the ignorance of the guilty: "they know not what they do": and the verse is significantly placed between sentences both of which apply only to the Roman, pagan soldiers actually engaged in the execution. Its extension to all there present appears not to be warranted. Similarly Paul could assert of himself as the persecutor of Stephen and others that he did it "ignorantly in unbelief", and he saw in this a reason for the mercy of God being shown to him (1 Tim. 1: 13).

 

It is also to be noted that our Lord, picturing the elect as a widow, which implies this present period of His absence, describes them as appealing to the Judge for vengeance against the oppressor: "She came oft unto him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary" (Lk. 18: 1-8). It is the same word as in Rev. 6 and Rom. 12, and it means, "Do me justice", i.e., Let the law take its course. Not revenge, but avengement is the thought. Thus though the believer may under no circumstances avenge himself, he may cry to God to execute justice. But it is of the essence of the matter to observe that Satan is the "adversary" of the parable, who resists the saints in the court of God (Rev. 12: 10). Peter applies to him this very term: "your adversary the devil" (1 Pet. 5: 8); nor is it used of any other person in particular, for in the two remaining passages where it is found it is used generally (Matt. 5: 25; Lk. 12: 58). Now it is the solemn fact concerning Satan that he is irreclaimable, and so outside the scope of grace: hence it were futile to ask mercy for him, and contrary to the attitude of God toward him. But for his human agents in the injuring of the people of God there is grace available; and so long as this remains so, the child of God will in love ask for its extension to his enemies, as did Stephen. And now let it be considered that the men against whom the martyrs ask vengeance have reached the state of Satan and have become irreclaimable as he; for they have received the mark of the Beast, have thus forfeited hope of mercy, and do not repent, however terrible the divine judgments (Rev. 14: 9-11). Therefore against them also Godís attitude has changed from grace to unmingled wrath, and against them it is that the Lord Jesus will almost immediately thereafter appear "rendering vengeance", (the same word being here used 2 Thess. 1: 8).

 

Hence the objection with which we are dealing is ill-founded: it takes not account of salient facts. (1) These saints are no longer in the flesh, called to act as messengers of grace. Precepts given for guidance in this world, under its conditions, have no necessary application to that world, and its diverse conditions. (2) The moral condition of the subjects of the appeal has made impossible a request for pardon. (3) Christ, their Leader and Exemplar, has now altered His attitude from mercy to judgment, and is superintending the execution thereof against these sinners. The change in the saints follows His, they being moreover not in the flesh on earth, even as He is not. When in due time the rest of the saints shall reach the heavenly world and conditions, they all will adopt this attitude to the wicked: "know ye not that the saints shall judge the world (and) angels?" (1 Cor. 6: 2, 3). (4) In any case, the argument against these being Christians will prove too much, for it will equally prove that they cannot be Jews, since the Jew was equally forbidden to execute vengeance. The same standard had been set for him as Christ set for His followers. In this particular He did but call us to live up to the requirement of the Law. The prohibition was absolute: "Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; I am the Lord" (Lev. 19: 18). The lex talionis, the law of strict retribution, was to be enforced only by the judges (Ex.10: 21; 22; Lv. 24; 22; Dt.. 19: 17, 18). These saints are of the company to which John the apostle, and the brethren of his own time, belonged is shown by the terms applied to them: they "had been slain for the word of God, and the testimony which they held". By this double term John twice describes himself: "he bare witness of the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ"; he was "in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (Rev. 1: 2, 9). As we have noted, the same description is given of the "rest of the womanís seed" (Rev. 12: 17), and of the saints that endure the rage of the Beast (14: 12). But of these more anon.

 

The end of the great Tribulation is at hand: the first resurrection is near.

 

8. Deceiving Prophets.

 

That the Parousia has not yet commenced, that is, that the Lord is not yet "present" but still absent, is the next point of His remarks, and He took very special care to emphasize this. He gives warning (Matt. 24: 23-28; Mk. 13: 21-23) that during the Great Tribulation many false Messiahs and false prophets will arise, having as their especial object Satanís perpetual object, the leading astray, if it be possible, of even the elect.

 

These sufferers will be longing intensely for the promised deliverance, and upon this the deceiver will seek to play, inciting the godly to seek Christ in secret places, or to sally forth to the wilderness. Diverted thus from the Scriptural hope, they would follow a mirage, and, ever disappointed, would soon be in danger of not any longer holding fast the true hope, and so of losing their anchorage with Him Who is so far still within the vail. Then, drifting hither and thither, they would be in danger of succumbing to their severe lot and ceasing their testimony, for it is by hope only that we are saved from despair. Thus should the enemy secure by craft what violence had failed to accomplish.

 

"But take heed", solemnly says the Lord, "behold, I have told you all things beforehand". Nor need there be, nor will there be, any danger of their being deceived if they but remember this one fact concerning His Parousia, that when it takes place it will be as visible, and as universally visible, as in a flash of lightning: "for as the lightning cometh forth from the east and is seen even unto the west ; so shall be the Parousia of the Son of Man". He did not say, So shall be His Epiphany or Apocalypse, but "so shall be the Parousia". Therefore the Parousia has not taken place prior to the stage of events of which this part of the discourse speaks, namely the epoch of the Great Tribulation.

 

And further where will be no need for His own to go seeking Him; for as certainly as the far-sighted vultures swiftly swoop together to their point of attraction, so the elect, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye", will be instantly gathered to their centre as soon as He is present.

 

To thus understanding this last figure it has been objected that it is incongruous to suppose that Christ compared himself to a carcase and the saints to unclean birds. But this He does not do. The point of comparison is simply the unity and swiftness of the concentration of the birds. Travellers in the east will readily feel the force and accuracy of the simile. But in any case the figure is no more unseemly than is that for example, in Hosea 5: 14, where God boldly compares Himself to a fierce ravening lion, seizing, tearing, and dragging off its prey, which figure is applied elsewhere to Satan (1 Pet. 5: 8).

 

9. Seal 6.

 

Momentum diminishes into rest, effort tends to weariness, fury induces exhaustion, the great conflagration burns itself out; and when the purging fire shall have done its work the Assayer will put out the blaze, and remove the now pure and precious gold.

 

The terrible Man of the earth (Psm. 10: 18) has done his worst; and as soon as there comes a lull in the storm of his anger, Godís thunders roar and his lightenings blaze against the Persecutor: "there shall be signs in the sun and moon and stars ... for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken" (Lk. 21: 25).

 

The events which follow the opening of the sixth seal (Rev. 6: 12-17) correspond closely to those which the Lord declared should be "immediately after the tribulation of those days" (Matt. 24: 29).

 

The Gospels Seal 6

 

1. The sun darkened. The sun becomes black.

 

2. The moon not giving light. The moon becomes as blood.

 

3. The stars fall from heaven. ††The stars fall from heaven.

 

4. The powers that are in the heavens. Heaven removed as a scroll.shaken.

 

5. Roaring of sea and billows. Earthquake moving mountains and islands.

 

6. Distress of nations. All classes distracted and hiding.

 

7. Men fainting for fear and from an awful dread of divine expectation of coming events.ďWrath, now recognized to be imminent.

 

As regards item 6, the earthquake so great is to overturn every mountain and remove every island would naturally cause the alarming tumult and roaring of the sea and billows.

 

It is difficult to conceive of so noticeable a correspondence not being intentionable, and intended to carry the mind to the same epoch. Surely as John witnessed and described this concatenation of portents, he could not but have connected them with the words which the Lord had uttered in his hearing.

 

Nor does there seem to be suggested in prophecy more than one occasion for so universal an overturning and dislocating of the heavens and this world as has now been reached in our Lordís prophecy, and as scarcely can be repeated. Never again shall Evil wield such power; no such intense persecution shall again afflict the godly. Wickedness has reached its height, and topples from the dizzy pinnacle to deepest perdition. No such juncture shall ever again arise. Now the times of Gentile governmental supremacy shall cease; earth rule shall revert to the Jew in Christ Jesus, and the authority in heaven also be transferred from angels to the Lamb and His co-sovereigns of human nature. (Heb. 2: 5-9; Dan. 7: 22, 27; Rev. 11: 15-18; 20: 4-6).

 

10. The Appearing of the Glory.

 

While heaven removes and earth reels under the terrific strokes of the Almighty, a still more terrifying sight bursts upon the godless, as appalled they are made to see, in a blaze of dazzling light, that throne high and glorious which is set in the heavens, with the awful Majesty Who sits thereupon, and the Lamb at His right hand; and then they behold the Lamb leave that station, as, with the suddenness and vividness of the tropical lightning flash, He descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with a trump of God. Thus the Parousia has commenced.

 

It has been suggested that in the narration of the sixth seal the Scripture of truth simply intimates that men merely supposed that the great day of the wrath had come, but that this was a mistake on their part! But for ourselves we do not understand the Apocalypse to be a revelation of the mistaken notions of men but of the purposed actings of God and the Lamb, and of the effects of the same upon men.

 

(1) The picture presented is of all man universally, suddenly, and unitedly becoming aware of the facts of the invisible world; of the throne above, of Him who sits upon it, and of the Lamb. How is this knowledge of things of which they have hitherto been ignorant thus instantly gained by the whole demon-blinded race of idolatrous earth-dwellers? Does each and everyone of them suddenly possess himself of a Bible, and instantly come to one true understanding of the sixth seal? The passage as good as states that they have seen the face of Him that sits upon the throne, for it is from that Face that they cry to be hid.

 

(2) Prophetic scripture definitely predicts this scene. Isaiah, speaking of this very occasion, when the Lord shall rise to shake terribly the earth, and when men shall flee to the caves and the rocks ; and he three times declares that they shall thus flee "from before the terror of Jehovah and the glory of His majesty" (Isa. 2: 10-22).

 

(3) Our Lord, as reported in each gospel (Matt. 24: 29, 30; Mk. 13: 24-26; Lk. 21: 27), establishes the same connection of events. "But immediately, after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, etc ... and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory".

 

The term "the sign of the Son of man" we take in the same sense as such a term as "the sign of the Golden Eagle", that is, "the sign which is the Golden Eagle". So here we understand, "then shall appear the sign which is the Son of man in heaven", even as it is immediately added, "they shall see the Son of man coming". So Jesus, on a later occasion, said, "Ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matt. 26: 64).

 

It is of moment that we observe that this last statement of the Lord asserts that men who were His enemies shall see two distinct facts concerning Himself; first, His position at the right hand of God, and then His descent thence upon the clouds of heaven. These positions are necessarily distinct, for the throne of God remains in the heavens, and the Lord leaves it to descend from heaven to the region of the earth : "the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven ... and ... we ... shall ... be caught up ... to meet the Lord in the air": and since at this advanced stage of affairs the hour when His foes shall see Him, the Lord is seen as still at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, it would seem evident that He had not earlier descended to the air, and that the Parousia does not commence prior to this time.

 

(4) Finally, the cry wrung from men at the sixth seal, and their actions, correspond precisely with the above quoted predictions of Isaiah and Christ. Their fear and their flight exactly suit the event, and without it have no proper explanation: they suddenly find themselves confronted by Him that sits on the throne, for they cry to be hid from His face, and they dread the wrath of the Lamb, for they immediately see Him "coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (Lk. 21: 27).

 

"Every eye shall then behold Him,

Robed in dreadful majesty;

Those who set at naught and sold Him,

Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,

Shall the true Messiah see."

 

As we have seen, Paul taught that the "blessed hope" of the Christian, for which he should be looking, is "the epiphany [outshining] of the glory of the great God our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit. 2: 13). Peter exhorted the elect thus : "set your hope perfectly upon the favour that is being brought unto you at the apocalypse [unveiling: the rendering visible what has been concealed] of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1: 13). We see not that either apostle ever suggested that the Hope is some secret event to take place at a time prior to the epiphany and apocalypse: and as regards the third great term, parousia, it is Christ Himself Who asserts, as we have seen, that it will be universally visible, by saying that "as the lightening ... is seen [phaino, the verb which is the root of epiphany] so shall be the Parousia of the Son of man". Thus is the Parousia, as to its commencement, shown to be one and the same event with the Epiphany and the Apocalypse.

 

11. Certainty, Uncertainty, Speed.

 

Whilst the appalling judgments of those times cast over the godless an ever deepening gloom and oppression, to the believer they will be cause of solemn joy: "When these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads ; because your redemption draweth nigh". As certainly as the softening and shooting forth of the trees indicates the nearness of the genial summer, so surely will the occurring of the events before considered declare that the kingdom of God is nigh, yea, that the Lord Himself is near, even at the doors.

 

"Now redemption, long expected.

See, in solemn pomp, appear;

All his saints, by man rejected,

Now shall meet Him in the air:

Hallelujah!

See the day of God appear."

 

Into the detail and the consequences of that redemption we do not now enter. Time and words would fail to depict the gladness and the glory of that hour. 1 Thessalonians 4 speaks of the glad reunion of loved ones whom death had parted, and this forever, and in the presence of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15 dilates upon the nature and grandeur of the resurrection body of the glorified, and Revelation 21 and 22 enlarge upon the eternal felicity and sovereignty of the Wife of the Lamb. But upon these sweet themes the Lord did not then enter, and we will leave them to observe the points which He saw good next to emphasize.

 

1. He declared the absolute certainty of the things He had mentioned: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24: 35; Mk. 13: 31; Lk. 21: 33). Therefore they who believe Him will be looking for these things, not for the realizing of the delusive imaginings of men concerning a world regenerated by human schemes and efforts.

 

2. But though the events are certain, the time is uncertain. The Lord declared that of that day and hour when He shall descend no man can know, for the times and seasons the Father has reserved within His own authority (Acts 1: 7). Observing of predicted signs is Scriptural: calculating epochs and years is dangerous. For example, in Gratton Guinessís well-known work* there was reserved a judiciously large margin of one hundred and sixty years within which the learned authorís epochs could conclude; but even so the mathematics went to show that 1934 A.D. was the last possible year within which the age must close. Therefore when 1933 A.D. had run its course, the calculations had then fixed the year 1934 as that when Christ must return. The event showed that the computations were incorrect!

 

[* "Light for the Last Days" ]

 

3. This also is certain, that the generation of men who see the commencement of the end times will witness the conclusion thereof: all the events of the consummation of the age will take place within the life of a generation : "This generation* [of which I speak ; not, in which I now live on earth] shall not pass away till all these things be accomplished".

 

[* He genea haute ; the generation itself. Cf. Ezek. 12: 25, 28]

 

This last statement has important bearing upon the book of the Revelation. We have noted that the correspondence between chapters 4 and 5 thereof and the seventh chapter of Daniel shows that the former refer to the theme of the latter, the judgment session held for the purpose of destroying the Beast and establishing on earth the kingdom of God. It results that the subsequent events predicted in the Revelation, down to ch. 20: 6, when the Millennial reign is introduced will be fulfilled within the life-time of men who see the events indicated in the first seal. This negatives the attempted application of chs. 20: 6, of the Apocalypse to any period extending beyond the lifetime of a singly generation, and it also determines that only the last generation of this age can be the one indicated. Hence, some, who on grounds of scholarship have at least a right to be heard, give the force of the middle clause of Rev. 1 thus: "things which in their entirety must come to pass with speed". For His electís sake, and because judgment is to Him a strange work in which He has no pleasure, God has determined that the dread era shall be brief; and so Paul, speaking of the very epoch in question, that of the rescuing of the remnant of Israel as foretold through Isaiah, declares the brevity of the period, saying, "the Lord will execute his word upon the earth, finishing it and cutting it short" (Rom. 9: 28).*

 

[* G. H. Pember, M.A., The Great Prophecies concerning the Church, 442,3. So Alford: "which, in their entirety, must soon come to pass".]

 

12. The Gathering Together unto Him.

 

The records of Matthew and Mark make plain that it is when the Son of man appears in heaven, when all the tribes of the earth see him coming upon the clouds with power and great glory and they mourn, that then "He shall send forth His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven".

 

That this concerns disciples of Christ, and is not applicable to pious Jews, seems capable of ready proof.

 

1. There is no foretold gathering of Israel at this hour. (a) There is prophesied a return to the land of a portion of the people prior to the reign of the Beast, for he is there to persecute them, as has been noted (6. supra). That these as a body will be in a state of unbelief as to the Lord Jesus is clear from the prophecies, and especially in Zechariah 12: 10; 13: 6. So David Barron writes: "It seems from Scripture that in relation to Israel and the land there will be a restoration, before the Second Advent of our Lord, of very much the same state of things as existed at the time of His First Advent". Thus no scriptures which speak of believers in Jesus at that time describe the Jews then to be in Palestine. The "remnant" of these doubtless will fear God and seek to keep the Law, but they do not accept Jesus as Messiah until they look upon Him. (b) There is to be a second gathering of Israel; for "it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, which shall remain, from Assyria, from Egypt; and from Pathmos, and from Cush, and from Elam, and Shinar, and from Hamath and from the Islands of the sea". But this is to be subsequent to the destruction of the Assyrian - the Beast - (Isa. 10: 24-34), and when the Holy One of Israel shall be dwelling in Jerusalem (12: 6). Thus neither of these gatherings takes place at the time in question. As the former is the first gathering to the land of which Scripture teaches and the other is to be after the Lord has established His throne at Jerusalem, this latter could scarcely be called the "second" gathering had there been between these two so very notable a gathering as is in question at the moment of the appearing. And further, the expression "from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other, from the uttermost part of earth to the uttermost part of heaven", plainly and strongly import universality the collecting of all the elect. If this were of Israel, what Jew would be left among the nations for that last gathering after His reign at Jerusalem has commenced?

 

2. The angels are not the agents for the gathering of Israel. It is plainly declared that the Gentile nations shall effect this. "And the peoples shall take them [Israel] and bring them to their place": "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand unto the nations, and set my ensign to the peoples, and they shall bring thy sons in their bosom, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders": "the time cometh that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come [that is to Jerusalem] and shall see My glory. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send such as escape of them [that is, from the judgments of that day] unto the nations ... that have not heard my fame, neither have seen My glory; and they shall declare My glory among the nations. And they [the nations] shall bring all your brethren out of all the nations for an offering unto the Lord" (Isa. 14: 2; 49: 22; 66: 19, 20).

 

3. At the moment of this gathering by angels the Lord is not yet on earth. He has come to the clouds, and it is thence that He sends forth the angels. Hence this is not a gathering to Jerusalem or the land.

 

4. It should be considered with care to whom the term "elect"* is applied in the New Testament. It is not to the purpose merely to recite that Israel as a nation is Godís chosen people, for we are not inquiring to whom Isaiah applied the term seven centuries B.C., but of whom it was used by the Lord and later by the Apostles. As has been before remarked, the Gospels were written long after the Church of God had been formed, and were issued for the Christian. It is therefore significant that the only recorded instance of the use of the term "elect" by Christ prior to His employing it on the day now in question is given by Luke. This is in the saying, "Shall not God do justice for His elect, who cry unto Him day and night, and He is longsuffering over them?" Will any be hardy enough to say that these elect are not Christians of today, but only Jewish people of the Tribulation day? Are we, who so obviously and so sorely need this priceless instruction upon prayer, to be robbed of the same? Peter, who heard this parable, writing long after, and to Christians, styles them "Godís elect", and says "your adversary the devil goeth about seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 1: 1, 2 ; 5: 8). Is Satan not the adversary of the Christian? This passage and the one in Luke give the only N.T. use of this term antidikos besides its employment by Christ in Matt. 5: 25, and Luke 12: 58, where is shown its force as meaning a party to a law-suit. The adversary of the parable was both devouring the widowís substance and opposing her in the court and thus Satan oppresses the saints in their circumstances and also accuses them in the court of heaven; and they must "cry day and night" unto God, the Judge of that court, because Satan "accuses them day and night" (Lk. 18: 7; Rev. 12: 10).

 

[* Note On Term Elect.

The term "elect" is applied to angels (1 Tim. 5: 21) and to Christ (Lk. 23: 35; 1 Pet. 2: 4, 6). "Election" is used of Godís purpose concerning Jacob (Rom 9: 11): the cognate verb "to chose" is used of Jehovahís choice of Israel as His earthly people (Ac. 13: 17), of guests selecting the chief seats (Lk. 14: 7) and of Mary choosing the good part (Lk. 10: 42). None of these places has any bearing upon the interpretation of Matt. 24: 31 and Mk. 13: 27; and in every other place in the new Testament the invariable application of these terms is to Christians. The parable of the marriage feast (Matt. 22: 1-14) was spoken the same day as the Olivet prophecy. The "chosen" (elect) from the highways, after the rejection of Israel (He "burned their city"), evidently are Gentiles. So that the term "elect", as uttered in the hearing of the four apostles only a few hours before the statement on Olivet. Nothing arises to suggest that Christ meant the term in another sense to his former use in Luke 18: 7, "shall not God do justice [for] His own elect", or for supposing that the Christians to whom the Gospels first came could think it to have any other than its then fixed application to themselves. Olivet pointed them away from Israel to Christians.]

 

The only use of the word "elect" prior to and on the day of the Olivet discourse being of Christians, surely Luke and Theophilus would have so understood it, seeing that this was the uniform usage of the Apostles. Both Peter, Paul, and John, so employ it. Even in Romans 11, where the election of the remnant of Israel is in question, that election is that in this age some of the race should lose their Jewish standing by being called by grace, to faith in Christ Jesus and so to membership in the Church. The contrast in this last argument (11: 7) between the Israelites who were elect, and become Christians, and the rest of the nation, shows that the term "election" there used is applied to the former only.

 

It is profitable to observe how closely the teaching of Paul concerning the gathering together of the saints corresponds to this foundation saying of the Lord. (1) Christ said that He himself would come - for whatever else the triple title (Son of man may involve, it emphasizes the thought of the Person who would come (Matt. 24: 27, 30, 31). Paul repeats this emphasis, saying that "the Lord Himself shall descend". (2) Christ directed attention to the heavens as the principal sphere of interest at that epoch: "the stars shall fall from heaven": "the powers of the heavens shall be shaken": "the sign of the Sin of man in heaven": Paul follows with the statement, "the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven". (3) Jesus spoke of "coming with the clouds": Paul says the saints will be "caught up in clouds, to meet the Lord in the air". (4) Christ said that angels will be the agents of the gathering: Paul speaks of an accompanying "voice of an archangel". (5) The Lord said that there would be a "great sound of a trumpet": Paul three times mentions this, speaking of "a trump of God", saying that "a trumpet shall sound", and mentioning that this will be the "last trump" (1 Thess. 4: 16, 17; 1 Cor. 15: 52).

 

Such correspondence in items and in words upon one theme can scarcely be less than designed by the Holy Spirit, if not a conscious and deliberate intention of Paul. A competent scholar has recorded his "deepening conviction of the dependence of St. Paul, both in thought and language, on some form of Gospel tradition of the words of the Lord." (J. O. F. Murray, D.D. Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges : Ephesians, pref. iv ; ed. 1914.). Such dependence is to be expected in one who enforced a farewell exhortation to the elders of a church with the precept, "Ye ought to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he Himself said ..." (Acts 20: 35). This passage is of great importance as evidence of the Apostolic attitude to the sayings of the Lord. Thirty years after Christís ascension the chiefest of the Apostles, and he the apostle to the Gentiles, is reminding Gentile disciples of the obligation to heed Christís words spoken during His earthly ministry; thus showing that the sayings of the Teacher and Lord were of abiding application. This is at the furthest remove from the theory which declares the Gospels to be "Jewish", and which in its extreme and logical development retains practically only Paulís prison epistles as of direct application to the Church of God. It is Paul himself who, by such a statement as in before us, repudiates this relegation of the words of the Lord Jesus to the background of Christian thought and life. Canon Bernard has finely said that, "the unity of the New Testament doctrine lies in this, that it is the teaching of one mind, the mind of Christ. The security for this is given to us in two ways: first by the fact that there is no part of the later and larger doctrine which has not its germs and principles in the words which He spake with his own lips in the days of his flesh. It is provided that all which is to be spoken after shall find support and proof from his own pregnant and forecasting sayings. Secondly, it is made clear by his own promises beforehand, by facts which evidence his own personal administration, and by the distinct assertions of the men whom he employed, that, when his own voice has ceased on earth, it is nevertheless he who teaches still." (The Progress of Doctrine. C. 1, 11, 3a.)

 

That the sayings of our Lord are the seed-thoughts of the doctrines afterwards amplified by His Spirit through the inspired writers of the epistles is a fact as worthy of fullest consideration as it is susceptible of ample illustration. Of this, the above agreement, in thoughts and expressions, between Christ and His Apostle as regards the circumstances of the Parousia is a good example. And the inference from this minute agreement is obvious, even that the event of which Paul spoke is the event to which the Lord had referred, the same in time and other details. There is no suggestion in either 1 Cor. 15 or 1 Thess. 4: 13-18, that the event there predicted must precede the rise of Antichrist; whereas the close correspondence now noted teaches that the descent of the Lord there intimated is the Parousia of which Himself spoke, and which He placed after the signs which are to follow the Tribulation. The only alternative is that the stupendous Event, in all these details, should occur twice!

 

But concerning Paulís statements in 1 Thess. 4, it is asserted as follows by those who maintain him to refer to a pre-tribulation event. "What the Apostle is about to write to them is a freshly given revelation": "The communication in 1 Thess. 4 is a fresh revelation entirely". Upon this basis it is urged that the passage is not to be interpreted in conjunction with our Lordís prophetic teachings, but independently thereof, since it deals with a matter, the translation of the Church, not before revealed, whereas Christ was speaking of Jewish affairs only.

 

This assertion being too wide becomes misleading. In the Apostleís words there is a truth which we do not know to have been before published. The evidence for this, however, is only negative: his own statement does not assert that it was only then first made known. This truth is that when the Parousia arrives it will affect the dead first, in order that the translation of the dead and the living to the presence of the Lord may take place at the same moment. This thought of the joint reunion of saints is that which met the sorrow the living were feeling as to the future of those who had died in Christ. But that there was to come a resurrection of the godly and worthy dead, which should usher then into the kingdom age, had long been revealed, as by Isaiah (26: 19), by the angel to Daniel (12: 1-3), and distinctly by our Lord in the words "they that are accounted worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead" (Luke 20: 35). Moreover, by adding the words, "neither can they die any more", Christ intimated that thus the raised would receive immortality and incorruptibility; and by the further statement "for they are equal unto the angels" He not obscurely foreshadowed their transference to the heavens, the angelic regions, since it were natural to expect that beings of the bodily nature and status of angels would reside in the angelic realm. Thus the details given in 1 Corinthians 15 are expanded from a statement by the Lord, and the words of verse 51 of that chapter, "Behold I tell you a secret", must not be pressed to mean that the truth to be mentioned had only then been revealed for the first time.

 

The Ephesian letter (3: 4, 5) shows the sense in which Paul himself thought and spoke upon this matter. He declares that "by revelation was made known unto me the mystery [secret] of the Christ; which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit". The truth of the union of Christ and the Body was kept secret from earlier generations of men. The contrast is between other ages and the apostolic age, not between Paul and other apostles and prophets. His own statement clearly repudiates this latter notion in relation to the knowledge of the "mystery of the Christ"; and this implicitly covers the knowledge of the rapture and the resurrection, for this is but the event which constitutes the final perfecting of the "mystery of the Christ".

 

Thus such a term as "Behold I tell you a secret" imports no more than that the truth was new to the apostolic era. That Paul received it by direct revelation is clear, for he says so; but not exclusively, for this also he says;and certainly it was not first given to him as he was writing to the Corinthians, for the letter to the Thessalonians deals with the theme and had been written five years earlier. Nor does the phrase in the latter epistle, "this we say unto you by the word of the Lord", properly go further. It does not assert that Paul alone knew the truth stated, nor that it had not been revealed before that time. It says simply that the truth had been communicated by the Lord, and carried all the certainty of a word from Him. How Paul learned it was not there indicated, nor when. Nor can it be inferred that he had not known or taught it to the Thessalonians when with them or else they would not have been without the comfort thereof; for at Corinth some were denying that any resurrection of the dead at all was to be expected, yet who would infer from this that in eighteen months ministry there Paul had not taught this expectation? For hearers obsessed and befogged for a lifetime by pagan philosophy and mythology this doctrine was nothing less than revolutionary, and that they had failed to grasp and retain such to them wholly new and tremendous conceptions is not in the least surprising, and it created the need for these teachings to be distinctly restated in the epistles. New to them the teaching was; new in itself at the hour that Paul wrote the Thessalonian letter it was not, and Paul does not say that it was, nor that it was peculiar to him among the Apostles. Did disciples converted through other preachers, in regions that Paul never touched, not need the blessed hope? Was this enlightening and comforting truth withheld from them because Paul never influenced them? and were they thus left with an incomplete gospel? To ask such questions is to answer them, and to show that not to Paul only were these essential truths committed. The writings of Peter, John, James and Jude show that they too taught concerning "the favour that is being brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1: 13), and the visible and glorious change which the sight of him as He is will effect in us (1 John 3: 1-3). Nor is there any more ground for the notion that they learned these things from Paul than that he learned them from them; indeed, Peterís remark "even as our beloved brother Paul ALSO, according to the wisdom given unto him, wrote unto you" (2 Pet. 3: 15) evidently implies that Paul was only one of the channels of communication of future things which agrees with Paulís statement that the mystery had been revealed to other apostles and Prophets. (Eph. 3; 5).

 

Moreover, not only as regards resurrection and rapture is this the case, but that there was to come a moment when, to quote the Thessalonian letter, "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with a trump of God", was no new revelation at that time. It had been stated by Christ in the manner before shown, as well as being implied in the words he had uttered shortly thereafter, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye also may be" (John 14: 2, 3): and the central fact, the return of the Person, and this under external circumstances similar to those of His departure, had been further emphasized by the declaration of the angels, made to the disciples at the moment of the Lordís ascension, that "this Jesus, Who was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1: 11).

 

When therefore it is said that the paragraph in the Thessalonian letter was a "freshly given revelation" we feel that the statement has no foundation in what the writer says; and upon the whole passage we conclude by remarking that the comfort of saints living in the first century in the thought of reunion with their departed did not in the least depend upon that reunion taking place before, and not after, an event - the reign of Antichrist - which time has shown to be no less than nineteen centuries distant from their day.

 

Thus our Lord carried forward our thoughts to the mighty moment of His apocalypse; thus do we see by what means "he that endureth unto the end" of those days shall be saved; thus do we learn of the perfecting and upgathering of His elect; "thus [by this event, not by any other means] always with the Lord we shall be" (1 Thess. 4: 17, and cp. John 14: 3) ; and thus it is that He Who, out of His unparalleled affection, "gave Himself for our sins", will reach the goal, as regards us, of that immeasurable sacrifice, and will "rescue us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father : to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Gal. 1: 4).

 

The solemn closing warning and exhortation by our Lord, recorded in Luke 21: 34-36, must receive separate treatment.

 

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