Prophetic Studies

W. W. Fereday.
"Oban," Spring Road, Letchworth, Herts.

Part 1.

The end of the Age.

It would probably be too much to assume that all who will read these pages, albeit they truly love our Lord Jesus Christ, are devout and careful students of the prophetic Word. Experience rather goes to prove that the vast majority neglect this department of divine truth. Some look upon it as of no real practical importance. In their eyes it is an interesting study for persons of leisure, but not really essential to the spiritual life of believers everywhere. All who hold this view are most grievously mistaken. Is it not a fact that if one went right through the Scriptures, scissors in hand, and were to cut out every passage prophetic in character that we should have a very small Bible left? Now if God has been pleased, in His infinite wisdom to put so much prophetic teaching in His Word, we may be assured that it is of importance for the spiritual life, and those who give it no place in their minds are, in consequence, the losers by their neglect.

Before we examine our present subject, a few suggestions may be helpful as to the advantage of prophetic study in general. First, it deepens and extends our communion with God. Take an illustration of what I mean. Suppose I had a friend who in all his intercourse with me is close and reserved.

He never opens his mind to me, and never tells me any of his plans. In such a case, how restrained we would be when together! How few topics of common interest we would be able to discuss! But suppose, on the other hand, I had a friend who really treats me as such, and finds pleasure in taking me into his confidence, discussing his affairs with me when we are together; how very real our friendship would be then, and how interested we should be in what is passing in one another's mind. Now, in which of these two ways does God treat His saints? Is He close and reserved, or is He frank and open toward us? Wonderful to say, in His blessed Word He lays open before us all His counsels of grace and glory, both for heaven and for earth; He tells us all that it is His purpose to bring about for His own pleasure and for the glory of His Son. Can we really say that we are not interested in such divine unfoldings? Has selfishness so completely taken hold of us that we only wish to concern ourselves with those things that directly affect our salvation? Far be the thought. Surely we are interested in everything that has to do with God's Christ! And all God's counsels centre in Him.

Another thing. Prophetic study gives us intelligence for walk and testimony. Peter calls the prophetic Word "a lamp that shines in a dark place" (2 Peter 1:19). The "dark place" is this world, which, despite all its boasted progress, grows darker every hour. As we learn how to use the lamp, we discover how we ought to direct our ways. How many children of God get involved in the world's schemes for lack of this! Ever since the days of Cain, men have been endeavouring to make their little world to their liking. With amazing ingenuity and perseverance men have laboured, yet at this late date men are more discontented with their world than ever. Sometimes they appeal for help and sympathy to the children of God. "Surely," they say, "you wish to leave the world better than you found it?" Thus they seek our assistance in their schemes of world-betterment. Now, the spiritually instructed Christian knows full well that God is not working upon any such line at all. All men's schemes are doomed to disappointment and failure because God is left out of them, and God's Christ is not the centre of men's thoughts. Our present business is to get souls out of the world by means of the Gospel before the great crash comes. If we keep to our own proper work we shall have little leisure for anything else, for the need is very great.

Our present subject is,

The End of the Age.

It is distinctly unfortunate that both in Matt. 13 and Matt. 24 the Authorized Version uses the expression "the end of the world." "The end of the world" and "the end of the age" are by no means one and the same thing. "The end of the world" is the absolute wind-up of things as we now know them. At that epoch, time will pass into eternity. But "the end of the age" is simply the wind-up of a certain order of things, with a view to some other order taking its place in the wisdom of God. The statement may seem bold to some, but it may quite safely be affirmed that the end of the world is at least a thousand and seven years distant. Before the history of the world, as we know it, is wound up, the Man of God's choice must reign in Zion a thousand years, and the man of the Devil's choice must reign there seven years before Christ's appearing. But none dare say that the end of the age is far off. Indeed, all that is taking place around us to-day is suggestive that it is very near. Great changes are impending. Even men of the world feel that it is so. This thought should solemnize our hearts, and cause us to look well to our ways.

But what are we to understand by "the end of the age?" Are we to understand the end of the Christian era? By no means. When the Lord Jesus spoke as He did in Matt. 13 the Christian era had not even been hinted at. The disciples to whom the Lord spoke were a handful of believing Jews who were looking forward with intense desire to the establishment of the promised earthly kingdom. When they asked the Lord in Matt. 24 concerning His coming and the end of the age, it was not the Christian era of which they were enquiring. Those Jewish disciples, with the Old Testament in their hands, were familiar with

Two Ages or Dispensations,

the one to follow the other; first, the age of Moses, or the law; and second, the age of the Messiah or the kingdom. Thus they were really asking the Lord about the end of the Mosaic age.

Let us endeavour to realize the circumstances in which the disciples found themselves at that moment. They had just listened to the Lord's lamentation over unbelieving Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37-39). His words were very plain. He was going away; but there would be another coming when Israel will joyfully exclaim, "Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord." Presently, as they walked away from the temple, they drew the Lord's attention to the beauty of the structure. He replied, "See ye not all these things? verily, I say to you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.'' Then four of His disciples asked Him, "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the age?" (Matt. 24:1-3). They thus connected His coming with the wind-up of the age. Remember to whom they were speaking. These disciples were not like Baruch, seeking light from Jeremiah. They were in conversation, not with a mere prophet, but with their God! Oh, the grace of it! No "thus says Jehovah" ever passed His lips; He is Himself Jehovah!

The Lord's reply to the disciples should be read very carefully, and the difference should be noted between the reports of it as given by Matthew and Luke respectively. There were really two questions; the one relating to the destruction of the temple, and the other relating to the Lord's coming and the end of the age. Luke was led by the Spirit to record more particularly the Lord's reply to the first question, and Matthew was led to concentrate upon His reply to the second. Accordingly, Luke speaks of the impending overthrow of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans; while Matthew speaks of afflictions which are yet to come.

But we have not yet made clear the force of the expression "the end of the age." That it is not the end of the Christian era must surely be plain to every careful reader. It is the end of the Mosaic, or "law-age." Are we then living in the Mosaic age? By no means. Here is the key to the situation. The age of Moses has suffered an interruption, due to Israel's rejection of Christ, and Christianity has come in as a kind of parenthesis. Daniel ix. puts this beyond dispute. In that chapter we have Gabriel's message to the prophet in answer to his intercession. Daniel longed to know more about the future of his people, and he was told that seventy sevens were determined upon them ere their sorrow would be ended for ever. That period, he was informed, would commence with the going forth of a commandment to restore and build Jerusalem. The commandment in question will be found in Neh. 2 and was issued in 455 B.C. The seventy sevens are divided into seven, sixty-two, and one. Sixty-nine sevens, four hundred and eighty-three years in all, bring us down to Messiah the Prince. Then we have His cutting off, with an indefinite period following, ere the final seven begins. This is where Christianity comes in. We are living between the last two verses of Dan. 9. Once it is understood that the Christian era, or Church period, is an interruption of the Mosaic age, everything becomes plain. When the Church is complete, the Lord will descend into the air, and take His heavenly saints away. Then that which remains of the Mosaic age will run its course, and will be brought to an abrupt close by the appearing of the Lord from heaven.

At this point, a few words may be in season concerning a matter that is of the deepest interest to every Christian reader.

Where shall we be when the great King comes forth to reign in righteousness?

Matthew 13:43 answers this question. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." We all know where the sun is. The Creator has placed it in the heavens to give light and warmth to the earth, but it never comes down here. In like manner, when Christ shines forth as the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings, we shall shine forth with Him. The heavenly saints will come out into public view of the earth (remember the matchless symbol of the holy city Jerusalem in Rev. 21), but will not come down to the earth. His feet will stand upon the Mount of Olives, but Scripture never says ours will do so. The blessing of God will flow through the Church to Israel's tribes, and they will diffuse it to all the nations. "The glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" (Isa. 40:5).

Let us now glance at some of the happenings of our own time, which are suggestive that the age is nearing its end. No one will deny that things are moving rapidly to-day, but only God's saints understand whither they are tending. Let it be clearly stated, however, that

Prophecy is Not Yet Being Fulfilled.

This cannot be until, God's present work of grace is finished, but it may safely be said that the ground is fast being cleared for its fulfilment. Here are a few suggestions as to what will be witnessed at the end of the age.

First, we may expect to see a partial political

Restoration of Jews to Palestine;

not of the people of Israel, but of the Jews., Isaiah 18 — a most interesting chapter — speaks of an effort to be made by a maritime nation to restore the scattered and peeled people. But God is not in the movement. He considers it in heaven His dwelling-place, because everything that is connected with Zion and Abraham's seed is of the deepest possible interest to Him. The failure of the enterprise is graphically shown in the figure of a vine (the usual Bible symbol representing Israel), which looks promising up to a point, but which has a disastrous ending, the whole thing being cut down to the roots. In yet plainer language, Jehovah says of the returned Jews, "They shall be left together to the fowls of the mountains and to the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them." This means they will fall a prey to the Powers around them. At one time, when enquirers asked for a suggestion as to what nation is referred to in Isaiah 18 no positive reply could be given. But it is otherwise now. Palestine is no longer under the yoke of the Turk, but is held by Great Britain under a mandate from the League of Nations. When the British took possession of the land in 1918, the Foreign Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) announced, in his famous letter to Lord Rothschild, that the British government viewed with favour the project of making Palestine a national home for the Jews. When we read that letter, surely we all felt that the end had been brought sensibly nearer.

But let it be carefully noted that the proposed re-establishment of the Jews in the land is not the restoration of Israel's twelve tribes. That great event is a work of divine grace, with which the meddling hand of man will have nothing to do, and it awaits the appearing in power and majesty of the Son of Man.

Another thing we may expect to see at the end of the age is a great movement towards

Church Re-Union;

and this is very much in men's minds to-day. Throughout Christendom it is regarded as an object worth striving for.

If we could see an ardent longing on the part of God's true saints everywhere to draw together, it would be cause for deep rejoicing, for surely such a movement must be the work of the Spirit of God: but this is not what religious leaders are occupied with. Their aim is to federate the great ecclesiastical bodies. How much overlapping would thus be avoided! How much more influential would "the Church" be if only her breaches could be healed! Such are some of the arguments that are heard on every hand to-day.

Revelation 17 comes to mind here. There we have a vision of a gaily-decked woman riding upon a scarlet-coloured beast. Her name is emblazoned on her forehead, "Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of the harlots and the abominations of the earth." The Beast is the Roman Empire in its final form — a confederacy of ten kingdoms under one powerful head. The Harlot is the re-united Christendom of which men are now dreaming — Popery, and all that will be associated with it at the last. She will become so influential that for a season she will guide the affairs of the Empire, but this will only be tolerated until the Beast finds itself in a position to throw off the incubus. Then the earth will behold dis-establishment with a vengeance indeed!

We may also expect to see at the end of the age a serious development of the

Revolutionary Spirit Amongst the Masses.

Our Lord has described it thus: "There shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken" (Luke 21:25, 26). "The sea and the waves" mean the peoples. We read in Isaiah 57:20, "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." How true is this! A glance at the newspaper is sufficient to prove it. "Mire and dirt" fill its pages. "The sun, moon and stars" mean the rulers of the nations. When the Lamb breaks the sixth seal, chaos ensues, and all classes, high and low, rulers and ruled, are filled with terror. But before a single seal is broken the heavenly saints will be removed to the courts above. We are seen enthroned in Rev. 4 of the Apocalypse, we are singing the new song that will never grow old in Rev. 5, but the Lamb does not commence to break the seals until we reach Rev. 6. Then every form of government is overthrown, with a perfect welter resulting. Men are preparing for this now. They are refusing to be ruled. Government, in the proper sense of the word, scarcely exists to-day. The men who hold office for the time being are the mere executors of the people's self-will, and their seats shake as they sit in them.

Another thing we may expect to see at the end of the age is

The Revival of the Roman Empire.

A wonderful thing, truly! When was it ever known for a fallen Empire to revive again? As we look back over the world's history, we see Empires rising up, running their course, and then sinking into ruin. That is the end of their power. But the Roman Empire, after fifteen centuries, is to come up once more! Rev. 13:1 shows it to us as a Beast arising out of the sea, which means that the troubled condition of the nations will be the circumstances that will give it re-birth. In Rev. 17:8 it is said to ascend out of the bottomless pit. The import of this is that Satan's hand is at work, bringing up the old evil thing for his own malignant purposes at the end. The present Dictator in Italy openly states that he wishes to see the Empire restored! How little he realizes that his dream is destined to be fulfilled!

Just one thing more. We may expect to see at the end of the age several

Great Combinations of Powers.

How futile is men's scheme, however well meant, for a universal League of Nations! Scripture speaks of at least five Leagues, not one! First, there is the Latin League already referred to. It will include all those nations — Britain, Spain, France, etc. — that were governed by Rome long ago. For mutual advantage, driven doubtless by force of circumstances, they will draw together again, under the headship of "the Superman," whom they frankly confess they sorely need.

Second, there is the Near Eastern League, consisting of Israel's ancient enemies, Edom, Ammon, Moab, etc., and it will be found in Psalm 83. These Powers will re-appear upon the political stage when Israel re-appears, and they will be characterized by the same murderous hostility towards Abraham's seed as marked them of old. When the fig-tree puts forth its leaves, "all the trees" (the surrounding peoples) "will put forth theirs also" (Luke 21:29, 30).

The third League is the Northern, headed by the powerful chief of whom Isaiah and Micah say so much under the title of "the Assyrian." Daniel's book speaks of him as "the King of the North" (Dan. 11:40). Now the Latin League (the Roman Empire) is friendly to the Jews, and will guarantee their independence after having re-established them in the land. This will bring the Northern and Latin Leagues into conflict, for the former is as determined to destroy the Jews as the latter is to protect them. This terrific clash of nations is the Armageddon of Revelation 16.

The fourth League is the Eastern. In Revelation 9:14 we read of four angels bound at the great river Euphrates. These are doubtless messengers of evil, whose activities are divinely restrained until it suits God in His wisdom to permit them to operate. John saw forthwith two hundred million of horsemen in motion. Revelation 16:12 speaks of the Euphrates being dried up, that the way of the Kings of the East may be prepared. The "Yellow Peril" has been a good deal upon men's minds in recent years; God will yet allow it to materialise as divine chastisement for the long-favoured, but guilty, West.

Let it be noted that the antagonism of the Near Eastern and Northern Leagues is against the Jewish people; the antagonism of the Eastern League is against Europe in general. But God's land is the battle-ground, with consequences so appalling that Scripture speaks of "blood . . even to the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs" (Rev. 14:20). All the birds that fly in the midst of heaven are invited by an angel to the most ghastly feast of the ages: "Come and gather yourselves together to the great supper of God: that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great" (Rev. 19:17, 18),

There remains the League indicated in Ezekiel 38, 39. Here, unquestionably, we have Russia, and her many allies in the last crisis. The Revisers were quite right in rendering Ezek. 38:2, and Ezek. 39:1, "Prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal." The passage was so rendered in the Greek Septuagint three centuries before the birth of our Lord. Russia is meant, with a clear allusion to her European and Asiatic capitals, Moscow and Tobolsk. It is not a little significant that in recent years Peter the Great's beautiful city on the Neva has been abandoned as the seat of government, which has reverted to Moscow. The invasion of "Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal" is Israel's last trouble ere the Millennial kingdom is established in blessing. This invasion, although from the same direction, differs from that of the King of the North (Dan. 11:41) in that (1) all the tribes are in the land when it takes place, and (2) in that Jehovah does not permit it to have the smallest success. The King of the North overflows 'the glorious land,' and then goes down into Egypt, crushing and despoiling that country also. Gog and his hosts, on the contrary, are divinely overthrown in the Northern mountains of Israel. The earlier invasion is Jehovah's scourge upon the people for their acceptance of the Antichrist (Isa. 28:14-21), and Jehovah in consequence calls the host of the desolator "His army" (Joel 2:11), the later invasion has no such character — it is wanton aggression by an envious foe after the whole twelve tribes have been restored to happy relationship with God.

Although in these pages the latter day combinations of Powers have been shown in their distinctness, it is not at all unlikely that the Northern and Eastern Leagues may act in collusion in their hostility to the Western Empire and the Jews.

Thus the present age is destined to have a terrible close. Man's scheme for a condition of universal peace cannot be realized, because the Prince of Peace is unwanted. Caesar was the world's choice on that great and solemn day that can never be forgotten, and Caesar men must have, with all that stands connected with that martial name. Creation's offended God keeps silent at present, but the moment rapidly approaches when He will speak — not in terms of grace, but of judgment unsparing. "He will arise to shake terribly the earth" (Isa. 2:19, 21). "The mighty God, even Jehovah, has spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God bath shined. Our God shall come and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him" (Ps. 50:1-3). Thus wrote Asaph three thousand years ago, voicing prophetically the feelings of Israel's pious remnant in the unparalleled disorders of the last days.

But beyond all the ruin that men's evil will bring about, there lies the unspeakable blessing of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. The day is not far distant when God will put the iron sceptre into His competent hands. "I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" (Ps. 2:8, 9). "He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet" (1 Cor. 15:25). Seeing that the end of the age is manifestly drawing near, the home-going of the Christian company cannot be much longer delayed. The bright Morning Star will be seen by watchful eyes before the shining forth of the Sun of Righteousness (Rev. 22:16; Mal. 4:2). The Lord make both reader and writer ready in heart and mind to cry, "Come, Lord Jesus."

Prophetic Studies 2

The Four World-Powers.

The Book of Daniel holds an important and unique place amongst the prophetical books of the Old Testament. The prophets in general, especially the greater ones, occupied themselves with the evils of their own times; thence looking forward to Messiah's kingdom, when all the wrong things will be put right, and the gracious purposes of God be accomplished. But of the long intervening period they say practically nothing. The book of Daniel fills up this gap. Its subject is, "The times of the Gentiles," an expression used by the Lord Jesus in Luke 21:24 to denote the period of Gentile supremacy in the earth. Daniel had no direct message for his people concerning their moral state, nor was it given to him to unfold the glories and blessings of the coming kingdom. His theme is Gentile dominion in the earth during Israel's rejection, and its overthrow at the appearing of the Son of Man. Having brought us to this point, the verge of the Millennial kingdom, Daniel's prophecy abruptly closes.

It was God's original purpose to govern and bless the earth by means of the people of Israel and the house of David. Their gross unfaithfulness has delayed for the present the realization of this. It is impossible for God to uphold and sanction wickedness; hence the overthrow of David's throne, and the expulsion of both houses of Israel from His land. Meanwhile, God has committed supreme power in the earth into Gentile hands. It is a remarkable fact that while God was still bearing with Israel and the house of David no other power was permitted to attain to universal supremacy, though both the ancient monarchies of Egypt and Assyria earnestly strove together for it.

Daniel 7 gives us three visions that were granted to the prophet in a single night, with the angel's interpretation in part. The prophet dreamed that he was standing on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, the waters of which were being agitated by the four winds of heaven. "Four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another." The sea represents the nations (Rev. 13:1; 17:15) in a state of disturbance. The four beasts are the great Gentile Empires which have held supreme power successively since the overturning of Jehovah's earthly throne in Jerusalem. (For this grand title given to David's throne see 1 Chron. 29:23). It may be asked, Why should these Powers be represented as wild beasts? By this God would show us their moral character as it appears in His sight. The beast lives by force, and for the gratification of its lusts, without any sense of responsibility towards God. Even so the Gentile Powers have been characterized by greed of conquest, and lust of power and glory. God has not been in all their thoughts. It is not a little remarkable that the Powers have (perhaps unconscious that they were fulfilling God's Word) voluntarily accepted the wild beast character. Is it not a fact that many have adopted either wild beasts or birds of prey as their national symbols? Witness, the lion of England and the eagle of the United States, etc.

In chapter 2, in the vision granted to Nebuchadnezzar, these Empires are viewed in an altogether different way. The king saw, not four wild beasts, but a great image composed of four metals. The image shows us Gentile dominion as one complete whole, with its successive deteriorations in character of rule; beginning with autocracy in Nebuchadnezzar, and ending with a mixture of democracy and monarchical government in the fourth Empire. The reiteration of the number four is to be noted. Four powers, and no more, are to be divinely allowed world-supremacy. Let all other aspirants beware!

It is sometimes said that the visions of the book of Daniel cannot be understood without a considerable knowledge of the facts of ancient history. This is not true. If it were so, a large number of God's saints would have to remain in the dark as to the meaning of these things, whereas God has written His Word, not only for the learned, but for the simple also. I hope to be able to show, as we proceed with our subject, that God has Himself explained the visions of this book (and especially those of our chapter) in other parts of the inspired Word.

Babylon.

The first of the Mediterranean beasts was like a lion, having eagle's wings. Here we have Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian Empire. As we read in Dan. 2:37: "Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven has given thee the kingdom," etc. Before Nebuchadnezzar's armies both Egypt and Assyria fell, and the supreme place in the earth fell to him. Compare, for the symbols of lion and eagle, (Jer. 4:7; 49:19, 22; Ezek. 17:3). Next, Babylon's humiliation is shown. "I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand upon two feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it." God had foreseen that Nebuchadnezzar and his family would be no more faithful in the place of power than the house of David, and so foretold in Jer. 27:7 that Babylon's dominion should end with Nebuchadnezzar's son's son. This was Belshazzar, who was upon the throne when these visions were granted. Think of the king of beasts being made to stand upon its hind legs! How aptly this expresses humiliation! And in the man's heart given to it we see it stripped of its warlike courage. An early English king was called "the Lionhearted," because of his exceptional prowess in war; the opposite of this — a lion with a man's heart — is suggestive of power departed.

Medo-Persia.

The second beast was like a bear. We need have no difficulty here. In Dan. 5:28 we learn that it was the Medes and Persians who overthrew the Babylonian Empire. We are told that the bear raised up itself on one side. This detail is interesting as showing the exceeding accuracy of the Spirit of God. Its meaning is given to us in Dan. 8:3, where the same power appears under the symbol of a two-horned ram, "but one horn was higher than the other, and the higher came up last." This is God's way of noting the fact that the Persian element predominated in the dual second Empire, though it was by no means the most ancient.

Greece.

The third beast was like a leopard, having on its back four wings of a fowl. We need not go outside the book of Daniel for the interpretation of this. Dan. 8:21 lets us know that it was the Grecian Power that destroyed the Medo-Persian Empire. The leopard is naturally rapid in its movements; the addition of wings in the vision speaks of extraordinary rapidity. The fact will be familiar to most that when Alexander led his forces against Persia in order to avenge Xerxes' invasion of Greece (Dan. 11:2), he conquered almost the whole known world in about twelve years. But for the foolish self-security of the last Persian monarch (Darius Codomannus) the Greek expedition could never have been successful. Historians have sometimes asked why the Persian fleet, which was very powerful, was not sent to the Hellespont to prevent Alexander from crossing over into Asia.* Believers in Scripture need not wonder; God's time had come for the haughty Empire of the Medes and Persians to fall.

{*Josephus states that as the Greek army approached Jerusalem, the Jewish high-priest, Jaddua, with a procession of priests, met him, and besought Alexander not to sack the city. Alexander is said to have replied that he had seen such a person in a vision in Macedonia inviting him to attack the Persian Empire, promising him divine aid. Whereupon he was shown Daniel's prophecies concerning himself, which impressed him much.}

Daniel tells us also that the leopard had four heads. These, as Dan. 8:8-22; 11:4, tell us, are the four military leaders, not of Alexander's posterity, who divided his dominions amongst themselves after his death. Their names were Seleucus, Ptolemy, Cassander, and Lysimachus.

Rome.

The fourth beast occupies by far the largest place in our chapter. God has much to tell us concerning its doings. The prophet does not name it; he was unable to do so, for he had never seen its like. What Empire is represented here? Scripture again comes to our aid; not the Old Testament in this instance, but the New. What Power was supreme in the earth when the Lord Jesus was born? The opening verses of Luke 2, 3, show that it was the Roman Empire; Babylon, Persia, and Greece all having fallen from their high place. Daniel tells us that "it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it." In various respects the Roman beast differed from its predecessors; one particular point comes to my mind now. While Babylon, Persia and Greece rose to eminence under the leadership of great kings (Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, and Alexander respectively), Rome became a great world-power, while still a Republic. And even when imperial rule was accepted, the forms of republican Government were still maintained.

The last clause of verse 7 demands careful attention — "it had ten horns." We are told in verse 24 that these are ten kings, which raises an important question. When was anything of this kind seen in the Roman Empire of the past? For a long period it had but one head; then for a considerable while there were three or four associated rulers; but anything like what we have before us here has never yet been seen. What, then, are we to understand from the statements of our chapter? just this, that the history of the Roman Empire is not finished; for no word of God can fall to the ground. Between the two last clauses of verse 7 there is, therefore, a chasm of many hundreds of years, not at all an unusual thing to find in the prophetic Word. John in Patmos saw the same beast reappearing upon the stage of the future. In Rev. 13:1, it is said to rise up out of the sea, and in Rev. 17:8, it ascends out of the abyss. Together these passages show us that it will reappear as the result of a disturbed condition of things amongst the nations, and also that the power of Hell will be at work in connexion with it.

While Daniel considered the horns, there came up another, a little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots." This eleventh horn is Satan's agent for the bringing together of the dismembered parts of the ancient Empire of Rome. He will begin by subjugating three of the European kingdoms, then seven others will be induced, either by craft or by force, to join together with these in a general confederacy. Each kingdom will retain its own sovereign (Rev. 17:12), but all will own the supreme leadership of the little horn. It will be much the same condition of things as that which obtained in the German Empire before the great war.

Here, then, we have Satan's king of kings and lord of lords. So completely will the horn wield the whole power of the beast that henceforward in the prophecy "the beast" and "the horn" become practically synonymous terms (see Dan. 7:11; Rev. 13:1-8; 17:7-17; 19:19, 20; 20:10).

The little horn had eyes like the eyes of a man. This speaks of foresight and intelligence. He has great schemes in his mind which he is determined to carry into effect. The horn had also a mouth speaking great things; pride and boastfulness characterize him. Where Satan's tool of a century ago — Napoleon I. — failed, this personage will succeed, though his success will be of short duration.

It is important to distinguish between the little horn of Dan. 7 and the little horn of Dan. 8. The one arises in the West, out of the fourth Empire; the other arises in the East, out of one of the four divisions of the third Empire. This last is the king of the North, of whose doings we read so much in Dan. 11.

Three things are told us in Dan. 7:25 concerning the last Roman head. First, he will be blasphemous and infidel — "he will speak great words against the Most High." Second, he will be a persecutor — "he shall wear out the saints of the high places." These are the Jewish saints of the last days. They are called by this name because they (in contrast with the horn) own heaven as the true source of government, and look there for deliverance from their cruel foe (Isa. 64:1-3). Third, the horn "thinks to change times and laws; and they shall be given into his hand until a time, and times, and half a time." These are the Jewish religious festivals and institutions, which he will be permitted to trample under foot during three and a half years. Anything that bears even a semblance of testimony for God he will not tolerate. This verse shows us why so much space is devoted to the fourth beast in this prophecy. It is because this Empire, more than any of the others, comes into collision with God's people and afterwards with Christ Himself. This is necessarily of great moment with God. In the Roman dominion of the last days will be developed all that man in possession of power is capable of doing against God and His people; and in this dominion Gentile supremacy will come to its end, as we shall presently see.

Following the appearance of the beasts, the prophet beheld a sessional judgment — where, it is not stated; in heaven, in all probability. "I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit." Not one throne, but many; for the glorified saints are to have part in this judgment. "Cast down," or "placed," as in the R.V., both mean the same thing really, the allusion being to the Eastern custom of throwing down cushions for the judges to sit upon. We must distinguish between the throne of the Ancient of Days here, and the great white throne of Rev. 20, at which the ungodly dead must stand. It must not be confounded either with the throne of Christ's glory (Matt. 25:31) before which the living nations must appear, nor with the Judgment Seat of Christ of 2 Cor. 5:10. This judgment is set, and the books are opened to inquire into the conduct of the Gentile Empires in their use of the power divinely granted to them, and especially are the doings of the little horn looked into by the great Judge of all. "I beheld till the beast (the little horn and the beast being morally one) was slain and his body destroyed, and he was given to be burned with fire" (R.V.). Rev. 19:20 explains this fully. Being taken in open hostility to the Lord Jesus at His appearing, the Roman chief and his confederate, the Antichrist, will both be cast alive into the lake of fire. No death, no resurrection, no manifestation before the great white throne, as in the case of other guilty ones, but summary judgment at least a thousand years before the last great judgment throne is set up. Truly, "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31).

Parenthetically we are told that while the rest of the beasts had their dominion taken away, their lives were prolonged for a season and time (v. 12). When Babylon lost its imperial place in the earth it did not cease to exist, but remained a flourishing city for centuries afterwards (Peter wrote his first epistle there, 1 Peter 5:13); and Persia and Greece remain before our eyes at this day, though shorn of their ancient power and glory. But when the revived fourth Empire meets its doom, it will be sudden and final; the Roman Empire will never be seen again (cp. Dan. 2:35).

The reflection is indeed a humiliating one that man is always unfaithful when put into any position of trust by God. Each dispensation tells its own sad tale of sin, failure, and broken responsibilities. The Jew cannot point the finger at the Gentile, nor the Gentile at the Jew; the failure is universal, general, and always. Let all our souls profit by the painful lesson.

But is there no one whom God can trust, and who will not fail? Blessed be His name, yes. Accordingly, Daniel "saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (vv. 13, 14). God, then, has One in store — the once-crucified Son of man — Who can be safely entrusted with supreme power in the earth, and Who will use it for His glory, and for the blessing of all His subjects. His kingdom will be heavenly in its character, in contrast with all the kingdoms that have gone before it, whose character has been earthly (v. 17). This is the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his vision, which brake in pieces the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold; and then became a great mountain, filling the whole earth (Dan. 2:34, 35).

The Son of man will not administer His kingdom alone; when He reigns, His saints will reign with Him, as verses 18, 22, tell us. These may be divided into three classes: (1) Those of the Old Testament dispensations, who would be specially intended in the book of Daniel; (2) Christ's body, the Church, the aggregate of the saved during the present period (Eph. 1:22); and (3) the two companies of latter-day saints named in Rev. 20:4. All these are to share with Christ the glories of His kingdom. "The people of the saints" (v. 22) must be distinguished from "the saints" themselves. The Jewish people are meant. For them is destined the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven"; but they are not said to reign; neither have they anything to do with the heavenly sphere of the kingdom.

The saints are to judge as well as reign (vv. 22-26). This is what the Apostle had in his mind when he rebuked the Corinthians for going to law with one another before the world. "Do ye not know," he indignantly exclaimed, "that the saints shall judge the world?... Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" (1 Cor. 6:1-3). This has reference only to the temporal judgments connected with the kingdom; when eternal issues are in question, we read of one "throne," not "thrones" (Contrast Rev. 20:4 and 11). But the position is nevertheless a wonderful one for us. Once we dreaded the judgment of God for ourselves, because of our many sins; now, all such dread has gone, and we look to sit upon the magisterial bench ourselves in the approaching day of earthly governmental glory.

The visions of the book of Daniel do not carry us beyond this point. For the many blessings of the kingdom we have to look elsewhere in the Word of God. Our prophet is taken up entirely with the supremacy and failure of the Gentiles, and their super-session at the end by the kingdom of the Son of man, who is withal the Ancient of Days (vv. 13, 22). In His day will be seen perfection of kingly rule. Earth's groan, prolonged for ages, will then be hushed. Peace and glory will fill the whole fair scene.

Prophecy in Picture.

No book of Holy Scripture has been more seriously assailed in recent years than the book of Daniel. Its antagonists have endeavoured to prove on the one hand that the man never existed, and on the other, that whoever wrote the book must have done so considerably later than the times of Nebuchadnezzar and his immediate successors because of the lucid description in chapter 11 of events that happened in the second century B.C. It is sometimes said that Daniel has suffered more in the critics' den than ever he suffered in the lions' den. The statement is scarcely correct. Neither Daniel nor his book have suffered at all at the hands of the critics. Enemies of the Holy Scriptures may be likened to a man who, with clenched fists, angrily assails a wall. The fists will suffer undoubtedly, but the wall will remain intact, in spite of all the man's rage.

The book of Daniel contains two visions that were granted to Nebuchadnezzar, one relating to his exaltation (2), and one to his downfall (4); three visions that were granted to Daniel himself (7, 10-12); one revelation that was given to the prophet in answer to his supplications (9); and four historical incidents (3, 4, 5, 6). For our present purpose we leave aside Dan. 1 as just an introduction to the book as a whole.

Let us glance briefly at the historical incidents. Has it occurred to our readers that they are as truly prophetic in their teaching as the visions of Dan. 2, etc., and the revelation of Dan. 9? The historical chapters of Isaiah (Isa. 36 — 39) are also remarkably prophetic in their bearing. The contents of the historical chapters of Daniel may be described thus: in Dan. 3 we have the Gentile head seeking to force idolatry upon his subjects: in Dan. 4 we have the supreme ruler changed into a wild beast; in Dan. 5 Belshazzar blasphemously defies God and is promptly destroyed; and in Dan. 6 Darius actually steps into the Creator's place by forbidding prayer to anyone but himself. Who, that knows anything of the prophetic word can fail to see in these doings dark foreshadowings of the future? The Spirit of God, who alone knows the end from the beginning, thus shows us in the first days of Gentile supremacy what will be enacted in the last days thereof.

Nebuchadnezzar.

It is not a little remarkable that soon after his vision of the great image, with its head of gold, arms of silver, etc., Nebuchadnezzar should have set up an image of gold in the plain of Dura, with the decree that all should fall down and worship it. Is it possible that in his hardness of heart the vision suggested to his mind this great sin? He probably felt that unity in religion would be more likely to weld together into one the diverse races under his sceptre than any other device. Is it not significant that the whole trend of things in our own time is in the direction of a common religion? Sir A. Conan Doyle, for example, claims that Spiritualism (he really means Spiritism) provides a platform upon which Jews, Christians, Mohammedans, and all others may meet in concord. It is certain that the last head of Gentile power will do exactly what the first Gentile head attempted. Rev. 13 shows this clearly. Woe to the godly in those days! The flames of persecution will blaze out then more fiercely than ever before. But He who cared for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego twenty-five centuries ago will know how to strengthen similar faithful witnesses in the last dread crisis.

Nebuchadnezzar's subsequent lunacy appears to have led to his conversion to God. It seems almost impossible that such a proclamation as that in Dan. iv. should have been published by him otherwise. No subjects of any Empire have even been addressed as the peoples under the rule of Babylon were addressed by their sovereign when his reason was restored to him. The particular form that his aberration took was this: — he imagined himself a beast, and for seven years he lived in the fields as such. We need not travel beyond Daniel's book to learn that Gentile rule is just bestial in the Divine sight. The same powers that were shown to Nebuchadnezzar as metals in Dan. 2 were shown to Daniel as wild beasts in Dan. 7. Rev. 13, 17, referring distinctly to the time of the end, confirm this. The last great united monarchy of Christendom is spoken of as a beast out of the sea, and out of the abyss. The symbol means that Gentile power, and especially in its last phase, is absolutely conscienceless and godless.

Belshazzar.

Belshazzar's feast carries us a long step further. In him we see open defiance of the Most High. "They brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was in Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them." This was wanton devilry. Filled with pride, the drunken king thus expressed his enmity to, and contempt of, the Creator. The challenge was speedily taken up, and the insolent foe found himself launched into a lost eternity. Belshazzar's wickedness will be repeated by the last head of Gentile power. Compare Rev. 13:6: "he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven." At that awful time Rom. 13:1 will cease to be true, for the supreme ruler will receive his throne and authority from the Dragon.

Darius.

Darius was personally a well-intentioned man, but he suffered himself to be ensnared by flatterers into a very serious position in relation to God. He signed a decree that whosoever should ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of himself, should be cast into the den of lions. This was stepping into God's own place. The last head of Gentile power will do this openly. MAN will be worshipped, and God will be formally and officially abjured! Awful climax of human iniquity!

The present age will thus end in appalling darkness and evil, with swift and overwhelming judgment from God. Man has been tried and proved in every way in amazing forbearance and goodness, and this is the final result. It is a truly humiliating thought for both reader and writer that flesh is hopelessly and incurably evil. None of us are one whit better than Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, or any other. If we discover within ourselves some delight in God, and a desire to do His will, God has put it there. "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

The prophetic word presents to our souls two things: — (1) that man in power is an utter failure, and (2) that Christ alone can be safely entrusted with the reins of government. Presently He will take up His purposed administration, and will "put down all rule and all authority and power" (1 Cor. 15:24). The issue of His stewardship will be an orderly universe for ever — "God all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).

Prophetic Studies 3

The Land and the People.

"Thy land, O Immanuel" — (Isa. 8:8).
"The most lovely inheritance of the nations" (Jer. 3:19, Darby).
"Thou gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever" — (2 Chron. 20:7).
"The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while" — (Isa. 63:18).

There is a land — one need scarcely name it — that has an interest and a charm for all who fear God that no other land can ever have. It is the centre of Bible history and of all God's ways in connection with the earth. There the Patriarchs trod their pilgrim path and enjoyed hallowed communion with God; there Jehovah wrought His wonders on behalf of Israel His chosen; there the Son of God was born, there He suffered and there He died. From that land He ascended up to where He was before (John 6:62) and to that land He will assuredly return when God's time comes for Him to claim His Kingly rights. His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives. (Zech. 14:4).

The land has various names in Holy Scripture. Palestine (Ex. 15:14) is derived from the fact that the Philistines for several centuries occupied a considerable strip of the coastland; Canaan, (Gen. 12:5-6) is more reminiscent of the inhabitants in general before the conquest; The Land of Israel (Matt. 2:20-21) connects itself very distinctly with the people of God's sovereign choice; while Immanuel's land (Isa. 8:8) stamps it as the peculiar possession of Him who is "God with us."

God's Own Description of the Land

is attractive. "The glorious land" (Dan. 11:16, 41); "the pleasant land" (Dan. 8:9); "the glory of all lands" (Ezek. 20:6, 15); "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Ex. 3:8); "a plentiful land" (Jer. 2:7); "a land which Jehovah thy God cares for: the eyes of Jehovah thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year, even to the end of the year" (Deut. 11:12). We need not marvel at the language, for when God chooses for His people, He always chooses the best.

God had His eye upon the land and He framed His purposes in connection with it before Israel became a nation at all. Thus Moses told them in Deut. 32:7-8; "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel." This means that at the time of the Babel scattering God caused the various peoples to drop down just where His ways would require them when Israel came into view. Thus the first map of the world was divinely settled with the land and people of Israel as God's centre. Ezek. 5:5 is interesting in this connection: "Thus says the Lord Jehovah; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her. "

The History of the Land

and the people need not be detailed here. All the world knows it. Israel has been God's object lesson to all. In Israel's twelve tribes have been exhibited in a very special way the principles of God's righteous government. More favoured than any in sovereign grace, they have suffered as no other people have suffered on account of their unfaithfulness and sin. "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish you for your iniquities." (Amos 3:2).

Jehovah has never ceased to love His people. In spite of their ingratitude and evil, He abides the same, "for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Rom. 11:29). "As touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sake" (Rom. 11:28), and Israel's tribes will yet have in full and everlasting possession, not merely the portion of territory which they occupied under the ancient kings, but the whole vast inheritance as originally promised to Abraham, extending from the Nile to the Euphrates (Gen. 15:18-21).

Centuries before Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the prophetic band in general gave utterance to their magnificent predictions of grace and glory yet to come, Jehovah expressed the thoughts of His heart in

Israel's Typical Institutions.

The Jubilee year, when every man who had lost his inheritance from any cause was re-established therein (the trumpet being blown on the Day of Atonement), is suggestive of Israel's ultimate return to the land in virtue of Christ's redemption (Lev. 25:8-10); the cities of refuge which sheltered the manslayer until a change in the high-priesthood suffer him to go home once more, pictures Israel's present remarkable position as divinely guarded (even though responsible for the death of Christ) until our Lord's present priesthood has served its purpose, with a gracious restoration at that epoch (Joshua 20:1-6); the twelve loaves on the table of shewbread upon which the light of the lamps fell during the darkness of the night are suggestive of Jehovah's remembrance of His people even in their darkest hours (Lev. 24:5-9); the ordinance of the scapegoat speaks of the dismissal of all Israel's transgressions when Christ comes out of the sanctuary where now He appears before the face of God for us (Lev. 16:20-22); while the seven feasts of Lev. 23 set forth most blessedly and with wonderful fulness all God's ways with His earthly people until the final blessing is consummated. The feast of Tabernacles is a delightful picture of Millennial peace and blessing.

Alas!

Israel Saw Nothing

of what is here set forth. "The children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished (i.e. they failed to see the end God had in view in connection with their typical ordinances), but their minds were blinded." So it was in Moses' day, so it is still, "for until this day remains the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart." But thank God, a change is coming. "When it (i.e. Israel's heart) shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away" (2 Cor. 3:13-16) "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when Jehovah brings back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad" (Ps. 14:7) "It shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is Jehovah; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation" (Isa. 25:9). This is the full and happy fulfilment of our Lord's words in Matt. 23:39. "Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that comes in the name of Jehovah." "This is the day which Jehovah has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps. 118:24).

Men would do well to

Let God Do His Own Work.

in His own time, and in His own way, Human meddling with God's purposes can only lead to disaster. Amongst the many movements of our own day, all solemnly suggestive that the end of the age is approaching, is the proposal of the British Government to re-establish the Jewish people in the land of their fathers. We repeat "the Jewish people", not the twelve tribes as such. Of the whereabouts of ten of the tribes nothing is known with certainty, Jehovah will bring them into view when the great trumpet is blown at the public appearing of the Son of man (Isa. 27:13; Matt. 24:31). Their restoration lies altogether outside men's political arrangements.

The Balfour Declaration

concerning Palestine, dated November 2nd, 1918, has become world-famous. The gifted statesman (since created an Earl) who wrote that letter to Lord Rothschild probably had no adequate perception of the significance thereof. It marked an epoch in the history, not of the Jews only, but of the world. Palestine has had many Gentile masters since the great dispersion consequent upon the murder of the Messiah, but it was reserved for the British to announce to the world that they propose to make the land a national home for the Jewish people.

Observant Christians will be under no misapprehension as to the true character of what has happened. In some quarters it is common to speak of "the liberation of the holy land," as if the overthrow of the Turkish power were the end of Israel's sorrows. This is by no means the case. Jerusalem is still "trodden down of the Gentiles," and "the times of the Gentiles" have not yet been fulfilled (Luke 21:24). The land has not been liberated; it has simply changed masters. Its present rulers are doubtless more equitable and merciful than those who ruled it before, but Israel's land is still in the grip of the stranger, and Israel's sons may only go there by the favour of the alien Power. The tragedy of the land is not at an end; if Scripture is to be believed, its worst sorrows are yet to come.

Many enthusiastic Bible readers exclaimed when they saw the Balfour declaration, "Surely prophecy is fulfilling fast." Similar words were frequently heard during the years of the great world-war. Here caution is needed. The Church is not yet complete. It is still in testimony upon the earth. Its translation to heaven has not yet taken place. This being so, it is scarcely correct to speak of prophecy being fulfilled. Prophecy has to do with the earth, and it finds its centre in the people of Israel. God's present dealings are not with Israel, but with the Church! Heavenly things, not earthly, are before the divine mind during this period. God's King is not yet sitting upon the throne in Zion. He is in heaven, and the Holy Spirit is here gathering out of the nations those who are to share His bliss on high. Not until the Church has been removed to the Father's house will prophecy begin to be fulfilled.

The Prophetic Clock Stopped

when the Messiah was refused, and its pendulum will not swing again until the present purpose of divine grace is completed.

But this much may reasonably be affirmed. The remarkable events which have been crowded into the Twentieth Century have helped to clear the ground for the doings of the last crisis — the world's final agony before the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the hands of the Man Christ Jesus. Things are manifestly getting ready for the tremendous happenings that will mark the close of "the times of the Gentiles."

The Balfour declaration, has brought us appreciably nearer to the fulfilment of Isaiah 18. In that most interesting chapter, written twenty-seven centuries ago, we read of a movement on the part of a maritime Power to restore the Jews to their land. It is probably well meant. The Power referred to is friendly to the long-scattered and peeled people, but the project has no hope of success. The resulting disaster is described, very graphically by the inspired prophet. The reason of the failure is most solemn; God is left out of the scheme! The Christ to whom "the glorious land" (and every other land) belongs is not taken into account! Worse still, the terrible circumstances which caused the people to be expelled from the land are completely ignored. It was not the mere "fortune of war" that caused the Jewish people to lose their possession; it was the act of God because they murdered His Son. When Messiah the Prince came to them at the time appointed (Dan. 9:25-26) they rejected Him, publicly announcing, that they had no King but Caesar (John 19:15). The Messiah was "cut off, and had nothing." Now, seeing that this is why the people have been fugitives and vagabonds in the earth during the past nineteen weary centuries; and seeing also that they are in no wise repentant of their awful sin, is it not a most serious matter that any Power should propose to reinstate them? Is it not interference with God's righteous discipline? Surely it is fighting against God! How then can the project prosper?

One British newspaper has described the exclusion of the Jews from Palestine as "the great wrong of the ages." Has the writer never heard of an infinitely greater wrong? Men may forget, but God never can, that "when the husbandmen saw the Son, they said among themselves, This is the heir, come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him" (Matt. 21:38-39).

The reader will understand

Isaiah 18

better if he reads the Revised Version along with the Authorised. Some of its renderings in this chapter (whatever they may be elsewhere) are helpful. The first verse is not a denunciation, but a call. "Ah, (or, Ho) to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia: that sends ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible (or, marvellous) from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!"

Two things may be observed here. First, the Power addressed is friendly. "Shadowing with wings" means that it is disposed to protect the feeble Jews. But how much happier it would be for the Jew if he could say, "Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me: for my soul trusts in Thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast" (Ps. 57:1). But alas! God is not in all their thoughts. The arm of flesh is more to their liking than the arm of Jehovah (Isa. 51:9). Second, the protecting Power is distant. "Beyond the rivers of Ethiopia" (i.e., beyond the Euphrates and the Nile), means outside the range of the nations with which God's earthly people had dealings in the past.

What Power is Meant?

The Roman Empire, unquestionably, of which Britain, the present holder of Palestine, will be a constituent part when the Empire is reestablished. This notable event seems near at hand. The Beast that John saw rising up out of the sea in Rev. 13:1 may be expected to show itself shortly. The desirability of the restoration of the Empire is already being discussed, and it is rapidly becoming practical politics. For the Empire, Palestine will be a convenient buffer State, standing between it and the threatening Powers of North and East, and for the Jews, the protection of the Empire will seem a vital necessity because of their dread of the same threatening adversaries. Alas! their scheme will only result in the nation so long trodden down, being trodden down yet again, and the land so long ravaged by the rivers (the peoples) being ravaged more ruinously than ever. For that unhappy country is destined to be the scene of the last and mightiest clash of nations. Armageddon is not placed in Europe, but in Palestine! (Read carefully Isaiah 28:14-18).

God is not in the restoration movement, but He is interested in it, for everything that concerns the seed of Abraham is deeply interesting to Him. Accordingly, He draws attention to what men are doing. He would have all the earth take notice of the fearful drama that is about to be played out in Israel's land. "All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifts up an ensign upon the mountains, and when he blows a trumpet, hear ye" (verse 3). Men are active, but God is not. His time has not yet come. "For so Jehovah said to me, I will be still, and I will behold in my dwelling-place like a clear heat in sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest" (verse 4). The imagery here is very striking. We think of a sultry day, when the sun shines as it were mercilessly, when not a leaf stirs, and all the portents suggest a gathering storm. So it will be with the Jewish people, restored in unbelief for political reasons by their would-be benefactors.

The Ruin of the Scheme

is most graphically described by the inspired prophet. "For afore the harvest, when the blossom is over, and the flower bears a ripening grape, he shall cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and the spreading branches shall he take away, and cut down" (verse 5). The idea is suggested of a beautiful vine that bids fair to yield abundance of luscious fruit to its owner, but, when everything looks at its best, disaster comes. Someone ruthlessly cuts the tree low, and all hope of fruit is gone. The vine is the symbol of Israel, as Ps. 80 and Isa. 5 teach us.

The following verse interprets the figurative language of verse 5. In plain language we are told of the calamity that will overwhelm the Jews when politically restored to their land. "They shall be left together to the ravenous birds of the mountains and to the beasts of the earth: and the ravenous birds shall summer upon them, and the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them." The birds are the servants of the Devil (Matt. 13:4-9), and the beasts are the Gentile Powers around them (Dan. 7). The apostate people being at that time worshippers of the Antichrist (accepted as their King in the land — Dan. 11:36; John 5:43), and being withal in league with the blasphemous, God-defying Roman Empire, they are given over by God to desolation. Their covenant with Hades (for so their treaty is divinely stigmatised) will avail them nothing; the overflowing scourge will pass through, destroying all before it (Ps. 28:15). Immanuel's land will, as it were, be flooded up to the neck (Isa. 8:7-8). "The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters" (Isa. 17:13). This is nothing else than the invasion of the Assyrian (or, King of the North), and his Northern and Eastern allies, which the Jews' Western patrons will be powerless to prevent, for it is the will of Jehovah that His deluded people shall drink to the dregs the results of their impious folly.

But God's hour will then arrive. Men's schemes having utterly failed, Jehovah of hosts will put forth His almighty hand. Accordingly, Isa. 18 closes with

The Final Blessing.

"In that time shall the present be brought to Jehovah of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible (or, marvellous) from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden underfoot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of Jehovah of Hosts, the mount Zion" (verse 7). To understand this verse aright, we must distinguish between the suffering remnant and the apostate mass. Of the latter, the demon-possessed swine of Mark v. are the appropriate symbol; of the former the delivered man sitting humbly and gratefully at the feet of Jesus is the suited expression. The pious remnant are hated and persecuted by their own evil brethren. Not only does the external foe give the dead bodies of God's servants to be meat to the fowls of heaven, and the flesh of His saints to the beasts of the earth, shedding their blood like water round about Jerusalem (Ps. 79:1-3); Ps. 50 speaks also of their afflictions at the hands of an "ungodly nation." "The deceitful and unjust man" is the Antichrist, and the "ungodly nation" are his worshippers. "Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt. 24:21).

The frightful disaster which overwhelms with ruin the apostate mass becomes the occasion of the final deliverance of those who sigh and cry over Israel's transgressions, and they become the nucleus of the new nation. To the delivered remnant in the land will be added the purged remnant of the ten tribes from other lands, and together they will form "a present to Jehovah of hosts" (Ezek. 20:33-44; Isa. 49:18-23).

But not only will they be themselves a present to Him; with adoring hearts they will bring Him a present, and praise will be vocal in Zion once more. "For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, says the Lord Jehovah, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things" (Ezek. 20:40). Psalm 107:1 exactly expresses what their hearts will feel. "O give thanks to Jehovah, for he is good: and his mercy endures for ever."

"It shall come to pass that he that is left in Zion, and he that remains in Jerusalem, shall be called holy" (Isa. 4:3). "They shall call upon my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, Jehovah is my God" (Zech. 13:9).

But however blessed will be Israel's portion when there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer who shall "turn a way ungodliness from Jacob" (Rom. 11:26), the portion of the Church as blessed in Christ in the heavenly places is immeasurably more wonderful. To be in union with the Man of God's appointment is unspeakably better than to be a beneficiary of His righteous government. And to this higher and better portion all are called who believe in His name while earth rejects Him. But whatever blessing God may have for men, whether it be above or below, all is founded upon the Saviour's atoning blood.

______

"Lord, thou hast been favourable to thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah.
"Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land." Ps. 85:1, 2, 9.
"Give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isa. 62: 7).

Prophetic Studies 4

The World's Last Notable Leaders.

The bait with which the deceiver allured the first man was "Ye shall be as God" (Gen. 3:5). Independence and self-importance have been natural to the human family since that fateful day. Not only has the Creator been dishonoured and insulted by these evil characteristics, but men themselves have been plunged into continuous sorrow by them. The history of the world has been a ceaseless struggle who should be the greatest. It has entered into every department of human affairs, political, commercial, social and religious. Torrents of blood and tears have been shed in consequence, and countless hearts have been broken. And the end has not yet been reached!

The antediluvian world was filled with violence as well as corruption (Gen. 6:11), although but few specific deeds are recorded. The first self-exalted man after the flood was Nimrod (Gen. 10:8-10). Beginning as a hunter of wild beasts, he developed into a tyrant over men. And so the centuries have rolled on in their monotonous course. Nimrods have never been lacking.

Peace! Peace!

is the insistent cry of the twentieth century. Why should not the peoples live side by side in peace and amity, trading with one another for mutual advantage, with all thought of conquest once and for ever abandoned? These are the questions that are being discussed to-day, not in Geneva only, but universally. Disappointing though the results have been so far, men are hoping that the advanced wisdom of the twentieth century will yet find a satisfactory solution of every problem.

Scripture gives no encouragement whatever to such hopes. While God's Christ is excluded from world-politics,

Peace is Impossible

for men. While the true Heir continues to be refused His rights (Matt. 21:38), "the potsherds of the earth" will continue to dispute as to who shall be the greatest, regardless of all consequences. "Man's clay" is destined to have a bloody end, and the end comes on apace. Mightier clashes of nations than earth has ever known must needs take place, ere the Son of Man whom God has made strong for Himself will intervene (Ps. 80:17), and establish once and for ever the supremacy of God. When He wields the iron sceptre, He will "put down all rule, and all authority and power" (1 Cor. 15:24). Note the Spirit's word "all." No form of government has yet been devised that meets the mind of God. Since the Babel scattering men have experimented with kingdoms, empires, republics, and dictatorships, but all have been found wanting. Men's true needs have not been met, and God has not been glorified.

Human affairs have grown to such gigantic proportions, and have become so highly centralized that there is a felt need for a Superman who can grip the helm with a firm hand. We frequently hear it remarked that the leaders of our time are very mediocre. Scripture speaks of more than one Superman as destined to appear in the last great crisis. They will raise their haughty heads in defiance of God, and with total disregard for the possible consequences of their ambition in suffering for the earth's millions. But at the moment that is known only to God. He will say "Give this Man place" (Luke 14:9), and the once-lowly Man of sorrows will appear in majesty and take His Kingdom, and the Devil's puppets will be put down, never to afflict the earth again. "Whosoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11).

It is interesting to observe the way in which

Dictators

have come to the front in our own time. Not in Italy only, but also in four other European countries, Parliamentary government has been set aside; and this with no pretension to the satisfying of personal ambition, but avowedly in the interests of law and order. In each case, the electorate have accepted the situation with equanimity, and appear to regard their self-appointed leaders as their saviours. Truly, "Coming events cast their shadows before."

Will the reader at this point carefully peruse Rev. 6:12-17? "And I beheld when he opened the sixth seal and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood, and the stars of heaven fell to the earth, even as a fig tree casts her untimely (unripe) figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains, and they say (R.V.) to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of him that sits upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come, and who is able to stand?" Pray do not literalize the transformation of sun and moon, and the falling of the stars. Not physical, but

Social and Political Convulsions

are meant, and that world-wide. The earliest chapter in the Bible tells us that sun, moon, and stars stand for rulers. Rev. 6:12-17 is the full development of that of which our Lord warned in Luke 21:25-26 — "there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." The troubled sea (the evil masses, as Isa. 57:20 shows) is destined to swamp every form of law and order. To borrow the picturesque words of a prominent British Statesman, "civilization will go over the precipice." All classes will be terrified at what they behold; and, in the presence of the great break-up, there will develop the general feeling that divine wrath has something to do with it, although, alas, there is no repentance.

But where is this terrible cataclysm placed in the history of the ways of God? Glance back a little in the book of Revelation. In Rev. 2, 3 we have the Lord's words to the Churches. In Rev. 4:1 John hears the call "Come up hither." Henceforward we read no more of Churches on earth, but we are shown immediately glorified men in heaven. Then in Rev. 5 the Lamb takes the seven-sealed book out of the hand of Him who sits upon the throne. In Rev. 6 He breaks the seals one by one, and it is when the sixth seal is broken that the frightful catastrophe takes place which fills men with such alarm. We thus learn that ere a single seal is broken, the heavenly saints will be removed to the glory on high. Men little realize the value to themselves of the presence of the Church on earth, indwelt as it is by the Holy Spirit. The judgments of the Apocalypse will be held back while the testimony of the Church is continued below.

Out of the

Universal Upheaval

will come forth various Dictators. Strong men will be needed and they will arise. The Devil will supply them. In the interests of law and order they will profess to act, and men will be glad of them, as France was glad of Bonaparte after the sanguinary experience of the first Revolution. The fact that men are tolerating Dictators in various lands to-day after long practice of Democratic principles is remarkably suggestive of the direction in which things are drifting. We are unquestionably nearing the end.

The Western Dictator

will be found in Rev. 13:1-9. Do not confound the Beast that arises out of the sea with the Beast that comes up out of the earth. The latter is a religious leader, the Man of sin, the Antichrist (of whom we will say more presently), and has his seat in Jerusalem; the former is the Roman Imperial chief, whose seat will be in Rome. Dan. 7:8, which speaks of him as a little horn which arises from amongst ten other horns, tells us that "he will pluck up three of the first horns by the roots;" verse 24 of the same chapter, in the interpretation, says explicitly "he shall subdue three kings." By this mighty feat he will prove his strength, and demonstrate his capacity for rule; seven other European kingdoms will then unite under his leadership, and thus the long-dismembered Latin Empire will be restored. The turbulence of the peoples, and the altered condition of affairs in general will make this an absolute necessity. John saw the same ten-horned Beast that Daniel beheld six centuries earlier, and was told, "the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet, but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power to the beast" (Rev. 17:12, 13). Whether these rulers are representatives of existing reigning families, or whether they are all upstarts who seize the reins of power while the welter of Rev. 6:12-17 is proceeding cannot be stated with certainty. But Parliamentary government will in that day be non-existent. The much-vaunted "vote" will be no more. Europe will, however, be delighted with its wonderful head, and will pronounce him both incomparable and invincible (Rev. 4). But in a very little while he will be to the people as the glaring sun, and he will "scorch men with fire" (Rev. 16:8-9). He is "the prince that shall come" of Dan. 9:26, the last head of the great Power that once destroyed Jerusalem and its sanctuary. Present-day doings in the Italian metropolis are exceedingly interesting in the light of these Scriptures.

The Religious Leader

may well be dealt with at this point, for he and the Roman head are partners in wickedness, and sharers of the same peculiarly fearful punishment. When the harlot Babylon — the professing Church in its final phase, is destroyed by the Beast and his satellite kings, the worship of MAN will take its place. This will have a concrete form in the person of the Man of sin, the son of perdition, who will take his seat in the restored temple in Jerusalem, and proclaim that he is God (2 Thess. 2). This is the climax of human evil. Beyond this it is impossible for man to go in his devilry. This prince of transgressors is variously spoken of in Holy Scripture. He is the Jewish King in Dan. 11:36; Isa. 30:33; 57:9; the Antichrist in 1 John 2:22; the Beast out of the earth in Rev. 13:11; and the man of the earth in Ps. 10:18. As the Antichrist he heads up both Jewish and Christian apostasy, for he denies that Jesus is the Christ, and he denies also the Father and the Son. As the prince of this world the Devil energises the Beast out of the sea, and as the god of this age he energises the Beast out of the earth. The tendency of our time is in the direction of a universal religion — a religion that every one can subscribe to. It has become possible under our very eyes for Moslems, Hindus, Theosophists, Buddhists, Jews, and Christians (?) to hold a joint religious service in a London Protestant place of worship. This kind of thing will be brought to perfection by the sinister figure who will poison the world from his centre in Jerusalem. As regards the Jewish people, the Lord Jesus warned them long ago — "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive" (John 5:43). As regards men in Christendom, the warning of 2 Thess. 2:9-12 is terribly solemn. The misleader will come "with all power and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe the lie, that they might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." Thus will both Judaism and Christendom be judicially given over to delusion and ruin.

It is the acceptance by the Jewish people of the Devil's counterfeit Christ, which brings down upon them

The Northern Dictator,

who desolates their land, destroys the temple (Ps. 74:1-7), and slaughters the faithful servants of Jehovah (Ps. 79:1-3). Not that he is conscious of being an instrument for chastisement. He no more understands this than the Assyrian of old, who was indeed the rod of Jehovah's anger (Isa. 10:5-7). It is his lust for power and conquest that sets his forces in motion, yet Jehovah is pleased to call them "His army" (Joel 2:11), and assigns as His reason for sanctioning the desolator "the over-spreading of abominations" (Dan. 9:27), i.e., the Jews' wicked acceptance of false gods.

"The Eastern Question" will be fairly to the fore at that terrible crisis, and Jehovah will settle it once and for ever. The opposing forces of the North-East and of the West will meet in Palestine under their respective chiefs, and all will be destroyed. The king of the North will be granted temporary success in order that the evil Jews may receive their chastisement. As "the overflowing scourge" (Isa. 28:15), he will sweep through the land, destroying all before him. Jerusalem will be taken (Zech. 14:1-2), and the conqueror will pass south into Egypt, the King of which land having dared to put in his claim to the country that the Northern King covets (Dan. 11:40-43). "The land of Egypt shall not escape." "He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt."

The King of the North is a more dangerous foe than some expositors of prophecy admit. His host is described as "a great people and strong; there has not ever been the like, neither shall there be any more like it" (Joel 2:2). He seems to be able to set in motion all the forces of both North and East. It is the Jews' dread of him that causes them to look to the Western Empire for protection, and "the scornful men" that rule in Jerusalem at that time will be satisfied with their covenant (Isa. 28:14). But the pious minority will find their instructions in such Scriptures as Isa. 8:11-22; 50:10, 11, and the Psalms in general. While others say "a confederacy" they are exhorted to "sanctify Jehovah of hosts himself," and to fear none but Him. Christ is God's tried foundation stone, and "he that believes shall not make haste" (Isa. 28:16). They cry to Jehovah, saying "Spare thy people, O Jehovah, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?" (Joel 2:17).

Deliverance is sure. The appearing of God's King ends all the sorrows of those who wait for Him. The Western forces are overthrown, and the birds of the heavens are summoned to feast upon their flesh (Rev. 19:11-19). The North-Eastern forces are driven eastward (Joel 2:20), and are destroyed in Edom (Isa. 34; 63:1-6). In the overthrow of these enemies, Israel plays some part. In Micah iv. 13 the daughter of Zion is called to arise and thresh, with the promise that Jehovah will make her horn iron, and her hoofs brass that she may beat in pieces many peoples. In Micah 5:6 we read that Israel shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword; thus will Jehovah deliver His people from the Assyrian "when he comes into our land, and when he treads within our borders." Zech. 8 tells us that Jehovah will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and "he that is feeble among them shall be as David." The second siege of Jerusalem, after the Northern King's return from Egypt, will be as miserable a failure as his first siege will be a conspicuous success (Isa. 29:7-8; Zech. 12:3-4). The unfaithful people of God having received the full measure of their punishment, the enemy is allowed no more to afflict them. Isa. 17:12-14 graphically describes the overwhelming disaster that will befall their desolators.

Even these tremendous happenings do not exhaust the pre-millennial judgments. In the far North yet another deadly foe is preparing for the last dread crisis. We refer to

Russia.

Two whole chapters of Ezekiel's prophecy (Ezek. 38, 39) are devoted to the last diabolical enterprise of Russia, led on by a distinguished chief. There is no doubt whatever that "Prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal" is the correct rendering of Jehovah's words. Here is an astounding fact. The prophet wrote several centuries before Ruric and his wandering Northmen laid the foundations of the Russian Empire, and yet he was given to write in detail of a military expedition that would not take place until at least two thousand five hundred years after his own time. But faith is not surprised at this, for we have to do with a God who "calls those things which be not as though they were" (Rom. 4:17).

Gog will have many allies. They are given to us in three groups in Ezek. 38:5-6, some Japhetic, some Shemitic. and some Hamitic. A very able hand will be required to draw them together into one compact mass. Greed is apparently the cause of this terrible coalition against restored Israel. The enemy says, "I will go up to the land of unwalled villages, I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls and having neither bars nor gates, to take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land."

But no success whatever is permitted to this last assailant. The fury of Jehovah comes up in His face, and the hosts of Gog are overthrown in the Northern mountains of Palestine. The terrible debacle, with the subsequent clearing up, is graphically described at considerable length by the prophet. Righteousness will lead delivered Israel to say, "So let thine enemies perish, O Jehovah: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goes forth in his might" (Judges 5:31).

The Beast and the False Prophet (the Roman Imperial head, and the Antichrist) will be sent from the battlefield to the lake of fire. No death and no resurrection will they ever know. At least a thousand years before the setting up of the great white throne they will thus be consigned to the dread Gehenna (Rev. 19:20). For their mighty antagonist, the King of the North (the Assyrian) a similar doom is predicted in Isa. 30:33. Of the Russian leader nothing definite appears to be stated in the Scriptures.

Balaam, in the fourth of his remarkable parables, saw in prophetic vision the last great clash of nations and their overthrow (Num. 24:17-24). Moses, in his prophetic song, concludes with all nations rejoicing when God's end is reached. "Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful to his land, and to his people" (Deut. 32:43). "Merciful" here means "to make expiation for"; thus a real day of Atonement is coming for both Israel and their possession.

When we contemplate the appalling disasters that will come upon men in connection with their chosen leaders, it is refreshing to turn our minds to the King who at present sits at God's right hand unknown and unappreciated here. In Him, and in Him alone, is found perfect competency for rule. No limitations need be imposed upon Him, such as men here have felt constrained to impose upon their rulers, and no counsellors will be required. Perfection of power and perfection of wisdom are suggested in "the seven horns and seven eyes" of Rev. 5:6. His hand will administrate firmly for God, hence the "rod of iron" of Ps. 9; Rev. 2:27. Every form of evil will be suppressed, every insolent tongue will be silenced, and every proud knee will be compelled to bow. God will at last have His way on earth, and all creation will be blessed. No wonder the sweet Psalmist of Israel said of the coming King, "He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds" (2 Sam. 23:4).

"Behold, the days come, says Jehovah, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, Jehovah our righteousness." (Jer. 23:5-6).

Prophetic Studies 5

The Great Tribulation

It has never been an easy thing to live and testify for God in a revolted world. The first man who did so was murdered by his own brother (Gen. 4). Heb. 11 gives us a dismal account of what faithful men had to endure in the ages that preceded the Christian era. "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goat-skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth" (Heb. 11:37, 38). The Psalms are full of the earnest appeals and pitiful cries of holy sufferers for God. "Help, Lord; for the godly man ceases; for the faithful fail from among the children of men" (Ps. 12:1). "Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! Many there be that rise up against me" (Ps. 3:1). The reason of this is not far to seek. Flesh hates God. It would dethrone Him if it could. But seeing that man is too puny to reach Him, he vents his spite on all who dare to confess Him here below.

The coming into the world of the Lord Jesus has accentuated this. His rejection has increased the difficulties of the path of faith enormously. To a Scribe who volunteered to follow Him whithersoever He went, He said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay His head" (Matt. 8:20). To the multitudes who followed Him after hearing the attractive parable of the great Supper, He addressed a deeply solemn warning in ample terms (Luke 14:25-35). He would have them understand that if they really wished to have to do with Him they must be prepared for self-sacrifice and loss. When two of His own disciples asked for right and left hand places in His Kingdom, He sought to divert their minds to a cup of agony to be drunk, and to a baptism of death to be endured (Matt. 20:20-23).

Whose Disciples are We?

We need to remind ourselves continually that we are the disciples of a murdered Lord. Ease and honour need not be expected at present; indeed, to accept such conditions in the scene of His rejection is the deepest unfaithfulness, as the Apostle told the Corinthians in his first epistle. While himself and others, in their loyalty to Christ; suffered hunger, thirst, and nakedness; while they were battered, and treated as the filth of the world, and as the off-scouring of all things, the Corinthian believers, in their carnality, were reigning as kings. So the Apostle sarcastically describes their worldly ease. (1 Cor. 4:8-9). Everywhere these faithful men went, they warned the saints "that through much tribulation, we must enter the kingdom of God," (Acts 14:22). And to the Thessalonians the apostle wrote very definitely, "When we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know," (1 Thess. 3:4).

All such tribulation has the character of privilege. It is viewed in Holy Scripture as an unspeakable honour to be afflicted for His sake. "Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Phil. 1:29). In the coming day the highest rewards await those who have endured these sufferings patiently and well.

But beyond all this, the Word of God speaks of

A Period of Unparalleled Tribulation

for the people of God just before the Kingdom of God is established in the earth. Whatever the horrors of the past, all will be eclipsed during that awful time. The character of the sufferings will also be different, for they will be retributive. They are divine inflictions upon men for the rejection of God's Christ. But who are the sufferers in that furnace of affliction? A question surely of the deepest importance. Are they the present Christian company, or are they instead another body of witnesses, yet to be created by the Spirit of God? The question cannot lightly be dismissed; the issues are too grave. The end is so manifestly approaching that the predicted great tribulation cannot be far distant. If the saints at present in the earth are destined to pass through it, let us distinctly understand it, and seek by grace to prepare ourselves for it; but if it be really so that the forces of evil will not be let fully loose until after our removal to the Father's house, let us enjoy the comfort of it.

The only possible way in which to settle the point is to examine carefully the various passages of Scripture which speak of the great tribulation.

We Begin with Matthew 24

If the bearing of this chapter, which with Matt. 25 gives us our Lord's Olivet prophecy, is understood, it will materially help to make other passages clear also.

Let us endeavour to place ourselves in thought where the disciples stood when they asked the Lord the questions of Matt. 24:3. They were not yet the Church; for the Church had no existence until Christ was glorified, and the Holy Spirit came down. It is true the Lord had already spoken of it in its "building" aspect (Matt. 16:18), but even so as something still future. The disciples when they stood with Him on Mount Olivet were just a handful of Jewish believers, who, in the very teeth of their nation, were convinced that the lowly Nazarene was the expected Messiah. The Lord addressed them in Matt. 23 as still part of the nation, and bade them do all that the Scribes and Pharisees taught them while avoiding their inconsistent ways. After listening to His words concerning the overwhelming disaster about to befall the temple, they inquired from the standpoint of their earthly Jewish hopes: "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?" (not "world"). The coming referred to is certainly not the descent into the air — "the blessed hope" — for not a syllable concerning it had yet passed His lips; the disciples had in mind the glorious appearing, of which prophets and psalmists wrote glowingly and abundantly long before their day.

The first question obviously relates to the destruction of the city and the sanctuary. Be it observed that Matthew passes over what the Lord said in reply thereto, while Luke (Luke 21) dwells principally upon that part of the great prophecy. Matthew (guided by the Spirit) gives us the reply to the second and third questions. The desolation of Jerusalem was but thirty years ahead when the Lord spoke; the end of the age was in the distant future: indeed, it has not come to pass yet.

The Olivet Prophecy

may be divided into three parts thus:
Matt. 24:3-44. The Lord's appearing in relation to the Jewish people.
Matt. 24:45 - 25:30. The appearing in relation to Christendom.
Matt. 25:31-46. The appearing in relation to the nations.

The Jewish part may be subdivided as follows: —
Matt. 24:3-14. The first half of the seventieth week.
Matt. 24:15-28. The second half of the seventieth week
Matt. 24:29-44. The appearing of the Son of Man and its tremendous consequences.

It is with the second of these sub-divisions that we are now concerned. In verse 15 the Lord speaks of a terrible sign to which all who hear His word in the last great crisis must pay careful attention. "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso reads, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judea flee to the mountains." Compare this with Luke 21:20 — "when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies" etc. Here we perceive the difference between these two accounts of the Lord's prophecy. Not a word about Jerusalem besieged in Matthew; not a word about the abomination of desolation in Luke. The latter speaks of that which was imminent; the former of that which will take place in the last days.

"Abomination" means an idol (1 Kings 11:5-7). It is called "the abomination of desolation" because the acceptance of it by the apostate Jewish mass brings upon them in divine retribution "the desolator" — i.e., the king of the North (Dan. 9:27; 11:40-45). Ezekiel was shown many abominations in the temple of old; the Lord in the passage before us speaks of something very specific. It is the image of the Beast (Rev. 13:11-18) which in defiance of the God of Israel, the last head of Western Gentile power, aided by his co-adjutor, the Antichrist, King in Jerusalem, will set up. Not exactly "in the holy place" (for the Lord does not appear to have used the definite article): not the inner shrine therefore, but "in a holy place," — somewhere within the sacred precincts. Rev. 11:1 shows that the temple of that day will be owned by God. It is interesting to observe how the Lord quietly assumes the rebuilding of the temple in the last days. He had just been speaking of the complete overthrow of the temple as soon to take place; now He speaks of profanity in the temple at the time of the end.

The Setting Up of the Image

is the signal for flight. But what persons are thus warned? Indisputably believers resident in Judea. This fact stamps a Jewish character upon the passage under consideration; the reference to the Sabbath in verse 20 confirms this. Here let us observe the tender thoughtfulness of our blessed Lord. He thinks of women with child, and others with babes at the breast compelled to make hasty flight! He thinks moreover of the possibility of the abomination being set up in the winter, and of saints compelled to flee without having opportunity to get their warm clothes! He thinks too of the dilemma in which pious men would find themselves if the dreaded sign appears on the Sabbath day! What an insight these details give us into His heart of love!

"Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." All the might of the Roman Empire, energised by the Dragon, will be put forth for the extermination of all who dare to make a stand for God. The ungodly mass in Judea will be in full sympathy with the persecutors. Hence the cry in Ps. 43:1: "Judge me (or, Do me justice), O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation (the Jews): O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man (the Antichrist)." Both Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 express the grief of those who have been driven across Jordan, and who can no longer worship in the sanctuary they love.

Everything is under divine control. The enemy can only act within divine limitations. The tribulation is definitely fixed for 1,260 days (Rev. 11:3), and the cruel oppressor is unable to make it one day longer. It is the second half of the last of the seventy prophetic weeks of Dan. 9, during which human wickedness, especially in its fearful claim that man is God, rises to its utmost height, to be quickly avenged by a long-patient Creator.

The great tribulation will probably end shortly before the Lord's appearing. Rev. 16:10 would suggest that some divine strokes fall upon the chief persecutors, filling them with anguish: Matt. 24:29 suggests convulsions of a more general character. But whatever relief these happenings may yield to the hunted saints, their full deliverance takes place when He for whom they yearn plants His feet on the Mount of Olives.

Meanwhile they must beware of false reports, set afoot by the deceiver for their destruction. If any say "Lo, here is the Christ, or there," they must not believe it. His appearing will be as public as the lightning. Everyone will be aware of it, friends and foes alike.

But how clearly we are on Jewish ground in Matt. 24! None but saints with earthly hopes could be led astray by such reports. Christians look, not for the return of the Lord to earth, but to be caught away from earth to meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4:16, 17). Our hope, our portion, our calling — everything connected with us is heavenly in character. It is otherwise with the godly Judean remnant. Earthly deliverance and earthly blessing are alone before their minds as their expectation from God.

Not many words need be said concerning the

Old Testament References

to the great tribulation. Their language is so precise that comment is almost superfluous. We take Jer. 30:4-9 first. "Alas! that day is great; so that none is like it." Impossible that there should be two periods of unparalleled trouble. Moreover, the issue of the trouble is final and complete deliverance for the people of God. "For it shall come to pass in that day, says Jehovah of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, I will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: but they shall serve Jehovah their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up to them." But who are the people before the mind of the prophet whose appalling sufferings will be followed by deliverance and blessing? Verse 4 gives the answer: "These are the words that Jehovah spake concerning Israel and concerning Jerusalem." Jer. 30 thus connects itself with Matt. 24.

The other Old Testament passage is Dan. 12:1. "At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book." What period are we to understand by the words "at that time"? Let the reader note carefully that Daniel's twelfth chapter is simply the continuation of an angelic message which commences in Dan. 10. Glancing back therefore, we find ourselves face to face, as it were, with Judah's last apostate king, i.e., the Antichrist (Dan. 11:36). His overthrow is not shown there, but rather the overthrow of his enemies. But immediately we read of the intervention of the archangel, the time having at last come for the deliverance of God's down-trodden people. But who are they? Note the words, twice repeated, "thy people." This can only mean Daniel's people — the nation of Israel. Connect this with Gabriel's words in Dan. 9:24 in answer to the prophet's intercession — "Thy people, and Thy holy city." Daniel could only understand by such language Israel and Jerusalem.

Thus the Church has no place whatever in the two Old Testament passages which speak of the coming great tribulation. It remains to add that the delivered ones are not the nation in the bulk, but simply "everyone that shall be found written in the book," i.e., the elect remnant (Rom. 9:27). Of these it is said in Isa. 4:3, "it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remains in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem."

We now return to the New Testament — to the closing book of Holy Scripture. In Rev. 7 we find

A Palm-Bearing Multitude

ascribing salvation to God and to the Lamb. They have passed through sore afflictions, and are now seen in the enjoyment of peace and rest. Who are these blessed ones?

In order to understand the vision, it is important to observe the place the chapter holds in the book of the Revelation. It is clearly a parenthesis between the Lamb's breaking of the sixth and seventh seals. The chapter is in two parts, and is intended to show what God is doing in the way of mercy while His judgments are abroad in the earth. In verses 2-8 we have 144,000 sealed Israelites, and in verses 9-17 an innumerable company of Gentiles. We thus learn that the Spirit of God will work amongst both Israelites and Gentiles at that time. These latter are expressly said to "come out of the great tribulation." This language incidentally proves that although the trouble will be at its fiercest in Palestine it will spread more or less over all the earth.

But note carefully that it is one of "the elders" who explains to John who these blessed ones are. We have already shown that the four and twenty elders represent the saved of all ages down to the moment of the Lord's descent into the air. They are all seen enthroned and crowned in chap. iv. before the Lamb takes the book out of the hand of Him who sits upon the throne, and before the judgments begin to fall upon the earth. Throughout the succeeding chapters of the book of Revelation the number is never increased. They continue four and twenty to the end. The palm-bearing multitude is thus a company wholly distinct. They are the fruit of the latter-day preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom. They will suffer severely during the great tribulation, but will get deliverance at the Lord's appearing. The elder's description of their blessings in verses 15-17 is really an anticipative Millennial picture. It is a lovely presentation of earthly bliss, peace, and worship, the language being partly borrowed from Isa. 49.

There remains to be considered

The Lord's Promise in Rev. 3:10

where, beyond all question, the Church is in view. We quote the passage in full: — "Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Here the Lord uses a more comprehensive term than we have met hitherto. "The great tribulation" is of 1,260 days duration; "the hour of temptation" (or trial) commences earlier — as soon as the Man of sin shows himself, and while as yet his true character is not fully revealed. His plausible words — "smoother than butter," and "softer than oil" (Ps. 55:21) will deceive the blinded multitude, but not God's elect. The testing time will not find them wanting, albeit the persecution has not yet broken out. But from the whole period the Lord says to the Church in Philadelphia, "I will keep thee." This can only mean removal from the scene. If the hour of temptation is indeed to "come upon all the world," it is clearly impossible to escape it except by removal to another scene altogether.

It will be a question with some, however, whether so blessed a promise relates to the whole Christian company or to a select faithful few. In reply, let it suffice to say that if the question of faithfulness is taken into account when the Lord descends into the air, then surely all will be left behind. Who of our readers has sufficient self-complacency to look for translation to the Father's house if merit is to be considered? If any saints are outside the promise to the overcomer in Rev. 10, why are they not also outside the promises in Rev. 2:7 and Rev. 2:11? Yet who would dare affirm that there are true believers who will not eat of the tree of life, and who will be hurt by the second death?

"The Word of My Patience"

is an expression to be noted. It refers to Christ's present attitude as He waits for His rights. The Apostle had this in mind in 2 Thess. 3:5, and the Patmos prisoner describes himself as our "brother and companion in tribulation, and in the Kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1:9). The patience that reigns in the heart of earth's rejected One now seated at God's right hand is reproduced by the Spirit in the hearts of His waiting ones below.

What prospects are ours! May our affections be deeply stirred as we look for the Bright Morning Star! May our hearts be so detached from things here, that we may be free to cry, "Come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20).

  Sealed with the Holy Ghost,
    We triumph in that love,
  Thy wondrous thought has made our boast,
    Glory with Christ above."