Questions of Interest as to Prophecy

J. N. Darby.

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I am still inquiring as to Antichrist, but I had not overlooked the difficulties. It has been taken for granted among those who expect a personal Antichrist, that he is the civil head of the Roman empire. This I question. Without doubting in the least that there will be such a blasphemous Gentile power, it seems to me that the Antichrist is another power, of which the Scriptures are even more full - the vessel of evil religious energy, rather than that of evil public government. At least, two such manifestations of power we find in Revelation 13, for the second is a beast, as well as the first. That is, there is a second temporal power coexistent with the public imperial power, which has the throne of Satan. The first beast had risen, like previous beasts, out of the sea (i.e., out of the tumultuous floating mass of population - the Gentile world). But the second beast came out of the earth; i.e., out of the formed arrangement of God's moral providence - the sphere where the dragon and the beast were worshipped, and all heavenly association was blasphemed. In form of power, this second beast was like the Lamb; but his speech was like the dragon, or great hostile power of Satan - a religious though blasphemous character of evil at work within the sphere where Satan rules. Such a relationship will be found to be Jewish. It is the religion of the earth, not of the dwellers in heaven, and is Jewish in character - a power in the earth ostensibly connected with divine things, falsely, and verified in the sight of men by the exhibition of judicial power as of God. Revelation 19 speaks of the second beast as the false prophet.

The Antichrist is not spoken of by name, save in the Epistles of John, where his character is religious, not secular - apostate and heretical activity against the Person and glory of Christ and the essential doctrines of Christianity. He denies the Father and the Son. He does not confess Jesus Christ come in flesh. He denies that Jesus is the Christ, which seems rather Jewish in its connection and evil, more than the denial of the revelation which constitutes Christianity. Antichrist, in a word, is characterised by religious energies of evil in connection with Christianity and Judaism.

228 In 2 Thessalonians 2 it is a wicked religious, and not a mere secular, power which is spoken of - its impious, then its seductive, character. Verse 4 is moral opposition and insult to God, rather than the object of deference, who was publicly on Satan's throne. It is the active personage, with Judas' title, who opposes all divine authority - the man of sin shewing himself as though he were God; the contrast of Christ, who was God, and yet was the man of obedience. His presence, too, is according to the energy of Satan; and as Christ in truth of righteousness to such as should be saved, so he in deceit of unrighteousness to such as should be lost.

In Daniel 11:36, etc., is the king, and he shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, etc. That is, we have the same qualities and acts; and yet he honours the God of forces, and honours and increases with glory a strange god. So that it would seem that the haughty rejection of the true God and self-exaltation is not inconsistent with being servant of a false one, really slave to the enemy - an old lesson learnt all through human nature, and never learnt. Self-exaltation is not supremacy. I apprehend, or am inclined to think, that this self-exaltation will be, specially in result, in Judea against God; but my difficulty just lies there, because in Daniel 7 the little horn seeks to change times and laws (i.e., I apprehend, the Jewish order) and this looks like the power of the Antichrist, while the little horn there is uncommonly like the first beast (i.e., its last head). The difficulty is in apportioning the parts where both work together. The process seems natural, painful to say. The apostasy is denying the Father and the Son and that Jesus is the Christ. This throws them on Judaism (which was always the mystery of iniquity in principle) and thus on Antichrist, who at last throws off all in self-exaltation, and makes them, during the last half-week, worship a strange God; and the tribulation takes place. It seems to me that the deepest troubles in the Psalms (I do not speak of the cross) come from a Jewish character, not an open enemy, but a companion or familiar friend - ungodliness and strife in the city. The self-exaltation is moral character, not public power, unless in his own sphere. This self-exaltation would be his own apostate setting up in Judea; but, finding it convenient for himself, and it being the work of Satan, he forces all to recognise the Roman emperor, which for the Jews is apostasy. It would be the old Josephus question, save that saints who flee or bow take the place of sicarii.* It is a kind of suzerainty. This false Christ in the east making head in the interest of the western emperor against all, and deceiving the Jews by Satanic power in the east, he wields all the power of the empire; he joins the recognition of the western emperor to the Satanic deception of the Jews, his own people probably. The little horn of Daniel 7 certainly seems the more general power, which, while local (like Bonaparte, a France), governs the whole beast.

{*Sicarii. - A band of Jews who refused to serve any authority or bow to any power save to God Himself, and accepted death rather than such submission - to the Roman power in their case - and even slew those who accepted servitude. Loyalty and devotion given in return for protection is the essence of suzerainty. [Ed.]}


As regards John 6, the Lord is, to me, evidently substituting a blessing in resurrection to any royal Jewish blessing. Owned the prophet, and refusing to be king carnally, He goes up alone on high, and the disciples are sent away alone, toiling on the sea (a Jewish remnant strictly), and arrive as soon as He rejoins them; but He is fed upon in humiliation and death in the interval, and hence to such the blessing comes in resurrection; he (i.e., the believer) will be raised up in the last day. Jesus will not bless him as come down here before giving him his portion where He is gone up in the power of everlasting life. The last day is in contrast with their present blessing under a king; it is never the day of the Lord, save in the vague sense that it embraces all the closing period, which is its true force. He does not come and set up the Jews, but the Father draws, and a man comes to Him; and the way He blesses him is in the power of eternal life, raising him up when the close of all this busy and rebellious scene arrives. That shall be his portion in that day - not Messianic security now.



After all the grave and wise speculations on "the last trump," I strongly suspect it is merely an allusion to military matters. Somewhere in Josephus' Wars, and perhaps in other books, we have the order of a breaking up of a Roman camp, and at the last trump they all break up and march forward. Now, I acknowledge that scripture interpretation is not to be borrowed from without; but I have seen only tortured linkings with other passages within. I am content to take the general idea of the last public call of God relating to the church, and leave it there; but what suggested the image, I suspect, was what I say; just as the Greek for "assembling shout" in 1 Thessalonians 4, beyond controversy, is a similar military term used to a similar purpose. Matthew 24:31 ("And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet"), I have not the smallest shadow of a doubt, applies to the assembling of the Jews (elect, as in Isaiah 65) after Christ is come.


As to Luke 21 it is much more historical, because it opens out, as revealing the Son of man, the period in which Israel is set aside and not counted in its history, or what concerns the Gentiles. Hence the Spirit records no enquiry of "the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age," but the general history in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem. Thus, from verse 9 to verse 19 inclusive we have the state of things from after the Lord's death until the encircling of Jerusalem by the Roman armies, and no mention made of the abomination of desolation, and verse 20 gives the reply to the question of verse 7, founded on verse 6. The statement accordingly says nothing of the tribulation such as never was; but that vengeance then comes on the people and city, that all may be accomplished. This still continues and will continue, Jerusalem being trodden down, till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, in the close of the Gentile dominion begun in Nebuchadnezzar.

Then the fact is revealed of the state of things at the close of the dominion of Gentile power - signs in sun, moon, and stars; on earth, distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring (the last expression shewing, I think, that the words are employed figuratively, though there may be possibly portents also); men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven (the sources of the earthly state of things) shall be shaken. And then shall they (not "ye," but they, these proud, rebellious Gentiles*) see the Son of man coming in a cloud.

{*In Matthew is given the full development of Jewish dispensation, and this so much so, that I could not apply any of the statements in Matthew 24 or the like, to Gentile circumstances; whereas Luke explicitly opens the door, and brings them into the scene, as may be seen in the close of chapter 21. Whence also, I believe, he introduces "all the trees," the fig-tree being the specific emblem of the Jewish corporate nationality.}

231 Such is the prophetical revelation which presents, it seems to me, little difficulty. The exhortation which follows may suggest more; at the same time, it offers some remarkable helps as to the use of expressions. For example, "this generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled" (v. 32) proves, necessarily, either that "generation" must be taken in an extended sense, as in Deuteronomy 32:5, 20, and as in other passages; or, that "all" could only apply to the establishment of the state of things at the setting aside judicially of the Jewish people, because we have the treading down of Jerusalem for a long continuous period revealed. Hence we have to seek the guidance of the Spirit for the application of the passage, there being an incipient accomplishment at the destruction or treading down of Jerusalem, its desolation, vengeance, etc., which subsists still, and a far fuller one at the close preceding the coming of the Son of man. Hence the Holy Ghost records here an expression which may apply to both: "Know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand." I do not doubt that this had a certain accomplishment in the absolute suppression of the Jewish order, but no fulfilment; and that the kingdom of God will be established by the coming of the Son of man after the signs of verses 25, 26. Note also that this passage precludes the possibility of the application of "the coming of the Son of man" to the destruction of Jerusalem, because we have already had the long treading down, consequent on the encompassing with armies. The full natural application of verses 28-31, then, is to the close when, these signs having taken place, the full deliverance of the Jewish faithful will take place. So verse 35 has a limited application to Judea or Palestine; but it is evident to me that there is the larger application of the coming of the day of the Lord on the whole earth. It is the day that is spoken of. Verse 36 seems to me also to refer absolutely to the character of a Jewish remnant (though in a still better sense it will be true of the church); but in its proper application it is the escape of judgments then, and standing before the Son of man when He takes the kingdom.

232 In Matthew 24 the Lord passes over all the times of the Gentiles unnoticed, and speaks only of Jerusalem, as though under judgment recognised of God, so far as to be the object of His thoughts and dealings. Verse 14 only takes the broad fact that the gospel of the kingdom should be preached to all nations (a thing not yet accomplished to the letter), and then the end should come. I judge then that while the whole reply will have an accomplishment at the close, there was sufficient in the early part to guide the saints between the Lord's ascension and the destruction of Jerusalem; but that its fulfilment will yet take place, to the end of verse 14 being general, and from verse 15 being absolutely and exclusively the last half-week of Jewish tribulation.

There is a point which I think has not been duly borne in mind; it is that the unfaithful servant will, for the judgment, pass over into the time of the Son of man's judgment, so that what is called the church may go on, in whatever apostasy of condition, into the state of things which takes place when the church of the faithful is gone. Laodicea is threatened with being vomited out of the Lord's mouth, but when it is vomited is not said, if it be taken for literal judgment. I am disposed to think Judaism will play an active part in connection with the apostate church, and that there will be an astonishing amalgam; though, besides that, the church form may continue until destroyed by the horns and the beast.