In the Light of Prophecy
In the Light of Prophecy
By W.A. SPICER
"Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Rom. 15:4.
SOUTHERN PUBLISHING ASSOCIATION NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE FORT WORTH, TEXAS ATLANTA, GEORGIA
Copyrighted, 1917, by REVIEW AND HERALD PUBLISHING ASSOCIATION
Copyrighted in London, England All Rights Reserved
THE BOOK THAT SPEAKS TO OUR DAY 13
THE WITNESS OF THE CENTURIES 25
PROPHETIC OUTLINE OF THE WORLD'S HISTORY 39
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST 51
SIGNS OF THE APPROACHING END 65
THE LISBON EARTHQUAKE OF 1755 79
THE DARK DAY OF 1780 85
THE FALLING STARS OF 1833 93
THE MEANING OF PRESENT-DAY CONDITIONS 105
THE HISTORIC PROPHECY OF DANIEL 7 117
THE 1260 YEARS OF DANIEL'S PROPHECY 131
DAWN OF A NEW ERA 139
THE WORK OF THE "LITTLE HORN" POWER 145
THE BIBLE SABBATH 159
GLIMPSES OF SABBATH KEEPING AFTER NEW TESTAMENT TIMES 173
THE LAW OF GOD 183
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH 191
THE PROPHECY OF DANIEL 8 205
THE CLEANSING OF THE SANCTUARY IN TYPE AND ANTITYPE 213
A GREAT PROPHETIC PERIOD 219
THE PROPHECY FULFILLED 229
A WORLD-WIDE MOVEMENT 239
THE JUDGMENT-HOUR MESSAGE 247
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL 257
SPIRITUALISM: ANCIENT AND MODERN 265
LIFE ONLY IN CHRIST 275
THE END OF THE WICKED 287
ANGELS: THEIR MINISTRY 295
THE TIME OF THE END 303
THE EASTERN QUESTION 321
THE MILLENNIUM 351
THE HOME OF THE SAVED 361
JESUS WEEPING OVER JERUSALEM Frontispiece
THE GOOD SHEPHERD 12
HEALING THE CENTURION'S SERVANT 16
CHRIST'S WEAPON OF DEFENSE—THE WORD OF GOD 19
ON THE WAY TO EMMAUS 24
THE GREAT IMAGE 38
BABYLON IN HER GLORY 40
THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL 42
THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST 50
CHRIST COMING IN GLORY 58
CHRIST ANSWERING HIS DISCIPLES' QUESTIONS 64
THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM BY THE ROMANS UNDER TITUS, A.D. 70 68
THE CATACOMBS NEAR ROME 72
LISBON FROM ACROSS THE BAY 78
MIDDAY AT SEA, MAY 19, 1780 84
THE GREAT METEORIC SHOWER, NOV. 13, 1833 92
THE SIGN OF FIRE 98
SATAN OFFERS GOLD, AND THE WORLD STAMPEDES TO ITS DESTRUCTION 104
A FAITHFUL AND WISE SERVANT 108
THE SUNSET HOUR 114
PHILIP AND THE EUNUCH 116
ROME ON THE TIBER 124
THE INVASION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE BY THE HUNS 128
RAISING THE SIEGE OF ROME, A.D. 538 130
STORMING OF THE BASTILLE PRISON IN PARIS 138
THE TRIPLE CROWN 144
THE LOVE OF POWER—THE POWER OF LOVE 146
CHRISTIANS IN PRISON BENEATH THE COLOSSEUM AWAITING MARTYRDOM 148
THE SHAME OF RELIGIOUS WARS 152
CHRIST AND THE SCRIBES 158
THE SABBATH FROM EDEN TO EDEN 168
CHRIST AND HIS DISCIPLES IN THE CORN-FIELDS 172
WALDENSES HUNTED BY THE ARMIES OF ROME 176
THE GIFT OF GOD 190
THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST 198
SYMBOLS OF MEDO-PERSIA AND GRECIA 204
THE CAMP OF ISRAEL IN THE WILDERNESS 210
OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST 212
ARTAXERXES SENDING THE JEWS TO REBUILD JERUSALEM, B.C. 457 218
REBUILDING JERUSALEM 224
THE ANOINTING OF JESUS AT HIS BAPTISM 228
THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST 232
THE THIRD ANGEL'S MESSAGE 238
A CHRISTIAN MOTHER EXHORTING HER DAUGHTER TO MARTYRDOM 246
LUCIFER PLOTTING AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD 256
THE REDEMPTION PRICE 260
SAUL AND THE WITCH OF ENDOR 264
THE SALEM WITCHCRAFT 270
"HE IS RISEN" 274
LOT FLEEING FROM SODOM 286
PETER DELIVERED FROM PRISON 294
JACOB'S DREAM IN BETHEL 298
MODERN INVENTIONS FULFILLING PROPHECY 302
THE HOE DOUBLE OCTUPLE PRESS 316
FORTIFICATIONS ON THE BOSPORUS 320
MODERN JERUSALEM 329
THE GREAT BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON 336
UNITED STATES BATTLESHIP "NEVADA" 340
MOSES VIEWING THE PROMISED LAND 360
THE SAINTS' ETERNAL HOME 366
THE MASTER AT THE DOOR 369
These are eventful times. With history-making changes passing rapidly before men's eyes, the questions press upon thoughtful minds in all lands, What do these things mean? What next in the program of world-shaping events?
Like a great searchlight shining across the centuries, the sure Word of Prophecy focuses its bright beams upon Our Day. In this light we see clearly the trend of events, and may understand what comes next in the program of history fulfilling prophecy.
In the Volume of the Book the living God speaks to Our Day of events of the past that have a lesson for the present, and of things to come. Divine prophecy fulfilled before men's eyes is God's challenge to unbelief. The Word of Holy Writ has been the guiding light through all the ages. It is the lamp to our feet today.
"Steadfast, serene, unmovable, the same, Year after year,... Burns on forevermore that quenchless flame; Shines on that inextinguishable light."
THE BOOK THAT SPEAKS TO OUR DAY
Man may write a true book, but only God, the source of life, can write a living book. "The word of God ... liveth and abideth forever." 1 Peter 1:23. The Bible is the living word of God. We look at the volume; we hold it in our hands. It is like other books in form and printer's art. But the voice of God speaks from these pages, and the word spoken is alive. It is able to do in the heart that receives it what can be done only by divine power.
The Book That Talks
Far in the heart of Africa a missionary read to the people in their own language from the translated Word of God. "See!" they cried; "see! the book talks! The white man has a book that talks!" With that simplicity of speech so common to children of nature, they had exactly described it. This is a book that talks. What the wise man says of its counsels through parents to children, is true of all the book: "When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee." Prov. 6:22.
Here is companionship, faithful and true, a blessed guide and guardian and friend.
"Holy Bible! book divine! Precious treasure, thou art mine!"
God Its Author
The sixty-six books of Holy Scripture were written by many penmen, over a space of fifteen centuries; yet it is one book, and one voice speaks through all its pages. Spurgeon once said of his experience with this book:
"When I see it, I seem to hear a voice springing up from it, saying, 'I am the book of God; man, read me. I am God's writing; open my leaf, for I was penned by God; read it, for He is my author.'"
This book declares of itself: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God." 2 Tim. 3:16. "The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2 Peter 1:21. As the rugged verse of the old hymn puts it:
"Let all the heathen writers join To form one perfect book: Great God, if once compared with Thine, How mean their writings look!
"Not the most perfect rules they gave Could show one sin forgiven, Nor lead a step beyond the grave; But Thine conducts to heaven."
It is the voice of the Almighty. Very different it is from the sacred books of the non-Christian religions. In those writings it is man speaking about God; in the Holy Scriptures it is God speaking to man. The difference is as great as heaven is higher than earth. Here it is not man groping in the darkness after God. In this book of God's revelation we see the divine arm reaching down to save the lost, and hear the voice of the loving Father calling to His children, every one and everywhere. "Incline your ear," He calls; "hear, and your soul shall live." Isa. 55:3.
The Word That Creates
We must have something more than instruction; we must have a word of power that is able to tell of sins forgiven, and to conduct us beyond the grave to heaven. One of the greatest of China's sages, Mencius, said, "Instruction can impart information, but not the power to execute." That touches the crucial point. We must have instruction that can come with power divine to execute. We have it only in God's words. Christ said: "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." John 6:63.
The words of God are living words. When God spoke in the beginning, "Let there be light," lo, the light sprang out of the darkness. There was power in the word spoken to bring forth. "Let the earth bring forth grass," was the word of the Lord: and the earth was carpeted with its first rich greensward. So through all the work of creation, the creative power was in the word spoken.
"By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth." "He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." Ps. 33:6, 9.
Even so, when this word speaks instruction to man, there is creative power in the word, if received, to work mightily in the soul that is dead in trespasses and sins. Man must be born again, be re-created. That we know; for Christ says, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again ["from above," margin], he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3.
And the word of God—the Bible from heaven—received by faith, is the agency by which this new birth "from above" is wrought. This is the declaration of our text: "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." 1 Peter 1:23.
The Word That Works Within
Not only does the word of God give the new birth, making the believer a new man,—the past forgiven and a new heart within,—but the word that re-creates abides in the believing heart that studies it and clings to it, to work in the life with actual power that is not of the man himself. To the Thessalonians, who had "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God," the apostle wrote:
"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." 1 Thess. 2:13.
The word itself works within, and works effectually. There is nothing mechanical about it. The mere letter profits nothing. The Bible on the center table, unstudied and unloved, has no magic power. But God promises to abide by His Spirit of power in the heart that listens to His voice and trembles at His word. Jesus Himself tells us the secret of this power of the word to work in the believing heart:
"If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." John 14:23.
No wonder, then, that believing and receiving the word brings divine power into the life, making it possible for transformations of character to be wrought, for victories to be won and obedience rendered to every command of God.
Simply believing God's word touches the current of everlasting power, even as the trolley arm of the electric car reaches up and touches the current of power flowing through the wire overhead. The faith that takes the living word brings the power divine into the heart to move all the spiritual mechanism of life's service.
The Word Our Safety and Defense
When Christ came to live as our example in the flesh, and to give His life a sacrifice for sin, He, the divine Son of God, made Himself like unto His brethren. "I can of Mine own self do nothing," He said. John 5:30. Tempted and tried, He found His defense in the Holy Scriptures. When Satan came to tempt Him to sin, the Saviour said, "It is written." He clung to the sure defense. Again the tempter came. He was met with the word, "It is written again." The third time it was the same weapon of defense, "It is written." Matt. 4:1-11.
Christ found safety only in the Scriptures of truth. So the Bible is the Christian's shield against the enemy's attacks. As Jesus studied the Scriptures and kept the words ever in His heart for a defense against temptation, so must every Christian study and meditate upon God's Holy Word if its counsels and precepts are to be his defense in the moment of sudden temptation to sin. "Thy word have I hid in mine heart," said the psalmist, "that I might not sin against Thee." Ps. 119:11. It was the only way for Christ, our Pattern; it is the only way for us.
The Bread of Life
The word of God is the daily food for the soul. "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Matt. 4:4.
Who has not, in hurried times, missed a meal, working on through the day, never thinking of the prolonged fast? But after a time there came a sense of weakening force, a lack of physical power. What was the trouble? At once the reason was evident—one had not taken food, and the system was calling for a renewal of its forces. Just so the spiritual life must needs be fed by the word of God.
Do we at times feel a sense of weakening of the spiritual power, a letting down of the vital forces of the soul? Ah, in the hurry of life we have neglected to feed upon the living bread. We can no more sustain spiritual vigor and health without feeding daily upon God's Holy Word than we can maintain physical power without eating our daily bread. Eat of the life-giving word. The taste for it grows with the partaking.
There is life in "every word." The psalmist found the Lord's testimonies "sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb," or, as the marginal reading has it, than "the dropping of honeycombs." Ps. 19:10. We get the picture of the honeycomb inverted, the cell caps broken open, the sweetness dripping down. Just so every word of the Lord is a cell full of sweetness and life for the soul that feasts upon the Holy Scriptures.
The Source of All Doctrine
The Bible is the complete and perfect rule of faith and doctrine. Here every doctrine of salvation is found. Inspiration has declared it in the words of the apostle Paul to Timothy:
"From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." 2 Tim. 3:15-17.
The divine command is, "Study." For every generation there has been a message borne by this living word, making call to reformation of life, or giving warning and comfort. "The Bible is not a collection of truths formulated in propositions," said Dr. Samuel Harris, of Yale, "but God's majestic march through history, redeeming men from sin."
In every age God has been ruling and overruling, witnessing by His Spirit through the living word. The experiences recorded of past ages have their special lesson for the present time:
"Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Rom. 15:4.
"Let vs therfore all with feruent desyre," as the Old English of 1549 spelled the exhortation of Erasmus, "thyrste after these spirituall sprynges.... Let vs kisse these swete wordes of Christ with a pure affeccion. Let vs be newe transformed into them, for soche are oure maners as oure studies be."
The Book for All Mankind
It speaks in every tongue to the human heart. Its power to transform has been shown through all the centuries in every clime and among every race. One of the Gospels was put into the Chiluba tongue of Central Africa. After a time a Garenganze chief came to Dan Crawford, the missionary, changed from the spirit of a fierce, wicked barbarian to that of a teachable child. Explaining his conversion, the chief said: "I was startled to find that Christ could speak Chiluba. I heard him speak to me out of the printed page, and what he said was, 'Follow me!'"
Of the Bible's universal speech to all mankind, Dr. Henry van Dyke has said:
"Born in the East, and clothed in Oriental form and imagery, the Bible walks the ways of all the world with familiar feet, and enters land after land to find its own everywhere. It has learned to speak in hundreds of languages to the heart of man. It comes into the palace to tell the monarch that he is the servant of the Most High, and into the cottage to assure the peasant that he is the son of God. Children listen to its stories with wonder and delight, and wise men ponder them as parables of life. It has a word of peace for the time of peril, a word of comfort for the day of calamity, a word of light for the hour of darkness. Its oracles are repeated in the assembly of the people, and its counsels whispered in the ear of the lonely. The wise and the proud tremble at its warnings, but to the wounded and penitent it has a mother's voice....
"Its great words grow richer, as pearls do when they are worn near the heart. No man is poor or desolate who has this treasure for his own. When the landscape darkens and the trembling pilgrim comes to the valley named the Shadow, he is not afraid to enter; he takes the rod and staff of Scripture in his hand; he says to friend and comrade, 'Good-by, we shall meet again,' and comforted by that support, he goes toward the lonely pass as one who climbs through darkness into light."—The Century Magazine.
In the days of His life on earth, Jesus was a welcome guest in humble homes in Judea and Galilee. "The common people heard Him gladly." His presence brought peace and comfort to the home. He is no longer with us in bodily presence; but He is the same Saviour still—"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever." Heb. 13:8. By His Spirit, through the living word of Holy Scripture, He enters the home where faith receives Him, and speaks again the gracious salutation, "Peace be to this house."
Christ the Central Theme
All the Bible bears witness of Christ as the Saviour of the world. He Himself said of the Scriptures, "They are they which testify of Me." John 5:39. "To Him give all the prophets witness." Acts 10:43. We see Him as the coming Messiah in promise and prophecy, in type and shadow. His is the divine, living personality standing out in every book that makes up the Sacred Volume. As we read with loving heart, the Author seems near in every page.
"Reading, methinks I bend Before the cross Where died my King, my Friend. The whole world's loss For love of Him is gain."
And having beheld Him giving His life as the divine sacrifice, and rising in triumph over death to be our great High Priest in the heavenly temple, as we read these Sacred Scriptures yet again, in every book, from Genesis to Revelation, we see Him as the coming King of kings, coming to take His children to the eternal home of the saved. The whole book is a bright window through which we gaze on coming glory.
"And yet again I stand Where the seer stood, Gazing across the strand, Beyond the flood: The gates of pearl afar, The streets of gold, The bright and morning Star Mine eyes behold."
"The Word of God ... liveth and abideth forever." 1 Peter 1:23. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away." Matt. 24:35.
THE WITNESS OF THE CENTURIES
The Sure Word of Prophecy
"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed." 2 Peter 1:19.
The prophetic scriptures afford infallible evidence that the voice of the living God speaks in Holy Writ. One of the distinguishing marks of divinity is the power that foretells and records the course of history long ages before the events come to pass.
God's challenge to false religious systems in olden time was this:
"Declare us things for to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods." Isa. 41:22, 23.
And all the gods of the nations were silent; for they are no gods. The Lord alone, the one who speaks by the Holy Scriptures, is able to tell the end from the beginning.
"I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand." Isa. 46:9, 10.
By this means God has borne witness of Himself through the ages, that it might be known that the Most High rules above all the kingdoms of men, and that men might recognize His purpose to put an end to sin and bring eternal salvation to His people. "I have spoken it," He declares, "I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it."
The fulfilment of the word of prophecy in history is a fascinating story. To the Lord, the future is an open book, even as the present. The word is spoken, telling of the event to come; it is written on the parchment scroll by the prophet's pen. Time passes; centuries come and go. Then, when the hour of the prophecy arrives, lo, there appears the fulfilment. And it is seen in matters pertaining to individuals, as well as in the affairs of cities and empires.
The Word Fulfilled after Long Waiting
In the dream divinely given to the lad Joseph, it was plainly foretold that his brothers would one day come as suppliants before him. His father rebuked him for telling the dream, saying, "Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?" Gen. 37:10. The brothers sold the lad into slavery, to be well rid of him. Yet twenty years later, all unconscious of his identity, these same brethren presented themselves before the prime minister of Egypt, and "fell before him on the ground." Gen. 44:14.
Again: the wicked stronghold of Jericho had been utterly destroyed. Joshua declared:
"Cursed be the man ... that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his first-born, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it." Joshua 6:26.
The hands of angels had thrown down its walls, and its ruin was to stand as a memorial. More than five hundred years later, when the apostate Ahab was ruling, and Israel and Judah had departed from the Lord, Hiel the Bethelite set out to rebuild Jericho. "He laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his first-born."
But accident and death may come at any time. The work on the walls went on, no one thinking of the neglected Scriptures with their warning of long ago. So the full account runs:
"He laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his first-born, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which He spake by Joshua the son of Nun." 1 Kings 16:34.
The fate of some of the mightiest cities the world ever saw has borne testimony through the centuries to the fulfilment of the prophetic word.
The Witness of Nineveh
Nineveh was founded by Nimrod. He built not only his capital here by the Tigris, but other towns round about, conceiving first of all the idea of grouping the capital and its suburbs into one great city, the "Greater Nineveh," as we would say in these days of Greater London and Greater New York. At the dawn of history Nineveh was "a great city." Gen. 10:11, 12. In Jonah's day it was an "exceeding great city."[A] Sennacherib, of the Bible story, was its beautifier. Rawlinson says:
"The great palace which he raised at Nineveh surpassed in size and splendor all earlier edifices."—"Second Monarchy," chap. 9.
A description is preserved on the clay cylinder in the king's own words:
"For the wonderment of multitudes of men I raised its head—'the palace which has no rival' I called its name."—Taylor Cylinder, "Records of the Past." Vol. XII, part 1.
At the preaching of Jonah the city had repented; but in later years pride of conquest and luxury and wealth were filling it with blood. The prophet Nahum warned it of certain doom, appealing to those who had any fear of God to turn to Him. The message was:
"The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him." Nahum 1:7.
Some, no doubt, heeded the warning and turned to God for refuge. But the city's life of sin ran on. Then the prophet Zephaniah spoke the word, just as the stroke was to fall:
"Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city! She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God." Zeph. 3:1, 2.
Prophecies uttered against the mighty city had declared:
"He will make an utter end of the place thereof." "The palace shall be dissolved ["molten," margin]." "She is empty, and void, and waste." Nahum 1:8; 2:6, 10. "How is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in!" Zeph. 2:15.
The Medes and the Babylonians overthrew Nineveh. The king immolated himself in his burning ("molten") palace. Nineveh became a desolation. Describing a battle that took place there in the seventh century of our era, between the Romans and the Persians, the historian Gibbon bears testimony to the fact that it has indeed become "empty, and void, and waste:"
"Eastward of the Tigris, at the end of the bridge of Mosul, the great Nineveh had formerly been erected: the city, and even the ruins of the city, had long since disappeared; the vacant place afforded a spacious field for the operations of the two armies."—"The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," chap. 46, par. 24.
And to this day, the site of Nineveh is pointed out across the river from Mosul, only mounds of ruins, these almost obliterated by the drifting sands of centuries. The word spoken is fulfilled, though at the time it was spoken it little seemed to proud and prosperous Nineveh that such a fate could ever be hers.
"Before me rise the walls Of the Titanic city,—brazen gates, Towers, temples, palaces enormous piled,— Imperial Nineveh, the earthly queen! In all her golden pomp I see her now, Her swarming streets, her splendid festivals.
* * * * *
"Again I look,—and lo!... Her walls are gone, her palaces are dust,— The desert is around her, and within Like shadows have the mighty passed away."
From Nineveh's mounds we seem to hear a voice that says: "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth forever." 1 Peter 1:24, 25.
The Burden of Tyre
Tyre was the greatest maritime city of antiquity. Its inhabitants, the Phoenicians, traded in the ports of all the known world. Ezekiel describes the heart of the seas as its borders. "Thy builders have perfected thy beauty," he says. He tells how all countries traded in its marts and contributed to its wealth. And then, obeying the word of the Lord, the prophet bears a message of rebuke and warning,—"the burden of Tyre,"—and pronounces the coming judgment:
"Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee.... And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God." Eze. 26:3-5.
The accounts of travelers bear witness that the prophecy has been fulfilled. As to the site of the island city of Ezekiel's day, Bruce, nearly a century ago, said that he found it a "rock whereon fishers dry their nets." (See "Keith on the Prophecies," p. 329.)
In more recent times, Dr. W.M. Thomson found the whole region of Tyre suggestive only of departed glory:
"There is nothing here, certainly, of that which led Joshua to call it 'the strong city' more than three thousand years ago (Joshua 19:29),—nothing of that mighty metropolis which baffled the proud Nebuchadnezzar and all his power for thirteen years, until 'every head' in his army 'was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled,' in the hard service against Tyrus (Eze. 29:18),—nothing in this wretched roadstead and empty harbor to remind one of the times when merry mariners did sing in her markets—no visible trace of those towering ramparts which so long resisted the utmost efforts of the great Alexander. All have vanished utterly like a troubled dream, and Tyre has sunk under the burden of prophecy.... As she is now, and has long been, Tyre is God's witness; but great, powerful, and populous, she would be the infidel's boast. This, however, she cannot be. Tyre will never rise from her dust to falsify the voice of prophecy.
"Dim is her glory, gone her fame, Her boasted wealth has fled; On her proud rock, alas! her shame, The fisher's net is spread. The Tyrian harp has slumbered long, And Tyria's mirth is low; The timbrel, dulcimer, and song Are hushed, or wake to woe."
—"The Land and the Book," Vol. II, pp. 626, 627.
The Desolation of Babylon
Yet another city of ancient times there was, the mightiest of them all, whose fate was a subject of prophecy, and whose history bears special testimony for us today; for, more than any other, the Lord used that city as a symbol of the pride of life and the exaltation of the selfish heart against God.
Let us study briefly the desolations pronounced upon Babylon of old.
While Babylon was still the mightiest city of the world, with the period of greatest glory yet before it, the Lord revealed its ignoble end. By the prophet Isaiah He declared:
"Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged." Isa. 13:19-22.
Never could a more doleful future have been pictured for a city full of splendor, the metropolis of the world. About one hundred and seventy-five years after this word was written on the parchment scroll, the Medes and Persians were at the gates of Babylon. Her time had come, and Chaldea's rule was ended.
"Fallen is the golden city! in the dust, Spoiled of her crown, dismantled of her state. She that hath made the Strength of Towers her trust, Weeps by her dead, supremely desolate!
"She that beheld the nations at her gate Thronging in homage, shall be called no more 'Lady of Kingdoms!'—Who shall mourn her fate? Her guilt is full, her march of triumph o'er."
But still, under Medo-Persia, and later under the Greeks, the city itself was populous and prosperous and beautiful. The skeptic of the time may have pointed to it as evidence that here, at least, the Hebrew prophet had missed the mark.
Apollonius, the sage of Tyana, who lived in the days of Nero and the apostles, has left an account of Babylon as he saw it, as late as the first century of our era. Still the Euphrates swept beneath its walls, dividing the city into halves, with great palaces on either side. He says:
"The palaces are roofed with bronze, and a glitter goes off from them; but the chambers of the women and of the men and the porticoes are adorned partly with silver, and partly with golden tapestries or curtains, and partly with solid gold in the form of pictures."
And of the king's judgment hall he reported:
"The roof had been carried up in the form of a dome, to resemble in a manner the heavens, and that it was roofed with sapphire, a stone that is very blue and like heaven to the eye; and there were images of the gods, which they worship, fixed aloft, and looking like golden figures shining out of the ether."—Philostratus, "Life of Apollonius," book 1, chap. 25.
Evidently Babylon was still "the land of graven images," and the desolation foretold by the prophet had not yet befallen its palaces. But that prophetic word, written eight hundred years before, was still upon the scroll of the Book, the sure Word of God, who sees the end from the beginning.
The view given us by Apollonius is perhaps the last glimpse we have of Babylon's passing glory. Even then for centuries the walls had been a quarry from which stones were drawn for Babylon's rival, Seleucia, on the Tigris. And Strabo, the Greek geographer, who also wrote in the first century, had described Babylon as "in great part deserted," adding,
"No one would hesitate to apply to it what one of the comic writers said of Megalopolitae, in Arcadia, 'The great city is a great desert.'"—"Geography," book 16, chap. 1.
Already pagan writers had begun to describe its condition in the terms of the prophecy uttered so long before. And now what is its state? The doom foretold has fallen heavy upon the city, upon its palaces, and "upon the graven images of Babylon." For a century and more, travelers' accounts have frequently borne witness to the exact fulfilment of the prophecy in the remarkable desolations of that city, once mistress of the world.
"Babylon shall become heaps," said the prophecy, "and owls shall dwell there." This is what Mr. Layard, the English archeologist, found on his visit in 1845:
"Shapeless heaps of rubbish cover for many an acre the face of the land.... On all sides, fragments of glass, marble, pottery, and inscribed brick are mingled with that peculiar nitrous and blanched soil, which, bred from the remains of ancient habitations, checks or destroys vegetation, and renders the site of Babylon a naked and a hideous waste. Owls [which are of a large gray kind, and often found in flocks of nearly a hundred] start from the scanty thickets, and the foul jackal skulks through the furrows."—"Discoveries Among the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon," chap. 21, p. 413.
The prophecy said, "Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there." The words might be construed to mean that the famous site would never become the place of a Bedouin village. But it is literally true, say travelers, that the Arabs avoid the place even for the temporary pitching of their tents. They consider the spot under a curse. They call the ruins Mudjelibe, "the Overturned." (See "Encyclopedia of Islam," art. "Babil.")
As late as 1913, Missionary W.C. Ising visited the site where Professor Koldeway was excavating the ruins of Nebuchadnezzar's palace. He wrote:
"Involuntarily one is reminded of the prophecy in the thirteenth of Isaiah and many other places, which, in course of time, have been fulfilled to the letter. No one is living on the site of ancient Babylon, and whatever Arabs are employed by the excavators have built their mud huts in the bed of the ancient river, which at the present time is shifted half a mile farther west."—European Division Quarterly, Fourth Quarter, 1913.
Egypt and Edom
The massive ruins by the Nile bear witness to prophecy fulfilled. When Egypt rivaled Babylon, the word was spoken: "It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations." Eze. 29:15. It was not utterly to pass, as Babylon, but to continue in inferior state. Thus it came to pass. Once populous Edom, famed for wisdom and counsel, now lies desolate, according to the word: "Edom shall be a desolation: every one that goeth by it shall be astonished." Jer. 49:17.
The Testimony of History
Thus the centuries bear testimony to the fulfilment of the prophetic word. The panorama of all human history moves before us in these writings of the prophets. Flinging their "colossal shadows" across the pages of Holy Writ, as Farrar says, we see—
"The giant forms of empires on their way To ruin."
It is no human book that thus from primitive times forecasts the march of history through the ages.
The Lord not only spoke the word in warning and entreaty for those to whom it first came, but it is written in the Scriptures of truth as a testimony to all time, that the Bible is the word of God, and that all His purposes revealed therein and all the promises of the blessed Book are certain and sure. The prophets who bore messages from God to Nineveh, and Babylon, and Tyre, spoke messages also for our day.
Fulfilled prophecy is the testimony of the centuries to the living God. The evidence of prophecy and its fulfilment is God's challenge and appeal to men to acknowledge Him as the true God and the Holy Scriptures as His word from heaven.
"I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of My mouth, and I showed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass. Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass; I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I showed it thee.... Thou hast heard, see all this; and will not ye declare it?" Isa. 48:3-6.
Surely no one can look at the evidence in history of the fulfilment of prophecy without seeing that of a truth the One who spoke these words knew the end from the beginning; and finding the living God in the sure word of prophecy, one must be prepared to listen to His voice in all the Scriptures, when it speaks of sin and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Further, the prophetic word also has much to say of events yet future, of the course of history in modern times. It behooves us to give heed to what that word speaks concerning our own times and the events that are to take place upon the earth before the end. The apostle Peter exhorts us to the study in these words:
"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts." 2 Peter 1:19.
[A] "In the book of Jonah," says Records of the Past, "Nineveh is stated to have been an exceeding great city of three days' journey; and that being the case, the explanation that Calah on the south and Khorsabad on the north were included seems very probable. The distance between these two extreme points is about thirty miles, which, at ten miles a day, would take the time required."—Vol. XII, part 1, January and February, 1913.
PROPHETIC OUTLINE OF THE WORLD'S HISTORY
THE PROPHECY OF DANIEL 2
"There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days."
In a dream by night the Lord gave to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, a clear historical outline of the course of world empire to the end of time and the coming of the eternal kingdom.
The king was a thoughtful monarch; and having reached the height of his power, he was one night meditating upon "what should come to pass hereafter." Not for his sake alone, but for the enlightenment and instruction of men in all time, the Lord answered the wondering question of the king's meditation by giving him the dream. "He that revealeth secrets," said Daniel the prophet, "maketh known to thee what shall come to pass."
And that we may know at the beginning that there is nothing fanciful and uncertain about this great historic outline reaching to the end of the world, we note first the assurance with which the prophet closed his interpretation: "The dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure."
The details of the dream had been taken from the king's mind, while conviction as to the wondrous import of it remained. This was in God's providence, to show the folly of the worldly-wise men of Babylon, and to bring before the king the prophet of the Lord with a divine message. The prophet Daniel, under the inspiration of God, brought his dream again to the king's mind:
"Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.
"This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.
"Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth."
The prophet next declared the interpretation. And now follows the history of the world in miniature.
"Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath He given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold."
The parts of the image, then, of various metals, from head to feet, represented successive empires, beginning with Babylon; and the kingdom of Babylon, represented by Nebuchadnezzar, was the head of gold.
History shows how fitly the golden head symbolizes the Babylonian kingdom. Long before, the prophet Isaiah had described it as "the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency." Isa. 13:19. And now, in Nebuchadnezzar's day, it was the golden age of the Babylonian kingdom. No such gorgeous city as its capital ever before stood on earth. And Nebuchadnezzar was the great leader of its conquests, and the beautifier and builder of its walls and palaces. "For the astonishment of men I have built this house," one tablet reads; and hundreds repeat the story.
"Those portals for the astonishment of multitudes of people with beauty I adorned. In order that the battle storm to Imgur-Bel the wall of Babylon might not reach; what no king before me had done."—East India House Inscription.
Thus Nebuchadnezzar's records of stone today repeat the proud boast faithfully reported in the Scripture, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built?" Dan. 4:30. To the king it seemed that such a city could never fall. One inscription reads:
"Thus I completely made strong the defenses of Babylon. May it last forever."—Rawlinson, "Fourth Monarchy," Appendix A.
But the prophet Daniel, proceeding with the divine interpretation, interrupted all such proud thoughts with the declaration, "After thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee."
Now the look was forward into the future. And the word came to pass. Babylon's decline was swift after Nebuchadnezzar's death. Daniel the prophet himself lived to interpret the handwriting on the wall at Belshazzar's feast:
"God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.... Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting.... Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians." Dan. 5:26-28.
The breast and arms of silver, in the great image, represented the Medo-Persian kingdom, which followed the Babylonian, "inferior" to it in brilliancy and grandeur, as silver is inferior to gold. Medo-Persia, however, enlarged the borders of the world empire; and the names of Cyrus and Darius are written among the mightiest conquerors of history.
But the prophet does not stop to dwell upon the grandeur of fleeting earthly kingdoms. The interpretation hastens on to reach the setting up of a kingdom that shall not pass away. Following Medo-Persia, a third power was to rise,
"And another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth."
The "third kingdom" after Babylon was Grecia, which overthrew the empire of the Medes and Persians. And Grecia's dominion fulfilled the specifications of the prophecy, which indicated a yet wider expansion of empire. Its sway was to be over "all the earth," said Daniel the prophet, foretelling its history. Arrian, the Greek historian, writing afterward, said that Alexander of Greece seemed truly "lord of all the earth;" and he adds:
"I am persuaded there was no nation, city, nor people then in being whither his name did not reach; for which reason, whatever origin he might boast of, or claim to himself, there seems to me to have been some divine hand presiding both over his birth and actions."—"History of the Expedition of Alexander the Great," book 7, chap. 30.
The sides of brass in the great image represented Grecia, the brazen metal itself being a fitting symbol of those "brazen-mailed" Greeks, celebrated in ancient poetry and song,
"Among the foremost, armed in glittering brass."
A Power Rising in the West
While Grecia's supremacy under Alexander was disputed by none, there was a power rising in the West that was soon to enter the lists for the prize of world dominion.
Some of the ancient writers say that at the time of his death Alexander had in mind to push westward to strike down the growing power of the city of Rome, of which he had heard. Plutarch says that this man Alexander,
"who shot like a star, with incredible swiftness, from the rising to the setting sun, was meditating to bring the luster of his arms into Italy.... He had heard of the Roman power in Italy."—"Morals," chap. on "Fortune of the Romans," par. 13.
Lucan, the ancient Roman poet, repeats the thought:
"Driven headlong on by Fate's resistless force, Through Asia's realms he took his dreadful course: His ruthless sword laid human nature waste, And desolation followed where he passed....
"Ev'n to the utmost west he would have gone, Where Tethys' lap receives the setting sun."
But in the prime of his years, Alexander was cut down, and Rome had yet more time in which to develop its strength preparatory to the deciding contest for the mastery of all the world. Sure it is that after Grecia, there followed the Roman Empire, the strongest and mightiest and most crushing of them all. This fourth universal empire the prophet proceeded to describe, as represented by the legs of iron in Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the great image.
"The fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise."
How appropriately the iron of the image fits the character of the fourth great empire! Gibbon, the historian, calls it "the iron monarchy of Rome." It broke in pieces the kingdoms, subduing all, just as prophecy had declared so long before. As iron is strongest of the common metals, so according to the prophecy—"as iron that breaketh all these"—this fourth kingdom was to be more powerful than any before it. Strabo, the geographer, who lived in the days of Tiberius Caesar, said,
"The Romans have surpassed (in power) all former rulers of whom we have any record."—"Geography," book 17, chap. 3.
Hippolytus, bishop and martyr, who lived in Rome in the third century,—under the "iron monarchy,"—wrote thus of this prophecy:
"Already the iron rules; already it subdues and breaks all in pieces; already it brings all the unwilling into subjection; already we see these things ourselves."—"Treatise on Christ and Antichrist," sec. 33.
Hippolytus also saw clearly from the prophecy that the empire of his day would be divided, and he wrote of the kingdoms that were "yet to rise" out of it. For Daniel's interpretation explained clearly the meaning of the mingling of clay with the iron in the feet and toes of the great image.
The Kingdoms of Modern Europe
"Whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.
"And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
"And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay."
"The kingdom shall be divided." So declared the prophet of God. In the height of its power, Rome scouted the thought that so mighty a fabric could ever be broken up. Horace sang in his "Odes,"
"How, added to a conquered world, Euphrates 'bates his tide, And Huns, beyond our frontiers hurled, O'er straitened deserts ride.
* * * * *
"The Goths beyond the sea may plot, The warlike Basques may plan; Friend, never heed them! vex thee not; For this our mortal span Of little wants."
—Book 2, Marris's Translation.
But the words were written on the ancient parchment in the days of Babylon, "The kingdom shall be divided;" and true to the word of the prophet, the Roman Empire fell apart with the mixture of nations and peoples that swept into it. The elements did not hold together, even as the mixture of iron and clay in the image did not cleave together. Broken up by the invasions of fresh nations from the north, the Western Empire was divided into lesser kingdoms, out of which have grown the modern nations of western Europe.
Not one word in the outline of the prophecy thus far has failed of fulfilment. These modern kingdoms growing out of divided Rome have never been reunited. "They shall mingle themselves with the seed of men," said the prophecy. Nearly all the reigning houses of Europe today are related by intermarriage; the prophecy said it would be so; but "they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay." So we see it. No statesman, no master of legions, has been able to join these nations together again in one great empire. Charles V had the thought in mind, some think. Napoleon dreamed of doing it. But it was not to be. Nevermore was there to be one universal monarchy.
We may know that as surely as the course of world empire has followed the exact outline of the prophecy put on the inspired record in the days of Babylon of old, just so surely the specifications of the closing portion of the outline will be fulfilled.
The fourth great kingdom was to be divided. Rome was the fourth empire: it was divided. The kingdoms of the divided empire are acting their part before our eyes today.
The Next Great Event
And what next? That is the question for us. Now the prophetic outline that began with ancient Babylon touches the things of our own day. The word spoken before Nebuchadnezzar so long ago is now spoken especially to us:
"In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
"Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure."
"In the days of these kings,"—these kingdoms of our own time,—the next great world-changing event is to be the coming of Christ to begin the setting up of his everlasting kingdom. That is the grand climax toward which all the course of history has been tending. At last the end is to come.
"Down in the feet of iron and of clay, Weak and divided, soon to pass away; What will the next great, glorious drama be?— Christ and His coming, and eternity."
As the stone, cut out of the mountain "without hands," smote the image, so that all its parts, representative of earthly dominion, were ground to dust and blown away, so Christ's coming kingdom, set up "without hands," by no human power, but by the power of the eternal God, will end all earthly dominion and bring the utter destruction of sin and sinners out of the earth.
"The dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure."
Then may all eyes well be turned toward the next great step foretold in the prophetic outline—the coming of Christ's glorious everlasting kingdom, which shall not pass away.
"Look for the waymarks as you journey on, Look for the waymarks, passing one by one, Down through the ages, past the kingdoms four,— Where are we standing? Look the waymarks o'er."
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
"Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Heb. 9:28.
Too often the second coming of Christ is looked upon simply as a doctrine. It is, however, more than a doctrine merely to be believed; it is an impending event, something that is to take place on earth, and the most stupendous, all-transcendent event for the world since Christ came the first time to die on Calvary for the sins of men.
This second coming of Christ, like His first coming, has been the theme of divine prophecy from the beginning. This was emphasized by the apostle Peter in his second recorded sermon. He pressed upon the people of Jerusalem the fact that the things "which God before had showed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer" (Acts 3:18), had been fulfilled to the letter before their eyes. Not a word had failed. Just so, he said, all that the prophets had spoken of His second coming would be fulfilled:
"He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." Acts 3:20, 21.
The Promise of His Coming
As iniquity began to abound, God sent a message to the antediluvian world, declaring that Christ's coming in glory would end the reign of sin:
"Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all." Jude 14, 15.
The promise of Christ's coming was the "blessed hope" in the patriarchal age. In Job's dark hour of trial his heart clung to the promise, and he was kept from despair:
"I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: ... whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another." Job 19:25-27.
The psalmist sang of it:
"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. 50:3.
And the prophets of later times were unceasingly moved upon to talk of the glory of that coming, of events preceding it, and of the preparation for it.
"I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence." "Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him." Isa. 62:6, 11.
The message of His coming is to be heralded to the ends of the earth; for it is "good tidings of great joy" to every one who will receive it.
On that last night with His disciples before the crucifixion, when His heart was sorrowful even unto death, as the burden of all our iniquities was about to be laid upon Him, Christ's love for His own made precious to Him the thought of His second coming to gather them home at last, safe from all sin and trouble; and He said:
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." John 14:1-3.
In that assurance the heart finds rest. O the preciousness of the promise, "I will come again"! "I am coming for you," is the cheering message. "Yes, Lord," we reply, "we will wait, and watch, and be ready, by Thy grace."
The Manner of His Coming
Christ's second coming is to be visible to all the world. There is to be nothing secret or mystical about it. The revelator says:
"Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him." Rev. 1:7.
Christ Himself described the scene to His disciples as it will appear to the eyes of all:
"As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." Matt. 24:27. "Then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory." Mark 13:26.
The day of the Lord—the close of probation, the initial outpouring of the judgments of God—will come "as a thief in the night," but Christ's personal appearing will be visible to all. The heavens will open, the earth quake, the trump of God resound, and such glory as mortal eye has never seen will burst upon the world when He comes as King of kings and Lord of lords.
"He comes not an infant in Bethlehem born, He comes not to lie in a manger; He comes not again to be treated with scorn, He comes not a shelterless stranger; He comes not to Gethsemane, To weep and sweat blood in the garden; He comes not to die on the tree, To purchase for rebels a pardon. Oh, no; glory, bright glory, Environs Him now."
"This Same Jesus"
The Lord would have His children understand that this One who comes in power and glory is the same Saviour of men who once walked by blue Galilee. As the disciples were watching their Saviour, and ours, ascending bodily into heaven from Olivet, until "a cloud received Him out of their sight," suddenly two angels stood by them, who said:
"Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." Acts 1:9, 11.
"This same Jesus"! It was the loving Friend and Elder Brother, Son of man as well as Son of God, who was passing from their sight. He will come back the "same Jesus," though in glory indescribable, having "all the holy angels with Him."
The prophet Habakkuk thus described Christ's glorious appearing, as it was represented to him in vision:
"His glory covered the heavens, And the earth was full of His praise. And His brightness was as the light; He had rays coming forth from His hand; And there was the hiding of His power."
Hab. 3:3, 4, A.R.V.
Surely it is the "same Jesus," and the mark of the cruel nails is the shining badge of His power to save.
"I shall know Him By the print of the nails in His hands."
As the redeemed see Him who was crucified for them coming in glory, they will cry, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation." Isa. 25:9.
But that day will be a day of darkness as well as of light. The unready, the unrepentant, will realize too late that in rejecting Christ's pardon and love and sacrifice, they have rejected the only means by which they might have been prepared to meet the coming King, before whose face no sin can endure. "Every eye shall see Him," the apostle says, and he describes the terror of that day to the unprepared:
"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 said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" Rev. 6:15-17.
The scenes of that great day are so beyond human comprehension that it is difficult to realize that such a time is actually before us.
"Then, O my Lord, prepare My soul for that great day."
The Purpose of His Coming
The Scriptures make very clear the purpose of Christ's second coming and the events of that great day. It has been the hope of the children of God through all the ages. The apostle Paul calls it the "blessed hope."
"The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." Titus 2:11-13.
The saints of God have fallen asleep in death with their faith reaching forward to Christ's glorious appearing. So the veteran apostle fell, with eyes upon "that day."
"I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing." 2 Tim. 4:6-8.
Christ's second coming is the grand climax of the plan of salvation. Not till then are the children of God ushered into the eternal kingdom. Then the crowns of life are bestowed, and the saved all go together through the gates into the city—patriarch and prophet, apostle and reformer, and the child of God of this last generation. Of the ancient worthies it is written:
"These all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." Heb. 11:39, 40.
What a glorious day it will be when the ransomed of all the ages, march in together through the gates into the city!
It is to take His children to their eternal home that Christ comes the second time. This was His promise to the disciples:
"I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." John 14:2, 3.
Not in detail, but in their general order, let us follow the events of that great day.
The Prelude to His Coming
as the revelator saw it and heard it in a vision of the last day:
"There came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth,... and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God." Rev. 16:17-19.
"The heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places." Rev. 6:14.
His Glorious Appearing
Then bursts upon the world the glory of our Saviour's coming:
"Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet." Matt. 24:30, 31.
"I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in Thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for Thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe." Rev. 14:14, 15.
The Resurrection of the Just, and the Translation of the Living Righteous
The time to reap has come, and the wheat is gathered at last into the garner of the Lord:
"We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." 1 Cor. 15:51, 52.
"He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Matt. 24:31.
"This we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." 1 Thess. 4:15-18.
The righteous dead are raised to life as the trump of God sounds and the voice of the Archangel calls to His sleeping saints, and the living righteous are transformed from mortality to immortality. Then all together, with the escort of the angels, they follow the Saviour to the heavenly mansions that He has prepared in the city of God.
The Destruction of the Wicked
Before the glorious majesty of the coming King no sin can endure; for true it is that "our God is a consuming fire"—now, in the day of His mercy, consuming sin out of the heart that by faith approaches the throne of grace, but in that day consuming the unrepentant sinner with his sin.
"Where will the sinner hide in that day, in that day? Where will the sinner hide in that day? It will be in vain to call, 'Ye mountains on us fall!' For His hand will find out all in that day."
It is the great day long foretold by seer and prophet.
Again let us read the description of what it will mean to the unsaved to see Christ coming in glory; for the terror of that day must warn us now to keep within the refuge of the Saviour's loving grace:
"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 said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" Rev. 6:15-17.
The same glory that transforms the righteous is a consuming fire to those who have rejected Christ's salvation:
"Then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming." 2 Thess. 2:8.
"When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power." 2 Thess. 1:7-9.
The Climax of Human History
Thus the second coming of Christ brings the resurrection and translation of the righteous, the death of the wicked, and the end of the world. The resurrection of the wicked does not then take place, but only that of the just; save for some of the wicked dead who had a special part in warring against Christ,—"they also which pierced Him" (Rev. 1:7). These are raised to see His coming, necessarily to fall again before the consuming glory of His presence.
The righteous are taken to reign with Christ in the heavenly city for a thousand years, and during the same period the earth lies in desolation and chaos, uninhabited by man, a dark abyss, the dreary prison house of Satan. Of the two resurrections, first of the just and then of the unjust, we are told:
"They [the righteous] lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power." Rev. 20:4-6.
It is at the end of the thousand years that the resurrection of the wicked takes place. Then the city of God descends, "the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven," and the wicked come forth to condemnation and the second death, from which there is no waking.
"Now is the Accepted Time"
Now is the day of salvation, when by Christ's grace we may prepare for that great day. To be found among His redeemed ones in that day will be of infinitely greater worth than anything this world can give, of pleasure, or possessions, or honor. Nothing will count then but the blessed hope.
Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, found the personal Saviour in the days of the Methodist revival in England. All her wealth and all her social influence were devoted to Christ, even though titled friends took umbrage at her close association with the poor and the humble who gave heed to the message of the hour, and pressed into the kingdom. She wrote of her joy in being numbered with the children of God:
"I love to meet among them now, Before Thy gracious throne to bow, Though weakest of them all; Nor can I bear the piercing thought, To have my worthless name left out, When Thou for them shalt call.
"Prevent, prevent it by Thy grace. Be Thou, dear Lord, my hiding place In that expected day. Thy pardoning voice, O let me hear, To still each unbelieving fear, Nor let me fall, I pray."
One night, at a royal ball, the Prince of Wales asked a titled lady where the Countess of Huntingdon was. "Oh, I suppose she is praying with some of her beggars somewhere!" was the flippant answer. "Ah," said the crown prince, "in the last day I think I should be glad to hold the hem of Lady Huntingdon's mantle." True it is that the greatest gift of grace now, as it will be then, is to be numbered among the obedient children of God.
"Let me among Thy saints be found, Whene'er the Archangel's trump shall sound, To see Thy smiling face; Then joyfully Thy praise I'll sing, While heaven's resounding mansions ring With shouts of endless grace."
SIGNS OF THE APPROACHING END
OUR SAVIOUR'S GREAT PROPHECY
Christ had spoken of the coming desolation of the sacred temple at Jerusalem. The disciples were astonished. "Master, see," said one, "what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" The Saviour replied:
"Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down" Mark 13:2.
"What Shall be the Sign?"
As soon as they were alone on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city, the disciples came to Jesus, saying:
"Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" Matt. 24:3.
Replying to this question, the Saviour spoke first of the fall of Jerusalem; He foretold in a sentence the experiences of His church through dark ages to follow; then He described the events of the latter days, the signs showing His second advent near at hand; and, finally, He pictured the scenes of His own glorious appearing in the clouds of heaven. The fullest record of the discourse is found in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew.
A Striking Parallel
The first portion of the prophetic discourse (verses 4-14) deals with general conditions that were to prevail both in the last days of the Jewish state, and on a yet larger scale in the course of history leading to the last days of the world. There was so close a parallel between these times that Christ, in one description, answered both questions asked, When shall these things come upon Jerusalem? and, What shall be the signs of the end of the world?
The prophetic word foretold the rise of false Christs, the coming of wars, famines, and earthquakes in "divers places." The believers saw these things fulfilled in that generation before Jerusalem fell; but as we read the prophecy, we see the wider application and yet larger fulfilment through the course of history since that day, these calamities increasing in the earth as the end draws near. Before the end of the Jewish state, the believers carried the gospel to all the known world of their day. (See Col. 1:23.) In these latter days we are seeing the yet wider proclamation of the gospel, as foretold in the fourteenth verse, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
The Last Days of Jerusalem
We may note briefly some of the events of Jerusalem's last days. Christ had forewarned the believers:
"Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many."
Having rejected the true Christ, the nation was open to deception by the false. We catch just a glimpse of the fulfilment in the book of Acts; in secular history the full story is told. Ridpath says:
"Never was a people so turbulent, so excited with expectation of a deliverer who should restore the ancient kingdom, so fired with bigotry and fanaticism, as were the wretched Jews of this period. One Christ came after another. Revolt was succeeded by revolt, instigated by some pseudo-prophet or pretended king."—"History of the World," Vol. I, p. 849 (Part III, chap. 19).
During the Saviour's life and ministry a divine hand had to a great extent held the elements of violence in check, but as the light was rejected more and more, the spirit of evil came to hold sway unrestrained. Dr. Mears well describes the changed conditions in these words:
"The narrative of the evangelists presents a tranquil scene, a succession of attractive pictures, in striking contrast to the bloody and tumultuous events which crowd each other in the pages of Josephus."—"From Exile to Overthrow," pp. 256, 257.
Thus the events led rapidly on toward the day of Jerusalem's fall, so long foretold by the prophets.
The Sign to the Believers
The disciples had asked for a sign, and Christ gave them a token by which they might know when the time to flee from Jerusalem had come. Here Luke's Gospel gives the fullest record:
"When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." Luke 21:20-22.
The unbelieving in Jerusalem and Judea could not conceive that their city, so long protected and favored of God, could be destroyed. Not even the appearance of the Roman armies could shake their blind self-confidence. But at the first sight of the encircling armies, the Christians knew that the time for flight was at hand. But how to flee was the question, with the compassing lines drawn close about the city. Moreover, the Zealots, the furious war party in power, would be little likely to allow any number to pass out to the Roman forces.
Just here God's providence made a way of escape. Cestius, the Roman commander, after having partially undermined one of the temple walls, suddenly decided to defer pushing the attack. "He retired from the city," says Josephus, "without any reason in the world." (See "Wars," book 2, chap. 19.) And the Zealots flew out after the retiring Romans, furiously attacking the rear guards.
Then those watching Christians knew that the time for quick flight had come, according to Christ's prophecy uttered many years before. They fled out of the city and out of the country round about.
Through all the years, Christ's prophecy had exhorted them, "Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day." Matt. 24:20. The prayer was answered, for it was in the autumn and on a week day that the flight was made.[B] Watching for the sign, and instantly obeying, they were delivered.
Thus it was that when the Romans returned later to the siege, never to give up till the city fell, none of the Christians were overwhelmed in its destruction. Even so are we to watch the signs of our own times, that we may escape those things that are coming upon the earth, and be ready to "stand before the Son of man."
The Prophetic Word Fulfilled
Christ had declared that the temple, the pride of the nation, would be utterly destroyed. In the last siege, the Roman commander tried to spare the magnificent pile. When the Jews made it their chief fortress, because of its massive strength, Titus remonstrated with them, saying:
"If you will but change the place whereon you fight, no Roman shall either come near your sanctuary, or offer any affront to it; nay, I will endeavor to preserve you your holy house, whether you will or not."—Josephus, "Wars of the Jews," book 6, chap. 2.
But the prophecy was fulfilled to the letter. The people seemed possessed with fury. The hardened Roman pagans were astonished at their suicidal rashness. Titus's efforts to save the temple failed, and it went down in ruin, as Christ had foretold.
The disciples of Christ had called His attention to the immense blocks of stone that composed the temple walls. "See, what manner of stones," one said. When Titus examined these same stones, after the fall of the city, he is said to have declared:
"We have certainly had God for our assistant in this war, and it was no other than God who ejected the Jews out of these fortifications."[C]—Id., book 6, chap. 9.
Rather, we would say, in the light of Scripture teaching, the destruction that came upon the city was but the fruit of its own way. God's guardian care had long protected the city of David. When His protection was finally thrust aside and the people put themselves in the power of the great destroyer, divine justice could no longer save the city from the judgments that were bound to fall upon persistent transgression against light.
The lesson is one of those written "for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come." Jerusalem, in that generation of great light and high privilege, fell because it knew not the time of its visitation. Still Christ's sad lament bears its warning to the ears of men: "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!" Luke 19:42.
Having foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, and given to the believers signs by which they might find deliverance in the day of its overthrow, Christ yet more fully answered the second part of the disciples' question, "What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" Matt. 24:3.
The Period of Tribulation
Quickly He passed to the events of the latter days. But first He sketched, in a few words, the tribulations through which His church was to pass during the intervening centuries. Daniel the prophet had written of this experience, foretelling the long period during which the papal power was to "wear out the saints of the Most High." Dan. 7:25. Of these times, Christ said in His prophetic discourse:
"Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since 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." Matt. 24:21, 22.
It is evident that Christ referred to the time of tribulation foretold by Daniel, not to the trials attending the flight of the Christians from Jerusalem, for their flight was a deliverance of the elect from trial. However much the weak may have suffered temporarily in fleeing from their homes, the great suffering of that time came upon the unbelieving, who had no shelter.
This prophecy given by our Saviour presents the picture of a long-continued persecution of His own elect, and foretells the shortening of the allotted time. God was to intervene in some special way to save His people. And it was even so. The elect did suffer all through the centuries of intolerance, until the rise of the Reformation and the spreading abroad of God's Word broke the power of ecclesiasticism, thus shortening the days of bitter tribulation.
The End Drawing Near
According to Daniel's further prophecy, the period of trial and persecution was to reach "even to the time of the end." Dan. 11:35. Naturally, then, we should look for the signs of the latter days to begin to appear following these days of tribulation. And so we find the next words of Christ's discourse introducing the topic of His second coming. From now on the prophetic outline deals with events leading down to the end of the age.
First the Saviour utters a warning against false ideas concerning His second coming. That no theories of a secret coming or of a mystic coming might deceive the unwary, He says in plain words:
"If any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, He is in the desert; go not forth: behold, He is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." Matt. 24:23-27.
Today we see the need of this warning. Some of the most subtle deceptions are found in the teaching that Christ has already come, secretly, or that He comes in the chamber of death, or in the spiritualistic seance. Against all these errors we are forewarned, as well as against any agencies that may come showing marvelous signs and wonders. The close of human probation, the coming of the day of God, will be as a thief in the night; and Christ's coming itself will overtake the unwatchful all unprepared. Nevertheless, when He comes, "every eye shall see Him," and all the glory of heaven will burst upon a quaking world.
Signs in the Heavens and the Earth
Now the Saviour's outline of prophecy presents the signs which were to show when the coming of the Lord was near. Referring again to the days of tribulation foretold by the prophet Daniel, Christ says:
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven." Matt. 24:29, 30.
In Luke's record of the same prophetic discourse, additional signs are given, describing conditions in the earth as Christ's coming draws near. His account reads:
"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. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Luke 21:25-28.
Yet again, the prophet John, in the Revelation, foretells these signs in the sun and moon and stars, as they were presented to him in a vision of the last days. But his record shows that this series of signs was to be preceded by a great earthquake. He describes the order of events as follows:
"I beheld when He had 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 unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind." Rev. 6:12, 13.
In these scriptures four great signs of Christ's approaching advent are listed for our study, as follows:
1. The great earthquake. 2. The darkening of the sun and moon. 3. The falling of the stars. 4. Distress of nations, and other signs.
The Time When the Signs Begin
Christ's prophecy points out approximately the time when the first of the signs that He gave, the darkening of the sun, should appear,—"immediately after the tribulation of those days." And the "great earthquake" of John's vision was to precede this sign in the heavens.
The Reformation of the sixteenth century began to cut short the days of tribulation; but some countries shut out the liberalizing influences of the Word of God, and there the persecution continued.
Even as late as near the end of the seventeenth century, in 1685, France revoked the Edict of Nantes, that had granted toleration, and persecution raged as of old. The church was driven again to the desert. Speaking of the early decades of the eighteenth century, Kurtz says:
"In France the persecution of the Huguenots continued.... The 'pastors of the desert' performed their duties at the risk of their lives."—"Church History," Vol. III, p. 88.
There was severe persecution of the Moravians in Austria, in these times, many of the persecuted finding refuge in Saxony. It was in 1722 that Christian David led the first band of Moravian refugees to settle on the estates of Count Zinzendorf, who organized through them the great pioneer movement of modern missions.