By James H. Brookes
THE ORDER OF EVENTS.
“When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel,” Deut. xxxii. 8. Perhaps most professing Christians would hear with a smile of derision or incredulity, that, in the distribution of the earth’s surface among various nationalities, He had special reference to a people so few and despised as the Jews, and not to the great powers, like the Grecian, Roman, Russian, German, and British empires, and the proud republic of the United States. Nevertheless it is a fact, and a fact we will do well to keep in mind when we search the Scriptures of truth,
It was to the Jews He said: “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine, and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation,” Exodus xix, 4-6. Alas! scarcely had “all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord. hath said will we do,” ratifying the covenant with blood, before they sneered at Moses, and made them a molten calf to worship, Exodus xxiv. 3-8; xxxii. 1-4. From that time and onward, their history was stained with disobedience, idolatry, unbelief, and worldliness, until infinite patience could endure no longer, and they were disowned and rejected, and scattered among the nations of the earth.
In the year 722 before Christ the ten tribes that had revolted from the house of David under Solomon’s successor were carried away to Assyria, and the land was possessed by other people. In the year 586 before Christ Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and to this day remains under the hand of its Gentile masters. Hence, for 2500 years Israel has been the nation without a home, the nation of weary foot like the Wandering Jew, the nation which even professedly Christian nations have delighted to persecute and torture. For nearly eighteen hundred years after the Son of God came into the world, kings and cabinets, pretending at least to have some regard for His teachings, have inflicted upon the hated descendants of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, banishment, extortion, oppression, outrage, murder, and all manner of cruelty. Even now, at the close of the nineteenth century, with its boasted civilization and progress, Russia, Roumania, Bulgaria, and Germany, and many other peoples think it right to molest and rob, and exile, and kill a Jew.
The same inspired and infallible Word, however, which plainly and frequently predicts their dispersion and punishment, just as plainly and much more frequently predicts their restoration to their own land, when and where they shall look upon Him whom they pierced, and at last accept Him as their long-promised Messiah, Zech. xii. 10. No Christian who believes that “the prophecy came not in old time [or at any time] by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” 2 Peter i. 21, can have a shadow of doubt concerning the future gathering of the now scattered Israelites into their own country, if he also believes that the Holy Ghost said what He meant, and meant what He said.
Meanwhile “the times of the Gentiles,” set in when Israel was set aside, and Babylon was the head of the new order of things described in the prophecy through Daniel. It is remarkable that from near the beginning of the second chapter to the close of the seventh, the ~ Holy Ghost writes in the Chaldee language, as if He would say to the Gentiles, read in your own vernacular the characteristic features of your times and your fearful fall. Chapter two shows us Gentile estimate of governmental power, as seen in the stately image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Chapter three shows us Gentile ambition, as seen in the golden image reared nineteen years later by the king of Babylon. Chapter four shows us Gentile pride saying, “Is not this great Babylon that I have built?” and then degraded to the level of the beasts in the person of the boastful king. Chapter five shows us Gentile impiety and revelry and sensuality, profaning the sacred vessels of God’s house, until the fingers of a man’s hand wrote its doom over against the candlestick upon the wall of the king’s palace. Chapter six shows us Gentile blasphemy, making man an object of worship, as in the days of the Antichrist. Chapter seven shows us Gentile persecution of the saints, under the Antichrist, until Jesus comes.
In other words, dominion or government in the hands of Gentiles will prove as complete a failure as it did in the hands of the Israelites; and if it be said that we have in this age the word of God, and the presence of the Spirit to restrain men from evil, let us not forget what was written concerning His people in former times; “Vea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts sent by His Spirit through the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of Hosts,” Zech, vii. 12. Men sin against more light and mercy in our day, and, therefore will be held to a stricter accountability and overtaken by a sorer punishment.
It has been previously shown by the sure testimony of God that the present age must close in universal apostasy and lawlessness. It shall be as when the flood came and destroyed them all. It shall be as when Lot was hurried out of Sodom. Antichrist shall be manifested in all his blasphemy and malignant hatred of the true Christ. “In the last days perilous times shall come.” Perhaps no religious book printed during the present generation has received more universal approval than Bernard’s “Progress of Doctrine in the New Testament.”
Dr. Alvah Hovey, of the Newton Theological Institution, who introduced it to the American Public, said, “The Bampton Lectures of Mr. Bernard on the Progress of Doctrine in the New Testament deserve unqualified commendation, for they are as nearly perfect, both in substance and form, as any human production can well be made.”
This, no doubt, expresses the view of intelligent ministers and Christians of all denominations; for no one, so far as known, has been found to dissent from its statements. It is well, therefore, to read attentively what this remarkable expositor has to say concerning the end of our dispensation.
Of the general meaning of the Apocalypse he writes truly as follows, the italics being his own:
If this is so, and perhaps none will dispute it, how strange it seems that the hope of His appearing has no place in the thought or discourse of a vast majority of Christians! Men speak of dying and going to heaven, but how few of the coming of the Lord? Such indifference is no doubt due to the artifice of Satan, who, as Calvin says, “in plucking up the faith of Christ’s coming,. aims directly at the throat of the Church.” It is not death that is set before us, horrible death, loathsome death, with its frequent preliminary agonies and pangs and tortures, that make the suffering of a martyr by fire as nothing in comparison, but it is the coming of the Lord to destroy death. Dr. James Culross, the author of many valuable books, and one of the ablest of English writers, has well expressed the truth on this subject.
First, He will come in person. “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come ia like manner, as ye have seen Him go into heaven,” Acts i. 11. “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout,” 1 Thess. iv. 16. This does not mean an angel, nor the Holy Spirit, nor death, nor any providential event whatever, but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who summons His own believing and saved ones to meet Him “that every one may receive the things done through his body,” 2 Cor. v. 10; that He may “know how much every man had gained by trading,” Luke xix. 15; that he may “give every man according as his work shall be,” Rev. xxii. 12. With this judgment scene the unbelieving world has nothing to do, but only the saints who are assigned their position in the kingdom according to their faithfulness, and of whom it is said, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” 1 Cor. vi. 2.
Second, He may come at any day, for there is no predicted event that awaits fulfillment between this passing moment, and His coming for His people to gather them about Himself in the air. The popular view that the world is first to be converted is a most delusive dream for which there is not the slightest warrant in the Word of God, in the history of the Church, or in the present outlook. The view probably arose from the hideous lie of evolution, it being assumed that there is an inherent tendency in human nature to reach a higher development, or, as poor Beecher used to say, after he became an evolutionist and infidel, “man has been falling upward ever since his creation.” If this is true, and the evil and vulgar beast has made no nobler attainment than that which we see at the close of the nineteenth century, he must have had a mighty low start. His tendency is not toward a higher development in religion and morals, but he will gravitate towards the devil, so that the last days will be the worst days, as the Scripture plainly teach.
Third, at the coming of the Lord for His saints there shall be a resurrection of all who “sleep in Jesus,” and of none others, ‘ Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years,” Rev. xx. 6. The common interpretation, that this refers to the revival of martyr principles, is a self-evident absurdity, for while we may think, in a figure of speech, of principles being kings, or reigning, it is impossible to conceive of principles as priests of God. Alford well says on these words, **Those who lived next to the apostles, and the whole Church for 300 years, understood them in the plain, literal sense,” and he adds, that unless so accepted, “there is an end of all significance in language, and Scripture is wiped out as a definite testimony to anything.”
Even if there is a simultaneous resurrection of the righteous and unrighteous at the coming of the Lord, there is the most marked difference between them, for only-the former have bodies that are glorified, incorruptible, and shining in the likeness of the Redeemer. This is the resurrection for which Paul panted and strove, “the out-resurrection, the one from among the dead,” Phil. iii. 11; and it is unaccountable that the apostle earnestly desired, if by any means he might attain unto a resurrection common to all, and unavoidable. So our Lord tells us about “the resurrection of the just,” Luke xiv. 14; and speaks of those who “shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead,” or “the resurrection which is from among the dead,” as Rotherham properly renders it, Luke xx. 36. Even the Old Testament teaches this elective resurrection, peculiar to the saints, when it says, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, these [that awake] to everlasting life, and those [that awake not] to shame and everlasting contempt,” Dan. xii. 2. In the great New Testament chapters which treat of the resurrection, not a. word is said concerning the resurrection of the unbelievers, but only of the saints, 1 Cor. xv.; 1 Thess. iv. 13-18. Surely “there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust,” Acts xx. 15; but only the just at the coming of Christ. “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished,” Rev. xx. 5.
Fourth, the true Church, the regenerated ones, having been caught away, a foul and apostate religious system will be left, associated with the Antichrist, whose rise and progress are symbolized in the Seal judgments of the Apocalypse, the first three-and-a-half years of His reign in the Trumpet judgments, and the last three-and a-half years in the Vial judgments, the overthrow of Babylon, or all that exalts itself against God, both in its ecclesiastical and political aspect being depicted in the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of that marvellous book. The Jews shall have been partially restored to their own land in unbelief, and there pass through the great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world, when the Lord Jesus Christ will suddenly appear with all His saints, to deliver His people from their distress, to cast the Antichrist and the false prophet alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone, and to establish His millennial kingdom, Zech. xiv. 1-5; Rev, xix. 16-21.
Fifth, when He appears again in the midst of Israel, when He builds again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down, Joel ii. 27-32; Acts xv. 16, 17, then shall He pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, and the knowledge of His glory shall flood the earth, as the waters cover the sea, Hab. ii. 14. In that day, and not before, “the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick; the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity,” Isaiah xxxiii. 24; “Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified,” Isaiah lx. 21; “and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more,” Jer. xxxi. 34. ‘And the Lord shall be King over all the earthy in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name one,” Zech. xiv. 9.
Sixth, “When the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, the bottomless abyss in which he has been bound during the Millennium, and shall go out to deceive the nations, in a last desperate effort to thwart the counsels of God. But he shall not succeed, for he shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the Antichrist and the false prophet are, his seventh and final defeat and fall. After the judgment of the great white throne, death and hades, thank God, shall be cast into the lake of fire. But what a picture does this give to us of the mind of the flesh, that, even after the blessedness and the glory of the Millennial reign, it can be corrupted, and lift itself again in insolent defiance of divine authority, and infinite love.
Seventh, eternity begins. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away . . . And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face; and. His name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there: and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” Rev. xx1. 43 xxii. 3-5, 20.