By Sir Robert Anderson
A RETROSPECT AND A REPLY
"TAKE heed that no man deceive you." Such were the first words of our Lord's reply to the inquiry, "What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?" And the warning is needed still. "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons," was almost His last utterance on earth, before He was taken up. And if this knowledge was denied to His holy apostles and prophets, we may be sure it has not been disclosed to us today. Nor can a secret which, as the Lord declared, "the Father hath put in His own power," (Acts 1:7) be discovered by astronomical research or flights of higher mathematics.
But, on the other hand, no thoughtful Christian can ignore the signs and portents which mark the days we live in. I little thought as I penned the introductory chapter of this book that the advance of infidelity would be with such terribly rapid strides. In the few brief years that have since elapsed the growth of skepticism within the Churches has exceeded even the gloomiest forecast. And side by side with this, again, the spread of spiritualism and demon-worship has been appalling. Its rotaries are reckoned by tens of thousands; and in America it has already been systematized into a religion, with a recognized creed and cult.
But these dark features of our times, striking and solemn though they be, are not the most significant. While the warned-against apostasy of the last days thus seems to be drawing near, we are gladdened by signal triumphs of the Cross. It is not merely that at home and abroad the Gospel is being preached by such multitudes with a freedom never known before, but that, in a way unprecedented since the days of the Apostles, the Jews are coming to the faith of Christ. The fact is but little known that during the last few years more than a quarter of a million copies of the New Testament in Hebrew have been circulated among the Jews in Eastern Europe, and the result has been their conversion to Christianity, not by ones and twos, as in the past, but in large and increasing numbers. Entire communities in some places have, through reading the word of God, accepted the despised Nazarene as the true Messiah. This is wholly without parallel since Pentecostal times.
Then again, the return of the Jews to Palestine is one of the strangest facts of the day. There is scarcely a country in the world that does not offer more attractions to the settler, be he agriculturist or trader; and yet, since The Coming Prince was written, more Jews have migrated to the land of their fathers than returned with Ezra when the decree of Cyrus brought the servitude to a close. But yesterday the prophecy that Jerusalem should be inhabited "as towns without walls" seemed to belong to a future far remote. The houses beyond the gates were few in number, and no one ventured abroad there after nightfall. Today the existence of a large and growing Jewish town outside the walls is a fact within the knowledge of every tourist, and year by year the immigration and the building still go on.
If I venture to touch upon the international politics of Europe, it will be but briefly, in connection with the prophecy of the seventh chapter of Daniel. I have given in detail my reasons for suggesting that the "historical" interpretation of that vision does not exhaust its meaning, and I own to a deepening conviction that every part of it awaits its fulfillment. There, as elsewhere in the Scriptures, "the great sea" must surely mean the Mediterranean; and a terrible struggle for supremacy in the Levant appears to be the burden of the earlier portion of the vision. The nearness of such a struggle is now being anxiously discussed in every capital in Europe, and nowhere more anxiously than here at home. Never indeed since the days of Pitt has there been such cause for national anxiety; and the question of the balance of power in the Mediterranean has recently gained a prominence and interest greater and more acute than ever before attached to it.
I will not notice topics of a more doubtful character, but confine myself to these; nor will I attempt by word-painting to exaggerate their significance. But here we are face to face with great public facts. On the one hand, there is this spread of infidelity and demon-worship, preparing the way for the great infidel and devil-inspired apostasy of the last days; and, on the other hand, there are these spiritual and national movements among the Jews, wholly without precedent during all the eighteen centuries which have elapsed since their dispersion. And, finally, the Cabinets of Europe are watching anxiously for the beginning of a struggle such as prophecy warns us will ultimately herald the rise of the last great monarch of Christendom. Is all this to be ignored? Is there not here enough on which to base, I will not say the belief, but an earnest hope, that the end may be drawing near? If its nearness be presented as a hope, I cherish and rejoice in it; if it be urged as a dogma, or an article of faith, I utterly repudiate and condemn it.
As we dwell on these things a double caution will be opportune. These events and movements are not in themselves the fulfillment of the prophecies, but merely indications on which to found the hope that the time for their fulfillment is approaching. Any who searched their Bibles amidst the strange, and startling, and solemn events of a century ago must surely have concluded that the crisis; was then at hand; and it may be that once more the tide: which now seems so rapidly advancing may again recede:. and generations of Christians now unborn may still be: waiting and watching upon earth. Who will dare to set a limit to the long-suffering of God? and this is His own explanation of His seeming "slackness." (2 Peter 3:9.)
We need further to be warned against the error into which the Thessalonian Christians were betrayed. Their conversion was described as a turning from idols to serve the true God and "to wait for His Son from heaven." And the coming of the Lord was presented to them as a practical and present hope, to comfort and gladden them as they mourned their dead. (1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10, and 4:13-18.) But when the Apostle passed on to speak of "the times and seasons" and "the day of Jehovah," (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3.) they misunderstood the teaching; and, supposing that the coming of the Lord was immediately connected with the day of Jehovah, they concluded that that awful day was breaking. On both points they were wholly wrong. In the Second Epistle the Apostle wrote, "Now we beseech you, brethren, in behalf of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him, to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us [referring of course to the First Epistle], as that the day of the Lord is now present."
"The times and seasons" are connected with Israel's hope and the events which will precede the realization of it. (Acts 1:6, 7.) The Church's hope is wholly independent of them. And if the Christians of the early days were taught to "live looking for that blessed hope," how much more may we! Not a line of prophecy must first be fulfilled; not a single event need intervene. And any system of interpretation-or of doctrine which clashes with this, and thus falsities the teaching of the Apostles of our Lord, stands thereby condemned.Let us then beware lest we fall into the common error of exaggerating the importance of contemporary movements and events, great and solemn though they be; and let the Christian take heed lest the contemplation of these things should lead him to forget his heavenly citizenship and his heavenly hope. The realization of that hope will but clear the stage for the display of the last great drama of earth's history as foretold in prophecy.
If the digression may be pardoned, it may be well to amplify this, and explain' my meaning more fully. That Israel will again be restored to the place of privilege and blessing upon earth is not a matter of opinion, but of faith; and no one who accepts the Scriptures as Divine can question it. Here the language of the Hebrew prophets is unusually explicit. Still more emphatic, by reason of the time when it was given, is the testimony of the Epistle to the Romans. The very position of that Epistle in the sacred Canon gives prominence to the fact that the Jew had then been set aside. The New Testament opens by chronicling the birth of Him who was Son of Abraham and Son of David, (Matthew 1:1.) the seed to whom the promises were made and the rightful Heir to the scepter once entrusted to Judah; and the Gospels record His death at the hands of the favored people. Following the Gospels comes the narrative of the renewed offer of mercy to that people, and of their rejection of it. "To the Jew first" is stamped upon every page of the Acts of the Apostles; and it characterized the transitional Pentecostal dispensation of which that book is the record. The Pentecostal Church was essentially Jewish. Not only were the Gentiles in a minority, but their position was one of comparative tutelage, as the record of the Council of Jerusalem gives proof. (Acts 15. See also chap. 11:19.) Even the Apostle of the Gentiles, in the whole course of his ministry, brought the Gospel first to the Jews. "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you," he said to them at Antioch. (Acts 13:46; cf. 17:2, 18:4.) "The salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and they will hear it," was his final word to them at Rome when they rejected his testimony and "departed." (Acts 28:29.)
And the next book of the Canon is addressed to believing Gentiles. But in that very Epistle the Gentiles are warned that "God has not cast away His people." Through unbelief the branches are broken off, but the root remains, and "God is able to graft them in again." "And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." Judgment will in that day mingle with mercy, for He "whose fan is in His hand" will then gather His wheat into the garner, but burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. The true remnant of the covenant people will become the "all Israel" of days of future blessedness.
That remnant was typified by the "men of Galilee" who stood around Him on the Mount of Olives as "He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." And as with straining eyes they watched Him, two angel messengers appeared to renew the promise which God had given centuries before through Zechariah the prophet:
"This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven"; (Acts 1:1-19.)
A glance at the prophecy will suffice to show that the event it speaks of is wholly different from the Coming of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. It is the same Lord Jesus, truly, who is coming for His Church of this dispensation and coming to His earthly people gathered in Jerusalem in a dispensation to follow; but otherwise these "Comings" have absolutely nothing in common. The later manifestation – His return to the Mount of Olives – is an event as definitely localized as was His ascension from that same Mount of Olives; and its purpose is declared to be to bring deliverance to His people on earth in the hour of their supreme peril. Tim earlier Coming will have no relation to locality at all. All the wide world over, wherever His dead have been laid to rest, "the trump of God" shall call them back to life, in "spiritual bodies" like His own; and wherever living "saints" are found, they "will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," and all shall be caught up together to meet Him in the air. While the profane skeptic ridicules all this, and the religious skeptic ignores it, the believer remembers that his Lord was thus caught up to heaven; and as he ponders the promise, his wonder leads to worship, not to unbelief.
And this event, which is the Church's proper hope, is as independent of the chronology, as it is of the geography, of earth. It is with the fulfillment of Irsrael's hope that the "times and seasons" have to do, and the signs and portents that belong to them. The Lord's public manifestation to the world is a further event distinct from both. Our Jehovah-God will come with all His holy ones; (Zechariah 14:5.) the Lord Jesus will be revealed in flaming fire, taking vengeance. What interval of time will separate these successive stages of "the Second Advent," we cannot tell. It is a secret not revealed. All that concerns us is, "rightly dividing the word of truth," to mark that they are in all respects distinct.
I use the expression "Second Advent" merely as a concession to popular theology, for it has no Scriptural warrant. It would be better to discard it altogether, for it is the cause of much confusion of thought and not a little positive error. It is a purely theological term, and it belongs properly to the great and final Coming to judge the world. But while many refuse to believe that there will be any revelation of Christ to His people upon earth until the epoch of that great crisis, the more careful student of Scripture finds there the clearest proof that there will be a "Coming" before the era popularly called "the millennium." Here again there are those who, while clearly recognizing a "pre-millennial advent," have failed to notice the difference, so plainly marked in Scripture, between the Coming for the Church of the present dispensation, the Coming to the earthly people in Jerusalem, and the Coming to destroy the Lawless One and to set up the kingdom.
But, it may be urged, Is not the expression justified by the closing verse of the ninth chapter of Hebrews? It is only the superficial reader of the passage, I reply, who can use it thus. "Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time," our Authorized Version renders it. And the words are taken as though they were equivalent to "His second appearing," "the Appearing" being a recognized synonym for "the Coming." But this is merely: trading on the language of our English version. The word actually employed is wholly different. It is a general word, and it is the very word used with reference to His manifestation to His disciples after the Resurrection. And further, the definite article must be omitted:
The statement is not prophetic, but doctrinal; and the doctrine in question is not the Advent, but the priesthood. It is not the prediction of an event to be realized by those who shall be alive on earth at the time of the end, but the declaration of a truth and a fact to be realized by every believer, no matter in what dispensation his sojourn upon earth may fall.
The passage therefore cannot be appealed to in support of the dogma that never again but once will Christ appear to His people upon earth. And as the expression "Second Advent" is so intimately connected with that dogma, it would be well that all intelligent students of Scripture should unite in discarding it. The Coming of Christ is the hope of His people in every age.
The only adverse criticism I have seen of The Coming Prince has appeared in later editions of The Approaching End of the Age. Feelings of esteem and friendship for the author influenced my notice of that work, but no considerations of this kind have restrained his pen in replying to my strictures; and the fact that a writer so able and so bitterly hostile has not ventured to question in a single point the main conclusions here established is a signal proof that they are irrefutable.
Dr. Grattan Guinness complains that I have made no attempt to "reply" to his book. My only reference to it has been made incidentally in an appendix note; and in so far as it deals with the "primary and partial realization of the prophecies" I have taken the liberty of praising it. Why then should I "reply "to a treatise in respect of that in it which I value and adopt? These pages give proof how thoroughly I accept a historical interpretation of prophecy; and if any one demands why then I have not given it greater prominence, I recall St. James's answer when the Apostles were accused of neglecting in their teaching the writings of Moses. "Moses," he declared, "hath in every city them that teach him. "What was needed, therefore, if the equilibrium of doctrine was to be maintained, was that they should teach grace. On similar grounds the task I here set myself was to deal with the fulfillment of the prophecies. But I have no controversy with those who use their every talent in unfolding the "historical" interpretation of them. My quarrel is only with men who practically deny the Divine authorship of the sacred word, by asserting that their apprehension of it is the limit of its scope, and exhausts its meaning. And The Coming Prince is a crushing reply to the system which dares to write". Fulfilled" across the prophetic page. "The real question at issue here," I again repeat, "is the character and value of the Bible." Dr. Guinness asserts that the apocalyptic visions have been fulfilled in the events of the Christian era. I hold him to that issue, and I test it by a reference to the vision of the sixth chapter. Has this been fulfilled, as in fact he dares to assert it has? The question is vital, for if this vision still awaits fulfillment, so also do all the prophecies which follow it. Let the reader decide this question for himself, after studying the closing verses of the chapter, ending with the words, "For THE GREAT DAY OF HIS WRATH IS COME, and who shall be able to stand?"
The old Hebrew prophets were inspired of God to describe the terrors of "the great day of His wrath," and the Holy Spirit has here reproduced their very words. (Cf. Isaiah 13:9, 10, and Joel 2:31, 3:15; see also Zephaniah 1:14, 15.) The Bible contains no warnings more awful in their solemnity and definiteness. But just as the lawyer writes "Spent" across a statute of which the purpose has been satisfied, so these men would teach us to write "Fulfilled" across the sacred page. They tell us, forsooth, that the vision meant nothing more than to predict the rout of pagan hordes by Constantine To speak thus is to come perilously near the warned-against sin of those who "take away from the words of the book of this prophecy." But when our thoughts turn to these teachers themselves we are restrained by remembering their piety and zeal, for "their praise is in all the Churches." Let us then banish from our minds all thoughts of the men, and seize upon the system which they advocate and support. No appeal to honored names should here be listened to. Names as honorable, and a hundred times more numerous, can be cited in defense of some of the crassest errors which corrupt the faith of Christendom. What then, I ask, shall be our judgment on a system of interpretation which thus blasphemes the God of truth by representing the most awful warnings of Scripture as wild exaggeration of a sort but little removed from falsehood?If it be urged that the events of fifteen centuries ago, or of some other epoch in the Christian dispensation, were within the scope of the prophecy, we can consider the suggestion on its merits; but when we are told that the prophecy was thus fulfilled, we can hold no parley with the teaching. It is the merest trifling with Scripture. And more than this, it clashes with the great charter truth of Christianity. If the day of wrath has come, the day of grace is past, and the Gospel of grace is no longer a Divine message to mankind. To suppose that the day of wrath can be an episode in the dispensation of grace is to betray ignorance of grace and to bring Divine wrath into contempt. The grace of God in this day of grace surpasses human thought; His wrath in the day of wrath will be no less Divine. The, breaking of the sixth seal heralds the dawning of that awful day; the visions of the seventh seal unfold its unutterable terrors. But, we are told, the pouring out of the vials, the "seven plagues which are the last, for in them is finished the wrath of God," (Revelation 15:1, R.V.) is being now accomplished. The sinner, therefore, may comfort himself with the knowledge that Divine wrath is but stage thunder, which, in a practical and busy world, may safely be ignored!
I called attention to Dr. Guinness's statement that "from the then approaching command to restore and to build again Jerusalem to the coming of Messiah the Prince was to be seventy weeks"; and I added," This is a typical instance of the looseness of the historical school in dealing with Scripture." Of this, and of some other errors which I noticed, the only defense he offers is that "expressions not strictly correct, yet perfectly legitimate, because evidently elliptical, are for brevity's sake employed." How brevity is attained by writing "seventy" instead of "sixty-nine" I cannot conceive. The statement is a sheer perversion of Scripture, unconsciously made, no doubt, to suit the exigencies of a false system of interpretation. The prophecy plainly declares the period "unto Messiah the Prince" to be sixty-nine weeks, leaving the seventieth week to be accounted for after the specified epoch; but Dr. Guinness's system can give no reasonable account of the seventieth week, and so, unconsciously, I repeat, he shirks the difficulty by misreading the passage. Insist on his reading it aright and accounting for the last seven years of the prophetic period, and his interpretation of the vision at once stands refuted and exposed.
When the language of Scripture is treated so loosely by this writer, no one need be surprised if my words fare badly at his hands. He is wholly incapable of deliberate misrepresentation, and yet his inveterate habit of inaccuracy has led him to misread The Coming Prince on almost every point on which he refers to it.
The fact is, he only knows two schools of prophetic interpretation, the Futurist and his own; and therefore he seems unable even to understand a book which is throughout a protest against the narrowness of the one and the mingled narrowness and wildness of the other. But his personal references are unworthy of the writer and of the subject. I pass on to deal with the only points on which his criticisms are of any general interest or importance; I mean the predicted division of the Roman earth, and the relations between Antichrist and the apostate Church.
My statement was: "The division of the Roman earth into ten kingdoms has never yet taken place. That it has been partitioned is plain matter of history and of fact; that it has ever been divided into ten is a mere conceit of writers of this school."
"An astonishingly reckless assertion" Dr. Guinness declares this to be; and yet we have but to turn the page to obtain from his own pen the plainest admission of its truth. It must be borne in mind, he says, that the ten kingdoms are to be sought "only in the territory west of Greece." And if we are prepared to accept this theory, we shall find, after making large allowances as to boundaries, that in this, which is prophetically the least important moiety of the Roman earth, "the number of the kingdoms of the European commonwealth has, as a rule, averaged ten." Mr. Guinness gives a dozen lists – and he tells us he has a hundred more in reserve – to prove that, with kaleidoscopic instability and vagueness, or, to quote his words, "amidst increasing and almost countless fluctuations, the kingdoms of modern Europe have from their birth to the present day always averaged about ten in number." "Averaged about ten," mark, though the prophecy specifies ten with a definiteness which becomes absolute by its mention of an eleventh rising up and subduing three of them. And "modern Europe," too! Zeal for the Protestant cause seems to blind these men to the plainest teaching of Scripture. Jerusalem, and not Rome, is the center of the Divine prophecies and of God's dealings with His people; and the attempt to explain Daniel's visions upon a system which ignores Daniel's city and people does violence to the very rudiments of prophetic teaching. This vaunted canon of interpretation, which reads "modern Europe" instead of the prophetic earth, is, I repeat, "a mere conceit of writers of this school." First they minimize and tamper with the language of prophecy, and then they exaggerate and distort the facts of history to suit their garbled reading of it. "Can they," Dr. Guinness demands of us, "alter or add to this tenfold list of the great kingdoms now occupying the sphere of old Rome? – Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France, Germany, England, Holland, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal. Ten, and no more! ten, and no less!" I answer, Yes, we can both alter it and add to it. The list includes territory which was never within "the sphere of old Rome" at all, and it omits altogether nearly half of the Roman earth.
This is bad enough, but it is not all. For if we accept his statements, and seek to interpret the thirteenth chapter of Revelation by them, he at once changes his ground and protests against our numbering "Protestant nations "among the ten horns at all. They are "chronologically out of the question," he tells us. Here is the language of this vision about Antichrist. "And there was given to him authority over every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation. And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, every one whose name hath not been written in the book of life." (Revelation 13:7, 8, R.V.) What mean these most definite and solemn words? Nothing, he tells us, but that "throughout the Dark Ages," and "prior to the rise of Protestantism," the Roman Catholic religion should prevail in the western moiety of the Roman earth. This, he declares, is "the fulfillment of the prediction." He calls this "explaining" Scripture. Most people would call it explaining it away!
I now come to the last point. "Our critics maintain," Dr. Guinness writes, "that Babylon runs her career, and is destroyed by the ten horns, who then agree and give their power to Antichrist, or the Beast. That is, they hold that the reign of Antichrist follows the destruction of Babylon by the ten horns."
The foundation of this statement must be sought in the author's own lucubrations, for nothing to account for it will be found in the pages he criticizes; and a similar remark applies to his references to The Coming Prince in the paragraphs which follow. I will not allude to them in detail, but in a few sentences dispose of the position he is seeking to defend.
We have now got to the seventeenth chapter of Revelation. His argument is this. The eighth head of the Beast must be a dynasty; the Beast carries the Woman; the Woman is the Church of Rome. Therefore the dynasty symbolized by the eighth head must have lasted as long as the Church of Rome; and thus the Protestant interpretation is settled "on a foundation not to be removed."
It is not really worth while pausing to show how gratuitous are some of the assumptions here implied. Let us, for the sake of argument, accept them all, and what comes of it? In the first place, Dr. Guinness is hopelessly involved in the transparent fallacy I warned him against in this volume. The Woman is destroyed by the agency of the Beast. How then is he going to separate the Pope from the apostate Church of which he is the head, and which, according to the "Protestant interpretation," would cease to be the apostate Church if he were no longer owned as head?
The historicist must here make choice between the Woman and the Beast. They are distinct throughout the vision, and in direct antagonism at the close. If the Harlot represents the Church of Rome, his system gives no account whatever of the Beast; it ignores altogether the foremost figure in the prophecy, and the vaunted "foundation" of the so-called "Protestant interpretation" vanishes into air. Or if he takes refuge upon the other horn of the dilemma, and maintains that the Beast symbolizes the apostate.. Church, the Harlot remains to be accounted for. He, forgets, moreover, that the Beast appears in Daniel's visions; in relation to Jerusalem and Judah. Suppose, therefore,. we should admit everything he says, what would it amount to? Merely a contention that "the springing and germinant accomplishment" of these prophecies "throughout many' ages" (I quote Lord Bacon's words once more) is fuller, and clearer than his critics can admit, or the facts of history' will warrant. The truth still stands out plainly that "the height or fullness of them" belongs to an age to come:, when Judah shall once more be gathered in the Promised Land, and the light of prophecy which now rests dimly' upon Rome shall again be focused on Jerusalem.
The popularity of the historical system lies no doubt in the appeal it makes to the "Protestant spirit." But surely we can afford to be sensible and fair in our denunciation of the Church of Rome. Who can fail to perceive the growth of an antichristian movement that may soon lead [ us to hail the devout Romanist as an ally? With such, the Bible, neglected though it be, is still held sacred as the inspired word of God; and our Divine Lord is reverenced and worshipped, albeit the truth of His Divinity is obscured by error and superstition. I appeal here to the Pope's Encyclical Letter of the 18th November, 1893, on the study of the Holy Scriptures. The following is an extract from it:--
"We fervently desire that a greater number of the faithful should undertake the defense of the holy writings, and attach themselves to it with constancy; and, above all, we desire that those who have been admitted to Holy Orders by the grace of God should daily apply themselves more strictly and zealously to read, meditate upon, and explain the Scriptures. Nothing can be better suited to their state. In addition to the excellence of such knowledge and the obedience due to the word of God, another motive impels us to believe that the study of the Scriptures should be counseled. That motive is the abundance of advantages which follow from it, and of which we have the guarantee in the words of Holy Writ: '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. It is with this design that God gave man the Scriptures; the examples of our Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles show it. Jesus Himself was accustomed to appeal to the holy writings in testimony of His Divine mission."
There is here surely, in some sense at least, the ground for a common faith, which might, as regards individual Christians, be owned as a bond of brotherhood; but an impassable gulf divides us from the ever-increasing host of so-called Protestants who deny the Divinity of Christ and the inspiration of the Scriptures. These have their true place in the great army of infidelity which will muster at last around the banner of the Antichrist.
My protest is made, not in defense of the Papacy, but of the Bible. If any one can point to a single passage of Scripture relating to Antichrist, whether in the Old Testament or in the New, which can, without whittling it down, and frittering away the meaning of the words, find its fulfillment in Popery, I will publicly retract, and confess my error. Take 2 Thessalonians 2:4 as a sample of the rest. The "man of sin" "opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped [Greek, that is an object of worship], so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God." This means merely, forsooth, that on certain occasions the Pope's seat in St. Peter's is raised above the level of the altar on which the "consecrated wafer" lies! Such statements – I care not what names may be cited in support of them – are an insult to our intelligence and an outrage upon the word of God.
Then, again, in the ninth verse, the coming of the "Lawless One" is said to be "according to the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders." These words are explained by the vision of the Beast in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation, which declares that "the Dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority." And we have from the lips of our blessed Lord Himself the warning, that the "great signs and wonders," thus to be wrought by Satanic power, shall be such that, "if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." (Matthew 24:24.) In a word, the awful and mysterious power of Satan will be brought to bear upon Christendom with such terrible effect, that human intellect will be utterly confounded. Agnosticism and infidelity will capitulate in presence of overwhelming proof that supernatural agencies are at work. And if faith itself, divinely given, shall stand the test, it is only because it is impossible for God to allow His own elect to perish.
When we demand the meaning of all this, we get answer "Popery." But where, we ask, are the "great signs and wonders" of the Popish system? And, in reply, we are told of its millinery, and its mummery, and all the well-known artifices of priestcraft, which constitute its special stock-in-trade. As though there were anything in these to deceive the elect of God! To take the low ground of mere Protestantism, it is notorious that here in England none become entangled in the toils of Rome save such as have already become enervated and corrupted by sacerdotalism and superstition within the communion they abandon. And it is no less notorious that, in Roman Catholic countries, the majority of men maintain towards it an attitude of either benevolent or contemptuous indifference. Remembering, moreover, that the followers of the Beast are doomed to endless and hopeless destruction, we go on to inquire whether this is to be the fate of every Roman Catholic. By no means, we are assured; for, in spite of the evils and errors of the Romish Church, some within its pale are reckoned among the number of "God's elect."
What conclusion, then, are we to come to? Are we to accept it as a canon of interpretation that Scripture never means what it says? Are we to hold that its language is so loose and unreliable as to be practically false? We repudiate the profane suggestion; and, adopting the only possible alternative, we boldly assert that all these solemn words still await their fulfillment. In a word, we are shut up to the conclusion that THE ANTICHRIST IS YET TO COME.
1. Were I now writing that note in the light of passing events, I should specify France where I have named Germany, and I should allude to the efforts now making by Russia to acquire a naval station in the Mediterranean.
2. 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2, R. V. "The day of Christ" in A. V. is a wrong reading.
3. See 1 Corinthians 11:26: "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come." No past but the Cross; no future but the Coming. To separate the believer from the Coming is as great an outrage upon Christianity as to separate him from the Cross.
4. Romans 11; see vv. 1, 2, 9, 12, 15-26. Note that "all Israel" is not = every Israelite, for in the Greek there is no such ambiguity as in English; and the seeming contradictions in the chapter are explained by the fact that the "cast away" of vv. 1, 2, is a wholly different word from the "casting away" of ver. 15, and the "fall" of ver. 11 from the "fall" of ver. 12.
5. 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8. The "mighty angels" of the prophecy are, I presume, the "holy ones" of Zechariah 14:5.
6. Between the first of these and the second, there will no doubt intervene a period at least as long as that which elapsed between His coming to Bethlehem and His manifestation to Israel at His first advent, and probably a period very much more prolonged. Whether the interval between the second and third will be measured by days or years, we are wholly unable to decide. The only certain indication of its length is that the Antichrist, whose power will be broken by the one, will be actually destroyed by the other.
I am here assuming that all the events which are yet to be fulfilled will occur in a comparatively brief period. But I wish to guard myself against the idea that I assert this. I deprecate in the strongest way the idea, now so common, that students of astronomy and mathematics have solved the mystery which God has expressly kept in His own power. Could any student of the Old Testament have dreamed that nearly two thousand years would intervene between the sufferings of Christ and His return in glory? Would the early Christians have tolerated such a suggestion? And if another thousand years should yet run their course before the Church is taken up, or if a thousand years should intervene between that event and the Coming to the Mount of Olives, not a single word of Scripture would be broken. As, I have said, "it is only in so far as prophecy falls within the seventy weeks that it comes within the range of human chronology." Much is made of supposed eras of 1, 260 and 2, 520 years. But even if we could certainly fix the epoch of any such era, the question would remain whether they may not be mystic periods, like the 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1.
7. It occurs four times in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8.
"Insomuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment, so Christ also, having been once [i.e., once for all] offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for Him, unto salvation." (Hebrews 9:27, 28.)
8. See, e. g., Chap. 9. and App., note C.
9. See especially the quotation from Dean Alford.
10. It is only by reason of its almost inconceivable silliness that such. teaching can escape the charge of profanity.
11. For instance, he becomes vehement in denouncing my statement that "all Christian interpreters are agreed" in recognizing a parenthesis in Daniel's prophetic vision of the beasts. No doubt he read the passage as though I had there spoken of the fall of the Roman empire, and not its "rise"; for the statement is indisputably true, and he himself is numbered among the "Christian interpreters" who endorse it. Here is another specimen. With reference to the question of the ten kingdoms, he says, "Dr. Anderson and other Futurist writers…teach — (1) that the ten horns are not yet risen; (2) that when they do rise five will be found in Greek territory, and five only in Roman; and that when at last developed, (3) after a gap of 1, 400 years of which the prophecy takes no notice at all, (4) they will last for three and a half years" (p. 737).
I have numbered these sentences to enable me briefly to remind the intelligent reader that, excepting No. I, everything here attributed to me is in flat opposition to some of the plainest statements in my book. In the same way he attributes to me the figment that the career of Antichrist will be limited to three and a half years. I have sometimes wondered whether he ever read The Coming Prince at all! A word as to his strictures on my title. I am aware of course that in the Hebrew of Daniel 9:26, there is not the article, but I am not misled by the inference he draws from its omission. Had the article been used, the prince intended would clearly have been "Messiah the Prince" of ver. 25. In English the article has not this force, and therefore it is rightly inserted, as both the Translators and the Revisers have recognized. Dr. Tregelles here remarks, "This destruction is here said to be wrought by a certain people, not by the prince who shall come, but by his people: this refers us, I believe, to the Romans as the last holders of undivided Gentile power; they wrought the destruction long ages ago. The prince who shall come is the last head of the Roman power, the person concerning whom Daniel had received so much previous instruction." Such is the pre-eminence of this great leader that he is bracketed with our Lord Himself in this prophecy, and the people of the Roman empire are described as being his people. Yet Mr. Guinness believes that Titus is referred to! Really the day is past for discussing such a suggestion.
I may here remark that the rendering of Daniel 9:27 in the Revised Version disposes of the figment that it was Messiah who made a seven years' covenant with the Jews. The causing the sacrifice to cease is not an incident in the midst of the "week," but a violation of the treaty "for half of the week."
12. The reference to the Temple is explained by Daniel 9:27, 12:11, and Matthew 24:15. These teachers ask us to believe that while the Church of Rome is the Beast and the Harlot and everything that is corrupt and infamous in apostate Christianity, yet St. Peter's, the great central shrine of this apostasy, is owned by God as being the Temple of God. The sacrifice of the Mass they denounce as idolatrous and blasphemous, and yet we are t6 suppose that Holy Scripture refers to it as representing all that is Divine on earth! The sacred words admit of only one meaning, viz., that the Antichrist, claiming to be himself Divine, will suppress all worship rendered to any other god.
Such are the wild extravagances and puerilities of interpretation and of forecast which mar the writings of these interpreters, that men have come to regard these visions, which ought to inspire reverence and awe, as "principal subjects of ridicule" — the specialty of mystics and faddists. How great the need, then, for a united and sustained effort to rescue the study from the contempt into which it has fallen! Each of the recognized schools of interpretation has truth which the rival schools deny. A new era would begin if Christians would turn from all these schools — Preterist, Historical, and Futurist — and learn to read the prophecies as they read the other Scriptures: as being the word of Him who is, and was, and is to come, our Jehovah-God, with whom present, past, and future are but one "eternal now."