The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
THE prophecies of Daniel are a necessary prelude to the apprehension of the Unveiling of Jesus Christ, which presents the crisis of all of Daniel's predictions. The kingdoms of the great metallic image have all passed into history except the last one. Babylon's golden despotism came to its end during Daniel's lifetime. The Medo-Persian monarchy continued until Alexander swept it off the scene in his swift career. His empire, like its two predecessors, was world wide, so that, we are told, he wept because there were no more worlds to conquer. Since then there has been no world-embracing empire. Many may have wept because they could not conquer the world, but no one, like Alexander, has been able to conquer all opposition. No nation has been able to subdue all the earth. Rome never conquered Ireland, nor the upper reaches of Scotland, nor the greater part of Germany. Her imperial eagles never flew over the city which was the seat of all previous world empires. To conquer France you must take Paris, to conquer Germany you must seize Berlin, to subdue England, London must be captured. If the world is to be won the conqueror must seize its capital, Babylon. This world-capital must be in possession of him who desires to hold sway over all mankind. Rome never took Babylon. Turned back by the ferocious tribes of the north, held at bay by the fierce Arabs of the desert, Rome, in fact, never was the mistress of the world.
But are we not told that Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken of the whole inhabited earth (Luke 2:1)? He did. We implicitly believe the record. But we have no faith in Caesar! His grandiloquent decree sounds very fine, but he knew and everyone else knew that it was not strictly in accord with facts. The fourth kingdom of Daniel's image is not Rome. It is a still future empire which will actually include all nations and peoples and languages in its embrace, just as Babylon, Medo-Persia and Macedonia have done in the past. It will not be limited to the comparatively narrow confines of the ancient Roman empire. It will include empires much larger in area than Rome ever was.
The ten toes of the image appear in this Unveiling, corresponding to the ten horns of the wild beast. But it is an earlier aspect than the horns. The toes, composed of iron and clay, present the same truth, from a different angle, which we see in the scarlet woman seated on the scarlet ten-horned monster. Israel, the clay people, will enter into a league of alien nations and have a voice in the government of mankind. The kingdom of the end time is a hybrid dominion composed of an amalgam of apostate Jews and ungodly Gentiles.
The wild beasts of Daniel's later vision will come before us again, so we will not enlarge upon them here. Suffice it to say that here, too, Daniel presents an earlier glimpse than is accorded in the Unveiling. They are seen as four separate wild beasts when they first appear, though later the three eastern beasts are devoured by the western nondescript. In the visions of John all the characteristics of the four beasts appear in one monster. We do not see the beasts until they have been assimilated into one great confederation, or, as Daniel puts it, have been devoured by the fourth beast.
The fact that the wild beast of the Apocalypse is a composite made up of the four beasts of Daniel ought to be sufficient to guard us from the common error of identifying them with the empires of the image. If we couple this with the fact that the vision was not given to Daniel until Babylon's days were nearly numbered, the conclusion is final. And, besides, the beasts are contemporaneous. The fourth beast devours the other three, not, as we would expect if the beasts succeeded each other, and each devoured its predecessor. Our point at present is merely this: The seer of Patmos gives us the elaborated crisis of the seventh of Daniel.
So it is with the vision of the seventy heptads, or "weeks." Sixty-nine heptads have been fulfilled. The seventieth heptad still remains. It is elaborated in this Unveiling. Before considering this notable era, we stop to deplore the rendering "weeks." The translators had an excellent opportunity to use this word in the tenth chapter where the Hebrew reads "three sevens of days." This should read simply "three-weeks," for it is further defined in the thirteenth verse as "twenty-one days." But the aged prophet was not thinking of days when this vision was given, but of the seventy years of the captivity which had almost run their course. He hoped that the period of Gentile rule was about to end and that Israel was to be restored, and the blessings of Messiah's presence would bring in eonian righteousness. The answer is that a period seven times as long as the captivity has been cut out of the period of Gentile supremacy, at the end of which all that he prayed for would be fulfilled.
There is no excuse for thinking that these sevens or heptads run on unbrokenly to their end. There is the plainest intimation to the contrary, for Messiah must be "cut off" after sixty-nine heptads. Then the city and sanctuary are destroyed. Then a league or covenant is entered into by the majority of Daniel's people which is to run seven years. This is the seventieth "week" or heptad. This is the period brought before us in the judgment era of this Unveiling.
What is the characteristic feature of the "seventieth week?" It is the existence of a covenant, the operation of a treaty between "many" in Israel and the great Desolator of the time of the end. This should throw a lurid light upon the pages of the Unveiling. It should confirm us in the position that the ten toes are a confederacy between Israel and the nations.
That the entire period is a literal era totaling four hundred and ninety years of three hundred and sixty days to the year has been fully established by the fact that the number of days from the decree of Artaxerxes to restore and build Jerusalem until our Lord's "triumphal" entry into the capital, near the end of His ministry (Luke 19:35-40), was exactly 173,880 days, which equals seven times sixty-nine years of 360 days each. From this we come to the conclusion that the period of the apocalyptic judgments will cover seven years of three hundred and sixty days, or two thousand five hundred and twenty days.
Referring again to Daniel's prediction we find that the covenant will be broken in the middle of the heptad. The daily offering will no longer be allowed. The Desolator changes from a friend to a foe. We may well suppose that this change of front on his part is connected with the ministry of the two witnesses. They testify twelve hundred and sixty days (exactly half of the entire period), they lie dead for three days and ascend before Christ descends. Hence it is evident that they commence their ministry before the covenant is broken. The ministry of the two witnesses, then, covers just half of the seventieth heptad.
Daniel, by halving the last heptad, gives us a period of three and a half years' duration. The same interval of time measures the career of the wild beast, the provisioning of the sun-clothed woman and the treading of Jerusalem. It is measured by the moon (a symbol of the powers of darkness) when connected with the beast and the nationsforty-two months. It is measured by the sun and the seasons when associated with the sun-clothed woman who has the moon under her feet.
The two witnesses are killed under the sixth trumpet, which is the second woe. This is some time before the coming of Christ. Hence the two witnesses begin their testimony before the middle of the week, before the covenant is broken and the daily offering ceases. This is probably before the fifth seal, when the persecution against the saints commences.
Jerusalem is the city which is trodden forty-two months and there it is that the two witnesses seal their testimony with their blood. It may help us to understand the condition of affairs in the holy city if we turn over to the religious division of this Unveiling and find that the very same time period is brought before us in connection with the sun-clothed woman, who can be no other than the holy city. Dating doubtless from the middle of the heptad, when Satan is cast down to the earth, the faithful saints in Jerusalem fly for their lives into the wilderness where they will be nurtured for twelve hundred and sixty days (Rev.12:6). The same period is again mentioned, but is called "a season and seasons and half a season," doubtless in view of the fact that sustenance depends upon the seasons. The time from one harvest to another is a "season." Hid away in some inaccessible corner in the wilderness, with no commerce with the outside world, her chief need is food. This is supplied miraculously as when she came out of Egypt.
It is evident that, if we wish to get a proper perspective of this Unveiling, we must focus our eyes on the middle of the heptad. This is the pivot of prophecy. This is the greatest crisis in the history of the chosen nation and of the whole race. At this point Satan takes active control of human affairs and demands the worship of humanity. Up to this point the Jews have the right to worship their God in the temple at Jerusalem. This is guaranteed to them by international treaty. But after forty-two months the treaty proves "a scrap of paper." The God of Israel is defied! His worship must be stamped out! All who serve Him must be exterminated! God takes up the challenge. Judgment is no longer "providential," such as war and famine and pestilence. He marshals the whole creation against the rebels. The very elements turn against them.
Meanwhile the most fearful program ever organized breaks out against the few faithful Jews who remain loyal to Yahweh. Many seal their faith with their blood. Those in the holy citythe true trysting place of those who were waiting for their Messiah to appear on Olivetthose in Jerusalem are miraculously saved and preserved through the terrible affliction until the trial is past.
The chronology of the Unveiling can best be constructed in the light of this crisis in the middle of the week. Let us ask, for instance, where does the fifth seal belong? Before the breaking of the covenant the Jews were protected in their religion. It is only after this that they suffer. Hence the fifth seal is at the beginning of the second half of the heptad.
For the first three and a half years everything looks favorable to Israel. There are great wars. The Occident subdues the orient. But they are on the winning side. Doubtless they suffer as all mankind will suffer, from the fighting and the famine and the pestilence that follows. These are but the beginning of travail (Matt.24:8). Then, after these visitations, "they shall deliver you up to affliction, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated by all nations for my name's sake" (Matt.24: 9).
Alas, they have been hated by many nations for their own sake. They have been driven back to their own land in large measure by the hatred of the nations. Now they think themselves secure at last. They are under the protection of the great federation which guarantees to all the smaller nationalities the right to control their domestic affairs to suit themselves.
The Chart of Time Periods given herewith is intended to be merely suggestive and help to a true perspective. Like all charts it has its shortcomings but these are not to be compared with its advantages. One of the gravest difficulties in reading the Unveiling is the tendency on our part to take its unfoldings in chronological order and to imagine there are vast periods of time between events separated by many pages and the record of many occurrences. Again we suppose that the breaking of a seal or the sounding of a trumpet is a momentary event, when it may be designated to cover a considerable period. The seventh trumpet, for instance, must be a prolonged blast, for we read of "the days of the seventh messenger's voice" (Rev.10:7). This seems, however, to be especially true of the earlier judgments which are prolonged and limited, while the later ones are severe and swift.
It will help us greatly if we fix the terminal points of the three great series of judgments. If we know when they end it will aid us in placing them where they belong. The sixth seal takes us up to the advent. Its portents are foretold by our Lord (Matt.24:29). He adds "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven; and then all the tribes of the land will be grieving, and they shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and much glory" (Matt.24:30). It is evident that the seventh seal brings us to, if, indeed, it does not include, His coming. Now when the seventh seal is opened there is nothing but a hush in heaven, unless we take the seven trumpets as an elaboration of the seventh seal. If this is so, then the seventh trumpet must also include the actual coming of Christ. And is not this exactly what it is? For the voices in heaven are loud in their proclamation. "The kingdom of this world became our Lord's and His Christ's, and He shall be reigning for the eons of the eons!" Both seals and trumpets take us to His advent.
As the bowls are the last of these calamities, we are led to the conviction that the seals, the trumpets and the bowls all continue until His coming. Having fixed their terminus, we are ready to inquire as to their beginning. The seals, of course, cover the entire period, as the first seal is the chronological commencement of the vision. Nothing is said of any trumpets until after the seventh seal is opened. The trumpets were given to the messengers after this seal was opened, hence we cannot well come to any other conclusion than that the seven trumpets are the seventh seal (Rev.8:1,2). None of the trumpets or woes has anything in common with the first six seals. They evidently are later judgments. This is true however, only of the trumpets themselves, not of the explanatory visions of the little scroll, the temple measurement and the two witnesses. These refer back to the middle of the heptad, under the fifth seal. These are not trumpet judgments but parenthetic preparatory visions, hence should not cloud our consideration of the time when the actual trumpet judgments occur. If we count all the periods introduced in this manner we shall never confine this judgment period to seven years. Unlike the seventh seal, which is nothing but a hush unless it comprises the seven trumpets, the seventh trumpet gives us a definite and glorious conclusion.
The temple section, which follows, commences an entirely new line of thought. Perhaps we emphasize this too strongly, but it seems to need even more emphasis. Not that this section is not concerned with the same people and the same places, but they are viewed from distinct and diverse standpoints. Nor, indeed, are we to suppose that worship is excluded from the preceding throne section or government from the temple section. When we speak of Luke's account of our Lord's life as a portrayal of Him as a Man, we do not imply that He was not a Man in the other accounts. Matthew gives us the King, Mark the Servant and John the Son of God. This does not hinder Matthew from recording Peter's confession that He is the Son of God. Now such a characterization of the "Gospels" is not more helpful than a recognition that the section of the Unveiling which commences at the end of the eleventh chapter with the opening of the temple introduces us to the distinctly religious part of the Unveiling. When the throne appeared we were engaged with rule. Now we are particularly occupied with worship. Hence the added severity of these judgments and their special connection with the priest nation.
But when do the bowl judgments begin? When we are introduced to them, special stress is laid on the fact that they are the last of the calamities"seeing that in them God's fury is consummated" (Rev.15:1). Are we not fully warranted in concluding that these are grouped at the very close of the judgment period? If they are the last, how can others come after them? They seem to synchronize with the seventh trumpet. Otherwise they could not be the consummating calamities.
The remarkable resemblance between the trumpets and bowls (especially the first four) led us to consider the possibility that the bowls might be the trumpet judgments intensified and localized. The trumpets were viewed as the world wide aspect in which only a third was affected, while the bowls were taken as the limited aspect, confined to regions about the land, in which the whole was affected. But the closer this was considered the more untenable it became. The seven bowls are the last calamities (Rev.15:1). None of them can take place before the trumpets sound.
Though not mentioned in this Unveiling, the periods spoken of at the end of Daniel's prophecy are most helpful in fixing some of its events, especially the resurrection and the beginning of the thousand years. Daniel dates his days from the middle of the seventieth heptad, when the daily offering ceases (Dan.12:11-13). Thence he counts one thousand two hundred and ninety days, when, we infer, it is resumed. This will be thirty days after Christ's epiphany on the Mount of Olives.
Furthermore, the resurrection seems to take place forty-five days latera thousand three hundred and thirty-five days from the momentous middle of the heptad. On this day the thousand years begin their blessed course, for the saints who are raised live and reign with Christ a thousand years. No wonder Daniel is told "Blessed is he that waiteth" (Dan.12:12) and John exclaims "blessed and holy is he who has part in the former resurrection" (Rev.20:6).
In a previous vision the cessation of the daily offering is the subject of anxious inquiry. How long till the justification of a sanctuary? This may include the erection of that wonderful edifice portrayed by Ezekiel. It will be built in the holy oblation, north of Jerusalem. From this we infer that it will be dedicated nearly two years after the resurrectionaccurately, six hundred and ninety-five days. This will be two thousand three hundred days after the middle of the heptad (Dan 8:14).
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