Last Updated on :Thursday, November 20, 2014
(ii) A NATION BORN
(ii) A NATION BORN
Let us now turn to Isaiah 66. There we read, amid strongest exclamations of surprise, of the earth being made to bring forth in one day, of a nation being born at once; "for as soon", says the prophet, "as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children". (Isa. 66:8) All who love Jerusalem are called upon to rejoice with her. "For thus saith Yahweh, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees". (Isa. 66:12) Who can fail to discern here the bright anticipations of millennial blessing? But how is such blessing to be introduced? "A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of Yahweh that rendereth recompence to his enemies." (Isa. 66:6) Then again, "The hand of Yahweh shall be known toward his servants, and his indignation toward his enemies". (Isa. 66:14) We are told that "by fire and by his sword will Yahweh plead with all flesh; and the slain of Yahweh shall be many". (Isa. 66:16) It is not that all flesh will be slain. Many, so many as to baffle description, and defy conception, will be slain; but there will be many spared. By fire and by His sword will Yahweh thus plead with all flesh; and what shall be the result? "For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send of those that escape unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory and, they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles". (Isa. 66:18,19)
What further ensues? The perfect regathering of God's natural born people Israel, brought for an offering to Yahweh out of all nations to God's holy mountain Jerusalem; "and I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith Yahweh". (Isa. 66:21) Is this the whole? No. "And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith Yahweh". (Isa. 66:23) I enter into none of the questions which have been raised as to the precise meaning of these words. All agree that they express in one way or another the universal prevalence of true religion in the millennium. And surely the whole chapter leaves us in no doubt as to its being by overwhelming, desolating judgments, that this glorious period is to be introduced. But further; the memorial of these judgments is in some way to remain. "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." [Isa. 66:24]
With regard to this chapter, I would only add that it also connects the judgment on the nations, and introduction of the millennium, with the coming of the Lord. "For, behold, Yahweh will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire." [Isa. 66:15] It is then at the coming of the Lord that by fire and by His sword will He plead with all flesh, and subdue the whole world to His sway.
Ezek. 39:11-16 is a passage predicting judgments so terrific,
and a destruction so overwhelming, that seven months
are to be occupied in burying the dead. A passage on
the same subject from the previous chapter reads: "For
in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken,
Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in
the land of Israel: so that the fishes of the sea, and
the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field,
and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and
all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall
shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown
down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall
shall fall to the ground. And I will call for a sword
against him (that is, Gog) throughout all my mountains,
saith Adonai Yahweh: every man's sword shall be against
his brother. And I will plead against him with pestilence
and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his
bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an
overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire and brimstone".
And what is to be the result among men of this awful interposition? "Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself: and I will be known in the eyes of many nations; and they shall know that I am Yahweh." [Ezek. 38:23] Then, after the fearful predictions of the next chapter we have these words: "And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid upon them". [Ezek. 39:21]
And though the predictions of millennial blessing which follow are restricted to Israel, they are so expressed as to show indisputably that it is the millennium that is spoken of, and that it is at the commencement of the millennium that these terrible judgments take place. The verse immediately succeeding the one last quoted, is as follows: "So the house of Israel shall know that I am Yahweh their Elohim from that day and forward". [Ezek. 39:22] How manifest that it is at the epoch of these terrible judgments that their national conversion takes place. "Therefore, thus saith Adonai Yahweh, Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name". [Ezek. 39:25] After being thus converted and restored they are not to apostatize any more. Their blessing is to be permanent. "Then shall they know that I am Yahweh their Elohim, which caused them to be led into captivity among the nations; but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there. Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith Adonai Yahweh" (Ezek. 39:28,29) Could there be more conclusive proof than that which the whole passage affords that the judgments of which these two chapters treat are at the commencement of the millennial period?
If we turn to Dan. 2, what is it that follows the smiting of the image on his feet by the stone cut out without hands? The destruction of the image is complete; but what follows it? What takes its place? "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." (Dan. 2:35) As to what the meaning of all this is, we are happily not left to our own thoughts. The prophet not only gives us the symbols, but also the interpretation of them. Still men have substituted their own imaginings and speculations for the plain words of the prophet. It is not disputed generally that the interpretation of the first part of the vision is correct. All agree that four empires or universal kingdoms are set forth: nor is there much dispute as to what kingdoms these are. Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, are agreed almost on all hands to be the four empires represented by the image. But the stone is erroneously supposed by many to represent the gospel; and that what is foretold respecting it is that it will gradually spread until the whole world, these four kingdoms included, shall, by its means, become the kingdom of Christ. But who does not see that there would no destruction of the image, or of the empires which it represents? What is foretold respecting the stone is not that contemporaneously with the existence and supremacy of the fourth empire, the stone should be slowly and gradually increasing, and as it increases, changing the character of the, image, as this false interpretation suggests. No, but that at a given epoch the stone should smite the image on its feet; that in the last days of the fourth empire a sudden blow should be given which should be fatal to the whole image; and that then, and not until then, the stone that smote the image should become a great mountain, and fill the whole earth. "And in the days of these kings shall the Eloah of heaven set up a kingdom which shall not be abolished for ages; 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 for ages." [Dan. 2:44] Here we have the formal declaration that it is by the overthrow and destruction of the previously existing kingdoms that the final, millennial kingdom is to be established.
7 gives us still more full and explicit instructions.
It is the same general subject, embracing many additional
particulars, and the whole presented, if possible, with
greater precision. Four beasts represent the same kingdoms
which in chapter 2 are symbolized by the several parts
of the metallic image. But the fourth is represented
in a form in which it has ten horns, in the midst of
which comes up another, a little one, whose rapid growth,
swelling words, and valiant looks, excite the special
and wondering attention of the prophet. This one continues
till the thrones are set, the Ancient of days sits, the
judgment is set, and the books are opened. "I beheld
then", says the prophet, "because of the voice
of the great words which the horn spake; I beheld, even
till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and
given to the burning flame." [Dan. 7:11]
what is it that accompanies this judgment? And what succeeds
it? "I saw in the night vision, and behold, one
like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and
came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near
before him. And there was given him dominion and glory,
and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages,
should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass
Zephaniah tells us of a great gathering of the nations; of terrible judgments overtaking them when thus gathered; and of millennial blessedness as that which ensues. Hear his words: "Therefore wait ye upon me, saith Yahweh, until the day that I rise up to the prey; for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger; for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then (mark, dear reader, how God tells us when the millennium shall commence:) then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of Yahweh, to serve him with one consent. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering" (3:8-10). All the rest of the chapter describes the happiness of those millennial times.
Zech. 14 I purposely pass by for the present, as it will have to be specially considered further on. In turning to the New Testament, Luke 19 may claim our first consideration. Can there be any doubt that what is there termed "the kingdom of God" [Luke 19:11] is really the millennium which prophets had foretold, and which the Jewish nation were thus taught to expect? "And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear." [Luke 19:11] Were they wrong, then, in expecting God's kingdom to be set up? No, it was the expectation of its immediate appearance in which they were mistaken. In a certain sense it was even then among them. But it had not appeared: nor has it yet. Listen to the parable of our Lord. "He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to, return." [Luke 19:12] There can be no mistake as to the person represented by the nobleman, or as to what is intended by his going into a far country. Instead of setting up the kingdom when he was here before, Christ had to be rejected by the earth, and to ascend into heaven, His servants occupy during his absence, and his citizens send after him the insulting defiance, "We will not have this man to reign over us ". [Luke 19:14] What is it terminates this state of things? "And it came to pass that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him." [Luke 19:15] His servants are rewarded according to their works. But is this all? No. "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me." [Luke 19:27] This verse we have quoted as prophetic of approaching judgment on the wicked. But what does this judgment on the wicked introduce? The kingdom -the kingdom in open manifestation or display. They thought it was immediately to appear. No, says our Lord, I will tell you what must intervene. What is it that intervenes? or rather what are the last intervening events? The Lord's return, and judgment on the wicked. Our Lord was to depart; his servants were to be held responsible to him in his absence; he was to receive the kingdom, to return, to reward and punish his servants; and then, last of all, his enemies were to be slain. This accomplished, what but the kingdom can remain? The kingdom, manifested, and universally acknowledged glory: in other words, the millennium.
To pass by a number of other passages which might be adduced, what is the testimony of Rev. 11:14-18? Without at present entering into any questions as to the general interpretation of this wondrous book, suffice it to remind my reader that seal after seal having been opened, and trumpet after trumpet blown, we arrive, in the chapter before us, at an epoch of which intimation has been given in the previous chapters. Four trumpets sound their loud, shrill blast of warning and of terror; "And I beheld", says the prophet, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth, by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound" (8:13). Then another mighty angel is seen by the apostle, his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the earth. His voice is as when a lion roareth; and when he cries seven thunders utter their voices. This angel lifts his hand to heaven, and swears by him that liveth for the aions of the aions that there should be delay no longer. "But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared the glad tidings by the prophets" (10:7). Such are the terms in which the last three, and especially the last, of the seven trumpets are previously announced. What, then, is the language of our chapter itself? "The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for the aions of the aions." [Rev. 11:14,15] Need we any further witness? Whatever fancies men may have indulged, and however counsel may have been darkened by a multitude of words without knowledge (as, alas! it often has been), no one dreams that this epoch has arrived, that the predictions of the verse just quoted are fillfilled. The kingdoms of this world have not yet become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ. When shall they become so? When the first and the second woes trumpets have sounded, and the third woe, following quickly, and accompanying the sounding of the seventh angel, has spent itself on the guilty inhabitants of the earth; then shall the mystery of God be finished; then shall the many voices in heaven proclaim the transfer to our Lord and to His Christ of the sovereignty of the whole earth. But listen! There is a second chorus. "And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry (not converted!), and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth." [Rev. 11:16-18] Oh yes, it is thus the universal reign of Christ is introduced. The nations we know will be angry (see Psalm 2); but when the seventh angel sounds, and God takes Him His great power, and His wrath comes, and the time of the dead that they should be judged, and reward be given to the saints, while the destroyers of the earth are themselves destroyed; when this epoch arrives, then, and not until then, shall the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of the Lord and of His Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever. It is by judgments, overwhelming, and yet rapidly approaching judgments, that the millennium will be ushered in.
Dan. 12:1, informs us, "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book". Why do I quote this? Because the passage declares that the time of trouble unequalled by any since there was a nation is when the Jews, Daniel's people, are delivered -not dispersed. Bear this in mind, my readers. The tribulation attending the deliverance of the Jews is to be such as never was till then. So says Daniel. It must be future, for the Jews are not yet delivered; and Daniel assures us that it is then there shall be tribulation unequalled by anything till that time. "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" (Matt. 24:30). Ah, this is the event which is to bring the present dispensation to a close, and usher in the period of universal righteousness and peace.
Let us turn now to Zech. 14: "Behold, the day of Yahweh cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle". [Zech. 14:1,2] Here I pause. Many passages speak of a gathering of all nations. "It shall come that I will gather all nations and tongues" (Isa. 66:18). "For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations" (Joel 3:1, 2). "Now also many nations are gathered against thee ... for he shall gather them as sheaves into the floor" (Micah 4: 11,12) "For my determination is to gather the nations" (Zeph 3:8) It is of the same subject the passage before us treats! "For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city". (Zech. 14:1,2) Such are the straits to which the returned Jews will be reduced in that time of unequalled tribulation of which Daniel informs us. How are they to be delivered? "Then shall Yahweh go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle." (Zech. 14:3) But is this anything more than a figurative prediction of some striking providential interposition at the juncture referred to? Read what follows: "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days Of Uzziah, king of Judah; and Yahweh my Eloah shall come, and all the saints with thee". [Zech. 14:4,5] If this does not foretell the coming of the Lord with all his saints at the period of this great gathering of all nations, where could language be found in which to clothe such a prediction? And what follows this event? To what is it introductory? To a period in which, we are told, "living waters shall go out from Jerusalem": [Zech. 14:8,9] "in summer and in winter" [Zech. 14:8,9] are they to flow. But more than this -- "And Yahweh shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Yahweh, and his name one". [Zech. 14:8,9] Here we have the whole matter. Desolating judgment on God's congregated adversaries; the coming of the Lord, which brings this judgment; and as the result, His peaceful reign over all the earth.
Turn now to Rev. 19 and 20. We are told previously Rev 16:14 of three unclean spirits, "spirits of demons, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole habitable, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty". Here, in these chapters, we have the issue of this gathering. The apostle says, "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war". [Rev. 19:11] We are left in no doubt as to who this is. "He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and his name is called The Word of God." [Rev. 19:13] Nor does he come alone. As in Zech. 14 we have read, "And Yahweh my Eloah shall come, and all the saints with thee", [Zech. 14:5] so here: "And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean". [Rev. 19:14] In verse 8 we read, "for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints". Thus he comes, attended by his saints. Woe to the wicked then! "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." [Rev. 19:15] Yes, the hardihood of God's enemies will not then, protect them from His wrath. Infatuated beyond conception, they will indeed rush to the battle: but it will be to their everlasting overthrow. "And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him . . . These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." [Rev. 19:19,20,21] Distinguished above all others in iniquity, they will be thus awfully distinguished in their doom. And will their followers escape? Alas, no! "And the remnant were slain with the sword of' him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh." [Rev. 19:19,20,21] What ensues on this glorious advent of Christ and his saints, and this utter overthrow of his enemies? Read ch. 20, and you will find Satan bound for a thousand years, and Christ reigning with his risen and glorified saints throughout that blissful period.
Here I pause. Space forbids further proof at present of what is, however, fully proved by all the scriptures which have passed under review, that it is by judgments, and by the coming of the Lord, that the millennium is ushered in. As to what it is that makes these judgments needful, we are not left ignorant. Scripture fully informs us. And there is one thing which makes study of prophecy of such immense practical importance. It is, that we shall be on earth when these judgments are executed. Our scriptural hope is to be caught up to meet the Lord in the political air, and so to come with him when he comes to execute judgment on the wicked. [1 Thess. 4:17] But we are surrounded by those principles, influences, and systems, which are ripening to that maturity of evil which mankind will reach ere those judgments come. God will judge them at the coming of Christ, when they are fully ripe. But has acquaintance with these subjects no tendency to keep us apart from such evils now? Surely it has; and that we might be so sanctified, or kept apart from evil, is one object God has in view in revealing these things to us.
It is not by exciting applications of prophecy to passing events that true edification is secured. The natural mind may feel the deepest interest in prophetic inquiries thus conducted; but scripture was never designed to instruct us as to what transpires in the arena of political factions, or to occupy our souls with such subjects. "Our citizenship (politeuma) subsists in heavens." [Phil. 3:20] "Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth." [Isa. 45:9] It is not with such contentions that God's revelation of the future concerns itself. It forewarns us, in general terms, that wars and rumours of wars may be expected, till God shall interpose in power for the settlement of His great controversy with mankind: till, as the result of this interposition, the sceptre of universal dominion shall be wielded by the Prince of peace. But it is as to this interposition in judgment, and approaching climax of iniquity which renders it inevitable, that prophecy instructs us. And even as to this, it is because the church [ecclesia] will be on earth, amid the desolations of the crisis which is so rapidly approaching, that she receives those revelations respecting it. At the coming crisis opening upon the world, the church [ecclesia] will have been received into the royal presence, at the descent of Christ into the aerial. I do not enter here upon the proof of this. It belongs properly to a further stage of our inquiries. But I would not here withold the expression of this conviction: entreating my readers to search the scriptures for themselves. The church [ecclesia] is instructed by prophecy as to the approaching crisis of evil and judgment, because she is to be present on earth when it arrives, and because she is now surrounded by all those active and insidious principles of evil which when ripe God will judge. The church [ecclesia] is thus enabled morally and spiritually to judge those things now, which in their maturity of evil God will judge by the righteous retributions of His wrath. All the principles of Babylon and of the ten-horned beast are in existence and operation now. How can a Christian more effectually learn what they are, and why and how they are to be avoided, than by the prayerful study of God's prophetic awful judgments by which they will, at the coming of Christ, be destroyed?
There are three very distinct spheres on which the judgments will fall, when the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; Israel, the Nations, and professing Christendom. These will, indeed, be all united in the final climax of evil, and so judgment will come upon the whole. Still, as their responsibilities, and the dealings of God with them, have been and are so very distinct, each demands distinct consideration. And if we are to understand why judgment comes upon Israel we must know what Israel's calling and testimony is, and how it has failed therein. If we are to discern the grounds of God's righteous judgment upon the Gentile nations, we must be acquainted with His past and present dealings with them, and with their conduct under their special responsibilities. So also, to understand the guilt of professing Christendom, and what it is that brings judgment on the nations which are so designated, we must know what the calling of the true church [ecclesia] is, what is its testimony, and in what respects Christendom, while assuming the place and owning the responsibilities of the church [ecclesia], has acted contrary thereto. These are solemn subjects of inquiry. May our hearts be prepared for them. Much that is brighter remains beyond
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