It is noticeable that every major conflict between nations for many centuries past has resulted in a greatly increased interest in the study of the prophetic Scriptures. When men see everything shaking to pieces which they have supposed to be firm and stable, it is not to be wondered at that they begin to inquire concerning those things which cannot be shaken, as set forth in God’s Holy Word. Unfortunately, we are all creatures of limitations, and our thinking and our outlook are very likely to be bounded in great measure by the circumstances of the times in which our lot is cast. Thus there has ever been an inclination on the part of many students of prophecy to try to fit the events of which they themselves have cognizance into the prophetic picture as given in the Word. Ever since the Napoleonic wars, for instance, how many efforts have been made to identify certain outstanding characters as the Beast or the Antichrist, and how often have predictions been confidently made that events going on at a particular time were heading up to Armageddon and would bring within a very few months or years the end of the present age, the return of Christ, and the setting up of His Millennial Kingdom!
It is always right to be watching and waiting for the coming of the Lord. This we are commanded to do. “That blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” should ever be the lodestar of our souls as we journey on over the sea of life; and surely every instructed Christian, saddened and wearied by man’s vain efforts to bring about and insure a lasting peace on earth, must look with eager, glad anticipation to the promised Second Advent of the Prince of Peace, who is to reign in righteousness and bring deliverance to the troubled world.
But time and again prophetic teachers have attempted to work out various systems of chronology drawn partially or wholly from Scripture or in other cases drawn from some fanciful interpretation of the Great Pyramid in Egypt, the stars in their courses, or even the predictions of charlatans like Nostradamus, Mother Shipton and others. Most of these systems prove popular for a time, but as a rule their overconfident exploiters set the dates for the fulfillment of their hopes so close at hand that they themselves live to see their prophecies proved utterly false. Others pass away before their predictions are shown to be wrong, and yet in many instances these attempted efforts to set the time for Messiah’s Second Advent are worked over by others and added to in such a way as to modernize them and apply them to new and changed conditions, but all at last are proved to be false.
The reason for this is, as I honestly believe, that we are living in a period concerning which we have absolutely no chronology in the Word of God, and certainly nothing in the Great Pyramid, to guide us. I only refer to the Pyramid because so many have based their faith upon what they fancy to be its corroboration of their theories. I do not for one moment believe it is the pre- dicted altar to be set up at the border of the land of Egypt, for it is not an altar at all, but a great mausoleum. The Word of God needs no outside corroboration. It is complete in itself. “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.” If the Word of God can perfect the man of God completely, then he needs not to add anything to it in order to obtain this desired end.
It is a recognized principle in the ways of God with men to present certain privileges to them or give certain promises which, however, are contingent as to the time of fulfillment upon the faith and obedience of those to whom they are given. Some outstanding promises do not come under these limitations. God’s covenant with Abraham was one of pure grace. Nothing that has happened since or can happen will change it in the least degree. Through Abraham’s glorious Seed, our Lord Jesus Christ, all nations shall yet be blessed in accordance with the promise. But other promises have been given which were dependent upon faith and obedience for their fulfillment. One has only to think of God’s promises to Israel that they should inherit the land of Palestine and possess it in spite of all the efforts of their enemies to dislodge them, provided they walked in obedience to His Holy Word. This they failed to do, and therefore they lost their land, but the same God who told them that this would be the result of their waywardness, has also declared that the time will come when they will return to that land and will become a to a right understanding of prophecy. This key once laid hold of will save from much blundering, and certainly should deliver the people of God from discouragement when it almost looks as though God’s plans have gone awry and are not working out according to His mind. The fact is, He is working everything according to the counsel of His own will, but many of us have failed to understand what that counsel involves.
With these preliminary thoughts in mind then, shall we go on to examine a number of Scriptures in which the Great Parenthesis is clearly indicated, and as we do so, may God grant that it be in dependence upon His Holy Spirit, to keep us from missing His mind, and to lead us, in accordance with the promise of our Lord, into all truth, as He takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us and makes known unto us things to come.