The Times of the Gentiles
The quotation at the close of the article in the October number entitled The Times of The Gentiles states briefly and completely the case of Paul as illustrating the grace that will be shown to the Jews hereafter. To say, in face of this history, that the Jews have forfeited all the promises made to them in the past is to miss all the lessons of grace that his story so billiantly exemplifies. So when we read from his pen that “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” we understand how thoroughly his own experience enabled him to write such words. The guilt of the nation is no greater than that shown to him. God in the execution of His purposes of grace as they have been declared, will not be balked by the sinfulness of man or indeed by anything of man or any other creature. His gifts and calling are without repentance, that is to say, without change on God’s part. In the language of Balaam, “God is not a man that He should lie, neither the son of man, that he should repent; hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” (Numbers 32:19). The people of Israel in a by-gone day might delay their entrance into the land of Canaan by their own folly and unbelief, but God had promised to lead them in and into Canaan they came. So now, they might, as indeed they did, for the time turn away from themselves in their obstinate folly, the promises of being the people of God in the place of pre-eminence in the earth, but when God’s time comes He will carry out His purposes concerning them for the glory of His grace and the display of His power and wisdom.
With these things before us the question arises, how and when will God bring to pass all these promises to Israel so abundantly given in the Old Testament and so plainly declared in the New to be still in force but now waiting for their fulfilment? Here is where the book of Revelation comes in to fill its place in the inspired Word. It gathers up, so to speak, all the loose threads of the prophetic scheme and weaves them into one harmonious whole in a most beautiful way. Let us reflect for a moment on the problem, as we may call it. Israel is temporarily set aside, the Gentiles are in the place of privilege and blessing, upon the Church of God has developed the responsibility of being the lightbearer for God, and the administrators of the Kingdom of Heaven, and yet it declared that the promises of God to Israel are in full force still. Observe how all these difficulties are solved in the book of the Revelation. And the third part of the chart is an attempt to bring this before the mind in a simple way. Let us look at it.
It will be noticed in the first place that the feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s image are in this third part of the chart and the stone cut out of the mountain without hands is seen striking it. The beast of Daniel’s image is here too, that is the fourth one, still having ten horns thus again paralleling the ten toes of the image. There is seated on the beast a woman which of course is not seen in the Book of Daniel because this woman is the woman of the second part of the chart and here the two are combined in a startling way. But before noticing these things in detail it is well to look in a general way at the make-up of the book of Revelation.
It has often been noticed that in the Word of God numbers are used in a very precise way. We have no thought of going into this phase of the Divine Book because it would lead us too far afield, and it has been done very elaborately by others. Of course one may go too far with anything almost and it is possible that some have allowed imagination to work in their use of this idea of the symbolic character of numbers. But it is doubted by none that the number seven is almost invariably used as the symbol numerically of perfection or completeness. It began with the very beginning of the course of time. The first divinely ordered period in the way of the measurement of time is the week which is made up of seven days, and this number is repeated many times in this same sense of completeness throughout the inspired Word.
Now when we come to the book of Revelation we find it occurring so often that one cannot doubt its significance as being God’s seal on the book as the end of His communications to His creature. Not to mention but a few there will readily spring up in the mind, the seven churches, the seven stars, the seven Spirits, the seven seals, seven trumpets and seven vials. This list by no means exhausts the occasions on which we have this number used in the Revelation but they are sufficient to call attention to its importance. God is announcing that He has said all He has to say or will say to man, for in this book He has manifestly brought to an end the whole history of man’s rebellion and Satan’s plots in the complete triumph of righteousness and final settlement of every problem that the presence of sin in His universe raised.
It has often been noted that in Genesis we have man in the paradise of God to begin with but the rest of the Book of God is the sad story of his exclusion from that place of bliss and the frightful consequences of the entrance of sin. We have, too, in that book of Genesis the first appearance of that sinister figure who has been the tempter and destroyer of man and the inveterate enemy of God. But in Revelation, although at first the darkness of the scene seems to be denser than ever, it is but the prelude to the dawn that soon breaks through the heavy clouds, touching with its golden rays every part of the universe of God and bathing it in Divine glory. Satan is cast down and given his own place forever, and all who have linked themselves with him in his hatred of God and His Christ find their self-chosen doom with him. Christ, the Second Man, is Head over all things and men who have been His followers on earth are with Him. The awful gulf that sin dug between God and the creature is bridged so that God and man are together forever, all death and whatever else sin brought with it into this world have been banished eternally out of this universe of bliss and God is all in all. We say again, the book is manifestly the end, one feels as he completes the reading of it that there is nothing more to say, for every question is settled, every problem solved —”earth’s sad story is closed in glory on yon shore.”
We say all this to emphasize the character of the book as the summing up and gathering together of all past communications and binding them into perfect unity. As we have said, the calling out of the Church and the setting aside of Israel demanded a further book from God.