The Evidence That The Times Of The Gentiles Have Nearly Run Their Course
The prophetic Scriptures are as a light shining in a dark place. So marvelously has God therein depicted the characteristics of the age in which we live, and the conditions that would prevail as its end drew near, that no reverent reader of the Bible need be left in the dark as to the place now reached in the history of the Gentile powers. Recent startling events are so fully in accord with what Spirit-taught servants of Christ have long seen foretold in Holy Writ as to be overwhelmingly convincing that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” He alone sees the end from the beginning and speaks of the things that are not as though they were. It is this feature of foretelling the future that differentiates the Bible from every other book. Human writers guess and theorize. God has by inspiration communicated facts which are attested by each passing year.
In this last respect, the book of Daniel stands preeminent. The 2nd and 3rd chapters give an outline of the times of the Gentiles from Nebuchadnezzar’s day to the setting up of Messiah’s kingdom. The four empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, as depicted in its earlier form, have risen and passed away as foretold. But a later form of the last empire is predicted to arise in the time of the end, immediately before the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the all-glorious Son of Man, as the Stone falling from heaven.
Now the last state of the fourth empire is to be brought about as a result of an effort to combine the iron of imperialism with the miry clay (or, more correctly, brittle pottery) of democracy. This union—which can never be unity—of royal authority and socialistic principles characterizes the feet of the image even before the formation of the ten toes. This latter condition does not come in so long as the Church is still upon earth. It is subsequent to the rapture of the saints of the present dispensation. But the iron and clay are already in evidence, and statesmen are making desperate efforts to combine the two, after having learned, to their chagrin, in the last hundred or more years, that the “voice of the people,” if not “the voice of God,” is yet something to be reckoned with—is to be acknowledged and appeased if possible. With our Bibles open to the 2d chapter of Daniel, and the records of the present day before us, we do not hesitate to say that we are now in the iron and clay period, and at any moment the Lord’s assembling-shout may summon all that are Christ’s to the skies, after which the re-formation of the Roman empire in its last Satan-controlled condition will be a matter of but a very brief time, for “a short work will the Lord make in the earth.”
When, in past years, teachers of the Word of God have positively declared that the Scriptures foretold a new socialistic-empire formed of ten great kingdoms, on the ground of the Roman empire of old, many found it hard to take such predictions seriously. But the events of recent years, particularly since 1914, have wrought a wondrous change in the minds of men as to this. It is not only that the enlightened Bible believer declares such must be, but the secular press has taken up the matter, and it is being pointed out that the formation of a United States of Europe is absolutely necessary to safeguard the interests of all nations and to preserve the peace of the world. This in itself is a remarkable sign of the times, and shows how rapidly the end is approaching.
The world-war demonstrated the need of some strong centralized government that could bring order out of the chaotic conditions which even the League of Nations seems unable to control. This League is in itself a step—and a long step—toward that very union of nations predicted by both Daniel and John in the Revelation. And the sudden rise to power of Mussolini is a startling evidence of how rapidly the kingdom of the Beast may be developed after the Church is gone. Already we hear of the revival of the Roman Empire, and this modern “man of destiny” declares that Rome shall soon be restored to its ancient splendors and will emulate the Empire of the Caesars in worldly power and glory.
We need, however, to be on our guard against hastily-arrived at and ill-considered conclusions. I have seen in print, and heard it affirmed by many, that II Duce, Premier Mussolini of Italy, the great Fascist leader, is the predicted Antichrist, the Man of Sin, who should arise at the end of this age. This is quite unwarranted for a number of reasons. Mussolini is a civil leader, not the head of a religious system. Thus far his efforts to bring about a rapprochement with the papacy have been thwarted by the Pope himself. That some kind of a coup may be accomplished in the near future is not only possible but, in my judgment, probable. If so, it may result in the fulfilment of the seventeenth of Revelation, placing the mystic woman in the saddle, where for a brief time she will again dominate the Roman earth. But the Antichrist is the lamb-like Beast depicted in the last part of the thirteenth chapter. He is the imitation Lamb of God who is to be energized by Satanic power. This one will utterly deny the Father and the Son. “This,” says St. John, “is the deceiver and the antichrist.” He will be accepted by apostate Christendom and apostate Judaism as the promised Messiah. His seat will be in Palestine; while, in the West, in the revived Roman Empire of the last days, there will be a great civil leader, a Napoleonic “Man of Destiny,” who will for a brief time attempt to exercise autocratic sway over the civilized world. Both this leader, called emphatically, “the Beast,” and the Antichrist are to act together as the enemies of God and His truth. But they are distinct personalities.
Mussolini, once a socialist of the reddest type, now the advocate of autocratic power, has already declared it is his intention to restore the ancient glory of the Roman Empire. Once an infidel, he has become a Catholic, and is eager that there be a concordat established between the Empire and the Vatican. The Fascist Creed, as it is called, is said to be the foundation of the instruction of the youth of Italy. It begins with, “I believe in Rome Eternal, the Mother of my Fatherland,” and it ends with, “I believe in the genius of Mussolini; in our holy father Fascism, and in the communion of its martyrs; in the conversion of the Italians, and the resurrection of the Empire. Amen.” Mussolini may be the forerunner of the Beast; he might even be that sinister figure himself, but it is better not to play the role of the prophet, but simply to be a humble student of the prophetic Word.
That we are on the eve of great world-changes both statesmen and religious leaders are agreed. The nature of those changes affords endless cause for speculation. For the devout Christian the next stupendous event that shines through the darkness is the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him. We do not wait for the Antichrist. We look for the Lord from heaven. We are only interested in the signs of the times as they harmonize with the warnings given whereby we may know that the end of the age is approaching.
In the last chapter of the book of Daniel there are three statements made which also have a bearing on the times in which our lot is cast. The angel says to the prophet: “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (ver. 4). Observe that three things are mentioned here, which if any one of them came to pass without the other two, would be of no real value in determining the question that is before us. But if all come to pass at the same time we must be convinced that God has spoken, and has pointed out unerringly three signs that the end-times are almost upon us. Note the three predictions: 1st, The end-times will be characterized by prophetic enlightenment, marvelously unsealing the book of Daniel, and the visions therein recorded understood by spiritual men. 2nd, There will be a period of world-wide restlessness: men will run to and fro as never before, owing doubtless to new and convenient methods of locomotion and insatiable desire for travel and adventure. 3rd, There will be a wide diffusion of knowledge—bringing educational advantages to the door of the poorest if there be but an ambition to learn and acquire. Now what are the facts? The last century has been more and more characterized by the very things mentioned. It is not that these things are occasionally fulfilled, but that they are everywhere apparent in the civilized parts of the world. Here then is a three-fold cord that cannot be quickly broken. Insignificant as any one of these facts might seem if it stood alone, the combination of the three at one and the same time is the startling fact. Man’s day is nearly at an end. The day of the Lord comes on apace!
Now link on to this evidence a New Testament prophecy that clearly applies to the same times. Turn to 1 Thess. 5: 2, 3. “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” Here is a strikingly convincing statement, if received in literality as it is written. The day of the Lord is going to break upon the world at some special time, foreknown by God, when men will be talking loudly of Peace and Safety! These are the very themes talked of on every hand for the last decade, and, despite the fearful European tragedy, are heard more loudly to-day than ever. Men of affairs are loudly proclaiming a coming era of universal peace to be brought in by arbitration, treaties, and the evolutionary forces of society, while the day of the Lord steals on them unawares in overflowing judgments to cut off the ungodly from the earth, at the very time that universal peace and safety become the slogan of a world devoted to destruction. All man’s efforts to make this world a happy and peaceful scene, while still rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ, are futile and vain. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
It is not to those who wait for the return of His Son from heaven that the day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night, but to those who ig- nore His Word and despise His grace. “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief…therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”
And if we would watch intelligently it is necessary that we be able, through familiarity with the Word of God, to discern aright the signs of the times. In three short verses our Lord Himself has given us a marvelous epitome of the conditions that would prevail immediately before the great tribulation. Weigh carefully Matt. 24:5-7, and ask yourself if anything could more aptly describe the days in which we live. “For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” With this, couple the equally pertinent words of Lk. 21:25, 26: “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”
The context makes it clear that these are the outward evidences of the near approach of the end-times. They do not definitely fix the time when the Lord must come. They simply show that the days of vengeance are coming on apace. And one might fearlessly challenge anyone to give us a better description of our own days than we have in these verses, taking brevity into consideration.
Note the leading features of the two passages:
First: Many Antichrists. It might be said that there has never been a time since the very days of the apostles that this sign has not been manifested; and this I readily admit. But in a certain sense the whole Christian dispensation is marked by all those things predicted by our Lord, for ever since apostolic days men have lived in what John calls “the last hour.” The greater part of earth’s time or course has been run; only the last hour remains ere the kingdom be ushered in. But while this is so, we gather that the characteristic features of the age will be accentuated at the close. And so it is at the present solemn moment. We hear of antichrists on every hand, and those who are deceived thereby may well be called legion! In all lands these false Christs are found. In America we have witnessed the “powers and signs and lying wonders” connected with the system miscalled Christian Science, which venerated its woman-founder as the second coming of Christ, and holds its false philosophy to be the promised Comforter, thus blaspheming against the Holy Ghost. Lesser lights have flickered and flamed up, then died down, leaving hosts of disappointed dupes, like Dowie, the pseudo-prophet of Chicago; Sanford, the Elijah of New England; Dr. Teed, the Koresh; and others too numerous to mention; and as they pass away, other deceivers take their places, for men would rather believe any lie than God’s truth.
When the Persian antichrist, Abbas Effendi, or Abdul Bahai, toured America and Europe, he was welcomed as the forerunner of universal peace and accorded the liberty of proclaiming his propaganda from “Christian” pulpits. And though, like other pretenders before him, he has passed away, his followers still abound in a land of Bibles, and hope by the dissemination of his principles to bring in a millennial condition while refusing the cross!
Some years ago Mrs. Annie Besant, the aged Theosophical leader, formed the Order of the Star of the East, a Theosophical off-shoot, to wait for a great religious leader—a new incarnation of the Spirit of the Christ. The mountain has labored and brought forth—Krishnamurti! Yet vast numbers of otherwise intelligent people accept the drivellings of this colorless youth as the very utterances of inspiration!
Other “coming ones,” too numerous to mention, engage the thoughts of men. But it is for Antichrist, not the Christ of God, they wait. The Lord of glory, when He comes again, descends from heaven. The false prophet comes from the earth—born in a natural way.
Second: Scripture predicts a period of terrible unrest and internecine warfare as an evidence that the world is entering “the beginning of sorrows.” A few years ago men were flattering themselves that the world would never again be desolated by great wars and wholesale slaughter. It was confidently believed that the social consciousness of the laboring class would make it impossible to hurl great armies against each other. Peace propaganda had so educated the people of all civilized nations that war would soon be outlawed. In the very month that the great 1914-1918 European conflict broke out, the organ of the Peace Society published in Toronto, contained an ably-written article declaring that war was now an impossibility, and a great world-conflict could never occur again! Clergymen, oblivious of prophetic truth as revealed in Scripture, and carried away by the loose, liberal theological systems of the day, were loudly voicing the same empty boast up to the very day that the devastating carnage began.
And now that comparative peace has succeeded to bloody warfare the same unbelieving views are being taught from many pulpits. Yet ever since the signing of the treaty of Versailles the nations have been feverishly preparing for “the next great war”—building navies, enlisting soldiers, storing ammunition—all for what? Universal peace? Nay, but for the wars and rumors of wars of the closing days of this age, and for the great Armageddon conflict yet to be fought out in the land of Palestine, when all nations shall be drawn into the fray. While every Christian should be grateful to God for the comparative peace now enjoyed, it needs to be remembered it is but a temporary truce, for there can be no lasting peace while Christ is rejected—nor until all Gentile dominions are destroyed and He shall come whose right it is to reign.
In the third and fourth places we read of famines and pestilences, the very natural outcome of war, which have reaped fearful harvests since the great world-war, though the science and skill of the world are endeavoring to successfully cope with them. Many high-spirited and noble-minded physicians and nurses laid down their lives in the overpowering conflict in trying to hinder the on-rushing pestilence, while the charity of the world was strained in its efforts to check the ravages of famine—and what may it not yet be in the near future? The black and pale horses of famine and pestilence always follow the red horse of battle.
In Luke’s account we get the fifth sign that the end is drawing near, calamities such as the world has never previously known. Were the dreams of evolution true, we should long since have passed earth’s formative period, but events of recent years show us that this very globe is going through great and momentous changes, preparatory to the conditions prophesied of for millennial times. Surely never have there been so many terrible disasters on land and sea as since the midnight cry summoned the virgin band to trim their lamps. Earthquakes, tidal waves and kindred phenomena have occurred with amazing frequency. Is it any wonder that we see the sixth sign on every hand?—“Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” Confidence is shaken. Nations are bewildered and perplexed. Pledges even of nations are violated, and promises broken. Individuals are in fear and dismay where a cheery spirit of optimism prevailed but a short time ago. Yet, amidst it all, the Christian need not be in perplexity or doubt. The Word of God has forewarned of all this. Minutely it has foretold existing conditions, and the fulfilment of its solemn prophecies should only strengthen the faith of the believer as he turns from all men’s empty vaporing to the unerring and inerrant Word of God.
This spirit of unrest to which we have referred, is particularly manifested in the strained relations between capital and labor. Despite the evident desire of many modern captains of industry to better the conditions of their employees, and to practise what a recent writer has called “the golden rule in business,” capital and labor still maintain a distinctly hostile attitude the one to the other; and the economic questions involved seem no nearer a peaceful and satisfactory solution than in the days when the apostle James wrote his intensely practical epistle.
In that letter there is a passage which, while it unquestionably applied directly to conditions then existing, was so worded by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as to graphically depict industrial conditions at the end of the age. This is not so manifest on the page of the Authorized Version as in the Kevision, or any critical translation. An evidently mistaken rendering of one preposition is responsible for this in the King James Version. This preposition, correctly rendered in later versions, throws a flood of light on the whole passage. It is the word rendered “for” in the earlier translation and “in” in the later ones, occurring in the last sentence of James 5: 3. Read the passage in its entirety:
“Come now, ye rich, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your wealth has become corruption, and your garments moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are rusted; and their rust shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as fire. Ye have heaped up treasure together in the last days.” Note the corrected preposition, and observe where in the course of time, it locates the complete fulfilment of that concerning which the Holy Spirit speaks so solemnly. The passage continues: “Behold, the wages of the laborers who have reaped your fields which is of you kept back unjustly, crieth; and the cries of those that have reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of hosts. Ye have lived in luxury upon the earth, and have been wanton; ye have pampered your hearts [as] in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned, ye have killed the righteous; he doth not resist you. Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until it receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (chap. 5:1-8, 1911 Version).
As by a master hand, the apostle with a few bold strokes, pictures the times in which we live. On the one hand, haughty wealth; on the other, grinding poverty; on the one hand, scornful indifference; on the other, angry dissatisfaction. On the one hand, wanton waste; on the other, bitter need. Such contrasts have ever been common in this world’s sad history, but never were they so accentuated as at the present time when the rich are growing richer and the poor are growing poorer, and the great gulf between the two classes is steadily widening. Ours has been called, and not without reason, the millionaire age. If our grandfathers were worth a few thousands, they were counted well-to-do. Now men hold securities mounting into the millions, while even a billion of money may be heaped together by one man. Statistics show that the great bulk of the world’s wealth is held subject to the order of a little coterie of arrogant plutocrats, who conniving together can control the resources of the nations, and make or prevent financial panics at their will. It is a condition of affairs never before known, and tells us with absolute certainty that we are in the last days.
Nor should I be misunderstood in writing as I have done. It is no sin to be rich, nor is a man necessarily a malefactor because he possesses the ability to amass great wealth. But wealth is a stewardship, and “it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.” He to whom riches are entrusted is accountable to God for the use to which he puts them. Their selfish conservation He will judge unsparingly. James arraigns the rich for their greed and self-indulgence. They had forgotten the word, “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity” (Eccl. 5:10). They were living as though accountable to no higher power, and were eagerly seeking to gratify every lust. Their hoarded treasure, corrupting, moth-eaten, and rusting, witnessed to their sordid selfishness. And this mass of wealth would soon have been largely dissipated had they but dealt in fairness with the laborers on the fruits of whose toil they were fattening. Those thus down-trodden have often felt as though God had forgotten, and in their despair have often denied His very existence. But “when He maketh inquisition for blood He forgetteth not the cry of the humble.” He has been a silent but not unfeeling spectator of the injustice, the heartlessness, and the haughty arrogance of the godless rich. He has noted every tear, heeded every sigh, heard every cry of oppression from the anguished hearts of the downtrodden whose rights have been ruthlessly disregarded by those who should have been to them the instruments of Providence for their protection and blessing. The same spirit that has thus ill-used the poor and needy is the spirit that condemned and slew the Righteous One. It comes to its full fruition in the last days. It will be judged unsparingly when the Lord arises to plead the cause of the afflicted.
But what is to be the Christian’s attitude in such conditions as are here described? Is he to link himself with labor unions and industrial as- sociations of various kinds, generally composed of Christless men guilty of violence and even murder, in order to curb the greed and check the tyranny of soulless corporations and capitalists preying on the laboring classes? Is he to oppose force to tyranny, the boycott to oppression, and the strike to employers’ arrogance? By no means. His path is indicated clearly and unequivocally in verses 7 to 12. “The coming of the Lord draw-eth nigh.” Till then the believer is exhorted to patience and to trust in the living God. He is not to be carried away by the spirit of the age. Complaints, grudges, harsh invectives, are not to come from him who sides with a rejected Christ and waits for His return from heaven. Of old, the prophets had to learn this lesson of patience, suffering for righteousness’ sake, committing their cause to the Lord; ever proving His faithfulness in spite of all man’s unfaithfulness. And they who so endured we count happy, even as was Job the servant of the Lord whose patience has become proverbial, and in whose later history we see “the end of the Lord” and are assured that He is very pitiful and of tender mercy.
Till He comes the Christian can well afford to stand aside from the restless, surging movements of the day; and, committing his cause to the Lord with quietness of heart, he is to let the potsherds of the earth strive with the potsherds of the earth, knowing that God has said, “I will overturn, overturn, OVERTURN it, until HE shall come, whose right it is to reign.” That that glad day has now drawn very near the conditions we have been considering would be sufficient to clearly prove.
But there is another line of evidence, having to do particularly with the nations of Israel, at which we must now look, and with which the next chapter will occupy us.