(From the Christian Witness, Plymouth, Jan., 1834.)
It appears to me that the result of prophecy has been much obscured, and particular passages much more difficult of interpretation, by narrowing their scope and applying them only to the anti-christian character of the last primary evil. Hence, the subject being wrongly assumed, the application has been forced and unknown. The anti-christian form of the Roman empire engrosses the mind, so that even when prophecy is applied to the Jews, nothing further is seen. But this is a confined view; all the nations of the earth are engaged in this scene. Thus Gog the chief prince of Magog, and his army and followers, formed no part of the Roman empire. The Medes and Persians formed no part of that empire; yet all these do form a part of the great prophetic drama of the latter day. I purposely refrain from entering into details here; if I am permitted, I hope to open out my views upon it, at some future time. I merely now make these few remarks, in the hope of enlarging the sphere of observation. The immediate moral position in which we are, may involve us in direct concern with the last exhibition of power of the Roman beast, even Antichrist, destined, I do not doubt, to close the scene and his career in Jerusalem—the mountain of God, where he has, craftily and to his own destruction, set his seat. But this is but one out of many. He thus becomes one, the first (I apprehend) of those powers, who, round the great centre of divine providence, the Jewish land, are brought, as the inhabitants of the earth, under the judicial process of that righteous providence which shall set the Son of man on the throne of the kingdom of the earth, in the righteousness and peace of God’s own government in Him.
As regards the full moral responsibilities of the Christian Church, the apostasy and judgment of the anti-Christian power is clear and decided, as well as solemn and affecting to the believer, but deliverance and joy withal. But when we turn our eyes to the earth, to the dealings of God with its nations, we find, when He divided to the sons of Adam their inheritance, “He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel,” Deut. 32:8. In this, of course, the beast will take his part; doubtless, he may lead in the career of evil, but let us enlarge our view a little. Were all the nations of the image in the last beast? Clearly not. The Euphrates, the Danube, the Rhine, and (I suppose) about the Firths of Forth and Clyde, and the Irish Sea, form the geographical bounds of all that could ever be taken within the grasp of the last beast, unless perhaps part of Hungary and Transylvania. I am not saying that all this will be under Antichrist,4 or how far it may be, but merely that the last beast extends no farther than this. But besides this, there is in the image, part of the subject of latter-day judgment—the arms and the breast; the Medo-Persian power not included within these limits. This then, besides the actings of the first power, we must find scope for in the scenes of the latter day, as one of the nations that must act upon the Jews, and in the land. The omission of this may cause great confusion in the application of passages, which, having the Jews and the land in view, must include the account of the vicissitudes arising from this also.
Further, Gog and Magog (who form, I imagine, no part, not only of the beast, but of the image, yet take a conspicuous part in the scenes of the latter day, as the witness of the power of God) must be let into the scheme of prophecy; and till we have developed the sphere in which these take their parts, we cannot appropriate the special prophecies which may have their ultimate fulfilment in these very powers. I do not doubt we shall find much detail of movement within the territorial limits of the beast, which are not the action of its body, as immediately headed by Antichrist,5 as well as the final suppression of smaller nations, within the limits of Israelitish territory, as given of God; but into these details it is not my purpose to enter. That which I would press upon your readers is this— that (while the scene in which we are individually engaged leads us to contemplate directly the growth and operations of Antichrist,6 our most important concern), if we would interpret Scripture fully, we must see that this is but conducive to a system and scene of which the land of Israel is the focus and centre, and in which all the people of the earth are concerned and called in question. The length, the circumstances, the particulars of the great day of tribunal of judgment on the people and nations, beginning at Jerusalem, we may reserve to the Lord’s mercy granting us other opportunity. I believe Antichrist to be the first of it, and of a character distinct from the rest—the close to be the clearing of the land and its limits, with the exception, perhaps, of God. But the fact surely seems indisputable and definite, and must widely affect the study and application of scriptural prophecies. To these I would next direct your attention.
4 Antichrist is assumed here to be the head of the beast, as it was by all when this paper was written; not the false Messiah in Palestine.—Ed.