The Times of the Gentiles
We are indebted to the executors of the estate of our deceased brother C. W. Ross for these important papers on the TIMES OF THE GENTILES. Although published in 1933, their relevance to the present urged the family to have them reprinted. It is an honour to comply in this, and we trust that the careful perusal of each article will quicken in hearts the living hope of the imminent return of the Lord.
Be sure that in this number you have received your copy of the chart that is so necessary for the understanding of these articles. If there was none enclosed in your issue, please notify This office promptly.
But let us turn to our chart again. It will be observed that there is another parallel line running up and down the chart. This one has neither images nor pictures of any kind, however, but is made up mostly of Scripture references. This is based on the prophecy of the ninth chapter of Daniel. Already nearly seventy years had been passed by the people of Israel in exile, as was predicted by the prophet Jeremiah, and Daniel, realizing that this period had just about expired, seeks the face of God in prayer and supplication, asking for mercy and restoration. His prayer is a most touching one, and finds an immediate response. An angel is sent to convey to him the mind of God concerning his people for whom he had prayed so earnestly, and what was said by him is a very wonderful revelation of the future of Israel. It would be outside our aim were we to attempt a detailed exposition of this portion of the Word, and besides, there are many books of real worth already written on it. One of the most helpful is Sir Robert Anderson’s work, “The Coming Prince.” It is a masterpiece in working out to the utmost detail the dates that are given in this chapter. Here we must content ourselves with the barest outlines of the prophecy. First of all the prophet is told that there is a definite period fixed by God to complete the Divine purposes concerning the people who have been prayed for. The basis of the figures is the period of seventy years of captivity now nearing an end.
Now it is announced that there are seventy sevens of years to run ere the consummation of the counsels of God. Then this period is divided into three separate periods, seven sevens, sixty-two sevens and one seven which is apparently cut off at the end and marked out in a very distinct way by its happenings. The beginning of the whole period is the issuing of a commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, and the end is the completion of all Divine purposes concerning this people. Now without attempting to be precise, it may be said that we can define the two first periods without much difficulty. At least there are periods in their history that well answer to these divisions. There is the time from their resettlement in the land under the protection of the Persian monarchs until the close of the canon of Scripture, and that is just about forty-nine years. Then there is the long interval of silence between the Old and New Testaments that is from the close of the Old Testament until Christ presented Himself to them as the Messiah, and that period is approximately four hundred and thirty-four years, making in all up to this point the whole period with the exception of the last week of years. Now it is said in the prophecy, “after the sixty and two years shall Messiah be cut off and shall have nothing.” Naturally one would say, after the sixty and two weeks would come the last one, but the language is Divine and we must humbly learn not to arrogantly amend the Word of God. It does not say that the Messiah would be cut off in the last week which would be the natural statement, but simply after the sixty and two weeks. What then about the last week of years? It is reserved for its own series of events in which another prince than the Messiah of Israel figures. Read the last verse of our chapter for this and it will be readily seen that this whole period has its peculiar character and its divisions too have their character.
To sum up, then, we would say that the first period embraces the resettlement of the people in their own land and the full provision God made to shape their spiritual character during the time to follow. Then comes the long wait in which things are allowed to develop until the Messiah comes. Last of all a time not yet come when an alien Prince shall make a league with them which he will break and this period will end in complete desolation. This prophecy, it will be observed, does not go on to the details of the accomplishment of God’s purpose to establish Israel forever in their own land, all it does is to cover the time of their course under responsibility. All else is left out in this passage and we must turn elsewhere to find that when their course has been finished, as it will, in complete desolation, then God will come in and work for His own glory, not according to their doings but according to His own gracious counsels. This will come before us again when we reach the last part of the chart.
Before we open up the concealed portion of the chart it is necessary to call attention to what will prepare us for what is to come. When we open the New Testament, we are at the close of the long silence on God’s part and it is broken by a voice in the wilderness announcing that the time had come for the Kingdom of Heaven. The fourth empire of Daniel’s vision is on the scene and everything seems ripe for the establishment on earth of that which had been predicted by the prophets. Now let us turn to the hidden part of our chart for further details.
The Things Which Are
We admit that at first sight, this part of the chart seems a mass of confusion, which it will be our endeavor to clear up. The title is taken from Revelation 1:19, the subtitle, “The mystery of the seven golden candlesticks,” from Revelation 1:20, and the other subtitle, “The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” from Matthew 13:11. The word “mystery” in ‘Scripture does not signify as it does with us, something dark and difficult to understand, but simply a secret hitherto unknown but now revealed. So the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are not the perplexing problems connected with the kingdom but simply the secrets the Lord discloses in Matthew 13; and so with the other occurrences of the word.
The object in making the chart in this form is to emphasize a fact of tremendous importance in the understanding of the Word of God as a whole, namely, that this period in which we live is not revealed in the Old Testament at all. Neither Daniel nor any other prophet tells us of this dispensation and for this we have the definite statement in Matthew 13:3435:
“All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake He not unto them; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.”
But we must approach this in an orderly way and so would look at the Gospel of Matthew with some attention. There are four separate accounts of the life and ministry of the Lord and each of them has a distinct character as is well known. The Gospel of Matthew presents the Lord as the King of Israel, the heir of the throne and crown of David; the Gospel of Mark brings Him before us as the Servant of Jehovah in the midst of His people; Luke tells of Him as the Son of Man, tracing His genealogy back to Adam; and the Gospel of John surely displays Him as the Son of God, a Divine Person on the earth. All this is well known truth and is repeated here only to suggest that we may expect to find in Matthew a development of the truth as to the kingdom which we would not look for in the other Gospels. Look, for instance, at the way Matthew opens, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ the Son of David, the son of Abraham,” and observe how this is followed up in the next chapter with agitation in Jerusalem over the arrival of wise men from the East who inquire where they may find the new-born king, “the King of the Jews,” as they term Him. Then in Matthew 3, the forerunner of the Lord announces the near approach of the kingdom and demands repentance on the part of all who hear him. In chapter 4, John’s voice is hushed and the Lord Himself takes up the message and proclaims, “Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Not only does He preach, He heals all according to the manner of the kingdom or rule of Heaven on earth, namely deliverance from all the oppression of sin and Satan.
In the end of chapter 4 He is the centre of a great multitude of people from all over the land, and to escape them He goes up the mountain-side and there addresses His own. But how does He speak? Just as we might expect, with supreme authority as a King to His subjects. The people recognized this and were wont to say that He taught them as One that had authority and not as the scribes. It is the King Himself who is among them, One greater even than Solomon, as He afterwards tells them. And this effort of the Lord to bring the people to repentance in view of the kingdom goes on until we reach the tenth chapter. In this chapter He makes a supreme effort, so to speak, to spread the news of the coming kingdom, sending forth His disciples all over to carry the good news, and giving to them credentials of their mission, even triumph over the enemy and emancipation from his power to all to whom they might go.
But in the eleventh chapter a change is plainly seen in His attitude. Verse 20 tells us, “Then began He to upbraid.” Every word here is significant. For the first time He is severe and denunciatory. All His gracious overtures have been scorned and the time has come to recognize this. His words at this time are a scathing arraignment of their utter lack of response to every appeal that had been made to them whether by the lips of John the Baptist or His own. The result aimed at by both of them, namely repentance, was wholly lacking and again the question is raised in the mind, what now will God do? Certainly, as is made plain in the next chapter, He will not go on in the same way as He has been doing, for when an appeal is made for a sign from Heaven the Lord curtly replies that no sign should be given to them save that of Jonas the prophet, referring to His own death and resurrection. Furthermore, He states His personal glory in no uncertain terms, “A greater than Jonas is here,” and “A greater than Solomon is here.” Then comes the thirteenth chapter where we have unfolded, “the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven.”
Before taking them up in detail a few words are necessary to make the way plain before us. In the first place, let us notice that the chart here again is arranged in a series of parallels. There are seven parables in Matthew 13, and there are seven letters in Revelation 2 and 3, and these are put side by side in the chart. Naturally it will be asked why we put those two portions in such connection with each other; and of course we must answer this question, because the answer is in a large measure an explanation of the whole chart.
In the first place let us remember that up to this point (Matt. 13) the Church has not been mentioned. In so far as the establishment of something new is concerned, both John the Baptist and the Lord Himself have spoken of nothing but the kingdom of Heaven as about to be set up. Not a word has been said as to its form, but it is quite evident that even the disciples looked for a display of divine power that would free Israel from all their enemies, and make them again the favoured nation in the world. They regarded the Lord Jesus as the Messiah, the promised Deliverer, and they had no basis for thinking of any other kind of deliverance than that which would mean complete emancipation for them and through them the blessing of the world. This is evident from the question of the twelve when the Lord was raised from the dead, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” And their thoughts were entirely justified by all they had learned from their Holy Scriptures. These writings teemed with declarations of a glorious future for Israel, when the kingdom would be theirs and all nations should bow before them, receiving the law from them and paying them tribute. Isaiah declares, “A king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment” (Isa. 32:1); “Darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people, but the Lord shall arise upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isa. 60:2-3); “And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory, and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God” (Isa. 62:2-3); “But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create, for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying” (Isa. 65:18-19).
(To be continued)