The Times of the Gentiles
The Lord appears to John while he is an exile in Patmos for his faithful testimony and reveals Himself in a new character of a judge and for a moment this brings John into the dust in dread. But as to himself John is soon reassured and then he is told the purpose of this visitation. One cannot but be reminded of similar experiences in the case of Daniel. There the whole book is divided into its three natural divisions, first, the things already seen, second the things which are, and lastly the things to follow. The things seen are surely the vision of the Lord in this new and solemnizing aspect as the judge of that which He has raised up to be a witness for Himself in the world. The things which are, are given to us in the next two chapters and we have been looking at them in some detail. The things to follow after these are clearly indicated for us when we reach the fourth chapter where the prophet is taken up to Heaven and told as he ascends thither, “I will show you things which must be hereafter, (or after these things).”
So what is found in the rest of the book from the beginning of the fourth chapter on to the end is what will take place when the Church is off this scene and her history is closed. This is evident if we notice that we do not read of the Church on earth at all after the end of the third chapter. We do read of Jews and Gentiles but no more of the Church of God. This is really the key to the book of Revelation.
The first thing we encounter in this portion of the book is the throne of God in Heaven and the bringing forward of the book of God’s counsels, for this earth. They are sealed and no man is found worthy to open the seals save One and that is the blessed Son of God, the Lamb slain. To Him then is given this book and as soon as it is put into His hand things on earth begin to be agitated. It is beyond our purpose to attempt to expound the book of the Revelation; we must confine ourselves to that which is immediately connected with the chart. It is evident, however, that the word spoken in Hebrews 12:26-27 is being fulfilled in measure, “Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.”
In the next chapter of Revelation, that is the seventh, we find Israel to the fore and it is specifically said, “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed; and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.” No longer is it as in Christian days when the Apostle says that there is a remnant and as a matter of fact only out of two tribes, but already there is in sight the fulfilment of the Word, “All Israel shall be saved.”
We shall not pursue into anything like detail what comes after this except to point out that it follows somewhat the channel marked out in Exodus when God was delivering His people out of Egypt. Blow followed blow, increasing in severity but hardening instead of melting the heart of the prince of the world and his allies. Then, when we reach the eleventh chapter we find ourselves on somewhat familiar ground for there is mention in specific terms of the same period that we have in Daniel, there termed a time, times and the dividing of time, that is a year and two years and half a year. And in a little while we have before us Daniel’s beast — the last one — ruling and persecuting the people of God. When an explanation is offered of this beast it is said to the seer, “The beast that thou sawest, was and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit.” Here we have a plain announcement that an empire which did exist and ceased for a while is to be revived and flourish again for a season. Its revival is due to Satanic power, it ascends out of the bottomless pit, but its end will be perdition.
Of course we do not find in the Revelation anything like the image of Nebuchadnezzar because the visions here are all given to a man of God and none to a heathen king. But the thing that Nebuchadnezzar saw in a way suited to him is seen here in the way that it becomes a man of God to see it. However, we ought to notice the fact that riding on the beast is a woman, which is something that there is not a trace of in Daniel. Who is this woman? This is the woman Jezebel, that apostate system of professed Christianity, repudiated by the Lord when He called His own out of this scene. She is called a harlot because she professes to be the bride of Christ and is untrue to Him in every way, committing fornication with the kings of the earth. Here is the uniting of the two dispensations, so to speak, the co-mingling of things new and old in the kingdom, not confounding them but uniting them like two streams that have flowed on in separate beds for many miles, at last uniting and flowing after that in one channel. Here is the political world represented in the beast and the religious world represented by the woman but they are united in the last stage of the world’s history in bitter hostility to God and His people in the world. For just as it was in the time of the Acts of the Apostles, the unbelieving mass of Jews when God had taken out of them His own elect, became the unrelenting foes of God and His Christ, uniting with the political powers of the world in the warfare they waged against the Church of God, so it is now. God has taken away His own saints of the Christian dispensation and what is left bearing the name Christian is a corrupt mass which unites with the openly ungodly and Satan-led world in opposition to anything there may be left of God in the world.
And what is left of God in the world when the Church is gone? Certainly nothing Christian although there may be much that bears the Name. But when He calls away His saints He repudiates everything else in the world whatever profession they may make. Now here is where the twelfth chapter of Revelation is of service. When Satan is cast down out of Heaven he realizes that his time is but short and so it is said, “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” Immediately we are told he began to persecute the woman that brought forth the man-child as related in the beginning of the chapter. And again we have the period mentioned termed here a time, times and half a time, taking us back to Daniel the prophet (Rev. 12:12-14).
Furthermore, we are told in the next chapter of the rise of the fourth beast through Satanic power that he may use it as a weapon to crush the people against whom his rage now burns. And it is said of this revived power that power was given to him to continue forty and two months, that is three and a half years. Now the recurrence of this period naturally makes us think of Daniel and that one week of the seventy mentioned in chapter nine of his book. So it will be noticed, to turn back to the chart, that on the right hand we have reference made to this time when Satan is working with his old-time hatred of God to destroy what there is of God among men. Who, then, is the woman who gave birth to the man-child caught up to the throne of God? Who but Israel? It certainly would be confounding things very markedly to think of the Church as the woman in this case. He was before the Church and the Church is the fruit of His toil and suffering. But we are told in Romans 9:5, that of Israel as concerning the flesh, Christ came. So in some way after the Church is gone the ancient people of God are in the place of testimony and when Satan is cast down of God, he aims all his shafts against them. The world-power links itself with the religious power and all combine against God.
It will be remembered that in studying the ninth of Daniel we pointed out that the time given God to complete the full measure of Israel’s history is seventy weeks of years, divided into three parts, seven weeks, sixty-two weeks and one week. We have referred to this already and now take it up because we believe that the last week is before us in the book of Revelation. It is said in Daniel 9, that after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah should be cut off, so that there is no question about that part of the time having passed, and there remains but the last week, or period of seven years.
Now at the end of the whole period it will be recalled there was to be the making an end of sins, bringing in of everlasting righteousness, sealing of the vision and prophecy and anointing the Most Holy. And these events were to be directly connected with Daniel’s people so that the question arises, have such things come? The answer is No, emphatically. Moreover, the last week was to begin with the making of a covenant with a certain prince for this period of seven years, and in the midst of this time he breaks the covenant by stopping Jewish worship. Now this has not taken place and the book of Revelation, we believe, brings before us this very period of unexampled tribulation, ending of course in the deliverance of the saints and the ushering in of the cloudless day of blessing.
This time of trial is spoken of in Daniel as “a time of trouble such as never was, since there was a nation, even to this same time,” (Daniel 12:1). Again the Lord speaks of it in almost identical terms, when he says, “Then shall be great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21). In the book of Revelation it is spoken of as “the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world,” (Rev. 3:10), and as “the great tribulations,” (Rev. 7:14). It is a time when God is bringing everything to an issue in this world.
In the letter written to Thyatira, the Lord says that He will cast Jezebel into great tribulation along with her paramours, and in the later chapters she is seen as Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth. Apparently all religions will combine under one great head and so will it be with all political powers. Babylon will receive her doom at the hand of the kings with whom she was allied. They will cast her off and destroy her. When we think of Jezebel as one of her names we cannot help thinking of the fate she met. She was devoured by the dogs, and this Jezebel will meet a like judgment. The ten horns on the beast, which are interpreted as ten kings, will hate her and make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. So we are told in Revelation 17:16. Thus will end this unholy combination.
It began when Constantine the great, the head of the empire in early days, joined hands with the Church of God, now it ends in mutual hatred and eternal separation. When this claimant to the name of the Bride of Christ is out of the way all Heaven shouts for joy. Not only so but this is followed almost immediately by the announcement of the marriage of the Lamb. Not until the false and faithless woman is disposed of does the true one appear in a public way as the bride. This is natural. After the Lord has taken His own to Heaven there remains on the earth this shameless wanton claiming the name and place of the spouse of the Lord Jesus Christ. But this period displays her in her true character and manifests where her heart is. Openly she joins hands with Satan, and the Lord leaves her to her natural fate—she is utterly destroyed. Then when there can be no cloud on the title of the true bride because of this system on earth claiming the place, He openly espouses her and takes her to Himself.
But there still remains on earth the power of the world in a secular and political way and this must be disposed of. So in the nineteenth chapter of Revelation we are told of the confederation of the beast and the kings of the earth gathered to resist the claims of God and His Christ. But all in vain, they are swept away and the conflict is over. Here is the fulfilment of the vision of the king Nebuchadnezzar, the stone cut out of the mountain without hands has smitten the image and it is demolished. The beast of Daniel’s vision is overthrown and the kingdom is now in the hand of the Son of Man.
And this will be the time of the deliverance of Israel, for apparently the great battle will be fought near the city of Jerusalem.