SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
Secret Service Theologian
The Lord's reference to "the abomination of desolation
spoken of by Daniel the prophet," gives the clue to the right interpretation of
the unfulfilled portion of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. If the Sermon on
the Mount is commonly misread. no less so is this " Second Sermon on the
Mount," in which that reference occurs. (Matthew xxiv. 15.) To understand it
aright we must remember that it is a prophecy; and, as already suggested, we
must put ourselves in the place of those to whom it was addressed, and study it
as though the present "mystery" dispensation had never intervened, and the
predicted events had run their course during the lifetime of the Apostles .
His words were in reply to their inquiry, of verse 3; "What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the winding up of the age" And, of course, the" Coming" to which they refer is that of Messianic prophecy, and the "age" is that of Gentile supremacy, which is to last until that Coming. In verse 3 He speaks of the sunteleia of the age; and in verse 14 of its telos (or end). And then, as is so usual in the prophetic Scriptures, He goes back upon the period already covered in brief outline; and in verse 15 He gives them the sign by which they will know that the warned-against terrors of the Great Tribulation are about to break upon them. (v. 21.)
Although the events of the siege and capture of Jerusalem by Titus may well be within the scope of the Lord's words, surely no one who studies them in connection with Daniel's prophecy, which the Lord expressly cites, and the other Scriptures relating to the same era, can entertain a doubt that their fulfilment awaits the future restoration of the Covenant People to their own land and to Divine favour.
For the words which theLord spoke that day upon the Mount of Olives were not "spent (to use a legal term) when the Jewish disciples to whom they were addressed became, so to speak, "denationalised" by being raised to the heavenly relationship of the Body of Christ, in which "there is neither Jew nor Gentile." Like all the words He spoke on earth, they are eternal; and in an age to come they will be read and pondered by an "elect remnant "of Israel, gathered in their own land. We are always keen to mark how clearly the Lord had us in view in much of His teaching; but Christians seem never to realise that, in a passage such as this, He was thinking of His saints in the coming days of the fiercest trial which His people have ever known. If even in this time of their impenitence and rejection "they are beloved for the fathers' sakes," how deep and solicitous must be that love, in view of the coming age of their repentance and faith! Can we doubt that, when the Lord gave utterance to this forecast, His Divine omniscience had in view His Jerusalem saints of that future age in which it will be all fulfilled? Nor can we doubt that, as they scan the newspapers, and watch the gathering clouds of the storm that is about to break upon them, it will be with mind and heart intent upon these sacred words of warning. And thus they will await the dreaded signal for immediate flight- "the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place."
"History repeats itself." The first holder of the Imperial sceptre of Gentile supremacy demanded divine worship for a statue of himself. And the last great Kaiser of the evil line will set up his image, to be worshipped by all, under penalty of death for refusing to render it divine homage. And the language of Daniel ix. 27 is explicit that it will be "upon the Temple" not inside the shrine where none but the priests would see it, but in some prominent position, coram populo. And as Satan will be the instigator of this, surely the suggestion is neither wild nor fanciful that the site on which the statue of the Antichrist shall be erected may be "a pinnacle of the Temple," corresponding to that on which the Lord Jesus stood when tempted of the Devil."
The "text-card system" of prophetic study has tended to discredit the Bible. And a knowledge of "dispensational truth" is a safeguard against this influence. For it teaches us, as Bacon quaintly phrased it, "to sort every prophecy of Scripture with the event fulfilling the same." And thus it brings to light the hidden harmony of Holy Writ; and prophetic study, instead of being a pastime for mystics, becomes a comfirmation of our faith. As already noticed, "the doctrine of the second advent" is a by-product of this text-card system of exegesis. Every passage that speaks of the Lord's coming again is separated from its context; and all are thrown together, as though they referred to the same event, and are to be fulfilled at the same epoch.
What concerns us here, however, is the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks; and at the cost of some repetition a restatement of the problem may be opportune. That era has to do with Daniel's city and people. The 69th week ended with "the cutting off " of Messiah. Israel was then set aside, and the course of the era was interrupted. And the unfulfilled 70th week will not begin to run until the covenant people are again Divinely recognised. And, as already noticed, that recognition implies a. thorough "change of dispensation." The reign of grace must end. and the members of the heavenly election of this age must be called away from earth before the earthly people can be restored to their own again. (See page 84 ante.)
The epoch of the whole era was "the issuing of a decree to restore and build Jerusalem." And the epoch of the final week of the era will be the signing of a treaty by the last great Kaiser- the coming Prince of Daniel ix. 27-guaranteeing to the Jews their national rights, with special reference, apparently, to the observance of their national religion. And in the middle of the week he will violate that treaty by the desecration of the Temple; an event that will be followed immediately by "the Great Tribulation." The duration of that persecution is definitely specified as three and a half years, forty-two months, or twelve hundred and sixty days. And it will be brought to a sudden end by the terrible convulsions in the sphere of nature which are to herald the day of wrath.
The Lord's words recorded in Matthew xxiv. 6, ff., have their precise counterpart in the Apocalyptic visions of the Seals (Rev. vi.). His first warning note is of "wars and rumours of wars "; and when the first seal is opened, a white-horsed rider goes forth "conquering and to conquer."
The Lord next indicates wars of a more terrible character; and this has its parallel in the appearance of the red-horsed rider of the second seal, to whom is given "a great sword" and "power to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another." The wars of the first seal are apparently of the type to which we are accustomed; but those of the second seal will be an orgy of ruthless slaughter. It is not a mere repetition of the preceding vision.
The Lord's next word is "famines "; and when the third seal is broken, the black-horsed rider appears with a pair of balances in his hand, to weigh out the necessaries of life at famine prices. As famines are natural sequence to wars of the type here indicated, no less certainly does pestilence follow famine. And " pestilence" is the word the Lord next utters; so the rider in the vision of the fourth seal is empowered to kill with " death "-a word that needs no interpreting to any who realise the horrors of epidemic plague. But the judgments of the seals are cumulative, and this rider, whose name is Death, "kills with the sword and with hunger and with pestilence."
No rider appears when the fifth seal is broken; but neither the meaning of the vision, nor its place in the scheme of prophecy, is open to doubt. In Matt. xxiv. 8, the Lord describes the judgments of the first four seals as "time beginning of sorrows "; and in verse 9 we read "then shall they deliver you up unto tribulation, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all the nations for My name's sake." The Lord's words in verse 21 teach explicitly that this is tile Tribulation, the "time of trouble "of Daniel xii. 1; and in the vision of the fifth seal are seen under the altar the souls of the martyred victims of that awful persecution. No less certain is the identity of the events of the sixth seal with those portrayed by the Lord in verse 29. All the events of the preceding seals are such as men can account for on natural principles. But now, in view of the unparalleled sufferings of His people in the great Tribulation, and in response to the prayers of the martyrs of that awful time (Rev. vi. 9, 10), God at last puts forth His power; appalling portents in the sphere of nature strike terror into the hearts of the impenitent of every class, from kings to bond-men, and in a universal panic they seek to hide from the coming wrath.
The Lord's words in verse 29 are explicit that the terrors of the sixth seal follow immediately after tile Tribulation; and, as the period of the Tribulation is the latter half of the 70th week of Daniel, the events of these seals fall within the chronology of prophecy. But it is a common error to suppose that the events foretold in verses 30 and 31 will immediately follow the close of the 70th week. The vision of the seventh seal is yet to be fulfilled. The theu (toto) of verse 30 does not refer to the telos of the age, but to its sunteleia- not to a definite point in time, but to the whole period here in view-a sense which the word bears in three other verses in this same chapter. And the Lord's teaching in the passage beginning with verse 32 deals with that very period.
And here another parallelism with the vision o the seals suggests itself. In Rom. viii. 1, we read: "When he had opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven about the space of half-an-hour." May not this mysterious lull symbolise the very period here in view? What its duration will be we know not, save that it will be within the life-time of that generation, and yet that it will be sufficiently prolonged to make the world forget the preceding terrors, and to make His people need exhortations to sustained watchfulness. "As in tile days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage," so will it be then. Signs and portents in abundance mark the sunteleta of that age, but its telos will be unheralded and sudden. In answer to His disciples' question, I again repeat, He warned them to watch, not for His coming, but for the events which must precede it. But now that these events are all fulfilled, his word is "Watch, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." For time day and hour of the coming of the Son of Man is a secret unrevealed.
"The people of the Prince who is coming will destroy the
city and the sanctuary" (Daniel ix. 26). Who is this Prince? The manner in
which he is here mentioned enables us to answer this question with confidence.
For it is not by way of a new revelation, but of incidental reference to sonic
one of whose personality and coming Daniel was already aware. There can be no
doubt, therefore, that he is "the King of fierce countenance" of the vision
accorded to the prophet two years before.And it is universally recognised that
the Antichrist of Hebrew prophecy is identical with the Antichrist of the New
The view that time Coming Prince is the Messiah might be ignored, were it, not that some eminent names can be cited in support of it. Indeed, it is sufficiently refuted by time fact that it is by the people of this Prince that the city and sanctuary will be destroyed. To find the fulfilment of this in the action of the Zealots during the Titus siege indicates to what lengths some expositors will go in support of a false system of exegesis. For the suggestion that Holy Scripture would describe religious apostates as the Lord's people savours of profanity.
A like remark applies to that wild vagary of exegesis that the Lord made a seven years' covenant with the Jewish people, and brought it to an end by His death "in the midst of the week." And the figment that His death put an end to "sacrifice and oblation" savours of the ignorance of apostate Christendom. The Jew is more intelligent in this respect than the nominal Christian; for he knows that, until this sin-defiled earth has been purified by fire, there can be neither altar nor shrine without "sacrifice and oblation." And when, in the future age of the kingdom, a regenerate Israel will assemble in their divinely-ordered Temple at Jerusalem, the Book of Ezekiel will give them in full detail the Divinely revised ritual to guide their worship . *
(They will doubtless note what that ritual is and what it retains of the Mosaic cult. They will read Ezekiel with the Epistle to the Hebrews in their hands; and they will not fail to distinguish between sin-offerings in relation to ceremonial uncleanness, and the great sin-offering which typified what the death of Christ accomplished in putting away the sins of the people. In that aspect of it the sin-offering can never be repeated. As the Epistle to the Hebrews teaches, the Christian place of worship is the sanctuary above, with its heavenly altar and Great High Priest. On this subject I would refer to Bishop Lightfoot's Commentary on Philippians, pp. 181-185.)
The word "Antichrist" occurs nowhere in Scripture save in the Epistles of John. But it is recognised that the title applies to the Kaiser of Daniel's visions, to the Man of Sin of 2 Thessalonians, and to the "Beast" of the Apocalypse.
Belief in a personal Antichrist was universal in the Early Church, and it held undisputed sway for more than a thousand years. But when the apostasy of Christendom was fully developed, it was only natural that Christians should raise the question whether the prophecies of Antichrist might not fmd their fulfilment in Rome. And this belief very generally prevailed until the Evangelical revival of the nineteenth century. In these days of ours Protestantism has no such champions as were the men of that revival. And what led to their change of view was no weakening of their antipathy to Rome but a more intelligent study of Holy Scripture. They awoke to the discovery that this Christian dispensation" denotes neither the failure nor the abandonment of the Divine "plan of the ages." They came to understand the place which the earthly people of the covenant hold in that plan, and to realise that although both the Abrahamic and the Davidic covenants are now in abeyance, they have not been cancelled; and that when this dispensation is brought to an end by the Lord's coming to call His heavenly people home, the main stream of Messianic prophecy will resume its course as though this Christian age had never intervened.
Holy Scripture had long been like an elaborate mosaic, of which the several parts had been disturbed, and the main design for-gotten. But its hidden harmony was brought to light by the study of "dispensational truth" (an apt phrase that was much in use in those days). And that study included the "mystery" truths of this distinctively Christian revelation, truths which had been lost in the interval between the Apostolic age and the era of the great Patristic theologians.
Although traces of these truths may be found in the writings of theFathers, they have no place in their "systematic theology." They confounded the true Church, the Body of Christ, with the Professing Church on earth - a departure from the faith whioh is the root error of the Roman apostasy. And they confounded the Lord's coming at the close of this Christian dispensation with His coming for the deliverance of His earthly people in a future age. And they also confounded grace with covenant, and thus let slip the basal truth of Christianity.
For the doctrines which generally pass for Christian truths are older even than the Divinely-ordered religion of Judaism. The truth of the first coming of Christ is as old as the Eden promise of "the woman's seed." And atonement by His death is as old as Abel's sacrifice. His coming again to judgment dates back to the prophecy of "Enoch the seventh from Adam "; and justification by faith was revealed to Abraham. But not until we reach the Epistles of the New Testament do we find the "mystery" truths of Christianity - truths, that is, which had not been revealed in the earlier Scriptures. As, for example, "the mystery of the Gospel "- the great basal truth of the reign of grace; the "mystery" of the Church, the Body of Christ, with its heavenly calling and hope; and the "mystery" of that coming of the Lord which will bring the present dispensation to a close.
The study of "dispensational truth" in no way undermines the principle of "germinant accomplishment" of the prophecies, which is the element of truth in the "historicist" scheme of interpretation; but it exposes and refutes the pretensions of that scheme to finality of fulfilment. The evil of that system is not merely that it limits and perverts the scope and meaning of special chapters and isolated texts, but that, in doing this, it tends to discredit the Bible altogether. And as Adolf Saphir wrote, it thus prepared the way for the attacks of Rationalism and Neology.
Moreover, this "Protestant interpretation" became an anachronism when the Pope lost his" temporal power," and Rome became the capital of the Italian kingdom. This event led the" historicists "to adopt the view that the Antichrist was not the Pope, but the Church of which he is the head. But Revelation xvii. is explicit that "the Harlot" is distinct from "the Beast "; and therefore every proof that the scarlet woman is the Apostate Church is a further proof that she cannot be the Antichrist.
The pretensions of Rome reach their climax in claiming that the Pope is the vicar of Christ, whereas the Kaiser of prophecy will demand universal worship as being himself the Messiah. He is not a Vice-Christ, but Antichrist. As the Lord expressly declared, "he will come in his own name." He will be the impersonation of" the mystery of lawlessness," whereas the Pope and the Church of Rome are merely its most advanced exponents and representatives. Every sacerdotalist, every one who believes in "the Holy Catholic Church," save in the sense in which the Reformers defined it - in a word, everyone who puts "religion" in the place of Christ, and in any way denies that He is the only Mediator between God and man - is an Antichrist in the same sense in which the Pope is Antichrist. The difference is one merely of degree.
A single instance must here suffice to justify my charge against "the continuous historical interpretation " scheme. Elliott's Horae Apocalyptica. is the standard text-book of the cult. Its first five chapters may well impress us with a sense of the value of the writer's scheme. But when he passes from the first five seals to explain that the vision of the sixth seal was fulfilled by the downfall of Paganism in the fourth century, we suffer a revulsion of feeling proportionate to our sense of the "trueness" and solemnity of Holy Writ.
For the closing verses of Revelation vi. are a passage the awful solemnity of which has no parallel in Scripture, save in the kindred prophecies of Isaiah and Joel, and of the Lord Himself in Matthew xxiv. They speak of the dread dies ire, ending with the words, "the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" If it be urged that the events of fifteen centuries ago were within the scope of the prophecy we can consider the matter on its merits; but when we are told that the prophecy was thus fulfilled. we can hold no parley with the teaching. It is the merest trifling with Scripture.
"Moreover, it clashes with the charter truth of Christianity. For if the day of wrath has come, the day of grace is past, and the gospel of grace is no longer a Divine message to mankind. To suppose that the day of wrath can be an episode in this dispensation of grace betrays ignorance of grace and brings Divine wrath into contempt. The grace of God in this day of grace surpasses human thought, and His wrath in the day of wrath will be no less Divine. The opening of the sixth seal heralds the dawning of that awful day; the visions of the seventh seal unfold its unutterable terrors. But, we are told, the pouring out of the vials, 'the seven plagues which are the last, or in them is finished the wrath of God' (Rev. xv. 1, R.V.), is being now accomplished. The sinner, therefore, may comfort himself with the knowledge that divine wrath is but stage thunder which, in a practical and busy world, may safely be ignored!
Even in Apostolic times there were many Antichrists: in these days of ours they are innumerable. During the last half-century their influence has undermined the Protestantism of our National Church. The Evangelicals have become a dwindling minority, and the "Evangelical Party" is but a memory of the past. During the same period a crusade of systematised infidelity has corrupted all the Churches of the Reformation. And side by side with these phases of the apostasy is the rise and spread of demon cults, some of which overawe their votaries by a display of genuine miraculous power.
The times are full of peril, and we need to realise that all these antichristian movements are preparing the way for Antichrist himself.
It is of practical importance, therefore, to note what Scripture teaches respecting his character and career. And this will appear in a further study of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.
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