An Article From "Things To Come" 1894
The subject we are about to consider is not only of great
importance to all Christians, in order that they may be spiritually on their
guard, but it has dispensationally a bearing upon the whole subject to which
this journal is in particular devotedProphecy.
Let us consider a text that has long been before students of Prophecy: "For this cause God shall send them an energizing of error that they should believe the lie: that all they might be judged who believed not the truth, but took delight in unrighteousness." (2 Thess. ii. n, 12.) The expression "the lie," or calling it by its Greek name, the Pseudos, is no mere isolated phrase thrown in by the way, and to be applied solely to the teaching of the Anomos, or Lawless One spoken of in the preceding verses; it must be considered in its character, according to a synthetical view of all those dispensations which the Apostle of the Gentiles sets before us in the letters he wrote to the seven assembliesbeginning at Romans, where the Church of God is brought on to the scene, and ending at Thessalonians, where it is taken off it. He takes a comprehensive survey of God's dealings with man upon the earth from the time of Nimrod down to that of the Apocalyptic judgments. What he shows us is the Divine side of the issue. That is the plan of these letters, and as he has insulated his subject wonderfully, our attention should be the more concentrated thereon.
The subjects will be seen to form a perfect series of seven members, constructed as follows :
A Romans. The truth of God changed into a lie: man hardening his own heart.
. B Romans. The wrath of God revealed from heaven against unrighteousness.
. . C all seven assemblies, (i) The Gospel preached to Abraham; (2) the Assembly with Israel; (3) the law came in by the way.
. . . D all seven assemblies. The Advent of Christ.
. . C all seven assemblies, (i) The Gospel preached amongst all nations; (2) the Assembly with the Gentiles; (3) the mystery superadded.
. B Thessalonians. The wrath of God revealed from heaven against unrighteousness.
A Thessalonians. The truth replaced by the lie, by God: man's heart judicially hardened.
Notice "Christ" in the centre, "the lie" at the two extremities ; the further from Him, who comes as the Way and the Truth and the Life, the nearer to "the lie" Does it not appear that the change of God's truth into a lie by man, and God's righteous retributive act in sending it back to man, that he may believe it, is to be regarded as a whole dispensation which was cut in twain by God's grace in making thr covenant with Abraham and all that depends therefrom, because he believed the truth, and his faith was counted to him for righteousness ?
If we are to take this view, we naturally look to the length of that portion of it that has become history as at least some guide as to the length of that portion of it that is yet future. When we do so we are somewhat startled in noticing that this development occupied several centuries; for in what Romans i. sets before us in regard thereto in a few verses we notice references - to the revolt at Babel, to the wickedness of the Cities of the Plain, and to what is now euphemistically called "the syncretic religion of Egypt." In the last-named, as the well-known picture of the Great Assize, taken from the Book of the Dead, demonstrates, the whole judgment of God is turned into caricature, for Egypt made the Woman, her Child, and the Serpent into a trinity-in-unity, at once a lie and a caricature. Re-incarnation was taught, evil spirits were invoked, and the priesthood were instructed to abstain from wine, meats, and marriage. (Cf. i Timothy iv.) The serpent was the supreme object of worship, and, as the mummies now on view at the British Museum prove, there could be no thought of resurrection in those who could so carefully prepare corpses to be once more tenanted by the souls that had sinned in them in the time when they were living bodies. The serpent, who began by saying, "Ye shall not surely die," had reached the length when he could represent himself as Creatorso had he worked upon the evil heart of man. His original lie had assumed at once a blacker character and a wider scope.
At last there came judgment upon all the gods of Egypt. The Divine wrath fell upon Pharaoh, his land, and his people. Pharaoh first hardened his own heart, then God judicially hardened it for him 'till the wrath was completed in his death. Thus the dispensation of the Pseudos and that of God's mercy to Abraham overlapped one another during some four centuries, and then the former was broken, awaiting the development of God's purposes in the assemblies of His people. When they are accomplished, we arrive at the point when we may expect Satan will be allowed to take up his scheme again, in order that the evil may. be brought to a head and dealt with accordingly.
But there was something special on which God placed a restraint It was the building of the great city of Babel, or Babylon. There was a descent of the Godhead, and "they left off to build the city," and the families of the earth were scattered
From that day to this it has been the aim of unregenerate man, whether openly expressed or hidden in his deceitful heart, to establish a brotherhood of the human race in universal peace, to live in a paradisical city, and to compass death without any atonement for sin or any thought of God whatever. The truth of God amongst the saints serves to keep conscience alive just now in the surrounding world ; yet there are not wanting signs of a doctrine that the whole aim of the Church is to "do good" to the world, to improve our cities, and to establish a sort of Christian Socialism. The newspapers speak to-day of a coming millennium (a Christless one) disarmament of the nations, reunion of Churches, and innumerable international projects and compacts, the very spirit of nationalism dying out in favour of commercial considerations, kings and emperors having, moreover, now to reckon with socialist armies in place of the professional warriors of 25 years ago.
Here, then, once more we see signs of a dispensational change. Something has to be done with the Christless churches about us, and the world finds a place for them. Granted the truth of God is no longer wanted; well, it was turned into the lie before, and the thing which hath been it is that which shall be, and it can be done again. The form of the truth may differ, but the spiritual act is identical, changing the truth of God into the lie.
But, more than that Is it not the whole of God's truth that must now be turned into a lie? It will not be sufficient to bring forward the rechauffe of Egyptian theosophy with which the name of H. P. Blavatsky is associated Must there not be a revival of apostate Israel, God preserved a nucleus of the ten tribes (cut off for their idolatry) in the days of Rehoboam, of Asa, of Jehoshaphat, of Joash, of Hezekiah, and of Josiah, and throughout the period of the Acts (2 Chron. xi. 16, xv. 9, xix. 8, xxiii. 2, xxx. and xxxi., xxxv. 16-19; Acts ii. 5, xxvi. 7), but the great bulk of them, that is the tribes, as tribes, were absolutely divorced (Deut xxix. '18-21; Jeremiah iii. 8), though no bill of divorcement was given to Judah. (Isaiah 1. i.)
And there will be a false Messiah in Jerusalem, and a perverted Christianity all over the earthanti-God, anti-Christ, and anti-Spiritas portrayed in Revelation xiii. Stupendous indeed the last form of "the lie," the Pseudos.
This change of the truth into the lie is exactly what a survey of our symmetrical synopsis would lead us to expect. Dear Christian brother or sister, you who may read these lines, remember one thing, if there be any part of God's truth that you refuse to believe, you may render yourself liable to believe just that portion of Satan's lie that he has set up as the counterfoil to that specific part.
If the rapture of i Thessalonians iv. and v. be indeed near, as many of us believe, this gradual change, the dispensation of the Pseudos overlapping that of the truth, is what we must look for. For, as the dispensations of the Pseudos and the truth overlapped when Israel was in Egypt, so we may expect, as the counterpart, that the dispensations of the truth and the Pseudos may again overlap.
True, such things are but tendencies at present; but tendencies are spiritual germs that grow up into plants when the time comes that the God of Providence so permits. We may remark that the time of the duration of the delusion need not necessarily extend over centuries. We only say that sufficient time should be allowed in the mind of the student, not only for the building of the gorgeous mercantile city described in the Apocalypse, but remembering the long-suffering and mercy of God, time must be allowed for the iniquity of those concerned in the mischief to come to the full*
( Whut is known as " the 70th week " will probably come in at or near the conclusion of the dispensation of the Pseudos.)
There is another city mentioned in the Apocalypse, a city to which the father of the faithful looked, and that city is described in the Book in terms which bear distinct evidence of an intentional contrast with Great Babylon. That city is "the Heavenly Jerusalem".
Does it not appear then that the great hour of temptation, the Parasmos of the Apocalypse,will be one in which man is to be tempted away from following the Lamb, giving up faith for sighta gorgeous earthly city being built up on the banks of the Euphrates, the extreme boundary of the land covenanted to Abraham?
But perhaps the reader may put the question, Of what importance is this to us? Why should we be asked to con- sider if any lengthened period is to follow the rapture of those "in Christ," when the Lord shall have come according to promise in i Thess. iv. and v.?
Let us reply by putting another question : Who are the 144,000 of Revelation xiv. who stand upon the heavenly Mount Zion? Is that of no interest? Indeed, it has been a matter involving so much controversy of late years that some Christians, watching for the Lord's coming spoken of in i Thessalonians iv., have given up the study of all that Paul says, beginning at Romans leading up to Thessalonians, not very consistently, and translated themselves out of Paul's Epistles altogether into the fourteenth chapter of Revelation. Well now, after the rapture of those "in Christ" men are going to believe the Pseudos. Now, cannot God raise up a special testimony for Himself amidst all that seductive evil? If so, is not that the key to the 144,000 of Rev. xiv.? for, "in their mouth was found no lie." May we not understand that that means, they reject the Pseudos, and that therefore the Pseudos must be fully developed in their day, and that therefore the rapture of i .Thess. iv. must have taken place before they begin to be called, and that therefore none of us alive now can be of their number ?
The 2520 years of Gentile domination over Jerusalem have nearly run out, and the burden of her down-treading is obviously about to be lifted; but where are we told that God has no further work in Israel between that and the establishment of the. Millennial Kingdom? What of the controversy of Zion in the land? (Micah vL 2; Hosea iv. i, xii. 2; Isaiah ix. 21, x. 12, xxxiv. 8.) What of the Tabernacle of David? (Acts xv. 14-17; Amos ix. 8-12.) What of the gracious promise of Jehovah to be a little sanctuary to Israel while scattered among the nations? (Ezekiel xi. 16.) What, too, of that fatal period when the apostate tribe of Dan "shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel, a serpent in the way, an adder in the path," so that all Jacob must wait for the salvation of Jehovah? (Gen. xlix. 16-18.) Are not these things all future ? Who knows what duration must be ascribed to each or all of such dispensations?
Lst us not study Prophecy one-sidedly, or by the light of self-interest, lest we come to resemble the unturned cakes to which Ephraim is compared in Hosea vii. 6-8, burnt on one side, and moist on the other! Must we always be saying, "After me the Deluge" Cannot God again deal with Israel as He did in the days of another temptation, the temptation in the wilderness? There was no Gentile supremacy then, Safety,"a time of planting and building, marrying and giving in marriage, when sudden destruction" will overtake them, and "of that day and hour knoweth no man." Whether the Lord tarry or not in descending for us into the air, God has reserved within His sovereign right a period between today and the descent of the Son of Man to the earth, which we cannot in any way compute. In unfolding to us His gracious purposes in His prophetic Word it is comforting to think He has guarded His revelation against any abuse of the knowledge of them by an all-wise reserve, both as to the time and manner of their accomplishment. Is it not quite clear that a seductive city is going to be built up upon the banks of the Euphrates? that its luxuries will be upon a scale that we can hardly yet realize, even in spite of the advances of scientific discovery made in the Nineteenth Century? It will be the cynosure of the eyes of kings, merchants, and shipmasters, and the admiration of the whole of the human race. Every international exhibition points to this one great object of man. Let socialism, now growing apace, backed by Christless churches and "parliaments of religions," but prevent wars (in the decay of national spirit), and the Eastern Question may be settled by a national confederacy, and sealed by the building of an international capital which shall out-Paris Paris in beauty, and out-London London as a financial and commercial metropolis.
This city has not yet been built; nevertheless the principles that will thus take cognate form are even now in existence among the cities of the nations. Look at London, Paris, Vienna, Brussels, Berlin, New York, Chicago! Are they not all so many efforts in that direction ? Thus the present position of Babylon is that described in Revelation xvil as "sitting upon many waters "; but while the mind of man rushes with the march of events towards the centralization of all of it in the proper home of apostasy in the Land of Shinar, he will be unconsciously fulfilling the purposes of God, that the whole luxury of the civilized world may be brought to a focus, and destroyed at one blow, the fire suddenly devouring the whole of it together, as described in the following chapter, i.e. Revelation xviii.
It is the desire to remove the curse, without the Atonement, and to get back Paradise while yet in sinful bodies that lies behind all the idolatry of man and all the bloodshed that he has committed. And naturally so; man was made to inhabit Paradise. Well Satan knows it. It is that which is the greatest temptation he can offer. The Church of Rome was only part of the scheme; the whole conglomeration of apostate churches can be but part of the scheme. Their office is to control the consciencea mere means to an end. None ot these things touch the root of the evil, the secret springs of the heart of man. Satan has not changed his methods. No; there was a restraint placed in Nimrod's day, but the principles of Babylon are developing now, fast coming to a head, and the whole unsaved world is ready to-day to worship Satan if he will but give them universal peace, brotherhood and an impregnable commercial city, unsurpassed in beauty and luxury, central as to its situation, and crowned by enormous wealth.
Not that there are not other sides to the Pseudos. It is a vast subject. the city is but the external form, but it is that which is most easily comprehended; it is the outline of the whole, and since we recognise the principles of that city in the cities of the nations of the nineteenth century, we are on our guard. Religious movements in particular require to be watched, as they are mostly peculiarly subtle nowadays, and it is in respect of them that Satan can put the saints to the test. It is only by the most implicit belief of God's written Word that the many delusions of ecclesiastical systems starting up around us can be discerned in these days, and we are all first inclined to support some pet system of our own, instead of judging our own by the Word of God. We must watch them lest the conscience go astray. The Church of Rome made a convenience of the world ; but now the world will make a convenience of the churches, perverting the conscience once more. The conscience perverted finally gives glory to Satan. Babylon is called in Isaiah, "the lady of kingdoms." When the Lord saw the kingdoms of this world, the glory of them was scattered; but in Babylon the glory of them will be concentrated and beheld with the natural eye. The Lord Jesus resisted the temptation ; but what will it be when the adversary makes the same offer to fallen man, "All the kingdoms of this world, and the glory of them, will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me!"
To sum up. The principles of the Pseudos are threefold, as embodied in Babel (or Babylon), Sodom, and Egypt. (Rom. i.) They were interrupted when Abraham believed the truth. They are to come back (Rev. xvii., xviii., and xi. 8), and man will worship Satan for restoring them. (Rev. xiii. 4.) " War impossible! Peace and Safety !" What delusion !
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