BY PASTOR C. I. SCOFIELD, D.D., OF TORONTO.
From "Things to Come" March 1897
PROPHECY in its bearing upon the nations of earth has to
do with four great world powers, which have in times past dominated the old
world. Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece (as extended by Alexander the Great), and
Rome. The prophet Daniel, an eminent Jew, but exiled under the first of these,
the Babylonian, becomes the fitting voice of Jehovah concerning the great
Gentile world empires. His prophecies contain two chief and one supplementary
vision, all telling broadly the same story of four great successive Gentile
monarchies. In due course these came and passed away. Medo-Persia succeeded
Babylon, the Greece of Alexander succeeded Medo-Persia, which fell after
Alexander's death into four parts, precisely as Daniel predicted, and was in
turn, still according to the very letter of prediction, succeeded by Rome.
Rome, too, ran a course in the minutest detail identical with the great image
vision of Nebuchadnezzar and the wild beast vision of Daniel. It was divided
into two parts, the eastern empire, with Constantinople for capital, and the
western empire with Rome for its capital. Then these in turn fell into many
separate kingdoms - as at present. So much for fulfilled prophecy, a glance at
which was necessary to the understanding of unfulfilled prophecy relating to
the kingdoms into which the old Roman empire came to be divided, and which,
with Turkey, form the existing European system.
2. We come now to the central question : What has prophecy to say concerning the future of this system? First, that it is to be reconstituted into a federative empire composed of ten kingdoms under one imperial head. I need not remind you that the Roman empire far exceeded in extent that of Alexander the Great. Rome came finally to include the known habitable world of that day. Now the image vision of Nebuchadnezzar foretells three things concerning that fourth world empire,
1. Its character, iron. Daniel, in the interpretation of the vision, says of iron, that " it breaketh into pieces all other things." This was the character of Roman conquest.
2. The division of the Roman empire into two parts, fulfilled in the respective empires of the east and of the west.
3. The ultimate disintegration of the empire as indicated by the mingling of iron and clay in the feet and toes of the image.
But the beast vision goes further. It shows all that the image vision does, but goes on to foretell the reintegration of the empire, in the last days, as a confederation of ten kingdoms under one imperial head or overlord. My brethren, fix your eyes on that man! The world has seen men of great genius, but in that man will be seen the final consummate intellectual prodigy of unregenerate humanity. The world has groaned under awful tyranny, but to that man is reserved a terrible pre-eminence in oppression. Of him Napoleon Bonaparte was a feeble adumbration. He is the "beast out of the sea" of the Apocalypse, after whom "all the world" will "wonder." The blasphemous religion of humanity will find in him its suited deity, for he will exemplify in a degree never equalled, the qualities of gigantic and universal intellect, of superhuman energy, of all-embracing success, which the world most admires.
The Apostle John in the Apocalypse makes it clear that he will be so worshipped, and that the secret of his transcendent genius is his perfect possession by Satan. He will be the incarnation of the dragon, as Jesus was of the Father.
But what, you ask, is the bearing of all this upon the crisis in Turkey? Have patience yet a little while. We are searching prophecy now, and the international politics of the prophetic word are upon a scale so vast as to include the whole ancient World. It was necessary that we should gather into our vision the disintegration of the old Roman world power, and then its reintegration in the last days under the ten-kingdom form, with the terrible emperor over all. Now, holding that as the final form of old world government, let us go on. As we do, we shall find ourselves drawing nearer to an understanding of the prophetic solution of the eastern question. To the image vision of Nebuchadnezzar and the beast vision of Daniel, explained and confirmed by the beast vision of the Apocalypse, we have added the ram and rough goat vision of Daniel. I do not detain you upon these minutiae. Suffice it to say that they make two things clear. First, the four kingdoms are to be carved out of the Turkish empire. I do not go into detail. It is probable that these may include Egypt and parts at least of Persia. Now, is not this a reasonable temporary solution of the eastern question? Nothing is surer than that no European power will be permitted by the other powers to aggrandise itself by annexing any part of Turkey. Already international politics have grown familiar with the term "buffer kingdom" ; indeed, Turkey itself is today little more than a buffer kingdom between Russia and England. The second thing made clear by the supplementary ram and rough goat vision is that the terrible emperor comes out of the east. Of him I do not pause to add details. He is to be base in origin, to overturn three of the kings out of the four to be set up over the four kingdoms to be carved out of Turkey, and with inconceivable rapidity to advance to the imperial headship. In many ways the career of Napoleon parallels his. I do not wonder that our fathers thought Napoleon might be the fulfiller of this prophecy.
You have now, I think, the broad outline. The solution of the eastern question is the erection of the east into four kingdoms, confederated with six powers into which Europe will be gathered. An unknown person, of base birth, but prodigious force and genius, will arise in one of these kingdoms, reduce three of them to his personal authority, and be accepted as head by the other seven powers. He will then speedily develop his blasphemous pretentions, and impose upon the admiring and adoring world his deification. He will be assisted by another fearful being, the second beast of Revelation, who is called also the false prophet. Into his personality I do not enter. With this broad conception of the final form of European organized society in mind, let us advance a step, and ask how it is to be brought about. The answer of prophecy to this question is not doubtful. This reintegration of the ancient Roman empire follows the most awful period of war, famine and pestilence this blood-drenched earth has ever seen. According to the prophetic picture it is to be the war of wars, followed by the famine of famines and the pestilence of pestilences. Language is beggared to describe the horror of that time.
Now who shall say that this colossal struggle, in which all Europe and Asia shall take part, is not just about to begin? Everything is ready, as never before in the history of the earth. Bound together by railroads and telegraphs, and yet thrust asunder by deep-tying diversity of interest and long-nourished hatreds, it needs but a question which touches the pride of and the interest of all Europe to provoke universal war. That question - the only conceivable one which could affect them all - is the eastern question. Baron Blanc, minister for foreign affairs of Italy, said the other day in parliament that the Sultan would fatally err if he supposed the pending issue admitted of a diplomatic solution. With the casus belli at hand, and with tremendous armaments prepared, it would be difficult, quite apart from prophecy, to see how the universal catastrophe could be avoided. Pray, understand me : I do not say that the "sick man" cannot be kept alive yet longer; I do not say that the war over the eastern question may not be for a little deferred, but I do say, in the light of prophecy, that the eastern question will not be finally settled by peaceful means, but must be fought out.
But is this all? Is the voice of prophecy but a voice of doom? Does the book of the Almighty end with the prediction of a great final war, a great final pestilence, a great final famine, and leave the world at last under a blasphem ous despot ? Thank God, no !
Now let me ask you to gird up your attention for the final statement. The Scriptures have a name for this whole period of which I have drawn the larger outlines, it is a significant name, itself descriptive of the character of the period. That name is "The Great Tribulation." You may find it described in your Bibles in the book of Revelation, chapters vi.-xix. But both in the Revelation and in Daniel - as also in our Lord's description in Matthew xxv., there are two comforting and glorious truths revealed. The first relates to the duration of this period. Beginning with the desolations of universal war, fought with the most brutal weapons ever put into the hands of man, and passing on into the ten-kingdom despotism and to its end, the whole period coters but seven years. Let us fervently thank God for that. The facilities of modern transportation and the inevitable brevity of modern wars make this brevity possible. The second comforting and glorious fact of prophecy bearing upon this period is the manner and means of the end of it all.
And now you must permit me to refer directly to the prophetic word. If we turn to the image vision of Nebuchadnezzar in the second chapter of Daniel we find two things concerning the end of the last form of Gentile dominion. First, that end is sudden and catastrophic; secondly, it is followed by the everlasting kingdom of Messiah. "And in the days of these kings (the ten) shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever " (Daniel ii. 44).
The beast vision tells the same glorious story : "And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise; and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws; and they shall be given into his hand, until a time, and times, and the dividing of time (i.e., three and one-half years). But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers shall serve and obey Him. (Dan. vii. 24-27).
If now we gather up the declarations of prophecy, we shall have first, a prediction of war in the East, involving all Europe, unprecedented for ferocity, destruction of life, and the means of life, followed by famine and pestilence, the natural consequences of unsown fields and insanitary donations; second, out of this welter of blood and death Europe emerges with six kingdoms, having the East divided into four. Of these, three are soon subdued by the hand of one who establishes over the exhausted and war-sick world an unprecedented despotism, which continues for one-half years, and is ended by the third series of events - the glorious second coming of Jesus Christ to set up His millennial kingdom.
"Immediately after the tribulation of these days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the v heavens shall be shaken, and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven ; and then shall the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall seethe Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt. xxv. 29, 32).
The light, then, which prophecy sheds on the present crisis is this. We may be about to witness the opening act in the stupendous drama. It may be postponed for a time, but it does not seem likely. Everything indicates that the next war will be the conflict which forms the first event in the series making up the "great tribulation," the other terminus of which is the glorious advent of Jesus as king over all the earth. If, indeed, that first act is now to begin, then we are within seven years of the establishment of the millennial kingdom. Between the opening gun of that war and the appearance of the Son of Man yawns an awful chasm. As we look into it we need all the light which makes glorious the other shore to cheer and sustain our hearts.
Lastly, it is blessedly true that no believer in Christ now living will pass through the tribulation. There will be saints of the Most High in that burning, fiery furnace, but they will be saints - Jewish and Gentile - who have become believers after the period has begun. For the Church, believers of this dispensation, glorious deliverance waits. "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ (not all the dead) shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall together with them be caught up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (i Thess, iv. 16-18). This is the first of predicted events, and precedes the visible appearance of the Lord.
My brethren, shall not the gathering tempest, out of which by Divine grace we are to be delivered, just as Lot was delivered out of Sodom before the fire fell, arouse us to tireless work in the service of Him who says, "Surely I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be."
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