What Saith the Scripture?


Phila delphia > The Coming Prince (5 of 8) by Sir Robert Anderson

The Coming Prince

Sir Robt. Anderson

Chapters 10-12

Sir Robert Anderson

A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age

  Wisdom is Justified

by Sir Robert Anderson, K.C.B., LL.D.


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"THE secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children." (Deuteronomy 29:29) And among the "things which are revealed" fulfilled prophecy has a foremost place. In presence of the events in which it has been accomplished, its meaning lies upon the surface. Let the facts of the Passion be admitted, and their relation to the twenty-second Psalm is indisputable. There are profound depths of spiritual significance in the Psalmist's words, because of the nature of the facts which have fulfilled them; but the testimony which the prophecy affords is addressed to all, and he who runs may read it. Is it possible then, it may be asked, that the true interpretation of this prophecy of the Seventy Weeks involves so much inquiry and discussion?

Such an objection is perfectly legitimate; but the answer to it will be found in distinguishing between the difficulties which appear in the prophecy itself, and those which depend entirely on the controversy to which it has given rise. The writings of Daniel have been more the object of hostile criticism than any other portion of the Scripture, and the closing verses of the ninth chapter have always been a principal point of attack. And necessarily so, for if that single passage can be proved to be a prophecy, it establishes the character of the book as a Divine revelation. Daniel's visions admittedly describe historical events between the days of Nebuchadnezzar and of Antiochus Epiphanes; therefore skepticism assumes that the writer lived in Maccabean times. But this assumption, put forward without even a decent pretense of proof, is utterly refuted by pointing to a portion of the prophecy fulfilled at a later date; and accordingly it is of vital moment to the skeptic to discredit the prediction of the Seventy Weeks.

The prophecy has suffered nothing from the attacks of its assailants, but much at the hands of its friends. No elaborate argument would be necessary to elucidate its meaning, were it not for the difficulties raised by Christian expositors. If everything that Christian writers have written on the subject could be wiped out and forgotten, the fulfillment of the vision, so far as it has been in fact fulfilled, would be clear upon the open page of history. Out of deference to these writers, and also in the hope of removing prejudices which are fatal to the right understanding of the subject, these difficulties have here been discussed. It now remains only to recapitulate the conclusions which have been recorded in the preceding pages.

The scepter of earthly power which was entrusted to the house of David, was transferred to the Gentiles in the person of Nebuchadnezzar, to remain in Gentile hands "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."

The blessings promised to Judah and Jerusalem were postponed till after a period described as "seventy weeks"; and at the close of the sixty-ninth week of this era the Messiah should be "cut off."

These seventy weeks represent seventy times seven prophetic years of 360 days, to be reckoned from the issuing of an edict for the rebuilding of the city – "the street and rampart," of Jerusalem.

The edict in question was the decree issued by Artaxerxes Longitmanus in the twentieth year of his reign, authorizing Nehemiah to rebuild the fortifications of Jerusalem.

The date of Artaxerxes's reign can be definitely ascertained – not from elaborate disquisitions by biblical commentators and prophetic writers, but by the united voice of secular historians and chronologers.

The statement of St. Luke is explicit and unequivocal, that our Lord's public ministry began in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar. It is equally clear that it began shortly before the Passover, The date of it can thus be fixed as between August A.D. 28 and April A.D. 29. The Passover of the crucifixion therefore was in A.D. 32, when Christ was betrayed on the night of the Paschal Supper, and put to death on the day of the Paschal Feast.

If then the foregoing conclusions be well founded. we should expect to find that the period intervening between the edict of Artaxerxes and the Passion was 483 prophetic years. And accuracy as absolute as the nature of the case permits is no more than men are here entitled to demand. There can be no loose reckoning in a Divine chronology; and if God has; deigned to mark on human calendars the fulfillment of His purposes as foretold in prophecy, the strictest: scrutiny shall fail to detect miscalculation or mistake.

The Persian edict which restored the autonomy of Judah was issued in the Jewish month of Nisan. It may in fact have been dated the 1st of Nisan, but: no other day being named, the prophetic period must be reckoned, according to a practice common with the Jews, from the Jewish New Year's Day. [1] The seventy weeks are therefore to be computed from the 1st of Nisan B.C. 445. [2]

Now the great characteristic of the Jewish sacred year has remained unchanged ever since the memorable night when the equinoctial moon beamed down upon the huts of Israel in Egypt, bloodstained by the Paschal sacrifice; and there is neither doubt nor difficulty in fixing within narrow limits the Julian date of the 1st of Nisan in any year whatever. In B.C.. 445 the new moon by which the Passover was regulated was on the 13th of March at 7h. 9m. A. M. [3] And accordingly the 1st Nisan may be assigned to the 14th March.

But the language of the prophecy is clear: "From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks." An era therefore of sixty-nine "weeks," or 483 prophetic years reckoned from the 14th March, B.C. 445, should close with some event to satisfy the words, "unto the Messiah the Prince."

The date of the nativity could not possibly have been the termination of the period, for then the sixty-nine weeks must have ended thirty-three years before Messiah's death.

If the beginning of His public ministry be fixed upon, difficulties of another kind present themselves. When the Lord began to preach, the kingdom was not presented as a fact accomplished in His advent, but as a hope the realization of which, though at the very door, was still to be fulfilled. He took up the Baptist's testimony, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." His ministry was a preparation for the kingdom, leading up to the time when in fulfillment of the prophetic Scriptures He should publicly declare Himself as the Son of David, the King of Israel, and claim the homage of the nation. It was the nation's guilt that the cross and not the throne was the climax of His life on earth.

No student of the Gospel narrative can fail to see that the Lord's last visit to Jerusalem was not only in fact, but in the purpose of it, the crisis of His ministry, the goal towards which it had been directed. After the first tokens had been given that the nation would reject His Messianic claims, He had shunned all public recognition of them. But now the twofold testimony of His words and His works had been fully rendered, and His entry into the Holy City was to proclaim His Messiahship and to receive His doom. Again and again His apostles even had been charged that they should not make Him known. But now He accepted the acclamations of "the whole multitude of the disciples," and silenced the remonstrance of the Pharisees with the indignant rebuke, "I tell you if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." (Luke 19:39, 40)

The full significance of the words which follow in the Gospel of St. Luke is concealed by a slight interpolation in the text. As the shouts broke forth from His disciples, "Hosanna to the Son of David! blessed is the king of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord!" He looked off toward the Holy City and exclaimed, "If thou also hadst known, even on this day, the things which belong to thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes!" [4] The time of Jerusalem's visitation had come, and she knew it not. Long ere then the nation had rejected Him, but this was the predestined day when their choice must be irrevocable, – the day so distinctly signalized in Scripture as the fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold thy King cometh unto thee!" (Zechariah 9:9) Of all the days of the ministry of Christ on earth, no other will satisfy so well the angel's words, unto Messiah the Prince."

And the date of it can be ascertained. In accordance with the Jewish custom, the Lord went up to Jerusalem upon the 8th Nisan, "six days before the Passover." [5] But as the 14th, on which the Paschal Supper was eaten, fell that year upon a Thursday, the 8th was the preceding Friday. He must have spent the Sabbath, therefore, at Bethany; and on the evening of the 9th, after the Sabbath had ended, the Supper took place in Martha's house. Upon the following day, the 10th Nisan, He entered Jerusalem as recorded in the Gospels. [6]

The Julian date of that 10th Nisan was Sunday the 6th April, A.D. 32. What then was the length of the period intervening between the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the public advent of "Messiah the Prince," – between the 14th March, B.C. 445, and the 6th April, A.D. 32? THE INTERVAL CONTAINED EXACTLY AND TO THE VERY DAY 173, 880 DAYS, OR SEVEN TIMES SIXTY-NINE PROPHETIC YEARS OF 360 DAYS, the first sixty-nine weeks of Gabriel's prophecy. [7]

Much there is in Holy Writ which unbelief may value and revere, while utterly refusing to accept it as Divine; but prophecy admits of no half-faith. The prediction of the "seventy weeks" was either a gross and impious imposture, or else it was in the fullest and strictest sense God-breathed. [8] It may be that in days to come, when Judah's great home-bringing shall restore to Jerusalem the rightful owners of its soil, the Jews themselves shall yet rake up from deep beneath its ruins the records of the great king's decree and of the Nazarene's rejection, and they for whom the prophecy was given will thus be confronted with proofs of its fulfillment. Meanwhile what judgment shall be passed on it by fair and thoughtful men? To believe that the facts and figures here detailed amount to nothing more than happy coincidences involves a greater exercise of faith than that of the Christian who accepts the book of Daniel as Divine. There is a point beyond which unbelief is impossible, and the mind in refusing truth must needs take refuge in a misbelief which is sheer credulity.


[1] "On the 1st of Nisan is a new year for the computation of the reign of kings, and for festivals." – Mishna, treatise "Rosh Hash."

[2] The wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the: month Elul, in fifty and two days" (Nehemiah 6: l5). Now fifty-two days, measured back from the 25th Elul, brings us to the 3rd Ab. Therefore Nehemiah must have arrived not later than 1st Ab, and apparently some days earlier (Nehemiah 2:11). Compare this with Ezra's journey thirteen years before. "For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month (Ab) came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him" (Ezra 7:9). I infer therefore that Nehemiah also set out early in the first month.

The chronological parallelisms between the respective journeys of Ezra and Nehemiah have suggested the ingenious theory that both went up to Jerusalem together, Ezra 7 and Nehemiah 2 relating to the same event. This is based upon the supposition that the regnal years of Artaxerxes, according to Persian computation, were reckoned from his birth, a supposition, however, which is fanciful and arbitrary, though described by its author as "by no means unlikely" (Trans. Soc. Bib. Arch., 2., 110: Rev. D. H. Haigh, 4th Feb., 1873).

[3] For this calculation I am indebted to the courtesy of the Astronomer Royal, whose reply to my inquiry on the subject is appended:
June 26th, I877.
"SIR, – I have had the moon's place calculated from Largeteau's Tables in Additions to the Connaisance des Tems 1846, by one of my assistants, and have no doubt of its correctness. The place being calculated for – 444, March 12d. 20h., French reckoning, or March 12d. 8h. P. M., it appears that the said time was short of New Moon by about 8h. 47m., and therefore the New Moon occurred at 4h. 47m. A. M., March 13th, Paris time."
I am, etc.,
" (Signed,) G. B. AIRY."

The new moon, therefore, occurred at Jerusalem on the 13th March, B. C. 445 (444 Astronomical) at 7h. 9m. A. M.

[4] ei egnos kai su kai ge en ta hamera tauta ta pros eipanan sou k. t. l. (Luke 19:42). The received text inserts sou after hamera, but the best MSS. (Alex. Vat. Sin., etc.) agree in omitting it. kai sou, "thou also, as well as these my disciples." kai ge et quidem"even" (Alford, Gr. Test. in loco). The Revised Version reads, "If thou hadst known in this day," etc.

[5] "When the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus, ' i. e., Nisan (Josephus, Wars, 6. 5, 3). "And the Jews' Passover was nigh at hand, and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem, before the Passover, to purify themselves…Then Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany" (John 11:55; 12:1).

[6] Lewin, Fasti Sacri, p. 230.

[7] The 1st Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (the edict to rebuild Jerusalem) was 14th March, B. C. 445. The 10th Nisan in Passion Week (Christ's entry into Jerusalem) was 6th April, A. D. 32. The intervening period was 476 years and 24 days (the days being reckoned inclusively, as required by the language of the prophecy, and in accordance with the Jewish practice).
But 476 x 365= 173, 740 days
Add (14 March to 6th April, both inclusive) 24 days
Add for leap years 116 days
Equals a total of 173,880 days

And 69 weeks of prophetic years of 360 days (or 69 x 7 x 360) 173, 880 days.

It may be well to offer here two explanatory remarks. First; in reckoning years from B. C. to A. D., one year must always be omitted; for it is obvious, ex. gr., that from B. C. 1 to A. D. I was not two years, but one year. B. C. 1 ought to be described as B. C. 0, and it is so reckoned by astronomers, who would describe the historical date B. C. 445, as 444. And secondly, the Julian year is 11m. 10 46s., or about the 129th part of a day, longer than 'the mean solar year. The Julian calendar, therefore, contains three leap years too many in four centuries, an error which had amounted to eleven days in A. D. 17527 when our English calendar was corrected by declaring the 3rd September to be the 14th September, and by introducing the Gregorian reform which reckons three secular years out of four as common years; ex. gr., 1700, 1800 and 1900 are common years, and 2000 is a leap year. "Old Christmas day" is still marked in our calendars, and observed in some localities, on the 6th January; and to this day the calendar remains uncorrected in Russia. (See Appendix 4, p. 306 note 8.)

[8] theopneustos (2 Timothy 3:16).

CHAPTER XI. Back to Top


"THIS is a work which I find deficient; but it is to be done with wisdom, sobriety, and reverence, or not at all." Thus wrote Lord Bacon in treating of what he describes as "history of prophecy."

"The nature of such a work," he explains, "ought to be that every prophecy of the Scripture be sorted with the event fulfilling the same, throughout the ages of the world, both for the better confirmation of faith and for the better illumination of the Church touching those parts of prophecies which are yet unfulfilled: allowing, nevertheless, that latitude which is agreeable and familiar unto Divine prophecies; being of the nature of their Author with whom a thousand years are but as one day, and therefore are not fulfilled punctually at once, but have springing and germinant accomplishment throughout many ages, though the height or ruiness of them may refer to some one age."

If the many writers who have since contributed to supply the want Lord Bacon noticed, had given due heed to these wise and weighty words, prophetic study might possibly have escaped the reproach which comes of its followers being divided into hostile camps. With the Christian the fulfillment of prophecy does not belong to the region of opinion, nor even of fact, merely; it is a matter of faith. We have a right, therefore, to expect that it shall be definite and clear. But though the principles and maxims of interpretation gained by the study of that part of prophecy which was accomplished within the era of Holy Writ are by no means to be thrown aside when we pass out into post-apostolic times, surely there is no presumption against our finding hidden in the history of these eighteen centuries a primary and partial fulfillment even of prophecies which will unquestionably receive a final and complete accomplishment in days to come.

Only let us not forget the "wisdom, sobriety, and reverence" which such an inquiry demands. In our day prophetic students have turned prophets, and with mingled folly and daring have sought to fix the very year of Christ's return to earth, – predictions which possibly our children's children will recall when another century shall have been added to the history of Christendom. If such vagaries brought discredit only on their authors, it were well. But though broached in direct opposition to Scripture, they have brought reproach on Scripture itself, and have given a stimulus to the jaunty skepticism of the day. We might have hoped that whatever else might be forgotten, the last words which the Lord Jesus spoke on earth would not be thus thrust aside:

"It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power." (Acts 1:7)

But what was denied to inspired apostles in days of pristine faith and power, the prophecy-mongers of these last days have dared to claim; and the result has been that the solemn and blessed hope of the Lord's return has been degraded to the level of the predictions of astrologers, to the confusion and grief of faithful hearts, and the amusement of the world.

Any man who, avoiding extravagant or fanciful views, both of history and of Scripture, points to events in the present or the past as the correlatives of a prophecy, deserves a calm and unprejudiced hearing from thoughtful men. But let him not forget that though the Scriptures he appeals to may thus receive "germinant accomplishment," "the height or fullness of them may refer" to an age still future. What is true of all Scripture is specially true of prophecy. It is ours to assign to it a meaning; but he who really believes it to be Divine, will hesitate to limit its meaning to the measure of his own apprehension of it.

The prophecies of Antichrist afford a signal and most apt illustration of this. Were it not for the prejudice created by extreme statements, prophetic students would probably agree that the great apostasy of Christendom displays in outline many of the main lineaments of the Man of Sin. There is, indeed, in our day a spurious liberality that would teach us to forego the indictment which history affords against the Church of Rome; but while no generous mind will refuse to own the moral worth of those who, in England at least, now guide the counsels of that Church, the real question at issue relates to the character, not of individuals, but of a system.

It is the part, therefore, not of intolerant bigotry, but of true wisdom, to search the records of the past – terrible records, truly – for the means of judging of that system. The inquiry which concerns us is not whether good men are found within the pale of Rome – as though all the moral excellence of earth could avail to cover the annals of her hideous guilt! Our true inquiry is whether she has suffered any real change in these enlightened days. Is the Church of Rome reformed? With what vehemence the answer would be shrieked from every altar within her pale! And if not, let but dark days come again, and some of the foulest scenes and blackest crimes in the history of Christendom may be re-enacted in Europe. "The true test of a man is not what he does, but what, with the principles he holds, he would do;" and if this be true of individuals, it is still more intensely true of communities. They do good service, therefore, who keep before the public mind the real character of Rome as the present day development of the apostasy.

But when these writers go on to assert that the predictions of the Antichrist have their full and final realization in the Papacy, their position becomes a positive danger to the truth. It is maintained at the cost of rejecting some of the most definite of the prophecies, and of putting a lax or fanciful interpretation upon those very Scriptures to which they appeal.

Indeed, the chief practical evil of this system of interpretation is that it creates and fosters a habit of reading the Scriptures in a loose and superficial manner. General impressions, derived from a cursory perusal of the prophecies, are seized upon and systematized, and upon this foundation a pretentious superstructure is built up. As already noticed, the Church of Rome displays the chief moral lineaments of the Man of Sin. Therefore it is an axiom of interpretation with this school that the ten-horned beast is the Papacy. But of the beast it is written that "power was given to him over all kindreds and tongues and nations, and all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life." (Revelation 13:7, 8) Are these commentators aware that one-half of Christendom is outside the pale of Rome, and in antagonism to the claims of the Papacy? Or do they suppose that all who belong to the Greek and Protestant Churches are enrolled in the book of life? By no means. But they would tell us the verse does not mean exactly what it says. [1]

Again, the ten-horned beast is the Papacy; the second beast, the false prophet, is the Papal clergy; Babylon is Papal Rome. And yet when we turn to the vision of the judgment of Babylon, we find that it is by the agency of the beast that her doom is accomplished! "And the ten horns which thou sawest, and the beast, these shall hate the whore (Babylon), and shall make her desolate, and naked, and shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire; for God hath put in their hearts to fulfill His will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled." "These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast." [2] The governments of Christendom, therefore, are to lend their power to the Roman Pontiff and priesthood in order to the destruction of Papal Rome! [3] Can absurdity be more transparent and complete?

The question here at issue must not be prejudiced by misrepresentations, or shirked by turning away to collateral points of secondary moment. It is not whether great crises in the history of Christendom, such as the fall of Paganism, the rise of the Papacy and of the Moslem power, and the Protestant reformation of the sixteenth century, be within the, scope of the visions of St. John. This may readily be conceded. Neither is it whether the fact that the chronology of some of these events is marked by cycles of years composed of the precise multiples; of seventy specified in the book of Daniel and the Apocalypse, be not a further proof that all forms; part of one great plan. Every fresh discovery of the kind ought to be welcomed by all lovers of the truth. Instead of weakening confidence in the accuracy and definiteness of the prophecies, it ought to strengthen the faith which looks for their absolute and literal fulfillment. The question is not whether the history of Christendom was within the view of the Divine Author of the prophecies, but whether those prophecies have been fulfilled; not whether those Scriptures have the scope and meaning which historical interpreters assign to them, but whether their scope and meaning be exhausted and satisfied by the events to which they appeal as the fulfillment of them. It is unnecessary, therefore, to enter here upon an elaborate review of the historical system of interpretation, for if it fails when tested at some one vital point, it breaks down altogether.

Does the Apocalypse, then, belong to the sphere of prophecy accomplished? Or, to reduce the controversy to a still narrower issue, have the visions of the seals and trumpets and vials been fulfilled? No one will dispute the fairness of this mode of stating the question, and the fairest possible method of dealing with it will be to set forth some one of the leading visions, and then quote fully and verbatim what the historical interpreters put forward as the meaning of it.

The opening of the sixth seal is thus recorded by St. John:" And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" (Revelation 6:12-17)

The following is Mr. Elliott's commentary upon the vision:

"When we consider," he declares, "the terrors of these Christ-blaspheming kings of the Roman earth, thus routed with their partisans before the Christian host, and miserably flying and perishing, there was surely that in the event which, according to the usual construction of such Scripture figures, might well be deemed to answer to the symbols of the profigurative vision before us: in which vision kings and generals, freemen and slaves, appeared flying to and seeking the caves of the rocks to hide them: to hide them from the face of Him that sat on the throne of power, even from the wrath of the Lamb.

"Thus under the first shocks of this great earthquake had the Roman earth been agitated, and the enemies of the Christians destroyed or driven into flight and consternation. Thus, in the political heavens, had the sun of pagan supremacy been darkened, the moon become eclipsed and blood-red, and of the stars not a few been shaken violently to the ground. But the prophecy had not as yet received its entire fulfillment. The stars of the pagan heaven had not all fallen, nor had the heaven itself been altogether rolled up like a scroll and vanished away. On Constantine's first triumph, and after the first terrors of the opposing emperors and their hosts, though their imperial edict gave to Christianity its full rights and freedom, yet it allowed to the heathen worship a free toleration also. But very soon there followed measures of marked preference in the imperial appointments to the Christians and their faith. And at length, as Constantine advanced in life, in spite of the indignation and resentment of the pagans, he issued edicts for the suppression of their sacrifices, the destruction of their temples, and the toleration of no other form of public worship but the Christian. His successors on the throne followed up the same object by attaching penalties of the severest character to the public profession of paganism. And the result was that, before the century, had ended, its stars had all fallen to the ground, its very heaven, or political and religious system, vanished, and on the earth the old pagan institutions, laws, rites, and worship been all but annihilated." [4]

"A more notable instance of inadequate interpretation cannot be imagined." [5] What wonder if men scoff at the awful warnings of coming wrath, when they are told that THE GREAT DAY OF HIS WRATH [6] is past, and that it amounted to nothing more than the rout of the pagan armies before the hosts of Constantine, – an event which has been paralleled a thousand times in the history of the world? [7]

For, let the point at issue be clearly kept in view. If the reign of Constantine or some other era in the history of Christendom were appealed to as affording an intermediate fulfillment of the vision, it might pass as a feeble but harmless exposition; but these expositors daringly assert that the prophecy has no other scope or meaning. [8] They are bound to prove that
the vision of the sixth seal has been fulfilled; else it is obvious that all which follows it claims fulfillment likewise. If, therefore, their system failed at this point alone, its failure would be absolute and complete; but in fact the instance quoted is no more than a fair example of the manner in which they fritter away the meaning of the words they profess to explain.

We are now, they tell us, in the era of the Vials. At this very hour the wrath of God is being poured out upon the earth. [9] Surely men may well exclaim, – comparing the present with the past, and judging this age to be more favored, more desirable to live in than any age which has preceded it, – Is this all the wrath of God amounts to! The vials are the seven last plagues, "for in them is filled up the wrath of God," and we are told that the sixth is even at this moment being fulfilled in the disruption of the Turkish Empire! Can any man be so lost in the dreamland of his own lucubrations as to imagine that the collapse of the Turkish power is a Divine judgment on an unrepentant world! [10] Such it may appear to be to the clique of Pachas, who, ghoul-like, fatten on the misery around them; but untold millions would hail it as a blessing to suffering humanity, and ask with wonder, If this be a crowning token of the wrath of God, how are simple souls to distinguish between the proofs of His favor and of His direst anger!

If the event were cited as a primary fulfillment, within this day of grace, of a prophecy which strictly belongs to the coming day of wrath, it would merit respectful attention; but to appeal to the dismemberment of Turkey as the full realization of the vision, is the merest trifling with the solemn language of Scripture, and an outrage on common sense.

But there are principles involved in this system of interpretation far deeper and more momentous than any which appear upon the surface. It is in direct antagonism with the great foundation truth of Christianity.

St. Luke narrates (Luke 4:19, 20) how, after the temptation, the Lord "returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee," and entering the synagogue of Nazareth on the Sabbath day, as His custom was, He stood up to read. There was handed Him the book of Isaiah's prophecy, and all eyes being fastened on Him, He opened it and read these words, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord."

"And the day of vengeance of our God" are the words which followed, without a break, upon the open page before Him; but, the record adds, "He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down." In an age to come, when the prophecy shall have its ultimate fulfillment, the day of vengeance shall mingle with blessing to His people. [11] But the burden of His ministry on earth was only peace. [12] And it is the burden of the gospel still. God's attitude toward men is grace. "GRACE REIGNS." It is not that there is grace for the penitent or the elect, but that grace is the principle on which Christ now sits upon the throne of God. "Upon His head are many crowns, but His pierced hand now holds the only scepter," for the Father has given Him the kingdom; all power is His in heaven and on earth. "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son;" (John 5:22; Compare 3:17; 12:47) but His mission to earth was not to judge, but only to save. And He who is thus the only Judge is now exalted to be a Savior, and the throne on which He sits is a throne of grace. Grace is reigning, through righteousness, unto eternal life. (Romans 5:21) "The light of this glorious gospel now shines unhindered upon earth. Blind eyes may shut it out, but they cannot quench or lessen it. Impenitent hearts may heap up wrath against the day of wrath, but they cannot darken this day of mercy or mar the glory of the reign of grace." [13]

It will be in "the day of wrath" that the "seven last plagues," wherein is "filled up the wrath of God," shall run their course; and it is merely trifling with solemn and awful truths to talk of their being now fulfilled. Whatever intermediate fulfillment the vision may be now receiving, the full and final realization of it belongs to a future time.

And these pages are not designed to deal with the primary and historical fulfillment of the prophecies, or, as Lord Bacon terms it, their "springing and germinant accomplishment throughout many ages." My subject is exclusively the absolute and final fulfillment of the visions in that "one age" to which, in their "height and fullness," they belong.

The Scripture itself affords many striking instances of such intermediate or primary fulfillment; and in these the main outlines of the prophecy are realized, but not the details. The prediction of Elijah's advent is an instance. [14] In the plainest terms the Lord declared the Baptist's ministry to be within the scope of that prophecy. In terms as clear He announced that it would be fulfilled in days to come, by the reappearance upon earth of the greatest of the prophets. (Matthew 11:14; 17:11, 12) St. Peter's words at Pentecost afford another illustration. Joel's prophecy shall yet be realized to the letter, but yet the baptism of the Holy Ghost was referred to it by the inspired Apostle. (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21.)

To speak of the fulfillment of these prophecies as already past, is to use language at once unscriptural and false. Far more unwarrantable still is the assertion of finality, so confidently made, of the prophecies relating to the apostasy. There is not a single prophecy, of which the fulfillment is recorded in Scripture, that was not realized with absolute accuracy, and in every detail; and it is wholly unjustifiable to assume that a new system of fulfillment was inaugurated after the sacred canon closed.

Two thousand years ago who would have ventured to believe that the prophecies of Messiah would receive a literal accomplishment!

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son." (Isaiah 7:14)

"Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." (Zechariah 9:9)

"They weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver;" "And I took the thirty pieces of silver and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord." (Zechariah 11:12, 13; Compare Matthew 27:5, 7)

"They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." (Psalm 22:18 Compare John 19:23, 24.)

"They pierced my hands and my feet." (Psalm 22:16)

"They gave me vinegar to drink." (Psalm 69:21)

"He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was He stricken." (Isaiah 53:8)

To the prophets themselves, even, the meaning of such words was a mystery. (1 Peter 1:10-12) For the most part, doubtless, men regarded them as no more than poetry or legend. And yet these prophecies of the advent and death of Christ received their fulfillment in every jot and tittle of them. Literalness of fulfillment may therefore be accepted as an axiom to guide us in the study of prophecy.


[1] According to these interpreters, such a statement must be taken cum grano salis, as we term it; and the like remark applies to their rendering of every verse of the thirteenth chapter of Revelation.

[2] Revelation 17:16, 17, 13. In ver. 16 the best reading, as given in the Revised Version, is "and the beast," instead of "upon the beast."

[3] Mr. Elliott's romance on this subject is disposed of by the events of recent years, which have made Rome the peaceful capital of Italy. Of the beast and false prophet it is written, "These both were cast alive into a lake of fire" (Revelation 19:20). It may be pleasing to Protestant zeal to suppose the Roman hierarchy and priesthood are "reserved" for such a fate.

[4] Horae Apoc., vol. 1., pp. 219, 220.

[5] "Another such landmark is found, I believe, in the interpretation of the sixth seal: if it be not indeed already laid down in what has just been said. We all know what that imagery means in the rest of Scripture. Any system which requires it to belong to another period than the close approach of the great day of the Lord, stands thereby self-condemned. I may illustrate this by reference to Mr. Elliott's continuous historical system, which requires that it should mean the downfall of paganism under Constantine. A more notable instance of inadequate interpretation cannot be imagined. "Closely connected with this last is another fixed point in interpretation. As the seven seals, so the seven trumpets and the seven vials run on to the time close upon the end. At the termination of each series, the note is unmistakably given that such is the case. Of the seals we have already spoken. As to the trumpets, it may suffice to refer to ch. 10:7; 11:18; as to the vials, to their very designation tas eschatas, and to the gegonen of ch. 16:17. Any system which does not recognize this common ending of the three, seems to me to stand thereby convicted of error." – ALFORD, Gr. Test., 4., Part 2., ch. 8., §§ 5, 21, 22.

[6] ha hamera ha megala tas orgas autou (Revelation 6:17).

[7] If such statements were put forward in wantonness, and not in folly, they would suggest a reference to the solemn words, "If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy –" (Revelation 22:19).

[8] When the historical interpreters approach the Second Advent, they lose the courage of their opinions, and earnestly contend for literalness, though if their scheme be genuine, the predicted return of Christ may surely have its fulfillment in the present revival of religion and the concurrent spread of Christianity.

[9] And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them is filled up the wrath of God…And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues…And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials, full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever…And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth" (Revelation 15:1, 6, 7; 16:1).

[10] The Austrian Pester Lloyd of 21st Nov., 1879, in commenting on the British line of policy with regard to Turkish affairs, charged Lord Beaconsfield's government with "confounding Mohammedanism with the Turks, the latter having been always regarded as the scum of Mohammedanism by all Mohammedan nations who were conscious of their own strength." Prophetic students appear to be thoroughly possessed by this error.

[11] Compare Isaiah 63:4: "For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come."

[12] "He came and preached peace" (Ephesians 2:17).

[13] The Gospel and its Ministry, p. 136. True it is that the great principles of God's moral government of the world remain unchanged, and sin is thus ever working out its own punishment. But this must not be confounded with immediate Divine action in judgment. "The Lord knoweth how to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment, to be punished" (2 Peter 2:9). Or, according to Romans 2:5, "After thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath."

[14] "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Malachi. 4:5).

CHAPTER XII. Back to Top


THE main stream of prophecy runs in the channel of Hebrew history. This indeed is true of all revelation. Eleven chapters of the Bible suffice to cover the two thousand years before the call of Abraham, and the rest of the old Testament relates to the Abrahamic race. If for a while the light of revelation rested on Babylon or Susa, it was because Jerusalem was desolate, and Judah was in exile. For a time the Gentile has now gained the foremost place in blessing upon earth; but this is entirely anomalous, and the normal order of God's dealings with men is again to be restored. "Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written." [1]

The Scriptures teem with promises and prophecies in favor of that nation, not a tithe of which have yet been realized. And while the impassioned poetry in which so many of the old prophecies are couched is made a pretext for treating them as hyperbolical descriptions of the blessings of the Gospel, no such plea can be urged respecting the Epistle to the Romans. Writing to Gentiles, the Apostle of the Gentiles there reasons the matter out in presence of the facts of the Gentile dispensation. The natural branches of the race of Israel have been broken off from the olive tree of earthly privilege and blessing, and, "contrary to nature," the wild olive branches of Gentile blood have been substituted for them. But in spite of the warning of the Apostle, we Gentiles have become "wise in our own conceits," forgetting that the olive tree whose "root and fatness" we partake of, is essentially Hebrew, for "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."

The minds of most men are in bondage to the commonplace facts of their experience. The prophecies of a restored Israel seem to many as incredible as predictions of the present triumphs of electricity and steam would have appeared to our ancestors a century ago. While affecting independence in judging thus, the mind is only giving proof of its own impotence or ignorance. Moreover, the position which the Jews have held for eighteen centuries is a phenomenon which itself disposes of every seeming presumption against the fulfillment of these prophecies.

It is not a question of how a false religion like that of Mahomet can maintain an unbroken front in presence of a true faith; the problem is very different. Not only in a former age, but in the early days of the present dispensation, the Jews enjoyed a preference in blessing, which practically amounted almost to a monopoly of Divine favor. In its infancy the Christian Church was essentially Jewish. The Jews within its pale were reckoned by thousands, the Gentiles by tens. And yet that same people afterwards became, and for eighteen centuries have continued to be, more dead to the influence of the Gospel than any other class of people upon earth. How can "this mystery," as the Apostle terms it, be accounted for, save as Scripture explains it, namely, that the era of special grace to Israel closed with the period historically within the Acts of the Apostles, and that since that crisis of their history "blindness in part is happened" to them?

But this very word, the truth of which is so clearly proved by public facts, goes on to declare that this judicial hardening is to continue only "until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in;" and the inspired Apostle adds, "And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant unto them." [2]

But, it may with reason be demanded, does not this imply merely that Israel shall be brought within the blessings of the Gospel, not that the Jews shall be blessed on a principle which is entirely inconsistent with the Gospel? Christianity, as a system, assumes the fact that in a former age the Jews enjoyed a peculiar place in blessing:

"Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy." (Romans 15:8, 9)

But the Jews have lost their vantage-ground through sin, and they now stand upon the common level of ruined humanity. The Cross has broken down "the middle wall" which separated them from Gentiles. It has leveled all distinctions. As to guilt "there is no difference, for all have sinned;" as to mercy "there is no difference, for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call on Him." How then, if there be no difference, can God give blessing on a principle which implies that there is a difference? In a word, the fulfillment of the promises to Judah is absolutely inconsistent with the distinctive truths of the present dispensation.

This question is one of immense importance, and claims the most earnest consideration. Nor is it enough to urge that the eleventh chapter of Romans itself supposes that in this age the Gentile has an advantage, though not a priority, and, therefore, Israel may enjoy the like privilege hereafter. It is part of the same revelation, that although grace stoops to the Gentile just where he is, it does not confirm him in his position as a Gentile, but lifts him out of it and denationalizes him; for in the Church of this dispensation "there is neither Jew nor Gentile." [3] Judah's promises, on the contrary, imply that blessing will reach the Jew as a Jew, not only recognizing his national position, but confirming him therein.

The conclusion, therefore, is inevitable, that before God can act thus, the special proclamation of grace in the present dispensation must have ceased, and a new principle of dealing with mankind must have been inaugurated.

But here the difficulties only seem to multiply and grow. For, it may be asked, does not the dispensation run its course until the return of Christ to earth? How then can Jews be found at His coming in a place of blessing nationally, akin to that which they held in a bygone age? All will admit that Scripture seems to teach that such will be the case. [4] The question still remains whether this be really intended. Does Scripture speak of any crisis in relation to the earth, to intervene before "the day when the Son of man shall be revealed "?

No one who diligently seeks the answer to this inquiry can fail to be impressed by the fact that at first sight some confusion seems to mark the statements of Scripture with respect to it. Certain passages testify that Christ will return to earth, and stand once more on that same Olivet on which His feet last rested ere He ascended to His Father; (Zechariah 14:4; Acts 1:11, 12) and others tell us as plainly that He will come, not to earth, but to the air above us, and call His people up to meet Him and be with Him. (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17) These Scriptures again most clearly prove that it is His believing people who shall be "caught up," (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52) leaving the world to run its course to its destined doom; while other Scriptures as unequivocally teach that it is not His people but the wicked who are to be weeded out, leaving the righteous "to shine forth in the kingdom of their Father." (Matthew 13:40-43) And the confusion apparently increases when we notice that Holy Writ seems sometimes to represent the righteous who are to be thus blessed as Jews, sometimes as Christians of a dispensation in which the Jew is cast off by God.

These difficulties admit of only one solution, a solution as satisfactory as it is simple; namely, that what we term the second advent of Christ is not a single event, but includes several distinct manifestations. At the first of these He will call up to Himself the righteous dead, together with His own people then living upon earth. With this event this special "day of grace" will cease, and God will again revert to "the covenants" and "the promises," and that people to whom the covenants and promises belong (Romans 9:4) will once more become the center of Divine action toward mankind.

Everything that God has promised is within the range of the believer's hope; [5] but this is its near horizon. All things wait on its accomplishment. Before the return of Christ to earth, many a page of prophecy has yet to be fulfilled, but not a line of Scripture bars the realization of this the Church's special hope of His coming to take His people to Himself. Here, then, is the great crisis which will put a term to the reign of grace, and usher in the destined woes of earth's fiercest trial – "the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." (Luke 21:22)

To object that a truth of this magnitude would have been stated with more dogmatic clearness is to forget the distinction between doctrinal teaching and prophetic utterance. The truth of the second advent belongs to prophecy, and the statements of Scripture respecting it are marked by precisely the same characteristics as marked the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah. [6]

"The sufferings of Christ and the glories which should follow" were foretold in such a way that a superficial reader of the old Scriptures would have failed to discover that there were to be two advents of Messiah. And even the careful student, if unversed in the general scheme of prophecy, might have supposed that the two advents, though morally distinct, should be intimately connected in time. So is it with the future. Some regard the second advent as a single event; by others its true character is recognized, but they fail to mark the interval which must separate its first from its final stage. An intelligent apprehension of the truth respecting it is essential to the right understanding of unfulfilled prophecy.

But having thus clearly fixed these principal landmarks to guide us in the study, we cannot too strongly deprecate the attempt to fill up the interval with greater precision than Scripture warrants. There are definite events to be fulfilled, but no one may dogmatize respecting the time or manner of their fulfillment. No Christian who estimates aright the appalling weight of suffering and sin which each day that passes adds to the awful sum of this world's sorrow and guilt, can fail to long that the end may indeed be near; but let him not forget the great principle that "the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation," (2 Peter 3:15) nor yet the language of the Psalm, "A thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." (Psalm 90:4) There is much in Scripture which seems to justify the hope that the consummation will not be long delayed; but, on the other hand, there is not a little to suggest the thought that before these final scenes shall be enacted, civilization will have returned to its old home in the east, and, perchance, a restored Babylon shall have become the center of human progress and of apostate religion. [7]

To maintain that long ages have yet to run their course would be as unwarrantable as are the predictions so confidently made that all things shall be fulfilled within the current century. It is only in so far as prophecy is within the seventy weeks; of Daniel that it comes within the range of chronology at all, and Daniel's vision primarily relates to Judah and Jerusalem. [8]


[1] Romans 11:25, 26. The coming in of the fullness of the Gentiles must not be confounded with the fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). The one refers to spiritual blessing, the other to earthly power. Jerusalem is not to be the capital of a free nation, independent of Gentile power, until the true Son of David comes to claim the scepter.

[2] Romans 11:25, 26. Not every Israelite, but Israel as a nation (Alford, Gr. Test., in loco).

[3] Galatians 3:28. Contrast these with the Lord's words in John 4:22, "Salvation is of the Jews."

[4] In proof of this, appeal may be made to these very prophecies of Daniel; and later prophecies testify to it still more plainly, notably the book of Zechariah.

[5] "We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth" (2 Peter 3:13). Long ages of time and events innumerable must intervene before the realization of this hope, and yet the believer is looking for it.

[6] For an admirable treatise on these characteristics of prophecy, see Hengstenberg's Christology, Kregel Publications.

[7] Isaiah 13 appears to connect the final fall of Babylon with the great day that is coming (comp. Vers. 1, 9, 10, 19.); and in Jeremiah 1 the same event is connected with the future restoration and union of the two houses of Israel (ver. 20). I make the suggestion, however, merely as a caveat against the idea that we have certainly reached the last days of the dispensation. If the history of Christendom should run on for another thousand years, the delay would not discredit the truth of a single statement in Holy Writ.

[8] No one of Daniel's visions, indeed, has a wider scope. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel treat of Israel (or the ten tribes); but Daniel deals only with Judah.


CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTORY on page 1 ---New Window

CHAPTERS 2-3 on page 2 ---New Window

CHAPTERS 4-6 on page 3 ---New Window

CHAPTERS 7-9 on page 4 ---New Window

CHAPTERS 10-12 on page 5 (this page)

CHAPTERS 13-15 on page 6 ---New Window

PREFACES on page 7 ---New Window

APPENDICES on page 8 ---New Window


For more about the author, read:
Sir Robert Anderson and the Seventy Weeks of Daniel ---New Window


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