CHAPTER IITHE TIMES OF THE GENTILES.
"AND HE INFORMED HE, AND TALKED WITH ME, AND SAID, O DANIEL, I AM NOW COME FORTH TO GIVE THEE SKILL AND UNDER- STANDING."- #Dan 9:22. "THEN SAID HE UNTO ME, FEAR NOT, DANIEL: FOR FROM THE FIRST DAY THAT THOU DIDST SET THINE HEART TO UNDERSTAND, AND TO CHASTEN THYSELF BEFORE THY GOD, THY WORDS WERE HEARD, AND I AM COME FOR THY WORDS."-#Dan 10:12. "IN THE FIRST YEAR OF DARIUS . . . I DANIEL UNDERSTOOD BY BOOKS THE NUMBER OF THE YEARS, WHEREOF THE WORD OF THE LORD CAME TO JEREMIAH, . . . THAT HE WOULD ACCOMPLISH SEVENTY YEARS IN THE DESOLATION OF JERUSALEM."-#Dan 9:1-2.
DANIEL understood, as to the character of the days in which he lived, that the seventy years captivity was all but over, and that the predicted restoration of Israel and rebuilding of Jerusalem were close at hand. What may we "understand by books" as to the chronological character of the days in which we live? We know that the larger "seven times" of Israels dispersion and degradation is all but over, and their full and final restoration to Palestine close at hand-a restoration to be accompanied by their repentance and conversion, and by that supreme and long foretold crisis of such profound importance, not to Israel only, but also to the whole world, the manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth. The restoration for which Daniel prayed came, but it proved to be only partial, the ten tribes not having been restored at all. It proved also to be only temporary; for in consequence of Judahs rejection of their Messiah, it endured but for a few centuries, after which it was succeeded by the present longer and more complete dispersion. Even while it lasted it was not a restoration to complete national independence; for during its entire course Jerusalem was tributary to one Gentile power or another, and was, as we know, actually under Roman domination at the time of the advent of Christ.
After Messiah was cut off, and by wicked Jewish hands crucified and slain, the wrath of God came upon the people "to the uttermost," and the overthrow of Jerusalem by Titus introduced a judgment incomparably more severe,- their present expatriation and dispersion, the deep affliction and complete subjection to Gentile powers, which have lasted now for eighteen centuries. The continuance and duration of this whole period of judgment has its chronological limits assigned, just as the Babylonish captivity had. This last is indeed regarded and treated in Scripture as a part merely of the one great and long continued judgment of "the times of the Gentiles," appointed to last, not for seven decades of years, but for seven years of years, "seven times "-a tremendous national judgment for tremendous national crimes. This is the period to which our Lord alluded in the words, "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (#Luke 21:24.)
To some readers this expression may not convey the clear and definite idea which Scripture attaches to it; and as this period lies at the base of all the chronologic prophecies connected with this Gentile age, the duration of which forms the subject of the following pages, we must, before going further, distinctly define its nature and its measures.
It is the long period of history which began with the beginning of the succession of the four great Gentile monarchies revealed to Nebuchadnezzar, and which ends with the close of these four empires, and the manifestation of the kingdom of God. The "times of the Gentiles" are marked by Jewish loss of dominion and independence, by Jewish subjection to and suffering under Gentile conquerors, by the dispersion of the twelve tribes of Israel, and by the desolation of their land. It is, so to speak, the lifetime of the great fourfold image of Gentile monarchy shown to Nebuchadnezzar, as well as the period of the four wild beasts subsequently exhibited to the prophet. In other words, it is the joint duration of the rule of BABYLON, PERSIA, GREECE, and ROME.
It is the period during which supreme power on earth is by God Himself committed to Gentiles rather than to Jews, as it is written of Nebuchadnezzar, "Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell . . . He hath made thee ruler over them all." It is the period which elapses between the fall of the throne of Judah, in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, and the restoration of that throne by the establishment of it for ever in the person of Christ, the Son and Lord of David. It is the period extending from the beginning of the typical Babylonian power to the end of the anti-typical power of "Babylon the Great." It is the period of the government of the earth and of Israel by rulers who are like wild beasts in their cruelty and ferocity, as well as in their ignorance of God, who exist only by preying on others, who are evermore warring and slaughtering, and who oppose and persecute the saints of God. It is the period which, according to prophecy, is to be immediately followed by the establishment on earth of a universal monarchy of a wonderfully different description,-by the setting up of the long predicted, long prayed for kingdom of God, the kingdom of the Son of man, of which Christ so often spoke,-the kingdom in which Gods will is to be done on earth even as it is done in heaven; the kingdom which shall never be destroyed or left to other people, but which shall break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms, and stand for ever; a kingdom which shall be possessed by "the saints of the Most High for ever, even for ever and ever," in which the dominion shall he given to the Son of man, who comes with the clouds of heaven, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him. (#Dan 2:44, #Dan 7:13, 18, 27.)
A great change in Gods providential government took place at the time of the Babylonish captivity. He ceased to recognise the Jewish monarchy, which He had established in the days of David and Solomon, on account of the gross sins of the idolatrous Jews. He cast them out of their land, deprived them of their independence, and permitted Babylon to enslave them. It was not by chance or by mere human prowess that Assyria overthrew Israel, and Babylon Judah: the hand of God was in the double catastrophe, and the overthrow was a direct judgment on a disobedient and idolatrous people. The long period of subjection to Gentile nations, of which the Babylonish captivity was only the first section, and which still continues, was imposed on the Jews as a chastisement for inverate and long continued sin. (#Lev 26.) The full weight of the judgment did not fall on them at first, because they had not then filled up the measure of their sins; but when they "killed the Prince of life," a flood of desolation overwhelmed them, and rests upon their nation still. (#Dan 9:26) They are however beloved for their fathers sakes, and destined, as Scripture abundantly asserts, to be ultimately restored to their land and to their high position of supremacy on earth. When "the times of the Gentiles" run out they will be led to repentance, they will receive their long rejected Messiah, saying, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!" and the second advent of Christ will bring to them and to all nations those "times of the restitution of all things," of which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.
These "times of the restitution of all things" are the dispensation next following "the times of the Gentiles." The question of our nearness to the close of this latter dispensation is therefore one of supreme importance and interest. Whereabouts in its course are we, judging from history? The Babylonian empire, the first of the four predicted universal monarchies, rose and fell long since; so did the Medo- Persian, so did the Grecian. The fourth, or Roman empire, would, so it was predicted in the prophecy, exist in two forms: first, as one united empire; then as a commonwealth of ten kingdoms. The first form passed away fourteen hundred years ago, when the old empire built up by pagan Rome fell in the fifth century, under the incursions of the Goths and Vandals. The second or tenfold form-the commonwealth of nations, bound by a voluntary subjection to the Roman Papacy throughout the middle ages-has already existed for more than twelve centuries. Whereabouts then in the "times of the Gentiles" are we? Evidently near their close! What are the last forms of Gentile power predicted as dominating during this period? They are symbolised by two "little horns," the one described in the seventh, and the other in the eighth chapter of Daniel -two politico-religious dynasties which should exercise a vast and exceedingly evil influence in the latter half of this Gentile dispensation. These two "little horns" symbolise the Papal power in western, and the Mohammedan power in eastern Europe. The rise, character, conduct, decay, and doom of both these powers are enlarged upon in the prophecy, as it was natural that they should be, considering the tremendous and most evil influence which they have so long exerted, the one on the Christian Church, and the other both on it and on the natural Israel in Palestine. The outline of their history only is given in Daniel, details are added in the New Testament; by Paul, in his epistles, and by John in his Apocalypse.
The Papacy and Mohammedanism rose contemporaneously with the ten horns of the Roman beast; in other words, they originated at the same time as did the kingdoms of modern Europe-that is, on the fall of the western Roman empire. They have consequently already lasted for over twelve centuries, and their destruction is to be accomplished by the second advent of Christ Himself, and to be immediately followed by the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth. The reign of these two politico-religious dynasties constitutes the last phase of Gentile power presented in prophecy. Both have for more than twelve centuries opposed and blasphemed God and His truth, persecuted His saints, defiled His sanctuary, literal or spiritual, and trodden down the holy city.
It must be remembered that, the object of Scripture being to trace the story of redemption, and the fortunes of the people of God in this world, it dwells exclusively on the history of the nations and powers who have most influenced the Jewish people and the Christian Church. Hence, while it mentions briefly the career of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome pagan, it enters with far greater fulness into the history of the Papal and Mohammedan powers, because these are the powers which have most seriously oppressed, corrupted, or persecuted the natural and spiritual Israels.
In a word, "the times of the Gentiles" occupy the interval between the desolation of the land of Israel by Babylon, and the yet future restoration of the Jews; between the fall of the throne of Judah in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, and the future restoration of that throne in the person of Christ; between the destruction of the temple of God at Jerusalem, and the yet future re-establishment of His worship on Mount Zion. The period is the great Gentile dispensation, spoken of by Paul in #Rom 11, during which Israel is apparently, though not really, cast off by God in righteous judgment, as an exhibition of Divine justice; and during which salvation is come to the Gentiles, as an exhibition of Divine grace: during which blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until "the fulness of the Gentiles be come in," when "all Israel shall be saved," as it is written. So much as to the general character and extent of this Gentile age. The question next arises, Does Scripture assign to the period any definite chronological limits? The answer might also be anticipated, when we remember that in previous stages of Jewish history, similar periods of trial had always had their chronological limits foretold. The time of Israels bondage in Egypt, 400 years; the time of the wandering in the wilderness, forty years; the time of the captivity in Babylon, seventy years,-all were predicted in advance. If to these comparatively brief intervals the wisdom of God saw fit to assign limits, and He permitted these limits to be known to His people, how much more likely it is that He would assign limits to this far longer and more terrible dispensation of judgment and suffering appointed to the guilty nation of Israel, and that He would permit those limits to be more or less distinctly understood, at any rate towards the close of the period! On searching the Scriptures we find that this is the case. Chronological limits are distinctly assigned to "the times of the Gentiles" in Scripture, and in these our days their actual measures have become evident, because the fulfilments of the predictions are clearly traceable in history.
We cannot pause here to prove that the great prophecies of Daniel are for the most part fulfilled and not unfulfilled prophecies; that, starting from near their own epoch, they each give the outline of the history of the people of God, Jewish or Christian, in the world right on to the second advent and the millennial kingdom; that the powers figured as "little horns" in the seventh and eighth chapters of Daniel respectively symbolise the Papal and Mohammedan politico- religious apostasies; and that a day in these predictions stands as a symbol for a year. These basis truths of prophetic science have been ably demonstrated for some centuries past, and careful, trustworthy works in abundance are available for those who wish to study the subject, such as those of Bishop Newton, the late Professor Birks, Bickersteth, Elliot, and others. We have already published the grounds for our own conclusions on this subject in "The Approaching End of the Age," book ii., "Progressive Interpretation," and book iii., "Foretold and Fulfilled."
The chronological limits of the times of the Gentiles are given in the same style as the measures of the seventy weeks, or 490 years, to "Messiah the Prince." Moreover, they harmonize in their septiform character, not only with this period, but with all the Levitical measures of the sacred calendar of the Jews, as well as with many other episodes of Jewish history. THEY ARE A GREAT "WEEK," analogous to other weeks on other scales which we find in Scripture, such as the week of days; the week of weeks, leading to Pentecost: the week of months, including all the feasts of the Lord; the week of years, leading to the sabbatic year; the week of weeks of years, forty-nine years, leading up to the jubilee; the week of decades, or of human life, seventy years; and the week of millenaries, leading up to the yet future sabbatic millenary. "The times of the Gentiles" constituted a week, each of whose days is a year of years, or 360 years, and whose entire duration is therefore 2,520 years. As we wrote in the "Approaching End of the Age;"
"This is inferred from Scripture rather than distinctly stated in it; but the inference is so well grounded, as to be of almost equal weight with a distinct declaration.
"When this long period of Jewish desolation and chastisement was first threatened (Lev. xxvi.), the expression seven times was emphatically used in connexion with it. That this had any chronological force was not of course understood by those who received the warning, but it is almost impossible, in the light of subsequent predictions, and in the light of history, to doubt that the omniscient God used an expression in harmony with His foreknowledge of Israels future, and expressive of His Divine purpose-a purpose which we have seen wrought out in history.
"And, secondly, though the fourfold image, which symbolised to Nebuchadnezzar the succession of Gentile empires which were to fill up this long interval of Jewish rejection, had no chronology attached to it, yet we know that those empires, the Assyrian, the Persian, and the Grecian, and the pagan and Papal Roman powers, have, as a matter of history, already lasted for about 2,520 years. Now history is the evolution of the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, which must therefore have assigned beforehand to the times of the Gentiles at least this duration.
"The symbol of the fourfold image declared that these Gentile empires were to be succeeded by the kingdom of the God of heaven, but it did not reveal, or even intimate, when or after what lapse of time this should be. A subsequent vision granted to Nebuchadnezzar did so in mystery. He saw a tree, which he was told symbolised himself, cut down, and its stump left to be wet with the dew of heaven, and its portion with the beasts in the grass of the earth, its heart changed from a mans heart, and a beasts heart given it, until seven times should pass over it.
"This vision was, as Daniel told the monarch, a prophecy of the seven years insanity which, as a chastening for his pride, was to overtake him, and which was to teach him to know God, and to own that the heavens do rule. All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar, and at the end of the days-that is, of the seven years of his insanity-he lifted up his eyes to heaven, his understanding returned to him, and he blessed and praised and honoured the eternal God, whose dominion is everlasting, whose will is sovereign, whose power is infinite, and who is able to abase all those who walk in pride.
"Now the vision of the tree is not more clearly symbolic of this remarkable incident in Nebuchadnezzars life, than that incident itself is typical of certain moral and chronological features of the succession of Gentile monarchies. The leading moral characteristics of all the four great empires, of which Nebuchadnezzar was both head and representative, have been ignorance of God, idolatry, and cruel persecution of the saints. Nebuchadnezzar, prior to this incident, knew not God. He set up a great image, and commanded all men, on pain of death, to fall down and worship it. He cast into the burning fiery furnace the faithful witnesses who refused to obey the idolatrous mandate. How have all his successors, with one consent, followed this example. Idolatry, literal or spiritual, and persecution, pagan or Papal, have marked the whole succession of Gentile monarchies. These episodes in Nebuchadnezzars life are clearly typical; these features of his character have been stamped indelibly on all his successors; these incidents answer to events on the scale of nations and centuries, with which history makes us familiar. So also does the seven years bestial degradation of the monarch during his insanity answer to the seven years of years of Gentile rule, represented by the fourfold image and by the four wild beasts of a subsequent vision. The king himself represents the succession of imperial sovereignty till the kingdom of Christ shall come; the seven times that passed over him similarly represent the whole period of moral and spiritual debasement, and consequent idolatry and persecution, in the Gentile kingdoms, from the times of Nebuchadnezzar till the full redemption of mankind.
"A further argument in support of the same view may be derived from the fact that prophecy assigns to the apostasy of the latter days a duration of 1,260 years, and that this period is repeatedly spoken of as half a week, three times and a half. Where are we to find the other half of this great week? As the apostasy is to be overthrown finally by the advent of Christ, it is clear the other half cannot follow, but must precede, the half week which measures the existence of that apostasy; that is, it must date back from its rise. Now calculating backwards from the rise of the Papal and Mohammedan powers in the beginning of the seventh century, 1,260 years lead up to the days of Babylon, the point at which we know the times of the Gentiles began. Thus we see that the entire period occupied by the four great empires represented by the image is the whole week, whose latter half is the time of the dominion of the Papal and Mohammedan powers.
"During the whole of this period Israel has ceased to be an independent kingdom, and during two-thirds of it Jerusalem has been trodden down by the Gentiles. Each of the four great monarchies in turn ruled over the seed of Abraham, until at length, the cup of Jewish iniquity being full, the Romans came and took away their place and nation. Seventy years before this final judgment Messiah came, and was cut off; and His rejection and crucifixion by the Jews, which sealed and brought on their doom, inaugurated the gospel dispensation and the ingathering of the Gentiles to the kingdom of God. Thus the Christian dispensation, so thoroughly Gentile in its aspect, fills two-thirds of the times of the Gentiles, the first third having been occupied with the growth of Gentile dominion to the extraordinary development it had attained in the days of Augustus Cæsar. We conclude therefore, that the dispensation in whose closing days we live was fore-ordained and appointed by God to run a course of 2,520 years, or, in symbolic language, seven times and that our Lord Jesus Christ had this great week in His mind when He said, Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled, an expression which seems to imply that the period so designated had definite chronological limits.
"Those limits were not intended to be understood until the time of the end. Their actual history has now demonstrated the scale on which the symbolic period of seven times, or years, is to be enlarged, and that scale is-as in all similar predictions- a year for a day. Seven years contain 2,520 days, and the period predicted is therefore 2,520 years." [Arithmetically, this is a very notable number, one peculiarly fit to be the basis of chronologic prophecy. It is altogether unique-a king among numbers. It is the least common multiple of the first ten numbers -the first in the entire series of numbers, which is exactly divisible without remainder by all the first ten numerals. Thus it is adapted to harmonize several series of periods of different orders and magnitudes in a way that no other conceivable number could do. Is it by chance that this number has been chosen to be the vertebral column of prophetic chronology?
We have proved elsewhere that this same chronological system pervades all nature and all revelation; that it stamps the Levitical as well as the historic portions of Scripture; and that indeed the typical Levitical chronology is the clue to the whole comprehensive system, a system which rules alike among the orbs of heaven, the laws of biology, and the changes of history. Its operation can be discerned in almost every science, and it regulates the lives of individuals as well as the lives of nations. It is the low of completion in weeks.]
Now if Daniel had to study books to find out his chronological position in the seventy years of the Babylonish captivity, how much more are we likely to have to study in order to discern our position in this much longer period! The problem is not likely to be a less perplexing one than that which the holy Daniel pondered. The Simeons and Annas of our Lords day had also to study a more difficult question than that of Daniel-their chronological position in the "seventy weeks," or 490 years, to Messiah; and many must have been their perplexities. There was no difficulty in discerning that they were living in the closing portion of the seventy weeks, or 490 years, for over four centuries had elapsed since the restoration of the Jews from Babylon. They knew that the advent of Messiah the Prince must be at hand, but in seeking to ascertain how near at hand, many questions would arise requiring careful investigation. From what year should they date the commencement of those seventy weeks? From the issue of a decree "to restore and to build Jerusalem." (Dan. ix.) But several such decrees had been issued; Jewish restoration had taken place by stages in a period extending over ninety-two years; which was the principal one? It was generally understood and admitted that the predicted 490 days symbolised 490 years. Now that period, measured from the first restoration decree, that of Cyrus, had already run out forty years before, and had failed to bring the Consolation of Israel; so that was evidently not the decree intended. Artaxerxes had subsequently made two restoration decrees, at an interval of thirteen years apart; measured from the first of these, the period had forty years yet to run, and measured from the last, fifty- three years. But what the goal? Not the birth but the death of Messiah the Prince, who was to be "cut off" prematurely in the midst of the last week of the seventy, or in the middle of the last seven years of the period. Then His birth might be looked for at least thirty or forty years previously. Malachi, the last of the prophets, had predicted that He was suddenly to come to His temple, and the prediction might be fulfilled any day. Hence those who loved His appearing would be found watching and waiting, praying and praising in that sacred spot, until their eyes should see Gods salvation, the Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of the people of Israel.
By patient study we too may reach conclusions quite as clear as those of Daniel and Simeon and Anna, and like them be intelligently and joyously waiting for "the Consolation of Israel;" for the chronological measures of "the times of the Gentiles" are evident enough to those who in this nineteenth century patiently search the Scriptures.
We do not for a moment assert that they have always been so; to the earlier generations of the Church they were and they were intended to be, so mysterious, that comprehension of them was impossible, and only the vaguest guesses could be made as to their true scope and signification. This was a part of Gods gracious providence, and was a mark of tender mercy to the early Church. HE knew that well nigh two thousand years of trial and temptation, persecution and suffering, in an evil world and from an awful apostasy, lay before His people; but He did not wish them to know it. He never revealed the fact to them; the early generation of Christians expected, and were left to expect, the return of Christ in their own day. The first generation of believers took the promise of His speedy return literally, and lived in the hope that they would be "alive and remain" at His coming. But this hope was born of inexperience; it was destined to wither away and be dissipated; the cold logic of facts proved it mistaken, but did not make it while it lasted less sanctifying and cheering. Blessed be God! there is another kind of hope, born of experience, and founded, not on ignorance, but on knowledge. This hope dawned on the Church, as the other sank beneath the horizon, and it has gradually brightened ever since, and shall not be confounded. As long as ignorance of the appointed times was best for the faith and hope of the Church, it was allowed to endure; but Divine wisdom had taken the precaution of embodying in Scripture chronological revelations, in order that, when ignorance ceased to be beneficial, as after the lapse of ages could not but be the case, when increasing knowledge of the real counsels of God would be more sanctifying in its effects, that then such knowledge might be gradually attainable. Hence the true duration of this Gentile age was revealed, hut in a mystery. To have revealed the times plainly would have been to shake the faith and damp the courage of the early Church; not to have revealed them at all would have been to deprive later generations, and especially our own, of a blessed tonic to faith and hope, of a much needed stimulant to courage and patient continuance in well-doing. So the limits of "the times of the Gentiles " were stated in Scripture, but stated in hieroglyphics, which only the lapse of centuries could by slow stages interpret, and which should not become perfectly clear until the long period itself, and even its closing portion, the "time of the end," were already far spent.
Chronological prophecy was intended, as we have said, for the benefit of later generations, and especially of the last. The lapse of time only could fulfil it, and the lapse of time only could explain it. The light that it sheds falls not on times near its own, but-as a lighthouse illuminates the ocean afar, and not the rock on which it stands-on remote future ages.
But while fully granting that a veil of mystery was in ages past allowed to rest on the distant future, so that the early Fathers could only make the most distant approaches to any true understanding of the predictions, and the Protestants of the Reformation era, while coming much nearer the truth, could still see it only dimly and indistinctly, like "men as trees walking"; granting that a hundred incorrect calculations of the "times" have been made in different generations, only a few of the later of which have been justified by the event: granting all this, we still ask, is there not good ground for believing that God will fulfil His own word, "and that in the time of the end" the wise shall understand these sacred predictions? If they had been designed to be understood by those to whom they were given, they would of course have been couched in clearer language. If, on the other hand, they were never intended to be understood at all, what was the use of giving them? The style in which they are given, as well as the actual result, prove that they were not intended to be understood until history should interpret them, that they were given to one generation for the benefit of other and distant generations. Partial fulfilments began to throw partial light upon them many centuries ago, and the Reformers in their day obtained the true clue. Each additional accomplishment has given additional light, till now that we have reached "the time of the end" all stands out clearly and distinctly.
To Daniel it was said, as regards these sacred times and seasons, "Shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days." The words are closed up and sealed until "the time of the end." To John, 600 years later, it was said, "Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time IS at hand "-clear evidence that the lapse of time is an element in the comprehension of prophecy. Now, after eighteen centuries more have passed, need we wonder that the true fulfilment can be, not only partially traced, but clearly demonstrated?
But granting that "the times of the Gentiles" are 2,520 years in duration, and that they began with the Babylonish captivity, are there no further difficulties attending the solution of the problem of our own chronological position in this long period?
There are very many! The truth never lies on the surface. The captivity era leaves a broad, historical margin, as in its widest scope including both Israel and Judah, it lasted at least 160 years. If we can only reach the general conclusion that somewhere in an analogous period, after the lapse of "seven times," we may hope to behold the dawn of the blessed "times of the restitution of all things," we shall still be left with only a vague conviction that we are living somewhere in "the time of the end." If this was all that chronological prophecy could in these last days do for us, we might almost as well be without it! The general promises of Scripture, such as, "Behold, I come quickly," "the time is short," "the Lord is at hand," etc., would be almost as helpful as chronological predictions, which indicated the end of the age only within a few centuries.
Moreover, we must remember the lesson which we have learned from the book of nature, that there are years of different lengths: the lunar of 354, the calendar of 360, and the solar of 365 days each. Which scale shall we adopt in measuring the times of the Gentiles? or rather, which seems to have been adopted by the inspiring Spirit in chronological prophecy? Nature measures years on all three scales; and men in different ages have adopted sometimes one, and sometimes another. At this present time the Christian almanac is solar, and the Mohammedan lunar; and in the long period which we are considering it makes seventy-five years difference whether we employ the first of these scales or the last. Here then is an astronomical margin of seventy-five years to be added to the historical margin of 160 years, and a period of 235 years results, any one of which might be said in a sense to be 2,520 years from the commencement of "the times of the Gentiles."
While therefore we may fearlessly assert in a broad, general way, that we are now living twenty-five centuries from the fall of Judah and the rise of Babylon,- since those events took place in the sixth century before Christ, and we are living in the nineteenth century after, and nineteen and six are twenty-five,-yet this is evidently only a rough and very inaccurate statement, a mere approximation to the truth, which ought not to satisfy us, any more than a similar approximation would have satisfied Daniel. There is room for further "study of books." There is more light than this to be obtained by those who care to seek it-glad and glorious light, well worth the trouble of study! To those who seek such light the questions will present themselves
I. Is it possible to make a rational and well-founded selection of the year or years which form the true starting-points of "the times of the Gentiles"? And II. Is there anything to determine the scale by which the period should be measured?
The reply to the first of these questions is just what the Daniel parallel would lead us to expect. We shall find, as we look into it, that there are several termini a quo, leading to several corresponding termini ad quem. There are incipient, central, and final dates of commencement, from which respectively, after a lapse of 2,520 years, there are corresponding incipient, central, and final dates of close; moreover the years of crisis in the fall of Israel and Judah are answered, after "seven times," by years of crisis of the fall of those powers which have been the great oppressors of the Israel of God spiritual and literal. The years of crisis in the rise of the literal Babylon are followed, at the distance of "seven times," by years of crisis in the fall of the spiritual Babylon, and in the fall of Islam, the two last forms of Gentile power predicted by Bible prophecy.
The reply to the second question, as to the true scale, is again what the Daniel parallel would lead us to expect, that all three scales are employed; lunar, calendar, and solar measurements of the great period can all be distinctly discerned. Hence chronological prophecy directs our attention to no date, to no one year, as marking the end of "the times of, the Gentiles," but rather to an era; an era in which, measured from the various commencing dates by the various scales, the period is found to run out again and again, each close being marked by events, which are distinctly steps and stages in a great historical movement, of a nature directly contrary to the movement of Daniels day. That was the decline and fall of Judah, and the rise of Gentile Babylon; this is the decline and fall of "Babylon the Great," and the gradual rising again of the people of God, Jewish and Christian.
After the lapse of 2,520 years from the starting-points of Babylonian dominion, we find not, as then, the overthrow of the people of God by their enemies, but the overthrow of those enemies themselves by the hand of God, in order to the deliverance of His people. As at the exodus, and on many a subsequent occasion, the destruction of the oppressor and the liberation of the oppressed coincide. God, who uses wicked men, warriors, conquerors, and tyrants, as rods wherewith to scourge His rebellious people, does not on that account excuse their wickedness. In their turn they also are judged; as witness Pharaoh and Egypt, and Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. The principle of the Divine action is clearly announced over and over again in Scripture, and especially in connexion with the doom of the antichristian Papal power. "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.."
We reach then the conclusion that, in order to understand like Daniel the number of the years in the period in which we are interested, we must study carefully, both in Scripture and in other authentic history open to us, the events of THE CAPTIVITY ERA of Israel and their dates; trying to realize what the story of those times really was, and what was the relative importance of the different crises that occurred in the overthrow of Israel and Judah, and in the rise of Babylon.
This on the one hand. On the other, we must study and ponder the events of the "TIME OF THE END," or the days in which we live, the events of the last century and a half, including many which we ourselves remember, and even those which are taking place year by year around us. And we must consider these events, not merely as isolated political changes, but as links in a chain, as stages in the great movement, characteristic of the time of the end. We must consider the moral and spiritual nature of that movement; we must compare it with the predictions of it in Scripture, and note the style in which it has so far fulfilled those predictions, so as to be prepared to form just conceptions as to the probable nature of the fulfilments of those parts of the prophecy which are still unaccomplished. The analogy of past fulfilments is our safest guide as to future fulfilments.
But when we have carefully studied these two eras, have we obtained all the light which can be obtained as to our position in the course of "the times of the Gentiles"? Very far from it. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. The testimony of the two witnesses we have cited is in this case wonderfully confirmed by that of a third.
The great "seven times" is divided into two halves, and the predictions respecting the second half of the week are far more numerous than those respecting the whole period. Bisect a week, and you have three and a half days. Bisect seven times, and you have three and a half times. Bisect 2,520 years, and you have 1,260 years.
Now this last period is more frequently used in prophecy to measure historic episodes than any other. It is mentioned under various names, all conveying the same interval of time; it is sometimes called "forty and two months"; sometimes "1,260 days"; sometimes "time, times, and a half"-some mysterious designation being always employed instead of the clear statement, 1,260 years, in order that a veil might rest for a time over the period, and that its true scale might only become clear in the light of its fulfilment.
It is the duration assigned in Scripture to the dominion of the little horn (#Dan 7), to the closing period of Jewish dispersion (#Dan 12), to the treading under foot of the holy city (#Rev 11.), to the prophecies of the two witnesses (#Rev 11), to the sojourn of the woman in the wilderness (#Rev 12.), to her flight from the serpent (#Rev 12.), and to the duration of the eighth or revived seventh head of the Roman empire (#Rev 13.). We learn from history that it has actually been the duration of the realities predicted by these symbols.
It is also the duration of other historical episodes to which it is not attached in Scripture; it measures, as we shall see farther on, the duration of the four pagan empires of antiquity, which occupied the first half of the "seven times," as well as the lifetime of the two little horns, which occupy the second.
Hence we must study, in the third place, a bisection era, which throws additional light on the subject, and adds strong confirmation to the results indicated by the captivity era and the time of the end. This bisection era lies centrally in the "seven times," and embraces the history of the fifth and sixth centuries. It was a period full of events of momentous interest to the people of God-events which have had a most mournful and long enduring influence on the Church; events the results of which are all around us this day, and which bear to the judgments which are to close the "times of the Gentiles " the relation of cause and effect. It witnessed the fall of Rome pagan, and the rise of Rome Papal-that great power which still claims the obedience of two hundred millions of mankind. It witnessed also the rise of that false Mohammedan religion, which to this day enslaves a hundred and fifty millions of men in Asia and Africa.
And not only should we study and consider these things for ourselves, but we may also avail ourselves of the study of those who have gone before us, as preserved in "books". for in this science of the interpretation of prophecy, as in all other sciences, they who are rash enough to begin de novo, casting aside the results attained by their predecessors, on the ground that they sometimes arrived at wrong conclusions, are not likely to make much headway. The astronomer who should on the same ground refuse to utilise the researches, observations, and discoveries of all previous astronomers, would probably reach strangely erroneous results, and die before he could gain any well-founded comprehension of the true system of nature. Knowledge grows from age to age; the stores accumulated by one generation give a vantage ground to following ones. Rejecting all that time has proved false, we should avail ourselves of all that time has proved true, and to the amount of already recognised truth add the result of our own observations.
In the next five chapters we give the conclusions to which our own study of these three periods has led us, recognising that our selection of events may in some instances of course be mistaken. Where several answer more or less exactly to the terms of the prophecy, it is not always possible to select with certainty the one which does so most closely; other students may in some cases reach other conclusions; some whose judgment we highly esteem have indeed done so. But in any case the limits are narrow and do not at all affect the main question.
We shall avoid introducing into the next chapter the question of chronological relations, reserving that for a still later one, in order that the impression of the history of these three eras may he left the more clearly and distinctly on the mind. When we reach the chronological question, we enter a region where there is much less room for opinion or for difference of judgment, as the results depend on astronomically verified data, and exact arithmetical calculation.