The Present Truth : March 11, 1897
In closing our study of the Babylonian captivity last week we saw that if Israel had learned the lesson of trust in God and had not continued still in the bondage of pride and self-confidence, the seventy years of Babylonian captivity would have brought them to a point where the long-deferred promise of an everlasting inheritance might speedily have been fulfilled; for, as already stated, up to the time of the beginning of the captivity in Babylon the only definite time of prophecy was the period of seventy years. But God foresaw before this time ended that the lesson had not been learned; and so, toward the close of that period He gave the prophet Daniel a vision in which another and longer time was fixed. The prophecy is briefly this: —
The Vision of Daniel 8
Daniel saw in vision a ram with the peculiarity that one horn was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. He “saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.” Daniel 8.3, 4
Next he saw a goat coming furiously from the west, having one notable horn between his eyes. “And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns; and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him; and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. Therefore the he goat waxed very great; and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven. And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. Yea, he magnified himself even to the Prince of the host,” etc. Daniel 8.5-11
After giving some further details concerning this wonderful little horn, the prophet thus concludes the account of the vision: —
“Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spoke, “How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”” Verses 13, 14
The Angel’s Interpretation
It is not the design to enter into the details of the prophecy, but simply to give the barest outline, so that we may be able to trace the history of the promise. An angel was commissioned to explain the vision to Daniel, which he proceeded to do as follows: —
“The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia; and the great horn between his eyes is the first king. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power. And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many; he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. And the vision of the evening and the morning is true.” Daniel 8.20-26
Two universal kingdoms that were to follow Babylon are named, and the other one is so clearly indicated, that we can readily name it. The power that acquired the lordship of the world as the result of the third revolution spoken of by Ezekiel was Rome, here plainly indicated by its work of standing up against the Prince of princes. After the death of Alexander, king of Greece, his kingdom was divided into four parts, and it was by the conquest of Macedonia, one of these four divisions, in B.C. 68, that Rome acquired such strength that it could dictate to the world. Hence it is said to come forth from one of them.
A Long Prophetic Period
But there was a period of time connected with this vision, which the angel did not explain with the rest of the vision. It was the twenty-three hundred days, or, literally, twenty-three hundred evenings and mornings. That these are not literal days may be known from this: This is a prophecy of symbols, in which short-lived animals are used to represent kingdoms that existed during hundreds of years; it is perfectly in keeping with the method of symbolic prophecy to use days in connection with the symbols, but it is evident that they must represent a longer period, in the interpretation, since two thousand three hundred days—a little more than six years—would scarcely be the beginning of the first kingdom. So we are warranted in concluding that each day stands for a year, as in Ezekiel 4.6, where the Lord uses days in symbolizing years.
Later on the same angel came back, as the result of Daniel’s prayer, to make known the remainder of the vision, namely, about the days. See Daniel 9.20-23. Beginning where he left off, as though not a moment had intervened, the angel said, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people,” etc. Verse 24
Seventy weeks, four hundred and ninety years, were determined or cut off from the two thousand three hundred years, upon the Jewish people. They were to begin from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem. This commandment full and complete we find in Ezra 7.11-26, and it was given in the seventh year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, which was B.C. 457. Beginning in the year 457 B.C., four hundred and ninety years would end in the year 34 A.D.
But the last one of these prophetic weeks was divided. Sixty-nine of them—483 years—reaching to the year 27 A.D., marked the time of the revelation of the Messiah, or the Anointed One, the time when Jesus was anointed with the Holy Ghost at His baptism.
In the middle of the last week of years, namely three and one-half years after the baptism of Jesus, Messiah was “cut off, but not for Himself.” During the entire week, or seven years, the covenant was confirmed.
The whole period of two thousand three hundred years, which can readily be calculated, reaches to the year 1844 A.D., which is in the past. Thus the longest prophetic period given in the Bible has expired, so that now indeed “the time of the promise” must be very near. When the Lord will come to restore all things, no one can tell, for “of that day and hour knoweth no man.”
The Kingdom of God Taken from the Jewish People
But let us note further for a moment that period of four hundred and ninety years devoted to the Jewish people. Was it a time in which God would be partial, in that he would not regard the salvation of any other people? Impossible; for God is no respecter of persons. It was simply an evidence of the long-suffering of God, in that He would wait yet so many years on the people of Israel, to give them an opportunity to accept their high calling as priests of God, to make the promise known to the world. But they would not. On the contrary, they themselves so far forgot it that when the Messiah came they rejected Him.
So from being the ones around whom the kingdom of Israel, the fifth and last universal kingdom, should centre, they ceased to have any distinctive place in the promise. Believing the Gospel, just the same as others saved them. The desolate temple, with the rent veil revealing the fact that the glory of God no more dwelt in its most holy place, was a symbol of that people’s standing in connection with the covenant. As individuals they may be grafted into the good olive tree, the same as any Gentiles, thus becoming Israel; but their position as leaders, as the religious teachers of the world, is forever gone, because they did not appreciate it. They knew not the time of their visitation.
The Final Call From Babylon
And now what remains? —Only this, that God’s people hear and obey the call to come out of Babylon, lest by remaining they receive of her plagues. For although the city on the Euphrates was destroyed many hundred years ago, even several hundred years before Christ, yet nearly one hundred years after Christ the prophet John was by the Spirit moved to repeat the very threats uttered by Isaiah against Babylon, and in almost the identical words: —
“How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her; for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine.” Revelation 18.7, 8. Compare Isaiah 47.7-10
Babylon was a heathen city, exalting itself above God. As shown in Belshazzar’s feast (Daniel 5), it represented a religion that defied God. The same spirit exists to day, not simply in a certain society, but wherever men choose their own way in religion, rather than submit to every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. God in His longsuffering and tender mercy is but waiting until His people, coming out of Babylon, and humbling themselves to walk with Him, shall preach this Gospel of the kingdom, with all the power of the kingdom, even the power of the world to come, “in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come.”
That “end” will be the destruction of Babylon, just as spoken through Jeremiah; but as Babylon of old was a universal kingdom, and its real king, as shown in Isaiah 14, was Satan, the god of this world, so the destruction of Babylon is nothing less than the judgment of God on the whole earth, when He delivers His people. For now read the words, which “Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations,” when he prophesied about the end of the Babylonian captivity: —
God’s Controversy With the Nations
“For thus saith the Lord God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of this fury at My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it. And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them.
“Then took I the cup at the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the Lord had sent me: to wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof, and the princes thereof, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, an hissing, and a curse, as it is this day; Pharaoh king of Egypt, and his servants, and his princes, and all his people; and all the mingled people, and all the kings of the land of Uz, and all the kings of the land of the Philistines, and Askelon, and Azzah, and Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod, Edom, and Moab, and the children of Ammon, and all the kings of Tyrus, and all the kings of Zidon, and the kings of the isles which are beyond the sea, Dedan, and Tema, and Buz, and all that are in the utmost corners, and all the kings of Arabia, and all the kings of the mingled people that dwell in the desert, and all the kings of Zimri, and all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of the Medes, and all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another, and all the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth; and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them.
“Therefore thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue, and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you. And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup at thine hand to drink, then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ye shall certainly drink. For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city, which is called by My name, and should ye be utterly unpunished? Ye shall not be unpunished: for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the Lord of hosts.
“Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words, and say unto them, The Lord shall roar from on high, and utter His voice from His holy habitation; He shall mightily roar upon His habitation; He shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the Lord hath a controversy with the nations, He will plead with all flesh; He will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground.” Jeremiah 25.15-33
This is the fearful doom to which all the nations of the earth are rushing. For that great battle they are all arming. Many of them are dreaming of federation and of universal dominion; but God has said of universal dominion on this earth, “It shall be no more, till He come whose right it is, and I will give it Him.” Ezekiel 21.27. The last general revolution will be at the coming of “the Seed to whom the promise was made” (Galatians 3.19), who will then take the kingdom to Himself. Yet a little while are these terrible judgments delayed, that all may have opportunity to exchange the weapons of the flesh for the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, which is “mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10.4, 5
This captivity is freedom. By God’s Word we come from the Babylonian bondage of pride and self-confidence to the freedom of God’s gentleness. Who will heed the call to come out, and exchange the bondage of human tradition and speculation for the freedom, which God’s eternal Word of truth gives?