by Sir Robert Anderson
Religious Online Books
Back | Contents | Next
Sir Robert Anderson
A RETROSPECT AND A REPLY
"TAKE heed that no man deceive you." Such were the first words of our
Lord's reply to the inquiry, "What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the
end of the age?" And the warning is needed still. "It is not for you to
know the times or the seasons," was almost His last utterance on earth, before
He was taken up. And if this knowledge was denied to His holy apostles and prophets,
we may be sure it has not been disclosed to us today. Nor can a secret which, as
the Lord declared, "the Father hath put in His own power,"
(Acts 1:7) be discovered by astronomical research or flights of higher mathematics.
But, on the other hand, no thoughtful Christian can ignore the signs and portents which mark the days we live in. I little thought as I penned the introductory chapter of this book that the advance of infidelity would be with such terribly rapid strides. In the few brief years that have since elapsed the growth of skepticism within the Churches has exceeded even the gloomiest forecast. And side by side with this, again, the spread of spiritualism and demon-worship has been appalling. Its rotaries are reckoned by tens of thousands; and in America it has already been systematized into a religion, with a recognized creed and cult.
But these dark features of our times, striking and solemn though they be, are not the most significant. While the warned-against apostasy of the last days thus seems to be drawing near, we are gladdened by signal triumphs of the Cross. It is not merely that at home and abroad the Gospel is being preached by such multitudes with a freedom never known before, but that, in a way unprecedented since the days of the Apostles, the Jews are coming to the faith of Christ. The fact is but little known that during the last few years more than a quarter of a million copies of the New Testament in Hebrew have been circulated among the Jews in Eastern Europe, and the result has been their conversion to Christianity, not by ones and twos, as in the past, but in large and increasing numbers. Entire communities in some places have, through reading the word of God, accepted the despised Nazarene as the true Messiah. This is wholly without parallel since Pentecostal times.
Then again, the return of the Jews to Palestine is one of the strangest facts of the day. There is scarcely a country in the world that does not offer more attractions to the settler, be he agriculturist or trader; and yet, since The Coming Prince was written, more Jews have migrated to the land of their fathers than returned with Ezra when the decree of Cyrus brought the servitude to a close. But yesterday the prophecy that Jerusalem should be inhabited "as towns without walls" seemed to belong to a future far remote. The houses beyond the gates were few in number, and no one ventured abroad there after nightfall. Today the existence of a large and growing Jewish town outside the walls is a fact within the knowledge of every tourist, and year by year the immigration and the building still go on.
If I venture to touch upon the international politics of Europe, it will be but briefly, in connection with the prophecy of the seventh chapter of Daniel. I have given in detail my reasons for suggesting that the "historical" interpretation of that vision does not exhaust its meaning, and I own to a deepening conviction that every part of it awaits its fulfillment. There, as elsewhere in the Scriptures, "the great sea" must surely mean the Mediterranean; and a terrible struggle for supremacy in the Levant appears to be the burden of the earlier portion of the vision. The nearness of such a struggle is now being anxiously discussed in every capital in Europe, and nowhere more anxiously than here at home. Never indeed since the days of Pitt has there been such cause for national anxiety; and the question of the balance of power in the Mediterranean has recently gained a prominence and interest greater and more acute than ever before attached to it.
I will not notice topics of a more doubtful character, but confine myself to these; nor will I attempt by word-painting to exaggerate their significance. But here we are face to face with great public facts. On the one hand, there is this spread of infidelity and demon-worship, preparing the way for the great infidel and devil-inspired apostasy of the last days; and, on the other hand, there are these spiritual and national movements among the Jews, wholly without precedent during all the eighteen centuries which have elapsed since their dispersion. And, finally, the Cabinets of Europe are watching anxiously for the beginning of a struggle such as prophecy warns us will ultimately herald the rise of the last great monarch of Christendom. Is all this to be ignored? Is there not here enough on which to base, I will not say the belief, but an earnest hope, that the end may be drawing near? If its nearness be presented as a hope, I cherish and rejoice in it; if it be urged as a dogma, or an article of faith, I utterly repudiate and condemn it.
1. Were I now writing that note in the light of passing events, I should specify France where I have named Germany, and I should allude to the efforts now making by Russia to acquire a naval station in the Mediterranean.
"The times and seasons" are connected with Israel's hope and the events which will precede the realization of it. (Acts 1:6, 7.) The Church's hope is wholly independent of them. And if the Christians of the early days were taught to "live looking for that blessed hope," how much more may we! Not a line of prophecy must first be fulfilled; not a single event need intervene. And any system of interpretation-or of doctrine which clashes with this, and thus falsities the teaching of the Apostles of our Lord, stands thereby condemned.
2. 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2, R. V. "The day of Christ" in A. V. is a wrong reading.
Let us then beware lest we fall into the common error of exaggerating the importance of contemporary movements and events, great and solemn though they be; and let the Christian take heed lest the contemplation of these things should lead him to forget his heavenly citizenship and his heavenly hope. The realization of that hope will but clear the stage for the display of the last great drama of earth's history as foretold in prophecy.
3. See 1 Corinthians 11:26: "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come." No past but the Cross; no future but the Coming. To separate the believer from the Coming is as great an outrage upon Christianity as to separate him from the Cross.
That remnant was typified by the "men of Galilee" who stood around Him on the Mount of Olives as "He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." And as with straining eyes they watched Him, two angel messengers appeared to renew the promise which God had given centuries before through Zechariah the prophet:
4. Romans 11; see vv. 1, 2, 9, 12, 15-26. Note that "all Israel" is not = every Israelite, for in the Greek there is no such ambiguity as in English; and the seeming contradictions in the chapter are explained by the fact that the "cast away" of vv. 1, 2, is a wholly different word from the "casting away" of ver. 15, and the "fall" of ver. 11 from the "fall" of ver. 12.
A glance at the prophecy will suffice to show that the event it speaks of is wholly
different from the Coming of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. It is the same
Lord Jesus, truly, who is coming for His Church of this dispensation and coming to
His earthly people gathered in Jerusalem in a dispensation to follow; but otherwise
these "Comings" have absolutely nothing in common. The later manifestation
– His return to the Mount of Olives – is an event as definitely localized as was
His ascension from that same Mount of Olives; and its purpose is declared to be to
bring deliverance to His people on earth in the hour of their supreme peril. Tim
earlier Coming will have no relation to locality at all. All the wide world over,
wherever His dead have been laid to rest, "the trump of God" shall call
them back to life, in "spiritual bodies" like His own; and wherever living
"saints" are found, they "will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling
of an eye," and all shall be caught up together to meet Him in the air. While
the profane skeptic ridicules all this, and the religious skeptic ignores it, the
believer remembers that his Lord was thus caught up to heaven; and as he ponders
the promise, his wonder leads to worship, not to unbelief.
And this event, which is the Church's proper hope, is as independent of the chronology, as it is of the geography, of earth. It is with the fulfillment of Irsrael's hope that the "times and seasons" have to do, and the signs and portents that belong to them. The Lord's public manifestation to the world is a further event distinct from both. Our Jehovah-God will come with all His holy ones; (Zechariah 14:5.) the Lord Jesus will be revealed in flaming fire, taking vengeance. What interval of time will separate these successive stages of "the Second Advent," we cannot tell. It is a secret not revealed. All that concerns us is, "rightly dividing the word of truth," to mark that they are in all respects distinct.
I use the expression "Second Advent" merely as a concession to popular theology, for it has no Scriptural warrant. It would be better to discard it altogether, for it is the cause of much confusion of thought and not a little positive error. It is a purely theological term, and it belongs properly to the great and final Coming to judge the world. But while many refuse to believe that there will be any revelation of Christ to His people upon earth until the epoch of that great crisis, the more careful student of Scripture finds there the clearest proof that there will be a "Coming" before the era popularly called "the millennium." Here again there are those who, while clearly recognizing a "pre-millennial advent," have failed to notice the difference, so plainly marked in Scripture, between the Coming for the Church of the present dispensation, the Coming to the earthly people in Jerusalem, and the Coming to destroy the Lawless One and to set up the kingdom.
5. 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8. The "mighty angels" of the prophecy are, I presume, the "holy ones" of Zechariah 14:5.
6. Between the first of these and the second, there will no doubt intervene a period at least as long as that which elapsed between His coming to Bethlehem and His manifestation to Israel at His first advent, and probably a period very much more prolonged. Whether the interval between the second and third will be measured by days or years, we are wholly unable to decide. The only certain indication of its length is that the Antichrist, whose power will be broken by the one, will be actually destroyed by the other.
I am here assuming that all the events which are yet to be fulfilled will occur in a comparatively brief period. But I wish to guard myself against the idea that I assert this. I deprecate in the strongest way the idea, now so common, that students of astronomy and mathematics have solved the mystery which God has expressly kept in His own power. Could any student of the Old Testament have dreamed that nearly two thousand years would intervene between the sufferings of Christ and His return in glory? Would the early Christians have tolerated such a suggestion? And if another thousand years should yet run their course before the Church is taken up, or if a thousand years should intervene between that event and the Coming to the Mount of Olives, not a single word of Scripture would be broken. As, I have said, "it is only in so far as prophecy falls within the seventy weeks that it comes within the range of human chronology." Much is made of supposed eras of 1, 260 and 2, 520 years. But even if we could certainly fix the epoch of any such era, the question would remain whether they may not be mystic periods, like the 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1.
7. It occurs four times in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8.
The statement is not prophetic, but doctrinal; and the doctrine in question is
not the Advent, but the priesthood. It is not the prediction of an event to be realized
by those who shall be alive on earth at the time of the end, but the declaration
of a truth and a fact to be realized by every believer, no matter in what dispensation
his sojourn upon earth may fall.
The passage therefore cannot be appealed to in support of the dogma that never again but once will Christ appear to His people upon earth. And as the expression "Second Advent" is so intimately connected with that dogma, it would be well that all intelligent students of Scripture should unite in discarding it. The Coming of Christ is the hope of His people in every age.
The only adverse criticism I have seen of The Coming Prince has appeared in later editions of The Approaching End of the Age. Feelings of esteem and friendship for the author influenced my notice of that work, but no considerations of this kind have restrained his pen in replying to my strictures; and the fact that a writer so able and so bitterly hostile has not ventured to question in a single point the main conclusions here established is a signal proof that they are irrefutable.
Dr. Grattan Guinness complains that I have made no attempt to "reply" to his book. My only reference to it has been made incidentally in an appendix note; and in so far as it deals with the "primary and partial realization of the prophecies" I have taken the liberty of praising it. Why then should I "reply "to a treatise in respect of that in it which I value and adopt? These pages give proof how thoroughly I accept a historical interpretation of prophecy; and if any one demands why then I have not given it greater prominence, I recall St. James's answer when the Apostles were accused of neglecting in their teaching the writings of Moses. "Moses," he declared, "hath in every city them that teach him. "What was needed, therefore, if the equilibrium of doctrine was to be maintained, was that they should teach grace. On similar grounds the task I here set myself was to deal with the fulfillment of the prophecies. But I have no controversy with those who use their every talent in unfolding the "historical" interpretation of them. My quarrel is only with men who practically deny the Divine authorship of the sacred word, by asserting that their apprehension of it is the limit of its scope, and exhausts its meaning. And The Coming Prince is a crushing reply to the system which dares to write". Fulfilled" across the prophetic page. "The real question at issue here," I again repeat, "is the character and value of the Bible." Dr. Guinness asserts that the apocalyptic visions have been fulfilled in the events of the Christian era. I hold him to that issue, and I test it by a reference to the vision of the sixth chapter. Has this been fulfilled, as in fact he dares to assert it has? The question is vital, for if this vision still awaits fulfillment, so also do all the prophecies which follow it. Let the reader decide this question for himself, after studying the closing verses of the chapter, ending with the words, "For THE GREAT DAY OF HIS WRATH IS COME, and who shall be able to stand?"
The old Hebrew prophets were inspired of God to describe the terrors of "the great day of His wrath," and the Holy Spirit has here reproduced their very words. (Cf. Isaiah 13:9, 10, and Joel 2:31, 3:15; see also Zephaniah 1:14, 15.) The Bible contains no warnings more awful in their solemnity and definiteness. But just as the lawyer writes "Spent" across a statute of which the purpose has been satisfied, so these men would teach us to write "Fulfilled" across the sacred page. They tell us, forsooth, that the vision meant nothing more than to predict the rout of pagan hordes by Constantine To speak thus is to come perilously near the warned-against sin of those who "take away from the words of the book of this prophecy." But when our thoughts turn to these teachers themselves we are restrained by remembering their piety and zeal, for "their praise is in all the Churches." Let us then banish from our minds all thoughts of the men, and seize upon the system which they advocate and support. No appeal to honored names should here be listened to. Names as honorable, and a hundred times more numerous, can be cited in defense of some of the crassest errors which corrupt the faith of Christendom. What then, I ask, shall be our judgment on a system of interpretation which thus blasphemes the God of truth by representing the most awful warnings of Scripture as wild exaggeration of a sort but little removed from falsehood?
8. See, e. g., Chap. 9. and App., note C.
If it be urged that the events of fifteen centuries ago, or of some other epoch in the Christian dispensation, were within the scope of the prophecy, we can consider the suggestion on its merits; but when we are told that the prophecy was thus fulfilled, we can hold no parley with the teaching. It is the merest trifling with Scripture. And more than this, it clashes with the great charter truth of Christianity. If the day of wrath has come, the day of grace is past, and the Gospel of grace is no longer a Divine message to mankind. To suppose that the day of wrath can be an episode in the dispensation of grace is to betray ignorance of grace and to bring Divine wrath into contempt. The grace of God in this day of grace surpasses human thought; His wrath in the day of wrath will be no less Divine. The, breaking of the sixth seal heralds the dawning of that awful day; the visions of the seventh seal unfold its unutterable terrors. But, we are told, the pouring out of the vials, the "seven plagues which are the last, for in them is finished the wrath of God," (Revelation 15:1, R.V.) is being now accomplished. The sinner, therefore, may comfort himself with the knowledge that Divine wrath is but stage thunder, which, in a practical and busy world, may safely be ignored!
9. See especially the quotation from Dean Alford.
I called attention to Dr. Guinness's statement that "from the then approaching command to restore and to build again Jerusalem to the coming of Messiah the Prince was to be seventy weeks"; and I added," This is a typical instance of the looseness of the historical school in dealing with Scripture." Of this, and of some other errors which I noticed, the only defense he offers is that "expressions not strictly correct, yet perfectly legitimate, because evidently elliptical, are for brevity's sake employed." How brevity is attained by writing "seventy" instead of "sixty-nine" I cannot conceive. The statement is a sheer perversion of Scripture, unconsciously made, no doubt, to suit the exigencies of a false system of interpretation. The prophecy plainly declares the period "unto Messiah the Prince" to be sixty-nine weeks, leaving the seventieth week to be accounted for after the specified epoch; but Dr. Guinness's system can give no reasonable account of the seventieth week, and so, unconsciously, I repeat, he shirks the difficulty by misreading the passage. Insist on his reading it aright and accounting for the last seven years of the prophetic period, and his interpretation of the vision at once stands refuted and exposed.
10. It is only by reason of its almost inconceivable silliness that such. teaching can escape the charge of profanity.
The fact is, he only knows two schools of prophetic interpretation, the Futurist and his own; and therefore he seems unable even to understand a book which is throughout a protest against the narrowness of the one and the mingled narrowness and wildness of the other. But his personal references are unworthy of the writer and of the subject. I pass on to deal with the only points on which his criticisms are of any general interest or importance; I mean the predicted division of the Roman earth, and the relations between Antichrist and the apostate Church.
11. For instance, he becomes vehement in denouncing my statement that "all Christian interpreters are agreed" in recognizing a parenthesis in Daniel's prophetic vision of the beasts. No doubt he read the passage as though I had there spoken of the fall of the Roman empire, and not its "rise"; for the statement is indisputably true, and he himself is numbered among the "Christian interpreters" who endorse it. Here is another specimen. With reference to the question of the ten kingdoms, he says, "Dr. Anderson and other Futurist writers…teach — (1) that the ten horns are not yet risen; (2) that when they do rise five will be found in Greek territory, and five only in Roman; and that when at last developed, (3) after a gap of 1, 400 years of which the prophecy takes no notice at all, (4) they will last for three and a half years" (p. 737).
I have numbered these sentences to enable me briefly to remind the intelligent reader that, excepting No. I, everything here attributed to me is in flat opposition to some of the plainest statements in my book. In the same way he attributes to me the figment that the career of Antichrist will be limited to three and a half years. I have sometimes wondered whether he ever read The Coming Prince at all! A word as to his strictures on my title. I am aware of course that in the Hebrew of Daniel 9:26, there is not the article, but I am not misled by the inference he draws from its omission. Had the article been used, the prince intended would clearly have been "Messiah the Prince" of ver. 25. In English the article has not this force, and therefore it is rightly inserted, as both the Translators and the Revisers have recognized. Dr. Tregelles here remarks, "This destruction is here said to be wrought by a certain people, not by the prince who shall come, but by his people: this refers us, I believe, to the Romans as the last holders of undivided Gentile power; they wrought the destruction long ages ago. The prince who shall come is the last head of the Roman power, the person concerning whom Daniel had received so much previous instruction." Such is the pre-eminence of this great leader that he is bracketed with our Lord Himself in this prophecy, and the people of the Roman empire are described as being his people. Yet Mr. Guinness believes that Titus is referred to! Really the day is past for discussing such a suggestion.
I may here remark that the rendering of Daniel 9:27 in the Revised Version disposes of the figment that it was Messiah who made a seven years' covenant with the Jews. The causing the sacrifice to cease is not an incident in the midst of the "week," but a violation of the treaty "for half of the week."
Then, again, in the ninth verse, the coming of the "Lawless One" is said to be "according to the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders." These words are explained by the vision of the Beast in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation, which declares that "the Dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority." And we have from the lips of our blessed Lord Himself the warning, that the "great signs and wonders," thus to be wrought by Satanic power, shall be such that, "if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." (Matthew 24:24.) In a word, the awful and mysterious power of Satan will be brought to bear upon Christendom with such terrible effect, that human intellect will be utterly confounded. Agnosticism and infidelity will capitulate in presence of overwhelming proof that supernatural agencies are at work. And if faith itself, divinely given, shall stand the test, it is only because it is impossible for God to allow His own elect to perish.
12. The reference to the Temple is explained by Daniel 9:27, 12:11, and Matthew 24:15. These teachers ask us to believe that while the Church of Rome is the Beast and the Harlot and everything that is corrupt and infamous in apostate Christianity, yet St. Peter's, the great central shrine of this apostasy, is owned by God as being the Temple of God. The sacrifice of the Mass they denounce as idolatrous and blasphemous, and yet we are t6 suppose that Holy Scripture refers to it as representing all that is Divine on earth! The sacred words admit of only one meaning, viz., that the Antichrist, claiming to be himself Divine, will suppress all worship rendered to any other god.
Such are the wild extravagances and puerilities of interpretation and of forecast which mar the writings of these interpreters, that men have come to regard these visions, which ought to inspire reverence and awe, as "principal subjects of ridicule" — the specialty of mystics and faddists. How great the need, then, for a united and sustained effort to rescue the study from the contempt into which it has fallen! Each of the recognized schools of interpretation has truth which the rival schools deny. A new era would begin if Christians would turn from all these schools — Preterist, Historical, and Futurist — and learn to read the prophecies as they read the other Scriptures: as being the word of Him who is, and was, and is to come, our Jehovah-God, with whom present, past, and future are but one "eternal now."
Back | Contents | Next
Philologos | Bible Prophecy Research | The BPR Reference Guide | Jewish Calendar | About Us