Our Lord's Great Prophetic Discourse -- Luke 21:1-24
“And He looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And He said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: for all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had. And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, He said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And they asked Him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? And He said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Then said He unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” - Luke 21:1-24.
And He looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.” There are two important things which we learn from a consideration of this incident. The first is that our blessed Lord is deeply interested in what we give to God. Sometimes there is a tendency, even on the part of Christians, to belittle the importance of giving; and there is a repugnance to taking up offerings in Christian services, as though it savors too much of worldly commercialism. But we need to remember that all through the history of God’s dealings with His people, He has looked to them to give of their substance for the carrying on of His work. It is a recognition of our discipleship if we bring our offerings to Him from time to time. It was so in Israel of old; it has been so all through the centuries. Our Lord was sitting over against the treasury, taking note of what the people contributed. He is still observant of what His people give to Him; He knows whether or not it is out of love to Him that we give; He knows whether or not those who give do so sacrificially and with real self-denial.
In the second place, we learn from this passage that heaven’s arithmetic-heaven’s method of bookkeeping-is altogether different from ours. We generally judge people by the amount of money they give. If a rich man gives a large sum we say he has given much; but if one brings in little we may pay scant attention to it. God’s way of reckoning is quite otherwise. He takes note, not so much of the amount given, as of what is left. A rich man might give thousands and have hundreds of thousands left; another person, in lowly circumstances, might give a very small amount, but because he had very little left for himself it would go down as a large contribution. The Lord Jesus saw the poor widow casting in two mites, a very small sum. Two mites, we are told, amount to a farthing, a very infinitesimal coin, even of less value than a British farthing. Yet Jesus said, “Of truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: for all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.” I take it that was her whole day’s pay. She worked all day and this was all she had for it, and she put it all into the treasury of the Lord. No one giving thus to God ever suffers because of it. God will reimburse him in His own way and time. He will be no one’s debtor; He will make it up in some way for whatever we give to Him.
We must next turn to consider Luke’s account of our Lord’s great prophetic discourse: “And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts.” At that time Jerusalem was a great city, as cities were in the Orient. It was surrounded by a strong wall. Its large buildings were beautiful, particularly the glorious temple on which Herod had spent millions of dollars in his endeavor to make it as grand as the temple of Solomon before that was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Naturally, the Jews were very proud of the temple and the other buildings; and the apostles evidenced the same spirit as they turned to Jesus and sought to impress Him with their architectural magnificence. But He saw it all with prophetic eyes in a way they could not see. He saw what was going to happen to these buildings. He declared, “As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” It must have appeared most unlikely that such words would ever be fulfilled. Yet within the next forty years the great temple and all the other buildings of the city were leveled to the ground. Every prophecy of Scripture either has been or will be fulfilled literally as written or spoken. When the Lord Jesus told His disciples,of these things to come they were amazed, and they asked Him, saying, “Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?” In order to get His complete answer we need to read the report of this entire discourse as given in the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 24, Mark 13, and here in Luke 21. Luke gives an account of the circumstances which should take place before and leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem; Matthew deals particularly with what was to take place afterward, leading on to the second coming of Christ. Luke tells us something of that, but does not give us nearly as full and complete a report as Matthew does. Mark’s account is very much like that of Matthew’s, though not quite so full. In the threefold report of these words from the lips of the Lord, we have a remarkable prophecy of the things that will take place after His death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. The destruction of Jerusalem, the state of the world during all the present age, and the conditions that will prevail in the time of the end-the last unfulfilled seventieth week of Daniel (chapter 9)-and the second advent in glory, are all graphically portrayed. There is nothing here about the Church, the Body of Christ, or the rapture. These were truths yet to be revealed.
“And He said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.” History tells us that there were many deceivers who rose up in Israel, making Messianic claims, during the forty years that elapsed after the cross. The true Messiah had been rejected. The greater part of Jerusalem refused to believe that Jesus was the promised One, and so they fell readily under the influence of these false prophets. Jesus gave a general description of conditions that would prevail in the world before Jerusalem met its doom. “But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.” “By and by” is one word in the Greek original, translated into three words, and is generally rendered “immediately” or “forthwith.” So what our Lord was saying is this: “There will be wars and rumors of wars, but you are not to be disturbed, because these things must happen and will happen, but the end is not yet.” It is clear from a careful study of Matthew’s report that such conditions will prevail until Christ comes back. But He never gives us these things as definite signs of the coming of the end; they are simply the natural result of the rejection of the Prince of Peace.
The better acquainted with history we become, the more we realize how literally fulfilled were the words of our Lord during that forty-year period. Then He said, “Before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.” We need only to read the Book,of Acts to see how this prophecy had its fulfilment in connection with the early disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. They were persecuted by the Jews in the synagogues and also by the Gentiles; many were put to death for His name’s sake. The Lord encouraged the disciples by assuring them that they did not need to fear: their foes could not really harm them. At the worst they could but send the disciples home to the Father’s house. Death is not evil for a child of God. They need not fear their adversaries. “Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.” Again we need but to turn to the Book of Acts and read how marvelously Peter, Stephen, and Paul were enabled to make their defence. We realize that the Lord Jesus did give them help by enabling them to speak just the right words at the right time under all circumstances. “And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake.” In those days people looked with more suspicion upon the Christian Church and individual Christians than upon any other institution or group of people in the world. Believers were thought of as the bitterest enemies of mankind, and yet they were the representatives of the God who so loved men that He gave His only Son to be their Saviour. “But there shall not an hair of your head perish.” Did they not die? Yes. Did they not perish? No! For the moment that death came they were absent from the body and present with the Lord. So they lost nothing by being killed by their enemies; rather, death ushered them into the joys for which they had waited in hope. “In your patience possess ye your souls.” Or it might be stated, “In patience win your souls”: that is, in enduring persecution, in going through suffering for Christ’s sake they would become stronger disciples. Growth in grace comes in times of persecution and severe trial.
Next He came directly to the question as to when these things should be of which He had spoken. When would Jerusalem be destroyed and its buildings cast down? These events occurred about A.D. 70. He foresaw all this and said, “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed about with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” Many who were living when He spoke these words would see the armies of Titus beleaguering the city. Jesus gave instruction to them: “Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.” Josephus is the authority for the statement that when the Christians saw Jerusalem compassed with armies they remembered the words of the Lord, and they left Jerusalem and fled to the city of Pella, where they were protected by the Roman Government, so that they did not have to endure the judgment that came upon Jerusalem and its guilty people who “knew not the time of their visitation.”
“For these be days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” See how clearly our blessed Lord looked down through the centuries and observed what would take place in connection with Israel, God’s earthly people, and their city, Jerusalem. The city was destroyed. Thousands upon thousands were slaughtered; the most awful condition imaginable prevailed in Jerusalem during the time of the Roman siege. And when at last the armies of Titus entered the city-although he, himself, gave the command that the temple was not to be destroyed-we are told by Josephus that a drunken soldier flung a lighted torch into the temple area and within a little while the temple burst into flames, and it was destroyed completely. Today where that temple once stood there is a mosque; where the smoke of sacrifice once ascended to Jehohah, Mohammedans meet to join in the praise of their false prophet.
Those of the Jews who were not destroyed were led away captives into all nations. Moses long before had predicted that they should be sold into slavery to the Gentiles, until “no man shall buy you” (Deuteronomy 28:68); and history tells us that many thousands of Jews were thus sold. The slave-markets of the world were glutted; and strong able-bodied Jewish men were offered for sale in the great cities of the Roman Empire, in Alexandria, Corinth, Rome itself, and other cities, at prices so low that it was almost impossible to make a profit on them.
Jesus declared, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Notice, there is a limit to Jerusalem’s degradation. The city shall not be trodden down forever; but just until the times of the Gentiles be completed. The expression “the times of the Gentiles,” found only here, covers the entire period during which the Jews-Jerusalem and the land of Palestine-are under Gentile domination. This began with Nebuchadnezzar, about 606 B.C. It will go on until the Lord Jesus comes again to deliver His earthly election, at the close of the great tribulation. Meantime, the truth of the Church as the Body of Christ has been revealed; and while Israel is rejected nationally and their holy city dominated by the Gentiles, God is taking out from Jew and Gentile a people for His name. These constitute the Church of God, the fellowship of His Son, and must be removed from the earth ere the time of Jacob’s trouble, the great tribulation, begins.
The Evidence That The Times Of The Gentiles Have Nearly Run Their Course
The prophetic Scriptures are as a light shining in a dark place. So marvelously has God therein depicted the characteristics of the age in which we live, and the conditions that would prevail as its end drew near, that no reverent reader of the Bible need be left in the dark as to the place now reached in the history of the Gentile powers. Recent startling events are so fully in accord with what Spirit-taught servants of Christ have long seen foretold in Holy Writ as to be overwhelmingly convincing that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” He alone sees the end from the beginning and speaks of the things that are not as though they were. It is this feature of foretelling the future that differentiates the Bible from every other book. Human writers guess and theorize. God has by inspiration communicated facts which are attested by each passing year.
In this last respect, the book of Daniel stands preeminent. The 2nd and 3rd chapters give an outline of the times of the Gentiles from Nebuchadnezzar’s day to the setting up of Messiah’s kingdom. The four empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, as depicted in its earlier form, have risen and passed away as foretold. But a later form of the last empire is predicted to arise in the time of the end, immediately before the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the all-glorious Son of Man, as the Stone falling from heaven.
Now the last state of the fourth empire is to be brought about as a result of an effort to combine the iron of imperialism with the miry clay (or, more correctly, brittle pottery) of democracy. This union-which can never be unity-of royal authority and socialistic principles characterizes the feet of the image even before the formation of the ten toes. This latter condition does not come in so long as the Church is still upon earth. It is subsequent to the rapture of the saints of the present dispensation. But the iron and clay are already in evidence, and statesmen are making desperate efforts to combine the two, after having learned, to their chagrin, in the last hundred or more years, that the “voice of the people,” if not “the voice of God,” is yet something to be reckoned with-is to be acknowledged and appeased if possible. With our Bibles open to the 2d chapter of Daniel, and the records of the present day before us, we do not hesitate to say that we are now in the iron and clay period, and at any moment the Lord’s assembling-shout may summon all that are Christ’s to the skies, after which the re-formation of the Roman empire in its last Satan-controlled condition will be a matter of but a very brief time, for “a short work will the Lord make in the earth.”
When, in past years, teachers of the Word of God have positively declared that the Scriptures foretold a new socialistic-empire formed of ten great kingdoms, on the ground of the Roman empire of old, many found it hard to take such predictions seriously. But the events of recent years, particularly since 1914, have wrought a wondrous change in the minds of men as to this. It is not only that the enlightened Bible believer declares such must be, but the secular press has taken up the matter, and it is being pointed out that the formation of a United States of Europe is absolutely necessary to safeguard the interests of all nations and to preserve the peace of the world. This in itself is a remarkable sign of the times, and shows how rapidly the end is approaching.
The world-war demonstrated the need of some strong centralized government that could bring order out of the chaotic conditions which even the League of Nations seems unable to control. This League is in itself a step-and a long step-toward that very union of nations predicted by both Daniel and John in the Revelation. And the sudden rise to power of Mussolini is a startling evidence of how rapidly the kingdom of the Beast may be developed after the Church is gone. Already we hear of the revival of the Roman Empire, and this modern “man of destiny” declares that Rome shall soon be restored to its ancient splendors and will emulate the Empire of the Caesars in worldly power and glory.
We need, however, to be on our guard against hastily-arrived at and ill-considered conclusions. I have seen in print, and heard it affirmed by many, that II Duce, Premier Mussolini of Italy, the great Fascist leader, is the predicted Antichrist, the Man of Sin, who should arise at the end of this age. This is quite unwarranted for a number of reasons. Mussolini is a civil leader, not the head of a religious system. Thus far his efforts to bring about a rapprochement with the papacy have been thwarted by the Pope himself. That some kind of a coup may be accomplished in the near future is not only possible but, in my judgment, probable. If so, it may result in the fulfilment of the seventeenth of Revelation, placing the mystic woman in the saddle, where for a brief time she will again dominate the Roman earth. But the Antichrist is the lamb-like Beast depicted in the last part of the thirteenth chapter. He is the imitation Lamb of God who is to be energized by Satanic power. This one will utterly deny the Father and the Son. “This,” says St. John, “is the deceiver and the antichrist.” He will be accepted by apostate Christendom and apostate Judaism as the promised Messiah. His seat will be in Palestine; while, in the West, in the revived Roman Empire of the last days, there will be a great civil leader, a Napoleonic “Man of Destiny,” who will for a brief time attempt to exercise autocratic sway over the civilized world. Both this leader, called emphatically, “the Beast,” and the Antichrist are to act together as the enemies of God and His truth. But they are distinct personalities.
Mussolini, once a socialist of the reddest type, now the advocate of autocratic power, has already declared it is his intention to restore the ancient glory of the Roman Empire. Once an infidel, he has become a Catholic, and is eager that there be a concordat established between the Empire and the Vatican. The Fascist Creed, as it is called, is said to be the foundation of the instruction of the youth of Italy. It begins with, “I believe in Rome Eternal, the Mother of my Fatherland,” and it ends with, “I believe in the genius of Mussolini; in our holy father Fascism, and in the communion of its martyrs; in the conversion of the Italians, and the resurrection of the Empire. Amen.” Mussolini may be the forerunner of the Beast; he might even be that sinister figure himself, but it is better not to play the role of the prophet, but simply to be a humble student of the prophetic Word.
That we are on the eve of great world-changes both statesmen and religious leaders are agreed. The nature of those changes affords endless cause for speculation. For the devout Christian the next stupendous event that shines through the darkness is the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him. We do not wait for the Antichrist. We look for the Lord from heaven. We are only interested in the signs of the times as they harmonize with the warnings given whereby we may know that the end of the age is approaching.
In the last chapter of the book of Daniel there are three statements made which also have a bearing on the times in which our lot is cast. The angel says to the prophet: “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (ver. 4). Observe that three things are mentioned here, which if any one of them came to pass without the other two, would be of no real value in determining the question that is before us. But if all come to pass at the same time we must be convinced that God has spoken, and has pointed out unerringly three signs that the end-times are almost upon us. Note the three predictions: 1st, The end-times will be characterized by prophetic enlightenment, marvelously unsealing the book of Daniel, and the visions therein recorded understood by spiritual men. 2nd, There will be a period of world-wide restlessness: men will run to and fro as never before, owing doubtless to new and convenient methods of locomotion and insatiable desire for travel and adventure. 3rd, There will be a wide diffusion of knowledge-bringing educational advantages to the door of the poorest if there be but an ambition to learn and acquire. Now what are the facts? The last century has been more and more characterized by the very things mentioned. It is not that these things are occasionally fulfilled, but that they are everywhere apparent in the civilized parts of the world. Here then is a three-fold cord that cannot be quickly broken. Insignificant as any one of these facts might seem if it stood alone, the combination of the three at one and the same time is the startling fact. Man’s day is nearly at an end. The day of the Lord comes on apace!
Now link on to this evidence a New Testament prophecy that clearly applies to the same times. Turn to 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3. “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” Here is a strikingly convincing statement, if received in literality as it is written. The day of the Lord is going to break upon the world at some special time, foreknown by God, when men will be talking loudly of Peace and Safety! These are the very themes talked of on every hand for the last decade, and, despite the fearful European tragedy, are heard more loudly to-day than ever. Men of affairs are loudly proclaiming a coming era of universal peace to be brought in by arbitration, treaties, and the evolutionary forces of society, while the day of the Lord steals on them unawares in overflowing judgments to cut off the ungodly from the earth, at the very time that universal peace and safety become the slogan of a world devoted to destruction. All man’s efforts to make this world a happy and peaceful scene, while still rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ, are futile and vain. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
It is not to those who wait for the return of His Son from heaven that the day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night, but to those who ig- nore His Word and despise His grace. “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief…therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”
And if we would watch intelligently it is necessary that we be able, through familiarity with the Word of God, to discern aright the signs of the times. In three short verses our Lord Himself has given us a marvelous epitome of the conditions that would prevail immediately before the great tribulation. Weigh carefully Matthew 24:5-7, and ask yourself if anything could more aptly describe the days in which we live. “For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” With this, couple the equally pertinent words of Luke 21:25, 26: “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”
The context makes it clear that these are the outward evidences of the near approach of the end-times. They do not definitely fix the time when the Lord must come. They simply show that the days of vengeance are coming on apace. And one might fearlessly challenge anyone to give us a better description of our own days than we have in these verses, taking brevity into consideration.
Note the leading features of the two passages:
First: Many Antichrists. It might be said that there has never been a time since the very days of the apostles that this sign has not been manifested; and this I readily admit. But in a certain sense the whole Christian dispensation is marked by all those things predicted by our Lord, for ever since apostolic days men have lived in what John calls “the last hour.” The greater part of earth’s time or course has been run; only the last hour remains ere the kingdom be ushered in. But while this is so, we gather that the characteristic features of the age will be accentuated at the close. And so it is at the present solemn moment. We hear of antichrists on every hand, and those who are deceived thereby may well be called legion! In all lands these false Christs are found. In America we have witnessed the “powers and signs and lying wonders” connected with the system miscalled Christian Science, which venerated its woman-founder as the second coming of Christ, and holds its false philosophy to be the promised Comforter, thus blaspheming against the Holy Ghost. Lesser lights have flickered and flamed up, then died down, leaving hosts of disappointed dupes, like Dowie, the pseudo-prophet of Chicago; Sanford, the Elijah of New England; Dr. Teed, the Koresh; and others too numerous to mention; and as they pass away, other deceivers take their places, for men would rather believe any lie than God’s truth.
When the Persian antichrist, Abbas Effendi, or Abdul Bahai, toured America and Europe, he was welcomed as the forerunner of universal peace and accorded the liberty of proclaiming his propaganda from “Christian” pulpits. And though, like other pretenders before him, he has passed away, his followers still abound in a land of Bibles, and hope by the dissemination of his principles to bring in a millennial condition while refusing the cross!
Some years ago Mrs. Annie Besant, the aged Theosophical leader, formed the Order of the Star of the East, a Theosophical off-shoot, to wait for a great religious leader-a new incarnation of the Spirit of the Christ. The mountain has labored and brought forth-Krishnamurti! Yet vast numbers of otherwise intelligent people accept the drivellings of this colorless youth as the very utterances of inspiration!
Other “coming ones,” too numerous to mention, engage the thoughts of men. But it is for Antichrist, not the Christ of God, they wait. The Lord of glory, when He comes again, descends from heaven. The false prophet comes from the earth-born in a natural way.
Second: Scripture predicts a period of terrible unrest and internecine warfare as an evidence that the world is entering “the beginning of sorrows.” A few years ago men were flattering themselves that the world would never again be desolated by great wars and wholesale slaughter. It was confidently believed that the social consciousness of the laboring class would make it impossible to hurl great armies against each other. Peace propaganda had so educated the people of all civilized nations that war would soon be outlawed. In the very month that the great 1914-1918 European conflict broke out, the organ of the Peace Society published in Toronto, contained an ably-written article declaring that war was now an impossibility, and a great world-conflict could never occur again! Clergymen, oblivious of prophetic truth as revealed in Scripture, and carried away by the loose, liberal theological systems of the day, were loudly voicing the same empty boast up to the very day that the devastating carnage began.
And now that comparative peace has succeeded to bloody warfare the same unbelieving views are being taught from many pulpits. Yet ever since the signing of the treaty of Versailles the nations have been feverishly preparing for “the next great war”-building navies, enlisting soldiers, storing ammunition-all for what? Universal peace? Nay, but for the wars and rumors of wars of the closing days of this age, and for the great Armageddon conflict yet to be fought out in the land of Palestine, when all nations shall be drawn into the fray. While every Christian should be grateful to God for the comparative peace now enjoyed, it needs to be remembered it is but a temporary truce, for there can be no lasting peace while Christ is rejected-nor until all Gentile dominions are destroyed and He shall come whose right it is to reign.
In the third and fourth places we read of famines and pestilences, the very natural outcome of war, which have reaped fearful harvests since the great world-war, though the science and skill of the world are endeavoring to successfully cope with them. Many high-spirited and noble-minded physicians and nurses laid down their lives in the overpowering conflict in trying to hinder the on-rushing pestilence, while the charity of the world was strained in its efforts to check the ravages of famine-and what may it not yet be in the near future? The black and pale horses of famine and pestilence always follow the red horse of battle.
In Luke’s account we get the fifth sign that the end is drawing near, calamities such as the world has never previously known. Were the dreams of evolution true, we should long since have passed earth’s formative period, but events of recent years show us that this very globe is going through great and momentous changes, preparatory to the conditions prophesied of for millennial times. Surely never have there been so many terrible disasters on land and sea as since the midnight cry summoned the virgin band to trim their lamps. Earthquakes, tidal waves and kindred phenomena have occurred with amazing frequency. Is it any wonder that we see the sixth sign on every hand?-“Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” Confidence is shaken. Nations are bewildered and perplexed. Pledges even of nations are violated, and promises broken. Individuals are in fear and dismay where a cheery spirit of optimism prevailed but a short time ago. Yet, amidst it all, the Christian need not be in perplexity or doubt. The Word of God has forewarned of all this. Minutely it has foretold existing conditions, and the fulfilment of its solemn prophecies should only strengthen the faith of the believer as he turns from all men’s empty vaporing to the unerring and inerrant Word of God.
This spirit of unrest to which we have referred, is particularly manifested in the strained relations between capital and labor. Despite the evident desire of many modern captains of industry to better the conditions of their employees, and to practise what a recent writer has called “the golden rule in business,” capital and labor still maintain a distinctly hostile attitude the one to the other; and the economic questions involved seem no nearer a peaceful and satisfactory solution than in the days when the apostle James wrote his intensely practical epistle.
In that letter there is a passage which, while it unquestionably applied directly to conditions then existing, was so worded by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as to graphically depict industrial conditions at the end of the age. This is not so manifest on the page of the Authorized Version as in the Kevision, or any critical translation. An evidently mistaken rendering of one preposition is responsible for this in the King James Version. This preposition, correctly rendered in later versions, throws a flood of light on the whole passage. It is the word rendered “for” in the earlier translation and “in” in the later ones, occurring in the last sentence of James 5:3. Read the passage in its entirety:
“Come now, ye rich, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your wealth has become corruption, and your garments moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are rusted; and their rust shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as fire. Ye have heaped up treasure together in the last days.” Note the corrected preposition, and observe where in the course of time, it locates the complete fulfilment of that concerning which the Holy Spirit speaks so solemnly. The passage continues: “Behold, the wages of the laborers who have reaped your fields which is of you kept back unjustly, crieth; and the cries of those that have reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of hosts. Ye have lived in luxury upon the earth, and have been wanton; ye have pampered your hearts [as] in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned, ye have killed the righteous; he doth not resist you. Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until it receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (chap. 5:1-8, 1911 Version).
As by a master hand, the apostle with a few bold strokes, pictures the times in which we live. On the one hand, haughty wealth; on the other, grinding poverty; on the one hand, scornful indifference; on the other, angry dissatisfaction. On the one hand, wanton waste; on the other, bitter need. Such contrasts have ever been common in this world’s sad history, but never were they so accentuated as at the present time when the rich are growing richer and the poor are growing poorer, and the great gulf between the two classes is steadily widening. Ours has been called, and not without reason, the millionaire age. If our grandfathers were worth a few thousands, they were counted well-to-do. Now men hold securities mounting into the millions, while even a billion of money may be heaped together by one man. Statistics show that the great bulk of the world’s wealth is held subject to the order of a little coterie of arrogant plutocrats, who conniving together can control the resources of the nations, and make or prevent financial panics at their will. It is a condition of affairs never before known, and tells us with absolute certainty that we are in the last days.
Nor should I be misunderstood in writing as I have done. It is no sin to be rich, nor is a man necessarily a malefactor because he possesses the ability to amass great wealth. But wealth is a stewardship, and “it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.” He to whom riches are entrusted is accountable to God for the use to which he puts them. Their selfish conservation He will judge unsparingly. James arraigns the rich for their greed and self-indulgence. They had forgotten the word, “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). They were living as though accountable to no higher power, and were eagerly seeking to gratify every lust. Their hoarded treasure, corrupting, moth-eaten, and rusting, witnessed to their sordid selfishness. And this mass of wealth would soon have been largely dissipated had they but dealt in fairness with the laborers on the fruits of whose toil they were fattening. Those thus down-trodden have often felt as though God had forgotten, and in their despair have often denied His very existence. But “when He maketh inquisition for blood He forgetteth not the cry of the humble.” He has been a silent but not unfeeling spectator of the injustice, the heartlessness, and the haughty arrogance of the godless rich. He has noted every tear, heeded every sigh, heard every cry of oppression from the anguished hearts of the downtrodden whose rights have been ruthlessly disregarded by those who should have been to them the instruments of Providence for their protection and blessing. The same spirit that has thus ill-used the poor and needy is the spirit that condemned and slew the Righteous One. It comes to its full fruition in the last days. It will be judged unsparingly when the Lord arises to plead the cause of the afflicted.
But what is to be the Christian’s attitude in such conditions as are here described? Is he to link himself with labor unions and industrial as- sociations of various kinds, generally composed of Christless men guilty of violence and even murder, in order to curb the greed and check the tyranny of soulless corporations and capitalists preying on the laboring classes? Is he to oppose force to tyranny, the boycott to oppression, and the strike to employers’ arrogance? By no means. His path is indicated clearly and unequivocally in verses 7 to 12. “The coming of the Lord draw-eth nigh.” Till then the believer is exhorted to patience and to trust in the living God. He is not to be carried away by the spirit of the age. Complaints, grudges, harsh invectives, are not to come from him who sides with a rejected Christ and waits for His return from heaven. Of old, the prophets had to learn this lesson of patience, suffering for righteousness’ sake, committing their cause to the Lord; ever proving His faithfulness in spite of all man’s unfaithfulness. And they who so endured we count happy, even as was Job the servant of the Lord whose patience has become proverbial, and in whose later history we see “the end of the Lord” and are assured that He is very pitiful and of tender mercy.
Till He comes the Christian can well afford to stand aside from the restless, surging movements of the day; and, committing his cause to the Lord with quietness of heart, he is to let the potsherds of the earth strive with the potsherds of the earth, knowing that God has said, “I will overturn, overturn, OVERTURN it, until HE shall come, whose right it is to reign.” That that glad day has now drawn very near the conditions we have been considering would be sufficient to clearly prove.
But there is another line of evidence, having to do particularly with the nations of Israel, at which we must now look, and with which the next chapter will occupy us.
The Budding Fig-Tree -- Luke 21:25-38
“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And He spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. And in the day time He was teaching in the temple; and at night He went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives. And all the people came early in the morning to Him in the temple, for to hear Him”- Luke 21:25-38.
This is the second part of our Lord’s great prophetic discourse given to His disciples during His last week with them before His crucifixion. The first part of this prophecy carried us down to the destruction of Jerusalem. The Lord had told His disciples, as they were admiring the marvelous temple and other buildings in Jerusalem, “As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” He depicted conditions that would lead up to this, concluding with the declaration, “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” Everything up to this point was fulfilled literally, and Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, as He predicted. But He put a limit on its being trodden down. He said, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles,” (not forever; not so long as the world lasts, but) “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” We have seen that the expression “times of the Gentiles refers to the entire period during which the Jews are under Gentile dominion. Ever since Nebuchadnezzar’s day this has been their condition. So the times of the Gentiles have continued considerably over two thousand years. Just when it will come to an end we dare not attempt to say. Many have tried to work out some kind of time system, but so far all these have failed. But we can be very sure that we are rapidly drawing near the end of the Gentile times.
A glorious event is going to take place for us before the end comes, of which the Lord said nothing in this great prophetic discourse, but which later He mentioned to His disciples as they were gathered together that evening in the upper room. He said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself.” In the Epistles of Paul we find details unfolded concerning that event. Before the times of the Gentiles come to an end the Lord Jesus is coming in the air to take His heavenly people out of this scene. “The dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Now our Lord does not mention this here. The time had not come to reveal it. But He went on to explain what will take place when the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled. First He spoke of astronomical signs, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars.” Now these signs have not begun to take place so far as we know; but we can be certain of this, that the people who will be living on the earth at the time these things begin to have their fulfilment will see these great signs in connection with the heavenly bodies. Jesus next spoke of conditions that will prevail on the earth, “And upon the earth, distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring.” In a limited sense we may say that these conditions are manifest now, “distress of nations, with perplexity.” It has often been pointed out that this word “perplexity” means literally, “no way out”: “Distress of nations and no way out.” This is most significant. At this very time our statesmen and the rulers of the various countries are endeavoring to form a league to bring about a warless world and assure continued prosperity. But it is evident that they are at their wits’ end as they face apparently insurmountable difficulties. We may be sure of this: conditions will not improve, and wars will continue until the Lord Jesus Christ comes in glory.
Jesus also mentions great natural convulsions. Elsewhere we read that not only will the earth be shaken but also heaven, “that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:27). So we may be sure, in the light,of the prophetic Word, that this poor world is doomed so far as man’s ability to help is concerned. When things are at their worst God will intervene. “And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” He will take over the reins,of government and set up the kingdom of God on the ruins of all earth’s vaunted dominions. He says, “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
Surely His words can mean nothing else than the visible second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Book of Revelation (Revelation 1:7) we read, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.” There are people who profess to accept the Bible and yet tell us that they do not believe in the literal second coming of Christ. They insist that all this will have only a spiritual fulfilment. But I remind you again that every prophecy having to do with the first coming of our Lord was fulfilled literally, and therefore we have every reason to believe that all the prophecies having to do with His second coming will be fulfilled just as literally. He is coming back in person to this earth, and the world that rejected Him will bow before Him, recognizing His absolute authority. He tells them very definitely when these things will take place: at the end of the times of the Gentiles. The believers in the Lord Jesus Christ need not be in distress because of present world conditions. We know that God works everything according to the counsel of His own will, and we can trust Him and not be afraid. As these signs begin to come to pass they serve to tell us that the coming of the King draweth nigh, and so our hearts are encouraged as we look up and wait for our blessed Lord’s return.
“And He spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees.” The fig tree as used in Scripture is a symbol of the nation of Israel. In the Book of Judges (in the parable of Jotham), there are four trees mentioned. These are the olive, the fig-tree, the vine, and the bramble. Now all these different trees are really types or symbols of Israel. The olive-tree speaks of Israel in covenant relationship with God: Abraham is the root, and the branches represent those who are his descendants after the flesh and after the Spirit. During the present time the national branches have been broken off from their own olive-tree because of unbelief, and Gentile wild branches have been grafted in. Some years ago I noticed an objection to this illustration. A learned doctor of divinity insisted that Paul was very ignorant of the first principles of horticulture, or he never would have spoken of grafting wild branches into a good olive-tree. He pointed out that the very opposite is what is done. Therefore it is folly to think that this was written by inspiration. God would not use such an absurd illustration as this to teach spiritual or dispensational truths. But if that good man had read his Bible a little more carefully he would have found that Paul said his illustration about grafting in the Gentiles was “contrary to nature.” The apostle knew he was using an illustration which was contrary to nature, and he tells us so. But that is the way grace works. Grace is ever contrary to nature. When the end of this age comes the natural branches will be grafted in again, and Israel will enter into the new covenant blessing.
So the olive-tree speaks of God’s covenant people. The fig-tree speaks of Israel, as a nation, set by God in Palestine to glorify Him. The vine speaks spiritually of Israel. God brought forth a vine out of Egypt and planted a vineyard, Jehovah’s witnesses in the earth, and “He Looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes” (Isaiah 5:2). Because of this, Israel has for a time been set aside. Jesus said, “I am the true Vine, My Father is the Husbandman” (John 15:1). He speaks of those who profess faith in Him as the branches of the Vine, who are to bring forth fruit unto God. But the day is coming, as we have seen, when the Church of God will be caught up, and a remnant of Israel will be left in the world to witness for God. The other symbol is the bramble. This speaks of Israel away from God, a curse instead of a blessing to the world. It was the Lord’s intention that Israel should be a blessing to all nations, but because they turned away from God they became a curse instead of a blessing among the Gentiles. Some day that will be changed, and Israel will become a means of blessing to the whole world.
The symbol to which Jesus refers here is the fig-tree. For centuries Israel has been without national consciousness. At the end of the age the fig-tree will begin to bloom again. Israel will be brought back into her land and into relationship with God. There will be a new Israel, a regenerated people, who will lead all the nations in devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. Already the fig-tree is beginning to bud. The day of deliverance is near. “When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” It is as though He said, “Watch Israel, and watch the movements among the other nations.” “All the trees” refers, undoubtedly, to the Gentile nations in the prophetic vision. As we see these conditions developing and note what is taking place among the nations, we can see the great combinations forming that will have a place in the final conflict ere the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Israel will come again into a special place before God. Already they are beginning to think of themselves as a nation, not simply a scattered people; and many of them are turning to the Lord. The close of this age is drawing near. The end of the times of the Gentiles will soon come. One evidence of changing sentiment among the Jews is that many of their leaders now insist that the Gentiles are indebted particularly to them because of the teachings of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who was one of their greatest Rabbis! They acknowledge that their fathers did not understand Him and made a great mistake in rejecting Him. But the sad thing is that they think of Him only as a great teacher instead of God manifested in flesh. Nevertheless, the eyes of many are being opened to Christ, their promised Messiah, the Son of God; and there have been more definite conversions in the last quarter of a century than during many centuries before. “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” That kingdom has been making its way into the hearts of men ever since our Lord ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit came down. He will soon be manifest openly.
“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.” There has been a great deal of argument as to the exact meaning of these words. In my judgment, the Lord is simply saying that the race of Israel will not pass away until all these things have been fulfilled. God will preserve Israel in the world, though sadly enough the great majority will remain in their unbelief until these things begin to come to pass.
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” As the Lord warns His disciples so we may take the words to our hearts, even though we are waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to gather us together unto Himself. We need to be careful lest we become so occupied with the things of this scene, with making a living and getting on in the world, that we fail to put Christ first in our lives and to live day by day as those who are waiting for His return. “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” These words have a particular application to those who will be living on the earth in the days of the great tribulation. The coming of the Son of Man is the consummation, and is always distinguished from the coming of the Lord to receive His saints into the air.
The chapter concludes by telling us that during the last week He was on earth, “in the day time He was teaching in the temple; and at night He went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives.” Whether this refers to Bethany which is on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, or whether it means He lay in the open, we are not told; but at any rate, He left the city, where He was an outcast as far as Jerusalem and all its religion was concerned, but early in the morning many people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.
Evidence From Israel’s History And Present State That Points To The Speedy Consummation Of This Age
If the evidence we have been considering shows that the Church of God is soon to close its earthly history, and that the Gentile dominions must shortly surrender their lease of power to Him who shall reign as King of kings and Lord of lords, that which Israel’s past and present condition furnishes is of an even more startling character. The Lord Jesus said to His eager, inquiring disciples, in that great prophetic discourse which we have already noticed in part, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree: When its branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors” (Matthew 24:32, 33). And again in the eompanion passage in Luke, we are told, “He spake unto them a parable; Behold the fig tree and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh. So likewise ye, when ye see these things being fulfilled, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh” (Luke 21:29-31). Mark 13:28, 29 is almost the exact counterpart of Matthew.
Now why does our Lord direct special atten- tion to the fig tree? Is it not because it is the particular symbol of Judah, which was likened to “a fig tree planted in a vineyard?” See Luke 13:6-10. “The vineyard of the Lord of host is the house of Israel,” as depicted in Isaiah 5:1-7. Because of their sin the Lord rooted out the vines of all the twelve tribes and left His vineyard desolate. After the Babylonian captivity Judah was planted as a fig tree in the desolated vineyard. Christ Himself nurtured this fig tree in the three years of His ministry. He came seeking fruit, only to find none. When this was manifested as the settled condition, and “nothing but leaves” was found, the fig tree fell under the curse, and withered from the root. But, in the last days, the fig tree of Judah is to revive and to put forth leaves and bear fruit. When revival is noticed, the end will be near. This is the clear teaching of the Lord in the “parable of the fig tree.” As we look upon the Jewish nation to-day, who can fail to see the leaves and fruit both pushing out from the stock which has been dry so long? Judaism is experiencing a revival of the national spirit, and, as never since apostolic days, Jews are turning in heart to the Lord whom they once rejected.
The national revival might be likened to the green leaves. The spiritual awakening would more readily answer to the developing fruit.
We look first at the “leaves.” For centuries, Jewish history has been the verification of prophecy. Israel, scattered and peeled, have been outcasts among all nations; a people despised and scorned; yet provoking the envy of their Gentile neighbors, and a certain feeling of awe likewise. There is something about the undying Jewish people which the nations cannot comprehend. The Jew assimilates with none, yet pervades all. He is the unquestionable “man of destiny,” for he represents that race, or “generation” which shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled.
Persecuted and oppressed, it is true to-day as in Egyptian times that “the more they afflicted them the more they multiplied and grew.” Yet, though the Jew has ever secretly cherished the hope of a coming Messiah and restoration to Palestine, for centuries his national spirit seemed utterly crushed, and he lacked the sense of solidarity which alone can assure the integrity of any nation. Yet in his most wretched estate the Jew has never become identified with the peoples among whom he wandered. We speak of men of other lands, naturalized in another country, as German-Americans, or Anglo-Americans, or Scotch-Canadians, and so on. But we do not speak of Jewish-Britons, or Jewish-Americans, or Jewish-Germans, etc. Instead we know them as American Jews, English Jews, Russian Jews, and so on. Wherever born, they are Jews, and only Jews.
The last century has intensified this national feeling in a marvelous way, and resulted in the birth of the world-wide Zionist movement, having for its avowed object the return of the Jews as a nation to Palestine, the acquirement of their ancient patrimony, and the foundation of an in- dependent Jewish State-possibly a protectorate, under the care of one or more of the great world-powers.
Has the recent fearful war in Europe jeopardized these plans or disheartened the Jew? Did the accompanying season of intense suffering in Palestine make such a scheme seem foolish and futile? Not at all. More than ever the Jewish spirit asserted itself. More than ever the Jews felt they must establish a Hebrew commonwealth.
During the fearful world-conflict Jews were fighting in the ranks of all the great opposing armies. They suffered terribly whichever side won, and since the signing of the peace pact they have endured unspeakable horrors of persecution, famine and pestilence in many parts of Europe. As long as present conditions prevail, the Jew is caught as it were between the upper and nether millstones. He does not want to be found in such a plight again. To avoid it he sees only one way; that is, to become once more an independent nation.
And the war itself opened the way for the first great steps toward the fulfilment of their national aspiration. The Balfour declaration guaranteed a home in Palestine for Israel in return for Jewish loyalty to the Allies in their struggle with Germany. The successful outcome of General, now Lord, Allenby’s great campaign made possible the fulfilment of this promise. The British mandate over the Holy Land has opened the door to the re-settlement of the “people of the wandering foot” in their ancient patrimony. In spite of the opposition of the Arabs and the Roman Catholic Church, the Jew is rapidly taking over the land. Jewish colonies and cities are rising in the once-desolate places and the Scriptures are being literally fulfilled in a way that is amazing to one who does not understand the divine plan. The land is being planted with “strange slips,” as Isaiah declared it would be, and once more Palestine is becoming a land of vineyards and olive-yards and a country of Jewish homes. The past ten years have seen marvelous developments. What the near future has in store no man can say. The establishment of Hebrew schools, the revival of the ancient language, the opening of the great Hebrew University on the Mount of Olives are the forerunners of a marvelous Hebrew renaissance. The Jews are returning by thousands every year, and in spite of certain difficulties and trying situations economically, which are to be expected in connection with such a movement, the Jewish population is steadily increasing, and gradually the land is coming into their possession.
Prophecy has foretold all this. The Jews are to be gathered back in unbelief to their own land by the help of some great maritime power (see Isa. 18), and given a place in the councils of the nations. Before our very eyes we see all heading up toward this consummation. The fig tree is putting forth her leaves. The national life-sap, if I may so put it, is once more manifesting itself in the one-time dry and desolate tree of Judah. And this is the sure indication that the period of Gentile domination is fast drawing to a close.
Money is flowing into the coffers of the Zionist societies. Influential Jews hitherto indifferent, because largely agnostic and rejecting their own Scriptures, are giving their countenance and aid to a scheme that once seemed to them visionary and absurd. National feeling has wrought where of religious feeling there was none. And thus men who believe not the prophets are fulfilling them in their ignorance.
And now I desire to press the solemn truth that all this forces upon us. The coming of the Lord must be very near, for the prophetic scriptures give us no reason to believe that such a condition of things as we have depicted above, will be brought about so long as the Church is on earth. But time speeds on, and preparations are fast taking place for the final re-gathering of Israel and their establishment in their own land after the Church has gone. And the Church will be caught away from this scene at the coming of the Lord to the air; hence the solemnity of the sign of the green leaves! The Midnight Cry sounds louder each passing day!
“Trim your lamps and be ready,
For the Bridegroom’s nigh.”
We turn our attention now to what is evident fruit for God from among the Jews, so long blinded and indifferent to the light of the gospel.
And first, be it noted, we do not slight the fact that all down the centuries of the Christian dis- pensation there has ever remained an election of grace, God in every period saving some who turned in repentance to the Messiah whom their fathers abhorred. But such conversions were lamentably few, and the great bulk of the nation has ever remained in wilful and judicial blindness. This is still the case, we must frankly admit; but we believe we can safely say that there are more Jewish Christians in the world to-day than at any time since the earliest centuries of the Church’s history. The past hundred years have been years of grace to the blinded nation in a most marked way-witness the awakening of the Church of God generally to its responsibility to give the gospel to the Jew, through whom the Scriptures were first given to the Gentiles.
To the shame of Christendom, be it said, that its treatment of the Jew in past centuries, and in many places still, has been most un-Christlike, and utterly opposed to the spirit of the Saviour’s intercession on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Too often it has been taken for granted that work for the conversion of Israel would be but wasted effort, because of the blindness referred to in Rom. 11; but it has been quite generally overlooked that the blindness was not to be entire, but “in part.”
In these last days the Christian has realized his indebtedness to the Jew in a way he had hitherto overlooked, and efforts have been put forth by voice and pen to carry the gospel to this much-neglected people; efforts which God has graciously deigned to bless in a marvelous way. From the days when one of the first modern missions to the Jews was begun in Hungary, in the middle of the last century, to the present time, work of this character has come more and more into prominence, claiming the help and prayerful sympathy of those who know the Lord. There have been many, many mistakes and blunders; unprincipled men have used such work as a means of self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment, and thus dishonor has been brought upon the name of the Lord. But, alas, what line of missionary enterprise has escaped this stigma? “Evil men and seducers” have abounded in all lines of professed Christian service; but this sad fact does not invalidate what is truly of God. So we praise Him for the devotion of many faithful lovers of Israel, who have labored for the conversion of the neglected Jew.
And what have been the results? Only eternity will make the full fruitage known; but not only hundreds, but thousands, from among Israel after the flesh have already turned to the Lord showing that the blindness in part is passing away. Among these are many eminent names-some now with the Lord, others still engaged in His service on earth. Who can estimate the value to the Church of God of an Edersheim, a David Baron, an Adolph Saphir, a Joseph Rabinowitz, and a host of others, whose lives and labors were fragrant with Christ? And to these may be added a great multitude of the lowly and unknown on earth who have been led to joyfully own the claims of the Lord Jesus, and to suffer shame and ostracism for His name’s sake.
“Not Barabbas, but this Man!” exclaimed a dying Jew; and in so doing he reversed the sentence of his nation, and proclaimed himself on the side of the long-rejected Saviour. And he was not alone, for his brethren and sisters in the faith from among Israel are now legion. It is estimated that in the first decade after the close of the World War over 200,000 Jews had professed Christianity. Many of these are really born again and are active in trying to reach others.
Remembering this, let it be borne in mind that the Holy Ghost predicts the blindness passing away when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in. If already the scales are falling from the eyes of many of the Jews, does it not proclaim the fact that the Gentile times are nearly expired, and that “the fulness of the Gentiles” will soon have come in? The “times of the Gentiles” will not run out until Messiah comes to establish His throne at Jerusalem; but the fulness of the Gentiles comes in at our Lord’s return for His Church.
Between the two, the awful time of Jacob’s trouble intervenes, “the great tribulation,” toward which events are so rapidly tending. The times of the Gentiles cannot end until Jerusalem has been delivered from Gentile oppression and become the city of the Great King. But the fulness of the Gentiles may come in ere my reader lays down this paper; for it will take place when the unbelieving branches are torn away from the olive tree of privilege, and that will be when the true believers have been caught up to be forever with the Lord. If this momentous event were to take place ere this paper drops from your hand, my unknown reader, I ask you kindly, but solemnly, what would it mean to you?
You cannot be ready for His second coming unless you have been saved through the mighty work He accomplished at His first coming. It is written, “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28). None look for Him except those who value His atoning work and have been redeemed to God by His most precious blood. Are you numbered among these? If not, I earnestly beseech you, weigh well the
“Behold, The Bridegroom Cometh ;
Go Ye Out To Meet Him!”
-H. A. I.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Luke 21". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany