By Andrew Bonar
The very name of Antichrist implies a denial of Christ having come in the flesh as well as an assumption of His place and dignity; and so exactly does this description apply, that to deny Christ in any measure or shape is held to indicate the working of that spirit of Antichrist which was already in the world in the apostle's day (1 John 4:3). In one form or another, therefore, more or less prominently, this characteristic will be seen to mark the "many antichrists" that have appeared, whilst "the Antichrist" himself, following at the end, when transgressors have come to the full, and having necessarily (to begin with), like all that preceded him, denied the Spirit of Christ as utterly opposed to his, will reject the Son Himself and thereafter deny the Father also, exalting himself, without any concealment then, above all that is called God.
It is clear, from the terms employed that Paul as well as John speaks of one and the same opposition to the truth, for the former tells of the mystery of iniquity already working in his day (2 Thess. 2:7), and the latter, that it was already in the world (1 John 4:3), whilst both describe the evil as characterized by the same spirit of enmity. It is reserved however, as we have seen, for the last days to reveal Antichrist himself in all his malignity and impiety, for it is not until then that he is seen personally sitting as God "in the temple of God" (2 Thess. 2:4).
Another mention of him is in Daniel 11, giving a further detail of the recklessness with which he proceeds, and by which he is so strongly characterized. "The king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers (does not this imply he will be an individual man?), nor the desire of women (that is Christ, of Whom all Jewish women desired to be the mother), nor regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above all."
The times too which will introduce this great enemy are, as they advance, to exhibit more and more of the spirit which is to be fully developed in him. They are, as has been seen, spoken of as "the last times" in which the wicked shall do wickedly, and when "none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" (Dan. 12:10). This is in harmony with what the apostle declares, "knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (world) (2 Peter 3:3-4). All this is descriptive of the spirit of Antichrist now rapidly maturing for his development.
In 2 Timothy 3:2-5 we have, again, the same last days described when "men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers (we have seen how Antichrist breaks his covenant), false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good . . . having a form of godliness (Antichrist will have his forms to begin with also), but denying the power thereof." From all such things Timothy is commanded to turn away.
And surely as the last days in which they are to be, draw on, it well becomes all who, like him, have learned and been assured, to turn more earnestly than ever to the Holy Scriptures they have known "from a child", and which are declared, in distinct reference to these "perilous times", to be able to make wise unto salvation, not through such teaching as Antichrist's will be, but "through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
It is not without reason that such a caution is given, for few perhaps are aware how subtle and dangerous already is the attempt to criticize and impugn the great truth that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim. 3:16), and to introduce other appliances. The deceivableness of unrighteousness, let us always remember, comes in, not by openly denying what it means to overthrow, but by introducing by little and little such specious corrections and improvements as, in the end, will answer the purpose which an open avowal at the outset would have prevented.
The Antichrist does not at his first appearance shock the prejudices of those whose faith he at last overthrows. He comes in "by flatteries" (Dan. 11:21), such as are grateful to the natural man who finds that something may, with apparent plausibility, be said against that which has been the great barrier to the indulgence of his own passions and will. He finds in Scripture much that is "foolishness" to him (1 Cor. 2:14), but which fear has kept him from openly questioning, as long as his belief in inspiration remains. Let however that once be shaken by the idea of errors and incorrect statements having crept in, or that words may be altered from their ordinary plain meaning, and very soon the wholesome reverence is gone.
Such at present (1853, Ed.) is the direct tendency of the German school above all the others, which are, however, beginning to follow in its wake, whilst surely warning might be taken from the deep rooted infidelity, which in consequence is more and more displaying there the danger of all such tampering with Holy Writ.
If France is distinguished by its licentious infidel writings, the slower thinking German is ponderously advancing by a still more dangerous road to the rejection in the end of all inspired truth together, whilst his metaphysical subtleties and criticisms are already perceptibly infecting the faith of his neighbors. Such popular writers as Goethe and Richter have done much in their day to prepare the public mind for this, and an echo of their style may be caught more and more distinctly from our own shores, where men like Carlyle and Kingsley have caught it up. "Great swelling words of vanity" draw men out of their depth to indulge, at the risk of themselves and others, in mental exercises there all leading to deeper unbelief, and "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
And such really is the case already with these teachers; some of whom are turning deliberately into fables much of the historic portion of Scripture. One of the most distinguished of them, Ewald, a German critic who himself wrote a "history of the people of Israel", speaks of the authors of the prophecy of Moses and Balaam as "prophetic relators of what had already happened, and of their predictions being a peculiar style of authorship"! He also maintains that so far from Moses having written the book of Deuteronomy, it was not written for 800 years after his death, and that whoever compiled it then, had felt himself at such a distance from the events he professed to relate, as "to have allowed his fancy the freest play with them in his way of treating history." He tries also to show that "the Patriarchs were polytheistic in their religion", into which "Mosaicism" introduced a "certain monotheistic character", which is shown by the oath between Jacob and Laban calling on the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, as two different Gods recognized by them also by there being altars to the God of Bethel, and the God of Abraham!
Yet this is the man whom another, still better known, and who is domesticated among us in high places with great influence derived from his distinguished personal character and accomplishments as a scholar, welcomes into the field of Bible criticism with the strongest expressions of joy. And for an explanation of this, let any one examine what the Chevalier Bunsen himself says in his well-known work on Egyptian history, and he will be at no loss to discover the origin of this liking. Mr. Bunsen will there be seen to speak of the chronology and history of the Old Testament just as lightly as M. Ewald does, and in a very different manner from Paul, who quotes it in his epistles to the Romans, Galatians and Hebrews, as literally and strictly true, just as the martyred Stephen had done before, who, we are told, spoke "being full of the Holy Ghost."
But these names, alas! are not solitary instances of such infection having already extended among us. It has gone much further than people are willing to believe, and men of high standing in literature and power of writing, have not only themselves become tainted with this sort of skepticism, but are laboring to spread it in what they declare to be their zeal for the truth.
Listen to what their organ, the Westminster Review, of July 1852 says, "The theory of the origin of Christianity from agencies exclusively divine and of the infallible character of the canonical books, can no more be restored now than Roman history can be put back to what it was before Niebuhr's time" (page 175). And further on, "This in spite of every resistance from the rigor of the old theology, is an inevitable consequence of the modern historical criticism. But its large and genial apprehensions will open for us new admirations, it will do away with an unnatural dualism, and reinstate the great families of man in unity" (page 204).
This is pure antichristianism which, by removing "the offence of the cross" as producing what it calls "dualism", or as our Lord Himself had previously declared it to be, "division" (Luke 12:51-53), would try to introduce a system of godless brotherhood such as Antichrist himself will ere long be seen presiding over, and all the world wondering after, and worshipping him. It is in this direction that one of the dangers of these "perilous times" lies, for if Scripture is to be so dealt with, what has man left to meet the "strong delusion" in which Antichrist will come with his lie? It is for him to launch without helm or compass into a troubled sea where currents more dangerous than the winds and the waves are running and drifting insensibly all that is floating on them towards a fatal shore.
Of the doctrines springing up under such a system we have already seen some specimens, whilst an occasional glimpse is afforded us of results still more matured, and which may well make us tremble and cling closer than before to Bible truth. Within a very short period it has been openly broached in Germany in so many words, that from the confusion prevailing in religious belief as well as in all social arrangements so markedly seen in our days, it has become evident that the power which has governed mankind hitherto is become unfit for the task, and that man himself, therefore, no longer in his infancy, must rouse up to undertake it!
Such as these are the advances being made by antichristianism even in the midst of us. The barriers in the way are the Scriptures in their integrity, "given by inspiration of God", and "which are able to make . . . wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." And along with them, the promised teaching of the Holy Ghost "the Comforter . . . Whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you all things" (John 14:26).
When these are disowned and cast off, as we see they are already beginning to be by so many, what is to hinder men coming to worship the devil in the end (Rev. 13:4), as well as the Antichrist "whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a (the) lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:9-12).
It may seem hard to connect in any way, even the remotest, with such dangerous writers a very different class of men who have been assigning to Scripture words a metaphorical interpretation, chiefly to carry out prophetic theories of their own. Yet the plain truth is that the tendency of all such liberties is to encourage the profane hands which, with widely different feelings and intentions, are touching the Scriptures of truth. If Christians among themselves are seen by the unbelieving multitude without, claiming a latitude of meaning which would make inspiration say anything, what right have they to complain if they themselves are charged with inconsistency in their way of reading it? "That the Scripture might be fulfilled", is an expression of frequent occurrence in it, and always to point out that, however men might previously have been viewing it, the fulfillment of a prophecy when so announced proved it to have been a literal one.
What is contended for, therefore, on this point is, that by such warning in the past, Christians are bound to receive what is written in a literal sense, except where symbols, as in the Revelation, are avowedly the medium of instruction, or in cases where the language is shown to be figurative from the circumstance that otherwise an absurdity or physical impossibility would arise. This was the rule of the "judicious" Hooker, and in fact what we ourselves observe in regard to every book we read, and in every conversation we hold; also, for instance, in the case of the woman in Revelation 12, seen "clothed with the sun and with the moon under foot", where plainly a symbolic meaning attaches to her as much as to the seven candlesticks which symbolize churches.
Our own language abounds in metaphor, and we can scarcely utter a sentence which does not contain one. Yet we are living in a practical age where literal meaning is indispensable, and where in fact no one feels at a loss as to what is really meant. Why should we treat Scripture language differently? Or say that "that man of sin" means a succession of men, and "that wicked" or lawless one "whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of His coming", a succession of evil principles to be absorbed by the advance of the Spirit of Truth? The mischief to all from such lax interpretations is incalculable, and is leading many in despair to ask like Pilate "What is truth?" without waiting for an answer to their question.
It has been tried throughout to point attention to what is said of a personal Antichrist who is yet to be seen, and who in the latter days (which must be near) will realize and embody the spirit of the many antichrists that are in the world. His characteristics, of which we are now particularly speaking, must necessarily be in unison with his times from the welcome they give him, and therefore what Scripture says of them is full of warning as to what manner of man he will himself be when he is seen.
Jude, in his epistle, gives us, along with the other inspired writers already referred to, a striking outline of these last days, and in perfect accordance with all other Scripture tells what Enoch, from remotest times, had prophesied of their termination by the Lord Himself coming "with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Jude 14-15). In reading this short epistle, how wonderful does it appear that with such details of times so concluded as to make them to be as they are emphatically called (Jude 18) "the last", any one should still be found looking for a general amelioration as Scripture truth is disseminated.
Yet thousands of such there are who will see nothing even of such a "coming of the Lord" as is here spoken of, but who persist in making it an entirely spiritual one or gradual working of His power on the hearts of men to convince them finally of their ungodly deeds. Whilst entertaining such ideas, they will not see anything of "the apostasy" yet to be (in general they believe it to have been already seen in the papacy), or of the man of sin who is to be over it and thought now to be the succession of popes about to terminate, when no bar will remain to the realization of their expectations of such a spread of gospel light and truth as will turn the earth and its inhabitants into all they are most unlike to at present.
Is there no danger when even Christian men are found thinking so, and stopping their ears against such plain Scriptures as would warn them how they try to find good where God tells them they will find only evil? If Jude, among others, speaks of "the last time" and refers to a distinct coming of the Lord to terminate them with "judgment executed upon all" (Jude 18,15), how vain the thought of seeing any distinguishing mark in the people that will be living in them, but that which he applies so terribly - murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouths speaking great swelling words, having men's persons (not Christ's) in admiration because of advantage (Jude 16).
Is it not possible to rouse Christians to consider all this, when they see the most infidel and godless all rejoicing with them in the prospect of increasing emancipation, and of the "good times" that are coming as ancient prejudices disperse before the dawn of reason; when Scripture accuracy and inspiration is impugned and found to be a hindrance to the progress of the day; when commercial interest, not religious principles which are more and more pushed into a corner, is looked on as the bond which is yet to unite in brotherhood, and when in a word man is to do everything and be everything, and God a mere idea in all this scheme of coming happiness? Is there nothing in Scripture warning that instead of it, there is yet to be "great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21), a trouble which is to yield to no scheme of amelioration which man can devise, or be averted by such a course as he is pursuing?
To speak of such things may seem ungracious, but so has the truth of God ever seemed when opposing the willfulness of man whose first temptation by Satan (Gen. 3:5) was to be independent of his Maker, as he will with his Antichrist succeed in tempting him to hazard being again . In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt not surely die, was the lie of the devil which prevailed with our first parents to eat, that "your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." The same lure is being displayed to their descendants under circumstances and with a result which will show that, in himself, man is hopelessly evil (Jer. 17:9,18), and that the finished work and perfect righteousness of Christ alone can restore the beauty and order that has been marred.
Under all conditions, whether in Patriarchal, Mosaic, or Christian dispensations, man will in the end have been shown a failure, the more unmistakable if in the face of all the lessons and experience of the past, the last days are to exceed (as they will do if Scripture be true-and it is) in daring wickedness all that preceded them. But when "the transgressors are come to the full" (Dan. 8:23), and man in the trouble that is coming has been shown how vain his thoughts of amendment and amelioration have been, the Lord Himself "will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness; because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth" (Rom. 9:28).
With regard to the duration of the reign of the Antichrist, we have seen that in his connection with Jewish history, a hebdomad or seven years is wanting to complete the seventy weeks of Daniel's prophecy, and that during all that "week" he acts a prominent part. There is no Scripture to lead us to think he is seen for any considerable period before it, and certainly he is not seen after it, for the anointing of the Most Holy and the bringing in everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24) closes all, as "the transgression" itself is finished by the destruction of that wicked or lawless one at Christ's coming (2 Thess. 2:8).
There is much mischief in trying to be wise above what is written, for Scripture is not given to gratify an idle curiosity, but for our instruction and correction in righteousness, "that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). This surely implies that he is also to be thoroughly furnished against all evil ones, which again, we believe to be the reason why so much is said by both prophet and apostle of the character of the unrighteousness in the last times, as well as of the Antichrist himself under whom the consummation of it is to be. For then, through what is permitted to Satan, it will be "with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:9-10), to deceive, were it possible, "the very elect", unless thoroughly furnished by warning against it.
To show that the notion of a personal Antichrist, with a limited duration, is at least not a novel idea, it will serve to look here a little into what "the fathers" thought and wrote on the subject. In doing so, however, let it not be imagined that there is any intention of conceding to them and their opinions the place of authority which a large party in this country are trying to obtain for them now. The attempt being made is, in fact, a revival of what was witnessed in the reign of James and more openly in that of his son, when the first fervors of Luther's reformation were subsiding, and when Andrews and Laud sought, by magnifying them as links in the apostolic succession, to exalt thereby ecclesiastical power in opposition to the Puritans. But the deference thus shown to an imaginary perfection and unity in the early ages gave a great advantage to Rome, and then as now, many were the secessions to it from among the high church party.
It seems to be overlooked that the testimony of these same fathers extends over twelve centuries, including among them the darkest ages of popery, and that, from the very outset, there is not only the greatest discrepancy of opinion on nearly every important point, but also the most flagrant error. In fact, the "catena" is one of false instead of consistent Scripture doctrine, and what is remarkable the nearer the apostolic times, the more grievous appears to have been the perversion.
With the exception of the existence of God in a Trinity of Persons, and the belief that the Roman empire would end in ten kingdoms and Antichrist to be destroyed by the Lord's coming, there is scarcely a truth which is not overlaid or distorted. The danger has ever been from within the professing church rather than from without, and of this the apostle, accordingly, is seen warning God's people in his day of what they were to expect when he himself was withdrawn from them. "Know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away (many) disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30).
To quote here from the fathers therefore is for the alone purpose of showing that the truth of a personal Antichrist at least was, amidst all their differences, nearly unanimously maintained by them all. They further considered that he would come out of the Roman empire, when towards the close, it should have become divided into ten kingdoms, three of which are to be subdued by him, and all to continue supporting him to the last.
Hippolytus, one of them (died c236) expressly says (in "de Antichristo") that "the ten states, meaning the ten toes of Daniel's image, which will at length appear will be democracies", which is in accordance seemingly with the increasingly "clay-iron" character of the present day. (For an account of the testimony of Hippolytus, see Mr. B W Newton's "Babylon and Egypt, Appendix A"- Ed).
Another of them, Irenaeus (c130-c202), considers that "when they are reigning, and beginning to settle and aggrandize themselves, suddenly one will come and claim the kingdom and terrify them as foretold." In the same treatise the same old writer says, "the adversary will sit in a temple built at Jerusalem, endeavoring to show himself to be Christ." And again, "It will be he who will resuscitate the kingdom of the Jews."
The Jews themselves, it is sufficiently known, are prepared to receive one who will do so, having rejected our Lord and theirs, Whose life as well as death had disappointed those among them who at that time "trusted it had been He Which should have redeemed Israel" (Luke 24:21). The veil being upon their eyes, they are to this day expecting a deliverer of their own race* according to promise, whilst nevertheless rejecting still the idea of His being also the Son of God, as they say "Israel's God is One God." The mystery of Christ in the flesh, despised then, is now altogether "hid from their eyes", which they are opening wider and wider as the time draws near, to descry him who, coming in his own name, will be received by them (John 5:43).
*(It is strange how general the belief was in ancient days, that in some way or other he is to be especially connected with the tribe of Dan. This may have proceeded from such as the following considerations: The sceptre was not to depart from Judah (Gen. 49:10), and yet we read "Dan shall judge his people;" with what sort of judgment may be inferred at least from the description given to him, as "a serpent by the way . . . that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward;" and that too followed by an aspiration of the patriarch as if he foresaw trouble coming, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O LORD" (Gen. 49:16-18). The same with Moses: (Deut . 33:22) "Dan is a lion's whelp: he shall leap from Bashan" (a word used in Scripture to denote pride and opposition). "Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round" (Ps. 22:12). "Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan" (Amos 4:]). In Jeremiah 4, where "the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way" (verse 7) with his chariots as a whirlwind, and horses swifter than eagles (verse 13), to give out their voice against the cities of Judah (verse 16) because she hath been rebellious against Me (verse 17), it is a voice from Dan that declareth it (verse 15). In Jeremiah 8:16, "the snorting of his horses was heard from Dan", with the whole land trembling with the sound of his strong ones. Whilst in Revelation 7, where the tribes of Israel are sealed before the judgments are let loose on Antichrist and his followers, that of Dan is omitted, and the name of a half tribe substituted for it. In Amos 8:14 too, a curse is recorded against them that say "thy God, O Dan, liveth", and like them who receive the mark of the beast, "they shall fall, and never rise up again").
Irenaeus says ("Against Heresies, Book 5.30") that "the reign of Antichrist will be for three years and a half (the last half of the hebdomad), when he shall be destroyed by the Lord from heaven, and the kingdom of the Just One be established."
Many extracts of a like nature might be given, but it seems unnecessary here to extend quotations or name the names of the many others who express themselves similarly, with some important differences of opinion. (For a fuller account of the testimony of the fathers to a personal Antichrist, see Mr. B W Newton's "Prospects of the Ten Kingdoms, 2nd Edition, Appendix A"- Ed.).
What has been quoted is chiefly to show that the idea of a personal Antichrist with a short supremacy at the close of this dispensation is no novelty, and that on the contrary it was in fact the universal early belief, men then taking Scripture words to mean what they really said. With some shades of difference, then, the general belief in early days was that Antichrist, as has been shown, would suddenly show himself at the very end of the Roman empire, which once was dominant, but now, in our days, is in a manner dormant. That he will knit it into one again by his skill and enterprise, engrafting Judaism upon the worship he sets up;-that he will then acquire the title of King of the Roman Empire, from the ten kings giving him their kingdom (Rev. 17:17)-that kingdom, be it recollected, being the last of four monarchies shown in the image of Daniel when "the Stone" falls, and he along with all its parts passes away as rapidly as he arose.
Thus Nebuchadnezzar, as the head or first king, received a pure monarchy from God (Dan. 2:37-38). Antichrist arising out from among the toes and also manifestly the last king, receives his power which is clay-iron or democratic ("mingled with the seed of men") apparently from the people or the kings over them, but in reality from the devil, as the "sure Word of prophecy" distinctly tells and makes us see (Rev. 13:4). Such is the contrast and such the end and destruction of the image by a still purer monarchy "which shall never be destroyed." Christ, the God-man, receiving it into His hands from "the God of heaven", even as Nebuchadnezzar, a fallen man, had been entrusted with it at first, had corrupted it, and like his successors, been deprived of it.
People in our days persist in saying that the destructive action of "the Stone" (Dan. 2:44-45) is the spread of the gospel, Christ's spiritual reign constituting the millennium. But this, surely, a very slight consideration might show them to be impossible, for it would imply that Gentile power (the ten kingdoms) will be coexisting with the kingdom of Christ, which, on the contrary, it will be seen breaks in pieces and consumes all these kingdoms (Dan. 2:44). It is vain to say this prophecy was accomplished at the first advent, because the ten toes were not then in existence for the stone to fall upon. And no more could it be so when the gospel was preached by the apostles, else the Roman empire would then have been divided into ten kingdoms, which historically was not the case.
Another strange attempt, chiefly since Luther's days, has been to convert the 1260 days into 1260 years, to measure out the supposed duration of the papacy which he fancied to be the man of sin as already alluded to. (For a fuller treatment of the year-day theory, see Mr. B W Newton's "The Antichrist Future and the 1260 Days of Antichrist's Reign" - Ed.).
Having assumed this measure of time to be satisfactorily proved, it is now deliberately argued that the pope must be the Antichrist inasmuch as no reign but his could at all be said to embrace so long a period, and this, without exaggeration or unfairness in the way of stating it, is a specimen of the reasoning to which so many are seen surrendering their own better judgment. What is known by the name of the year-day theory (a sort of contradiction in terms to begin with), is based chiefly on a perversion of two passages in Scripture-Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6-"I have appointed (given) thee each day for a year."
Had this meant, as alleged, that henceforth in all prophecy a day was to be taken for a year, what becomes of that most interesting one among all others uttered by our Lord Himself, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up", it being immediately added "but He spake of the temple of His body" (John 2:19,21), which surely no man will say was not raised on the third day, when "they came early in the week and found the stone rolled away", and the "two men in shining garments" declaring He was risen as He said?
But the attempt itself, such as it is, is in fact a wholesome lesson to us all of what men will attempt to carry out a fancy or preconceived notion, and what barriers they will scale in order to arrive at their object. If fairly taken, the passages on which they found their theory of the "year-day system", prove just the reverse, and that a year means literally a year, as a day means literally a day.
For in the first place, Ezekiel did not lie forty years on his side but forty days to typify years, the terms relatively remaining precisely the same as they had been before, although the one was said with perfect propriety to be "given" for the other.
And in the case of the spies, forty literal days of search, to mark God's displeasure at His gracious care having been slighted and the report of the land disbelieved.
If a soldier in our days, for seven days' desertion of his duty, was sentenced to seven years of punishment declared by his judges to be in proportion to mark his offence, "the day for a year" would never be dreamt of as abolishing the distinction between the terms in time coming, or that the next orders issued for any particular service for seven "days" would require to be carried out for seven "years."
Yet to fancy the one is as absurd and unfounded as to fancy the other, particularly when we find in prophetic Scripture afterwards, as well as previously, that a "day" did actually mean a literal day of the ordinary duration, as in the specific instance to which we have referred. All this falls naturally to be noticed here, for these 1260 days have much to do with the duration of Antichrist's reign now under consideration, whilst the notion of 1260 years would militate against every position we have tried to establish, and, what is far more to the point, every text we have quoted in support of it. The year-day system, false in its origin, has led into endless confusion, and will do so as long as people will suffer themselves to be misled by it.
There are two passages in the Revelation where the 1260 days are mentioned in connection with what is to be in the days of the Antichrist, as indeed seems to be admitted by the year-day expositors themselves, who, however, of course, have taken them to be within the years of the papacy as answering to the Antichrist with them. If we have at all succeeded in showing that so much of what we consider future, must really be so, the events in the passages above referred to are future also, and occupy the last half of the hebdomad already so often referred to.
Revelation 11:3 tells us of the two witnesses prophesying 1260 days, at the termination of which they are slain by the Antichrist, and what follows "cometh quickly" (verse 14), namely, as will be noticed, "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ", which they do only on the destruction of the Antichrist himself, which, therefore, then "cometh quickly also." The year-day system places the witnesses in the days of Luther's reformation, with a method of explaining who they were and how their ascent could then be said to have taken place, which sets all meaning of words at open defiance.
But without going further into their strange treatment of that particular prophecy, surely "the kingdoms of this world" (verse 15), even after the lapse of the three hundred years which have passed since Luther's day, cannot without absolute profanity, be said yet to have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, as they will one day be. And if not, can it be pretended that the "cometh quickly" referred to meant anything at all, if that glorious event be future still?
Again, as to the other passage (Rev. 12:6) in which the 1260 days are mentioned, they are manifestly there identified with the "time, and times, and half a time" subsequently named (verse 14) from "the woman" being fed or nourished in them both, and their expressing the same period of three years and a half. That "time" in Scripture language, when so put, does mean a year, is shown by what is said of Nebuchadnezzar having been driven from among men till seven times (Dan. 4:25) had passed over him, and Josephus with others declaring he was in the wilderness seven years. To be consistent, the year-day expositors (who do not dispute this) should hold to their theory of a day meaning a year likewise, which in the case of Nebuchadnezzar would however involve the necessity and absurdity of his being in the wilderness still, instead of having been restored to his kingdom "at the end of the days", as we are told expressly he was (Dan. 4:34).
It would be wandering from our subject, which is the duration of the Antichrist, to enlarge upon the witnesses or the woman seen to be fed in the wilderness during the 1260 days, or the time, times, and a half. There is, however, another expression made use of in connection with them, making a period which, in its connection with Antichrist is also important to us. We allude to the forty and two months (Rev. 11:2) of the treading down of the Holy City, seen in close connection with the 1260 days of the witnesses, both expressing, as cannot but be observed, three years and a half, the precise period of the oppression of Antichrist in the last half of the hebdomad. The Antichrist as we have seen must be the last Gentile king as the Gentile kingdoms (the kings of the earth, Rev. 19:19), which give him their power, perish with him in his destruction. Jerusalem is "trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24).
If, as we have tried to show, the Jews are to return to their own land in unbelief, when this gospel has been first preached in all the world for a witness, it is evident that notwithstanding their mistaking a false restoration and a false deliverance for the True, the times of the Gentiles which they may think to be over and fulfilled on finding themselves in their own land once more, will nevertheless be unfulfilled still, for the Jews themselves receive, in contempt of Messiah, this last Gentile king as their king, and enter into a covenant with him (Dan. 9:27) for the remaining hebdomad, or as it is translated, week.
In the midst of it that covenant is broken, and in the concluding three years and a half (answering to the 42 months we are considering) a tribulation unequalled since the world began arises, during which, to the destroying of all false imaginations, the Jews, who will be deceived by "him who shall come in his own name", again see the "Holy City" more cruelly than ever "trodden down" (see Rev. 11:2), to prove that the king they had chosen to their own confusion, was under all disguises a Gentile king though the last of them, and that the "times of the Gentiles", during which Jerusalem was to be trodden down, had been manifestly therefore unfulfilled still.
Without much digression, it is worthy of notice how Saul, the king their fathers chose to the rejection of God as declared by Himself (1 Sam. 8:7), typified Antichrist, the king in the latter day whom they again choose to the rejection of Messiah, the Sent of God. The warning directed to be given to the Israelites, of "the manner of the king that shall reign over them", is more like a description of what is to be than of what has been, for wicked as Saul proved to be, we hear nothing of his doing to Israel then what they were warned "their king" should do. Nothing is told us of their crying "in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day" (1 Sam. 8:18).
Can this then be still to be fulfilled in the king whom they are to choose, and their trouble in that day to be because the Lord will refuse to hear? "I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh . . . as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind . . . Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek Me early, but they shall not find Me . . .Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices" (Prov. 1:26-3 1).
If the concluding treading down of the Holy City for the forty-two months be as we have made it, the duration of Antichrist is here again limited to the hebdomad, for the Jewish prophecies, which speak of him appearing in it, resume only when the Jews are again seen once more as a nation in their own land, when he makes his covenant with them, and he is evidently destroyed at the termination of it.
Allusion has already been made to this covenant or league with many of Daniel's people (Dan. 9:27). It is with "many", as should be observed, and not with all, for all who worship the beast or receive his mark are without exception spoken of as destroyed without hope (Rev. 14:9-10; 19:20). This, however, is not the case with all the Jews (see Mr. B W Newton's "Five Letters"- No 3, or Time of the End Series, No 18-On the Jewish Remnant-Ed.), for much mention is made constantly (as in Isa. 4) of there being left in Jerusalem, after that destruction, a remnant which "shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem; when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem . . . by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning" (Isa. 4:3-4).
These are they who although they had not bowed the knee to Baal nor worshipped him, were nevertheless, like their fathers, strangers to Christ and so left in the tribulation, out of which His Own will have been caught up to meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4:16-17). (This seems to give credibility to a pre-tribulation rapture but readers will note that on page 87, Mr. Bonar states that the rising of the believers will not take place till the mystery has been finished in the revelation and destruction of the Antichrist. It appears therefore that Mr. Bonar is not referring to the tribulation but the wrath that shall fall upon Antichrist and his followers- Ed.).
This is the remnant who give glory to the God of heaven, owning at last after ages of unbelief, and wearied with him who had come in his own name, "Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord." Israel, as a nation, shall not see Him till then (Matthew 23:39), as He descends to destroy the wicked one with "the brightness of His coming;" but in that blessed but terrible hour she shall be, as a nation, born in a day.
Well might their prophet exclaim in contemplating such an event, which it will be seen he distinctly connects with Christ's appearing, "A voice . . . from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the LORD that rendereth recompense to His enemies. Before she travailed, she brought forth: before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD . . . Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her" (Isa. 66:6-10).
And well may the whole earth then rejoice with her, "for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem . . . Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:3-4). It is the beginning of that millennial reign of righteousness in which Jerusalem shall be the joy of the whole earth and in which Antichrist shall have passed away, and the place that knew him once shall then know him no more for ever.
It may help to illustrate still more than has yet been done the characteristics of Antichrist, to contrast them with what is said of Christ:
CHRIST: Comes from above (John 3:3 1)
ANTICHRIST: Comes from below (Rev. 11:7)
CHRIST: Comes in His Father's Name (John 5:43)
ANTICHRIST: Comes in his own name (John 5:43)
CHRIST: Humbled Himself, and became obedient (Phil. 2:8)
ANTICHRIST: Exalts himself above all (2 Thess. 2:4)
CHRIST: Was despised and rejected, and we esteemed Him not (Isa. 53:3)
ANTICHRIST: All the world wonder after the Beast, saying, Who is like unto him? (Rev. 13:3-4)
CHRIST: Comes to do His Father's will (John 6:38)
ANTICHRIST: Does according to his own will (Dan. 11:36)
CHRIST: Glorifies God on earth (John 17:4)
ANTICHRIST: Blasphemes the Name of God (Rev. 13:6)
CHRIST: The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep (John 10:14-15)
ANTICHRIST: The evil shepherd or idol shepherd who shall tear the flesh (Zech. 11:16-17)
CHRIST: God highly exalts Him and gives Him a Name above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow (Phil. 2:9-10)
ANTICHRIST: Exalteth himself above the heights of the clouds, yet is brought down to hell (Isa. 14:14-15)
CHRIST: Shall be seen coming in the clouds with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30)
ANTICHRIST: They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee . . . saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake the kingdoms? Isaiah 14:16)
CHRIST: Shall reign for ever and ever (Rev. 11:15)
ANTICHRIST: They take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it unto the end (Dan. 7:26)
CHRIST: The Heir of all things (Heb. 1:2)
ANTICHRIST: The son of perdition (2 Thess. 2:3)
(For a further treatment of this theme, see Mr. G H Fromow's "Christ and Antichrist Contrasted"-Ed.).
Such is Christ, and such, when he comes, will be the Antichrist also. Already the Spirit of the one is as markedly in the world as is the Spirit of the other. Let no professing Christian forget this, and that unless the Spirit of Christ be in him, he is none of His. To them who are alive and remain, the wide difference will be still more distinctly marked and apparent ere long.
But the darker the night the nearer will be the promised deliverance, when they who are Christ's shall rejoice with all creation in "the manifestation of the sons of God" (Rom. 8:19), and they who are of their father the devil (John 8:44), share in the destruction of the Antichrist whom he shall send, and whose spirit they are showing even now in contrast to that of Christ, Who is still the despised and rejected.
In 2 Thessalonians 2, which speaks so much of Antichrist, a passage occurs which has occasioned some perplexity as to its meaning. It is in verses 6-8, "And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed", etc. A hindrance is here hinted at, though obscurely, to the man of sin being revealed, which therefore by the rule of Scripture noticeable throughout, can be in itself of little practical importance to us, for had it been so, we should have been left in no doubt as to what the hindrance itself was.
It has been already remarked that Scripture predictions regarding the future are not for the indulgence of our curiosity, but for our correction and instruction in righteousness, and it is well we should not overlook this when meeting a passage like the present. The prominent and therefore practical aim of the chapter is, the warning it gives of a coming Antichrist who is to be destroyed thereafter by the coming of the Lord Himself-two great events, in which the church of Christ continues deeply interested, and which "will surely come" whatever hindrances there may still be in the way. It should seem that the inspired writer in directing attention to these events themselves was, in the parenthesis now noticed, again cautioning the Thessalonians, as he had previously been doing, against the expectation of all that he was telling them coming to pass immediately.
The times of the Gentiles were then only beginning, and the fourth empire which stretched to the time of Antichrist, was to be disposed of with remarkable division into ten kingdoms as we have shown at the extremity, and these were then, as now, still to be seen. Not one jot or tittle shall fail of all God has said, and if events He had pointed out as to happen previous to the occurrence of others, had not occurred, it was to be expected that His people would be reminded of them, until their fulfillment having taken every hindrance "out of the way", nothing should be remaining to prevent the immediate accomplishment of the greater events themselves, which in fact had throughout been the real objects of expectation.
It is generally supposed that the hindrance referred to must be sought in the condition of the Roman empire which still of necessity exists, for in prophetic Scripture it will be seen that the fourth beast or kingdom (Dan. 7:23) "diverse from all kingdoms" stretches on to the time of the everlasting kingdom (verse 27) which follows it. Its condition at present would seem a dormant one in which God's people might be forgetting what was said of it and its resuscitation at the time of the end in the shape of ten kingdoms, out of which should arise that "wicked" whom they were warned to expect before "the day of the Lord."
Hence we are inclined to think the caution given implied that the succession of events which God Himself had described, was itself the let or hindrance to the immediate revelation of the man of sin, rising as he does "in the latter times of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full." (See Mr. B W Newton's "Literal Translation of 2 Thessalonians 2?"-Ed.). He Who at the outset placed these events in the succession in which they are, as a let or hindrance to the coming of the Lord Himself, will continue them for His truth's sake until they be taken out of the way by their perfect accomplishment, and then shall that wicked be revealed who is to be destroyed by the brightness of His coming.
In speaking of the characteristics of the Antichrist, that of a king has been adverted to and something therefore may be found to be said as to where he is to be seen reigning when he does come. By the kings of the Roman earth giving him their kingdoms (Rev. 17:17)) he of necessity becomes king of the Roman earth, and Rome having once been its capital it is assumed that on that revival it will be so again.
But even if Scripture had been silent on the subject, this would not have followed as a necessary consequence, inasmuch as Rome has not always been its capital even since John's day. It was transferred to it, as all know, from Byzantium, and wherever the seat of the Roman empire may be held to be at present, it surely is not at Rome. Whence then the necessity for thinking that when restored in its decem-regal condition, Rome is to be the seat of its last king?
It cannot be argued from consistency with the past, and if Scripture be our guide the thought of its being so in the future meets with the reverse of encouragement, for, to begin with, Antichrist is seen to plant the tabernacles of his palace, not there, but (Dan. 11:45) "between the seas in the glorious holy mountain." This, as has been already said, can mean no spot on earth but one, and that spot Mount Zion in Jerusalem. When he does so, it is in the presumptuous attempt to show himself where the True Deliverer is to be seen, in a usurped place of king of both Jew and Gentile, and it is in his effort to establish himself as such that his destruction is to be "upon the mountains of Israel" (Ezek. 39:4).
Yet neither is Jerusalem any more than Rome, as will be seen, his capital notwithstanding his attempt to make it so, even as others have tried to fix him at Rome in their determination at all hazards to make the pope who is seated there pass for him. The seven-hilled city helped their purpose although the woman that sat upon its literal hills was admitted to be symbolical.
The city "which reigneth over the kings of the earth" (Rev. 17:18) is even to this hour, from the use made of the present tense, triumphantly pointed to as implying Rome alone could be meant, inasmuch as it alone was reigning in John's day. But if that city was reigning then, what is its condition now, and what has become of the ten kings and kingdoms over whom it has reigned and ought to be reigning? For once begun, no break in its rule is seen or even hinted at in Scripture, whilst ordinary candor might admit that if the present tense infers the necessary existence in John's day of the things he speaks of, all other events in Revelation must be judged by a similar rule.
John "saw" and spoke in vision of things which were not as though they were, in the inspired certainty of their future accomplishment. It was thus that he "saw" the devil chained with a great chain, and also "saw" the new heavens and the new earth for the first "were passed away." Yet these mighty events in which we have so profound an interest, are confessedly still future, whilst in the face of this we are called to admit, from the tense employed, that the "city which reigneth" means of necessity Rome as ruling in John's day.
But further, is there no inconsistency in referring all that is said of Babylon to literal Rome as the seat of the pope, who on such like authority is pronounced to be the Antichrist? At the present moment the "city which reigneth" (as we are taught to believe) "over the kings of the earth", is like its master indebted to the kings of the earth for very existence, and in a condition of helpless humiliation seen in no other capital in Europe. Where do we find in Scripture any indication of such a state for Antichrist and his city when once they are seen?
So far from such vicissitude or decay, "he comes in like a flood" and "prospers", and it is in their utmost prosperity and presumption, that both his city and himself are destroyed with a destruction which will make the ears of every one who hears of it to tingle.
It has been noticed that having "planted the tabernacles of his palace there", Antichrist will in the end, upon the destruction of Babylon, his own capital, attempt to make Jerusalem (where his abomination will have been seen "standing" where it ought not - Mark 13:14), its substitute, but though "he shall go forth" on hearing the tidings "with great fury to destroy, and utterly make away" (Dan. 11:44), no power will ever prevail to convert Jerusalem, which as respects both the past and the future "is the city of the Great King" (Matthew 5:35), into Babylon, however forsaken for her sins Jerusalem for a season may have been.
Their fates indeed from the beginning are always shown in remarkable contrast as their antagonism is express also, and for the future too while Jerusalem is to be "the joy of the whole earth", "the city of the Great King." Babylon, the mother of harlots, falls suddenly "in one hour" and is seen "no more at all" (Rev. 18:19,21).
Even now the thought in every Christian mind with regard to literal Jerusalem and Babylon is one of striking contrast, and most will admit with regard to the former at least, that this arises from its predicted future as well as its recorded past. If Scripture language were regarded as it ought to be, the latter city will be found in no less a degree connected with both, the future contrast there being as strongly maintained as the past.
Babylon is the city of Antichrist, and his "coming is after the working of Satan." Jerusalem is the city of the Holy One Whose throne is to be on the "hill of Zion" (Ps. 2:6) and "Who cometh in the Name of the Lord."
Isaiah 14, speaking of this king of Babylon, declares him to have arrogated, before his destruction, all the privileges and rights of Christ. "I will ascend into heaven" (verse 13), which Christ only has done. "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God,"-the throne of Christ alone being "above all principalities and powers." "I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north", -that being the palace "of the Great King" declared to be at Jerusalem (Matthew 5:35). "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds" is the vaunt (verse 14) of this king of Babylon, whilst, with his golden city also named there (verse 4), the destruction is "thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit" (verse 15).
Even the fact of this attempt to make his rival's city his capital, whilst claiming himself the deliverer who is to come to Zion (Isa. 59:20), ought of itself to create a doubt as to the judgment of those who would persuade us that Rome now is "Babylon", especially when we never have the name itself even once alluded to in prophetic Scripture at all, unless we submit, without scruple, to take the name of one place to mean another.
Now surely before consenting to do anything so unusual, it would be wise to attend more than has obviously been done to what is said of Babylon, the ancient enemy, before at once so decidedly transferring all the prophecies which yet attach to the name, to the modern substitute which men have found for it. For instance, in Isaiah 13 and 14, as well as Jeremiah 50 and 51, the most lengthened and distinct intimation is given that the Babylon there spoken of is "Babylon in the land of Chaldea", and what is more that the land connected with it is the Chaldea of the Euphrates. No one surely can contest this, for the mention throughout is not only explicit, but repeated over and over again as if to fix our attention to it.
The Babylon there with the mention of "her foundation, walls, streets", etc., and all other names indicating a real city, is beyond question a Chaldean Babylon. Yet it is overlooked that events are there declared in connection with its fall, which are also, beyond a question, future.
In the chapters of Isaiah "the whole earth is at rest" on the fall of Babylon "since thou art laid down (low) no feller is come up against us" (14:8). Of Babylon itself the destruction is like that of "Sodom and Gomorrah" (surely its character is sufficiently known), whilst, moreover, it is distinctly spoken of as occurring "in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger" (Isa. 13:13), when the heavens are shaken and the earth removed out of her place, which another Scripture (Heb. 12:26-28) tells they are to be, "once more", at the setting up of the "kingdom which shall never be moved."
In the chapters of Jeremiah, which are in striking harmony with all that is said by Isaiah, the era of Babylon there described is no less distinctly laid down, for mention is made, and twice repeated, of things occurring "in those days, and in that time", (namely at the destruction of that "Babylon in the land of Chaldea"), which other Scriptures tell us are only to be at the setting up of the kingdom of our Lord, and in perfect harmony with what is also declared in Isaiah.
Can any affirm that the children of Israel are yet seeking the LORD their God with their faces to Zion, and joined in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten (Jer. 50:4-5), after having been devoured by all that found them (verse 7)? Or that the time has yet come when Israel's iniquity has been sought and not found and the remnant pardoned (verse 20)? Yet these things are to be "in those days, and in that time", when Babylon in the land of Chaldea is "destroyed utterly."
The persecutions of the papacy are considered to have been such that Rome alone, as its seat, could be said in any way to realize the declaration in Revelation 18:24, that "in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth", which literal Babylon, of which this is spoken by name, could not have shed from the period at which it ceased to be a city.
Yet in the chapters of Jeremiah to which we have been referring and which speak of a Babylon, not in Italy but in the land of Chaldea, there is a still more distinct declaration regarding its destruction-"as Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth" (51:49), and that too, it will be observed, is when "the heaven and the earth . . . shall sing for Babylon: for the spoilers (of it) are come" (see verse 48).
In accordance with all this, and as to mark still more that the Babylon at the end is Chaldean, Isaiah 47 is also to be regarded, pointing on as it does to the time when "the LORD of hosts . . . the Holy One of Israel" is to be her "Redeemer" (verse 4). Babylon is there addressed, "O daughter of the Chaldeans" (verse 1), and further on (verse 5) "Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms." Cannot this be said to apply to ancient Babylon, with such concomitant events, any more than to its fanciful substitute, modern Rome?
When, too, instead of the gradual destruction which began slowly to waste ancient Babylon away hundreds of years after Darius the Median had taken the kingdom (Dan. 5:31), the lady of the kingdoms is visited "in a moment in one day", "loss of children, and widowhood . . . in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments" (verse 9). To identify this Babylon with the Babylon of the book of the Revelation, it will be seen that the descriptions given of a place bearing the same name perfectly correspond also.
Jeremiah says of the Babylon he refers to, "Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD'S hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad. Babylon is suddenly fallen" etc. (Jer. 51:7-8). This Babylon, be it remembered, is the one so distinctly declared to be "in the land of Chaldea."
John says of her, I saw the woman (afterwards declared to be the great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth) "arrayed in purple and scarlet color (God's liven' in contrast is white and clean being the righteousness of the saints), and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls (all things of this earth), having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness and I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (Rev. 17:4-6).
And further on it is said, "I sit a queen, and am no widow (in contrast to Jerusalem in the absence of her Lord), and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God, Who judgeth her. And the kings of the earth . . . shall bewail her" (18:7-9). How closely does this agree with what Isaiah 47 says of the daughter of the Chaldeans!
But men tell us that John meant all that he said to apply to Rome, whilst Scripture calls it Babylon, without any indication of there being two cities with that name common to both, and whilst one Babylon with which the other is identified, is distinctly and repeatedly declared to be, as we have seen, "in the land of Chaldea."
It is no answer to make to this that that Babylon is at present in ruins by a gradual decay which in no way whatever fulfilled the predicted nature of Babylon's catastrophe. If Babylon be in ruins, so comparatively is the holy city itself where however such building up is yet to be seen to fulfill all that has been spoken of her latter glory. And if it is to be so with Jerusalem, why not also with Babylon in the land of Chaldea?
Who can shut his eyes to the fact, so strongly indicated in all these chapters now referred to, that Babylon herself is the city that "reigneth over the kings of the earth", when as at one day she will be the city of the beast to whom the kings of the earth will give their kingdom (Rev. 17:13)?
The Beast, or Antichrist, is spoken of in reference to this expressly as "the Assyrian" (Isa. 14:25), and also by his proper name called "the king of Babylon" (a word signifying in itself confusion) in one of the most startling descriptions of his destruction given in Scripture (Ezek. 21:21).
"The working of Satan", the "signs and lying wonders", the witchcraft and "sorceries" of the last days (2 Thess. 2:9; Rev. 18:23) are all seen on this occasion in operation as he is advancing from the gathering of Armageddon with the kings of the earth, to make his attempt to possess himself of Jerusalem as the substitute for Babylon,* and appointing "captains for the slaughter."
*(Scripture seems to show that Antichrist's purpose is vengeance and destruction, and his motive is hatred of Israel, more than a desire for a substitute capital for his dominion-Ed.)
It will be borne in mind that in contempt of Him Who had come in His Father's Name, Israel at the end will have chosen him who had come in his own name, many having entered into covenant with him, and here accordingly we see this "king of Babylon" addressed in mockery by the title so sacrilegiously given and assumed-"And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, thus saith the Lord GOD, Remove the diadem (in the original it is, the mitre), and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low (Christ the despised and rejected), and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until He come Whose right it is; and I will give it Him" (Ezek. 21:25-27).
This, be it remembered, is said of the "king of Babylon", the last king, as we have seen, of the Roman earth and of Daniel's image, abusing the kingly power (then mingled with the seed of men-Dan. 2:43) even more outrageously than the first king of Babylon had done. Nay, such has been the antichristianism of this Babylon throughout, that even before a king was given to it at all, we read of its seeking to be independent of God by building a tower whose top might reach unto heaven, to make a name lest they should be scattered abroad (Gen. 11:4).
The last Babylon, more daring still than the first, inasmuch as transgressors will then have come to the full, will have, instead of a tower, a king, saying in his heart, "I will ascend into heaven . . . above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High" (Isa. 14:13-14). "The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded", and it is added, "the LORD scattered them abroad . . . and they left off to build the city" (Gen. 11:5,8). The Lord will come again, "taking vengeance", and Babylon, the "golden city" (Isa. 14:4,23) shall cease for ever. Such is the end of Babylon, the city of Antichrist.
Its destruction seems to be in his absence from it and apparently as he is returning from stretching out his hand on Egypt (Dan. 11:42), it is that the tidings "trouble him" (verse 44). Jeremiah tells us what these tidings were (51:28-32), "for every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant. The mighty men of Babylon have forborn to fight . . . their might hath failed; they became (are become) as women: they have burned her dwelling-places; her bars are broken. One post shall run to meet another, and one messenger to meet another, to shew the king of Babylon that his city is taken."
This cannot apply to any past destruction from the futurity, as we have showed, of the signs which are to accompany that downfall from which it never rises again. It "shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there" (Isa. 13:19-20).
But if the tidings "trouble" him, it is plain from what Daniel goes on to say (Dan. 11:44) that they do not dismay him, for "he shall go forth" (i.e. after the loss of his city, as we have seen) "with great fury to destroy, and utterly make away many", his thought being, as we have shown, to make Jerusalem, God's holy city, his own in place of it. The attempt is met by God's promise to "defend Jerusalem", and it is in the "valley of Decision", under its very walls, that he is "taken" and his remnant slain.
"The stone of which Daniel speaks (2:34) smites the whole Babylonish image on its feet of iron and clay, where it will be observed this last king is found to be. And all is swept away together, the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver and the gold like the chaff of the summer threshing floors with no place found for them any more, whilst the stone which smote all these kingdoms then becomes a great mountain to fill the whole earth (Dan. 2:35) - in other words, becomes the everlasting kingdom which "all dominions shall serve and obey" (Dan. 7:27).
The spirit of Antichrist (the exalting of man into the place of Christ) is shown in this way to have been "working" all through the Babylonish image so destroyed, and hence when "the king of Babylon", the last as well as the first, shall have passed away, John says, "in her (Babylon) was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth" (Rev. 18:24) -even as Jeremiah had previously prophesied of the literal city of the literally last king as well as of the first, "as Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth" (51:49).
We are warned against sharing her sins and her punishment. "Come out of her, My people" (Rev. 18:4) is a word spoken not alone of Rome and the papacy to which men have been limiting it, but out of Babylon and her antichristian system now "already in the world", but then spread over the whole length and breadth of the ten apostate kingdoms in the falling away which is to be "when the transgressors are come to the full." It is they which give their power to the beast who will himself be "the king of Babylon."
How is it to be with us in that day if found partakers of her sins? With tastes, opinions, and habits, such as even now characterize her cities, and with minds preparing more and more to welcome her king, who will openly stand up, as we have seen, against the Prince of princes? Are we setting our affections on a world that is soon to be in still more open revolt, and seeking after its vanities, its maxims, its honours, and its rewards? Are we being taught by it to lean to our understanding, and to disbelieve that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; or that either we or the world need the Saviour Who was sent into it? Are we permitting ourselves to call evil good and good evil, and to think that we may yet find our rest where God has told us we shall not find it (Mic. 2:10)?
If so, let us pause in time, and reflect on this warning, "Come out of her, My people." For already, under every specious disguise, the tendency of all things is toward "the apostasy" and the revelation of the man of sin. People may now be blinding themselves to all this, and giving fair and plausible names to both sins and sinners, but when all the citizens of Babylon appear, like Baal's worshippers, in their true dress and colors (2 Kings 10:20-28), it will be found that they are what Scripture described them to be-dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and lovers and makers of lies (Rev. 22:15) shut out from that bright kingdom into which no defilement enters, and left to dwell for ever in darkness with the devil and his angels.
It does look like presumption to say in the face of such literal words in Holy Writ, that Babylon is not to be the city of the beast, wherever else his helpers and types have been sitting in their different times. As to the rebuilding of its waste places, it is unnecessary to speculate here, as all that could be written on the subject has been so ably stated by another (Mr. B W Newton, author of "Aids to Prophetic Enquiry"), to whom the students of prophetic Scripture are under the deepest obligations for his able defence of its literality. (See also the exposition in "Babylon and Egypt" by Mr. B W Newton-Ed.).
If the title of observation is now remarkably turned to the East, the banks of the Euphrates have already come in for a full share of it, and the practicability and even advantage of it as a route to India has been demonstrated by a government expedition under Colonel Chesney, sent for the purpose of exploring it, and which has been officially reported.
There seems, in fact, no obstacle to a railway even passing along its valley, such an undertaking having been already spoken of as feasible. And if so, what is to prevent its restoration from following? But on this there is little profit in speculating. If prophecies regarding "Babylon in the land of Chaldea" are still (as we have ventured to think) unfulfilled, their accomplishment will yet be seen in due season, as surely as the harvest will be found following the seed-time.