THE FINAL "TIME," AND THE ANGELS OATH.
WE must close this chronological investigation with a brief consideration of one more period mentioned, not in the book of Daniel, but in "the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass."
The greater part of the events predicted in the Apocalypse belong to the second half of the great week of prophecy. The "time, times, and a half" of Daniel reappear in different connexions, measuring various though related episodes in the history of the true Church and of the Papal apostasy. There appears also in this book a new period; one much briefer than any mentioned in Daniel, and especially interesting as commencing in comparatively recent days. We have considered the period of "seven times," and the oft-repeated "three and a half times"; but this period consists of only one "time," one year of years, 360 years; it is the last "time" of the seven, separated from all the rest. It is connected, by contrast, in a very interesting way, with one of the periods in Daniel, as will be perceived by a comparison of the two following passages.
In answer to the question, "How long shall it be to the end of these wonders ?" we read in #Dan 12:7 "And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and a half; and when He shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished." In Revelation we read: "And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: . . . and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth, and . . . lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by Him that liveth for ever and ever, . . . that there should be a time no longer: but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as He hath declared to His servants the prophets."
[The correct reading of the words, "that there shall be time no longer," is, "that there shall not be yet a time." As numerous mundane events are predicted in the context to take place subsequently, it is clear the meaning cannot be that time should at that point give way to eternity. It is a chronological prediction of a definite character. The connexion of the two passages thus becomes clear. To Daniel it is announced that the events which had just been predicted would occupy "time, times, and a half," and that then the restoration of Israel would take place; to John it is announced, after six of the trumpets of judgment had been blown, and had failed to bring a guilty world to repentance, that not one single "time " remained to expire before the "seven times" -"the times of the Gentiles," the time of Israels rejection- should close, and the mystery of God be finished. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil." The long delay of judgment on the apostate Church required this additional reminder that the Lord was not slack concerning His promise, but only long-suffering. The judgment was approaching all the time, and at the period indicated would be comparatively close at hand.]
It is evident that THE SPEAKER in both these cases is the same, and no other than the Son of God Himself. In both cases the SUBJECT of the revelation is the same-the length of time to elapse before the end. In both cases the solemn statements on this point are confirmed by an OATH; and these are the only two cases in which such confirmation of the sacred times is given. In both cases the END is the same, though expressed in different words in the two prophecies. The closing point is defined in Daniel as "when He shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people"; that is, when the dispersion of the Jewish nation under Divine judgment shall reach its termination. It is defined in Revelation by the expression, "the mystery of God shall be finished." The mystery of God is the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles.
[This is gathered from #Rom 11. and #Eph 3., where the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles is described as the mystery "which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel." That an age of gospel grace to the Gentile world was to intervene between Israels rejection and Israels restoration was a fact not understood by the Jews, and first plainly proclaimed in the ministry of the Apostle Paul. When the close of this Gentile age arrives, and the restoration of Israel to her ancient position on earth takes place, then this "mystery of God" will be finished.]
Both expressions point therefore to the close of "the times of the Gentiles"; and the statement of the angel is that when the point in history symbolised by this vision was reached, the end would then be within a single "time."
Now interpreters of the historic school are agreed that the vision in connexion with which this chronological prediction occurs (#Rev 10 and #Rev 11.) is a vision symbolising the great Protestant Reformation movement in the sixteenth century. This is not the place to present the evidence of the truth of this interpretation; we take it for granted here, simply remarking that it is gathered from its position in the series of visions, between the sixth and seventh trumpets, as well as from its own marked and unmistakable symbols. They represent a notable intervention of Christ Himself on behalf of His true Church at the height and climax of the great apostasy; a second giving of the Scriptures to the world; and a second commission to His servants to evangelize all nations-the establishment and outward organization of a reformed Church, the resurrection to life and elevation to political power of the faithful witnessing Churches who had been destroyed by Papal tyranny. It includes therefore all the phases of the Reformation: the rediscovery by Luther and by others of the great doctrines of the Christian faith; their testimony to Christ and to the fulness of His grace and truth, and their testimony against antichrist and the fulness of his assumptions and corruptions; their evangelistic work and their Protestant work. It includes also the final establishment of Protestantism; and the severance of the reformed nations from Latin Christendom. The period covered lies in the earlier part of the sixteenth century, one of the most remarkable centuries in human history, and the most momentous, since the Christian era, in the history of the worlds redemption.
The Reformation movement, from which this final "time" of prophecy is to be measured, is commonly regarded as extending from A.D. 1517 to A.D. 1555; that is, from the year when Luther first openly attacked the Papacy by posting on the doors of the church in Wittenberg his celebrated theses, to the year of that PEACE or AUGSBURG, which recognised the civil and religious rights of the Protestants of Germany and their complete independence of the popes.
But the vision seems to include an earlier incident than the first of these. The reformers had to receive the truth before they could proclaim it; the eating of the little book had to precede the prophesying to all nations. Luthers conversion, and his reception of the doctrine of justification by faith, was in reality the source and first incident of the Reformation. His spiritual enlightenment extended over several years, but the "decisive epoch in the inward life of Luther" would seem to have been when for the third time the words, "The just shall live by faith," resounded in his soul as he was creeping on his knees up Pilates Staircase at Rome, in the year
1510. [ Merle DAubigne, "History of the Reformation," vol. i., p. 209. ]
It was at this time also that he was appointed a preacher, and actually entered on his reformation of the Church by teaching the true gospel doctrines that had been so long corrupted. It would seem therefore as if the opening events of this vision dated back at least to the year 1510; and as it also includes the Papal war against the faithful witnesses, up to the point of their elevation to the political heaven, or to the establishment of Protestantism-up to the point at which the accompanying earthquake, or revolution in Papal Europe, severed "the tenth part" from the "city," or one of the ten kingdoms from Latin Christendom, it seems proper to consider the era as extending at any rate to 1563, when the Reformation was completed in England, and when the anti-Reformation Council of Trent closed its sittings. The fifty-three years from AD. 1510 to A.D. 1563 included all the main stages of the Reformation movement. The enlightenment and conversion of the great reformer himself; the publication of the Greek Testament, of Erasmus in 1516, of Luthers theses at Wittenberg in 1517, and of his treatise "On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church"; together with his burning of the Papal bull of excommunication in 1520; followed the next year by the Diet of Worms and Luthers captivity in the Wartburg, where his German translation of the Bible was made; the presentation of the celebrated protest (from which the reformers gained the name of Protestants) to the Diet of Spires in 1529; the Confession of Augsburg in 1530, and the formation in the following year of the Protestant League of Smalcald for mutual defence against Popish attacks; the publication of Luthers Bible in 1534, with the abolition of Papal supremacy in England in the same year; the national establishment of the Protestant Church in Saxony in 1539, the religious Peace of Augsburg in 1555, and in addition the various persecutions of Protestants all over Europe; the numerous sessions of the Council of Trent; the foundation and early activities of the order of the Jesuits and of the inquisition; down to the close of the Council of Trent, by which council Romes utter refusal of all reform was published and proclaimed in the most definite and formal manner.
Among all these critical dates, and others which we might indicate, are we to select any one as the starting-point of this final "time"? Probably not. Probably here, as in all the other cases we have studied, it is to an era rather than to a year that the angelic oath refers. That era lies from A.D. 1510 to A.D. 1563, and the corresponding era at the close of a full " time" lies between the years 1870 and
1923. It reaches therefore to the notable era in which other prophetic periods also expire-from the year of the fall of the temporal power of the papacy-to the yet future date, 1923, to which we have been pointed before by several previously considered prophetic periods. This is surely strong confirmation of the entire system. From events of a character widely different to any we have noted previously,-from comparatively recent days,-we measure this brief period; and, lo! it extends to the very same years indicated as terminal by long periods of twenty-five centuries, running back to the far away ages of ancient history. The close of the Reformation movement proper is given in chronological works as the "Peace of Augsburg," 1555. The final " time" from that date runs out in 1915, the first terminal year indicated by the "seven times" solar from Nebuchadnezzars conquest of Jehoiakim; while, measured from the close of the Council of Trent, it expires in 1923, as do the "seven times" measured from the principal date of the captivity era, the fall of Jehoiachin. No date in the actual Reformation era properly so called leads us further than this; and as the angelic oath so solemnly declares that "there shall not be yet a time," we seem forbidden to expect that the mystery of God will extend beyond this date, and we are not authorized to assume that it will extend up to this date. This fact confirms the impression created by others which we have previously indicated, that the close of "seven times" from the first and second crises of Nebuchadnezzars overthrow of Judah indicates crises of greater importance than the close of the period as measured from the third and final crisis, the fall of Zedekiah. Yet we may note in passing that the "time" measured from the massacre of Saint Bartholomew leads to 1932, the end of "seven times" as measured from Zedekiah. That massacre, however, was an incident, not of the Reformation era, but of the period which extended from the Peace of Augsburg to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, and even up to the Peace of Ryswick in 1697, and must be regarded as an entirely distinct episode from the Reformation itself. The following diagram presents a conspectus of the final "time," as measured from these principal dates of the Reformation era.
A.D. +360 years = A.D. 1510 1870 1517 1877 1529 1889 1555 1915 1563 1923 1572 1932
The year 1889 will be a full " time" from the presentation of THE PROTEST which has given their name to the reformed Churches, a protest by which they nailed to the mast their glorious colours, "the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible" (April 20th, 1529). The Lutheran Confession of Faith was presented to the Diet of Augsburg in the following year, and the "Confession of Augsburg" was formulated in 1532, when the Emperor Charles V. was obliged to grant a formal decree of toleration to the Protestants. It was a pregnant and portentous era, and events followed each other in rapid succession. It must be regarded as a whole, as the half century in which the spiritual Israel returned in detachments from her Babylonish captivity.
And it is interesting to note that just as there was associated with the earlier return the gift of the chronological prophecy of the "seventy weeks," to measure the interval to the first advent, so is there associated with this Reformation vision a similar prophecy measuring the interval to the end of "the mystery of God," at the second advent,- to the end of "the times of the Gentiles,"-the establishment of the manifested and glorious kingdom of God.
We have already, since 1870, passed seventeen years of the terminal fifty of this final " time," which according to the prophecy is not destined to run its full course.