We have now traced evidences of the prophetic gift through nearly six thousand years of time. The first four thousand years of this long period are covered by the Biblical record, during the latter half of which the Bible itself was written by well-recognized prophets and apostle-prophets. From their inspired writings we have made a survey of the manifestations of the gift of prophecy from the time of its bestowal upon Adam, on to the time of the apostle John, himself one of the greatest of the prophets. His death closes the Biblical record of this gracious gift.
For information regarding the manifestation of the prophetic gift since apostolic times, we have been compelled to delve into the history of the Christian church in its march through the centuries. After examining the history of this period, we have likewise given a report of our findings. In the writings of devout men who lived in the early centuries of the Christian era, we found convincing testimony that the gift of prophecy, together with other spiritual gifts imparted to the church by our Lord, continued in the church for at least two centuries after the death of the apostles. These records likewise indicate clearly and unmistakably the tragedy of gradual yet steady departure from the high spiritual standards of the apostolic church. By the middle of the fourth century this falling away, foretold by the apostle Paul, had become so serious that the church had lost, to a considerable degree, these precious spiritual gifts.
We have duly noted various groups of loyal, protesting followers of Christ who from this time on separated themselves from the dominant, worldly church. We have stressed the fact that strange, fanatical, heretical groups are not to be confused with these defenders of truth who formed new church affiliations, with new names. Such separations have continued through the centuries down to the present time. It is among certain groups of these separatists that we have found much of the evidence of
spiritual gifts, bestowed as seemed best to the divine Giver. Of this, Dr. A. J. Gordon says:
Whenever we find a revival of primitive faith and apostolic simplicity there we find a profession of the chaste and evangelical miracles which characterized the apostolic age. These attend the cradle of every spiritual reformation, as they did the birth of the church herself. Waldenses, Moravians, Huguenots, Covenanters, Friends, Baptists, and Methodists all have their record of them.The Ministry of Healing, pp. 64, 65.
In the preceding chapters we have traced the history of these loyal, protesting, reforming bodies of Christians. Among these were some whom the testimony of history represents as endowed with the spiritual gifts that marked the apostolic age, manifest to a varying extent. We have now been brought down to the opening of the nineteenth century.
So profound have been the changes in our world since that time, that students of history almost universally recognize it as marking the beginning of a new era. Not alone in the political, economical, and social realms, but in the religious world as well, have been seen tremendous revolutions and far-reaching changes. To the student of prophecy, all these trends of modern times are peculiarly significant, for they characterize a period of time incomparable in human history and divine provision, and all are foretold by numerous Bible writers.
The prophet Daniel has given us a remarkable series of outlines of secular and religious history through the centuries, all foreknown and foretold, in the providence of God, and each culminating with the approaching close of human history and the beginning of the eternal reign of Christ. In the last chapter of his book are found the words of an angel from heaven who reveals to the prophet certain outstanding events closely connected with, and immediately preceding, the return of Christ. He says:
At that time shall Michael stand up, the great Prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such
as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.
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.
And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days. Dan. 12:1-4, 9, 13.
Here are phrases of solemn import to the inhabitants of earth,the time of the end, the end, the end of the days.
It should be observed that the time of the end, here referred to twice, is not to be confused with the end of time. Rather, it is a period of preparation for that mighty climax called the end. In the period here spoken of as the time of the end are to be found conditions and events on earth that will prepare for, and usher in, the end. That we are now living in this momentous era, which began a little more than a century ago, is the conviction of a multitude of devout Christians. The fitness of such a conclusion is seen by comparing the characteristics of our day with significant statements made by the inspired writers of prophecy.
It is evident that we have reached the perilous times foretold and described by the apostle Paul, as marking the last days, when grievous sins were to be found, not only in a pleasure-mad world, but even among those who have a form of godliness. (See 2 Tim. 3:1-5.)
In the growing abandonment by the popular churches of some of the fundamental Christian verities, how strikingly do we see the fulfillment of the Spirit's express declaration that in the
latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils! 1 Tim. 4:1.
The class struggle that is sorely perplexing the statesmanship of the world today is graphically portrayed in the book of James, in a brief but remarkable passage which foretells the miseries of the rich who have heaped treasure together in the last days. (See James 5:1-8, A. R. V.)
This time of the end is characterized by great national and international trouble, which is to swell into a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation. Dan. 12:1.
Among the many striking signs of the coming of Christ to be witnessed by those living on the earth in this momentous period prior to that great event, we note the following cluster of signs, foretold by the Master Himself:
Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
Great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
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. Luke 21:10, 11, 25, 26.
During this time the prophecies of the seven seals and the seven trumpets, portrayed in the book of Revelation, are to culminate. Of the opening of the sixth seal, it is said:
Lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth . And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Revelation 6:12-14.
After delineating great wars that mark the overthrow of Rome and the conquests of Saracens and Turks,included in symbols under the sounding of the first six trumpets,the revelator declares that a message is due, which will affirm that
There should be time no longer: but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery [the gospel] of God should be finished, as He hath declared to His servants the prophets. Revelation 10:6, 7.
The period to which we here allude, the time of the end, is also noteworthy because of its marking the termination of the two longest time periods of Bible prophecy. The first of these is referred to both by Daniel and by John. It is spoken of variously, but identically, as a time and times and the dividing of time (Dan. 7:25); a time, times, and an half (Dan. 12:7); a thousand two hundred and threescore days (Rev. 12:6); a time, and times, and half a time (Rev. 12:14); and forty and two months (Rev. 13:5).
The basis upon which this prophetic period is reckoned involves, of course, the recognized principle that the prophetic day represents a literal year in fulfillment. This is clearly indicated by a prophet contemporary with Daniel. (See Ezekiel 4:6.) A time is equivalent to a year, consisting, according to Jewish reckoning, of twelve thirty-day months. Thus three and a half times, or years, is, in fulfillment, precisely the same as forty-two months, that is, 1260 prophetic days, or literal years.
A study of the statements regarding this prophetic period of 1260 years shows that it is the time during which the power typified by the little horn on the fourth beast (Dan. 7:8)a symbol of Romeis to have supremacy, especially as a persecutor of the saints of God, who are to be given into his hand, for this specified period (verse 25). In the twelfth chapter of Revelation, the church, under the symbol of a woman, is represented as fleeing from the wrath of the dragon (Satan). In the chapter following, the persecuting beast is said to have power to continue forty and two months. Rev. 12:6; 13:5.
It is generally understood by Protestant commentators that the little horn of Daniel 7 and the leopardlike beast of Revelation 13, find a striking fulfillment in the rise and work of the papacy, during the period of its domination. But the singular
characteristic of the papacy that marked her career of oppression was the union of the apostate Christian church and the Roman state. When that union was effected, with foreign, hindering influence removed, her dominance was assured. She was then able to use the arms of the secular power against those whom she condemned as heretics. As her union with, and control of, political governments was gradually broken toward the end of her period of dominance, so her power to control the consciences of men, and to persecute her opponents, likewise waned, until she was again brought into subjection by a foreign power.
Therefore, in determining the dates for the beginning and ending of the 1260 years allotted to her in prophecy, we should look for the events that mark the beginning and the ending of her union with the civil government,first with the Roman Empire, and, later, with those kingdoms of Europe that supplanted Rome. The accepted date for the beginning of this period is 538 A. D., for it marks the culmination of a series of events that effected such a union of church and state and such freedom from foreign, Arian restriction as made her mistress of Europe. Justinian, the Roman emperor, having personally recognized the Bishop of Rome as the head of all the churches, had actually used the arms of the empire to put down the last of certain powers regarded by the Bishop of Rome as unorthodox because of their Arian beliefs. The date 1798, exactly 1260 years later, strikingly marks the close of another series of events that so completely alienated the papacy from the civil government of Europe that in that year her ecclesiastical chief was violently taken captive by the French army, and carried a prisoner away from Rome.
This termination of the period of papal ascendancy was marked by the growth of general civil and religious liberty, thus making possible great activity on the part of God's people. It resulted in a great missionary program, which in itself is also a fulfillment of the words of Jesus: This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Matt. 24:14.
The second great prophetic period terminating in this time of the end, is that found in Daniel 8:14, wherein we read that unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. The evidence that the cleansing of the sanctuary refers to the judgment work in heaven, and that this long period of prophetic time began in 457 B. C. and ended in 1844, will be given in later chapters. Suffice it to say here that the ending of this period is marked by the beginnings of a great religious movement on earth, as well as by the entrance of our great High Priest upon the closing phase of His ministry in the great antitypical sanctuary in heaven.
It is in this time of the end that there is to be proclaimed in all parts of earth the great threefold message of Revelation 14:6-14, with its solemn announcement that the time has come for the hour of God's judgment, its pronouncement of the fall of Babylon, and its warning against the worship of the beast and his image. Under the proclamation of this triple message throughout the world there is to be gathered out a people who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus,a people thus prepared for the coming of the Son of man on the white cloud to reap the harvest of the earth. The harvest, says Jesus, is the end of the world. Matt. 13:39.
All the great events and world conditions heretofore listed, and others that space forbids mentioning, are last-day events and conditions. They are momentous and vital. They are related to the finishing of the gospel, and they are all to occur during the time of the end. This being true, the time of the end, the time in which we are living, is surely the most momentous and the most dreadful in all the history of mankind.
It must not be forgotten that the church of Christ is vitally related to all these great events. She is deeply involved in the serious conditions that develop day by day. The present is, therefore, a time of peril, of perplexity, and of unparalleled need for the church. Grave responsibilities rest upon the people of
God in this hour. They are in sore need of special help from their great Head, the living Christ.
This help has, moreover, been abundantly provided by the Lord, and in this abundant provision of help there is given a promise of the renewal of the operation of the prophetic gift.
Note the clear, positive statements of the prophet Joel: It shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28. That the afterward in this prophecy refers to the last days is made clear in Peter's use of this scripture in Acts 2:17: It shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh.
Here is clearly a most definite promise of a renewal of the prophetic gift to the church in the last days. Irrespective of earlier applications, it would include the literally last period of the church. Indeed, it is more than a promise of a renewalit is rather a promise of a special, marked impartation of the gift of prophecy in this eventful period.
That this prophecy includes the last days of human history, and the last period of the church of Christ, is evident from the statements that follow what has been cited before: I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come. Acts 2: 19, 20.
How could language be plainer, and promise be more positive? There is coming, and coming soon, a great and notable day of the Lord. The days leading up to that great day will be the last days. During those days there will appear striking signs of the approach of the great and notable day. In connection with those signs, there will be the manifestation of the prophetic gift in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. Joel 2:32. As a remnant is the last part, the remnant church must be
the last period of the church of Christ on earth. Through that church the Lord has promised to make Himself known in visions and dreams.
The same assurance is found in the writings of the apostleprophet John, who in vision on the barren, rocky island of Patmos, saw the remnant church. He says:
The dragon was wroth with the woman [symbol of the church], and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Rev. 12:17.
This entire twelfth chapter of Revelation is devoted to the history of the church of God in her conflict with her mortal enemy, the devil. At the close of the conflict, it is the remnant church that is involved, and this remnant is to be marked by the testimony of Jesus Christ, which is plainly defined elsewhere as the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10.
It is evident, therefore, that this wonderful gift has been especially promised to the remnant church for guidance and correction in her great work in the closing drama of the world's history. The Scriptures plainly teach that the church will be deeply involved in the perils of the last days, and will be in sore need of this divine guidance.
When the day of the Lord, and the coming of Christ with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30) is nigh at hand, the remnant church is to give warning, to sound an alarm to all the world. Joel 2:1.
It is through the remnant church that the angel seen by John in prophetic vision is to teach to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people the everlasting gospel, and, in view of the arrival of the hour of His judgment, is to entreat the inhabitants of earth to worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. Rev. 14:6, 7.
It is in the days when darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people, that the glory of the Lord is to rest
upon His church, when the Gentiles shall come to her light, and kings to the brightness of her rising. (See Isaiah 60:2, 3.)
Surely we should conclude that at such a time and for such a task, God will equip His church with divine power, and furnish them with every facility for witnessing for Him. We have seen that the prophetic gift has been manifested in the church of God in preceding ages. But never has the need been greater than at this time. The enemy of all righteousness, knowing that his time is short, is to work with all deceivableness of unrighteousness. The church is called to a superhuman task. The prophetic word testifies that the remnant church should be especially blessed with the gift of prophecy, and we are glad to present the evidence, in the closing section of this volume, that God has fulfilled His word, and has granted in this time of the end the most remarkable manifestation of the prophetic gift since apostolic times.
For a better understanding of the appearance and
manifestation of this gift in this period of the history of the church, it will
be necessary to develop a picture of a great movement that occurred about the
middle of the last century,a movement and a spiritual awakening which
prepared the way for God to choose an instrument as His mouthpiece, through
whom to give counsel and instruction to His church, urging them to holy living,
and guiding them in their final task of preaching the gospel of the
kingdom in all the world.