The Signs of the Times.
by Henry Varley
Indications of the Near Approach of the Crisis Predicted by the Prophets.
WHAT would you think of a sea captain out on the ocean who, if you ask him to tell you his latitude and longitude, and when he expected to reach the port, should answer you, "I don't know." You certainly would not feel much confidence in his fitness for his position. And so our Master expects us to know the signs of our times.
All human time is measured by divine institutions; a week by the Sabbath: a month by the moon: a year by the sun, and the earth's revolution around it. And so God has given us the definite measurement of the plan of the ages in His Word, and has furnished us with material for understanding our bearings, and knowing enough of the development of His purpose to be ever ready for His will.
And yet how very few have any intelligent conception of the momentous times in which we are living! How very few rich men there are, especially, who seem interested in the Lord's personal coming! It is not a very pleasant thought for the man of great wealth, if he is much interested in it. The man who has a small millennium on Fifth Avenue (New York City) is not likely to be looking for the great millennium which Jesus is to bring.
In the twenty-sixth chapter of Leviticus, God has given to us a sketch of Israel's history down to our own times. This was given in the year 1490 before Christ, and it is very wonderful that God should thus, early in the history of his people, forecast their future. In that passage, He says four times, that if Israel will not obey Him, seven times of judgment will pass over their heads. Now, every intelligent student of prophecy knows that "a time" means a definite period of 360 days or years. In literal chronology, it is days; in symbolical chronology, a day represents a year.
Later in the ages, in the Book of Daniel chapter nine, this prophecy is referred to by Daniel as having been fulfilled, and Israel's troubles are recognized as having come upon them, in accordance with God's eternal Word: and in another passage, in the fourth chapter of Daniel, the same series of times is distinctly recognized in connection with Nebuchadnezzar, the head of the Gentile kingdoms.
The certainty of prophetic dates has been fully established by the fact that the first coming of our Lord was predicted by Daniel with the utmost definiteness, and not only did he come exactly at the time that Daniel indicated, but it has been shown by Mr. Guinness, that he was crucified on the very day that prophecy had foretold. If His first coming was thus definitely foreshadowed, and thus true to the prophetic picture, why may we not as certainly expect that it will be as true of his second advent?
We know where we are on the stream of time, and while to the world that day will come as a thief, but to those who are looking for Him it will be so fully indicated that they shall be ready and waiting as a bride for the appointed day, and shall meet Him with joy and glorious expectation.
The Master Himself has given us an outlook of the ages, in His Own Words to His disciples, in the twenty-first chapter of Luke, twenty-third and twenty-fourth verses. He tells us, Jerusalem will fall with great slaughter, and her sons and daughters will be carried captive unto all nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled. This is simply an anticipation of history. All this has come to pass, and our own eyes behold its fulfillment. In the year 34, our Lord uttered these prophecies, and in the year 64, Titus, the Roman Emperor, came and cast a trench around about the city as Christ had said, and in the year 70, the city fell.
Sixty generations have passed since then, and we still find them a separated people, dwelling among the nations as strangers and aliens. The Anglo-Saxons who come to America become Americans; the Germans who come to America become Americans; but the sons of Israel never mingle with other people, or cease to be their own unique, peculiar race. Jerusalem is still trodden down of the Gentiles, and will be till the Lord Himself comes.
The Master said that Jerusalem should be trodden down until the times ot the Gentiles were fulfilled, and it is trodden down still. And all the wars of all the ages have failed to rescue the Holy City permanently from the hands of her enemies. The ruler of Jerusalem to-day (1894) is the Sultan of Turkey, who is the great ruler of the Mahommedan races. Nothing can lift the heel of the Gentile from the neck of Zion but the coming of her King.
When did the "times of the Gentiles" begin? With the days of Nebuchadnezzar. There are two comings of Nebuchadnezzar to carry away the Jews and tread down Jerusalem. The first was in the year 610, the second the year 605 before Christ. Then the "times of the Gentiles" began to take the place of the "times of Israel," and since that time, the Gentiles have been supreme.
We have already seen that according to Leviticus XXVI, Israel was to have seven times of judgment, and the Gentiles seven times of supremacy. Now, a time consists of 360 years. Seven times would be 2,520 years, and measuring this interval from the times of Nebuchadnezzar, would bring us to a period less than one-fourth of a century in the future. So that if the chronology of prophecy be worth anything, we know where we are in the panorama of the ages. We are very near to the last sands in the hour glass of the dispensation.
If I was sailing on a ship that was due in Sydney in forty days, I should be justified in concluding when the thirty-ninth day had come, that we must be near the land; and although I might see no shore-line, or mountain-peak, yet I might confidently say, "We shall see the land-marks soon, for the time is expired."
I am not a Democrat, but a Theocrat. I thank God that the time is near when there shall be no more Presidents of the United States, no more Kings or Queens in Great Britain, no more Emperors of all the Russians, but Christ will be King of kings.
The stone of Daniel's vision is about to fall, not on the feet, but on the head of the great earthly powers, and dash it in pieces, as a potter's vessel. There will be a chance for the world then. If ever a set of governments wanted smashing up, it is true of the governments of today. We are not going to do it; anarchists and revolutionists are not going to do it. But Christ is going to take the matter in hand Himself, and that right soon.
Do not say the Holy Ghost is competent for the world's conversion. The Holy Ghost is competent for any work that the Lord has set Him to do. But the Holy Ghost was never sent to convert the world. The Holy Ghost is to gather the Bride out of the nations, and when the Bridegroom comes, every knee shall bow to Him.
Christ never said that the world would receive the Holy Ghost, but, on the contrary, He said, "Him the world will not receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him." The Church receives the Spirit, and when the Church is completed, the Lord will come.
I want you to notice the remarkable passage in 1 Timothy 4, "Which in His times He shall show." This blessed truth of the Lord's coming is not understood until the time draws near. But it is in His times that He is to show it, and He is now beginning to show it, and the fact that He is so doing, is one of the most remarkable signs of the times. God is opening the eyes of His people to understand the vision of prophecy as never before, and in a little while, He Himself will meet the expectation which He has awakened, and come in all the glory of His kingdom, and then the will of God will be done in earth as it is in Heaven.
What is it that makes Heaven? The fact that there is only one will there. The supremacy of God is the only source of Heaven, and earth will never be like Heaven until Christ is supreme.
An address delivered in the Gospel Tabernacle, New York City, 1894.