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Birth of a Reformation | Andrew L. Byers

A Prophetic Time

That many events of the world are foreshadowed in the prophecies of the Bible is something which perhaps the average reader does not pause much to reflect upon. He rather inclines to regard the prophecies as a difficult portion of the Sacred Writings, and in consequence of their being passed by, ignorance generally prevails concerning them. There is nothing inconsistent in the idea that events in the world occur in accordance with prophetic utterance. It does not necessarily give credence to the doctrine of fatalism—that everything which happens must happen. The affairs in man’s life are largely subject to his control. He has a scope of freedom all his own. He can make his own choices and govern his own career. He may do an act or he may not do it. An accident occurs which may have been avoided had more care been exercised. Nevertheless, from this free volitionary scope which belongs to man we may not exclude God’s design; for He does exercise a controlling hand in the affairs of man.

It may be said, however, of the greater things that occur in the world—the trend of public thought, the drift of conditions, the great political upheavals, things which are rather beyond man’s individual control, and which involve mankind as a body and their destiny as a race—these more particularly belong to God and are made the subject of prophetic forecast. God did not create the world and then abandon its processes. He created all things according to design, and we may be assured that He has design in the progress of things as well as in their first creation. Nor will the grand play of the world’s events reach its conclusion without the decree of Him whose prerogative it is to say, “It is enough; time shall no longer be.”

Christ’s coming into the world was freely prophesied hundreds of years in advance of that event. This is so plain that no student of the Bible, unless he means purposely to be infidelic, will dispute the fact. Likewise, the fulfillment of prophecies that went before concerning the Jews and their city Jerusalem is much in evidence.

The events of the world naturally group themselves into periods, or epochs. They are like panoramic scenes that unfold in the theater of the universe. Thus we have the two dispensations separated by the incarnation of Christ, the grandest event in all history. And thus we have, as divisions of the latter dispensation, the event of paganism giving place to the papacy and ushering in a dark day of apostasy, known in history as the Dark Ages; and the Renaissance and the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, ushering in a period of Protestantism, which is also an age of letters and invention.

In the interests of His church and the progress of His truth God has shown in advance in prophetic vision the periods and epochal events covering not only the Christian dispensation, but also a considerable time previous to it. These are for the Bible student, the minister of God, and for all Christians, to know and understand.

There is a prophecy in the 7th chapter of Daniel foreshadowing the four successive world empires—the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian, and Roman—and the papal power that grew out of the Roman. The book of Revelation is but a series of panoramic displays of the events of the entire Christian dispensation and the end of the world.

And so we may expect that, inasmuch as the prophecies served primarily the interests of the church, or the New Testament kingdom, any marked advance for the church, such as the deliverance of the saints from spiritual Babylon, should have its foregleam in the utterance of the seer. In our preceding chapter, Brother Warner has already given quotations from the prophets relating to bringing out a pure church through the preaching of holiness. We wish to show by several other lines of prophecy that this state of the church, as being free from the bondage of human ecclesiasticism and enjoying her primitive glory, marks a distinct prophetic time or period in this evening of the dispensation.

Referring again to the 7th chapter of Daniel, where four successive world kingdoms are represented by the four beasts, we note that special attention is given to the description of the fourth beast, which is the Roman power in its pagan phase. It was a beast “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.”* (Daniel 7:7-8)

Daniel wished to know the truth respecting the little horn that had eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. He beheld that the “same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.”* (Daniel 7:21-22) Now this horn that came up from among the other ten horns was nothing other than the elements of Roman Catholicism, developing into popery. It was the “man of sin,”* (2 Thessalonians 2:3) the product of the substitution of man rule for the Holy Spirit rule, the date for which change historians have fixed at about the year 270 A.D. This horn was to “speak great words against the Most High, and [to] wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.”* (Daniel 7:25-27)

The “time and times and the dividing of time,” marking the period during which the elements of the papacy should have full sway and should wear out the saints of the Most High, etc., are interpreted as three and one half years; a time in prophetic reckoning being one year, times two years, and the dividing of time one half year. Three and one half years would be forty-two months, or, if reduced to days according to the Jewish reckoning of thirty days to the month, twelve hundred and sixty days. Taking each day for a year, which is proper prophetic counting, we have twelve hundred and sixty years, and this added to the year 270 brings us to the year 1530, the date of the beginning of organized Protestantism, and the end of the universal sway of the papacy. Following this, “the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.” Since her universal spiritual supremacy ended, the judgment against Roman Catholicism has gradually proceeded and her political power has waned. “And the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.”* (Daniel 7:22) The saints’ possessing the kingdom is the culminating point in this line of prophecy, and means nothing other than the victory over human ecclesiasticism which the saints now possess.

In the 11th chapter of Revelation we have the wearing out of the saints expressed as treading under foot the holy city, and the time-period of “a time and times and the dividing of time” expressed as “forty and two months.”* (Revelation 11:2) In verse 3 the same time period is expressed as twelve hundred and sixty days. During this time the two witnesses, the Word and the Spirit, prophesy in sackcloth, which represents the low estate to which they were relegated during the dark age of popery. It will be remembered that the twelve hundred and sixty days (years) end with the year 1530. Following this comes three days and a half (three centuries and a half) of Protestantism during which the two witnesses (Word and Spirit) are, in the governmental sense, operatively dead, the organized systems of man rule having usurped the place of divine government and authority which these witnesses originally held. At the end of the three days and a half, three hundred and fifty years (which, added to 1530, brings us to the year 1880) “the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet.”* (Revelation 11:11) They ascended to their place in the ecclesiastical heaven, to the true church, and were thus victorious. This brings us to the present reformation. This is soon followed by the sounding of the seventh angel, which represents the end of time when the “kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever.”* (Revelation 11:15) The curtain drops.

Another scene is presented in the 13th chapter, where the rise of the papacy, or Roman Catholic power, is represented by a leopard beast having the same “mouth speaking great things”* (Revelation 13:5) that appeared in the “little horn”* (Daniel 7:8) of Daniel seven. “And power was given unto him to continue forty and two months,”* (Revelation 13:5) which is the same time period, again, of twelve hundred and sixty years. Following this the period of Protestantism is represented by a beast “coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.”* (Revelation 13:11) The length of the time period of this second beast is here omitted, but the sphere of its activity is succeeded (in chapter 14) by a victorious church, the fall of Babylon, and the present reformation work in which the everlasting gospel, the gospel that really saves, is once more preached “unto them that dwell on the earth.”* (Revelation 14:6) In connection with this also is the judgment which Daniel says is “given to the saints of the Most High”* (Daniel 7:22); that is, the judgment against the false religions of spiritual Babylon.

In the 18th chapter, in connection with Babylon’s fall, we have God’s people called out of her. “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.”* (Revelation 18:4-6) Thus the time is come that “judgment is given to the saints [and] the saints [possess] the kingdom.”* (Daniel 7:22)

Spiritual Babylon represents Rome first, and Protestantism second. In the Critical Commentary by Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, in the comments on Revelation 18:4, we have the following quoted from Hahn in Auberlen: “The harlot is not Rome alone (though she is preeminently so), but every Church that has not Christ’s mind and spirit. False Christendom, divided into very many sects, is truly Babylon, i.e., confusion.” The literal Babylon was an ancient city situated on the Euphrates River. In it God’s people Israel were held captive for seventy years, or until liberated by the Persian king Cyrus. This is used as a figure of the captivity of God’s spiritual Israel in spiritual Babylon. The word Babylon means confusion, and it is fittingly applied to the confused religion as represented by the whole picture of Roman Catholicism and the Protestant sects.

In the 34th chapter of Ezekiel the gathering of God’s people and their deliverance from false relations is represented by a shepherd seeking out his flock and delivering them. “As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.”* (Ezekiel 34:12-14)

The cloudy and dark day of Protestantism, when the light of truth shines, not in its entire brightness, nor yet as entirely obscured, is also referred to in the 14th chapter of Zechariah“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.”* (Zechariah 14:6-7) Thank God, the day of mingled light is past, and we are in the full light of the evening, when the whole truth is once more preached in its fullness, without hypocrisy and without reserve.

Thus we see that the present movement among God’s people toward holiness and unity, out of denominationalism, is prophetically represented as a new epoch for the church.