20. General Observations and Conclusions
IN the seventh chapter of Daniel we have one of the most remarkable prophecies of the Bible. It presents a chain of prophecy covering the principal kingdoms of the world for nearly 2,000 years. Babylon, Media, and Persia, Grecia, Rome, and the ten kingdoms into which the latter was divided, were presented to the prophet under the symbols of four great monsters coming up out of the sea. A lion with eagle’s wings, a bear with three ribs in its mouth, a leopard with four heads, and a terrible nondescript beast with ten horns, great iron teeth, and a ferocity unprecedented. This last was presented under two phases, corresponding to the two diverse appearances in which Rome presented itself to the world, Rome ruled by the Caesars as a heathen power, and Rome ruled by the popes as a professedly Christian power. The latter form was to continue until the fires of the judgment day should utterly destroy it.
We have not space to enter into a lengthy exposition of this chapter. Suffice it to say that in our application of these symbols mentioned we agree with the best Protestant expositors; and indeed, we could not give an intelligent exposition of the chapter without taking their positions.
The Four Universal Kingdoms
Verse 23 reads: “Thus he [the angel] said, The forth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth.” Daniel lived in the time of Babylon. The fourth great kingdom from that time could be no other than that of Rome. This power is first presented as a beast with ten horns, and subsequently with three of these “horns plucked up by the roots” and a “little horn” with “eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.” Then the solemn scene of the great judgment day is presented, one like the “Ancient of days God the Father, sitting with myriads of heavenly angels in attendance.” “The judgment was set and the books were opened.” Then he beheld the body of this beast destroyed in the burring flames of the last day. In the explanation of these symbols given by the angel of God, he informs the prophet that these four beasts are “four kings,” or kingdoms, the fourth being Rome. The ten horns, he also says, are “ten kings,” or kingdoms, which are evidently the kingdoms of the Western empire, into which Rome was divided between the years 351 and 483 A.D. These the commentators inform us were the Huns, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks, Vandals, Suevi, Burgundians, Heruli, Anglo-Saxons, and Lombards.
The Triple Crown
“And another shall rise after them, and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall 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.” Verses 24, 25.
There is one ruling power in Europe which wears three crowns in one—a triple crown. No traveler who has ever visited Rome will need to be told who that is. Every statue of a pope in that city (and there are many) wears such a crown. How plainly this ruler has distinguished himself as the power which plucked up three kingdoms! Just before A.D. 538, the kingdoms of the Heruli, Vandals, and Ostrogoths, through the influence of the Catholics, were uprooted, and in that year Justinian, emperor of Eastern Rome, ruling in Constantinople, proclaimed the pope head over all the churches.
From this point the papacy rapidly increased in power and arrogance, till the mightiest kings of Europe trembled before this political and religious ruler. His power was unique. Nothing in history resembles it. Never ruling a large territory as his peculiar kingdom, he still possessed an authority over the heart; and consciences of men which no mortal ever exercised before. He had “eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things,” and a look “more stout than his fellows.” Here is strikingly portrayed that far-seeing sagacity and discernment, and ability to grasp the motives of men, which has held so many millions in thralldom never before equaled. The language also indicates those arrogant pretensions and blasphemous claims never surpassed by any other kind of ruler. His look so stout was indeed clearly presented by a power of endurance through many centuries, which has never been equaled by any other.
“He shall speak great words against the Most High.” Here are pretensions seen nowhere else. He either calls himself, or is called by his votaries, “Lord God the Pope,” “Christ’s Vicar or Vicegerent on earth,” “A very God on earth,” “with power to open and shut heaven at his pleasure,” and “ability to forgive sins,” “even to grant indulgences.”
He “shall wear out the saints of the Most High.” Behold the millions of martyrs whose blood has been shed in crusades, in massacres, in horrible dungeons, torn upon racks, and burned at the stake. This power has caused the death of more people for conscience’ sake than all other political powers together which have ever existed on this earth. Surely this power fulfils the statements of the angel to the prophet. The best-informed Protestant historians have estimated his victims at upwards of fifty million. Kind reader, think of it, nearly as many people as live in these United States of America to day, put to death for religious opinion!
“He Shall Think to Change”
He shall “think to change times and laws,” or “the times and the law,” as it is rendered by many other versions. The late revised version has it “the law.” It was not mere human laws to which the angel referred, but the law of the Most High, the power against which he was warring. He shall speak “great words against God”, “wear out the saints” of God, and undertake (“think himself able,” Dr. Clarke) to change the law of God.
“They shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” This can only mean that he shall seem to have accomplished his purpose of changing the law of God during this period. A time is one year (the ancient year of 360 days); times (plural), twice as much, 720; a dividing of time, half as much, 180; making in all 1260 prophetic, or symbolic, days, each day representing a year. Ezekiel 4:6; Numbers 14:34. He received his power from Justinian, A.D. 538, and retained it until 1798, a period of just 1260 years, when the French Republic captured Rome, and carried the pope into France, where he died in exile. The papacy then received a terrible blow, from which it has not yet fully recovered.
This language plainly implies, even to a certainty, that the law of God would be changed by a blasphemous apostate power. Those who have read the foregoing chapters can hardly fail to see how wonderfully the Roman Catholic power has fulfilled these predictions, by changing the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, and placing the Sun-day of pope and pagan “in its stead.”
“Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day [the coming of Christ] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. . . . For the mystery of iniquity does already work; only he who now lets [restrains now, R.V.] will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked [lawless one, R.V.] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” II Thessalonians 2:3-8.
Here the same blasphemous power is presented which is referred to in the scriptures already considered. He comes to the same end at the great burning day, when Christ comes. There (Daniel 7:25) he speaks great words against the Most High, and attempts to change his law; here he opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God and sits in the temple, i.e. the church, of God, claiming God-like power. He is the “lawless one,” i.e., one who places himself above all law, is amenable to no law. He can do as he pleases.
We know of no other power on earth that claims such prerogatives as the papacy. As we have already seen, the Catholic catechisms and doctrinal books, and eminent authors of that faith, boldly put forth the claim that their church has changed the Sabbath. Indeed, they cite this act as the one above all others which demonstrates their authority, their right to be considered the one infallible church which can command the consciences of men. The fact that the whole religious world follows the practice of the church, with really no other authority for so doing than that of the church, is boldly presented as proof of its power to change the law of God.
Thus we see fulfilled the plain predictions of the Scriptures, that such a power should arise, and should think itself able to change the law of God. And after centuries of effort put forth to accomplish this very object, the power in question stands forth before the world, and boldly claims to have done it. He “exalts himself” in this very way above God himself. Indeed, it seems he could exalt himself above God in no other way. He could not ascend into the heavens, and seize the throne of the Highest. He could not grasp the dominion of the universe, command the forces of nature, or keep the vast machinery of creation in orderly motion. But by really succeeding in making millions of professed Christians, believers in the inspiration of the Bible, accept the memorial of sun-worship in place of the Sabbath of the Lord God, thus seeming to change the law of the Most High, he has indeed “exalted himself” above God, as the apostle declared he would.
There is one question more which we can but briefly notice: Will God permit this power, which was to “think to change” the law of God, to carry through this deception to the very last? or will he bring to light this great iniquity before time closes, so that the truly honest in heart shall understand this work of apostasy before Christ comes? But one answer can reasonably be given to this question: It would be inconsistent and most unreasonable to suppose that God would permit such indignities to be placed upon his law, and never bring to light this work of the man of sin.
There are certain scriptures which plainly indicate that the last and closing work of reformation at the very close of the Christian dispensation, will have reference to this apostasy, and the restoration of the law, as God gave it, to its proper position in the affections and service of the true people of God.
The scripture we have already quoted (Daniel 7:25) strongly intimates this. Speaking of the power which should think to change the law and should oppress God’s people, it states that they should “be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” This period, embracing 1260 years, commencing in A.D. 538 and closing in 1798, brings us to the “time of the end.” The word “until” marks the limit or close of the period during which this power should have supremacy, and the time that the law and people should be given into his hands.
Leading Protestant commentators agree that the power predicted here is the papacy, and the Catholic authorities themselves claim that their church did make a change in the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week. So we conclude that when the 1260 years allotted to that power in which to hold under his control God’s law and people, closed, a change would certainly come. Such a change did come, so far as the power to persecute is concerned. All know the Catholic Church has no longer power to persecute as before. Shall we not, then, for the same reason, look for a great movement to restore God’s law to its former position? So we must conclude from this language.
The “Woman” of Revelation 12
In Revelation 12 we find a most striking prophecy of the Church of Christ, under the symbol of a woman clothed with the light of the sun, and having on her head a crown of twelve stars, who brought forth a man-child “ who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron,” etc. The woman fled into the wilderness from the face of a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, where she was preserved for a period of 1260 prophetic days (or years) from the face of the serpent. The woman symbolizes the true church, which commentators generally admit. The man-child is our Savior, who was “caught up unto God, and to his throne.” The great red dragon symbolizes the Roman power, which stood before the woman “to devour her child as soon as it was born,” in the person of Herod, a Roman governor, who tried to put Jesus to death when he killed all the male children in Bethlehem that were two years old or under.
The reader will notice with peculiar interest the fact that the woman, or true Church, was hidden away in the wilderness from this persecuting power precisely the same length of time that the “little horn” of Daniel 7 was to persecute the Church of God and seem to change his law. That period began A.D. 538, when the last of the three kingdoms was plucked up by the papacy. About the same time the adherents of the true Church, as we have seen, no longer remained in union with the Roman Catholic Church; and they were ever after known as heretics. They hid away in retired places, while the apostate power “exalted himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped,” in the very “temple,” or Church, of God himself. Thus Inspiration represents this wonderful period of human history.
“The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Verse 17. The remnant of the woman’s seed can only be the very last portion of the true Church. For we all know the remnant is what remains at the very last, as a small portion of a web of cloth after the main part is gone, or a few survivors of an army after the greater portion are dead. We are distinctly informed, then, by the words of Inspiration, that the very last portion of the Church are to have a peculiar experience, and are to be marked by certain striking characteristics, which will distinguish them from all others. The dragon, “that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan,” will be “wroth” with them. This can only imply that a vindictive spirit of hatred and persecution will be kindled against them. This must come because of certain great truths and reforms, which Satan hates, that will be accepted and promulgated by the “remnant” Church. As he has always done in the past, he will oppress and harass the defenders of these truths in the last great conflict.
What it Means to Keep the Law
What distinguishes this “remnant” Church? They “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” They are not Jews, but Christians. What is it to “keep the commandments of God?” Is it to keep merely a part of them? “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said [that law which said, margin], Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” James 2:10, 11.
The law of God, embracing the Ten Commandments, contains all the principles of moral duty. To keep that law, we must obey every part of it. In suspending our weight upon a chain, we shall as surely fall if one link breaks as if all broke. It is not enough that we keep part of the precepts of God’s law; we must obey all. The same God that spoke part, spoke all. All stand upon the same authority.
The same reasoning which James applies to the two commandments, “Thou shall not commit adultery,” “and Thou shall not kill,” applies to the fourth command as well: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. . . . The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shall not do any work.” Keeping Sunday never fulfilled that commandment; for as plain as the sun shining at noonday is the fact that Sunday is not the day which God, in this the only Sabbath law, commands men to observe.
Millions have transgressed the fourth commandment, honestly believing they were keeping it. That God mercifully accepted them while they were living up to all the light they had, we will not dispute. So great has been the influence of the “mystery of iniquity” upon the minds of men, that the greater part of the world’s inhabitants have been deceived. The Scripture declares that “all the world wondered after the beast [papacy],” and that “all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him.” Revelation 13:3, 8. This work which the great apostasy has wrought has been a most extensive one; but we truly believe that myriads have honestly thought they were doing God service in keeping Sunday. But that fact does not change the wording or intent of the fourth commandment, nor make God authorize men to keep the first day of the week, when he commands them to keep the seventh.
We may all feel a deep sense of gratitude that we have a God so merciful that he makes allowance for men’s ignorance of his requirements when they live up to all the light he gives them. He said to the Jews: “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19. “If you were blind, you should have no sin; but now you say, We see; therefore your sin remains.” John 9:41. When men honestly seek to live up to all the light they have, and earnestly desire all the light God has for them, they place themselves where God can save them. When men see their duty and will not do it, then their sins stand against them, and they are under condemnation. So we hope for the salvation of multitudes of those who lived in ages of darkness, those whose lives were truly in accordance with all the light they enjoyed.
But we see a positive statement of Inspiration that the “remnant” of the true Church will “keep the commandments of God.” This cannot mean that they will keep merely a part of the commandments, or keep them as changed by the papacy; but that they will keep them as God originally gave them. This is a distinguishing feature of the last generation of Christians living on the earth. This will stir the ire of Satan, and they will have misrepresentations and persecutions to meet, and a bitter spirit of opposition to encounter. So the Scriptures teach.
The Three Angels’ Messages
We also have a plain reference to this same great movement in Revelation 14:6-10. This scripture presents to our view the proclamation of three symbolic messengers, doubtless symbols of movements of those whom God has specially raised up to give important truths in the last days, to prepare a people for Christ’s coming. These must be last-day messages. They are to be proclaimed to “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”
The first message brings us to the “hour of his judgment,” which must denote the preliminary work of judgment which takes place a little before Christ comes. This first proclamation evidently is designed to call special attention to the fact that Christ is soon to come. Such a message has been in process of proclamation for forty years in the past, in the great advent movement especially prominent from 1840-44. It is still being given in every part of the earth.
The second message of warning proclaims the fall of Babylon. There is no great literal city of that name upon the earth. The term must therefore be used as a symbol. The word “Babylon” signifies confusion or mixture, a religious condition where truth and error are mixed together in systems of doctrines partly true and partly false. This must include a large portion of Christendom. The language indicates a state of moral declension in piety and devotion, which will largely prevail throughout the world in the last days; a state of conformity to a worldly standard a lack of that earnestness, among many who have professed the religion of Christ, which was seen in ages past. We think no thoughtful, candid person can deny that we have reached just such a time.
The third message of Revelation 14 reads as follows: “The third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receives the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
Whatever may be the reader’s views of the meaning of this scripture, if he has any reverence for the word of God he must believe that here is brought to view a most solemn and important work. No other threatening in all the Bible is so fearful as this. Some great issue is here to be brought to bear upon mankind. We cannot question the fact that this is a last day message, the very last to be given to the world previous to the time when one “like unto the Son of man” is beheld coming on a white cloud to reap the harvest of the earth.” Revelation 14:14-16. “The harvest is the end of the world.” Matthew 13:39. Christ ascended on high from Olivet, and a cloud received him out of the sight of his disciples. The shining ones who stood by said, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10, 11. We see the prediction fulfilled in the scripture we are noticing, and we therefore conclude that this third message is a special proclamation of some important truth which is to test the world just before the Savior comes the second time.
What is the nature of the work indicated in this warning message? First, it is a threatening against those who worship a power called the “beast;” secondly, it brings to view a people who “keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
The “Beast” of Revelation 13
What is this beast power, against which the terrible threatening is pronounced? It is brought to view in the preceding chapter, Revelation 13. The prophet beheld a beast having seven heads and ten horns, rise out of the sea. His body was like that of a leopard, his feet like those of a bear, and his mouth like that of a lion, and “the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.” He beheld one of his heads wounded to death, but that wound was finally healed. “All the world wondered after the beast,” and “there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.” He had power to make war with the saints and overcome them, and “power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” This beast was finally led into captivity.
The explanation of this symbol is very simple. As the great red dragon of the twelfth chapter, with seven heads and ten horns, symbolizes the Roman power in its pagan form, this symbol of a beast made up of parts of a lion, a bear, and a leopard, can only refer to that power which contained within itself the three kingdoms symbolized by these beasts, viz., Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Grecia. Daniel 7. Rome conquered the territory and subjects of these divisions, and absorbed them, so to speak, into itself. Hence its presentation in the symbol as a composite power. Its seven heads represented the seven different forms of government in which Rome presented itself to the world; viz., kingly, consular, triumvirate, decemvirate, dictatorial, imperial, and papal. The ten horns were the ten kingdoms of the Western empire, into which Rome was divided. It held supremacy, as we have seen, 1260 prophetic days, or years, i.e., 42 months, reckoning each month, as is usual, at thirty days. Rome ruled by the popes received its power, seat (the city of Rome), and great authority from the preceding symbolic form, the dragon, when Justinian, the imperial ruler located in Constantinople, proclaimed the pope head over all the churches, A.D. 538.
This beast received a “deadly wound” in 1798, just 42 months or 1260 days (prophetic) afterward, when the soldiers of the French Republic removed the head, the pope, and carried him into exile, where he died. His government was then destroyed by the creation of a republic in its stead. This “deadly wound was healed” when the pope was restored by the allies in 1814.
The pope has spoken blasphemous words against God in the titles he ascribes to himself; he has “overcome” many millions of the saints of God in crusades, by the Inquisition, the stake, the dungeon. There is no possible way of escaping the conclusion that the leopard beast of Revelation 13 and the little horn of Daniel 7 are identical. Both predictions are wonderfully fulfilled in the papal power.
Now we see the force of the fearful threatening of the third angel of Revelation 14. The time has at last come for God to reckon with this proud, blasphemous, persecuting power, which has dared to change his law, to claim divine prerogatives, and to persecute his saints. God did not choose to do this in the Dark Ages, when not one in a hundred could read or write, when one copy of the Bible would cost hundreds of dollars, and when it was almost impossible to find any copies which the common people could read, very few indeed being written in the language then spoken, but all hidden in the dead Hebrew, Greek, or Latin tongues. But he has waited until the great researches and discoveries of later times have opened up all the world to mankind. Till the earth is one vast network of railroads, and every river, yes, and every ocean, is constantly traversed by the sailboat or steamship. Till men talk to each other by means of the telegraph and telephone from town to town and from country to country. Till the busy printing-presses have scattered the Bible like leaves of autumn, in nearly four hundred languages, to every people, race, and tongue; and until nearly every nation can read and write.
Yes, God reserves this great crisis till all can know his word, if they desire to do so. As it was an age of great light when Christ first came, the Augustan age of poets, philosophers, and statesmen, so God has designed that the last great conflict of truth and error shall come in a special age of light and knowledge. In the time of the end, knowledge shall be increased. Daniel 12:4. God is merciful. He will give all who desire to do so a chance to know his will. Then he sends forth this fearful threatening: “If any man worship the beast . . . he shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.” With an open Bible in every man’s hand, God can consistently threaten those who violate his holy law, and follow longer that apostate power which thinks to change it.
We may now ask, what is the position of God’s true people? “Here are they,” says the third angel, “that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” They keep them as God gave them, and not as an apostate church changed them. And for that work that church is threatened with wrath without mercy. God’s people will be distinguished by obedience to him in this crisis, and will not follow another power. It would be absurd to suppose that when Christ comes he will find his people, who are to be translated alive to heaven, following the work of this wicked power, in disobedience to God’s law. We cannot, therefore, question the fact that the last great reform, the final conflict between truth and error, will be over the law of Jehovah. This issue is reserved as the last great test.
Would any say the issue is an insignificant one? They cannot truthfully do so. God has ever exalted his law as very sacred. He spoke and wrote it himself. Christ magnified it and made it “honorable.” He says, “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law.” In the very last chapter of the Bible, Christ, the Alpha and Omega, declares, “Blessed are they that do his [the Father’s] commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14. The wise man says: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13. He says again, “He that turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” Proverbs 28:9. This law is not abolished by the gospel, for Paul says, some thirty years after the cross of Christ, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law.” Romans 3:31. This law is of universal application. “Now we know that what things so ever the law says, it says to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Romans 3:19. So we might proceed, and fill page after page with just such quotations, showing the immutability of God’s “perfect,” “holy, just, and good,” “spiritual” law. Such are the expressions everywhere to be found in the blessed Bible concerning this law which the Deity promulgated in thunder tones from Sinai’s summit, with a voice that shook the earth.
Oh, no! This great conflict in the last days concerning this law which demands the obedience of every man, the transgression of which is sin, is no light thing. The very foundations of morality and true reverence for God are involved in the conflict. This law will be the main point of the struggle. God’s holy Sabbath, given to man at the creation of the world, kept for thousands of years by his people till changed by the man of sin, will have its proper position in the affections of God’s people, who will be translated at the coming of Christ.
The light is already shining on this subject. The reform connected with the third angel’s message in the restoration of the Bible Sabbath is extending to all parts of the earth. It is published already in the leading languages of the world. Printing offices for its promulgation are to be found in the United States, England, Switzerland, Norway, and Australia. Observers of the true Sabbath are to be found in the United States, Great Britain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, and Rumania, and in some portions of Africa, South America, the Sandwich Islands, Australia, and New Zealand. Its adherents are being rapidly increased by the extensive circulation of publications, and by the active labors of ministers, missionary workers, colporteurs, and canvassers in every part of the globe.
Very recently there has been a wonderful growth of interest in the Sabbath question in all parts of the world. It is becoming a live question: it must and will be heard. We live in an age of investigation, and there is no theological question agitated today more plain or more important than this. Let the good work go on till the hoary error is exposed in all its deformity, and precious, blessed truth shines out clearly to all mankind.