by Sir Robert Anderson
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The Coming Prince
Sir Robert Anderson
FULLNESS OF THE GENTILES
THE main stream of prophecy runs in the channel of Hebrew history. This indeed
is true of all revelation. Eleven chapters of the Bible suffice to cover the two
thousand years before the call of Abraham, and the rest of the old Testament relates
to the Abrahamic race. If for a while the light of revelation rested on Babylon or
Susa, it was because Jerusalem was desolate, and Judah was in exile. For a time the
Gentile has now gained the foremost place in blessing upon earth; but this is entirely
anomalous, and the normal order of God's dealings with men is again to be restored.
"Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles
be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written."
The Scriptures teem with promises and prophecies in favor of that nation,
not a tithe of which have yet been realized. And while the impassioned poetry in
which so many of the old prophecies are couched is made a pretext for treating them
as hyperbolical descriptions of the blessings of the Gospel, no such plea can be
urged respecting the Epistle to the Romans. Writing to Gentiles, the Apostle of the
Gentiles there reasons the matter out in presence of the facts of the Gentile dispensation.
The natural branches of the race of Israel have been broken off from the olive tree
of earthly privilege and blessing, and, "contrary to nature," the wild
olive branches of Gentile blood have been substituted for them. But in spite of the
warning of the Apostle, we Gentiles have become "wise in our own conceits,"
forgetting that the olive tree whose "root and fatness" we partake of,
is essentially Hebrew, for "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."
1. Romans 11:25, 26. The
coming in of the fullness of the Gentiles must not be confounded with the fulfillment
of the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). The one refers to spiritual blessing,
the other to earthly power. Jerusalem is not to be the capital of a free nation,
independent of Gentile power, until the true Son of David comes to claim the scepter.
The minds of most men are in bondage to the commonplace facts of their experience.
The prophecies of a restored Israel seem to many as incredible as predictions of
the present triumphs of electricity and steam would have appeared to our ancestors
a century ago. While affecting independence in judging thus, the mind is only giving
proof of its own impotence or ignorance. Moreover, the position which the Jews have
held for eighteen centuries is a phenomenon which itself disposes of every seeming
presumption against the fulfillment of these prophecies.
It is not a question of how a false religion like that of Mahomet can maintain an
unbroken front in presence of a true faith; the problem is very different. Not only
in a former age, but in the early days of the present dispensation, the Jews enjoyed
a preference in blessing, which practically amounted almost to a monopoly of Divine
favor. In its infancy the Christian Church was essentially Jewish. The Jews within
its pale were reckoned by thousands, the Gentiles by tens. And yet that same people
afterwards became, and for eighteen centuries have continued to be, more dead to
the influence of the Gospel than any other class of people upon earth. How can "this
mystery," as the Apostle terms it, be accounted for, save as Scripture explains
it, namely, that the era of special grace to Israel closed with the period historically
within the Acts of the Apostles, and that since that crisis of their history "blindness
in part is happened" to them?
But this very word, the truth of which is so clearly proved by public facts, goes
on to declare that this judicial hardening is to continue only "until the fullness
of the Gentiles be come in"; and the inspired Apostle adds, "And so all
Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer,
and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant unto them."
But, it may with reason be demanded, does not this imply merely that Israel
shall be brought within the blessings of the Gospel, not that the Jews shall be blessed
on a principle which is entirely inconsistent with the Gospel? Christianity, as a
system, assumes the fact that in a former age the Jews enjoyed a peculiar place in
2. Romans 11:25, 26. Not
every Israelite, but Israel as a nation (Alford, Gr. Test., in loco).
"Christ was a minister of the circumcision for
the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, and that the Gentiles
might glorify God for His mercy." (Romans 15:8, 9)
But the Jews have lost their vantage-ground through sin, and they now stand upon
the common level of ruined humanity. The Cross has broken down "the middle wall"
which separated them from Gentiles. It has leveled all distinctions. As to guilt
"there is no difference, for all have sinned"; as to mercy "there
is no difference, for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call on
Him." How then, if there be no difference, can God give blessing on a principle
which implies that there is a difference? In a word, the fulfillment of the promises
to Judah is absolutely inconsistent with the distinctive truths of the present dispensation.
This question is one of immense importance, and claims the most earnest consideration.
Nor is it enough to urge that the eleventh chapter of Romans itself supposes that
in this age the Gentile has an advantage, though not a priority, and, therefore,
Israel may enjoy the like privilege hereafter. It is part of the same revelation,
that although grace stoops to the Gentile just where he is, it does not confirm him
in his position as a Gentile, but lifts him out of it and denationalizes
him; for in the Church of this dispensation "there is neither Jew nor Gentile."
Judah's promises, on
the contrary, imply that blessing will reach the Jew as a Jew, not only recognizing
his national position, but confirming him therein.
The conclusion, therefore, is inevitable, that before God can act thus, the special
proclamation of grace in the present dispensation must have ceased, and a new principle
of dealing with mankind must have been inaugurated.
3. Galatians 3:28. Contrast
these with the Lord's words in John 4:22, "Salvation is of the Jews."
But here the difficulties only seem to multiply and grow. For, it may be asked, does
not the dispensation run its course until the return of Christ to earth? How then
can Jews be found at His coming in a place of blessing nationally , akin to
that which they held in a bygone age? All will admit that Scripture seems to teach
that such will be the case. The question still remains whether this be really intended. Does Scripture
speak of any crisis in relation to the earth, to intervene before "the day when
the Son of man shall be revealed"?
No one who diligently seeks the answer to this inquiry can fail to be impressed by
the fact that at first sight some confusion seems to mark the statements of Scripture
with respect to it. Certain passages testify that Christ will return to earth, and
stand once more on that same Olivet on which His feet last rested ere He ascended
to His Father; (Zechariah 14:4; Acts 1:11, 12) and others tell us as plainly that
He will come, not to earth, but to the air above us, and call His people up to meet
Him and be with Him. (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17) These Scriptures again most clearly
prove that it is His believing people who shall be "caught up," (1 Thessalonians
4:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52) leaving the world to run its course to its destined
doom; while other Scriptures as unequivocally teach that it is not His people but
the wicked who are to be weeded out, leaving the righteous "to shine forth in
the kingdom of their Father." (Matthew 13:40-43) And the confusion apparently
increases when we notice that Holy Writ seems sometimes to represent the righteous
who are to be thus blessed as Jews, sometimes as Christians of a dispensation in
which the Jew is cast off by God.
4. In proof of this, appeal
may be made to these very prophecies of Daniel; and later prophecies testify to it
still more plainly, notably the book of Zechariah.
These difficulties admit of only one solution, a solution as satisfactory as it is
simple; namely, that what we term the second advent of Christ is not a single event,
but includes several distinct manifestations. At the first of these He will call
up to Himself the righteous dead, together with His own people then living upon earth.
With this event this special "day of grace" will cease, and God will again
revert to "the covenants" and "the promises," and that people
to whom the covenants and promises belong (Romans 9:4) will once more become the
center of Divine action toward mankind.
Everything that God has promised is within the range of the believer's hope; but this is its near horizon. All things wait on its accomplishment.
Before the return of Christ to earth, many a page of prophecy has yet to be fulfilled,
but not a line of Scripture bars the realization of this the Church's special hope
of His coming to take His people to Himself. Here, then, is the great crisis which
will put a term to the reign of grace, and usher in the destined woes of earth's
fiercest trial "the days of vengeance, that all things
which are written may be fulfilled." (Luke 21:22)
To object that a truth of this magnitude would have been stated with more
dogmatic clearness is to forget the distinction between doctrinal teaching and prophetic
utterance. The truth of the second advent belongs to prophecy, and the statements
of Scripture respecting it are marked by precisely the same characteristics as marked
the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah.
5. "We, according
to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth" (2 Peter 3:13). Long ages
of time and events innumerable must intervene before the realization of this hope,
and yet the believer is looking for it.
"The sufferings of Christ and the glories which should follow" were
foretold in such a way that a superficial reader of the old Scriptures would have
failed to discover that there were to be two advents of Messiah. And even the careful
student, if unversed in the general scheme of prophecy, might have supposed that
the two advents, though morally distinct, should be intimately connected in time.
So is it with the future. Some regard the second advent as a single event; by others
its true character is recognized, but they fail to mark the interval which must separate
its first from its final stage. An intelligent apprehension of the truth respecting
it is essential to the right understanding of unfulfilled prophecy.
6. For an admirable treatise
on these characteristics of prophecy, see Hengstenberg's Christology, Kregel
But having thus clearly fixed these principal landmarks to guide us in the study,
we cannot too strongly deprecate the attempt to fill up the interval with greater
precision than Scripture warrants. There are definite events to be fulfilled, but
no one may dogmatize respecting the time or manner of their fulfillment. No Christian
who estimates aright the appalling weight of suffering and sin which each day that
passes adds to the awful sum of this world's sorrow and guilt, can fail to long that
the end may indeed be near; but let him not forget the great principle t hat
"the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation," (2 Peter 3:15) nor yet the
language of the Psalm, "A thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when
it is past, and as a watch in the night." (Psalm 90:4) Th ere is much
in Scripture which seems to justify the hope that the consummation will not be long
delayed; but, on the other hand, there is not a little to suggest the thought that
before these final scenes shall be enacted, civilization will have returned to its
old home in the east, and, perchance, a restored Babylon shall have become the center
of human progress and of apostate religion.
To maintain that long ages have yet to run their course would be as unwarrantable
as are the predictions so confidently made that all things shall be fulfilled within
the current century. It is only in so far as prophecy is within the seventy weeks
of Daniel that it comes within the range of chronology at all, and Daniel's vision
primarily relates to Judah and Jerusalem.
7. Isaiah 13 appears to
connect the final fall of Babylon with the great day that is coming (comp. Vers.
1, 9, 10, 19.); and in Jeremiah 1 the same event is connected with the future restoration
and union of the two houses of Israel (ver. 20). I make the suggestion, however,
merely as a caveat against the idea that we have certainly reached the last
days of the dispensation. If the history of Christendom should run on for another
thousand years, the delay would not discredit the truth of a single statement in
8. No one of Daniel's visions,
indeed, has a wider scope. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel treat of Israel (or the
ten tribes); but Daniel deals only with Judah.
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