Article of the Month

August 2014

A HUNDRED YEARS AGO

"The Guns of August"

It was a century ago in 1914 that considerable world-wide attention was focused on the prediction by Bible students that the autumn of 1914 would introduce cataclysmic events.  For nearly forty years prior to that date, sincere students of prophecy had been convinced that an obscure prophecy uttered by Jesus in Luke 21:20-24 would come to pass in 1914.  The fact is that it did.  Some had read more into the prophecy than was warranted.  That is only natural.  But that in no way diminishes the import of the prophecy nor the events which began to transpire at that date.  Secular historians by the droves acknowledge 1914 as a major turning-point in the history of the world.  The first “World War” assured that no one could ignore that something of immense proportions and significance had begun.

—  The Prophecy’s Focus  —

Look closely at Jesus’ words in Luke 21:20-24.  They deal mostly with what would happen only a few short years after his crucifixion.  But the 24th verse predicts a long-term event — the freeing of Jerusalem from the domination (“foot”) of Gentile powers.  In simpler words, Jews would again gain control over their own historic homeland.  Jesus’ words are these:

21:20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand.

21:21 “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city,

21:22 “because these are the days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written [about this event] may be fulfilled.

21:23 “Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people.

21:24 “And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

All who have some awareness of Jewish history know that the land of Israel was under continual control by external empires since King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Israel about six centuries before Christ.  After that time, Israel no longer had kings nor independence.  When we finally come to the days of Jesus, Rome was the controlling empire.  But Jesus’ prophecy was that Jews would, shortly after his crucifixion, be expelled from their land and be driven into exile all over the globe (verse 24).  That did happen after the Roman general, Titus, laid seige on Jerusalem in A.D. 69.  Since that time, Jews have had no nation until recently.  Their experience is commonly called “The Diaspora” — the dispersion of the people out of the land of Israel. That fulfilled Luke 21:20 through the first half of verse 24.

The true focus of the prophecy is that this dispersion of Jews would end because Gentiles would no longer have their “foot” (their controlling domination) on Jerusalem.  Thus this prophecy is ABOUT ISRAEL, not about Gentiles, EXCEPT that taking the Gentile “foot” off of the Holy Land would, of course, cause a major upheaval in world affairs in order to accomplish the eventual independence of Israel.  This would have to be no small event!

—  What Was the Source of Jesus’ Prediction?  —

In Luke 21:22, Jesus said that this Diaspora and its results were “written.”  This means that we should be able to find the prophecy of which he speaks somewhere in the Old Testament writings.  We can.  Jesus was basing his predictions on the prophecy of Leviticus 26.

Leviticus 26 is a rather complete exposition of what was to be Israel’s experience from the days of Moses until the second advent of Messiah.  We will not here present the details of the chapter.  We will merely outline it and see how Jesus’ prophecy is extracted from it.

There are six parts to this chapter of Leviticus:

Verses 1-13   promise Israel spectacular blessings if they are obedient.

Verses 14-17 promise Israel a life of punishments and paranoia if they are disobedient.

Verses 18-28 promise “SEVEN TIMES” of an added specialized punishment if Israel hadn’t learned from the punishments of verse 17.  This “seven times” IS the “Times of the Gentiles” to which Jesus refers in Luke 21:24.  The term refers to the fact that Israel would no longer be independent, but would be perpetually under the controlling “foot” of Gentile nations.  We will see shortly marvelous things about these “times” and how they point to the end of 1914.

Verses 29-33 the eventual DIASPORA to which Jesus refers.

Verses 34-39   describe the Diaspora itself and the miserable fears which Jews would have to endure during the experience.

Verses 40-45 describe the time of returning or regathering which we have witnessed as a part of 20th Century history.  Israel is once again in its land without Gentile domination — ready to become the very center of God’s Kingdom on earth which will spread to bless all the families of the earth.

— Dating the End of the “Times of the Gentiles” —

When Jesus encapsulated the high points of the Leviticus 26 prophecy, he extracted a few major items which we might want to notice.

Leviticus 26:29 predicts that Jews would “eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you shall eat.”  Jesus warns of this in Luke 21:23.  As horrible as this sounds, it is a documented fact that this happened during Titus’ siege of Jerusalem when he sought to starve the inhabitants out of the city by not allowing any food to enter.

In Leviticus 26:30 we see the prediction of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.  This was only one of the things Jesus warned about in Luke 21:22.

The Diaspora itself is predicted in Luke 21:24 based on Leviticus 26:33.

The “desolation” of Jerusalem is seen in Leviticus 26:31, 32, and 35.  Jesus mentions it in Luke 21:20.

But the most exciting part of Jesus’ predictions has to do with TIME — the time when the Gentile “foot” would be removed from Jerusalem so that Jews could return to their own land.  The fulfillment of this we have seen with our own eyes!  Israel is now free of domination.  It is now a Jewish state.  The “times of the Gentiles” have expired.

Jesus drew on the words “SEVEN TIMES” in Leviticus 26:18 to allow us to predict 1914 and to give us the clue as to how to calculate the date BEFORE IT CAME.  When he said, “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled,” he showed us that, indeed, specific and limited “times” were allotted by God for Gentile domination.  Times could not be “FULFILLED” unless they were promised and limited!  

—  The Bible Versus Some Historians  —

Historians do not always concur when they attempt to date certain events.  One famous historian in a very colorful manner, refers to this phenomenon when he says, “History is lies agreed upon.”

We mention this because we are going to mention a date for the time that Israel lost its last king (Ezekiel 21:24-27), and Gentiles began their “times” of domination over the Holy Land.  Not all historians concur on the date.  

One of the best tests to determine which historians are correct is the test of fulfilled prophecy.  When a chronological prophecy is clearly fulfilled, it PROVES which historians’ dates were correct.  This happened, for instance, when Jesus’ first advent came in fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel 9:25. Among other things, this prophecy demonstrated indisputably that a “day” in prophetic time represents a year in actual time.

—  The “Seven Times”  —

A “time” in prophecy is a 360-day year.  Thus we have “Time, times, and a half” in Daniel 7:25, 12:7, and in Revelation 12:14, representing a period of 3-1/2 symbolic years of 360 days each, resulting in 1,260 literal years.  This number is expressed elsewhere as 42 months  (Revelation 11:2 and 13:5).  Forty-two symbolic months of 30 days each also gives us 1,260 literal years of time.

If 3-1/2 “times” or years is 1,260 literal years, then the “SEVEN TIMES” of Leviticus 26 is twice that long — or 2,520 years from the beginning of the domination of Gentiles over Israel until the “times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

It was 606 B.C. when Israel’s last king was dethroned by Nebuchadnezzar.  Thus,  2,520 years later (“seven times” later) brings us to the close of A.D. 1914 (606 years of B.C. time plus 1914 years of A.D. time totals 2,520 years.)  It was on this prophecy that Bible students predicted the worldwide cataclysm we call “World War I.”  And this prediction was made 40 years before the fact.  Among other things, it validates those historians who do acknowledge 606 B.C. as the date of Nebuchadnezzar’s total destruction of Jewish polity.  But, more importantly, it validates Jesus’ prediction that the Gentile “foot” would then be removed from Jerusalem.

As 1914 opened, the Ottoman Empire controlled the Holy Land.  The war totally obliterated that empire and removed Gentile control over Jerusalem.  The British Empire assumed a temporary “protectorate” over the place, but not with the objective of becoming its new ruler.  As the famous Balfour Declaration (made during the war) stated:  “His Majesty’s government views with favor the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in the land of Palestine.”  The “foot” was gone!  The rest is history — and PROPHECY WAS FULFILLED.

—  The Phenomenal Number!  —

God always rewards the faith of those who love His Word and dig deeply into it.  He usually rewards it by giving additional evidences that certain interpretational approaches are correct.  He has done this with this prophecy in at least two ways:

(1)  He has picked a number (2,520) with remarkable mathematical properties.

(2) He has hidden the same number in “The Handwriting on the Wall” found in the account of Daniel 5.

We might call 2,520 the lowest “perfect number.”  By this we mean that all single digits (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) divide into it without remainder.  Additionally, the running totals of those digits also divide into 2,520 without remainder:

1 + 2 = 3 + 3 = 6 + 4 = 10 + 5 = 15 + 6 = 21 + 7 = 28 + 8 = 36 + 9 = 45.

All of the underlined numbers divide without remainder into 2,520.  We might just consider this a nice little numbers trick.  But the point is, God Himself arranged for a confidence-building number for His faithful seekers as they dug to find the meaning of an important prophecy.

—  The “Handwriting on the Wall”  —

In Daniel 5:25-28 we find the account of the overturn of the first Gentile empire (Babylon) to the second Gentile empire (Medo-Persia) which would have its “foot” on Jerusalem.  God used the occasion of Belshazzar’s feast to proclaim again the limits of this Gentile rule.

On the palace wall appeared four words:  MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.  The first three are weights and measures; the last word is a verb.  Daniel gives a true but surface explanation of the words for the benefit of the king.  But hidden in the words is the number 2,520.

The words MENE and TEKEL are Chaldean.  The Hebrew language has as equivalents MINA and SHEKEL.  Both weights  are divisible by a common measure known as a GERAH.  There are 20 gerahs in a shekel; there are 50 shekels in a mina.  The word UPHARSIN is a verb meaning a DIVIDING of the larger.  Thus, in gerahs, we have

MENE = 1,000 gerahs

MENE = 1,000 gerahs

TEKEL = 20 gerahs

UPHARSIN = 500 gerahs

for a total of 2,520 gerahs.  When Daniel interprets the event, he changes UPHARSIN to its past-tense form, PERES, which, in its Hebrew form, was also the word for PERSIANS.  Hence Daniel could also identify the next Gentile “foot” on Jerusalem as being Persia.

—  “The Guns of August”  —

The Guns of August is the title of a well-known history of World War I written by the historian, Barbara Tuchman.  It is one of literally hundreds of books dealing with this famous world-wide upheaval in human history.  We have seen Jesus’ (and Moses’ and Daniel’s) prediction of the event.  We have seen its PRIMARY significance to be a large step in preparing Israel to be a major factor in the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth for which we have prayed so long.

Clearly, the event has ramifications far wider than the effects on Israel.  The old church-state empires were destroyed in that war.  Doctrines like “The Divine Right of Kings” soon became almost humorous.  The world is not the same.  It is falling apart.  But this disintegration of an old order, still progressing, will, in the end, be found to be a major blessing for all the families of the earth.  We sympathize greatly for the pain we all must experience as an old world dies.  But when it is gone, and a new life-giving order takes its place, there will not be so much as one sigh of yearning, no nostalgia, for what we know, deep down, has only been a life of suffering and loss and uncertainty.

“The Gentile Times have ended, for their kings have had their day.  And with them sin and sorrow will forever pass away.”


 

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