Overland Monthly / OV079 - God's Chosen People (IV. Chastened "Seven Times")
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OV79 IV—Chastened "Seven Times." A Period of 2520 Years
BY C. T. RUSSELL Pastor Brooklyn Tabernacle
WHEN ENTERING into Covenant relationship with the nation of Israel, God of course foreknew that the nation whose fathers courageously shouted "All the Lord our God hath commanded will we do," would really not do those things, but, like the remainder of the world, would be swayed by the forces of sin and the weakness of heredity. Consequently, when setting forth to the chosen people the blessing which the Lord their God would give unto them, if they would be obedient to his Law and walk in his statutes, God also set forth what they might expect in the event of their failure so to do. And incidentally, in connection with the outlining of their punishments for transgression, the Lord prophetically in a hidden and covered manner, supplied information as to how long his chosen people would be under the hand of a chastening providence before being restored to Divine favor. The period of their chastening is told in the expression, "Seven Times." The Lord’s words are: "And if, even with these things, ye will not hearken unto me, then will I give forth correction, Seven Times, for your sins. So will I break your pomp of power and will set your heaven as iron and your land as bronze; and your strength shall be spent in vain and your land shall not yield her increase; and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit. "If, therefore, ye will go in opposition to me, and not be willing to hearken unto me, then will I yet further plague you Seven Times, according to your sins.... And I, even I, will plague you Seven Times, for your sins, and will bring upon you a sword that shall inflict the covenanted avenging....And I, even I, will correct you Seven Times for your sins; and ye shall eat of the flesh of your sons ....And I will give your cities unto desolation, and make your holy places dumb, and I will find no fragrance in your satisfying odour; and I will make the land dumb, and your foes that dwell therein shall regard it with dumb amazement; when even you I scatter among the nations, and make bare, after you, a sword. Then shall your land become an astonishment, and your cities a desolation. Then shall the land be paid her sabbaths, all the days she lieth desolate, while ye are in the land of your foes; then shall the land keep sabbath, and pay off her sabbaths; all the days she lieth desolate shall she keep sabbath—the which she kept not as your sabbaths, while ye dwelt thereupon. For the land shall be left of them.
OV80 and shall be paid her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them. They also accepting as a payment the punishment of their iniquity, because, yea, because my regulations they refused, and my statutes their soul abhorred."—#Le 26:18-46. We have made but a brief quotation from this remarkable prophecy which has been so accurately fulfilled—especially since the time of the rejection of Jesus. However, be it noted that the prophecy distinctly intimates that this Divine disfavor is not to last forever, but to be for "Seven Times." In our next article we will show what their Sabbaths have to do with the matter and how the prophecy of the desolation of the land, the paying of her Sabbaths, has already been fulfilled. Here we want to notice the "Seven Times" or seven symbolic years of chastening—where they began; where they will end; and the fact that they are symbolical and not literal years. Evidently the various translators who have handled these verses have been perplexed, and therefore have caused our Common Version improperly to read Seven Times more.
This could not mean Seven Times more than the sins would deserve, for God would not be thus unjust; neither could it mean Seven Years more, because Israel’s punishments, for sin were not marked off in periods of seven years. As a matter of fact, on account of idolatry, the nation went into captivity to other nations round about some eighteen times, the periods varying from a few months to eighteen years.
Even the captivity which came upon them in the days of Zedekiah, and which lasted for seventy years would not wholly fulfill the spirit of this prophecy. Besides, could we suppose that God would specifically mark out the little captivities, etc., and absolutely ignore Israel’s great period of disaster and desolation of the land and scattering of their people among all nations? The Seven Times here repeated with such emphasis evidently marked the great indignation of God against Israel; and the prophesied restoration of his people to Divine favor is evidently to be at the end of those Seven Times. Then God will remember his Covenant and fulfill all of its gracious provisions. St. Paul foretold this, saying, "Hath God cast away his people?
God forbid!...God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew! ...Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in....For this is my Covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the Gospel they are enemies for your sakes; as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes."—#Ro 11:1-2,25-28.
Note the facts before us:
(1) God foreknew and foretold the rejection of Israel for a time, but not forever.
(2) He declared and reiterated that the period of their rejection would be Seven Times.
(3) Those Seven Times or years cannot be understood literally, because Israel’s rejection has lasted many times seven years.
(4) Whatever period those Seven Times signifies, that period is not yet fulfilled.
(5) There will be two possible places for the beginning of those Seven Times.
Surely it was as far back as the time of the destruction of Jerusalem A.D. 70, following the rejection of Messiah and his message. Yes, it was further back than that event; for at that time they were under the Roman yoke, and even their great King Herod was not a Jew, but an Edomite of the family of Esau. This fact would carry us several centuries further back to the time when the last Jewish King was on the throne. Apparently those "Seven Times" of Israel’s disfavor began with the dethronement of Zedekiah, the last King of Judah.
Take Off the Crown"—"I Will Overturn It.
As a matter of fact, we find that Israel’s Seven Times of disfavor began on that fatal day of which the Prophet wrote respecting their last king, Zedekiah, "O thou profane and wicked prince, whose time has come that iniquity shall have an end; remove the diadem and take off the crown; this shall not be the same! I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it shall be no more; until he come whose right it is, and I will give it him. (#Eze 21:25-27.) "The Seven Times," which began on that day, are due to end October, 1914—Seven Times or seven symbolic years, according to Jewish counting.
OV81 The lunar year of three hundred and sixty days is scripturally used as a symbolic "Time" or year, in which each day represents a year. (#Eze 1:6.) Hence, Seven Times would represent symbolically (7 x 360) 2520 years. We therefore have from this standpoint the Divine prophecy or prediction that God’s disfavor upon his chosen people would last Seven Times, or 2520 years. We have already shown what overturning the crown indicates. We have demonstrated that this period of disfavor began at the dethronement of Zedekiah, the last Jewish king. We have already quoted Ezekiel’s prophecy respecting the incident—that the kingdom would be overturned, overturned, until Messiah would accept it and raise up Israel out of the dust to fulfill to her, and through her to all nations, the glorious things prophesied to Abraham and confirmed to Isaac and to Jacob by the Divine oath—"In thee and in thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."—#Ge 12:3.
Our space forbids that we should enter into the details of the chronology; but those desirous of obtaining it we will be glad to serve, if advised. Briefly, the chronology from Zedekiah’s dethronement runs thus: Captivity to Babylon lasted seventy years; restoration to the land, but not to kingly power and honors, was proclaimed to the Jews A.D. 536 by Cyrus the Persian King. Thus the period from Zedekiah to A.D. 1 was (70 plus 536) 606 yrs. Deduct 606 from the total of 2520 years, and the remainder shows a balance of 1914 years of Israel’s disfavor during the period which we term Anno Domini. In other words, by the full end of the year 1914 (Jewish reckoning, October), Israel’s Seven Times of chastisement and correction from the Almighty will have been fulfilled. Then will begin toward Israel Divine favor, forgiveness of sins, reconciliation to God, uplifting from the dust, and all the New Covenant privileges and blessings declared by Jeremiah (#Jer 31:31.) The terms will be the same as under the Law Covenant instituted by Moses. But the New Covenant will be better for Israel because of its better Mediator—Messiah—The Christ—The Antitype of Moses—Jesus the Head and the Church which is his Body—the Spiritual Seed of Abraham through whom all of God’s blessings are about to come upon the natural seed of Abraham.—#Ga 3:29.
Is it not very wonderful that this period is ending now, and that Zionism is blowing its bugle note around the world, calling upon God’s chosen people to go up and reclaim the promised land and to hope again for Divine favor? It is more than remarkable. It is in keeping with all of God’s dealings with his chosen people. "God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew." "The gifts and callings of God are things he does not repent of." All of his gracious promises which belong to Israel in the flesh must yet be fulfilled to them. True, they are being re-gathered without a knowledge or appreciation of Messiah. But this also is in accord with the Scripture account, which shows that the opening of the eyes of that nation to discern the Redeemer will take place in Jerusalem at the time of their return to considerable prosperity, when they will be in the midst of their final struggle with the Gentiles. Then, says the Prophet, "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and mourn." Then will God pour upon them the spirit of prayer and supplication and acknowledgment of Jesus."—#Zec 12:10.
The Times of the Gentiles.
Now let us look at the subject from a different angle. Let us note that God through Israel’s prophets foretold that the world would be given into the hands of the Gentiles; and that Israel, both natural and spiritual, would be subjugated and more or less oppressed by the Gentiles. And wonderful, too, is the fact that this period of.Gentile domination is likewise stated to be "Seven Times." And the wonder increases when we find that these Gentile "Seven Times" began and will end at exactly the same dates which mark the Jewish "Seven Times" of disfavor. This is certainly remarkable to the extent of being astounding. Yet it should not astound us that the God of all Grace would hide or secrete this information in the Bible until about the time of its accomplishment, and then make it known only to those, both Jews and Gentiles, who have "a hearing ear" and who "hunger and thirst after righteousness."
OV82 Now for the prophecies. King Nebuchadnezzar’s army overturned the Jewish Kingdom in the days of Zedekiah. As the Scriptures show, this overturning was done by Divine decree. The Jewish prophets tell that God gave Nebuchadnezzar permission to control the world, in very much the same language that the commission was first given to Adam. During the time that God’s Kingdom was established in Israel—during the reigns of David and Solomon and others down to Zedekiah’s day—it was the only Kingdom recognized by God in the whole earth. As we read, "Solomon sat upon the throne of Jehovah in (the room or) stead of his father, David." (#1Ch 29:23.) The authorization of Nebuchadnezzar, therefore, paralleled exactly the withdrawal of the Divine favor and the crown from Zedekiah and from Israel, the holy nation. Following this, Nebuchadnezzar’s Government increased and became universal; and it was followed by other Gentile Governments exercising universal power—the Medes and Persians, the Grecians, the Romans. A lease of earthly dominion was made to these Governments, which cover this interim of time from the overthrow of the typical Zedekiah until the establishment of Messiah’s Kingdom in 1915. Two pictures of this period of Gentile domination of the earth are given; first, a picture from the human standpoint; and second, a picture from the Divine standpoint. The view from the human standpoint was given to Nebuchadnezzar by the Lord in a dream which, by Divine power, repeated and interpreted by the Prophet Daniel. (#Da 2:29-45.)
Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a great image representing earthly power during this period known as "the times of the Gentiles." His own Government was represented in the head of gold. The universal empire of the Medes and Persians, which followed Nebuchadnezzar, was symbolized in the arms and breast of silver. The universal rule of Greece under Alexander the Great was symbolized in the belly and thighs of brass. The Roman empire was pictured in the legs of iron. The entire arrangement made it possible that if Israel had accepted Jesus as King, the Messianic Kingdom might have been established there.
But foreseeing that Israel would fail in the day of her visitation, God pictured the extension of Gentile supremacy in the feet of the image, which from iron gradually merged into a combination of iron and clay, dividing into ten toes. The commingling of the iron and clay represented that blending of Church and State known as the Holy Roman Empire. This commingling of civil and religious authority amongst the nations in the exercise of Gentile rule still continues; and to-day we have the division of the nations known as Christendom, Protestant and Catholic, as represented by the toes of the image. The image has stood nearly as long as was Divinely intended—seven symbolic times or years—2520 literal years, expiring in October, 1914. What will happen then? Let the same prophecy continue to tell its story to a consummation. It tells that the glorious image of autocracy and worldly empire, which God has permitted to be in the hands of the Gentiles, will fall a mass of ruins at the end of the Gentile times—in 1915 A.D. It tells that the God of Heaven, who gave over the dominion of earth for "Seven Times" to the Gentile governments of this image, purposes that at the close of those "Seven Times" he will wipe them out of existence. During the period of their domination, under Divine guidance, a Stone has been cut out of the mountain, without human hands, without human authority or power. That stone is the Church of which Jesus is the Head and the Apostle and all the saints of this age of every denomination are members. The cutting of it out will soon be completed. That Stone represents Messiah on the larger plane, Jesus the Head and the Church His body; for we are all members in particular of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. Not until the Church shall have been completed, not until the last member shall have been changed from earthly to heavenly conditions; not until the glorified Christ shall have taken unto himself His great power to reign; and not until the end of Gentile times, will this heavenly power be hurled against the image. It will not strike the image in its head or breast or loins or legs; for these have passed long ago. It will smite the image
OV83 on its feet—its present development—"Christendom" so-called. That impact is prominently noted throughout the Scriptures as "a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation." The Scriptures give vivid pictures of the Gentile Governments in the world, then "the gold, the silver, the brass, the iron and the clay, became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors, and the wind carried them away and no place was found for them.—#Da 2:35. Such is the graphic description given us of the end of Gentile Governments, in which to-day many of us take such pride, and which have their good intentions and good qualities. But these also, be it remembered, were recognized and authorized by God to occupy the seat of Government and to hold in check human affairs—"until he comes whose right the Kingdom is," and to whom it will be given—The Christ—the Head and the Elect Church his members; the Kingdom for which we pray, "Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven"—the Millennial Kingdom, which is to bless all the families of the earth through the channel or medium of Israel—God’s chosen people.
Great Ravenous Beasts.
We have intimated that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great image represented autocracy and world sovereignty from the human viewpoint of grandeur. We now come to examine the same governments as seen from the Divine viewpoint. How different! Now, instead of appearing great, noble and wise, these are pictured as ravenous wild beasts, which tread down and devour the earth. In this picture, which was given to Daniel for himself and for all of God’s people, the symbolisms are these:
(1) Babylonia, the head of the image, is symbolized by a lion;
(2) Medo-Persia, the breast and arms of the image, is symbolized by a bear;
(3) Greece, the belly and thighs of brass in the image, is here symbolized by a leopard;
(4) Rome, the iron legs of the image, is here pictured as a great and terrible beast, for which no name could be found, and the like of which had never been known in the earth before. "It brake in pieces and devoured" everything. Nothing could withstand its power. How wonderful a figure, illustrative of the ferocity which has marked the kings and Governments and wars of these Gentile times!
(5) The feet and toes of the image, representing the Papacy and the commingling of State and Church domination, we find pictured in the ten horns of the terrible beast.
These beasts are to rule the world until the end of Gentile times of world domination, October, 1914, which will also be the end of the Jewish times of Divine disfavor.
Then the dominion will pass from these beasts, and their bodies or organizations as Governments will be given to the burning flame—turned over to destruction. The Prophet pictures the end of Gentile times and the manifestation of the Ancient of Days, whose throne was like a fiery flame and who caused the judgment to sit. It was at that time that the words of the last beast came into judgment—the great words uttered by the horn that had eyes and a mouth and that spake great, swelling words, —claimed by nearly all expositors of the past to represent Papacy and its boast of infallibility, etc. Then the beast was slain—the great and terrible beast, and his body.was given to the burning flames. This is still future and therefore prophetic, and we may not too positively declare how it will be fulfilled. Apparently it signifies the overturn of the civil and religious systems of our day, especially of Europe. It seems to symbolize the destruction of all earthly government and authority. This would mean anarchy, the most terrible curse upon society imaginable. Then it was that Daniel was given a vision of the Son of man in glory, receiving the authority of the dominion of earth. "And there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom that all people, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his Kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." —#Da 7:14.