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ninth chapters, there is described, under the names of Gog and Magog, some grand assault upon the Christian Church by the enemies of the truth, which will meet with a signal overthrow; and in conclusion, from the fortieth chapter inclusive to the end of the book, under the figurative description of the measuring of the temple and the division of the holy land, and the vision of waters in the forty-seventh chapter, (which, as we have seen, can only be understood in a spiritual sense,) is probably described a peaceful and flourishing state of the Church to the end of all things.
It must be admitted, however, that, for many ages after its delivery, and probably till the spreading of the Christian religion had thrown some light over the subject, the object and intent of this prophecy must have been involved in great obscurity. Let us, however, compare it with some of the parallel prophecies, to which allusion has been already made.
In the sixty-sixth chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah, (verses 15, 16,) a great destruction of God's enemies is foretold : and this follows the general conversion of the Jews and Gentiles, which forms the great subject of the prophecy of Isaiah, from the fortieth chapter inclusive to the end of the book ;interspersed, indeed, with allusions to such a triumphant state of religion, as it is scarcely possible for us to look forward to in this world'.
Parallel to this appears to be the prophecy of the destruction of God's enemies in the valley of Jehoshaphat, which is described by Joel, (chap. iii. 2, 9–16); which destruction, we know, will be subsequent to the general conversion of the Gentiles, which is foretold in the close of the second chapter, (ii. 28—32); and of the Jews, which is the subject of the opening of the third chapter, (iii. 1): and this will be followed by a peaceful and prosperous state of the Church; which is described in the close of the same chapter, and also by Isaiah in the conclusion of his prophecy, (chap. lxvi. 19—24). In the same manner, a similar destruction of God's enemies is foretold by Zechariah (chap. xiv. 1-2, 12—15), which is subsequent to the conversion of the Jews"; and this will, in like manner, be followed by a peaceful and flourishing state of the Church, (xiv. 16–21): and similar to these are the events which appear to be alluded to by Daniel, in the close of the eleventh and the beginning of the twelfth chapter? We may therefore probably conclude, from a comparison of these different prophecies, that the present existing state of things will be followed by a general, or at least a considerable conversion of the Gentile nations ;—that this, again, will be followed by the overthrow of the great antichristian powers and the conversion of the Jews; and probably, as we may collect from a comparison of the different passages of Scripture relating to this subject, their restoration to their own land" ;—that to this will succeed a prosperous state of the Christian Church ;—that this time of peace and prosperity will be again followed by a general attack of the anti-christian powers on the Church ; which will, in
1 Compare 1x. 18-20; lxv. 17–25; and Lxvi.
2 Compare Zech. xii. 9—14, xiii. 1, 2.
3 Dan. xi. 40_45, xii. 1; and compare particularly chap. xii. 7.
4 This does appear to be implied
their turn, experience a signal overthrow?: after which we may look forward to a peaceful state of religion “till the time of the end.”
This appears to be the general view of the progress of events in the Christian Church, as it may be collected from a comparison of these different prophecies. But with regard to the particular periods, when all these different events will be accomplished, and many other interesting particulars connected with them, we can form no positive judgment: nay, it is expressly declared that they are “ sealed up” and concealed from our knowledge at present; and we are commanded to wait for their full developement in God's own time with patient faith and expectation With regard however to the general tenor of these prophecies, we may be satisfied from the assurance both of St Paul and of our Redeemer himself, that “blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in,” and that “ Jerusalem must be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled 4.” But the events foretold are so important, and they are so intimately connected with the patient exercise of our faith in the promises of God, that we may reasonably look to some more complete developement of them under some subsequent dispensation of prophecy, such as that which is contained in the Apocalypse; in which those parts, which are at present involved in obscurity, will be made more clear; and the course of events, which may lead to these important results, will be more fully explained and foretold.
3 Rom. xi. 25.
I See W'. Lowth's note on Isai.
2 Dan, xii. 8_13.
This is perfectly consistent with the general analogy of prophecy; of which it is one peculiar characteristic, that the older and more obscure prophecies are often elucidated by later and more explicit revelations. It is a general characteristic of those prophecies, which relate to the first coming of our Saviour and the bringing in of the Christian dispensation, that they grow more clear as they advance towards the period of their accomplishment. We may therefore reasonably expect, with respect to those prophecies which regard the more distant events of the Christian dispensation, that the want of distinctness, which must necessarily belong to the older prophecies, would be made more clear by subsequent revelations ; revelations, which would be better appreciated and more clearly understood, when the first objects of the former prophecies were accomplished by the promulgation of the Gospel, and the appearance of those great anti-christian powers; of which the destruction, (though, until explained by further revelations, the subject is involved in considerable obscurity,) constitutes so important a feature in ancient prophecy.
(3) Another remark, which may be made with respect to the ancient prophecies, relates to the impossibility, with respect to many of them, of fixing the exact period of their commencement and their termination. There are some prophecies, for instance, those relating to the Babylonish captivity, of which the commencement is dated from different periods”; and which therefore imply more than one termination. There are others, again, of which the fulfilment is gradual, and of which therefore, the exact period of their commencement can never be exactly defined. But it is also true of other prophecies, which may be said to be of a more definite character; of which the prophecy of our Saviour's coming, which is contained in the weeks of Daniel, affords a remarkable instance. This prophecy, if any, may be said to mark out a definite period of accomplishment. Yet notwithstanding all the evidence of its fulfilment about the time predicted, who can presume to fix the exact period of its commencement? or to place beyond all doubt the difficulties which attend the interpretation of the close of this prophecy? Still less then, may we expect to fix the exact period, either of the commencement or the termination of other prophecies, which embrace a much longer period, and in which the true nature and character of the events foretold are involved in much greater difficulty; such as the periods of 1260, 1290, and 1335 days of the prophet Daniel'.
5 See W. Lowth on Jerem. xxv. 11, and Zech. i. 12.
With regard to these prophecies, the prophet himself was assured by the Divine Author of them, that they were “closed up and sealed unto the time of the end”;" and he was enjoined by the same supreme authority to wait in faith and patience for their accomplishment. “Go thy way, till the end be: for thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot at the end of the days?" With regard to the general character of the events involved in these different periods, we may collect it from a consideration of the prophecies which contain them: but with regard to the particular period, as well as the mode of their accomplishment, it is evident that they are hidden, as they were intended to be, in impenetrable darkness.
1 Dan, xii. 7, 11, 12.
Ib. xii, 9.
3 Ib. xii. 13.