The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2

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CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX: Summing Up the Evidence of Volume II

I. Composite Picture of Post-Reformation Witness

In the comprehensive tabular charts which appear in the next two openings, the principal teachings of the leading post-Reformation expositors are assembled. Their expositions of the various chapters of Daniel and the Revelation appear in logical sequence for comparison and evaluation. These charts are based on the same general scheme followed for the pre-Reformation and Reformation interpreters on pages 156, 157, and 528-531, only having added details. This makes possible rather accurate and highly helpful comparisons. PFF2 783.1

The findings are most revealing. Nothing like a comprehensive pre-Reformation interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation appeared before those of Wyclif and Brute in Britain, late in the fourteenth century. Distinct light on isolated truths of prophecy had, of course, been seen and declared by various men in the twelfth, thirteenth, and early fourteenth centuries. The British expositors built, independently, upon these elemental foundations. PFF2 783.2

Two points stand out as common denominators among the group: first, the Papacy is the predicted Antichrist, under its various prophetic symbols; and second, prophetic time is to be understood on the recognized year-day principle. From the Renaissance onward prophetic exposition began steadily to un fold and expand. The Middle Ages, therefore, mark the gradual recovery of the lost prophetic truths of the church of the early centuries, together with certain advanced positions. This all followed the fifth-century collapse of exposition, and its virtual extinction for five hundred or six hundred years. Now the former lights were burning again, and new lights were being added. PFF2 783.3

In the second era traversed—that of the Reformation—marked advances were made in rapid succession by the great Reformation leaders in various lands and languages. There was steady clarification. Point after point became established. The earlier confusion over the kingdom of God, as the dominant Catholic church on earth, was expressly repudiated. Instead, its establishment at, and through, the second advent of Christ was constantly emphasized. The fact of the 70 weeks, as 490 years extending to Christ’s first advent, had never been lost, but its precise timing now became increasingly clear and accurate. The prophetic time periods of Daniel were practically all held to be on the year-day principle, though the 2300 years—which ex tended the farthest in time—was the haziest, and the last to be included and allocated. PFF2 784.1

The millennium had a particularly hard struggle. First, the Augustinian theory, in revised form—placing the thousand years from the fourth to the fourteenth centuries—still held Christendom in a viselike grip, and along with it went a spiritualized resurrection. Not until the Reformation was far advanced was the millennium wrested from its false medieval position and again placed in the future, introduced by the second advent and the literal resurrection of the righteous. This was re-established by Joseph Mede, and the great majority soon followed his exegesis. PFF2 785.1

The paralleling character of the seven churches, seven seals, and seven trumpets as covering the Christian Era, grew in clarity. The five months of the Saracenic locusts of the fifth trumpet, and the 391 (or 396) years of the Mohammedan Turks of the sixth trumpet, became almost axiomatic, though their time placements differed. PFF2 785.2

The synchronous timing of all the 1260-year periods (whether 1260 days, forty-two months, or three and a half times) became increasingly clear. And improvement is to be noted in locating their chronology. PFF2 786.1

The disruption and confusion regarding the Antichrist and his length of dominance, introduced by the Jesuits at the close of the sixteenth century, simply drove vigorous Protestant expositors to a closer study and sounder exposition of prophecy—except for that small but growing number who were taken in by their plausible schemes. Then came the second attack on the millennium. Whitby placed it in the future, but before the second advent, and likewise spiritualized the resurrection. So now there were three millennial views struggling for position—the Catholic Augustinian teaching, the restored premillennial view, and finally the new popular Whitbyan postmillennial innovation, which was adopted by a growing section of Protestantism. PFF2 786.2

Two special time features should be closely noted: PFF2 787.1

1. The gradual clarification of the problem of the 2300 evening-mornings. From the time of Arnold of Villanova (1297) onward, but particularly from Nicolas Krebs of Cusa (1440), the year-day character of the period was gradually established, in harmony with all other time prophecy. At first no better clue toits timing was had than from the time of the vision, at the very beginning of Persian dominance. Meantime, clarification came on the exact timing of the 70 weeks from the seventh of Artaxerxes, in 457 B.C. This position was advanced in various lands. PFF2 787.2

Finally Tillinghast, in 1654, saw that there was a definite connection between the 70 weeks and the 2300 days. Beverley and others sensed that the larger period dated from Persia. But Petri of Germany (1762) was the first to declare that they begin together, which concept was to mean so much to expositors of the nineteenth century, as will be seen in Volumes III and IV. PFF2 787.3

2. Throughout the century prior to the French Revolution, France’s key place as the “tenth part” of the great papal “city,” Babylon, to fall away from the support of Rome and end the papal dominance, became an increasingly common conviction. And the last decade of the eighteenth century was the time for which men watched, and awaited the events forecast. The climax came when the captivity of the pope, in 1798, was recognized as fulfilling the prophetic specifications of the deadly wound by the sword, but which was destined to be fully healed. PFF2 787.4

The majestic outline of Daniel 7—the four world powers of Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Grecia, and Rome, the ten divisions of the fourth, or Roman, empire, the up-springing of the Papacy among the permanent divisions of Rome, with its persecution of the saints, its attempts upon the appointed times and laws of God, and its blasphemous assumption of titles and prerogatives of God—was now all seen in sharp perspective. Daniel 7 was almost entirely fulfilled. Only the final judgment scenes remained, which were destined soon to become the new focal point of interest and concern—and in definite connection with the specifications of Daniel 8:14, and its cleansing of the sanctuary, whatever that might mean. PFF2 788.1

To this survey should be added the American evidence, appearing in Volume III, pages 252, 253. Then the entire expositional picture for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Old World and New, will be before us. The comparisons and contrasts are interesting. But the fundamental emphasis is identical—the historical sequence of empire, the Antichrist Little Horn, and the year-day nature of all time periods. The same progressive unfolding and the same correction of minor inaccuracies obtain—the same earnest effort to place the 1260-, 1290-, 1335-, and 2300-year periods for Daniel, and the attempt to find the relationship between the 70 weeks and the 2300 years, and between the 1335 and the 2300. The correspondence over the trumpets is impressive in the Revelation, with Pre-Millennialism—and all that it implies and involves—as another common denominator. PFF2 788.2