The Days of These Kings

“In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and … it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” —Daniel 2:44

WHEN the older of those of us who are now genially referred to as senior citizens were dutifully studying our grade school history, a saying was in common usage to the effect that the sun never set on the British flag; for the British Empire was indeed vast and powerful, and her far-flung possessions literally girdled the globe. At the height of her glory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, she was the greatest empire of the ancient and modern worlds in area, population, and material wealth, comprising almost a quarter of the world’s land area and population. In those days of her ascendancy Britannia truly ruled the waves!

But what an astonishing change has occurred in the status of this once powerful nation over the latter decades! India, Burma, Egypt, half of Africa, and most of Ireland lost; Canada, Australia, and New Zealand virtually independent nations, as are a great many other of her former possessions; with the urge to cutting of empire ties aroused in others of her few remaining lands. In referring to an almanac recently for information on the United Kingdom, the index directed the inquirer to look under Britain, unwittingly suggesting that the United Kingdom is not so united as it formerly was! For apart from a diminishing number of scattered but independent members of the commonwealth and some small islands and territories, the once mighty empire has virtually shrunk to what is known as the British Isles, minus, of course, the Republic of Ireland.

But the contraction of the empire has not stopped there, for even in the British Isles themselves, the very heart of the shrunken empire, nationalistic feelings are running high. Even Northern Ireland shows signs of wanting to pull away from Great Britain, in which desire the Protestant majority is joined, surprisingly, by its arch enemy, the Catholic minority; with even Great Britain itself seeming to be not too distressed over the prospect of separation from such a thorny situation.

Shrinking Empires

The Welsh have for centuries been unhappy with their ties to England, and here, too, a trend toward separation is rising. And in Scotland, aiming to hoard their newly found North Sea oil wealth for their own enrichment, the people are turning to the fast growing Nationalist Party which claims the support of one Scot in three in its struggle for separation from England. Whether any of these beginnings of nationalistic unrest will actually culminate in separation from England only time will tell; but they surely seem to be of a piece with what has already occurred in connection with that formerly great empire.

Just a short journey across the water from troubled England we find another once mighty empire coming on hard times. At its peak in the Middle Ages the little nation of Portugal was the greatest empire in the West. Her brilliant and courageous navigators sailed ships to every point of the compass, laying claims to new lands, and taking back to Portugal the wealth of the world. Brazil was discovered and colonized, vast areas of southern Africa annexed, the Madeira Islands and the Azores possessed, trading posts established in Asia.

Over the centuries the political scene in Portugal has never been a tranquil one, her kings and princes being almost constantly embroiled in one problem or another. But at this moment we find Portugal in somewhat the situation that has befallen Great Britain. Torn by economic and political problems at home, her remaining colonies in Africa are well on the way to complete freedom from foreign domination, and the once mighty Portuguese Empire is now struggling for its very survival.

The troubles relating to these two formerly great powers here so briefly mentioned are not unique, or isolated, or inexplicable. They are merely typical of a process of world disintegration that has been in progress for some sixty years—a process triggered by the economic and political convulsions accompanying and following World War I. Since that time events have been moving so rapidly that today’s student of history must be a fast reader, a keen observer, and possess a good memory.

Divine Right of Kings

A glance at a map of the nations of Europe and Asia Minor as they existed just prior to World War I is very instructive. It reveals a philosophy of rulership which had flourished in the world since before the advent of Christ—that kings ruled by divine right. In that important area of the globe, when the First World War started there were four great absolute monarchies: the Hohenzollerns of Germany, the Habsburgs of Austria-Hungary, the Romanoffs of Russia, and the Osmanlis (Ottomans) of the Turkish Empire.

There were also half a dozen other nations ruled over by kings: Spain, Italy, Greece, Serbia, Rumania, and Bulgaria. And finally there was a handful of kings or queens who ruled over most of the rest of Europe under constitutional monarchies: Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Holland, and Belgium. France and Switzerland, alone of all the nations of Europe, were republics.

And all these princes of the realm, regardless of the means by which they might have ascended their respective thrones, leaned on and promoted the doctrine of the divine right of kings to rule, for their own perpetuation in power. Prior to World War I, when Europe was seething with intrigue, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany wrote to his cousin, Nicholas II of Russia, to warn him of the utter impropriety of making an alliance with a nation (France) that in the previous century had murdered or deposed her royal rulers, hinting that it might even bring down divine wrath upon Russia. “Take my word for it, Nicky,” he wrote, “the curse of God lies heavy on that nation. Heaven had imposed a sacred duty … on us Christian kings and emperors to uphold the doctrine of the divine right of kings.”

Nicholas II himself heartily entertained the same opinion. When a foreign diplomat, sensing the temper of the Russian masses during this same unstable period of time prior to the First World War, undertook to offer him friendly counsel, Nicholas loftily replied, “Do you mean that I am to regain the confidence of my people, Ambassador, or that they are to regain my confidence?”

Wealth and Poverty—Power and Discontent

The world over which these princely rulers exercised their sovereign power (more or less despotically, more or less beneficently, from nation to nation) was a mixed one. Among the royal and the aristocratic classes there was much ostentation, much gaiety and display of wealth. Among the masses was much poverty and discontent. And in the very heart of Europe itself, that veritable hodgepodge of races and cultures, periodically cut up and redivided by wars and conquests into uncongenial newer nations with newer boundaries and newer, diverse ethnic groupings, nationalistic resentments and yearnings were coming to a boil.

But sitting precariously on top of all this hollow structure was the grandeur and pretension of the royal courts. Royal heads of state visited amiably back and forth at royal yacht regattas and hunting expeditions, while garden parties and military exhibitions gave opportunity to exhibit the wealth and might and brilliance of royalty—a royalty who were lulled into a false sense of security by their own self-aggrandizement, by their position and wealth—and, of course, by the doctrine of the divine right of kings. There seemed to be no sense of foreboding for the collapse of the great dynastic systems that was so shortly to occur, and which did occur in the space of a few short years with the advent of World War I.

The Demise of the Dynasties

At the close of that war the four great absolute monarchies no longer existed as such. Germany became a republic, Austria became a republic, the Russian royal family was executed, with Russia becoming a dictatorship under the Bolsheviks, while Turkey was declared a republic in 1923. And the remaining lesser kingdoms were in similar disarray: Serbia became a part of Yugoslavia; Romania later became a republic; Bulgaria has become a communist-dominated Peoples Republic; Greece has, much later, become a republic (1973); Italy became a republic in 1948; and Spain has become a republic, or more properly, a dictatorship. There are left of all the pre-1914 kingly governments but a few constitutional monarchies, the rulers of which have hardly more power than to order the chauffeur to bring the royal car to the palace door.

Historian Edmond Taylor writes of this remarkable time, “The monarchies of pre-1914 Europe were rushing to their final extinction for the same reason that the dinosaurs of the Carboniferous Age had waddled to theirs. They had simply ceased to be adapted to their environment. … Revolution or the threat of revolution helped push the decaying European dynasties into war, and war, or the threat of war, touched off new revolutions in a deadly chain-reaction that is still continuing in our day.” (page 43, The Fall of the Dynasties)

Mr. Taylor has accurately reported what has happened and is happening, but there is only one place where we can learn why it happened, and why it occurred when it occurred. For the answers to these questions we must look to the Word of God, the Bible.

The Times of the Gentiles

In Luke 21:24 our Lord is recorded as having used the expression “the times of the Gentiles.” He said, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” As used by Jesus, the times of the Gentiles refers to that period of earth’s history during which the dominion of earth was to be exercised by Gentile governments.

Our Lord’s words “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” imply that these “times” must have a definitely appointed limit, because an unlimited, indefinite period could not be said to be fulfilled. Thus we must conclude that Gentile rule had a beginning, that it would last for a fixed time, and that it would end at the time appointed. And we find that this is so.

But when did this period begin? How long was it to last? And when would it end?

We learn from the Bible that the first to exercise this Gentile dominion was Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. The account is given in the second chapter of the Book of Daniel. “Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all.”—Dan. 2:37,38

Babylon was but the first of several universal kingdoms, to he followed by others which history has identified, in turn, as Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. While God did not approve of or commend these Gentile governments, he permitted their dominion for an appointed time.

“Take Off the Crown”

The nation of Israel was God’s chosen people, and their kingdom was typical of that glorious kingdom of God for which we were taught by our Lord to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Also, the kings of Israel were regarded as sitting on “the throne of the Lord.” (Amos 3:2; Matt. 6:10; I Chron. 29:23; II Chron. 9:8) When, therefore, God determined to let the Gentile kingdoms take control and try the experiment of ruling the world (that thus the world might learn the futility of its own efforts at self-government while in its present sinful condition) it was appropriate that he should first remove the typical crown from Israel, and that the typical kingdom should no longer be recognized.

This occurred in the days of King Zedekiah, the last of Israel’s kings, and the event is recorded in the following words of the prophet: “Thus saith the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low and abase him that is high. 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.”—Ezek. 21:24-27

According to the words of the prophet the crown was taken from Zedekiah, and Jerusalem was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar’s army and laid in ruins, and so remained for seventy years—until the restoration in the first year of Cyrus. (Ezek. 21:25-27; II Chron. 36:21-23) Though Jerusalem was then rebuilt, and the captives returned, Israel has never had another king from that time to the present day. They were subject, as a nation, successively to the Persians, Grecians and Romans, and were living under the yoke of the latter when our Lord’s first advent occurred.

The Beginning of the Gentile Times

Thus we can readily find the date for the beginning of the Gentile Times of dominion; for the first year of the reign of Cyrus is a very clearly fixed date, both secular and religious history placing it at 536 B.C. And if this was the year in which the seventy years of Jerusalem’s desolation ended, it follows that their kingdom was overthrown in 606 B.C. when the crown was removed from Zedekiah. This gives us the date of the beginning of the Times of the Gentiles.

To find the length of the period for which the Gentile dominion was to exist, we again go to the Scriptures. Turning to Leviticus, we find recorded a list of blessings and of cursings, to either of which Israel would be subjected. If Israel would obey God faithfully they would be blessed above other nations; if not, the forewarned evils would befall them. The conclusion of the prophecy is stated thus: “And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more [further] for your sins.”—Lev. 26:17,18,24,29

The connection in which the “seven times more” (additional) are threatened indicates that they include a final and conclusive punishment to be dealt out to Israel because the other and lesser chastisements would have failed to reform them. These seven times therefore refer to the length of time during which the Gentiles would rule over them. And it is to this period of seven times that our Lord undoubtedly referred when speaking of “the times of the Gentiles.” This final great national chastisement lasting for seven times began when their last king, Zedekiah, was removed—the foretold seven times of Gentile dominion.

Literal Years? or Symbolic?

Were these seven times literal or symbolic? Did they refer to seven literal years, or to seven symbolic years, each consisting of 360 days, with each day representing a year? We answer that they were symbolic times, or 2,520 years (seven times 360 years). They cannot be understood as seven literal years, for Israel had many captivities of longer duration. These captivities being far longer than seven literal years shows that symbolic time is meant.

This use in the Scriptures of a symbolic “time” as representing a period of 360 years is shown in the book of Revelation where the period of papacy’s greatest power is designated as a “time, and times, and half a time,” or three-and-a-half times, each consisting of 360 years for a total of 1,260 years. This 1,260-year period began in 539 A.D. with papacy’s assumption of civil power at the time of the overthrow of the Ostrogothic monarch, and it continued until 1799 when Napoleon’s military successes marked the limit of papal dominion over the nations. Thus we have recorded history confirming the fact that a symbolic “time” as used in scripture represents a period of 360 years.

A Scriptural Milestone

It follows, then, that if a scriptural “time” is a period of 360 years, Israel’s seven times of national chastisement would be seven times 360 years, or a period of 2,520 years. And since we found earlier that this period began in 606 B.C. with the overthrow of Israel’s last king, then we see that the period designated by our Lord as “the times of the Gentiles,” or Gentile dominion, would end in 1914.

Thus the Bible points out the year 1914 as marking the end of the dominion that was granted to the Gentile nations, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar in 606 B.C. And since 1914 marked the end of Gentile dominion, it would be proper to expect the kingly governments of earth to be shorn of their power beginning with that date. This, of course, is just what happened, and right on time. Just prior to the beginning of World War I in June, 1914, the great monarchial systems of Europe were still basking in their transient glory; at the close of that terrible war they were in a shambles. And since that time the disintegration that started there has continued, even to this day, as is obvious to all. Their lease of dominion has expired; they are being evicted.

As we noted earlier, historian Taylor has accurately observed that “the monarchies of pre-1914 Europe were rushing to their final extinction … in a deadly chain-reaction that is still continuing in our day.” Mr. Taylor accurately reports what happened, and is still happening. The Bible tells us why it happened. It was because the predetermined dominion of these Gentile nations expired in 1914.

Referring to the specific incident that is generally conceded as having touched off World War I and the ensuing disintegration of the ruling powers (the murder in Sarajevo in June of 1914 of Francis Ferdinand, nephew and heir of Francis Joseph, Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) Taylor writes, “In the expressive Chinese phrase, the dynasty … had lost the Mandate of Heaven (as … most of the other surviving twentieth century dynasties had lost, or were about to lose it, too).” How well Mr. Taylor has stated the matter! And how fully in accord with the teaching of the Bible, which informs us that the Gentile Times have been fulfilled, that the dominion of the Gentile powers has expired.

A New and Righteous Royalty

And what is to be the final outcome of the matter? It will be glorious! After announcing that the Gentile kingdoms would be granted dominion for a period of time that the Bible calls the Times of the Gentiles, the Prophet Daniel says, “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and … it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”—Dan. 2:44

Here we are told that it is the God of heaven who has been directing the destruction of these earthly kingdoms since the lapse of their lease of power in 1914. And when the destruction that is still continuing comes to an end, these imperfect earthly kingdoms will be replaced by a new kingdom, God’s kingdom, under the righteous rulership of a new royal family—under Jesus Christ as the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and his faithful followers, the church, who will be “priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”—Rev. 19:16; 20:6

Yes, this will be a righteous kingdom, and all the world will joyfully receive it. There will be no more poverty, no more oppression, no more sorrow or sighing, no more death. And no more wars! There will be peace, with plenty for all. All this is abundantly assured, for it is the Lord himself who has promised it.

“For they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.”—Micah 4:1-4

Dawn Bible Students Association
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