“Until He Come”

“Thus saith the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: … it shall be no more, until He come whose right it is; and I will give it Him.” —Ezekiel 21:26,27

DURING the long centuries of human sorrow and suffering referred to in the Bible as a nighttime which is eventually to terminate in a morning of joy, a definite basis of hope for the coming new day was held forth in the promises of God to the patriarch Abraham, and enlarged upon as they were repeated to his descendants by the holy prophets. The promise to Abraham was that through his “seed” “all the families of the earth” were to be blessed.—Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18

In Hebrews 11:10 we read that Abraham “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” A city is used in the Bible to symbolize a government. A city whose builder and maker is God would therefore be the divine kingdom, or government of promise. It is doubtful if Abraham understood all the implications of the wonderful promises God made to him, but evidently he did get the thought that the promised blessing of all people would come through the agencies of a government in which his seed would in some manner have a prominent part.

This thought is borne out in a deathbed prophecy uttered by Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, when he said concerning his son Judah, “Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come: and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Gen. 49:9,10) This prophecy was given while the Hebrew people were in Egypt, where the symbol of the regal right to rule was then a couched lion. The clear implication of the prophecy is, therefore, that from the tribe of Judah there would come a great ruler, one who would establish peace—as implied by the title Shiloh—and fulfill the promises which God had made to Abraham.

Moses was raised up by the Lord to deliver the Hebrew people from Egyptian bondage, and through him the Lord gave the nation his Law. Faithfulness to that Law would have resulted not only in life for the people, but a wonderfully exalted position for the nation. Concerning this the Lord said, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.”—Exod. 19:5,6

This high position to be occupied by Israel as a priestly, or blesser nation was, as the Lord clearly indicated, conditional upon faithfulness to his covenant, and he gave the people every possible opportunity to be faithful, exercising great patience with their waywardness and backslidings. Under the leadership of Joshua, they were taken into the Promised Land, and for several centuries after the death of Joshua, were virtually without a ruler except as God raised up judges to deliver them, when, as a result of their unfaithfulness, they fell prey to the aggressions of the surrounding nations.

Samuel was the last of these judges. While he was filling the office of judge, the Israelites clamored for a king. They wanted to be like the surrounding nations. The Lord yielded to this request, and Saul was anointed by Samuel to be their first king. Saul ruled well for a time, but later proved unfaithful, and David was anointed to succeed him, although he did not do so until the death of Saul.

David was greatly beloved by the Lord, and to him was made a very enduring promise. It was that the right to rule would never be taken from his family—“Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever.” (II Sam. 7:16) Thus was the royal aspect concerning Abraham’s seed which was to bless all nations still further restricted. Not only was the great Ruler to come from the tribe of Judah, but now from the family of David.

The Lord used the kingdom arrangements of Israel to be illustrative, or typical, of the real kingdom which would later be established in the hands of the promised Messiah. Thus we read concerning David’s son Solomon that he “sat on the throne of the Lord as king instead of David his father.” (I Chron. 29:23) This was true of all the successive kings in David’s line. Some of them were faithful to the Lord, and some were not; but regardless, the Lord did not wrest the kingdom from David’s line.

This typical kingdom arrangement continued until the days of King Zedekiah, who was one of several successive wicked kings who occupied the throne of the Lord, and it turned out that he was the last; for it was concerning him that the Lord caused the Prophet Ezekiel to write, “And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end. 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. 21:25-27

There is great finality in the statement, “The day is come, when iniquity shall have an end,” and also an indication that the day which is said to have come had been foretold, and indeed it had. When God entered into covenant relationship with Israel through the Law administered to Moses, he promised to care for them and bless them if they were faithful to him. But he also warned them of dire punishments if they were unfaithful.

One of these warnings is recorded in Leviticus 26:17-28. Here various punishments are mentioned which evidently refer to their periods of captivity to the Moabites, Midianites, Philistines, and others. But after warning of these minor periods of punishment, the Lord declares, “And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.” This seven times of additional punishment is mentioned four times.

It is generally agreed by students of prophecy that each of the times mentioned in this passage is equivalent to a Jewish year of 360 days. In Ezekiel 4:5-8 the Lord lays down a rule for computing these prophetic time measurements in which he says that each day should be counted for a year. Seven periods, or times, of 360 days would be 2,520 days. With each day representing a year, this would be a period of 2,520 years.

If, as our text indicates, this final period of punishment upon Israel began when their last king, Zedekiah, was overthrown, it would mean that not until 2,520 years from then could they expect any marked degree of divine favor leading to their liberation as a people. At the time of Zedekiah’s overthrow, the nation was taken captive to Babylon, and although permitted to return to their own land seventy years later, never did regain national independence. Their kingdom, the typical kingdom of the Lord, had come to an end, and while Ezekiel promised that it was only until he come whose right it is, he explains that even then it would not be the same.

The Royal Majesty Appears

More than six hundred years after the last Jewish king was overthrown, Jesus came. John the Baptist announced his presence, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” A more correct translation reads, “The royal majesty of the heavens has appeared.” (Matt. 3:2, Diaglott) And indeed Jesus was the royal one whom the God of heaven had promised. He was the seed of Abraham. (Gal. 3:16) He was the Shiloh who was to come from the tribe of Judah. He was the seed of David who was to occupy the throne of David forever.—Acts 15:16

Jesus’ disciples had accepted him as the promised Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the great King who was to rule “from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” (Ps. 72:8) They believed that he would establish his government in Judea, and do it right away. We are not to suppose that they understood fully all that the promised kingdom of the Lord would mean to Israel and to the world. Their chief concern at the time was probably the liberation of their nation from bondage to the Roman Empire, for they asked the resurrected Jesus, “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”—that kingdom which was overthrown in the days of Zedekiah.—Acts 1:6

And they seemed warranted in such a hope. Had not the Prophet Ezekiel said that the kingdom had been overthrown merely until he come whose right it is? And was not Jesus this one, the rightful one again to occupy David’s throne? Was note Jesus the one of whom it had been written, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”—Isa. 9:7

Yes, surely, but what his disciples did not at first understand was that his coming to establish his kingdom would be his second advent—a return visit, as it were. Jesus made this clear in a parable. The record is that he spake this parable “because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.” (Luke 19:11) The parable was of a “certain nobleman” who went into a “far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.”—Luke 19:12

The reason Jesus related this parable at that time was because he had just announced to his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem where his enemies were plotting to arrest him and have him put to death. He let them know he expected to die, and was voluntarily allowing himself to be killed. They could not understand this. From their human way of reasoning they wondered how it would be possible for a dead king to establish a powerful kingdom and liberate their nation from its Roman overlords.

But the parable of the certain nobleman evidently helped them somewhat. From it they gathered that Jesus was going away to a far country, and that the kingdom would not become a reality until he returned. To them it meant further waiting, they knew not how long. But, heavy of heart because of deferred hopes, they went to Jesus on the Mount of Olives just a few days before he was crucified, and they asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”—Matt. 24:3

In these questions the Greek word which is translated ‘coming’ literally means ‘presence.’ The word which is translated ‘world’ is aion, which Dr. Strong explains has a specific Jewish meaning of ‘messianic period.’ The Greek word here translated ‘end’ is also interesting. It denotes ‘entire completion.’

So the disciples really asked Jesus, “What shall be the sign of your presence, when, as the nobleman of the parable, you return to establish your kingdom, and what will be the sign that the time has come for the entire completion of the messianic period?” They believed Jesus was the Messiah. They realized there was a purpose for his being with them at the time, but since he was going away and returning later they now knew that the messianic age, or period, would not be entirely completed until then.

Jesus’ answer to these questions is most enlightening. Among the signs he outlined, which would give evidence of his second presence and mark the time for the completion of the messianic purpose of blessing all the families of the earth, was a time of “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” This tribulation, Jesus said, would be so severe that “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.”—Matt. 24:21,22

No one, unless inspired by God, could have foretold so accurately what is facing mankind today, and causing the hearts of the people everywhere to be filled with fear. The possibility of the human race being totally destroyed is now commonly spoken of by men of science, statesmen, and militarists. Luke’s report of Jesus’ reply to the disciples’ question quotes Jesus as saying that there would be upon the earth “distress of nations, with perplexity,” and that “men’s hearts [would be] failing them for fear.”—Luke 21:25,26

“Times of the Gentiles”

Especially significant in Luke’s report of the signs which Jesus outlined to the disciples in answer to their questions pertaining to the time of his second presence and the completion of the messianic purpose, is the statement, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) Jerusalem here stands for the Jewish polity and the people of the nation who were then under bondage to Rome.

They were already being trodden down, that is, they were a subject nation, and had been, as we have seen, for more than six hundred years. Jesus said that this would continue until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. The Greek word translated ‘times’ denotes a fixed period of time. It is undoubtedly that long period of 2,520 years of punishment upon the Jewish nation to which we have already referred. It began with the overthrow of King Zedekiah, which was in 606 B.C., and 2,520 years from then would bring us to A.D. 1914.

Jesus indicated that the end of the times of the Gentiles would bring about a changed status with respect to the Jewish people, and that this would be one of the signs of his presence. It is interesting to note it was as a direct result of the First World War, which began in 1914, that the Jewish people have regained their national independence. They are no longer a people without a homeland, and without an independent government. They are no longer a subject people, trodden down by the Gentiles.

But there is another aspect of Jesus’ prophecy which is equally important—the Gentile aspect. The Jewish nation was to be trodden down until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. This would indicate that the time of Israel’s national subjugation would be a period during which Gentile nations would be permitted to exercise an unhindered rulership, and by God’s ordering. The Apostle Paul said, “The powers that be are ordained [ordered, margin] of God.”—Rom. 13:1

Began with Babylon

Paul evidently based his assertion on a statement which the Prophet Daniel, speaking for the Lord, made to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. It was during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar that Judah’s last king, that wicked prince of Israel, was overthrown and the nation taken captive into Babylon. This Gentile king had a dream in which he saw a humanlike image having a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet and toes of iron and clay mixed. In the dream the king saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. This stone smote the image on its feet, causing it to fall, and grinding it to powder. Then the stone grew until it became a great mountain which filled the whole earth.—Dan. 2:31-45

The Prophet Daniel interpreted the dream for the king. Speaking to Nebuchadnezzar he said, “Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And whosesoever 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. Thou art this head of gold.”—vss. 37,38

Here, then, at the very time that the Jewish nation lost its independence, and to the Gentile king who subjugated the Israelites, God gave dominion to the first of a long line of Gentile rulers, reaching through successive empires until the times of the Gentiles should end. Daniel explained to the king of Babylon that others would arise, as represented by the silver, brass, and iron of the image which he saw in his dream.

Historically, these were Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Then came the divisions of the Roman Empire, as depicted in the toes of the image. Thus the image prophecy reached right down to our own day, to the time of the divided Roman Empire represented in the various states of Europe as governed by hereditary ruling houses prior to the First World War.

Concerning the stone smiting the image on its feet, Daniel said, “Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, … and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” (Dan. 2:35) Babylon as an empire fell when conquered by the Medes and Persians. The Medo-Persian Empire crumbled when overthrown by Greece. Likewise, the Grecian Empire fell when conquered by Rome. Finally, the Roman Empire was broken up into the many states of Europe.

But Daniel declares that the gold, silver, brass, and iron image was broken to pieces together, or at the same time. This denoted that the image was not so much a picture of Gentile kingdoms or governments, as such, but of something which was common to a certain succession of Gentile powers beginning with Babylon in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, and ending in the days of divided Rome. It seems clearly to be that which was stated to Nebuchadnezzar by Daniel “The God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom. … Thou art this head of gold.”

This indicates that Babylon became the head of gold only when the God of heaven gave permission to rule. Babylon existed before this, but not as the head of gold. This same ordering, as Paul describes it, carried through to Babylon’s successors. Its true meaning was understood by Jesus and the apostles, but later it became distorted in meaning, and latterly described as “the divine right of kings.” This divine right of kings philosophy was the ruling authority in Europe until it was destroyed as a result of the First World War. What really happened, beginning in 1914, was aptly described many years ago by Mr. C.A. Lyons, in the London (England) Sunday Express. He said:

“Who, in 1910, would have believed any of the things that have come to pass among the ruling houses of Europe in a few short years? Consider them as they were—the Romanoffs, the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs, the Hohenzollerns. Before the war [the First World War] they seemed entrenched in power and wealth forever. Think of how for centuries they had owned Europe and ruled it—how they had told the world that God had appointed them to rule it. … And yet a series of little puffs of wind that blew soon after they assembled in strength for almost the last time at Edward VII’s funeral in 1910 sent them flying. None of them, it is safe to say, had the slightest inkling of the disasters and adventures that were to befall them and their relatives.”

There are still governments in Europe, but they are no longer upheld by the divine right of kings philosophy. That which was common to all the Gentile governments involved in the symbolic image seen by Nebuchadnezzar in his dream has perished. The rulers of the last remaining ones, as shown in the toes of the image, are either dead or in exile, with the exception of four or five petty ones who exercise no authority in world affairs, and very little in their own small countries. Nominally, Britain’s queen is such by heredity, but aside from certain statements made in the coronation service, the claim is no longer made that she rules by divine right; moreover, the scope of her authority is extremely limited.

It is no coincidence that the same circumstances, and beginning at the same time, which brought the downfall of the divine right of kings, should also lead to the national independence of Israel. Could we have a more definite fulfillment of the sign given by Jesus—“Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”? True, all the promises pertaining to the restoration of Israel are not yet wholly fulfilled, and the Gentile nations are still trying to prevent a complete collapse of their social order; but time prophecies point out merely the beginning of the events to which they apply, not their completion, and what marvelous events have already occurred since the end of the 2,520 years of the times of the Gentiles!

And these events are signs that the consummation of the messianic purpose is at hand, that the King whose right it is to rule Israel and all nations is present. On the one hand, through him are being fulfilled such prophecies as Psalm 2:9, which, referring to Gentile kingdoms, says, “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.” On the other hand, as the one whose right it is to rule for Jehovah, he has fulfilled Ezekiel 20:33,34, in which, in a prophecy concerning dispersed Israel, the Lord says, “Surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you. And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.”

What fury, in the way of persecution, was required to uproot this people from the countries in which they lived, and to cause them to long for and return to the Promised Land? And even now these are, for the most part, indifferent to the Lord and know not what he is doing for them. Thus far, as verses 35-37 of this prophecy state, while they have been brought into their own land, they are still in the wilderness of the people.

Yes, the people of Israel, although no longer a subject nation, are in the same confusion politically and economically as the rest of the world. The fear that fills the hearts of the Gentiles is plaguing them also. But this will not always be so, for the ultimate purpose, the Lord declares, is to bring them into the bond of the covenant.

This is the New Covenant which the Lord has promised to make “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,” a covenant in which he will write his law in their hearts, and in their inward parts. (Jer. 31:31-34) In Romans 11:26,27 the Apostle Paul explains that this covenant will be made when the Deliverer comes out of Sion, and turns away ungodliness from Jacob.

Sion, or Zion, is used in the Scriptures to symbolize the spiritual phase of the messianic kingdom in which Jesus is the chief ruler. “I have set my King [the one whose right it is] on my holy hill of Zion,” declares Jehovah. (Ps. 2:6) In Revelation 14:1, a hundred and forty-four thousand are shown with Jesus on Mount Sion (Greek for Zion). These are his faithful followers of this age. This spiritual ruling company is again pictured in Obadiah 21, where the prophet says that he saw “saviors come up on Mount Zion,” and adds, “The kingdom shall be the Lord’s.”

Already the King of kings is on symbolic Mount Zion. The other rulers and saviors are being assembled there with him. The first to receive the blessings of life through these will be the reassembled Israelites in the Promised Land. From Zion deliverance will come to them, and their ungodliness will be turned away as the New Covenant is made with them.

Then the blessings of life will continue to flow out and expand until all mankind are brought to rest and peace in the Lord, and to an opportunity of everlasting life. As we have seen, this glorious consummation of the messianic purpose is near. Already the preliminary work is in process. The old and selfish works of man are being destroyed. Israel is being assembled and made ready, even though it is in unbelief and amidst great trouble. To use Paul’s language, they are being received, and he says, “What shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead,” for the Hebrew people, and eventually, for all mankind. Let us, then, rejoice that he has come whose right it is to rule, and that of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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