Times and Signs—Part 10

“The Time of the End”

“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” —Daniel 12:4

DANIEL’S prophecy was written while, together with his people, he was an exile in Babylon. From a material standpoint, Daniel did not suffer as many of his countrymen doubtless did, yet the fact that the people of Israel were deprived of their national independence and were held as captives in a foreign land, brought pain to Daniel’s heart, as well as to all the Israelites who shared the captivity with him. The visions given to Daniel by the Lord during this time revealed that further suffering was coming upon the Lord’s people, and while he did not understand the details involved, he earnestly desired to know when the end of these things would be.

It is in this context of inquiry on the part of Daniel, that we find the expression, “time of the end,” denoting not “the” end, but a period of time during which certain events would culminate, marking the full end of the reign of evil and of evil domination of the earth by Satan. This, in turn, would mean the full deliverance of Daniel’s people, the Lord’s people, and would mark the time when righteousness would triumph in the earth. It was the assurance that there would be this end of oppression and evil that Daniel was seeking, and although he did not understand much concerning the answers the Lord gave to him, this was because the vision was sealed until the time of the end, when it would be given to the ‘wise’ to understand.—Dan. 12:8-10

The ‘end’, which according to the prophecies, was finally to be reached in the ‘time of the end’, is mentioned in Daniel 7:25,26. We quote, “He shall speak great words against the Most High and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.” In the twenty-eighth verse, Daniel was also told, “Hitherto is the end of the matter.”

In our previous study we found that the reference in this prophecy is to the great Antichrist system. It was this system that wore out the saints of the Most High. This, as the prophecy explains, was to continue until “a time and times and the dividing of time.” We have also previously noted that this time measurement began in A.D. 539, and ended in A.D. 1799. It was then that the dominion of this Antichrist system was taken away, as the prophecy mentions.

But, as we know, this did not immediately result in the full destruction of the system. Rather, it was merely the beginning of its downfall. As the prophecy explains, it was to be ‘consumed’ and ‘destroyed’ ‘until the end’, the final end, that is, of the ‘time of the end’. So far as we know, there are no prophecies in the Bible which inform us when this final end will be, but one of the events which will mark it will be the complete destruction of Antichrist.

The taking away of the Antichrist’s dominion in 1799 is definitely established in history, so we are furnished with a firm date from which to reckon other time prophecies relative to the time of the end. Since the prophetic length of Antichrist’s reign was to be 1,260 years, this gives us its definite starting date as A.D. 539. This is confirmed by history. But the date A.D. 539 can be considered definitely established by the prophecy itself, and therefore from this date we reckon two other time measurements given us in the twelfth chapter of Daniel.

The 1,260 year period is mentioned in verse seven. The Antichrist was the “abomination that maketh desolate” which was “set up” at the beginning of the 1,260 symbolic “days,” or A.D. 539. Verse eleven explains that from this date there would be a period of 1,290 years, at the conclusion of which many would be purified, made white, and tried, and the further information is given that “none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.” (vs. 10) Reckoning 1,290 years from A.D. 539 brings us to A.D. 1829.

This was to mark the beginning of a time of purification. As we have previously emphasized, generally speaking, the time prophecies of the Bible pinpoint the small beginnings of the events to which they refer. So here we should not expect to find anything except a beginning of circumstances that would lead to purification, and this we do. And we can recognize this only in the light of the series of events with which it is associated: namely, the rise and fall of the Antichrist.

The Encyclopedia Britannica, in an article under the caption, “Millennium,” explains that the Early Church believed in the return of Christ and the setting up of a worldwide kingdom which would rule over mankind for a thousand years. It further explains that beginning about A.D. 150, the church began to set up its own institution to which the preaching of the second coming of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom would be detrimental. So this teaching of the prophets, of Jesus, and of the apostles, was gradually set aside. By the time the Antichrist came into power in A.D. 539 it had been completely abolished as unorthodox.

And thus it remained throughout the entire reign of the Antichrist. Even the Reformers, such as Luther, and others did not revive this basic teaching of the Word of God. Instead, they formed their own church-state governments which they hailed as the kingdom of Christ. Thus it was that throughout all those centuries the teaching and hope that Christ would return and establish a kingdom was completely lost so far as the rank and file of church membership was concerned.

It was about A.D. 1829 when, under the leadership of William Miller, interest in the second coming of Christ was revived. The real purpose of his return was not then understood; but that he would return, and soon, was widely proclaimed and enthusiastically believed by thousands. This was an important beginning in the cleansing from the defiling and desolating doctrines of the Antichrist. After all, it was essential first to believe that Christ would return in order to progress in the understanding of the manner and glorious purpose of his coming.

There was considerable disappointment on the part of those associated with what is known as the Miller Movement. Due to an incorrect understanding of time prophecy they erred in setting the date for the return of Christ. But many of them clung to their confidence in the prophecies which gave assurance that Christ would return. Out of this continuance of faith on the part of the earnest Bible students among them, there developed the Advent Movement. Our own Brother Charles Taze Russell became associated with these students, and together with a number of them, earnestly searched the Scriptures for a more complete understanding of the plans and purposes of God as they relate to the second advent of Christ.

This sequence of events marking progress from dense darkness into the full blaze of light pertaining to the return of Christ and the setting up of his kingdom seems to be pointed out in the twelfth chapter of Daniel. Immediately following the reference to the 1,290 days, or years, Daniel was told, “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred five and thirty days.” (vs. 12) Obviously this time measurement would also begin with A.D. 539.

There was a beginning of purification at the close of the 1,290 days, but there was also disappointment. Further waiting was necessary. Many did not wait. Some gave up their faith. The majority were satisfied merely to continue on with what had been learned, more or less closing their minds to further light; but not all. And, as the promise is, blessed would be those who waited—waited until the end of the 1,335 days, or years. This measurement marks the date, A.D. 1874.

The emphasis this prophecy places upon the blessedness to be enjoyed by the faithful watchers at the close of the thousand three hundred five and thirty days, would indicate that the main event for which the Lord’s people previously had been watching and waiting would then actually take place, that the days of waiting would be over, that then the Lord would return. There is ample scriptural reason to believe that this is actually what did occur, and that it was and is the blessedness of this assurance to which the prophecy refers.

In Luke 12:37 we read, “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” Seemingly the same blessedness is here referred to as mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy, and in Jesus’ prophecy it clearly pertains to the great joy to be experienced by his people when they realized that he had returned, and that the meat or truth in due season which was given to them in such satisfying portions was being served by their returned Lord.

Further details of the blessedness enjoyed by the watchers at the close of the thousand three hundred five and thirty days are given in Article 3 of this series. Here we are merely calling attention to the fact that the return of Christ and the joy experienced by those who are privileged to partake of the meat in due season which he is serving are among the events foretold for the time of the end. Indeed, the return of Christ is the principal event of this prophetic period.

Increase of Knowledge

The twelfth chapter of Daniel reveals that certain events due to transpire in the time of the end were to be experienced by mankind in general. Thus, in verse four we read of a great increase of knowledge, and of much running to and fro. These predictions are having a phenomenal fulfillment since the beginning of the time of the end in A.D. 1799. Practically every aspect of life has been changed by this foretold increase of knowledge.

Prior to the turn of the nineteenth century, the people lived essentially as they had throughout all the past ages. The printing press had been invented, but its impact on human thinking and behavior had scarcely begun to affect the masses prior to that time. Almost none of the modern inventions were as yet workable. But since that time industry, farming, commerce, communication, travel, lighting, and heating, have all been revolutionized. In all history there has never been so short a time in which so much happened as in this time of the end.

Verse one of this significant twelfth chapter of Daniel forecasts a “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” It results from the ‘standing up’ of “Michael.” Michael is one of the titles the Bible assigns to the glorified Jesus at the time of his return. His coming is a time of blessedness to the faithful watchers among the Lord’s people, and eventually will bring joy to all mankind. But to begin with, the world experiences a time of trouble as a result of his standing up, or exercising authority over the nations.

So this time of trouble is another of the events of the time of the end. It is the increase of knowledge which contributes largely to this time of trouble. Man, in his selfishness, is incapable of using this knowledge wisely, with the result that today the human race stands in fear of self-destruction, so terrible has the time of trouble already become. Jesus quoted this prophecy of coming trouble upon the nations, and applied it to the time of his return and second presence. He used the word ‘tribulation’, and said it would be so great that unless it was cut short no flesh would be saved. (Matt. 24:21,22) How accurately this is already being fulfilled.

Here, then, is further confirmation that we have already reached the point in the time of the end when our Lord has returned and brought blessedness to his people, and when the foretold increase of knowledge and time of trouble are vivid realities. This should bring joy to the hearts of all believers, for it means that soon the great Antichrist system will be completely destroyed, and the true kingdom of Christ established and reigning for the blessing of all the families of the earth.

That will be the fulfillment of the longings of Daniel’s heart. The Lord said to him, “At that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” (Dan. 12:1) This was the information Daniel was seeking, but he did not understand what was meant by the expression, “that time.” While the Lord did mention the three time measurements—the 1,260, 1,290, and 1,335 days, Daniel did not comprehend. Instead the Lord said to him, “Go thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.”—vs. 13

When the Lord said to Daniel, “At that time thy people shall be delivered,” he may have assumed that the reference was to the deliverance of the Israelites from their exile in Babylon. But the prophecy was much more comprehensive than this. Daniel’s people were the Lord’s people, and it is in the time of the end that all the Lord’s people are delivered from death and given their rewards in the kingdom of Messiah then established. Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, the Lord promised, and Daniel is among these.

Daniel was told that he would stand in his lot at the end of the days. The Hebrew word here translated lot symbolically denotes ‘portion’, or ‘destiny.’ Among the Lord’s people throughout the ages of the divine plan two principal groups have been developed for service in the messianic kingdom—that kingdom by which all the families of the earth are to be blessed. One of these groups, or classes, is made up of the faithful ones from Abel to John the Baptist. Daniel is among these. The other class, under the headship of Jesus, began with the New Testament apostles.

These two classes of servants in the kingdom are mentioned in verse three of this chapter. Verse two assures us of an awakening from the sleep of death, and verse three adds, “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament.” This is the little flock of the present Gospel Age, the children of the kingdom referred to by Jesus in Matthew 13:43, who will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. And then there is another class which will shine as the stars. They will be lesser lights. This is the group in which, in the kingdom, Daniel will be privileged to serve as one of the “princes in all the earth.”—Ps. 45:16

Truly this was a grander, a much more comprehensive answer to Daniel’s concern over the sufferings of his people than he was then able to comprehend. All he could do, as the Lord suggested, was to go his way, for the words were “closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” (vs. 9) Now we are in the time of the end when the vision can be understood, not by all the people, but by the wise, those who are of that class which, when they have fully proved their faithfulness, will shine as the firmament in the messianic kingdom.

But “none of the wicked shall understand.” This does not refer to the moral degenerates of the world, but to those who are associated with and under the influence of Satan’s evil counterfeit kingdom. These are blinded by the false theory that they are now a part of Christ’s kingdom. They do not expect Christ to return to set up a kingdom, so are totally unprepared to understand, or even to take an interest in the prophecies pertaining thereto.

This contrast between those who understand and those who do not, is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 5:1-5, where we read, “Of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of the light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”

The particular reference in this prophecy is to the great time of trouble foretold in Daniel 12:1. It comes suddenly, or as the Greek text shows, ‘unexpectedly’, upon those who are in darkness. These are the ones mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy who do not understand. But the wise shall understand. Or, as Paul states it, “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” How blessed it is not to be in darkness in this time of the end, and to know the significance of the world-shaking events that are transpiring throughout the earth!

Paul’s prophecy explains that the time of trouble would come in spasms, as travail upon a woman with child. We have already witnessed some of these seizures which are destroying Satan’s empire, and more are threatened. The world is crumbling, and without doubt we are very close to the full end of the time of the end. May the knowledge and assurance of this cause us to look up and lift up our heads, knowing that our deliverance into the kingdom, and mankind’s deliverance from death by the kingdom, is near, even at the door.—Luke 21:28

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