The Coming Prince
CHAPTER XII: FULLNESS OF THE GENTILES
THE main stream of prophecy runs in the channel of Hebrew
history. This indeed is true of all revelation. Eleven chapters of the
Bible suffice to cover the two thousand years before the call of Abraham,
and the rest of the old Testament relates to the Abrahamic race. If for
a while the light of revelation rested on Babylon or Susa, it was because
Jerusalem was desolate, and Judah was in exile. For a time the Gentile
has now gained the foremost place in blessing upon earth; but this is
entirely anomalous, and the normal order of God's dealings with men is
again to be restored. "Blindness in part is happened to Israel until
the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be
saved, as it is written."
The Scriptures teem with promises and prophecies in favor
of that nation, not a tithe of which have yet been realized. And while the
impassioned poetry in which so many of the old prophecies are couched is
made a pretext for treating them as hyperbolical descriptions of the blessings
of the Gospel, no such plea can be urged respecting the Epistle to the Romans.
Writing to Gentiles, the Apostle of the Gentiles there reasons the matter
out in presence of the facts of the Gentile dispensation. The natural branches
of the race of Israel have been broken off from the olive tree of earthly
privilege and blessing, and, "contrary to nature," the wild olive branches
of Gentile blood have been substituted for them. But in spite of the warning
of the Apostle, we Gentiles have become "wise in our own conceits," forgetting
that the olive tree whose "root and fatness" we partake of, is essentially
Hebrew, for "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."
1. Romans 11:25, 26. The coming in of the fullness
of the Gentiles must not be confounded with the fulfillment of the times
of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). The one refers to spiritual blessing,
the other to earthly power. Jerusalem is not to be the capital of a
free nation, independent of Gentile power, until the true Son of David
comes to claim the scepter.
The minds of most men are in bondage to the commonplace facts of their experience.
The prophecies of a restored Israel seem to many as incredible as predictions
of the present triumphs of electricity and steam would have appeared to
our ancestors a century ago. While affecting independence in judging thus,
the mind is only giving proof of its own impotence or ignorance. Moreover,
the position which the Jews have held for eighteen centuries is a phenomenon
which itself disposes of every seeming presumption against the fulfillment
of these prophecies.
It is not a question of how a false religion like that of Mahomet can maintain
an unbroken front in presence of a true faith; the problem is very different.
Not only in a former age, but in the early days of the present dispensation,
the Jews enjoyed a preference in blessing, which practically amounted almost
to a monopoly of Divine favor. In its infancy the Christian Church was essentially
Jewish. The Jews within its pale were reckoned by thousands, the Gentiles
by tens. And yet that same people afterwards became, and for eighteen centuries
have continued to be, more dead to the influence of the Gospel than any
other class of people upon earth. How can "this mystery," as the Apostle
terms it, be accounted for, save as Scripture explains it, namely, that
the era of special grace to Israel closed with the period historically within
the Acts of the Apostles, and that since that crisis of their history "blindness
in part is happened" to them?
But this very word, the truth of which is so clearly proved by public facts,
goes on to declare that this judicial hardening is to continue only "until
the fullness of the Gentiles be come in"; and the inspired Apostle adds,
"And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out
of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this
is My covenant unto them."
But, it may with reason be demanded, does not this imply
merely that Israel shall be brought within the blessings of the Gospel,
not that the Jews shall be blessed on a principle which is entirely inconsistent
with the Gospel? Christianity, as a system, assumes the fact that in a former
age the Jews enjoyed a peculiar place in blessing:
2. Romans 11:25, 26. Not every Israelite, but Israel
as a nation (Alford, Gr. Test., in loco).
- "Christ was a minister of the circumcision
for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers,
and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy." (Romans 15:8,
But the Jews have lost their vantage-ground through sin,
and they now stand upon the common level of ruined humanity. The Cross
has broken down "the middle wall" which separated them from Gentiles.
It has leveled all distinctions. As to guilt "there is no difference,
for all have sinned"; as to mercy "there is no difference, for
the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call on Him." How
then, if there be no difference, can God give blessing on a principle
which implies that there is a difference? In a word, the fulfillment of
the promises to Judah is absolutely inconsistent with the distinctive
truths of the present dispensation.
This question is one of immense importance, and claims the most earnest
consideration. Nor is it enough to urge that the eleventh chapter of Romans
itself supposes that in this age the Gentile has an advantage, though
not a priority, and, therefore, Israel may enjoy the like privilege hereafter.
It is part of the same revelation, that although grace stoops to the Gentile
just where he is, it does not confirm him in his position as a Gentile,
but lifts him out of it and denationalizes him; for in the Church
of this dispensation "there is neither Jew nor Gentile." Judah's promises,
on the contrary, imply that blessing will reach the Jew as a Jew, not
only recognizing his national position, but confirming him therein.
The conclusion, therefore, is inevitable, that before God
can act thus, the special proclamation of grace in the present dispensation
must have ceased, and a new principle of dealing with mankind must have
3. Galatians 3:28. Contrast these with the Lord's words
in John 4:22, "Salvation is of the Jews."
But here the difficulties only seem to multiply and grow. For, it may be
asked, does not the dispensation run its course until the return of Christ
to earth? How then can Jews be found at His coming in a place of blessing
nationally, akin to that which they held in a bygone age? All will
admit that Scripture seems to teach that such will be the case. The question
still remains whether this be really intended. Does Scripture speak of any
crisis in relation to the earth, to intervene before "the day when the Son
of man shall be revealed"?
No one who diligently seeks the answer to this inquiry can
fail to be impressed by the fact that at first sight some confusion seems
to mark the statements of Scripture with respect to it. Certain passages
testify that Christ will return to earth, and stand once more on that same
Olivet on which His feet last rested ere He ascended to His Father; (Zechariah
14:4; Acts 1:11, 12) and others tell us as plainly that He will come, not
to earth, but to the air above us, and call His people up to meet Him and
be with Him. (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17) These Scriptures again most clearly
prove that it is His believing people who shall be "caught up," (1 Thessalonians
4:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52) leaving the world to run its course to
its destined doom; while other Scriptures as unequivocally teach that it
is not His people but the wicked who are to be weeded out, leaving the righteous
"to shine forth in the kingdom of their Father." (Matthew 13:40-43) And
the confusion apparently increases when we notice that Holy Writ seems sometimes
to represent the righteous who are to be thus blessed as Jews, sometimes
as Christians of a dispensation in which the Jew is cast off by God.
4. In proof of this, appeal may be made to these very
prophecies of Daniel; and later prophecies testify to it still more
plainly, notably the book of Zechariah.
These difficulties admit of only one solution, a solution as satisfactory
as it is simple; namely, that what we term the second advent of Christ is
not a single event, but includes several distinct manifestations. At the
first of these He will call up to Himself the righteous dead, together with
His own people then living upon earth. With this event this special "day
of grace" will cease, and God will again revert to "the covenants" and "the
promises," and that people to whom the covenants and promises belong (Romans
9:4) will once more become the center of Divine action toward mankind.
Everything that God has promised is within the range of the believer's hope;
but this is its near horizon. All things wait on its accomplishment. Before
the return of Christ to earth, many a page of prophecy has yet to be fulfilled,
but not a line of Scripture bars the realization of this the Church's special
hope of His coming to take His people to Himself. Here, then, is the great
crisis which will put a term to the reign of grace, and usher in the destined
woes of earth's fiercest trial – "the days of
vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." (Luke 21:22)
To object that a truth of this magnitude would have been
stated with more dogmatic clearness is to forget the distinction between
doctrinal teaching and prophetic utterance. The truth of the second advent
belongs to prophecy, and the statements of Scripture respecting it are marked
by precisely the same characteristics as marked the Old Testament prophecies
5. "We, according to His promise, look for new heavens
and a new earth" (2 Peter 3:13). Long ages of time and events innumerable
must intervene before the realization of this hope, and yet the believer
is looking for it.
"The sufferings of Christ and the glories which should follow"
were foretold in such a way that a superficial reader of the old Scriptures
would have failed to discover that there were to be two advents of Messiah.
And even the careful student, if unversed in the general scheme of prophecy,
might have supposed that the two advents, though morally distinct, should
be intimately connected in time. So is it with the future. Some regard the
second advent as a single event; by others its true character is recognized,
but they fail to mark the interval which must separate its first from its
final stage. An intelligent apprehension of the truth respecting it is essential
to the right understanding of unfulfilled prophecy.
6. For an admirable treatise on these characteristics
of prophecy, see Hengstenberg's Christology, Kregel Publications.
But having thus clearly fixed these principal landmarks to guide us in the
study, we cannot too strongly deprecate the attempt to fill up the interval
with greater precision than Scripture warrants. There are definite events
to be fulfilled, but no one may dogmatize respecting the time or manner
of their fulfillment. No Christian who estimates aright the appalling weight
of suffering and sin which each day that passes adds to the awful sum of
this world's sorrow and guilt, can fail to long that the end may indeed
be near; but let him not forget the great principle that
"the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation," (2 Peter 3:15) nor yet the
language of the Psalm, "A thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday
when it is past, and as a watch in the night." (Psalm 90:4) There
is much in Scripture which seems to justify the hope that the consummation
will not be long delayed; but, on the other hand, there is not a little
to suggest the thought that before these final scenes shall be enacted,
civilization will have returned to its old home in the east, and, perchance,
a restored Babylon shall have become the center of human progress and of
To maintain that long ages have yet to run their course would
be as unwarrantable as are the predictions so confidently made that all
things shall be fulfilled within the current century. It is only in so far
as prophecy is within the seventy weeks of Daniel that it comes within the
range of chronology at all, and Daniel's vision primarily relates to Judah
7. Isaiah 13 appears to connect the final fall of Babylon
with the great day that is coming (comp. Vers. 1, 9, 10, 19.);
and in Jeremiah 1 the same event is connected with the future restoration
and union of the two houses of Israel (ver. 20). I make the suggestion,
however, merely as a caveat against the idea that we have certainly
reached the last days of the dispensation. If the history of Christendom
should run on for another thousand years, the delay would not discredit
the truth of a single statement in Holy Writ.
8. No one of Daniel's visions, indeed, has a wider
scope. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel treat of Israel (or the ten tribes);
but Daniel deals only with Judah.