Behold Your King—Part 8

“With a Mighty Hand”

“As I live, saith the Lord God, 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. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead with you, saith the Lord. And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.” —Ezekiel 20:33-37

WHEN we think of God’s rulership over a people, we usually have in our minds visions of peace and tranquility; but in this prophecy we are told of a time when he would rule with fury poured out. The time referred to is when the natural descendants of Abraham were being gathered from the nations whither they had been scattered, to be returned to their own land.

The prophecy likens this exit from the nations to the Exodus from Egypt. There, also, it was the Lord God who brought about the Exodus, but he worked through Moses, who has been looked upon since as the deliverer of the Israelites from Egypt. So, again, at this end of the age, it is the greater than Moses whom the Lord uses to bring about the deliverance of his people from their bondage among the nations. If this prophecy is being fulfilled, we have irrefutable proof that Jehovah God through Jesus, the Arm of Jehovah, is taking a hand in the affairs of men and particularly in his providences over his ancient people. This, in turn, would mean that the presence of Jesus, as the antitypical Moses, is an established fact.

Is it, then, the due time for the restoration of Israel to the Promised Land; and if so, is there any evidence that God’s purposes for them in this respect are being fulfilled? One of the prophetic time measurements bearing on this aspect of the divine plan is referred to by Jesus in his great prophecy concerning the end of the age. He said, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”—Luke 21:24

The word ‘Jerusalem’ is here used by Jesus in the same sense that we today speak of Moscow, or London, or Washington, that is, as being representative of the nation. The Israelites were the principal inhabitants of Jerusalem—and indeed of all Palestine—when this prophecy was made; so the expression ‘trodden down’ evidently has reference to the fact that they were not then a free people. At that time they were permitted to dwell in Palestine, but as a people subject to the Romans. They did not have governmental control of the land.

All the Master’s teachings were based upon the Old Testament; hence his reference to the times of the Gentiles indicates that somewhere in the Old Testament these ‘times’ are referred to, and there is every reason to believe that a prophecy recorded in the twenty-sixth chapter of Leviticus is the one Jesus had in mind. In this chapter we find mentioned certain punishments which would surely come upon the Israelites in the event of their disobedience to God’s law and then a reference to “seven times more” of chastisement if they did not then hearken unto, and obey, the Lord. This seven times of additional punishment is mentioned four times. (Lev. 26:18,21,24,28) The Hebrew word here translated ‘seven’ is shibah, which according to Dr. Strong means “(adverbially) seven times.”

The punishments mentioned as coming upon Israel prior to the seven times are evidently references to their periods of captivity to the Assyrians, Moabites, Midianites, Philistines, and others. While these were not particularly of long duration, they extended over more than seven literal years; so we must conclude that the shibah (seven times) which were to be visited upon the rebellious nation as additional punishment are intended by the Lord to be figured as symbolic times of 360 years each, making a total of 2,520 years. In figuring prophetic times the Scriptures give us the divine measuring rod of one day signifying an entire year. The Jewish year, or ‘time,’ was 360 days. Figured on the basis of a year for a day, this would be 360 years, and seven such periods would therefore be, as we have said, 2,520 years.

Israel as a nation lost national independence and sovereignty over their land in the year 606 B.C. This was when their last king was overthrown and the people were taken into captivity in Babylon. To know when the times of the Gentiles were due to end, we need only to find out where 2,520 years from 606 B.C. would terminate. The year A.D. 1914 is that date.

Do the facts of history, together with current events, bear out the conclusion that the year 1914 was indeed such an important date in the outworking of the divine plan? It is obvious that at the close of the times of the Gentiles we should see a stirring among the Jewish people, looking toward their reestablishment as a nation, and this we most certainly do find. Even previous to that, and as though the Lord God was awakening them to the importance of the hour, Zionism was born, although prior to 1914 it made little progress in the way of reestablishing the Israelites in the Promised Land. Indeed, for the most part, the Jews themselves turned a deaf ear to Zionism and the idea of returning to Palestine. But how different have been developments since 1914!

It was World War I, which began in 1914, that gave Zionism its real opportunity, for by that war the Holy Land was freed from the controlling hand of the Turks. Then the League of Nations sponsored the cause of the Jewish homeland. Through a mandate implementing the Balfour Declaration concerning the right of the Israelites to the land of Palestine and their right to become an independent nation in that land, the Gentile nations for the first time since 606 B.C. officially ceased to tread down that people, denying them the right to an independent national existence.

True, nothing was done by the League of Nations to enforce that mandate, and the situation drifted along for thirty years before the United Nations tried to make it possible for the hope of Israel to come true. To be sure, it was a far cry from that first official act of the League of Nations acknowledging the right of the Jewish people to their independence to the actual and full establishment of the people in the land which God gave to their fathers; but it was a turning point in his dealings with them, and a turning point so definitely marked that there is no escaping the conclusion that the times of the Gentiles did then run out. In fact, long years before 1914, the birth of the Zionist movement marked the first beginnings of the return of divine favor to the Israelites.

Some may argue that the times of the Gentiles could not have ended in 1914 for the reason that the Jews have been more bitterly persecuted since that date than ever before. But this view fails to take into consideration another group of prophecies which indicate that the end of their national bondage to Gentile nations and the time for their return to Palestine would be marked by great distress. The prophecies tell us that these final persecutions would come upon them to cause them to return to their own land and would be peculiar to the time when the Lord would bring again their captivity.—Jer. 30:3,11

The Prophet Jeremiah tells us that the Lord (Jehovah) would send “fishers” and “hunters” among his people to induce them to return to the Promised Land. (Jer. 16:14-16) From these prophecies it is clear that the turning point of time from national captivity to national freedom from the Gentile yoke would not at once make an end of all trouble for the Jews.

The argument might be raised by some that if this were God’s due time for Israel to return to the Promised Land they would be permitted to enter the land without restrictions. However, Joel 3:1,2 reveals that the time for the return of Israel’s captivity would be marked by a warlike gathering of Gentile nations and that it would be necessary for the Lord to enter into judgment with these nations concerning his people and concerning the land which he promised to them. The events of our generation are in clear fulfillment of this prophecy; hence they furnish additional evidence that we are living in the due time for God to bring again the captivity of his ancient people.

One of the most significant prophecies bearing on this matter is Ezekiel 20:32-38. The text at the head of this article is a part of this prophecy. It tells us that the Lord God would rule over his people in fury in order to gather them from the countries in which they were domiciled and return them to their own land. The thirty-second verse gives one reason this furious rulership over them would be necessary. It reads, “And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, we will be as the nations, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.” Here the desire of the Jews to become assimilated by the nations in which they dwelt is described. This was the attitude of many Jews, particularly in Europe until, under the terroristic rule of the Nazis, they began to be uprooted and made outcasts.

The Lord God prophesied, “That which cometh into your mind shall not be at all”; that is, I will not permit you to become as the nations in which you are dwelling; for “as I live, … 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 into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face, like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord.”

What a graphic picture this is of the reality of Israel’s situation today! Large numbers of them have been brought out of the countries where they were held in bondage and geographically speaking, are in the Promised Land, but actually it is not yet a land of peace and tranquility; but a wilderness—as menacing as was the wilderness through which their forefathers passed on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land so many centuries ago.

They are ringed by hostile enemies threatening to destroy their nation, and they share with all nations the distress which is upon mankind today. Essentially all the problems of the world today are to be found in Israel, and they are as incapable of solving them as are the other nations. They have the racial problem, the narcotics problem, the problem of widespread immorality, drunkenness, ever-increasing crime, burdensom taxation—the whole list—and the hearts of the people are filled with fear just as in all other parts of the world.

Yes, symbolically speaking, the Jews are still on their wilderness journey. God’s rulership of fury has not given them peace and tranquility. It is for the purpose of preparing the people for the blessings of the messianic kingdom to follow. Ezekiel’s prophecy further reads, “And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and will bring you into the bond of the covenant: and I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”

The expression ‘the bond of the covenant’ is evidently a reference to the promised New Covenant, through the arrangements of which God’s law will be written in the hearts of the people, and they will be given hearts of flesh instead of stone. (Jer. 31:31-34) The Lord’s rulership of fury is designed to bring the Israelites to the point where they will be given an opportunity to enter into this wonderful covenant.

When God’s plan progresses to this point, the faithful followers of the Master during the present age, brought forth from the dead in the first resurrection, will be living and reigning with him as priests and as kings. The rulership of fury will have served its purpose, and then there will be established in Israel and throughout the world a wonderful era of peace and health, and all will be given an opportunity to gain everlasting life, the provision for which was made by the sacrificial death of Jesus.

The final scene of the great deliverance of Israel and the introduction of the people to the opportunity of being blessed under the promised New Covenant will not be until the close of Armageddon. Prophecies concerning this are recorded in Ezekiel 38 and 39, and also in Zechariah 14:2,3,16-21. Ezekiel’s prophecy tells of powerful armies coming against Jerusalem—armies which cover the land like a cloud—and it tells that the Lord God (by his Arm, Jesus Christ) will destroy them. As a result of this signal victory over the enemies of Israel, the eyes of the nations will be opened to behold God’s glory.

Jehovah ruled over ancient Israel through David, Solomon, and others, Zedekiah being the last. When Zedekiah was overthrown, the Lord God, through the Prophet Ezekiel, declared: “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.” (Ezek. 21:26,27) The one whose right it is, is Jesus. The Lord’s rulership of fury over Israel is through Jesus, which means that he is indeed present. One of the titles given to him in order to call attention to this relationship to the Creator is that of Michael, meaning ‘who is like God,’ or ‘one who represents God.’

In Daniel 12:1 this title is used, and here we are told that when Michael stands up to rule there is “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” This harmonizes with the statement that God rules in his fury. It is well to note that this reign of fury is not merely for the purpose of getting Israel back into the Promised Land in readiness for the blessings of the new kingdom, but also for the destruction of the Gentile nations, those nations which were permitted to hold sway in the earth during the long period of the times of the Gentiles.

Just as the end of the times of the Gentiles in 1914 marked the beginning of outstanding events pertaining to Israel, so it did also with respect to the Gentile nations, particularly the nations of Europe—the old Roman world. As we have noted, the times of the Gentiles were to continue until he comes whose right it is. During this ‘until’ period, God has had no kingdom on earth, but beginning with the overthrow of Israel’s last king he did give a certain authorization to Gentile nations to rule during the interim period.

This arrangement was outlined to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, to whom the Prophet Daniel said, “Wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he [God] given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all.” (Dan. 2:38) Daniel did not say that God would rule over men through Nebuchadnezzar; hence this heathen king did not sit on the throne of the Lord as did the kings of Israel. Gentile dominion has not, therefore, been a divinely sponsored and directed rule but merely a divinely permitted one. It has been a human rulership, based simply and wholly upon the wisdom of fallen and selfish men.

The symbol of this rulership was the human-like image which Nebuchadnezzar saw in a dream. Its head of gold, according to Daniel, represented the rulership of Babylon. (Dan. 2:38) This image also pictured—by its silver, brass, and iron—Babylon’s successors—Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. What was said of Babylon became true of each of these in its turn; namely, that the God of heaven gave them a kingdom. It was in the days of Rome when the Apostle Paul wrote, “The powers that be are ordained of God.” (Rom. 13:1) The Diaglott translation of this statement reads “arranged under God.” Israel lost her freedom and became a vassal nation to Babylon, and this servitude continued under Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. No independence could be expected for Israel until he came whose right it is.

Daniel’s interpretation of the Gentile image limits its application to the four empires mentioned above. It includes other nations only insofar as they have come under the influence of these four. The Roman phase of the times of the Gentiles was represented by the legs of iron and, in the closing days, by the feet and toes of the image. Thus the symbolism runs true to form, for Rome was not succeeded by another empire, but was divided into the various states of Europe. These continued to exist and to be governed by hereditary ruling houses, which claimed divine authority, until they were overthrown as a result of World War I.

The prophecy tells of a stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands and states that this stone smote the image on its feet, causing it to fall. We quote: “Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors, and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them; and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain [kingdom], and filled the whole earth.”—Dan. 2:35

It is important to notice in this prophecy that that which is represented by the gold, silver, brass, and iron of the image is said to be broken together. Each of the first three empires involved in this image picture fell as a world power when succeeded by the other, but there was something common to them all which was to fall together. What was it?

The answer is found in verse thirty-eight, where the prophet says, “And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of heaven hath he [God] given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.” Here then, is the one thing which was common to them all—God had given them dominion.

Babylon as a nation existed prior to the time when this image picture began to apply, but it was not the head of gold until God authorized its dominion. The same thing is true of the nations represented by the silver, brass, and the iron of the image. What the image represented, then, was a divine lease of power, or dominion, and it was this that came to an end together at the termination of the times of the Gentiles. While the governments of the nations of the old Roman world represented in this image have nearly all been overthrown in a revolutionary phase of world destruction since 1914, the falling of the image does not represent the destruction of nations so much as it does the fact that from 1914 onward they no longer rule under the times of the Gentiles authorization but have been in a period of overthrow and disintegration, which will continue until the last vestige of Gentile authority in the earth is destroyed.

In the prophecy of Daniel 7:12, the same four Gentile empires are depicted as beasts, and concerning the first three we read, “They had their dominion taken away; yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.” This proves that the withdrawal of the right to rule does not necessarily imply the immediate destruction of the nations which formerly held that right. The God-given dominion exercised by Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece was taken away from each in turn as it was passed on to the other. Finally Rome became the successor to this dominion. But when the time came for Rome to relinquish it, it means also that the due time had come for the rightful king of earth to take over; hence the dominion was not only to be taken away from Rome, but it was to cease altogether, and the divided empire through which it functioned was to be destroyed.

Noting that Nebuchadnezzar’s image depicting Gentile rulership represented especially that the God of heaven had given these particular Gentile powers a dominion, it is most significant to realize that the divine right of kings viewpoint has today almost completely disappeared as an active governmental philosophy among the nations. As we have seen, the Gentile governments of the divided Roman Empire which held to this ideology have themselves nearly all been destroyed, and in their places are other forms of government. Church-state rulership has gone, the divine right of hereditary ruling houses is past, and sooner or later the presently constituted authorities of earth will come to grips in another struggle which will leave the whole earth a shambles and the people in virtual anarchy.

Thus seen, whether we look at the experiences of the Jews since 1914 and the furious rulership of the Lord by which they have been moved irresistibly into Palestine, or whether we view the undeniable changes occurring in Gentile rulership since that time, we cannot question the proof that the times of the Gentiles have ended. Seemingly, there is no escaping the truth established by these two lines of evidence.

True, kingdom blessings of peace and joy and life are not yet reaching the people, for we are still in the fury phase of the rulership. The stone first smites the image and destroys it, and then the kingdom grows until it becomes a great mountain which fills the whole earth. Following the complete destruction of the symbolic image, the resurrected faithful followers of the Master, his church, will be associated with him as priests and kings; and it will be through the reign of these, as the faith seed of Abraham, that the promised blessings of health and life will reach the people. The reign of fury will then be over.—Rev. 20:4,8

No one can be happy about the trouble incident to the overthrow of a social order, but we can be glad for the assurance that the blessings of the messianic kingdom are so near. It is with sympathy that we view the experiences through which the Israelites have passed, and are still passing, in connection with their reestablishment in the Holy Land; but we can be happy that there is a divine purpose in their being returned there. That purpose is that they should be the first upon whom the blessings of the kingdom will be poured. And let us rejoice that these blessings, beginning with restored Israel, will ultimately be extended to all nations, for of “the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. … The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”—Isa. 9:7

Click here to go to Part 9
Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |