CHAPTER 6 - Unfulfilled Prophecy - The Antichrist, Beast, The Prince, The Man of Sin

"The people of the Prince who is coming will destroy the city and the sanctuary" (Daniel 9:26). Who is this Prince? The manner in which he is here mentioned enables us to answer this question with confidence. For it is not by way of a new revelation, but of incidental reference to sonic one of whose personality and coming Daniel was already aware. There can be no doubt, therefore, that he is "the King of fierce countenance" of the vision accorded to the prophet two years before.And it is universally recognised that the Antichrist of Hebrew prophecy is identical with the Antichrist of the New Testament.
The view that time Coming Prince is the Messiah might be ignored, were it, not that some eminent names can be cited in support of it. Indeed, it is sufficiently refuted by time fact that it is by the people of this Prince that the city and sanctuary will be destroyed. To find the fulfilment of this in the action of the Zealots during the Titus siege indicates to what lengths some expositors will go in support of a false system of exegesis. For the suggestion that Holy Scripture would describe religious apostates as the Lord's people savours of profanity.

A like remark applies to that wild vagary of exegesis that the Lord made a seven years' covenant with the Jewish people, and brought it to an end by His death "in the midst of the week." And the figment that His death put an end to "sacrifice and oblation" savours of the ignorance of apostate Christendom. The Jew is more intelligent in this respect than the nominal Christian; for he knows that, until this sin-defiled earth has been purified by fire, there can be neither altar nor shrine without "sacrifice and oblation." And when, in the future age of the kingdom, a regenerate Israel will assemble in their divinely-ordered Temple at Jerusalem, the Book of Ezekiel will give them in full detail the Divinely revised ritual to guide their worship . *

(They will doubtless note what that ritual is and what it retains of the Mosaic cult. They will read Ezekiel with the Epistle to the Hebrews in their hands; and they will not fail to distinguish between sin-offerings in relation to ceremonial uncleanness, and the great sin-offering which typified what the death of Christ accomplished in putting away the sins of the people. In that aspect of it the sin-offering can never be repeated. As the Epistle to the Hebrews teaches, the Christian place of worship is the sanctuary above, with its heavenly altar and Great High Priest. On this subject I would refer to Bishop Lightfoot's Commentary on Philippians, pp. 181-185.)

The word "Antichrist" occurs nowhere in Scripture save in the Epistles of John. But it is recognised that the title applies to the Kaiser of Daniel's visions, to the Man of Sin of 2 Thessalonians 2, and to the "Beast" of the Apocalypse.

Belief in a personal Antichrist was universal in the Early Church, and it held undisputed sway for more than a thousand years. But when the apostasy of Christendom was fully developed, it was only natural that Christians should raise the question whether the prophecies of Antichrist might not fmd their fulfilment in Rome. And this belief very generally prevailed until the Evangelical revival of the nineteenth century. In these days of ours Protestantism has no such champions as were the men of that revival. And what led to their change of view was no weakening of their antipathy to Rome but a more intelligent study of Holy Scripture. They awoke to the discovery that this Christian dispensation" denotes neither the failure nor the abandonment of the Divine "plan of the ages." They came to understand the place which the earthly people of the covenant hold in that plan, and to realise that although both the Abrahamic and the Davidic covenants are now in abeyance, they have not been cancelled; and that when this dispensation is brought to an end by the Lord's coming to call His heavenly people home, the main stream of Messianic prophecy will resume its course as though this Christian age had never intervened.
Holy Scripture had long been like an elaborate mosaic, of which the several parts had been disturbed, and the main design for-gotten. But its hidden harmony was brought to light by the study of "dispensational truth" (an apt phrase that was much in use in those days). And that study included the "mystery" truths of this distinctively Christian revelation, truths which had been lost in the interval between the Apostolic age and the era of the great Patristic theologians.

Although traces of these truths may be found in the writings of theFathers, they have no place in their "systematic theology." They confounded the true Church, the Body of Christ, with the Professing Church on earth - a departure from the faith whioh is the root error of the Roman apostasy. And they confounded the Lord's coming at the close of this Christian dispensation with His coming for the deliverance of His earthly people in a future age. And they also confounded grace with covenant, and thus let slip the basal truth of Christianity.

For the doctrines which generally pass for Christian truths are older even than the Divinely-ordered religion of Judaism. The truth of the first coming of Christ is as old as the Eden promise of "the woman's seed." And atonement by His death is as old as Abel's sacrifice. His coming again to judgment dates back to the prophecy of "Enoch the seventh from Adam "; and justification by faith was revealed to Abraham. But not until we reach the Epistles of the New Testament do we find the "mystery" truths of Christianity - truths, that is, which had not been revealed in the earlier Scriptures. As, for example, "the mystery of the Gospel "- the great basal truth of the reign of grace; the "mystery" of the Church, the Body of Christ, with its heavenly calling and hope; and the "mystery" of that coming of the Lord which will bring the present dispensation to a close.
The study of "dispensational truth" in no way undermines the principle of "germinant accomplishment" of the prophecies, which is the element of truth in the "historicist" scheme of interpretation; but it exposes and refutes the pretensions of that scheme to finality of fulfilment. The evil of that system is not merely that it limits and perverts the scope and meaning of special chapters and isolated texts, but that, in doing this, it tends to discredit the Bible altogether. And as Adolf Saphir wrote, it thus prepared the way for the attacks of Rationalism and Neology.

Moreover, this "Protestant interpretation" became an anachronism when the Pope lost his" temporal power," and Rome became the capital of the Italian kingdom. This event led the" historicists "to adopt the view that the Antichrist was not the Pope, but the Church of which he is the head. But Revelation xvii. is explicit that "the Harlot" is distinct from "the Beast "; and therefore every proof that the scarlet woman is the Apostate Church is a further proof that she cannot be the Antichrist.
The pretensions of Rome reach their climax in claiming that the Pope is the vicar of Christ, whereas the Kaiser of prophecy will demand universal worship as being himself the Messiah. He is not a Vice-Christ, but Antichrist. As the Lord expressly declared, "he will come in his own name." He will be the impersonation of" the mystery of lawlessness," whereas the Pope and the Church of Rome are merely its most advanced exponents and representatives. Every sacerdotalist, every one who believes in "the Holy Catholic Church," save in the sense in which the Reformers defined it - in a word, everyone who puts "religion" in the place of Christ, and in any way denies that He is the only Mediator between God and man - is an Antichrist in the same sense in which the Pope is Antichrist. The difference is one merely of degree.

A single instance must here suffice to justify my charge against "the continuous historical interpretation " scheme. Elliott's Horae Apocalyptica. is the standard text-book of the cult. Its first five chapters may well impress us with a sense of the value of the writer's scheme. But when he passes from the first five seals to explain that the vision of the sixth seal was fulfilled by the downfall of Paganism in the fourth century, we suffer a revulsion of feeling proportionate to our sense of the "trueness" and solemnity of Holy Writ.

For the closing verses of Revelation vi. are a passage the awful solemnity of which has no parallel in Scripture, save in the kindred prophecies of Isaiah and Joel, and of the Lord Himself in Matthew xxiv. They speak of the dread dies ire, ending with the words, "the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" If it be urged that the events of fifteen centuries ago were within the scope of the prophecy we can consider the matter on its merits; but when we are told that the prophecy was thus fulfilled. we can hold no parley with the teaching. It is the merest trifling with Scripture.

"Moreover, it clashes with the charter truth of Christianity. For if the day of wrath has come, the day of grace is past, and the gospel of grace is no longer a Divine message to mankind. To suppose that the day of wrath can be an episode in this dispensation of grace betrays ignorance of grace and brings Divine wrath into contempt. The grace of God in this day of grace surpasses human thought, and His wrath in the day of wrath will be no less Divine. The opening of the sixth seal heralds the dawning of that awful day; the visions of the seventh seal unfold its unutterable terrors. But, we are told, the pouring out of the vials, 'the seven plagues which are the last, or in them is finished the wrath of God' (Rev. xv. 1, R.V.), is being now accomplished. The sinner, therefore, may comfort himself with the knowledge that divine wrath is but stage thunder which, in a practical and busy world, may safely be ignored!

Even in Apostolic times there were many Antichrists: in these days of ours they are innumerable. During the last half-century their influence has undermined the Protestantism of our National Church. The Evangelicals have become a dwindling minority, and the "Evangelical Party" is but a memory of the past. During the same period a crusade of systematised infidelity has corrupted all the Churches of the Reformation. And side by side with these phases of the apostasy is the rise and spread of demon cults, some of which overawe their votaries by a display of genuine miraculous power.
The times are full of peril, and we need to realise that all these antichristian movements are preparing the way for Antichrist himself.

It is of practical importance, therefore, to note what Scripture teaches respecting his character and career. And this will appear in a further study of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.