It will at once be noted that these things group up, naturally and easily, under three headings. First, there is a terrible persecution of God's people. This will end in a visitation of judgments, including great plagues. There will be a gathering of the armies of all nations, and a great battle. It will end in a decisive defeat for them by the personal coming of the Lord Jesus, and will be accompanied by a terrific earthquake and an equally terrific shake-up of the heavenly bodies connected with the earth, sun, moon, and stars. Then comes the establishment of the Kingdom of God upon earth. These three things stand dominantly out.
It comes as a surprise to one who has not been thinking especially about it, to find how these three things are the same three that stood out so prominently at the close of the study of future items in the old prophetic books. It is natural that it should be so, of course, since the Book of God is one in its essential unity.
But there is a great fascination in finding the parts to come together so simply and naturally. As we gather up the Old Testament pages these three things sift out and group together as distinctly not yet fulfilled, and so future. As we listen to our Lord Jesus talking, again these same three items are emphasized by Him. And now the same three are found here.
Dr. A. F. Schauffler tells of a striking experience he had in connection with his mission work in New York City. A letter came to him from a stranger in Germany. It said: "I know you are a city missionary. I am sending a trunk in your care. Inclosed in this letter you will find a piece of paper cut. A man will come and present to you a piece of paper matching this piece. Please give him the trunk." And enclosed in the letter was a piece of paper cut in zigzags.
Letter and paper were laid away to await developments. Some weeks later a stranger came in and presented a queerly cut piece of paper, saying: "I think you have a piece that matches this." Dr. Schauffler got out his piece of paper, laid the two side by side, found that they matched, and said to his visitor: "There's your trunk."
Even so these prophetic pages of the New Testament are found to fit exactly the pages of the Old, written centuries before. It is not surprising, however. One hand cut the paper into two pieces in Germany, and naturally they fitted when put together in New York. One Hand has guided the men writing in both Old and New.
When Jeremiah was first called to his work as God's messenger he was shown in vision the branch of an almond tree. The almond tree is the earliest of all trees to wake from its winter's sleep at the first hint of spring warmth coming. And so it was called the "watching" or "watcher" tree. Then God said to Jeremiah: "Even so, I eagerly watch over my word to bring it to life and fruitage at the very earliest opportunity." [Note: Jer_1:11-12.] And so the word of this watching God and its fulfilment match, regardless of the thing we call time, even running into centuries.
And it is very helpful for those of us who have had a sort of dread of prophecy as of a vague something that we can't understand, to find after all how simple it is. Just three great items stand out of these prophetic pages that are waiting fulfilment.
Such is the seven-fold view, which is taken up almost wholly with the clearing-up storm in the King's realm. But all this is still future. We are still in that waiting time. Our Lord Jesus still stands among the candlesticks. Still He is waiting for His Church to be faithful. He still waits for each of us who is a bit of His Church. He is depending on us to be faithful, by His grace, day by day, during this waiting time. And while He waits all His limitless power is at our disposal, as we follow His leading. We may take as much as we need. But the taking must be with the life.
A dear missionary friend told of a simple experience that meant much to him. We were walking together in the town in Korea where his mission work is. His school was the centre of the recent troublous times in Korea, and the storm seemed to rage about his own person at its outburst. As we talked all his native teachers and several of his older students were in prison. The experience he told me was of earlier days in this country, but had come back to his memory as a great refreshment during the troublous times.
He was a professor in a small college in our Middle West. Special funds were being raised, for extension. He was to ask a certain man of wealth for a large donation. He planned and prayed much, and at last went to see the man in another city by appointment. He had a keen sense of the responsibility of his task.
As he entered the building where the man's office was he was greeted cordially by a young man whom he remembered as a former student, to whom he had been friendly in some time of minor need. But he had not connected him in his mind with this wealthy man, whose son he was. Now as the former student learned of his professor friend's errand, he said with all the confidence of a son on good terms with his father:
"Come right in; father's here."
As they stepped into the man's office the son said, simply:
"Father, this is an old friend of mine. He's all right. Give him whatever he wants."
And the father, busy at his desk, with barely a look at the appointed visitor, reached one hand over for his checkbook, and simply said:
"How much do you want?"
My friend, taken completely by surprise at the unexpected turn of events, managed to name the large sum he had been thinking and praying over so much. And before he could quite recover from his surprise, he found himself outside walking up the street with the coveted check in his pocket, praising God for such an answer to his prayers. It had been years before, but as we walked and talked it all came back with a fresh flush of feeling.
The present is a waiting time. It may seem to some as though they are in the wilderness. Clear and distinct comes a quiet voice:
"What'll you have? Whatever you choose to ask, for My Son's sake."
May we reach out to take as much as He is reaching down to give. But the taking must be with the life.