BIBLE STUDY SERIES #632, 633 and 634

4 January, 2004

LET THERE BE LIGHT - PART VI

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

On our last programme and on this one, we are looking at edited portions of two messages first given in 1996, under the heading "Evidence of Divinity in Time." As we are now moving into a New Year and at such breaks in the calendar, we generally tend to allow ourselves to consider matters of longer perspective in the concourse of history.

In the first part, we saw how The Almighty has inserted within His Creation a design pattern such that certain time periods of great significance, but outside the control of mere man, set the stage for acceptance of God's supremacy. Today we will continue our study by picking up some Scripture passages that mention or exemplify the patterns of which we speak.

The Prophet Daniel was given a message in Daniel 8:14 and 17 that speaks of a period of treading down of the sanctuary, being "two thousand and three hundred days"; and the timing of this occurrence is added in the words "at the time of the end shall be the vision." Isaiah 7:8 prophesies "within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people." In Jeremiah 25:11 and 12, and also 29:10, that Prophet affirms that Judah shall serve in Babylonian captivity for exactly seventy years. It was from this Scripture that Daniel later discerned that the time had expired, as recorded in Daniel 9:2. As Daniel then proceeded to confess the sins of his people, the angel Gabriel appeared to him, and gave him more most remarkable time periods which eventuated down the centuries in the time of Jesus Christ.

Let us step back, so to speak, and take in the broad picture of what is involved. The Laws of Nature, of themselves, are rigid and unyielding, and therefore can only permit one specific and completely detailed unfolding of the entire history of Creation. Even the thoughts which govern decisions by man and beast, if all the contributing and influencing details were known, could be presented as entirely pre-determined. In other words, Predestination is implicit in the very Laws of Nature themselves. Where God intervenes in history, that also both was and is, from the first, a pre-determined event, so we can say that Almighty God has planned from the very first instant of Creation for a single very definite outworking of all the almost infinite details of history.

He has inserted in the whole tapestry of time and space marvellous patterns whereby certain spans of time operate to stamp His mark of design patterns, like a trademark, upon His workmanship. Thus, as the Psalmist puts it, in Psalm 19:1-4:

1. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy-work.
2. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
3. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
4. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world... .

When considered in light of this philosophical observation which we have just outlined, we can see that truly, the works of God in constructing all of history to a pattern laced with these intricate and meaning-filled time measures, ought to form a blazing warning to the atheistic humanist, of the sort described in Psalm 14:1 as a fool, who states "There is no God."

That specific meaningful timespans have been designed into history is, to those who have examined the details of these patterns, unquestioned. These timespan patterns have often a prophetic intent, and they are thus given in advance by revelation from The Almighty to, and through, the Prophets, so that honour and glory might later be yielded to God Who has thus proved that He is the Creator of all things.

It is not only desirable, but in most cases quite essential, that every plan or map should display a scale, usually near the words of the title, by which the reader can measure out and tabulate the various portions of the design laid before him. The Plan of Creation is provided with the units for a number of inter-related scales of grand proportion. Back in the Creation story, in Genesis 1:14, we read "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years". Here we find the marks by which to measure time. Days and years are our units. Sometimes, indeed, the scale is one in which a day represents a year or vice versa. We find in Numbers 14:34 that, because the children of Israel balked at entering into their inheritance in The Promised Land, they were destined to wander in the wilderness: "After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise."

In Ezekiel 4:4-6 that Prophet is instructed by God: "Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year." As an incidental aside, note that Israel and Judah are not the same entity by this time. The Ten and a half Tribes of Northern Israel had parted from the Two and a half Tribes of Judah.

Sometimes a thousand years may be summed up and encapsulated in a single day. Describing the conditions which would prevail in the final years before Christ's glorious Second Advent, the Apostle Peter stated in II Peter 3:8 "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."

Therefore, in projecting the scale of a prophecy, we must be prepared to read the designated time measure by more than one scale to determine which scale is appropriate, for the projection. In cases of multiple fulfilment, more than one scale may be valid for varied projections of the same prophetic theme.

In Revelation 11:2-3 two events are described. One is the treading down of the holy city by Gentiles which endures "forty and two months." The other is the prophesying of God's two witnesses clothed in sackcloth during that time period, which is re-stated as "a thousand two hundred and threescore days, that is, 1260 days. There is consistency. Each of these forty-two prophetic months is seen to represent a prophetic month of 30 days, and the whole forty-two month period covers three and a half years of 360 days each, which we call "prophetic years." This arrangement is also found in the ancient division of a circle into 360 degrees.

In certain scriptures, we find a set amount of history which is called a "time", in the form "time, times and a half", and "seven times", and we can also suggest the scale of these time periods. Nebuchadnezzar the king had personally undergone a judgment period of insanity called "seven times" in Daniel 4:20-36, and this was, it seems, also prophetic of a "seven times" judgment upon his entire system of government which we find described in Daniel 2:36-45 as the great image of gold, silver, brass (that is, bronze or copper), iron and clay, which is to be destroyed by the stone cut out of the mountain without hands; that is, the Kingdom of God.

Years later, in the banquet hall in which the Babylonian king Belshazzar held his great Babylonian feast, a hand wrote the words "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN" upon the wall, and the Prophet Daniel was brought in to interpret the matter. It too was a judgment upon that king, but also upon the whole Babylonian economic and governmental system, of which the time of existence was being numbered to judgment. Appropriately, the economic expression Daniel used to interpret those words which were written upon the wall was "weighed in the balances." The actual written words "mena", "tekel" or "shekel" and "upharsin" or "division", generally taken to mean "half a mena", were the weights used in Babylonian trade, a number of samples of which have since been discovered and studied. The mena was one thousand gerahs and the shekel 20 gerahs. Thus the two and a half mina equalled 2500 gerahs and the shekel an additional 20 gerahs, making a total of 2520 gerahs. This number, 2520, is thus a number significant of a period of time following which judgment would fall upon the whole succession of Babylonian empires.

As this judgment number is prophetically linked to the experience of Nebuchadnezzar's "seven times" experience of personal judgment, his period of insanity must have lasted for 2520 days, or seven years. But more significant for our study, the equivalent judgment upon the entire succession of Babylonian empires described in Daniel 2:36-45 could not be accomplished in only seven actual years, and must, therefore, be on the larger scale of seven prophetic years of years, at the ratio of each day for a year, or, in other words, 2520 years. Thus, one "time" would reasonably fit to one prophetic year and the "time, times and a half" most reasonably fits to the measure of "one year, two years and half a year" or three and a half such years, or 1260 days, or, on the longer scale, 1260 years. Daniel was given the numbers 1260, 1290 and 1335 days as significant time measures, but, as we have seen, this would also be the same numbers of years rather than literal days on the larger scale.

We know from history that these calculations are evidently correct. For example, when, on 9th, 10th and 11th of December, in the year 1917, General Allenby's British Empire forces entered Jerusalem, releasing it from the grip of the Turkish forces, which used a banner displaying a sword, it was the termination date of 2520 years from the date in 604 B.C. when Jerusalem had fallen under the sword of the Babylonian forces. It was also 1335 lunar years from the start of the Mohammedan (lunar) calendar which commenced on 15th July, in 622 A.D. with the Hegira marking the flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina. As Christ stated to His disciples in Lk. 21:24, "...and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."

The same length of timespan, 2520 years, separates the year when Israelitish tribes living on the east of the Jordan River were deported by Assyria and the later establishment of the United States of America. Likewise, the span of 2520 years separates the year 721 B.C. when the main body of the Northern Tribes of Israel was deported by the Assyrians, and the year 1800 which marks the completion of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Incidentally, when checking these calculations, do keep in mind that there was no year zero between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D..

With this we conclude the short examination of these time periods, and on the next programme we plan to look at other related matters. As a meditation, you might wish to consider how often the timing aspect of various miraculous events augments and indeed frequently is essential to, their special significance. Thus it will also be with the timing of Christ's Second Advent, for which the wise will make preparation.

11 January, 2004

LET THERE BE LIGHT - PART VII

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

On our last couple of programmes we had been considering matters of a somewhat longer perspective in the concourse of history. We had seen how The Almighty has inserted within His Creation a design pattern such that certain time periods of great significance, but quite outside the control of mere man, have set the stage for acceptance of God's supremacy. Today we will continue our study by picking up some Scripture passages that mention or exemplify the patterns of which we speak.

If we were to be informed that an important relative of ours is expected to arrive for a visit with us, we would undoubtedly wish to set about certain preparations in order to receive our visitor. It would, however, not be helpful if the relative suggested to us rather vaguely that he would probably be coming along some time in the next year or so. Indeed we might even be rather upset to find that the relative arrived at a totally unexpected hour, while we were inconveniently in the process of cleaning out the house at the moment of his arrival within the next few days, or at some hour beyond midnight when everyone was sleeping. It might be true that we would be prepared to stay up or go to meet this relative at the inconvenient hour if we knew that the time of arrival was specific, and that it was connected with a particular flight into our local airport, for example. Otherwise, the warning concerning the projected time of arrival would have been too broad. The statement would have been correct, but proper courtesy would generally be expected. We might say, for example, that it would not be proper for that person to say that we were to expect him on this very afternoon, only to find out that he meant "on the afternoon of this date, but three years hence, or, alternatively, "on this day of the week, but five months from now!" While Our LORD Jesus Christ can, indeed, come at a time when people are not prepared, and His visit would therefore be quite unexpected, it would be reasonable to many people to suppose that, as a gentleman, He might grant us some hint as to the precise plan of His visit and a suggested estimated time of arrival, so that we would be enabled to conduct our scheduled planning with some degree of certainty as to His intentions.

All these comments are, of course, based on one basic assumption. In these examples, we are assuming that we are the owners of the domicile which is to be visited! I wonder if a large number of our people actually believe that they are the owners of the properties which they occupy. The Almighty God of all the earth doesn't think so! As its Creator, He states in His Scriptures that "all the earth is mine." If we want to check this out all we have to do is look up Exodus 19:5, which states "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people for all the earth is mine." Again, in Psalm 50:10, we read "For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills." Again in Leviticus 25:23, we find The LORD speaking to His people through Moses, in these words, concerning the land which He is giving them: "The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine, for ye are strangers and sojourners with me."

On the other hand, therefore, let us suppose that this visitor, though a relative, is actually the owner of the premises, and everything concerned therewith. Suppose the visitor has purposely planned to drop in at a time when he truly is not expected, precisely to see what the condition of his house is. Has the structure been adequately preserved? How does the household staff operate when he is absent. Is there bickering and fighting between the members of the family which is only temporarily hidden while he is present in person, and as his visit proceeds? Are the accounts current, or have slothful accounting procedures left the accounts in disarray, with many items not satisfactorily in the account at all? How is His land being apportioned and treated? Are some elbowing others aside and claiming far more than a fair share of the riches and the space involved?

The problem which exists, however, is much compounded when the expected time of the visit is stated to be beyond the normal lifespan of a generation of people, and even more, if a long series of generations intervene between the moment when the first message arrives to let us know of the forthcoming visit and the actual visit itself.

Jesus told an important parable which is most appropriate to consider when we are pondering these matters. Let us have a look at Matthew 21:33-45:

33. Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
34. And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
35. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
36. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
37. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
38. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
39. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
40. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
41. They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
42. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
43. Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
44. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
45. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.

Here, then is the dramatic projection of one possible outcome of mistaken assumptions concerning this whole matter of ownership, and of visitation. There may be a whole sequence of visitations, and if one were to occur today, this week, this month, or this year, would we be prepared for it? The question may seem academic at the moment, but it can turn into reality at the first signal that the Householder is returning in fury to take control of His landholdings. Something to consider as we approach the unfolding of the new year before us.

But now suppose that there have been many forward-looking projections as to such a visitation. It would seem necessary that such projections must have some form of validation, some seal of God's copyright, so to speak; His signature within the times involved, particularly as the time element must stretch through thousands of years. God has instituted certain measuring spans by which, like a ruler marked off in designated quantities, mankind may see if measures of a certain time-span begin and end with meaningful unity of intent. I have previously noted one such quantity with reference to the falling of God's people, the Anglo-Celto-Saxon people of the Northern Tribes of anciently deported Israel, under a span of 2520 years of separation and retraining. One such measure would appear to connect the time in Solomon's old age when his many wives turned his heart from serving The LORD with an event 2520 years later in the descended peoples of the same kingdom of Israel. Curiously, if we check the nearest time-estimate available for the events of old Solomon's reign, and count the years off, we find that a King famed in history for his many wives found events concerning those wives forcing him to cut away from the established church of his time to bring on conditions wherein the Protestant Reformation could begin to rule in England! God's hand was undoubtedly involved in that sequence of events, and the time marked off, 2520 years is seven times three-hundred and sixty years, which means seven times a prophetic "year." The expression "seven times" does occur more than once in the Scriptures, so we can see just one further clue as to the hand of God over-ruling the supposedly independent choices in the minds of multitudes of people in the nations of the world of history during all those centuries conjoining the two terminal events. This is not the only such example. There are quite a remarkable number of such "tally marks" in our history, and it will repay us not to ignore them, for one of those marks may fall exactly on the date of the Great Visitation of Our Lord. Now that is something we might consider further.

18 January, 2004

LET THERE BE LIGHT - PART VIII

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

On our last several programmes we had been considering matters of a somewhat longer perspective in the concourse of history. We had seen how The Almighty has inserted within His Creation a design pattern such that certain time periods of great significance, but quite outside the control of mere man, have set the stage for acceptance of God's supremacy. Today we will continue our study by picking up some Scripture passages that mention or exemplify the patterns of which we speak.

There is a Scripture passage which, in its simplicity and brevity, encapsulates a tremendous amount of understanding. However, we might find that we shall only have time to examine the first portion as a basis for the study of the time element within it. The Prophet Daniel, towards the end of the Book which bears his name, describes his prophetic information concerning the troublous times at the "time of the end." In Daniel 12:1-13 we find an important prophetic passage. Verse 1 records this passage:

1. And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

Now at this point we might make a few comments before we continue with that Scripture. The previous context has shown that this prophetic statement embodies a viewpoint destined to be operating, and hence also revealed, at a time which will be one of great trouble engulfing God's people, for it states that those who comprise "thy people," (that is, Daniel's people), and who qualify for such deliverance by reason of having their names "written in the book", shall be delivered. They, therefore, are uniquely those experiencing this time of "trouble", the greatest to that period of time, and from which deliverance must be supplied to them by God's intervention. It is apparent that they, therefore, cannot of themselves obtain relief from this trouble. However, we should not leap to conclusions as to the meaning of the term "thy people", and also the term "the book", nor concerning the "trouble" which it mentions.

First, we must ask ourselves, who, exactly, were Daniel's "people" in the context of this prophecy? Let us start with a broader possible definition of the words.

Daniel was a descendant of the whole body, Genealogical and National, of the nation of Israel, which made covenant with Yahweh, The Almighty God at Mount Sinai. All of Israel was uniquely God's people, and thus might well be termed "thy people" to Daniel. This would provide a broader scope to our view than just describing those immediately present in the Babylonian Captivity. By extension, the name "Israel", of whom Daniel was descended, would encompass All Israel of the days of The Exodus - all thirteen tribes of the nation composed of the children descended of each of Jacob-Israel's sons.

I had better digress for a bit of explanation at this point. We say "Thirteen Tribes", because Levi being designated the tribe that had been scattered among all the others as a civil service and Priestly Tribe, would not fill the defensive ranks alongside the other tribes while on the Exodus March. (In fact, during the march, they actually formed an inner defensive guard immediately around the Tabernacle components and its furnishings which their assigned members carried along, in the middle of the marching order.) This deduction of one tribe from the perimeter defence was made up by Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, they being the "double portion" of the birthright inheritance which Jacob shifted away from Reuben for lying with Bilhah, Jacob's concubine (Genesis 35:22). Joseph's "birthright double portion" assigned to his two sons in Genesis 48, accounts for the "thirteenth" tribe. This number was required because the number of tribes forming the outer defensive square about the Tabernacle, while journeying through the Sinai Wilderness, had to occupy the assigned twelve defensive positions forming the square perimeter, three tribes to each side, and so must be twelve in number. This designation of the two sons of Joseph as independent Tribe Princes and Patriarchs was, as we say, by Jacob's provision in Genesis 48. He thereby adopted the two sons of Joseph through a specific ceremony in which Joseph "drew" each young man, in turn, symbolically "from Jacob's own loins and knees" thus marking them as equal to their uncles who were actually born of Jacob's seed. They were thus being fully adopted by Jacob himself prior to Jacob's death.

Incidentally, the somewhat careless misconception which views Joseph pulling two reluctant shy little boys from behind Joseph's own knees to meet their grandfather in that passage evaporates at once when we check their ages. Joseph was thirty years old when he gained high position in pharaoh's service (Genesis 41:45-46), and was given Asenath to wife. There had then followed seven years of plenty in Egypt, near the beginning of which the boys would be born, followed by two years of famine before Jacob arrived. You may note that Jacob told pharaoh in Genesis 47:9 that his age on entering Egypt was one hundred and thirty. We learn in Genesis 47:28 that Jacob lived to the age one hundred and forty seven. Thus Jacob spent his last seventeen years in Egypt under Joseph's care, before he died. That, as it happens, is the same length of time that he had cared for Joseph in his youth. So as Jacob's death approached these boys would be strapping young men approaching or in their mid-twenties, perhaps even possessing officers' rank, by this time.

With this additional specific inheritance to Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, these unique birthright claimants jointly became the "firstborn" inheritors of the over-all Tribal Name of "Israel". When they later led the Ten Northern Tribes in revolt against King Rehoboam, the name "Israel" legally belonged to them, and went with them, and all that joined them thus would participate in use of that name of "Israel."

Returning to the question of identifying "thy people", we have an alternative. The term might designate that segment, the remnant Two-and-a-half Tribes of Jacob-Israel's descendants, which had to accept the name "Judah", (taken from its largest remaining tribe), after the ten-and-a-half Northern Tribes (which were led by Ephraim) separated from the rule of King Rehoboam, King David's grandson, and followed Jeroboam instead. On departing the union, these ten and a half Northern Tribes, being led by Ephraim, were entitled to take away with them the national title designation of "Israel" as Jacob's birthright inheritance was specifically placed upon Joseph's sons. It included the designating title "Israel", which Jacob had specifically imparted when blessing Ephraim and Manasseh. Thus Judah was itself a "remnant."

Later the Assyrian, Sennacherib, took away those many others of Judah whom Shennacherib listed on Sennacherib's prism, now in the British Museum, being quoted therein as "200,150 of the fenced cities of Judah". They were moved off to join their kindred of the Northern Tribes. The remnant segment of this Judah nation, which was trapped within the walled city of Jerusalem when that happened, would become a remnant of the Judah remnant. The Babylonians, under Nebuchadnezzar later took away this remnant of a remnant to Babylon. These deportees included those who are described in Jeremiah's vision of Jeremiah 24:1-10; some as "good figs" and others who would be termed "evil figs."

Out of that deported "remnant of a remnant" there were to be some, designated in Ezra 2:64 as "forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore", who, on returning to rebuild Jerusalem, would be thereafter called "Jews", as the Jewish historian, Josephus, in Antiquities Bk XI, Ch V, Sec. 7, informs us. (The word "Jew" does appear in the KJV for the first time in II Kings 16:6, and nowhere earlier. But even here, I believe, the words "the Jews" ought, more correctly, to have been translated as Judahites. The passage states that they are at this time, at war against Israel, a fact which may confound those who persist in calling everyone from Noah and Abraham down to Moses and to King David a "Jew". These who returned from Babylonian exile at the time prophesied by Jeremiah, would thus become a remnant of a remnant of a remnant of the whole of Israel in the days of King David and King Solomon. Returning to the Daniel passage, we may just have time to read at Daniel 12:2:

2. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
3. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
4. 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.

We shall consider more next time.

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