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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    V. Armstrong-Remarkably Balanced Views on Revelation

    The ten excellent lectures on the prophecies of Revelation that the Presbyterian minister and educator, Dr. AMZI ARMSTRONG, 40AMZI ARMSTRONG (1771-1827) was born in New York and had his schooling in Connecticut. After teaching for a time in Bloomfield, New Jersey, he studied theology and was licensed to preach by the presbytery of New York in 1795. He was pastor in Mendham, New Jersey, from 1796 to 1816, lecturing on the Apocalypse near the close of his pastorate, when he went to Bloomfield as principal of an academy to prepare students for the ministry. He received an M.A. degree in 1804, and a D.D. in 1821, from the College of New Jersey (Princeton). A thorough theologian, and a gifted speaker without recourse to manuscripts, he also had the faculty of simplifying difficult subjects. One of his noted sermons, in 1823, was on The Last Trump. gave to his church at Mendham, New Jersey, in the winter of 1814-15, resulted from twenty years of earnest study. Prophetic exposition, he says, is to be esteemed and weighed with care. Prophecy is not for speculation, but to help Christ’s followers to understand God’s providential care of His people from His ascension until His second advent, and their coming deliverance from all their enemies. 41Amzi Armstrong, A Syllabus of Lectures on the Visions of the Revelation 12-14. Hence its pertinency at the time.PFF4 194.1


    The seven seals, says Armstrong, cover the entire Christian Era-(1) from the triumphs of the “white” apostolic church; (2) through the “red” pagan persecutions, up to the time of Constantine;(3) during the “black” period of famine for the Word of God, from Constantine to the barbarian desolations of the empire;(4) the “pale” period of the extinction of spiritual life, until the dawning of the Reformation; (5) the time of the revival of the spirit of the martyrs, after the “long night of death, “when justification and Christ’s righteousness were again brought to light; (6) the great concussions and the total subversion of all earthly establishments, when the stone kingdom shall smite all nations and all earthly powers shall be broken to pieces, at the great day of the wrath of the Lamb. (In the sealing he sees the restoration of Israel.) This is all followed (7) by the millennial peace and rest of the church. Such, he says, is God’s inner history of the church. 42Ibid., pp. 23-43.PFF4 194.2


    The seven trumpets (alarms of wars) paralleling the seals in part, execute wrath upon an apostate church, beginning when violence and oppression prevailed in the church after the Roman Empire became nominally Christian. The first four, “intended for correction, as well as expressing displeasure,” are of short duration: (1) Alaric and the Goths, descending “from the cold regions of the north” like a “storm of hail upon the empire,” sparing neither age nor infancy, knowing not that they had a commission from God to rebuke men for sin; (2) Attila and the Huns, preceding the middle of the fifth century, invading the whole empire with violence, destroying as the “scourge of God, and the terror of men,” because of the degeneracy of the times; (3) Genseric and the Vandals, representing the Arians, with their “philosophizing notions,” punishing the church’s apostasy and coercion of conscience, and subduing not only North Africa but Rome itself, executing the wrath of God for mercies long abused; (4) the last correction, before the close of the fifth century, the end of the Western Empire (in 476). Then says Armstrong:PFF4 195.1

    “Between this time, and the sounding of the next trumpet, I suppose, it was that the true Church retired to the wilderness—The witnesses began to prophesy in sackcloth—The nominal Church was rejected as apostate—And the beast arose out of the sea.” 43Ibid., p. 65.PFF4 195.2

    The “woe” trumpets were judgments without mercy upon the apostate church in connection with the empire, “after being rejected of the Lord.” 44Ibid., pp. 47-72. These are: (5) the Mohammedan “woe,” from about 612 to 762—the predicted five “months,” or 150 years, counting a day for a year—a continual scourging by these Saracenic “locusts,” that abased the glory of a worldly church; (6) the “woe” of the Turks, on the borders of the river Euphrates, against the whole apostate church (the 391 days, or years, of Revelation 9:15, extending from 1281 to 1672); (7) the introduction of the millennial kingdom of Christ with Hist riumph over His enemies, and the subsequent conversion of the nations.PFF4 195.3


    The Little Book, introduced between the sixth and seventh trumpets, is now open, says Armstrong. The announcement that there should be “time no longer” implies that “the triumphing of the wicked is at an end,” the mystery of God about to be finished. Then the people are to be measured, and the line of separation made. The 42 months, lasting until the seventh angel sounds, are 1260 years:PFF4 196.1

    “This is the term of the continuance of that great mystery of the divine providence toward the Church, during which the witnesses of Christ prophecy in sackcloth—The Church remains in the wilderness—The beast triumphs, and holds the saints under his domination—The power of the holy people is scattered—And Antichrist sits enthroned over an apostate Church—While the sanctuary is trodden under foot, and heathenish idolaters boast themselves in occupying the place of the Church of the living God.” 45Ibid., p. 81.PFF4 196.2


    The name Christian could not long apply to the church after the “conversion” of multitudes under Justinian in the middle of the sixth century. Thus the outer court of the Temple and the Holy City were trodden underfoot for 1260 years, and “the Word and Ordinances of the Lord”—the Two Witnesses against the apostate church-clothed in sackcloth. Then the Two Witnesses were killed, and were raised after 31/L days, or years, in the French Reign of Terror (1792-1796). Then the era of Bible and Missionary societies began, and the sackcloth of the Witnesses was put off. The earthquake shook the whole empire of the Beast, and one of the ten kingdoms fell. 46Ibid., pp. 83-95.PFF4 196.3


    The woman of Revelation 12, or the church, “invested with the rays of the sun of righteousness,” bears the “man child,” Christ, as the 70 weeks of years are ending. The dragon is pagan Rome —Daniel’s fourth beast. The wilderness is the obscurity to which the church retires during the 1260 years, when the flood of pagans inundates the Roman church. The beast from the sea, in chapter 13, is the same as Daniel’s fourth beast—“Roman dominion”—following Babylonia, Persia, and Grecia. John sees it particularly in its eighth or papal form. The seven heads are forms of government. The ten horns are the ten kingdoms—Huns, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks, Vandals, Suevi and Alans, Burgundians, Heruli and Turingi, Anglo-Saxons, and Lombards-ten horn-nations that support the Beast, and still show their beastlike, despotic character. But the Roman beast’s blasphemous existence “will expire with the 1260 years given to the Gentiles.” 47Ibid., pp. 99-107, 114, 119-132, 137-140.PFF4 196.4

    The two-horned beast (as also the papal Little Horn of Daniel 7) is, Armstrong holds, the apostate Roman church, with the two horns as the regular and secular orders of the priesthood. And its boasted miracles are the “distinguishing stigma of Antichrist.” The image is the Papacy. And the 666 is the number of the Latin man-yielded by the three names Romiith (Hebrew), Lateinos (Greek), and Vicarius Filii Dei (Latin). And again Armstrong begins with Justinian the period of the pope as head of the apostate church, or Paul’s man of sin. 48Ibid., pp. 144-155 (cf. pp. 83, 84), 157-159.PFF4 197.1


    The first angel of Revelation 14, having the everlasting gospel to preach to all the earth, is only beginning to be fulfilled in “the missionary spirit, manifested in the societies formed for missionary purposes,” and the provisions to multiply and distribute the Scriptures. But the full power of this, he adds, will not be manifest “till they shall be persuaded that the hour of his judgment is come.” Hence the angel’s proclamation. And following the threefold angelic message comes the harvest of the world, with the “majestic appearance of the great Judge “ of all the earth, coming “to separate between the wheat and the tares.” This is followed by the crushing of the grapes of wrath—the “exterminating judgments” upon an apostate church. 49Ibid., pp. 169-171, 175-180.PFF4 197.2

    In both old world and new, many able expositors began to declare that the symbolic angel had begun its flight, as the message of the last-day judgment was being heralded to men in all nations
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    The seven vials, or plagues, connected with the last period of the 1260 years represent “successive judgments” preparing the way for the saints to take the kingdom, and for the sounding of the last trumpet. In the sixth vial, upon the great river Euphrates, Armstrong sees the destruction of the Turkish dominion, to prepare the way for the kings of the East (either the Jews or the dominions of Asia). And the gathering at Armageddon is followed by the outpouring of the seventh vial (coincident with the seventh trumpet), which overthrows all human establishments and prepares the way for the kingdoms of this world to become the kingdoms of our Lord.” 50Ibid., pp. 185, 186, 192-197.PFF4 199.1


    Armstrong continues with a warning and an admonition. Christ, the Judge, comes unexpectedly, as a “thief,” as did the Flood in the days of Noah. But the antediluvian world had a warning, and so will the world before the second advent. The time prophecies and the signs of the times declare that great event near, but the times are not discerned for lack of real faith. “Public sentiment, in the present day, does not favor the expectation of such events,” because men hope that “the triumphs of grace shall now complete the work of subduing the nations of men to the obedience of faith.” But Armstrong could not cherish a hope that would hide the approach of the events described in Scripture. 51Ibid., pp. 201-208, 216-220. As to the time of the advent, Armstrong stresses that it is after the Holy City has been trodden underfoot and the Witnesses have prophesied in sackcloth, after the woman has been preserved in the wilderness, and the Beast has tyrannized over the saints, during the 1260 years. The Roman hindering power was taken away and the Papacy established. Taking 566 as the date when the Man of Sin was fully revealed, he ends the 1260 years at 1826. “The sixth vial will bring on the destruction of the Turkish empire,” and after a lull, during which Israel will be restored and converted and the gospel sent to all the nations, then the final events will come tumbling on. Great Babylon will drink the cup of wrath, the Beast and false prophet be cast into endless perdition, and their hosts slain. Satan will be bound, and the saints reign with Christ during the thousand years of the millennium. 52Ibid., pp. 220-227, 231, 234-236. It is a vivid exposition, well thought out. The larger outline is clearly portrayed, with difference from others largely in detail.PFF4 199.2


    Eight years after his retirement for health reasons, Armstrong returned once more to his church at Mendham, on October 17, 1824, to put them in remembrance of his former messages on prophecy. His sermon theme was The Last Trumpet. Trumpets, extending the power of the human voice, were used as warning against danger, or to announce feasts and fasts, especially the Day of Atonement in the year of jubilee, or release. This all reminds us of the last trumpet, which will convoke mankind for the coming and presence of the great Judge, when the captives of sin go free and the bands of death are loosed, when the “ancient receptacles of the dead will be broken up, “and the scattered dust that once formed the constituent parts of man will be reanimated to appear before the Lord. Now “when shall this be?” 53Amzi Armstrong, The Last Trumpet, pp. 5, 6.PFF4 200.1


    The “general judgment,” Armstrong thinks, clearly cannot be compassed in a single day. It will doubtless open at the beginning of the millennium, for the saints are to sit with the Judge on thrones of judgment; and the closing scenes of judgment come at the millennium’s close. The millennium will begin suddenly, unexpectedly, preceded by the destruction of the Man of Sin, whom the Lord will “destroy with the brightness of His coming.” And John tells how the Beast and false prophet are to be cast into the lake of fire. Armstrong believes that “the seed of Abraham shall be recovered from their dispersion,” to honor Christ during the millennium. Certain commentators describe the first resurrection as only spiritual, not literal. On the contrary, Armstrong avers, the second advent is everywhere connected with the resurrection of the saints and the execution of the judgment upon their enemies. The battle of the great day, which precedes the millennium, is the beginning of judgments at Christ’s second coming, when the seventh or last trumpet shall sound. 54Ibid., pp. 7-15.PFF4 200.2


    As never before, says Armstrong, disappointed men are in a kind of “almost mute suspense,” “as though we were on the eve of some great change.” If the cry is made at midnight, “Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him,” will you be prepared? “And now I stand before you to remind you of former warnings” during twenty years of ministry. Search the Scriptures, he appeals, to see whether these things be so concerning the glorious appearing of Christ. Others have so allegorized and spiritualized the Scriptures on this subject “as to leave room for them to arrogate themselves the honor, and the power in the Church, which belongs to Christ alone.” And so entirely has this scheme prevailed that men are in darkness on the subject. 55Ibid., pp. 16, 17. In these days of increasing light and knowledge and the sending of the gospel abroad, men delight to recognize the first angel of Revelation 14, but they do not “notice the subject matter of the angel’s proclamation,” “Fear God, and give honour to him; FOR THE HOUR OF HIS JUDGMENT is COME.” 56Ibid., p. 17. Armstrong here sounds a note destined to grow louder and more extended as time progresses.PFF4 201.1

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