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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    III. Analysis of Over-all American Positions on Prophecy


    In the latter part of Volume III, and thus far in Volume IV, we have seen how, simultaneously in the different countries of Christendom—though at first centering chiefly in Great Britain-emphasis on the premillennial second advent arose like a resounding chorus. The ending of the longest time period of prophecy and the impending judgment on God’s enemies were emphasized by seventy-five independent writers spread over a dozen different countries on four continents,” 14Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia; and countries—England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Egypt, Asia Minor, United States, Canada, and Mexico. heralding the approaching cleansing of the sanctuary—whatever that might prove to be. A voluminous literature was produced. And this was apart from the even greater exposition by the Millerites, which extended to Australia and the islands of the sea.PFF4 390.3

    Organizations were formed for the study and proclamation of prophecy. Various premillennialist periodicals were established and widely circulated, and important conferences held to spread the message of the imminent advent. World missioners, like Joseph Wolff, hastened afar with the urgent message of the Lord’s return. Even within the ranks of Catholicism there was a distinct stir, penetrating the New World as well as the Old, as seen in Lacunza and De Rozas. Altogether, a tremendous impetus was distinctly felt. And in the New World, along with American works, were circulated reprints of leading British expositions.PFF4 391.1


    The American churches were strongly chiliastic. They had inherited the pure—church ideal from the Anabaptists, who passed it on to the Baptists, and also to the Congregationalists. To them it was not a goal for the future, but a program to be realized in the churches as associations of the regenerate. This pattern of church life left its mark on Christianity in America, where the left-wing churches predominated. Regarding themselves as the pure church, these sects set out to realize the social-political hopes of the kingdom of God on earth, transmuted by the end of the eighteenth century to postmillennialism. 15D. H. Kromminga, op. cit., pp. 179, 236-238.PFF4 391.2

    And these concepts were also strong in the denominations that were right-wing in their Old World origins. It has been pointed out in earlier chapters that the American setting of left-wing predominance, activism, optimism, the frontier philosophy of limitless opportunity for progress, all had a bearing on this conception of millenialism that was to express itself in the first half of the nineteenth century in efforts to bring in the kingdom of God through a revivalist—pietist church activity, social and political reforms of every shade, and foreign missionary promotion in heathen lands. Utopia seemed just around the corner.PFF4 391.3

    The majority of protestant bible commentaries available in North America were neither as advanced nor as accurate as many of the average contemporary expositors. The commentaries commonly leaned toward earlier, less-accurate positions that would not arouse controversy, since they were usually constructed to be sold to all Protestant groups, and were consulted by men of variant faiths and attitudes. For example, while the four kingdoms of Daniel 2 are the standard list, the stone is commonly conceived to be the expanding church, or Christianity, instead of the coming kingdom of glory. (Compare tabular chart in Volume II, pp. 784, 785.) And while the Little Horn is widely recognized as the Papacy (though two or three list Antiochus Epiphanes), none of the commentaries gives the revised dating of the 1260 years, as from Justinian to the French Revolution, held by many both in the Old World and in the New. In Daniel 8, while the majority regard the 2300 days as years, not one follows the lead set by Petri in 1768, in terminating the 2300 years around 1843-1847, which was developed by scores in the new century on both sides of the Atlantic. However, the varying treatment of the 70 weeks of Daniel 9, in the commentaries, is about the same as that of most other expositors. The same is true of the Turk as the power of the latter part of Daniel 11, and the 1290- and 1335-year time periods of Daniel 12. All are solidly united, however, in identification of Paul’s Man of Sin as the Papacy. One must therefore conclude, in general, that the standard commentaries give no strong lead to the progressive interpretation of Daniel, because they are commonly in the rear rather than out in front in exposition. The same general observations must apply to the imported commentaries on the Revelation-tending to be conservative, hesitant, and definitely behind a large number of contemporary Old World regular expositors. (Compare tabular chart, Volume II, pp. 786, 787.) Practically all who touch on it limit the seven churches to specific apostolic congregations. The majority follow Mede in making the churches, seals, trumpets, and vials consecutive, covering the Christian Era chronologically. However, their exposition of the trumpets compares favorably with others-the first four, the Barbarians; the fifth, the Saracens with their special 150 years; and the sixth, the Turks with their allotted 391 years. Their views are conflicting on the Two Witnesses and the earthquake of Revelation 11, but rather united on France as the “tenth part” of the city. They are also strongly united on the “woman” of Revelation 12 as the true church, variant as to the “child,” but united again on the dragon as pagan Rome. They are also fairly a unit on the first and second beasts of Revelation 13 as two phases of the Papacy, with “666” as Lateinos, but are uncertain on the dating of the 1260 years. They are confused and confusing on the flying angels of Revelation 14, and are hesitant on the timing of the seven vials. But they are all very clear on the mystery woman, Babylon, as being the papal church. On the thousand years all but two are hazy and postmillennial, suggesting a figurative interpretation and a spiritual resurrection. So again we must conclude that the standard, available commentaries in America were considerably behind many of their vigorous contemporary expositors, both in the Old World and in the New.
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    Analyzing the full interpretation evidence now before us in Part I, and putting it into brief, summarized form, we find the following leading facts are to be deduced:PFF4 392.1

    (1) In the early decades of the nineteenth century, prophecy, as part of the Inspired Scripture, was accepted as an integral part of the Christian faith. Its study and exposition, deemed honorable and orthodox, engaged some of the finest minds to be found in the pulpit, classroom, and editorial sanctum. It was regarded as a highly proper and profitable field of writing, as attested by a flood of books, tractates, printed sermons, and periodical articles left as a witness to their prophetic faith.PFF4 392.2

    (2) Prophetic study not only was widespread but covered all denominational groups—Presbyterian, Congregational, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, Christian, Disciple, and others.PFF4 392.3

    (3) Moreover, despite differences in creed, forms of organization, and conflicting doctrinal emphasis, certain principles and applications of historical interpretation covering the past had come to be commonly accepted as standard and axiomatic.PFF4 393.1

    (4) Taking as unassailably established the great prophetic out lines of the centuries, recognized as largely fulfilled, menturned to contemporary developments in the field of “last things”—those final features pertaining to the latter days, or “time of the end.” Men were on the alert, seeking to identify the current signs of the times and endeavoring to correct any obvious inaccuracies of former positions. And this intensified study and review confirmed the bulk of past fundamental outlines.PFF4 393.2

    (5) That the Papacy was the Antichrist, likewise denominated the Man of Sin of prophecy, the Beast, and the Mystery-woman or Babylon of the Apocalypse, was rarely challenged among Protestants. Papal recovery after the French Revolution setback, with final disposition to come through ultimate destruction, was another accepted principle in these decades.PFF4 393.3

    (For Daniel See Preceding Chart)
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    PFF4 399

    These tabular listings of expositions of the more than fifty leading, non-Millerite American interpreters of Daniel, from 1798-1844, compare very favorably with their Old World contemporaries of the same period in the nineteenth century. (Cf. tabular chart, Volume III, pp. 744, 745.) They are a unit in identifying the Antichrist as the Papacy. The four empires of Daniel 2 and 7 are the standard series, with scarcely a dissenting voice. The majority of those commenting on the kingdom of God have it established through the second advent. By practically unanimous consent the Little Horn of Daniel 7 is the Papacy. And while a majority of the British expositors terminated the 1260 years with the French Revolution, the American interpreters divide their close between the French Revolution and the year 1866, with a half dozen suggesting 1847/8. While the majority make the exceeding great horn of Daniel 8 to be Rome, a good minority interpret it as Mohammedanism -though not so many as in Britain. Practically all hold the 2300 days to be years, and more than a score (almost as many as in Britain), set 1843, 1844, or 1847 as the end year, but with wide diversity over the event to transpire. A majority extend the 70 weeks from 453 B.C. to A.D. 37, with the cross in 33, in the “midst” of the seventieth week; the rest date them from the seventh of Artaxerxes, in 457 B.C., to the cross in A.D. 33, at the end of the seven tieth week. Some begin the 1260, 1290, and 1335 years synchronously, and have the 1335 years end in 1867/8-but not nearly so many as in Britain. And every Protestant writer identifies the Man of Sin as the Papacy. IN SUMMATION: The American and British expositors of this period are practically on a par in exposition, and are remarkably alike on fundamentals of interpretation to date. (The single tables of Old World expositors include all interpreters up to 1844. Two tables are required here for American expositors-this one (the non-Millerites), and the large Millerite group table to follow on pp. 846-851), because they are parallel. There the picture will be greatly enlarged and intensified. (Read horizontally to follow through any one expositor; read vertically for a comprehensive view of any one point of interpretation, thus affording the over-all exposition of the times.) KEY TO ABBREVIATIONS: B-P-G-R indicates Babylonia, Persia, Grecia, and Rome; Kgdm.- kingdom; Ch.-Church; Pre-M. and Post-M.-premillennial and postmillennial. The term Papacy is used as a general equivalent for the Roman Catholic Church, or papal system, not in the strict. historical sense of the government of the Roman church.
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    PFF4 399

    In America, as in Britain, a few expositors from 1798 to 1844 touch on the seven churches; the majority of such, however, have them cover the Christian Era. The same is true with the seven seals. Several follow Mede’s consecutive plan for the churches, seals, and trumpets, and a few confine the seals to pagan Rome; the rest have them cover the Christian Era. But all who expound the trumpets have the first four as the Barbarian incursions; the fifth, the Saracens with their “five months” (150 years), usually from 612-762; the sixth trumpet, the Turks with their 391 years, usually terminating in the seventeenth century, though a few run them from 1453 to 1844. The Two Witnesses are living witnesses to truth rather than the two Testaments, as commonly held in the Old World. A number place the 1260 years from 533 to 1793, and a few of them place the death of the Witnesses during the French Revolution. Those who comment on the “tenth part” of the city, and the “earthquake” identify them as France and the Revolution. The woman in shining white is always the true church, and the dragon is pagan Rome. Nearly all identify the first beast of Revelation 13 as the Papacy, the seven horns as forms of government, and the ten horns as the kingdoms of Western Europe. And they are about equally divided in ending the 42 months at the French Revolution or in 1866. Six expositors believe the second beast, of Revelation 13, to be some phase of Protestantism; the majority apply it to the Papacy and its clergy, and a couple to Napoleon. As to the “666,” half identify it as the name of the Papacy (Lateinos, Romith, or Vicarius Filii Dei), a few as 666 years, and three as years- specifically from 1177 to 1843.
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    PFF4 399

    (6) The special allotted time of the Turk (the 391 years of Revelation 9:15) was likewise considered as largely, or probably altogether, in the past. And the final drying up of thePFF4 399.1

    A large majority interpret the flying angel of Revelation 14 to be the judgment message and the work of Bible and missionary societies, whereas a few begin their application with Waldo. The majority have their vials already falling on papal Rome; a few put them still in the future. The fifth manifestly concerns the Papacy and the captivity of the pope, and nearly all have the sixth as the drying up of the Turk-though three make it to be the wasting away of the Papacy. The application of the mystery woman, or Babylon, to the Papacy is practically universal. On the thousand years a slight majority are premillennial, though almost as large a minority are postmillennial-the latter holding to a spiritual resurrection and the reign of righteousness, while the premillennialists hold to a literal resurrection and the reign of the resurrected saints. This division carries over into new heavens and earth exposition, as the millennial state or the eternal state at the end of the millennium. On minor points they are usually individualistic. Note again that whereas one table suffices for the Old World writers, two tables are required for America-this non-Millerite tabulation and the large Millerite listing on pages 846-851. This intensifies and adds materially to the full-rounded picture. A decided majority of the expositors are Presbyterians; following them come the Congregationalists as a close second, then the Anglicans and Baptists in order.
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    PFF4 400

    (7) The end of the 2300 days was considered imminent, and the cleansing of the sanctuary.PFF4 400.1

    (8) The expositors of the day placed emphasis on such subjects as the seven vials, the coming destruction of the Papacy and the Turk, and particularly on the approaching millennium, with its triumph for the church.PFF4 401.1


    This was the time of the resurgence of premillennialism in America, paralleling the British Awakening. Since these British Literalists were looking for the overthrow of Antichrist to introduce a political millennial kingdom centered in Jerusalem, with the Jewish race in predominant position, they were deeply impressed, not only with the events of the French Revolution and after, in connection with the 1260 days, but they were sure for a time that the career of Napoleon was a sign of the imminence of the final convulsions. After the end of Napoleon, interest centered in other political developments, particularly the moves toward the emancipation of the Jew in England and elsewhere, and in events in the Turkish Empire that led many to expect the restoration of Palestine to the Jews.PFF4 402.1


    All this was involved in the interest over the ending of the 2300 days. The close of this great mystery number of the 2300 years, beginning with Persia, was the focal point of the new and concerted attention. And its interlocking relation to the 70 weeks, and the fateful events to take place at the end of this longest time period of Daniel and the Revelation, were the theme of unnumbered oral presentations and of hundreds of printed productions. There had been a progressive development in the timing of this period. Originally dated by the Joachimites from the time of Daniel, and reckoned by Cusaas extending from Persia to possibly 1750, it had later begun to be associated with the 70 weeks, from Tillinghast onward. Petri in 1768 had begun both periods simultaneously in 453 B.C., thus extending the longer one to 1847. Then in November, 1810, and January, 1811, Brown in England and Davis in America, both independently following the same principle, ended the period in 1843 and 1847 respectively. And from the non a host of others followed their lead 16see pp. 210-215.PFF4 402.2


    The widely accepted view was that the 2300 prophetic “days” were in actuality literal years, due to end about 1843-1847, and that the period or the 70 weeks or years, extended to the death of the Messiah in the 70th week, was its first segment, “cut off” for the Jews—and so constituted the dependable key to the timing of the longer related period. This view should be entitled to a respectful hearing because of both the caliber of its expounders and their number and spread, for it was declared by some seventy-five prominent and respected voices. This very fact would suggest that it cannot be brushed aside as trivial, capricious, or irrational exegesis. And these, be it particularly noted, all appeared prior to the publication of William Miller’s first book on prophecy in 1836. Thus is established the simple historical fact that the origin of the view of the 2300 years as ending at that time, and its widespread circulation, was wholly prior to and independent of William Miller. This the accompanying chart attests.PFF4 403.1

    Many in different lands were expecting, in connection with the end of this period, the inauguration of the millennium in 1843, 1844, or 1847, or around 1867-1868. Even some post-millennialists were likewise looking to these dates for the beginning of the cleansing of the church from false doctrines, for the downfall of the Papacy and/or Islam, and the freeing of the holy city Jerusalem or Palestine for the returning Jews.PFF4 403.2

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