12. Bringing History Up to Date
Bringing History Up to Date
Updated April 2023
In the early part of the nineteenth century a new method of biblical interpretation emerged: Dispensatioalism. This challenged the accepted protestant historicist view of Bible prophecy. In response to this new way of interpreting scripture, Edward Bishop Elliot wrote Horae Apocalypticae (Hours with the Apocalypse) in which he laid out in chronological order the case for the traditional protestant interpretation of the Bible. His interpretation of prophecy based on historical fact was greatly assisted by material provided by the atheist Edward Gibbons, as written in his 'Decline and Fall of the Roman empire.' It is one of the ironies of history that someone who was antagonistic to the 'claims of Christ' should play such a vital role in upholding scriptural truth.
The Dispensationalist school argues that the prophecies of Revelation, Matthew 24, those parts of John's letters dealing with the Antichrist, and Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians (concerning the 'Man of Lawlessness'), all contain prophecies the fulfilment of which is yet to come. In some cases, the Dispensationalist school argues for multiple fulfilments of the same prophecy; the second fulfilment of those prophecies being selected in accordance with a particular narrative.
Elliot took a stand against Dispensationalism as part of a crusade for biblical truth. Key elements of Dispensationalism are: an upcoming Antichrist, a one world government, a one world religion which teaches institutionalized celibacy and vegetarianism, a tribulation in which most of the present church is killed, and a rapture in which the reminder of the church is taken away, and the replacement of the church by a future church arising from presently unbelieving Jews who spontaneously become Christians. Put simply, the present church fails at every level and is ultimately replaced. This is the most depressing, demoralizing, and destructive teaching imaginable. This does not prove this teaching to be invalid, but these teachings go against how the church is viewed in scripture: the 'Bride of Christ' is not tossed on to a spiritual scrap heap. The appalling teaching of Dispensationalism may be countered by pointing out the historical fulfilment of many bible prophecies which the Dispensationalist School deems to be yet future.
Human history has been described (in sometimes cryptic forms) through Bible prophecy. The purpose of such prophecy is not to provide a schedule of events, a program, or a framework but to glorify God through demonstrating His control over world events, to comfort the church in times turmoil, and to inform those cognisant of the present of what will shortly happen.
The prophecies of the Book of Revelation started to be fulfilled soon after it was written - at the end of the first century. E B Elliot wrote the most comprehensive description of prophetic fulfilment in his Horae Apocalypticae. He identified prophetic fulfilment up to the time of his death in the mid nineteenth century. Scholars may disagree with some of his analyses but his work remains seminal.
The middle of the nineteenth century corresponds to the middle of Revelation chapter 16. The second half of chapter 16 and the beginning of chapter 17 brings us to the present age.
The Close Up and the Distant Perspectives
The bible scholar Isaac Newton had the insight that the meaning of bible prophecy only becomes apparent in the age to which it relates. We cannot make detailed predictions about all outstanding prophecies: some events are too far in the future. The purpose of prophecy is to explain the age in which the church is currently living. It is superfluous to gain any knowledge of more distant events since historical circumstances can change quickly and in unimaginable ways, ways that are beyond detailed description. So, what is the point in having a detailed understanding of events far into the future since we may not even be around to see them, let alone respond to them?
The Dispensationalist school has all sorts of stories about how the future will unfold. When it comes to prognosticating, two can play at that game. The Historicist school has two advantages at least: we can put aside prophecy that has already been fulfilled, and consider the smaller corpus of prophecies fulfilling at present and those which are still future. Prophecies already fulfilled also give us clues as to how the remaining prophecies will be fulfilled. This is because there are consistent patterns of events throughout history.
Prophetic Commentary to the End of Revelation Chapter 15
Elliot considered history up to his time of writing. It is worth reviewing fulfilled prophecies to establish certain historic pattens. There are 21 judgements against humanity (or inhumanity) in Revelation. These are the 'seal,' 'trumpet' and 'bowl' (or vial) judgements.
The seven 'seal' judgements concern the relationship between the church and the pagan Roman empire. The pagans were crushed by Constantine at the battle of the Milvian bridge (AD312). The Christian church then became socially and politically established, but parts of it decayed into paganism.
The seven 'trumpet' judgements saw a return of paganism to the Roman empire through its conquest by pagan tribes from the north. In AD476 Odoacer forced the last Roman emperor (of the then western half of the Roman empire) to abdicate. The articles of office were sent to the emperor of the Byzantine empire. The Byzantine empire was the eastern half of the Roman empire (the division had been made by Constantine AD330). The Byzantine was the legal and political continuation of the 'original' Roman empire.
After a thousand years, the Byzantine empire had decayed into pagan practice. In repeat of the judgement on the Roman empire, the Byzantine empire was conquered from the east to establish the Ottoman empire. The conquerors, in coming from the east, copy the Babylonian invasion of Israel at the beginning of the sixth century BC; both conquests happened for the same reason - idolatry.
The relationship between God and the gentile world post AD70 is provided in Revelation Chapter 6 onwards. A series of 21 judgements is presented (Chapters 6 to 16). Judgements 1 to 19 are described in E B Elliot's Horae Apocalypticae. This covers the period from the end of the first century to the middle of the 19th century.
Historical Prelude to the Twentieth Judgement (Sixth Bowl of Wrath)
Elliot presents the first French revolution as being the first of the bowl (or vial) judgements. Subsequent upheavals in Europe were the outworking of the remaining judgements. At the end of the eighteenth century the devil decided to give the Hoy Roman empire (the second beast of Revelation) a make-over. He decided to move away from the religious-political model of empire (the Holy Roman empire under the Habsburg dynasty had been strongly Catholic) to a 'secular' (atheist) model based on military force and oppression. The French Revolution brought 'secular humanism' to the fore and the Napoleonic wars successfully signalled the rise of a new European order (new Roman empire).
In 1806 the last emperor of the Holy Roman empire (Francis the second) saw that the 'writing was on the wall' and dissolved his empire. This prevented Napoleon from gaining legal, political, and moral authority for ruling over Europe. Napoleon's plans (and hence the devil's plans) were scuppered finally at Trafalgar and Waterloo. Whilst 'Europe' was falling into 'secular humanism' England had had a Christian religious revival which subsequently blessed the world with a period of relative peace, prosperity, the furtherance of the gospel, abolition of slavery and Europe being freed from Napoleonic tyranny.
During the following hundred years the devil got busy laying the foundations of a 'New World Order'. The concept of a 'New World Order' goes back to Plato's Republic and envisages political leadership through a self-selected elite. Progress in industry, trade, and communications meant that global government was a possibility. There was a repeat of the policy pursued at the building of the Tower of Babel: combining political and religious leadership to oppose divine authority, and achieve global governance.
The Tower of Babel was constructed of bricks held together by tar. Tar is not appropriate as a construction material. Figuratively speaking, both the goals of the project and the construction materials were inappropriate. In the writings of Daniel the prophesied forthcoming Roman empire was made from iron and clay. Again, both the objectives and the building materials were wrong. This becomes typical of the works of darkness: both the intentions are wrong and built upon the joining together of 'materials' which do not adhere. Put in a cultural sense, multiculturalism as a tool for achieving the consolidation of nations and world governance will not work.
The Sixth Bowl Judgement - river Euphrates Dries Up
Rev. 16:12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East
The sixth bowl sees the river Euphrates 'drying up.' This has several prophetic meanings as follows:
• The 'drying up' of the river Euphrates symbolises the decline of the Turkish Ottoman empire (late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries). Nations along the river rebelled against Turkish rule. The Ottoman empire finally collapsed (as a military force) at the battle of Armageddon (19th to 25th September, 1918), near Megiddo, Palestine. The empire ended politically in 1923 with the establishment of the Turkish Republic.
• The river Euphrates is part of the traditional border of the land promised to the Jews. The Jews were largely excluded from Israel after the Bar Kokbar riots. The 'drying up' of the border may be taken to imply the removal of obstacles to the return of the Jews. The river Euphrates symbolises the eastern extent of the land promised to Abraham (Genesis 16:18). Abraham would have crossed the Euphrates on his way to Canaan on his journey to take possession of the promised land.
• The drying up of the river is a copy of the Red Sea and the Jordan river. Ezra and Nehemiah came from Babylon in the east to re-establish Israel.
• In the New Testament wise men came from the east to honour Jesus. They came from Babylon crossing the river Euphrates on the way. The expression 'to make way for the kings of the east' is related to some Jews leaving Babylon under Nehemiah and Ezra, and the wise men who came to honour Jesus (likely from Babylon itself. east of Israel).
The drying up of the Euphrates therefore symbolises:
• Deliverance (Egypt, wilderness)
• Journeying to Israel to establish the nation
• People coming to Jesus.
Rev. 16:13 Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
The dragon is clearly the devil. The beast is an ungodly empire. Frogs are unclean animals (according to Jewish law). The symbology means false or unclean speech. The prophecy is fulfilled in the rise of 'Christian' cults, false religions, and various forms of socialism from Marxism to Naziism and Fascism, evolutionary and uniformitarian theories, and negative criticism of the Bible (liberal; theology). This part of the Sixth Bowl Judgement focusses on Europe rather than the Middle East.
Frogs were one of the plagues of Egypt. The Egyptian god Heqet was associated with the annual flooding of the Nile. The association with the Euphrates drying up speaks of irony on the part of the author of Revelation: the river upon which the frog-god depended was drying up. This represents the rise of intellectual opposition to the secular lies of the false prophets of the Enlightenment.
The reference to 'false prophet' should be interpreted against the biblical descriptions of false prophets as follows:
• In 1 Kings 13 a false prophet contradicted a message given to a 'man of God' by saying that God had changed His mind over a forthcoming judgement. The genuine prophet ('man of God') died.
• In 1 Kings 22 the Israelites were told by their prophets that they would be assured of victory against the Syrians. The consequence was the defeat of the king of Israel.
• In Jeremiah 28 a false prophet predicted that divine judgement would not take place against Jerusalem and that Nebuchadnezzar would go back by the way he came. False prophets predicted 'peace, peace' and there was no peace.
• Jesus warned of false prophets as recorded in Matthew 24. False prophets assured the people of victory over the Romans. The Fall of Jerusalem in AD70 took place anyway.
• Bar-Kokhba predicted victory against the Romans in the late AD120s. The outcome was the annihilation of Israel and mass deportation of the Jews.
There is a consistent theme here: false prophets contradict the threat of divine judgement.
During the nineteenth century Utopian socialist ideals emerged from the writings of Karl Marx. This false prophet of atheism foresaw a victorious class struggle which would result in the evolution of an ideal society. 'Revolutionary change' rather than 'repentance from sin' was the message. The consequences were and are disastrous.
A Further Response to the Sixth Bowl Judgement - Mobilisation for War
Rev 16:14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
The reference to 'demonic spirits performing signs' repeats a warning given in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. That warning was fulfilled in AD70 in Jerusalem where false 'miracles' were performed - according Josephus' Jewish Wars. The warning in Revelation is about the supernatural forces at work in the false prophets, priests, and kings.
The reference to the 'kings of the earth' is taken from Lam 4:12:
Lam 4:12 The kings of the earth ...would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem. (KJV)
The prophecy was fulfilled at the invasion of Israel by the Babylonians (and allies) in the early sixth century BC. The expression 'kings of the earth' therefore represents the traditional enemies of the Jews among surrounding nations.
The expression 'whole world' refers to the geographical extent of the ancient Roman empire. The Greek word implies the 'inhabited earth' of the Roman empire not the whole planet. A different Greek word is used to describe the 'whole' earth.
Similarly Jeremiah 25:26:-
Jer 25:26 And all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another, and all the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth: and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them.
Again, in both cases, the kings represent the traditional enemies of Israel - not those of the entire planet but those of the 'known' or 'inhabited' world.
Two groups of peoples are foreseen: those geographically near and those who are part of the Roman empire. In the former case these would be the Ottomans. The Ottomans occupied Palestine, formerly Israel. The conquering forces were led by descendants of the most distant Roman colony - Britannia.
The expression 'the great day of God Almighty' is an expansion of the 'day of the Lord.' In scripture 'the day of the Lord' refers to a time of limited judgement against a particular nation. The final judgement and the resurrection of the dead is described much later in Revelation. What we are seeing here is the climax of the 20th judgement.
Rev 16:15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
Jesus describes his forthcoming judgement of Jerusalem (AD70) as one which takes place at night. Hence people were 'without clothes' due to being asleep. The First World War emerged very quickly, with little warning of what was to come.
The reference to Jesus coming like a thief is based on Old Testament and New Testament scriptures:
Joel 2:9 They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief.
1Th 5:2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (Context: forthcoming Fall of Jerusalem AD70)
The reference in Joel is to the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and the reference in Thessalonians to the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans (AD70). Taken together, the two references and the prophecy in Revelation speak of a day when Israel will be invaded.
The second part of Rev 16:15 refers us back to the letter to the Laodicean church (Rev. 3:14). European society was materially wealthy but spiritually poor. The benefits of industrialisation and trade had similarly made the people of the 18th and 19th centuries materialistic and but the false messages of the 'frogs' had made society less spiritual.
World War I appeared quite suddenly in history. This was the war that was supposed to be over by Christmas. The world was massively misled concerning what was to come.
The war on the Western Front became stalemate. On 10th December 1916 the Germans proposed an armistice. The armistice proposal was denied.
Under the Sykes-Pico agreement, the Middle East was to be carved up between the British and the French. Britain and France needed access to middle eastern oil reserves. The armistice was denied to prolong the war in the Middle East.
A consequence of prolonging the First World War was that size million people died during the reminder of the war. The cost of Franco-British imperialism was very high. The innocent and armed forces civilians were the ones who suffered.
Climax to the Sixth Bowl Judgement - The War
Rev 16:16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
The word 'Armageddon' (Mount Megiddo) is 'Megiddo' in the original Greek text (Both in the Majority text and Critical text). When scripture is used to interpret scripture, it is necessary in this instance to refer to 'Megiddo' rather than a nearby mountains (like Carmel or Tabor). Megiddo is referred to several times in the Old Testament but the most appropriate references are: -
• Judges 5, where Canaanites were destroyed in a battle by the Jews. The Canaanites were traditional enemies of the Jews.
• 2 Chronicles 35, where Josiah, an otherwise righteous king, disobeyed God and was killed.
• 2 Kings 9, where Ahaziah, an apostate king was killed.
These fit in with the battle of Megiddo which took place between 19th and 25th September 1918. The battle was between the British Army which represented the allied powers and the Turkish army which represented the 'local' Middle Eastern powers.
The Ottoman empire was the successor to the Byzantine empire (fell 1453), which was the successor to the Roman/Byzantine empire (dissolved AD1453), which was the successor to the Greek empire (defeated 280-275BC), which was the successor to the Medo-Persian empire (conquered 331BC) which was the successor to Babylon (conquered 539BC).
The Ottoman empire was the last descendant in a line of dynasties going back to Babylon. The Ottoman empire commenced to decline in 1683 when Christian forcers from the west defeated the Ottomans on September 12th at the Battle of Vienna. These number five empires in total, a number which will be enlarged upon later when 'the beast' of chapter 17 is considered.
In summary, the sixth bowl of wrath began to take effect in the Middle East in 1683 and concluded in the Middle East in 1918.
Prelude to Twenty First Judgement - the Seventh Bowl of Wrath
Rev 16:17 And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. 18 And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
The period following the First World War saw mixed success for the kingdom of darkness. Although a terrible regime had been put in place in Russia, which proceeded to expand over eastern Europe, Europe itself saw a measure of growth, peace, and prosperity. There was no European tyranny - just yet.
The British empire had been damaged by the war: loss of trade with the commonwealth countries had caused those countries to develop other trading relationships. Industry had been damaged and there were crippling war debts. Nonetheless, influence in the Middle East for both the French and the British preserved their empires - for the time being.
Three significant political developments took place in Europe: Fascism and Naziism united to build a new Roman empire, and the League of Nations formed to try to establish a new world political order (starting in Europe). The possibility of a European economic community was also floated at this time. Outside Europe, Japan was flexing its muscle and seeking domination of east Asia (invasion of Manchuria, 1931).
Rev 16:19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
World War Two comprised three globalist and internationalist rivals: the 'free' world of Britain and the United States, the German/Italian/Japanese alliance, and the Soviets. To understand the prophetic significance of these, one must appreciate what 'the Great City' is. The expression 'Great City' is further described in the following scriptures:
• Jeremiah 22 & Lamentations 1: In both cases the reference is to Jerusalem following its fall to the Babylonians.
• Jonah: references to Nineveh, which was full of paganism.
• Revelation 11:8 and 14:8: in both cases Europe under papal domination. These two scriptures refer respectively to the beginning and conclusion of the Reformation in Europe.
The division of the 'great city' into three parts refers to the division of the world between the allies, Russian, and German-supporting powers in the Second World War. This imagery is drawn from the Fall of Jerusalem which was divided between the forces of John of Giscala, Simon bar Giora, and the Romans. The three-fold division lasted only 4 weeks as the Romans were eventually victorious but amid great loss of life. The Second World War was fought mainly in Europe but most of the nations of the world were drawn into it one way or another.
'Babylon came in remembrance before God' is an ironic reflection of 'Noah was remembered by God.' Noah and his family were brought to safety but Babylon is doomed.
The reference to the 'wine of fierceness of God's wrath' is taken from Jeremiah 32:15.
Jeremiah 32:15 Thus said the Lord God of Israel; Take the cup of this unmixed wine from mine hand, and thou shalt cause all the nations to drink, to whom I send thee.
Rev 16:20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
Rev 16:20 is taken from flood imagery - Noahs' flood. The general judgement of the Second World War and its aftermath saw the defeat of the left-wing totalitarian regimes (Naziism, Fascism), the defeat of Japanese imperialism, the defeat of Chinese imperialism, the decline of the British empire due to the Suez Crisis (1956), the loss of many eastern European countries due to the expansion of the Soviet empire, France lost some of her colonies and several African countries became independent, the 1973 Oil Crisis gave prominence to middle eastern politics and the decline of the political influence gained under the Sykes-Picot agreement.
The Soviet Union fell in 1991. Newly liberated countries in Europe joined yet another attempt to re-create the Roman empire -the European Economic Community. The United Nations was formed as a 'world government' in waiting.
Communist China is now world dominant, subjugating nations through bribery, corruption, debt-diplomacy, and military threats. The European Union is on its last legs: Brexit plus the inevitable cracks due to trying to make 'iron stick to clay' through multiculturalism in 'Europe', are appearing. Political Islam is becoming increasingly influential.
The globalist elites of 'The West' have come into the open from their Bilderberger secret conferences into the World Economic Forum: all those conspiracy theorists seem to have been right all along. The 'Great City' is still divided between differing competing factions seeking world government. It seems that the devil is hedging his bets as to which regime will achieve the objective of de-throning Jesus: the 'real' world leader. But what of the future? Refer to Revelation 17 for the answer.