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THE GREAT PROPHECIES: VOLUME 1
The Gentiles, the Jews, and the Church of God

by G. H. Pember

   

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Fifth Edition, 1998
464 pgs.
$21.95 USD (hardcover only)
 

This is a book of distinct and conspicuous mark on the exhaustless theme of Scripture prophecy.  It is evident that the conscientious labor and thought of years are embodied in the volume.  While the author shows that he has studied with care the literature of his subject, he has at the same time wrought out an independent scheme of interpretation marked by great comprehensiveness and self-consistency.

George Hawkins Pember was born in 1837.  He was educated at Cambridge University where he took his M.A. in Classics at age twenty-six.  Upon his conversion to Christ, Pember determined to devote his scholastic talents to a close and comprehensive study of the Scriptures for the benefit of God's people.  His penchant for meticulous scholarship, extensive knowledge of ancient cultures, and keen spiritual insight combined to produce works of a quality and depth with few parallels in Christian expository literature.

G. H. Pember died in 1910, leaving a rich legacy of reclaimed spiritual truth, upon which subsequent reformers such as J. N. Darby, Watchman Nee, G. H. Lang, and T. Austin-Sparks would build.

More about the author

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

PROLEGOMENA

  1. Introduction.  Scheme of Interpretation
  2. The Signs of the Times
  3. The Seven Dispensations
  4. The Three Lines of Prophecy
  5. The Three Prophetic Periods
  6. Mystic Chronology
  7. Supernatural Judgments

PART 1: THE GENTILES

  1. The Prophecy of Balaam
  2. The Kingdom of the Ten Tribes
  3. The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar
  4. The Vision of the Four Wild Beasts
  5. The Vision of the Ram and the He-Goat
  6. The Great Red Dragon
  7. The Wild Beast from the Sea
  8. The Wild Beast from the Earth
  9. Mystery, Babylon the Great
  10. The Seven Kings and the Eighth
  11. The Overthrow of Ecclesiasticism by Secularism
  12. The Napoleonic Theory
  13. The Rebuilding of Great Babylon

PART 2: THE JEWS

  1. The Purpose of God concerning Israel
  2. The Perplexity of Daniel
  3. The Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks
  4. The Interval Foretold by Zechariah
  5. The Interval Recognized by Matthew
  6. The Interval in other Visions of Daniel
  7. The Scheme of the Seventy Weeks in the Key to all Prophecy
  8. The Return of the Jews to Palestine
  9. The Sermon on the Mount of Olives
  10. The Twenty-fourth Chapter of Matthew
  11. The Present Condition of the Jewish Nation and Land

PART 3: THE CHURCH OF GOD

  1. The Mystery Hidden from the Ages
  2. The Seven Parables
  3. The Parable of the Sower
  4. The Parable of the Tares
  5. The Parable of the Mustard Tree
  6. The Parable of the Leaven
  7. The Parable of the Treasure in the Field
  8. The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
  9. The Parable of the Net Cast into the Sea
  10. Summary of the Seven Parables
  11. The Plan of the Apocalypse
  12. The Epistles to the Seven Churches
  13. Ephesus
  14. Smyrna
  15. Pergamos
  16. Thyatira
  17. Sardis
  18. Philadelphia
  19. Laodicea
  20. The Presence and the Appearing
  21. The First Rapture, as Revealed to the Thessalonians
  22. The Mystery Finished
  23. Conclusion

Preface

The supreme God has deigned to give revelations whereby He seeks to communicate His purposes to men, and thus, by a gentle process, to bend their minds to His mighty and irresistible will. Nevertheless, myriads of professing Christians are content to reach the end of life in total ignorance of these gracious disclosures, while accredited ministers of Christ are too frequently unable to expound them.

But, since God has thought fit to set them before us, are we not deliberately charging Him with folly while we neglect them? And is not the significance of our conduct much the same if we persist in perverting them from their proper meaning and useóas, for instance, those do who can find little in the Apocalypse save events that had become history before it was written, and doctrines that are fully taught in other parts of Scripture; although the Lord Himself declares that the object of the Book is "to show unto His servants the things that must shortly come to pass" ?

[Rev. 1:1. With the future, then, dating from the time when it was written, and with that future alone, the book is concerned. And we do not violate this rule, as we have been accused of doing, when we interpret the Travailing Woman, in the twelfth chapter, of the Church in affliction. For although her sorrows had commenced many years before John saw the vision, yet they were still going on at the time, and were destined to continue for some eighteen hundred years afterwards.]

And again, may we not attribute much of the apathy of Christendom, the Laodicean spirit with which we are surrounded, and the worldliness of popular Christianity, to the fact that believers will not give themselves to those studies and contemplations which God has provided for them.

A passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews seems to force such a conclusion upon us. The inspired writer complains of the difficulty of communicating what he wishes to say concerning Melchizedec, because those to whom he is writing are dull of hearing and unskillful in the Word of Righteousness; and their condition draws from him a severe rebuke, followed by the exhortation:

"Therefore, leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us press on unto perfection; not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of baptisms of instruction, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of dead persons, and of eternal judgment" (Hebrews 6:1).

We may observe that this list of foundations includes nearly all the doctrines ordinarily heard from our pulpits. And yet the Apostle compares those who are incessantly occupied with them to one who wastes labour and time by repeatedly laying down and taking up again the foundation of a building, when he ought to be raising the superstructure. He, therefore, solemnly urges the Hebrews to pass on from first principles to perfection, and presses his exhortation with the wordsó

"For it is impossible in the case of those who were once enlightened, and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the World to Come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame" (Hebrews 6:4-6).

Now, without entering into the full meaning of these words of terror, we must admit that the context leaves us in no doubt as to the manner of persons who are in danger of the lapse contemplated and the appalling judgment which must inevitably follow it. They are those who refuse to look beyond the first principles of Christ; those who will not study, meditate upon, and suffer the Holy Spirit to mould their minds by, the revelations which God has provided for that purpose, and with which He has bidden us to fill our heart and satisfy our intellect; those who vainly strive to excuse their indolence, and want of appetite for heavenly things, by affirming that the simple Gospel is enough for themóas if the effect of tasting the good things of God were to make us desire no more of them, although His banquet is spread, and He ceases not to say, "Eat, 0 friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved."

Thus, throughout the whole Christian dispensation, spiritual apathy and the peril of apostasy have ever been threatening those who neglect to become acquainted, as accurately as they may, with the Divine utterances, whereby alone we are enabled to estimate earthly things aright, and are moved to look for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

What, then, shall we say of ourselves upon whom the end of the age has come, who seem to be living in times when the predictions of old are on the point of fulfillment! How far more cogent is the word of exhortation to us, who can even see the Day approaching!

Isaac Taylor thought that God would ultimately divide between those who support and those who oppose the truth by means of the Book of the Revelation. And undoubtedly his general idea is correct; for a far higher and absolutely unimpeachable authority has said of the Old Testament Apocalypse:

"The words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" (Daniel 12:9-10).

Such, then, will be the distinctive mark of Godís elect in the worldís last hour of trial ; and to the wise of that generation, whether it be our own or another, the word of prophecy will seem no matter for slight or neglect, but a revelation of transcendent importance.

Nor can we tell what mighty issues may be depending upon its reception even in the case of those who will not live to see it become history. The great Creator acts upon us during the present life in ways that we know not, and with results which will not fully appear until this mortal shall have put on immortality. And surely a patient and prayerful study of revelations which set forth His purposes must produce a frame of mind favorable to sanctification and spiritual growth, and likely to affect our eternal condition in no insignificant degree. Godís prescribed means of education must be the best, and even those who think that they have done greater things by labours of a different kind may find their hopes crushed by the stern rebuke-- "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams!"

But the cause which most powerfully moves men to neglect Godís revelations of the future is the repugnance of the human mind to anything which is contrary, either to its experience, or to the aspirations of its fallen nature. There was a wondrous depth of truth in our Lordís rebuke when He said: "0 fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" (Luke 24:25)ónot slow of heart to know, or to understand, but to believe. It was an instinctive aversion to the course of Godís will which led the very disciples to misunderstand the predictions of the first advent; a similar feeling will cause many Christians to be taken by surprise at the second.

Such an aversion is, however, rarely acknowledged it is usual to assign its results to unreal causes, of which the most frequently urged is the great diversity of expositions. But this perplexity is indefinitely increased by the careless recognition as an interpreter of almost any one who presents himself. In such circumstances what wonder that we hear of strange and wild interpretations! But if the Church would awake from her indifference, and be at the pains to apply proper tests, the mischief would be speedily checked and restricted. And two obvious tests are these. No one may claim to be more than a tentative expounder of prophecy, unless he can formulate a complete and consistent scheme.

And no system can be the true one, unless all the main prophecies of the Bible will fall easily and naturally into place in it.

We are well aware that many object to the very mention of a system of prophecy: but surely it does not require much reflection to discover that such a sentiment is simply irrational. If the prophecies are all utterances of one and the selfsame Spirit, they must be capable of reduction to an orderly scheme, and certainly cannot be comprehended in any other way. And unless we find out what this scheme is, woe to us; for if, as nearly all Christians seem to agree, we are now on the borders of the last times, the knowledge of it will soon become the distinguishing mark of those whom God has chosen. For, at the time of the end, "none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand."

The scheme, which commends itself to our mind, is set before the reader in the present volume, and is constructed with careful reference to certain clues, which we believe to have been given for the purpose, and which are explained in the last six chapters of the Prolegomena.

The most important of them are a recognition of the three distinct classes into which mankind are divided, a knowledge of the three prophetic periods, and an acquaintance with the simple principle upon which God computes the chronology of Jewish history. A clear apprehension of these points will, we believe, remove all difficulty and uncertainty in regard to general and systematic interpretation.

But when we enter into details, it is no longer possible to speak with the same confidence ; for there are, doubtless, some predictions which will not be perfectly understood until their fulfillment is actually impending. None the less, however, must we study and firmly grasp them with our minds: and if we do so, that which is lacking to us will be revealed in the hour of need; and at the crisis perplexing to others, or, perhaps, altogether unperceived by them, we shall have full understanding of what is about to happen, and of what we ought to do.

The early disciples were probably unable to explain the Lordís command, that they should flee to the mountains as soon as they saw Jerusalem compassed with armies. How, they may have thought, can we flee in such circumstances? Surely the very sign which He has promised will render obedience impossible.

But in due time all became clear to them ; and their hearts must, indeed, have overflowed with gratitude when they perceived that the Lordís gracious arrangements had given, not merely the signal, but also the opportunity, for their flight, and had at the same time removed out of the way their bigoted countrymen who would have hindered it.

"They shall not be ashamed that wait for me" (Isaiah 49:23).

In preparing this work for a second edition we have subjected it to careful revision and correction; much explanatory matter and several new chapters have been added; and it is hoped that the book may now prove useful as a systematic manual for students of prophecy. It does not, however, include the whole of the subject, but only such portions of it as seem most nearly to concern those who are waiting for the summons of their Lord. The detailed events of the Last Week, the descent of Christ upon the Mount of Olives, the Millennial Age, the Final Judgment, and the Eternal State, are reserved for future treatment.

A few replies to adverse criticisms have been embodied in the text ; but we may at once mention three points in regard to which we do not recognize the need of a defense.

The fact that an event is, so far as we can see, improbable, is no reason whatever for refusing it a place in Godís revelation of the future.

We have been repeatedly asked what ground we have for inserting events between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth of Danielís weeks. Simply that in so doing we follow the prophecy, which makes the cutting off of Messiah take place after the close of the sixty-ninth week, and then interposes the events in question before it proceeds to the seventieth. It is for those who violate this order to defend their position.

Lastly, we are accused of Pessimism, and have no wish to deny the charge, but confess to have learnt that distrust in the power of fallen man to recover himself; which is inculcated in the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. But our Pessimism, derived from such a source, is not hopeless; though there be little help in ourselves, we look for the coming of One Who is mighty to save. Be the sky never so dark, we know that the Sun is still shining in His strength behind it, and presently, when the tempestuous clouds of the Great Tribulation shall part asunder, His light and warmth will be revealed to the rejoicing earth.

The coloured chart prefixed to the present edition will, we trust, facilitate the readerís acquaintance with the scheme.

 
 

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