The King Reigns!
1, 2. (a) What greater significance was there to the year 1914? (b) How did the Watch Tower magazine pinpoint 1914 many years in advance?
UNQUESTIONABLY, the year 1914 marked a major turning point in the affairs of the nations and of mankind. But it was far more significant than most historians realize. It was a time when thrilling events took place related to the ‘coming’ of God’s kingdom. Years in advance, careful Bible students were looking forward with keen anticipation to that year. On what basis?
2 Thirty-four years before 1914, the magazine Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, in its issues of December 1879 and March 1880, was pointing to 1914 as a marked date in Bible prophecy. An article in its issue of June 1880 called attention to the approaching end of “the Times of the Gentiles (Luke xxi. 24).” Though the writer at the time did not understand the full implication of events about to take place, he showed from Bible chronology that a period of “seven times,” or 2,520 years, of domination in government by godless nations, starting from the first desolating of ancient Jerusalem, was due to end in “A.D. 1914.” He stated: “The long period of 2520 years and . . . bitter experience [of God’s people] under the dominion of the beasts, (human governments, Dan. vii.) is clearly represented in Dan. iv., by the ‘seven times’ of Nebuchadnezzar and his bitter experience among the beasts.” What, then, are the “seven times”?
INTERPRETING A DREAM
3. What fundamental truth is stated at Daniel 4:25?
3 Chapter 4 of the Bible book of Daniel 4 describes a remarkable prophetic dream. It illustrates that “the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind, and that to the one whom he wants to he gives it.” (Daniel 4:25) Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had the dream and related it to the prophet Daniel for interpretation.
4-6. (a) What dream did Nebuchadnezzar have? (b) How did Daniel interpret it? (c) How was it fulfilled? (d) On being restored, what recognition did Nebuchadnezzar make?
4 Nebuchadnezzar saw in vision an immense tree that was visible to the extremity of the earth. It provided food for all, and shelter. But a “holy one” from heaven decreed that the tree be chopped down and its stump banded with iron and copper, the two strongest metals of the time. “Seven times” were to pass by while the tree was in this restrained state.
5 Interpreting this prophetic vision, Daniel explained that the tree in its grandeur pictured Nebuchadnezzar. He was to be ‘chopped down’ or brought low. “Seven times” would pass by during which Nebuchadnezzar would be like the beasts of the field. But just as the “tree” was not destroyed completely, so after the “seven times” the king would be restored.—Daniel 4:19-27.
6 This is precisely what befell Nebuchadnezzar. He was debased, and became like an animal removed from human habitation, eating vegetation. Those “seven times” were evidently seven years, during which Nebuchadnezzar had ‘his bitter experience among the beasts.’ His own hair grew long, just like eagles’ feathers, and his nails grew to be like birds’ claws. But finally he regained his sanity and was restored to his kingship. When that occurred, he praised and glorified “the King of the heavens” as the One who really exercises rulership and whose “kingdom is for generation after generation.”—Daniel 4:28-37.
7-9. (a) In which prophecy did Jesus refer to the end of the Gentile Times? (b) So what questions should be of vital interest to us?
7 However, what has all of this to do with the year 1914 of our Common Era?
“THE APPOINTED TIMES OF THE NATIONS”
8 It was while describing ‘the sign of the conclusion of the system of things’ that Jesus Christ said:
“Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24)
The “nations” referred to by Jesus were the non-Jewish nations, or “Gentiles.” The well-known King James Version of the Bible here uses the expression “times of the Gentiles.” Thus, many have wondered, ‘What are the Gentile Times? What time period did Jesus have in mind? When did it begin, and when would it end?’
9 We have already seen that Jesus’ great prophecy on the “sign” has vital meaning for us today. So we need to know, also, the answers to these questions.
“JERUSALEM” MEANS WHAT?
10-12. (a) According to one scholar, of what were the events of 29-70 C.E. a type? (b) But what larger meaning could “Jerusalem” take on at Luke 21:24? (c) How does a well-known cyclopedia help us with this viewpoint? (d) For what does “Jerusalem” thus stand?
10 In commenting on Jesus’ prophecy, Professor A. T. Robertsona observes that Jesus used “the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem which did happen in that generation in A.D. 70, as also a symbol of his second coming and of the end of the world or consummation of the age.” Therefore, we may ask: Aside from what befell Jerusalem in 70 C.E., what larger or long-range meaning could Jesus have been attaching to “Jerusalem” at Luke 21:24?
11 Jesus regarded Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, where kings anointed by Jehovah in the line of David sat “upon Jehovah’s throne,” ruling as kings for Jehovah God. Also, its temple was the center of true worship for all the earth. (1 Chronicles 28:5; 29:23; 2 Chronicles 9:8) The Cyclopaedia by M’Clintock and Strong observes: “Jerusalem had been made the imperial residence of the king of all Israel; and the Temple, often called ‘the house of Jehovah,’ constituted at the same time the residence of the King of kings, the supreme head of the theocratical state, . . . Jerusalem was not, indeed, politically important: it was not the capital of a powerful empire directing the affairs of other states, but it stood high in the bright prospects foretold by David when declaring his faith in the coming of a Messiah [Psalm 2:6; 110:2].”—Volume IV, page 838.
12 The fact that the kings in David’s line sat on “the throne of the kingship of Jehovah” underscored the truth that the kingdom really was God’s. The kingdom of Israel as centered in Jerusalem was a typical kingdom of God. “Jerusalem” thus stood for the kingdom of God.
13, 14. When and how did the ‘trampling’ of Luke 21:24 begin?
13 Recall, now, Jesus’ words: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) When did this ‘trampling’ begin? Clearly, it began long before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, for human kings in the line of David had long since ceased to reign in Jerusalem. The Davidic dynasty of kings came to an end when King Zedekiah was dethroned by the invading Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar.
14 The Bible’s accurate history tells us what happened because of the badness of the people and of King Zedekiah. It states: “The rage of Jehovah came up against his people, until there was no healing. So he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans [Babylonians], who proceeded to kill their young men with the sword . . . Everything [God] gave into [Nebuchadnezzar’s] hand. And all the utensils, great and small, of the house of the true God and the treasures of the house of Jehovah and the treasures of the king and of his princes, everything he brought to Babylon. And he proceeded to burn the house of the true God and pull down the wall of Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 36:11, 12, 16-20) There the ‘trampling’ began.
“TRAMPLED” FOR HOW LONG?
15-17. (a) Who lost the “legal right” to David’s kingdom, and how? (b) Who would regain that right, and for how long? (c) So what pertinent question arises? (d) Why would it be appropriate for Daniel to answer this question?
15 The prophet Ezekiel foretold the dethroning of Zedekiah, the last of the Davidic line of kings to rule from earthly Jerusalem, in these words:
“This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘Remove the turban, and lift off the crown. This will not be the same. . . . A ruin, a ruin, a ruin I shall make it. As for this also, it will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give it to him.’”—Ezekiel 21:26, 27.
16 Though King Zedekiah then lost the “legal right” to the Davidic kingdom, the promised Messiah would regain that “right” and rule in the kingdom of God “forever.” (Luke 1:32, 33) But how long would it be until the Messianic kingdom—which had been typified by the earthly kingdom of Israel with its capital at Jerusalem—began to rule?
17 Jehovah God knew, and he could indicate the time period in his Word, just as he had foretold many other future things. In his discourse on “the conclusion of the system of things,” Jesus several times referred to Daniel’s prophecy, in which God had accurately foretold many coming developments in heaven and on earth. (Compare Matthew 24:3, 15, 21, 30 with Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:1; 7:13.) Also, had not the prophecy of the “seventy weeks,” at Daniel 9:24-27, provided the accurate timetable for Messiah’s first coming? Would it not be appropriate for the same prophet to give the timing for the second coming of Messiah? It is in Daniel the fourth chapter that we find this prophetic information that concerns us directly.
18. (a) Why may it be that secular histories fail to mention Nebuchadnezzar’s madness? (b) Why should we heed what God’s Word here says?
18 We have already examined the initial, typical application of Daniel’s prophecy of the “seven times” and have noted that it applied to the seven literal years of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness. The fact that secular history gives no detailed account of Nebuchadnezzar’s seven-year absence from the throne should not be surprising. Ancient records of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon are notorious for their omission of anything that might be embarrassing to the ruler, which is one reason for their not being as reliable as God’s inspired Word. It is God’s Word that assures us that the dream vision was fulfilled. The language of the prophecy also indicates that there would be an even more far-reaching fulfillment, and that has likewise taken place. In what way?
19. Why, logically, would this vision help us to determine the length of the Gentile Times?
19 It should be noted that the dream was given to the king of Babylon, the very world ruler that was instrumental in overthrowing the typical kingdom of God on earth, thus establishing world dominion by Gentile rule. Also, the vision was given evidently not many years after this monumental change took place—when there had ceased to be a typical kingdom through which Jehovah exercised sovereignty. Further, Daniel chapter 4 repeatedly emphasizes the theme ‘that the Most High is the Ruler in the kingdom of mankind and gives it to whom he wants.’ (Daniel 4:17, 26, 34, 35) Thus we have good reason to look to this vision for information on the duration of Gentile domination of the earth.
20. What question do we ask, and where may we look for the answer?
20 Counting from the time that God’s typical kingdom, with its Davidic king, was overthrown, how long would it be until God once again expressed his sovereignty through a kingdom involving the royal line of David, with Messiah as the ruling king? Daniel chapter 4 provides a basis for determining the length of the Gentile Times or “the appointed times of the nations,” during which those nations would trample on “Jerusalem,” or the kingdom of God.—Luke 21:24.
21. What do Daniel 4:15-17 and Job 14:7 indicate as to the situation following Zedekiah’s dethronement?
21 This trampling dates from the year in which Nebuchadnezzar removed King Zedekiah from the throne in Jerusalem. From then on, Jehovah’s exercise of sovereignty as represented in the line of Judean kings was ‘chopped down.’ It was under restraint, like the banded tree trunk of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Beastlike Gentile powers held sway over all the earth. But there existed a hope for the “tree,” that it would “sprout again.” And then people living would “know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind.”—Daniel 4:15-17; Job 14:7; compare Isaiah 11:1, 2; 53:2.
22. When and in what way does the Kingdom “tree” flourish again?
22 In this restored kingdom, the Most High rules by his Messiah. No, not at that One’s first appearance as a perfect man on earth, when the Jews despised him and rejected him as king. But the bands on the tree stump are released, and the Kingdom “tree” flourishes again, when this “lowliest one of mankind” arrives in his glory as heavenly King of the people of all nations. Then, as the Gentile Times end, the kingdom of the world becomes “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.”—Revelation 11:15; Daniel 4:17, 25.
THE “SEVEN TIMES”—HOW LONG?
23. Why must the Gentile Times reach down to our day?
23 Obviously, then, the “seven times” as applied to the Gentile Times must be much longer than seven literal years. Remember, Jesus spoke of the ‘fulfilling’ or ending of these Gentile Times in connection with “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Luke 21:7, 24; Matthew 24:3) So they must reach down to our day. Just how long are they?
24. How may we interpret the length of the “seven times”?
24 Turning to chapter 12 of Revelation, we note that verses Re 12:6 and 14 show a period of 1,260 days to be “a time and times and half a time,” or 1 + 2 + 1/2 for a total of 3 1/2 times. Therefore, “a time” would be equal to 360 days, or 12 lunar months averaging 30 days each. “Seven times” would come to 2,520 days; and the Biblical prophetic reckoning of “a day for a year, a day for a year,” indicates that these actually would work out to be a period of 2,520 calendar years. (Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6) This, therefore, is the duration of the “seven times”—the Gentile Times.
25. How do the “seventy years” of Jeremiah 25:11 figure in determining the start of the Gentile Times?
25 We are helped to fix the calendar date for the start of the Gentile Times by consulting God’s Word. As we have already noted, Jehovah allowed the Babylonians to conquer his people, destroy Jerusalem and its temple, remove Zedekiah from “the throne of the kingship of Jehovah” and take the Jews into Babylonian exile. (1 Chronicles 28:5) Events that followed “in the seventh month” led the few Jews who had remained in the land to flee to Egypt, so that Judah then lay completely desolate. (2 Kings 25:1-26; Jeremiah 39:1-10; 41:1–43:7) Jehovah’s prophet Jeremiah had foretold that the desolation would last for 70 years. (Jeremiah 25:8-11) Then Jehovah would ‘call to account against the king of Babylon his error’ and ‘bring His people back to this place,’ their homeland.—Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10.
26. (a) Of what was Daniel an eyewitness, and what did he discern? (b) How may we know the month and the year that Daniel’s restoration prophecy was fulfilled? (c) Specifically, what is that date?
26 Daniel himself lived in Babylonian exile for many years. On the night that Babylon fell to the Medo-Persians, he was an eyewitness to the fulfillment of his own prophecy, and of other prophecies, against that city. (Daniel 5:17, 25-30; Isaiah 45:1, 2) Historians calculate that Babylon fell in early October of the year 539 B.C.E. Soon thereafter, Daniel discerned from Jeremiah’s prophecy that the 70-year captivity and desolation for Jerusalem was about ended. (Daniel 9:2) And he was right! In the first year of Cyrus the Persian, which most historians date from the spring of 538 B.C.E., Cyrus issued a decree permitting the Jews to return to their homeland to repopulate it and to rebuild Jehovah’s temple there. (2 Chronicles 36:20-23; Ezra 1:1-5) The inspired historical account tells us that the Jews responded readily to Cyrus’ decree, so that “when the seventh month arrived the sons of Israel were in their cities.” (Ezra 3:1) By our calendar that would be October, 537 B.C.E., which date therefore marks the completion of the foretold 70 years of desolation.
27. (a) When, then, must the 70 years have had their start, and with what event? (b) How long were the “seven times,” and when therefore must they have ended? (c) What other great prophecy started to undergo fulfillment at that exact date? (d) What information has The Watchtower been championing for 100 years and more?
27 That historical information is important to us in determining the beginning of “the appointed times of the nations.” Since the 70 years of desolation for Judah and Jerusalem ended in 537 B.C.E., they began in 607 B.C.E. That would be the year when Zedekiah ceased to sit upon the “throne of the kingship of Jehovah” in Jerusalem. It therefore marks also the date for the beginning of the Gentile Times. Counting from October 607 B.C.E., the “seven times” of 2,520 years bring us down to early October 1914 C.E., when, as we have already seen, Jesus’ great prophecy on “the conclusion of the system of things” started to be fulfilled. Reliable information in God’s Word is the basis for this conclusion, which the Watchtower magazine has been championing now for more than 100 years.
28, 29. (a) What is it about secular records that should make us thankful for the details preserved in God’s Word? (b) Why is there strong reason for preferring October 1914 over other dates for the end of the Gentile Times?
28 Thankful, indeed, we can be that Jehovah preserved in his inspired Word an accurate picture of the needed details involving the Jews, the Babylonians and the Medo-Persians in the sixth century B.C.E. Otherwise it would be difficult to piece together the exact timing of events back there, for secular records of that period are certainly incomplete.
29 However, based primarily on such secular records, some persons figure that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587/6 B.C.E. and that the Jews came under Babylonian domination in Nebuchadnezzar’s accession year, which they calculate as being 605 B.C.E.b They thus hold 605 B.C.E. to be the date when Jeremiah 25:11 began to be fulfilled: “All the land shall be a desolation; and they shall serve among the Gentiles seventy years.” (Bagster’s Greek Septuagint) If that were so and the Gentile Times were counted from then, it would put the end of the prophetic “seven times” in the World War year of 1916. Yet, as stated, we believe that there is much stronger reason for accepting the information in God’s inspired Word, which points to the Gentile Times’ beginning in October 607 B.C.E. and ending in October of 1914 C.E.
30. What combined events identify the period from 1914 as the “last days”?
30 We can be happy that God long ago had recorded in his Word prophecies that so clearly give the timing of Jesus’ coming as Messiah in 29 C.E., and also of his “presence” as glorious heavenly King from 1914 C.E. While “the conclusion of the system of things” runs its course, we see intensifying all around us the conditions for which Jesus told us to watch. The world wars, the famines, the pestilences, the earthquakes, the lawlessness, the lovelessness, the hatreds and persecution of those who stand for Bible principles—all of these in combination have identified for us the “last days.”—2 Timothy 3:1; Matthew 24:3-12; Mark 13:7-13.
31. (a) What counsel does Jesus give for our day, and why? (b) What question may we be inclined to ask, and what is Jehovah’s reply?
31 How long will this fearful situation last? With Christ Jesus now enthroned as Warrior-King, there is good reason to believe that it will not be long before he executes judgment on God’s enemies. “Concerning that day or the hour nobody knows,” so that we gain nothing by speculating. Nevertheless, we should heed Jesus’ counsel: “Keep on the watch.” (Mark 13:32; Matthew 24:42) As we view the worsening conditions on earth and experience how people in general are unresponsive to the Kingdom good news, we may be inclined to ask, as did God’s prophet, concerning our preaching: “How long, O Jehovah?” To which Jehovah replies:
“Until the cities actually crash in ruins, to be without an inhabitant, and the houses be without earthling man, and the ground itself is ruined into a desolation.” (Isaiah 6:10-12)
At his appointed time Jehovah will carry out this execution of judgment, first upon Christendom and then on all other segments of Satan’s world. Christ’s 1,000-year reign of peace will follow immediately.—Revelation 20:1-3, 6.
32. What question arises in view of Matthew 24:34?
32 In his great prophecy on the “sign,” Jesus assures us: “Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.” (Matthew 24:34) Since he does not apply any specific length of time to a generation, what are we to understand by “this generation”?
33. (a) What was the “generation” of Jesus’ time? (b) Correspondingly, what may be said of the “generation” of 1914-1918?
33 In Jesus’ day, some of the disciples who heard his words, and others of his contemporaries, survived to live through the final “tribulation” on the Jewish system of things. They were the “generation” of Jesus’ time. At this writing, in the United States alone there are more than 10,000,000 persons still living who were old enough to observe “a beginning of pangs of distress” in 1914-1918. Some of these may still survive quite a number of years. Yet Jesus assures us that, before “this generation” passes away, he will come as “Son of man” to execute judgment on Satan’s system of things. (Matthew 24:8, 21, 37-39) We should keep awake, expectant of that ‘coming of the kingdom.’—Luke 21:31-36.
a Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. I, p. 188.
b See Appendix, page 186.
[Box on page 135]
CALCULATING THE “SEVEN TIMES”
7 “times” = 7 × 360 = 2,520 years
(a Biblical “time” or year being the mean between a lunar year of 354 days and a solar year of 365 1/4 days)
607 B.C.E. to 1 B.C.E. = 606 years
1 B.C.E. to 1 C.E. = 1 year
1 C.E. to 1914 C.E. = 1,913 years
607 B.C.E. to 1914 C.E. = 2,520 years
[Box on page 140]
“THE GENERATION OF 1914”
In a book of the above title, Robert Wohl “suggests that generations are not mathematically definable in terms of numbers of years, but cluster around major historical crises, of which the first world war is the supreme example.”—“The Economist,” March 15, 1980