In these increasingly turbulent times, many are looking to the fulfillment of Scripture prophecies for our day. This is nothing new, of course, and as always, we need to be careful of making false prognostications that could turn people away from our true message of hope and promise connected to the important identification of Israel in prophecy. There is more than a little truth in the words of the late American humorist, Mark Twain, who mused, “Never prophesy unless you know.”
Looking back and learning from the past, the pre-World War I years were full of hope for the fulfillment of prophecy. The year 1894 saw the birth of a royal son who many believed was a welcome sign of the immanence of our Lord’s return. A period article in the Banner of Israel explained, “The nation has been rejoicing over the birth of the third in order of succession to the throne, but I wonder if any of our Anglo-Israelites have been struck…by the fact that this little prince is the first of his line since the ‘sweet singer of Israel’ that has been called by the name David? And if we turn to Ezekiel 34:23-24 we find a distinct prophecy that there will be a ‘prince David’ who is to be a remarkable person, and a great blessing to the people; for in Ezek. 45:17 this prince is spoken of as making ‘reconciliation for the House of Israel;’ and why should this child not be the very one? May God grant it.” (18:490) [My study “Ezekiel’s Prophetic Prince” discusses this.] As a young man this British prince was actually known to his family by the name “David.” There was great excitement among many Christians due to the hope that he would quite significantly take that biblical name, becoming England’s “King David” and the 100th sovereign in Britain’s history. That man, of course, did become king, as the ill-fated Edward the Eighth, who after a short reign of under a year abdicated the throne in December, 1936 to marry “the woman I love,” Wallis Simpson.
The same year of 1894 saw another article in the Banner entitled, “The Coming ‘Universal War’ And Man’s Remedy To Avoid It.” In spite of such sincere and hopeful peace efforts, we are not giving away any secrets in revealing that the numerous efforts to prevent “World War I” were unsuccessful.
In my now nearly half-century of ministry and close reading of the Scriptures, I have seen far too many prophecies of the end of the age and our Lord’s return that have proven untrue. False dates for our Lord’s Second Coming included Bengel 1836; Fleming 1848; Dr. Cumming 1866; Dimbleby 1898; Baxter 1929; Seventh-Day Adventists 1843 and 1844; Jehovah’s Witnesses 1914 and 1924, and many others. As British-Israel scholar, Idrisyn Jones explained, “Why do we thus wish to call attention to cheap prophecies? Not simply to expose failures, but because the effect of these writings is detrimental to the study of Scripture prophecy…let us cling to the fact that the Bible emphatically states that no one can tell the day or hour when the great events of prophecy shall take place. The ‘times and seasons’ are a matter of the profoundest secrecy. Christ thus refers to it: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” (BOI 26:522)
Yet there was one momentous prophecy that was remarkably fulfilled right to the letter. In the Banner of Israel, January 10, 1912, was a prediction about World War I, given a full 2-1/2 years before the war actually broke out, by a leading B.I. scholar of the time, W.H. Mason. He did not use a “crystal ball,” nor did he make a haphazard lucky guess. He understood the times, writing, “Remembering the words of the British Premier and the War Minister, when they laid before Parliament the projected programmes of Dreadnoughts [i.e. Battleships] of the several European powers to be completed about 1914, we must conclude that Europe is on the very eve of terrible events…which must eventuate in the most terrible crash of nations the world has ever known.” The four great European powers—England, France, Germany, and Russia—all had great battleships scheduled for completion in about June, 1914, and the temptation to use this expensive war machinery would be too great to avoid what Mason said would be called “the terrible 1914.” True to his prophecy, the First World War was launched by the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the 28th of the predicted month of June 1914. The Serbian assassin was in the employ of Russia, who wished to destroy and annex portions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including Ukraine. Do you see any parallel with events in Ukraine today? The Bible gives us an understanding that there is a cyclical view of history. Might this also turn into a World War, even a final age-ending battle? Time will tell!
Many English-speaking Christians are concerned about the impending passing of Queen Elizabeth II, who has reached her 70-year milestone on the throne of England. Prince Charles is unfavored by a significant number of his subjects, according to surveys, and some are even hoping that the Lord will intervene to prevent his crowning. Someone asks: Could a prophecy in Ezekiel 21:25-27 apply?
We read, “And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.” This prophecy is explained by John Wesley’s Historical Notes: “And thou” – Zedekiah. “Whose day” – The day of sorrows, and sufferings, and punishment is at hand; “Shall have an end” – Shall bring the ruin of king and kingdom, and with the overthrow of your state, the means of sinning shall end too; “The diadem” – The royal attire of the head, which the king daily wore; “Shall not be the same” – The kingdom shall never be what it hath been; “Him that is low” – Jeconiah. The advance of this captive king, came to pass in the thirty-seventh year of his captivity. “Shall be no more” – Never recover its former glory, ’till the scepter be quite taken away from Judah, and way be made for the Messiah. He hath an incontestable right to the dominion both in the church and in the world. And in due time he shall have the possession of it, all adverse power being overturned.”
The historical basis of this prophecy is in the time of Judah’s wicked king Zedekiah, just prior to the destruction of the kingdom in the sixth century, B.C. If this were a parallel with a future King Charles of England, the prophecy would mean the destruction of the British nation and exile of its people. Some prophecies perhaps do have a secondary later fulfillment. Let us hope that is not the case here!
The Bible, indeed, tells us the importance of understanding the times. In 1 Chronicles 12:32 we read, “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…” It is important not only to understand the times, but to understand what we ought to do to prepare for them. That is often not an easy task, and although the Scriptures are our guide, we must be careful and honest in interpreting God’s Word.