All too many unwise and unwarranted declarations have been made, during and since the World War of 1914-1958, asserting the impossibility of even a temporary Old World domination by one strong power. And such statements are, regrettably, not all in the past. There is no warrant in Daniel 2, however, for any interpretative prediction that many of the established national and racial divisions of Europe might not be temporarily reunited, by military conquest, under one flag. The prophecy simply declares that the various units in these combinations shall not permanently "cleave" one to another.
The very expression "cleave" clearly implies that attempts to weld the component nations together will be made—and with seeming success at the moment, as was done in centuries past by Charlemagne, Charles V, Louis XIV, and Napoleon. But none of these attempts ever did or ever will endure. Such is God's immutable fiat that cannot be broken. National and racial divisions will inevitably reappear. Any temporary fabrication of composite empire, imposed by arms or effected by political or marital alliance, will eventually crack up. and Europe will again revert to its historical divisions. Such is the inspired forecast that covers present as well as past contingencies.
Be it particularly noted, however, that the integrity of Daniel 2 is not involved in attempts or even achievements in bringing large portions of Europe under one national sway. There will never again be a single, permanent, one-power Europe like the Roman Empire of old. The fifth world empire will be the eternal kingdom of God, established by divine interposition at the close of the prophetic line. This ultimate eventuality we know. But the immediate eventualities of the present war we do not know, and should refrain from forecasting.
We have too often confused divine, inerrant prophecy with mere human interpretation or speculation. But we must beware of reading into the prophetic text what is not there. We must not confuse the infallible stipulations of inspiration with fallible conceptions devised either by the ingenuity or the shallow judgments of man.
God will assuredly hold us, as workers, accountable for unwarranted assumptions and statements that may lead to false expectations or understandings upon the part of the public, or of our people, which, when overthrown and discredited by events, tend to weaken confidence in the fundamental verity of prophecy and its sound interpretation. Such an aftermath is not only tragic, but is decidedly censurable.
Actual checkup upon our statements—sometimes made with insufficient study or in too great haste—is needed. But such is rarely made unless it is forced upon us by some crisis or challenge. Present developments summon us to restudy, safeguard, and perhaps restate some of our contentions so as to more accurately and fully conform to the stipulations of divine prophecy. He who is wise will painstakingly check upon his interpretations, that he bring no discredit to the matchless prophetic foreview which God has given to us of human and divine affairs, and to the cause of which we are its public representatives.
We are not commissioned to prognosticate, no matter how much such a course may pander to the pride of the human heart. We are to interpret. To be able, above one's fellows, to mark out the precise pathway of the future is a lure to which many have succumbed. But we should resolutely exclude any role of prophet from our activities and attitudes. Nor should we consider it humiliating to recognize and admit our limitations. We weaken and cheapen prophecy when we go beyond its clear stipulations, or go beyond our clear call and commission.
There is much oral and written emphasis upon doctrinal and prophetic exposition, upon contemporary world conditions as signs of our times,. and upon activity in service and giving, without proportionate emphasis upon inseparably vital godliness. One of the reasons, whether recognized or not, is that all these wholesome and necessary features can be presented just as factual truths or beliefs, ascertained by study and observation, and thus calling only for the assent of the mind and earnest human effort. The latter—if one is not to be hypocritical—must spring from personal spiritual experience, and involves a living, glowing fellowship with God. But the former, if divorced from the latter, may be, and often is, only sound and legitimate theory; while the latter involves the very heart of spiritual life and achievement.
It is easy to become fascinated by the study of historical aspects in the field of prophecy, or the unfolding panorama of present European affairs and Far Eastern potentialities. One may, through a bit of study, become somewhat expert in these delineations, and they may be most helpful as adjuncts. But to tell a soul how to come to God and to abide in Him involves a worker's own personal experience in such coming and abiding. Giving practical help in living the triumphant life necessitates his own personal victory over daily temptation. To tell how to receive the Holy Spirit as "the personal presence of Christ to the soul," calls for actual, intimate acquaintance with this wondrous provision and transaction. These spring only from experimental experience in things divine. And one's words in these realms are subject to testing and checking by one's family, his intimate associates, and the church.
Under the ceaseless pressure of our increasingly complex world task, with its heavy financial demands, it is often easy under these weighty responsibilities to drift into the realm and routine of theory, especially when one is anxious to avoid anything which savors of the hypocritical. So the path of least resistance is not infrequently followed in our public ministry. This ought not so to be. Ponder the course of some who have left us, and mark the close relationship. Their departure can often be traced over this very road. Here is a vital issue and a real challenge. How will we face it?
L. E. F.