The Three 40-Year Trial Periods
One of the great controversies that divides the Christian community is the concept of the Kingdom of God. There are some who teach that the Kingdom of God was established on earth on Pentecost, May 25, 33 A.D. Others say it is yet future. A few even believe that it was established under Moses when God first organized Israel into a theocratic Kingdom. Part of the controversy centers around whether the Kingdom is spiritual or political, heavenly or earthly. For the most part the controversies could be settled, I believe, if people could see the history of the progressionof God's Kingdom in its historical context.
The Kingdom of God is spiritual, but it is located upon the earth. It is spiritual in that it has three stages of development in its personal application as well as in its corporate fulfillment. These stages are depicted in the feast days of Israel. In its personal application, where the Kingdom is within our hearts, our Justification by Faith is our Passover experience; our process of Sanctification is by means of Pentecost; and finally the glorification of the body is revealed by the Feast of Tabernacles.
But the Kingdom of God also has a corporate fulfillment in long-term history. When the Spirit of God came down upon Mount Sinai and manifested God's presence to corporate Israel, the Kingdom of God came into the earth on Level One. This first stage of the Kingdom's historic development correlates to the Feast of Passover, because the people of Moses' day had left Egypt on Passover, and later they entered Canaan at the same time of year (Josh. 5:10). Israel of old had sufficient faith to accept the Spirit's external presence that led them out of Egypt in the cloud and the fire, but they were unable to receive the spoken revelation of Pentecost under the Mount (Ex. 20:18-21). As a result, they were likewise unable to enter the Promised Land at the Feast of Tabernacles a year and a half later. Hence, the Kingdom of God was limited in its earthly corporate manifestation to the first level, or stage of development.
In the second chapter of Acts, we read how the Kingdom of God came to earth in a greater way with the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit. The disciples in the Upper Room were able to receive what their forefathers had been unable to bear at the foot of Mount Sinai. Their ability to receive the Spirit on that day brought the Kingdom of God into the earth on Level Two. It correlated with the Feast of Pentecost. Now the potential for God's perfect will to be done on earth as it is in heaven increased, for the Spirit began to indwell people instead of external Temples. While the Kingdom of God did not begin in Acts 2, it definitely increased in power.
Nevertheless, the anointing of Pentecost would prove insufficient to establish His Kingdom fully on earth in us, because we received only an earnest (downpayment) of the Spirit (Eph. 1:14; 2 Cor. 1:22 and 5:5). In order for the Kingdom of God to become fully manifested in the earth-and in us-we must await the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles in God's appointed time. In that sense, the Kingdom is now, but a greater manifestation is yet to come-Level Three.
As we study the history of the Kingdom of God, we see these three stages of the Kingdom. From Moses to Jesus was the Passover Age; from the upper room (33 A.D.) to the year 1993 has been the Pentecost Age; and we are now in transition into the Tabernacles Age.
With this in mind, we may now turn our attention to the three divisions within the Pentecost Age. As we will see, the Age of Pentecost itself is characterized by 40's on three levels, dealing with
(1) the nation of Judah and Jerusalem, or the Grape Company (40 years);
(2) the Church, or Wheat Company (40 rest years); and
(3) the Overcomers, or Barley Company (40 Jubilees).
Forty is the biblical number of testing or trial. Each corporate group has been given its level of testing or trial to see if it is worthy of fulfilling Tabernacles. Judah was tested for 40 years and was found totally unworthy; the Church was tested for 40 rest years (280 years) and then was given a partial reward; and the Overcomers were tested for 40 Jubilees (1960 years). These tests were to give the people time to search their hearts, repent of sin, and bring forth the Fruits of the Kingdom.
Forty Years for Judah and Jerusalem
This 40-year cycle had more than one beginning point and more than one end point, over a period of seven years. I believe that God did this deliberately in order to establish His Word by two or three witnesses. It began in 26 A.D., at the 80th Jubilee from Adam. This was also the 69th week (rest year) on Daniel's 70-week countdown. Jesus was only 27 years old at the time.
The second major beginning point came at Jesus' baptism in the fall of 29 A.D.
The third beginning point came at John's execution at Passover of 30 A.D.
The fourth beginning point was Jesus' crucifixion at Passover of 33 A.D.
Each of these beginnings has a corresponding endpoint 40 years later to complete the cycle that is applicable to Jerusalem and Judah. Since we have already established the dates of each of these beginning points, we need only show the events that occurred 40 years after each of them.
The first thing to study is what occurred 40 years after the 80th Jubilee (26 + 40 = 66 A.D.). We are indebted to Josephus for his eyewitness account of the beginning of the war between Judah and Rome in the fall of 66 A.D. In his book, Wars of the Jews, II, xix, Josephus relates how the Roman 12th Legion under the command of Cestius Gallus was attacked and almost completely destroyed by Judean forces while the people were on their way to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall of 66 A.D. From the fall of 26 A.D. (the Jubilee) to the fall of 66 A.D. is exactly 40 years. The massacre of 5,680 men of Rome's 12th Legion (out of a total of 6,000) could not be overlooked by the Roman government. This event ensured that Rome would send troops to Judea to put down the revolt. This marked the point of no return. The war had begun, and it was only now a matter of time before Jerusalem would be destroyed.
Rome sent troops under the command of Vespasian and his son, Titus. They subdued the smaller towns in the countryside before attempting to besiege Jerusalem. It was in one of these battles, in 68 A.D., that Josephus was defeated and captured by the Romans at the battle of Jotapata. Up to that point, Josephus had been one of the main generals for Judea. Shortly after his defeat, the Emperor, Nero, died. This stopped the war for more than a year, while Vespasian and Titus waited to see who would become Rome's next Emperor and if he might give them a change of orders to follow. Galba and Otho lasted only a few months apiece, and then Vitellius seized the reins of government. This greatly displeased Vespasian, and so his troops immediately crowned him Emperor. Vespasian then returned to Rome to secure the government for himself (Wars, IV, x), leaving to his son, Titus, the honor of besieging Jerusalem.
The second 40-year cycle began with Jesus' baptism in the fall of 29 A.D. and ended 40 years later when Vespasian was made Emperor of Rome in the fall of 69 A.D. The parallel is striking. Jesus began His ministry in the fall of 29 A.D., and Vespasian too began his "ministry" as Emperor precisely 40 years later.
The third 40-year cycle began with John's execution around Passover of 30 A.D. and ended when the Roman troops under Titus surrounded Jerusalem on the morning of Passover, 70 A.D. Proof that John was executed at the time of Passover is found by comparing John 6 with Matthew 14 and Mark 6. In Matthew 14, we read that Herod executed John, and immediately a few of his disciples went to Jesus to inform him of John's death. Matthew's account then tells us that Jesus went into a deserted place by himself (perhaps to grieve and pray), but many people followed Him. It was there that He fed the 5,000 with five barley loaves and two fish (Matt. 14:19).
In comparing this account with John 6, we find that Jesus had fed the 5,000 right before the Passover (John 6:4). Thus, it is clear that John was executed around the time of Passover. The only question is, which year? It is a virtual certainty that John's ministry spanned only one year, and that Jesus ministered a full 3 years from the time of John's death to His own crucifixion. Most historians agree with this, and this is verifiable by observing the 40-year cycle from John's death to the Roman siege of Jerusalem.
The fact that Titus surrounded Jerusalem at Passover of 70 A.D. is mentioned by Josephus in Wars of the Jews, V, xiii, 8, telling us that the casualties during the siege of Jerusalem were.
.no fewer than a hundred and fifteen thousand eight hundred and eighty dead bodies, in the interval between the fourteenth day of the month Xanthicus, or Nisan [Passover], when the Romans pitched their camp by the city, and the first day of the month Panemus, or Tamuz.
By this 40-year cycle, we can see the cause and effect. The execution of John at Passover of 30 A.D. ultimately resulted in the execution of Jerusalem at Passover of 70 A.D.
The main part of the war was concluded with the destruction of Jerusalem by August of 70 A.D., but there was still one main pocket of resistance that remained to be subdued. It was at a high plateau called Masada. It had been taken by a sect called the Sicarii, a group of zealots who took their patriotism to extremes. The name is taken from sicarus, "dagger." In other words, they were "dagger-people," or assassins and terrorists. The Sicarii were founded by a man named Eleazar. Josephus says in Wars of the Jews, VII, viii, 1,
This fortress was called Masada. It was one Eleazar, a potent man, and the commander of these Sicarii, that had seized upon it. He was a descendant of that Judas, who had persuaded abundance of the Jews, as we have formerly related, not to submit to the taxation, when Cyrenius was sent into Judea to make one. For it was that the Sicarii got together against those that were willing to submit to the Romans; and treated them, in all respects, as if they had been their enemies; both by plundering them of what they had; by driving away their cattle; and by setting fire to their houses. For they said, that they differed not at all from foreigners, by betraying, in so cowardly a manner, that freedom which Jews thought worthy to be contended for to the utmost.
It is unclear if the "taxation" by Cyrenius in question was the one associated with Jesus' birth, or if this was a later one after Cyrenius had been made full governor. Either way, the Sicarii believed that it was God's Will that they not pay the taxes or submit to the Roman government in any way. Furthermore, they terrorized those who were willing to submit to Roman authority. They were the terrorists of the day, assassins who believed that it was a godly thing to terrorize people in order to force them to rebel against Rome.
These terrorist assassins had fortified themselves at Masada. The Romans had to build an earthen ramp to be able to take Masada. They completed the ramp on the Preparation Day for Passover in 73 A.D. They overran Masada the next day, Passover Day. But the previous night, the Sicarii killed their families and then committed suicide, except for two women and five children who were able to hide. Josephus tells us in Wars of the Jews, VII, ix, 1,
This calamitous slaughter was made on the fifteenth day of the month Xanthicus, or Nisan.
This was the day of Passover.
Nowadays in Jewish schools these Sicarii are held up as Israeli heroes to emulate. It is therefore no surprise that every Prime Minister from 1948 to the present distinguished himself as a terrorist in the 1940's as the modern versions of the Sicarii. Their beliefs and values were very much alike. Christianity has also had its share of men who have held similar values, but not in such great proportion that they knowingly elect major leaders holding those views.
To summarize, then, we see that John was beheaded at Passover of 30 A.D., and the Romans surrounded Jerusalem 40 years later, at Passover of 70 A.D.. Jesus was crucified at Passover of 33 A.D., and the Romans took Masada 40 years later at Passover of 73 A.D. The 40-year connection is obvious to anyone who has some knowledge of the meaning of the number 40.
God gave Jerusalem and Judah 40 years in which to repent of rejecting the Messiah and to bring forth the Fruits of the Kingdom. Obviously, they failed to do this, for their hearts were hardened to the truth. They wanted freedom from Rome without first repenting, so God used their desire for freedom as the occasion of their destruction. Jerusalem, the place where the prophets were persecuted, stoned, and sawn asunder, was finally overthrown, not so much by Rome, but by God Himself, who used Rome for His purposes.
Jerusalem: A Type of Babylon
The Bible predicts the overthrow of "Babylon," first in terms of the literal city itself, then as a type of a much greater system of oppression. Jeremiah 50 and 51 speak primarily of the overthrow of the old city of Babylon, but in the book of Revelation we find John quoting these same passages and applying them to the greater "Mystery Babylon." It is apparent from this that the old city was only a type and shadow of a much greater fulfillment yet to come. We find by studying the three 40's in the Age of Pentecost that each time cycle ends with the overthrow of "Babylon." At the end of 40 years we find Jerusalem-Babylon destroyed; at the end of 40 rest years we find Rome conquered by Constantine; and finally, at the end of the 40 Jubilees we can expect to see the final overthrow of that city on the highest level.
First, let us see how Jerusalem compares to Babylon in the first cycle of 40. Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:30-36,
30 And [you] say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31 Whereof ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? 34 Wherefore, behold I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the Temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
Jesus imputed bloodshed to that nation all the way back to the blood of Abel in the fourth chapter of Genesis. That simply meant that the generation of his day would have to pay the price for all that bloodshed. The blood of the prophets would be redeemed by the judgment upon that generation. Even so, God gave them the maximum time of Repentance, a 40-year generation. Finally, the city was overthrown.
We find an interesting parallel to the city of Babylon in Revelation 18:20-24, which links Jerusalem to Babylon in that book,
20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. 21 And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.. 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.
It is amazing how the things Jesus said about Jerusalem in Matthew 23 are repeated in John's revelation about Babylon. Even as Jesus attributed to Jerusalem all the bloodshed of the prophets and saints back to Abel, so also does John do this with Babylon. Furthermore, even as Babylon is said to be cast into the sea, so also Jesus intimated that the cursed fig tree nation of Judah was a "mountain" that could be cast into the sea (Matt. 21:21). Jerusalem itself was linked spiritually to Sodom and Egypt in Revelation 11:8. Thus, it is no surprise to see that the fall of Jerusalem and Judah from 70-73 A.D. is a type and shadow of the fall of Babylon.
Unfortunately, there are some who take this principle to excess, thinking that the overthrow of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was the entire fulfillment of the prophecy. They do not see the bigger picture, and do not understand that there can be many types and shadows before the final fulfillment of a prophecy occurs. Such people take the type and make it the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy. They take the shadow and make it the full manifestation. While it is certainly true that Jerusalem was a type and shadow of the Babylon in the book of Revelation, it is equally true that the city was only the first-level type and shadow of Babylon.
In reading Josephus' Wars of the Jews, VI, v, we find that many signs occurred during the siege of Jerusalem, all of which contribute to our understanding of how Babylon is ultimately to fall in the fullest sense. A comet resembling a sword crossed the sky for close to a year. Also, Josephus says, a few days before Titus' armies surrounded the city,
.so great a light shone round the altar, and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day for the space of half an hour. This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskilful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it.
Interpreting signs is a rather subjective business, and most people are unable to break past their personal biases to see what those signs really mean. However, apparently there were some "sacred scribes" who saw it as a sign of evil against the city of Jerusalem. No doubt these would be the people who could see the wickedness of the people or of the priesthood that Josephus described so graphically. Perhaps this sign was seen ultimately to indicate that God had shined His light upon the Temple and had exposed its filth. But more than that, in revealing the 40-year cycle manifesting here, it takes on a whole new meaning.
Josephus tells us that this light shined down on the eighth day of the first month, or six days before the Passover of 70 A.D. Precisely 40 years earlier to the very day, the chief priests began plotting how they might assassinate Lazarus (John 12:1,10). Hence, we find that God exposed their hearts with His light precisely 40 years later as He plotted to destroy that corrupt priesthood with its Temple.
Another strange sign occurred about the same time as the light shining down upon them. The heavy eastern gate of the Temple's inner court swung open by itself. Josephus tells us that it normally took about 20 men to open this gate, because it was so large and heavy. Josephus tells us the reaction of the people once again,
This also appeared to the vulgar to be a very happy prodigy; as if God did thereby open them the gate of happiness. But the men of learning understood it, that the security of their holy house was dissolved of its own accord; and that the gate was opened for the advantage of their enemies.
Those "men of learning" were obviously correct, as subsequent events proved. But probably the most astonishing sign, if Josephus is to be believed, occurred as follows,
Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, or Jyar [2nd month], a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem incredible, were it not related by those that saw it; and were not the events that followed of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals. For before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen running about among the clouds and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner court of the temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said, that in the first place they felt a quaking and heard a sound as of a multitude, saying, "Let us remove hence."
This sign reminds me of Hosea 5:15, where God says, "I will go and return to My place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek My face." It would appear that God had visited that Temple for the last time, found it corrupt, and finally removed the last vestige of His presence with the words, "Let us remove hence."
The people of that day interpreted these signs in a way that was favorable to their cause. Men have a way of doing this when their eyes are blinded to the iniquity in their own hearts. They thought that the armies of heaven were fighting on their side. They were wrong. God fought for the Romans-not because the Romans were so righteous, but because God was using them to judge Jerusalem.
Signs in the heavens have always accompanied events that are biblically significant. There were three days of darkness shortly before Moses led Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 10:21-23). There were three hours of darkness when Jesus was on the Cross (Luke 23:44), followed by a lunar eclipse, as I showed on page 107. Josephus said (above) that there were signs in the heavens while Jerusalem was under siege. When Constantine was ready to conquer Rome in 312 A.D., he reported seeing a cross in the sky superimposed upon the sun. The Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol VI, under the heading of "Constantine," tells us,
This vision, whatever its nature, was decisive in his conversion, evinced in the favours he henceforth showered on the Christian Church.
Finally, the Scriptures indicate that the final outpouring of the Spirit will be accompanied by more signs in the sun, moon, and stars (Joel 2:28-31). While the meaning of these signs may indicate such things as principalities and powers, we cannot ignore the precedents in history that were quite literal in their fulfillments.
To return to the subject at hand, it is evident that the overthrow of Jerusalem and Judah in 70-73 A.D. was the first-level fulfillment of the overthrow of "Babylon." However, as we look deeper into the pages of history, we will see two more levels emerge that most people have missed.
The 40-Rest-Years Trial of the Church
The Church experienced a trial period of persecution for a period of 40 rest years. This was 40 x 7, or 280 years, extending from 33 A.D. to 313 A.D.
The persecution of the early Church really began with the Crucifixion and the persecution of the disciples recorded in the book of Acts. Throughout the allotted time, some of the Roman Emperors were fairly tolerant of the Christians, choosing to overlook the illegal religion, while others took their refusal to sacrifice to the Emperor-god as a personal affront or as undermining Roman authority. The worst time of persecution began in 303 A.D. during the reign of Diocletian. This bloody climax raged for eight years before beginning to die down, but it did not come to a full end until the British prince, Constantine, took control of Rome with the help of another general named Licinius. Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea in the early fourth century, refers to Constantine's royal background in Ecclesiastical History, X, viii,
Constantine had given him [co-emperor Licinius] tokens of real goodwill, not grudging kinship with himself or refusing him the privilege of a brilliant marriage with his sister. Again, he honoured him with a share in his ancestral nobility and the imperial blood he had inherited.
In 313 A.D., Constantine issued his famous Edict of Milan, which put an end to the persecution of the Church. The Church's 40-rest-year trial ended with this Edict.
Since this was a 280-year cycle, it was also related to a birthing cycle of 280 days. It could be likened to the birthing of the Kingdom of God, except that it was manifested on a rest year level, not on a Jubilee level. At that point in history, the earth gave birth to a type of God's Kingdom. Constantine was the type of Christ in this case, and the Roman Empire, the last of the four beasts of Daniel (Dan. 7) and the legs of iron seen by Nebuchadnezzar in his dream (Dan. 2), were overthrown by a Christian. Many in that day believed that this was the fulfillment of the book of Revelation, which spoke of a day coming when "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ" (Rev. 11:15).
These events quite naturally confirmed and established the post-millennial view in the Church throughout the Middle Ages that the Kingdom of God had truly come. It was considered self-evident in those days that the Kingdom had finally been fully established in the earth and that God had given the Church (led by the Bishop of Rome, the Pope) dominion over all the nations. It would only be a matter of time before all nations would be evangelized-brought under the authority of the Church.
What they failed to understand was that the Kingdom of God had been established only on a secondary level after 40 rest years. It was a "rest," but it was not the Jubilee Rest that God had decreed in the feast days of Israel. It was not the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles. The dead had not yet been raised at the Feast of Trumpets, nor had the living been transformed fully into the image of Christ. The people in that day had largely cast aside the law of God, so they did not understand that Pentecost was a leavened feast that was insufficient to bring men into Perfection. The laws of time were not revealed to them. Hence, their view was based upon a partial knowledge of God's Plan.
As time passed, the Church came to regard itself as the highest expression of God's mind in the earth. The Pope took on an air of infallibility. Dissent was quashed by prison, sword, and fire. In short, the Church now took upon itself the role of persecutor, even as Rome had done in the past. Proud of their Pentecostal beginnings, it never occurred to them that another great feast of God yet lay ahead, nor could they begin to comprehend how God was using the Church itself to test, prove, and perfect the Overcomers in their midst. The idea that God would finish His work on a 40-Jubilee cycle would have been too distant for them to see, even if they had understood the prophetic law of the feast days.
While they were not endowed with a sense of the bigger picture like we have been given (with our 20/20 hindsight), they did possess enough of the truth to know that God had in some way brought forth His Kingdom in a greater way than they had ever known. He had certainly given the Church a rest, even if was not the final Rest that God intended.
The Emperor Constantine: God's Man of the Hour
Constantine was used of God to bring this rest to the Church, though certain Christian denominations have maligned him more than Diocletian and Nero. I find it astonishing how some have made Constantine the "Bluebeard" of the Church. Perhaps those Christians would have had a different view had they lived through the Diocletian persecution. In the ten years from 303-313 A.D., the Church suffered the most intense persecution of their history, under emperors Diocletian and Maximin.
Constantine is often castigated for establishing a State Church, and is blamed for all the papal excesses in later centuries. That is comparable to blaming Moses for the sins of Israel-or blaming Jesus for the Crusades. Constantine's vision was to bring the Christian bishops together and give them a forum in which to present their differing doctrinal opinions in an attempt to standardize Christian teaching and thus better unify the Church (and also the empire itself). It was a noble goal, but since men were still operating under the leavened realm of Pentecost (Lev. 23:17), it proved to be impossible. No matter how good a religious organization is at the beginning, it always degenerates in time as unscrupulous men rise to the top.
Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, who was the great Church historian of that time, wrote of Constantine's conquest of Rome in Eccl. Hist., IX, ix, as follows,
Thus Constantine, an emperor and son of an emperor, a religious man and son of a most religious man [i.e., a Christian].and Licinius the next in rank, both of them honoured for their wise and religious outlook, two men dear to God-were roused by the King of Kings, God of the universe, and Saviour against the two most irreligious tyrants and declared war on them. The senior in imperial rank and position, Constantine, was the first to feel pity for the victims of tyranny at Rome. Calling in prayer on God in heaven and on His Word, Jesus Christ Himself, the Saviour of all, to come to his aid, he advanced at the head of all his forces, intent on recovering for the Romans the liberty of their ancestors. The emperor who clung to God for aid attacked the first, second, and third of the tyrant's concentrations, completely defeated them all, overran a great part of Italy, and arrived almost at the gates of Rome.
Eusebius then compares Constantine to Moses overcoming Pharaoh and his army at the Red Sea. It is a bit long for us to reproduce here. Then he continues,
These things, and many others akin to them and just like them, Constantine by his very deeds sang as a hymn to the universal Lord, the author of his triumph, God. Then he rode into Rome with songs of victory, and together with women and tiny children, all the members of the Senate and citizens of the highest distinction in other spheres, and the whole populace of Rome, turned out in force and with shining eyes and all their heart welcomed him as deliverer, saviour, and benefactor, singing his praises with insatiate joy. But he, as if he possessed an innate reverence for God, was not in the least excited by their shouts or elated by their plaudits, fully aware that his help came from God; at once he ordered a trophy of the Saviour's Passion to be set up under the hand of his own statue-indeed, he ordered them to place him in the most frequented spot in Rome, holding the sign of the Saviour in his right hand, and to engrave this inscription in Latin. I reproduce it exactly.
By this saving sign, the true proof of courage, I saved your city from the yoke of the tyrant and set her free; furthermore, I freed the Senate and People of Rome and restored them to their ancient renown and splendour.
Thus the wicked were purged away, and the imperial powers that had been theirs were preserved stable and undisputed for Constantine and Licinius and for them alone. They made it their first duty to purge the world of enmity towards God, and recognizing the blessings He had lavished upon them, they showed their high purpose and love of God, their devotion and gratitude to the Deity, by their decree in favour of the Christians. [Eccl. Hist., IX, exerpts]
His adversary thus finally thrown down, the mighty victor Constantine, pre-eminent in every virtue that true religion can confer, with his son Crispus, an emperor most dear to God and in every way resembling his father, won back their own eastern lands and reunited the Roman Empire into a single whole, bringing it all under their peaceful sway.. Men had now lost all fear of their former oppressors; day after day they kept dazzling festival; light was everywhere, and men who once dared not look up greeted each other with smiling faces and shining eyes. They danced and sang in city and country alike, giving honour first of all to God our Sovereign Lord, as they had been instructed, and then to the pious emperor with his sons, so dear to God. Old troubles were forgotten, and all irreligion passed into oblivion; good things present were enjoyed, those yet to come eagerly awaited. In every city the victorious emperor published decrees full of humanity and laws that gave proof of munificence and true piety. Thus all tyranny had been purged away, and the kingdom that was theirs was preserved securely and without question for Constantine and his sons alone. They, having made it their first task to wipe the world clean from hatred of God, rejoiced in the blessings that He had conferred upon them, and, by the things they did for all men to see, displayed love of virtue and love of God, devotion, and thankfulness to the Almighty." [Eccl. Hist., X, ix, exerpts]
Eusebius' account gives us some feeling of the euphoria at the momentous events of the day. Perhaps if the Church had experienced terrible slaughters since the early 1700's, and if we had just come through a ten-year time when every Christian knew someone who had been executed for their faith, and then if God suddenly raised up a great deliverer to put an end to the bloodshed-we ourselves might be just as full of rejoicing and praise to God as they were.
Of course, we today have a better perspective of those days than they did. They were far too optimistic, not knowing that soon the corrupt nature of man would reappear within the Church, even as it had manifested in the Roman Emperors. They had no idea that these great events were only a type and shadow of something greater yet to come. Without a revelation of chronology and the laws of time, they had no idea that history would have to repeat itself on a 40-Jubilee cycle as well, in order to give the Church its allotted time to refine the Overcomers in the fires of Church-led persecution. Nonetheless, they did possess a certain level of understanding that is valid even from our present-day perspective. It was simply incomplete, because it did not take into account the third cycle of 40 Jubilees, wherein the Overcomers would also be tested and tried.
The 40-Jubilee Trial of the Overcomers
The time of trial for the Overcomers spans 40 Jubilees, or 1960 years, from 33 A.D. to 1993 A.D. It is also 4 x 490 years, or four periods of Blessed Time. This makes the year 1993 a very important year, as we will see shortly.
Old Testament prophetic patterns indicated that the Age of Pentecost would be a 40-Jubilee time period. King Saul was crowned king on the day of wheat harvest, which was Pentecost (1 Sam. 12:17). He reigned 40 years, during which time he persecuted David and his band of men. This was a prophetic pattern showing how the Church under the "crowning" of Pentecost would persecute the Overcomers during the reign of their own oppressive Church leaders. But the Age of Pentecost was also the 40 Jubilees of testing and trial for the Overcomers. God used Saul to perfect David and to show him how not to rule by fear and oppression. Even so, the Church under Pentecost has persecuted the Overcomers to teach them by negative example how not to rule people by fear and oppression.
Space would not permit us to list the millions of people, including Overcomers, that were burned at the stake at the hands of these carnal zealots of religion. Yet we must understand the reasons for these persecutions. The overthrow of pagan Rome in 313 A.D. was so monumental that it was self-evident (in their eyes) that God had overthrown Babylon and had established His Kingdom on the earth. As I stated earlier, the prophecies of Daniel 7 had been fulfilled, as far as they were concerned. The terrible, nameless fourth beast of Rome had made war with the saints and, as Daniel 7:21 and 22 tells us, had
21 prevailed against them 22 Until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
If we had lived in the days of Constantine, would we not have assumed with them that these prophecies had now been fulfilled? The horribly cruel Emperors had been replaced by a benevolent Christian. The surviving Church leaders had been forged in the fires of the Diocletian persecution, and Christians everywhere held them up as shining examples of sainthood. Would we not have believed that the Ancient of Days had come and given the Kingdom to the saints of the Most High? And that being the case, would we not think that the Church Universal was the one true religion, and that any schism or dissent from the understandings of the Church fathers could not be tolerated?
When Rome overthrew Jerusalem, the prophecies of Daniel 7 and other places were fulfilled in a small measure. When Constantine overthrew Rome in 313 A.D., it was a greater fulfillment of the same prophecies. There is yet a third great fulfillment which has already begun in 1993, after the third cycle of 40. This time, God is going to the roots of Mystery Babylon, rather than to an external city or an empire. He has declared war on the Babylon within the Overcomers, so that they may be perfected, and so they may reign on the earth without seeing the natural corruption that has always occurred as the generations pass. This is the only true and lasting solution to the world problem. And this is the purpose of this final time cycle.
The year 1993 coincides with other important terminal dates of other time cycles dealing with the nations of the earth, which we have yet to discuss. All of these are necessary to our understanding of the events in 1993 and in the months and years following. Everything points toward the conclusion of the Age of Pentecost in 1993. The revelation and signs since that time have made it plain that we are currently in the transition into the Age of Tabernacles, wherein God will empower a people with His Fullness, that they might lead the rest of the people out of the darkness and oppression of "Babylon" and into the glorious liberty of the Sons of God.