Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 28, 1952
NUMBER 17, PAGE 11-12a

The Smiting Of The Image

James D. Bales, Searcy, Arkansas

One of the most basic, in fact it seems to be the basic, objection which Boll gives against the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy in the church is that Rome was not destroyed, when the church was established, in an immediate, overwhelming display of divine power.

R. H. Boll agrees that the stone was to smite the image on the feet, and that this had reference to the Roman Empire. He maintains, however, that the smiting must be of a violent nature. "The church was established in the days of Rome. But Rome felt no shock nor tremor. Neither was she broken up, neither did she begin to be broken up, or to decline. On the contrary she went on prosperously, conquering and to conquer." (The Kingdom of God, p. 20)

It was, he wrote, to be immediate, not gradual. "But the prophecy fairly taken represents, not a gradual process but a catastrophic event — a complete and radical demolition of the world kingdom by supernatural agency. The stone's effect upon the Image is due to violent impact, not to 'peaceful penetration.' The stone falls for judgment and destruction upon the world — power — not for the conversion and salvation of individuals. The Image is suddenly broken up — pulverized — by an act of God." (The Kingdom of God, p. 21) What shall we say to these things?

It has been shown that the rest of Daniel's prophecy is easily interpreted to show that the church is the kingdom of Daniel 2:44, in fact, it must be so interpreted. It has been shown that the postponement theory is involved in anti-scriptural conclusions. But it is true that if the smiting must be interpreted as a violent, carnal one that the prophecy has not been fulfilled.

We are not, however, limited to one manner of interpreting prophecy. Of course, a prophecy cannot have one point in it interpreted different ways, and each way be correct. If a literal interpretation does not fit what the Bible teaches, one has not only the right but the duty of trying some other manner of interpretation. For we must not forget that the prophets spoke in different manners. (Heb. 1:1-2) Sometimes they spoke literally; sometimes in figures and in symbols (Luke 3:4-6) and sometimes the Old Testament prophecy was clothed in the language which described an Old Testament type when a New Testament anti-type was meant. For example, Elijah was put when John was meant. (Malachi 4:4; Matt. 11:13-14; 17:12-13; Luke 1:17) So we are not confined to only one possible approach to a prophecy. We must make a figurative or typical interpretation when a literal interpretation leads us to contradict something in either the Old Testament or the New Testament. To regard this as a literal smiting leads us to some unscriptural conclusions since it leads us to conclude that the kingdom has not yet been established. But the New Testament shows that the kingdom of Daniel 2:44 has been established.

We must also bear in mind that we are not confined to the Old Testament prophecies. We have the additional light of the New Testament, and we must not make up our minds arbitrarily that a prophecy must be interpreted literally. We must consider all prophecy in the light of the New Testament revelation. And we have shown that the New Testament teaches that the prophesied kingdom has been established.

Boll operates on the assumption that we must take one manner of interpreting prophecy and adhere to it in all the prophecies of the Messiah and His kingdom. If we make some literal and some spiritual he thinks, for he quotes the following words with approval, that "to this the Jew objects that a mode of interpretation which is based upon two contradictory principles is necessarily false. 'You prove that Jesus is the Messiah', he says, 'by the grammatical principle — you evade difficulties by adopting of the figurative. Choose one of the two. Carry through the figurative exposition, and then there is no suffering Messiah; carry through the literal, and a large portion of the prophecies are not yet fulfilled.' The Jew's demand is reasonable, and his objection to this expository inconsistency valid..." (The Kingdom of God, footnote, p. 113)

To this we reply: First, the New Testament shows that we cannot take one manner of interpretation and apply it to all prophecies. For the prophets spoke in divers manners. To consistently adhere to one mater of interpretation — that is to apply one manner to all prophecies — is to contradict the New Testament. (Heb. 1:1) It is far better to show the Jew the truth of this matter than to contradict the New Testament. Second, our method of interpretation do not contradict but supplement one another. Third, there are sufficient literal prophecies to show that Jesus is the Christ, and since He is our authority in all things we interpreted all other prophecies in such a way as to harmonize with His interpretation and His teaching. Fourth, neither the Jew nor the premillennialist will adhere to one manner of interpreting prophecy, so why raise the above complaint against us? If they adhered to the literal in all prophecies both Jews and premillennialists would have to believe that David will dethrone Christ — so to speak — and rule forever over the people of God. (Ezek. 37:24-25) Both Jew and premillennialist do not believe that literal David is there referred to, but that it is David as a type of Christ. The type is put in prophecy sometimes when the antitype is meant. They can understand that here, and they can elsewhere if they will study the word without being blinded by their theories.

Thus we see that all must acknowledge that we are not shut up to one manner of interpreting all the prophecies. Thus when a literal manner of interpretation leads us to contradict New Testament teaching, we must adopt some manner of interpreting that particular prophecy which will harmonize with New Testament teaching.

If the smiting was to be literal, and if the ten-kingdom confederacy, of which Boll speaks, was not in existence in the first day, then it would have been impossible for the time to have been fulfilled then, and the kingdom be at hand. (Mark 1:14-15) So if it was a literal smiting, of the type Boll sets forth, then John and Jesus could not have announced the kingdom as at hand, for the so-called last phase of the Roman Empire had not yet taken place. To put it another way, if the smiting was to take place at the second coming of Christ, it could not have taken place at the first coming of Christ. Thus Christ could not have come in His first coming to establish the kingdom.

Boll's demand, that the smiting must be a violent, immediate destruction of Rome, would result in the denial that certain other prophecies were fulfilled which the New Testament shows were fulfilled in the first century. (a) John the Baptist, so far as fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah is concerned, never moved a shovelful of earth. The earth never felt a tremor, so how could he have taken off the hilltops, filled up the valleys, and straightened out the crooked ways? (Luke 3:4-6)

(b) "For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts." (Haggai 2:6-7) This had reference to the establishment of the new covenant. In Heb. 12:18-28 there is a discussion, and contrast, of the two covenants. Then it is emphasized that one did not escape if he refused the Old Testament law, and that much less should he expect to escape if he turns away from the new covenant. The earth was shaken when the Old Covenant was established, and God promised that He would bring about an even more drastic shaking in the future, i.e., future from the time Haggai spoke. "Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things which are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12: 26-29) The writer has reference to the old covenant and kingdom, and the new covenant and kingdom. The old was shaken, according to His promise, and taken out of the way. The new remains, it is not to be replaced by another kingdom on earth.

That to which we here desire to call special attention is that the heavens, the earth, the sea and the dry land did not all undergo a tremendous shaking when the New Covenant was established, or when the Old was taken out of the way. An earthquake did take place when Christ died (Matt. 27:51), but there is no indication that anything in the heavens even suffered a tremor, or that the sea, and the earth as a whole suffered any real shock. Shall we say that the prophecy was not fulfilled, or shall we say that every shaking does not have to be a literal shaking? The smiting of Rome no more had to be a violent literal smiting than the heavens had to literally shake in order for Haggai's prophecy to be fulfilled.

(c) "And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken (to pieces); but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." (Luke 20:17-18) "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone . . ." (Matt. 21:43-44) Christ is that stone who was rejected and made the head of the corner. (Acts 4:11; Eph. 2:20) Did he come in physical might and destroy these people. Did he break them to pieces (notice the parallel in this statement to the statement about the impact of the little stone in Daniel 2 on the image. Did He literally grind them to powder? He did not. Then it follows that one can interpret some smiting, when the Bible teaching shows that one must, as other than a crushing physical impact.

Some one might say that Christ literally did this in the destruction of Jerusalem. To which it will be sufficient to reply: If Christ did it through a pagan power, could He not also destroy Rome through other pagan powers as she was finally destroyed? So if it has to be a literal smiting, Rome could be smitten through another as easily as these Jews be smitten through another.

One has as much right to press the figure of speech in Matt. 21:44 as he does in Dan. 2:44. But why press any statement until it contradicts other New Testament teaching?

Furthermore, if for the prophecy to be fulfilled there must be a literal, physical, smiting of the image by the kingdom itself, then all four of the empires must be restored so that they can be smitten. For the stone is represented as smiting first the Roman Empire and then working its way up the image and destroying the kingdoms of the Greeks, the Medes and Persians, and the Babylonian. If the kingdom of heaven must literally smite Rome, it must literally smite the other kingdoms. If it did not literally smite these kingdoms, but instead smote the principles for which they stood, why must it literally smite Rome instead of smiting only the principles for which it stood? Rome incorporated the basic principles which were incorporated in the other kingdoms.