Generals guided by Jerusalem prophecy of 19th-century evangelist — Charles Gardner

The steps outside David’s Tower, Jerusalem, from which Gen Allenby proclaimed British rule

God is in control!

By UK correspondent, Charles Gardner

Amidst all the chaos we are witnessing, both at home and abroad, it’s vital we appreciate that God is in charge. And it’s best if we fit into his plans, rather than expect him to shoe-horn himself into our busy schedule.

I have been freshly reminded of this truth this week while reading about World War I, and how some of the top British generals helped to fulfil God’s eternal purposes, especially with regard to Israel’s restoration.

Leading politicians and military men of the time were familiar with the work of highly-acclaimed evangelist Henry Grattan Guinness who, in a book published in 1886, had predicted that the Turkish Ottoman Empire would collapse in the year 1917.

From the famous brewing family, many of whom helped to evangelise the world, Henry specialised in biblical prophecy relating to the end times. Through his study of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation, and its reference to 1 260 days (also widely understood to represent years), he concluded that it referred to the time when Gentiles would no longer be in charge of the Holy Land, where Muslims had ruled since the 7th century.

In 1903, Lord Arthur Balfour, who was prime minister at the time, wrote to Henry to say that he had read his books. Fourteen years later (1917), as Foreign Secretary under David Lloyd George’s wartime administration, he publicly stated that “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object”.

This so-called Balfour Declaration eventually led to the rebirth of Israel after nearly 2 000 years of Jewish dispersion throughout the world.

Yet such an outcome seemed highly unlikely with the Allies under Gen Sir Archibald Murray having just suffered a humiliating defeat at Gaza.

Field Marshall Sir Edmund Allenby was then appointed to succeed him. But, as he told his friend, Gen Sir Beauvoir de Lisle: “Archie Murray is a good man and, if he could not succeed, I don’t see how I can.”

“My dear Allenby,” de Lisle replied, “You are on velvet. You may make all the mistakes in tactics or strategy, but nothing can prevent you from being in Jerusalem by the 31st of December.”

He was referring to Guinness’s Light for the Last Days book, in which his interpretation of the biblical prophecies all pointed to 1917 “as the end of the Gentile times”.

As a parting farewell, de Lisle told Allenby: “When you get to Jerusalem, I hope you will not ride in state, for that is reserved in the future for One higher than you.”

And on December 12 1917, Guinness’s widow Grace wrote in her diary: “Such news. I can hardly believe it. The British forces have indeed finally taken Jerusalem. (Would that my beloved Henry could have known it – which, I have no doubt, in his heavenly home he does!)”

And so, when he reached the gates of Jerusalem, the triumphant Allenby got off his horse and walked into the city!
Phileas Fogg somehow managed to complete his epic Around the World in 80 Days in the nick of time, as those of us who watched the enthralling new BBC TV series starring David Tennant observed from the edge of our seats.

But that was fiction. This was fact, and you couldn’t make it up. It was not even a betting matter. The Word of God, faithful and true to the last iota, could be absolutely relied upon.

I’d known for years that the capture of Jerusalem was a fulfilment of prophecy, but it was only this week that I realised it had been so precisely foretold by a 19th century preacher/prophet. We’ve been talking much lately about how we need such leaders in the Church. Well, listen out for those who align their prophecy with the Bible’s narrative, and you can’t go wrong.

The information above is gleaned from the letters and diaries of Grace Grattan Guinness, widow of Henry, turned into a fascinating biography by Michele Guinness, who is married to Grace’s grandson Peter.1

Only a few paragraphs later in Grace Guinness’s extraordinary account of her life, and of the world scene at the time, she refers to the “worldwide outbreak of a virulent new strain of influenza” – what came to be known as the Spanish ’Flu – just as the war was coming to a close.

I note that she says: “This is the new enemy – one over which we have no control,” before referring to the “somewhat fatuous advice in the newspapers”. Sound familiar? What is less familiar is that, at the cessation of hostilities, the prime minister led the House to church in thanksgiving to God for deliverance from a dreadful peril.

Three weeks later, on December 2 1918, Grace wrote: “Just when we thought it had taken itself off, we find ourselves in the throes of a second, deadlier strain of this pernicious ’flu epidemic. Our Armistice Day celebrations – shoulder to shoulder, hugging and kissing – have exacerbated the situation. We have all taken to wearing masks across our mouths and noses, though what good will it do…” (Grace was a trained nurse).

She went on: “How advertising exploits naivety and fear. Oxo is supposed to fortify the immune system. Prayer seems the better protection. Schools, churches, moving picture houses, theatres, places of amusement and public gatherings of all kinds have been closed in an attempt to bring the epidemic under control. It could be months before life returns to any degree of normality – though whether anything will ever be ‘normal’ again after such prolonged disaster remains to be seen.”

A sobering reminder that our nation has been this way before. Our best response is to accept that we are not in ultimate control of the world, or even of our own destiny. But believing Christians know Someone who is. We urgently need to put our lives in His hands and, in the face of death and destruction, trust in his redeeming blood.

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