20 Studies in Bible Prophecy
Study 11 - The Kings of the East
The two previous studies dealt with the northern confederacy, or the "King of the north," and the "King of the south", which by general agreement has reference to Egypt. We come now to examine the federation of the Far East, the vast oriental armies of S.E. Asia, referred to in (Rev. 17:12) as the "Kings of the east". The word "east" comes from the Greek "the rising of the sun". This seems to have undoubted reference to oriental races and nations, and Prof. Walvoord says, "the rising powers of parts of the orient in our day in countries such as Japan, China, India, as well as lesser nations, makes such an invasion a reasonable prediction". It is reasonable to conclude that any future consideration of events on a cosmic scale would include the orient with its teeming millions. Indeed, "the real sleeping giant of Asia is awakening".
It is quite clear from the Scriptures that Israel is the geographical centre of the world, and the cardinal points of the compass are understood in relation to this land as the centre.
G. H. Lang in HISTORIES AND PROPHECIES OF DANIEL states, "The limits of these terms in Bible usage seem to be: as to the north, Armenia and the Caucasus; on the south, Egypt and Ethiopia (Abyssinia); on the west, the western end of the Mediterranean (Tarshish); toward the east, probably as far as western China (Sinim), (Isa. 49:12)".
Considering the possibility that Asia is being lined up as a major factor in today's world, it is now within the bounds of possibility for Red China and other eastern powers to spark off a world-wide conflict. Students of the Scriptures may well ask if the Bible has any word concerning this particular power-bloc at the end time. As Prof. Walvoord states, "Even if there were no Scriptures bearing on the place of the orient in end-time events, it would be only natural to expect them to be part of the world-wide scene".
Has the Bible anything to say ? Let us look at the Scriptural references.
The Isaianic Reference To Sinim (China)
If we look at (Isaiah 43:5; 49:12) it becomes clear that the prophet is referring to the regathering of God's ancient people in the end time from every nation and people, including the land of Sinim, the Biblical name for China (Isa. 49:12).
Bible prophecy seldom extends beyond the borders of the ancient Roman dominion in its prognostications of coming events, but here in Isaiah's prophecy, though dogmatism would be unwise, conservative scholarship generally agrees that the most possible explanation is that we have a reference to the ancient land of Sinim or China. Ellicott's Commentary, written in the late nineteenth century says: "Modern scholarship is almost unanimous in making it refer to the Chinese".
J. R. Dummelow in his one-volume commentary, produced in 1910, agrees that "Sinim stands for distant lands generally; in the opinion of most scholars it strictly signifies China." William Kelly, whose letters on this great prophecy were given several decades ago observes: "It is the return of Israel that is here predicted from all parts of the earth, but a return after they have been dispersed thither: so that from all parts, from the north, and the south, but even from the land of Sinim - that is from China - they finally emerge and gather in Israel."
More modern authors add their weight. THE NEW BIBLE COMMENTARY has this prophecy covered by Dr. William Fitch, and this is what he writes: "The prevailing conception for a long time was that Sinim meant China, and this must not be ruled out." The contributor in the WYCLIFFE BIBLE COMMENTARY states: "China is the most probable identification of Sinim." So it would seem that, as early as the time of Isaiah, it was held that Sinim is the name Tsin, a name for western China. As the Rev. lan MacPherson puts it in THE NEWS OF THE WORLD TO COME, "The New Testament records that just as Wise Men came from the east at Christ's first advent, so Wicked Men will come from the east at His second advent.
The Danielic Reference To A Terrifying Invasion From The East
In Daniel 11 we are confronted in the earlier part of the chapter with the two kings, the king of the north and the king of the south, But from v.35 we are confronted with a third who is distinct from them both. In verses 36-39 we have a graphic description of the character of this wilful, self-styled king, who, to quote F. A. Tatford, "will head up Satan's blasphemous programme in Israel, in the time of the end." As this is depicted in Daniel 11:35 as transpiring at "the time of the end", this "end" cannot be the end of the Antiochus reign, but a period presaging the return of earth's rightful king, the Lord Jesus Christ. As Dr. Tatford so rightly points out in THE CLIMAX OF THE AGES, "Whilst the characteristics of Daniel's 'king' may be traceable in more than one who has already passed off the stage, there is no one in whom they have been yet completely realised and we are, there-fore, compelled to look for a fulfilment of the prophecy at a date which is still future." So this is a king still to come, typified no doubt by historical characters, but not yet having appeared upon the scene of time. Prof. Walvoord contends that "the most plausible explanation is that he is the head of the revived Roman Empire who at this point has assumed the role of a world dictator. In the period just prior to the second coming of Christ in the latter part of the great tribulation, major portions of the world will rebel against him. This explains the military conflict with armies pushing against him from the south, the north, and from the east." There is however, more justification for regarding this "king" as a future ruler in Israel, in league with the western powers.
While this "king" is facing attacks from the south and the north, the latter forces pushing their way into Egypt, "tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him" (v.44). Though one would expect that this "king" of the Jews would appeal to his confederates for help, yet in addition the context suggests that the tidings possibly concern a military intervention from the orient.
The Additional Revelations From Patmos
Daniel's reference to this force from the east is augmented by further references from the Book of the Revelation. In chapters (9:13-21 and 16:12-16) it seems undeniable that one of the great forces that will participate in the final world conflict will emanate from the orient.
Look first at (Rev. 9:13-16) and it will be seen that the number of the army of the horseman were two hundred thousand thousand, and one third of the men were slain in the ensuing military engagement. It is no longer incredible to speak of the orient being able to field an army of this size. China now boasts of being able to field an army of this capacity, some 200 million men and women under arms.
There are two things that have changed the potential of China in world affairs. First, this potential in military power. Beyond this colossal militia, it is now boasted that by 1980 she will have not only medium-range nuclear missiles, but also intercontinental missiles. That means that the American mainland and European Russia would be within striking distance of these weapons, thus giving China the capacity to fulfil the Johannine prophecy.
Secondly, China's place in the world today is due to her split with Russia over interpretation of Communistic ideology. As Dr. Tatford claims in FIVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT, "If the doctrines of communism have been diluted in Russia, they still remain undiluted in China, and that country, having skaken off the shackles of years of western bondage, seems now determined to implement the basic principles of Communism and to involve the world in a struggle of life and death." The basic differences between China's brand of Communism and that of Russia, is the difference between "external invasion and takeover, and internal subversion and takeover."
When we turn to (Rev. 16:12-16,) when the sixth vial is poured out upon the world, the great river Euphrates is dried up. This ancient border between the empires of east and west, is "a prelude to the final act of the drama, not the act itself. We must conclude, then, that the most probable interpretation of the drying up of the Euphrates is that by an act of God its flow will be interrupted even as were the waters of the Red Sea and Jordan. This time the way will not open for Israel but for those who are referred to as the kings of the east... The evidence points to a literal interpretation of (Rev. 16:12) in relation to the Euphrates" (Prof. Walvoord). This tremendous military force will move towards Israel for the final world conflict in the Middle East. It is significant that a road has recently been constructed from China through the Himalayas to Pakistan. Says lan MacPherson, "The Land that once bounded itself within a wall is now building a way - the way of the kings of the east."
The prophet Zechariah foresaw the day when Jerusalem would be the scene of a final conflict (14:2, 3), but in that day when Israel will face its greatest danger, the Lord will arrive to deliver His own and conquer their enemies. This will bring to an end the "times of the Gentiles" and see the establishment of His kingdom of righteousness and peace. If these things are beginning to become so apparent, how near may be the world's next great event, the return of Christ for His church? This imminence should make imperative among the unbelievers the need for salvation, while at the same time creating a new faithfulness within the believer.