The Winter Time

"Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." (Matt.24:20‑21)

"I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree…till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." (Rev.7:1‑3)

"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." (Jer.8:20)

Under the figure of winter our Lord aptly describes that period of time termed the "great tribulation"—the time of the world’s greatest adversity and sufferings. Like the natural season, winter quickly follows the period of special favour and blessing which is known in the Scriptures as summer. (Jer.8:20) The Bible reckoning of the seasons is somewhat different from the present method, for instead of dividing the year into four seasons, as we are accustomed to do, the Bible divides the year into two—summer and winter. During the summer the work of sowing and reaping is done, while the winter of adverse conditions is a period of enforced inactivity and general discomfort.

This very suitably harmonizes with the developments of the Divine Plan, so far as the Ages are concerned. The hope of joint‑heirship in the Kingdom which has been proclaimed amongst the nations throughout the present Age, is likened unto a sowing work, and the gathering home of the results of the Gospel Call, at the end of the Age, is called the harvest. The sowing and also the reaping take place during the summer of favour and opportunity, but like the natural season, the work of reaping and of gathering the fruitage of this Age, will scarcely be over, ere (before) the ploughman of tribulation and general disorder will quickly follow the efforts of the reapers. (Amos 9:13)

The Four Protecting Angels

The Four Winds. It is generally conceded that even the worst form of government control is better than no government at all, for it provides for its subjects, a measure of protection, at least, from general lawlessness and anarchy. The Scriptures inform us that at the close of this Age, every form of governmental control and every organisation comprising part of the present world system, will be consumed and pass away in a general outburst of human wrath and anarchy. Law and order, having then come to an end, human passion and lawlessness influenced by Satanic depravity will know no bounds—it will be wintertime, so far as the human race is concerned. (Matt.24:21‑22) So long as the four supporting pillars—social, financial, political and ecclesiastical—remain, upon which the present social order and world arrangements are built, they afford a measure of comfort and protection for the human family. When any one of these pillars, however, is shaken or disturbed by human discontent or lawlessness it means suffering and distress generally as a consequence. When the time comes that all the four pillars are overthrown it will mean trouble from all the four corners of the earth—social, financial, political and ecclesiastical—from which there will be no protection whatsoever. It will be a whirlwind—the beginning of winter. (Rev.7:1‑3)

Who Shall Be Able To Stand?

Worthy to escape. It would appear from many Scriptures that the harvest, or gathering time, will be over before the full winter conditions break upon the world, and that the Lord’s followers who pass into the winter of tribulation will not be of the overcoming class. Our Lord, in exhorting His people who would be living at the end of the Age, and having in mind the great tribulation now at hand, declared—"Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." (Luke 21:36) The only ones to escape will be the overcomers, who will be gathered home into the Kingdom, before the winter sets in upon earth. The same thought is conveyed by the Revelator, when he tells us that the four winds of trouble are held back until the angel from the sun‑rising has sealed the servants of God in their foreheads. (Rev.7:1‑3) These winds represent the same disastrous trouble and it is evident that our Heavenly Father, in His providence, has so timed the work of sealing and gathering His servants during this Harvest period, that this important work will be completed before the protection afforded by law and order is completely overthrown.

We Are Not Saved

The harvest is past. The prophet Jeremiah calls our attention to those who having been asleep in the harvest time, will then awaken to the true position of matters and realise too late that the harvest is past, the summer (of favour) has ended (winter has come) and that they are not saved. (Jer.8:20) Those, it would appear, are composed of those who have been begotten by the Spirit, but whom the Lord does not regard as overcomers, or worthy of rulership in the Kingdom. (Rev.3:21) These are represented by the "foolish virgins" of the parable, who lacking oil in their vessels, are not fitted to meet the Bridegroom and to enter into the marriage before the door is shut. Shut out from the marriage, they are therefore, left to pass into the winter of tribulation. (Matt.25:11‑12) Our Lord makes reference to the same, when, in prophetic vision, looking down through the Age to this day He exhorts His followers to pray that their flight be not in the winter. (Matt.24:20) The reference here is to the call out of Babylon during the harvest time. If under the enlightening influence and leading of the present truth, we do not realise the need to flee from Babylon and to separate from every form of bondage, it is indicative of a condition of spiritual slumber and drowsiness, on our part. To remain in Babylon would mean to be accounted partakers of her sins, and worthy, therefore, of her plagues. (Rev.18:4) When the winter of disorder and anarchy comes Babylon will be destroyed and the Lord’s people in her will no longer be deceived, but it will be too late for the (rulership of the)Kingdom—the door will then have been shut and winter will have begun.

In The Great Tribulation

Washing their robes. The wintertime will be the period of hard and bitter experience, not only for the world, in general, but particularly for the great multitude of the Lord’s people, whose garments of faith have not sufficiently separated them from the world and its spirit. Their love of the world’s approval will have previously hindered them from completing their sacrifice willingly, but then, with the world’s neglect and every fond ambition gone, their spiritual nature will have the opportunity of ripening into life. If rightly exercised by the experiences, their spirits will be saved and they will be privileged to be servants of the Temple. (Rev.7:14‑15)

It is evident that the tribulation to which reference is made in Rev.7, does not refer to the trouble which came upon the nation of Israel at the end of the Jewish Age, for the Revelator sees this great multitude after the sealing of the 144,000 of the elect. The sealing of this elect—the heirs of the Kingdom—takes place during the entire Age, whereas the great multitude only come into prominence when the winter of the great tribulation begins.

The Flood A Figure Of Winter

The days shortened. It is apparent from many Scriptures that the flood of Noah’s day may be regarded as a general figure of the great tribulation which is shortly to come upon the human family. Indeed, our Lord in His great prophecy compares the days before the flood with the days of our Lord’s parousia, before the winter of tribulation begins. (Matt.24:37‑39) The special point of comparison is that while in both cases there were and are sufficient signs of approaching disaster, so far as those exercising faith in God are concerned, yet the unbelieving world in Noah’s day knew not what was coming, and likewise the world today knows not the trouble at hand. Like those of Noah’s time, the world at present is too preoccupied with its pleasures and attractions of this life. The disaster was both sudden and complete in Noah’s day and it will be both unexpected and overwhelming in this day—"For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them…and they shall not escape." (1 Thess.5:3)

In the case of the flood its days were not shortened, nor was its natural course impeded in any way, consequent upon which all flesh perished upon the face of the earth. (Gen 7:21‑24) In regard to the approaching days of great tribulation however, our Lord records that unlike the days of the flood, they will not be allowed to run their full course uninterrupted. Through the intervention of the Kingdom, these days will be shortened and thus all flesh will not again perish. (Matt.24:22)

There are indications on every hand today that so far as the hope of this Age is concerned summer is drawing to a close, and signs are not wanting that winter is approaching. It is high time, therefore, to awaken out of slumber and to flee from every form of bondage whilst the opportunity remains. When the winter breaks, flight from Babylon will be enforced, but it will then be too late for the Kingdom.

The Old Paths