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An Introduction to The Parousia: A Careful Look at the New Testament Doctrine of the Lord's Second Coming
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Works of the Right Reverend Beilby Porteus, Late Bishop of London

By Beilby Porteus
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 1-1000

070: Clement: First Epistle of Clement

075: Baruch: Apocalypse Of Baruch

075: Barnabus: Epistle of Barnabus

090: Esdras 2 / 4 Ezra

100: Odes of Solomon

150: Justin: Dialogue with Trypho

150: Melito: Homily of the Pascha

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175: Clement of Alexandria: Stromata

198: Tertullian: Answer to the Jews

230: Origen: The Principles | Commentary on Matthew | Commentary on John | Against Celsus

248: Cyprian: Against the Jews

260: Victorinus: Commentary on the Apocalypse "Alcasar, a Spanish Jesuit, taking a hint from Victorinus, seems to have been the first (AD 1614) to have suggested that the Apocalyptic prophecies did not extend further than to the overthrow of Paganism by Constantine."

310: Peter of Alexandria

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312: Eusebius: Proof of the Gospel

319: Athanasius: On the Incarnation

320: Eusebius: History of the Martyrs

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345: Aphrahat: Demonstrations

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1613: Carey: The Fair Queen of Jewry

1614: Alcasar: Vestigatio arcani sensus in Apocalypsi

1654: Ussher: The Annals of the World

1658: Lightfoot: Commentary from Hebraica

1677: Crowne - The Destruction of Jerusalem

1764: Lardner: Fulfilment of our Saviour's Predictions

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1853: Newcombe: Observations on our Lord's Conduct as Divine Instructor

1854: Chamberlain: Restoration of Israel

1854: Fairbairn: The Typology of Scripture

1859: "Lee of Boston": Eschatology

1861: Maurice: Lectures on the Apocalypse

1863: Thomas Lewin : The Siege of Jerusalem

1865: Desprez: Daniel (Renounced Full Preterism)

1870: Fall of Jerusalem and the Roman Conquest

1871: Dale: Jewish Temple and Christian Church (PDF)

1879: Warren: The Parousia

1882: Farrar: The Early Days of Christianity

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1888: Henty: For The Temple

1891: Farrar: Scenes in the days of Nero

1896: Lee : A Scholar of a Past Generation

1902: Church: Story of the Last Days of Jerusalem

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1985: Lee: Jerusalem; Rome; Revelation (PDF)

1987: Chilton: The Days of Vengeance

2001: Fowler: Jesus - The Better Everything

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The Works of the Right Reverend Beilby Porteus

"A due attention to the parallel passages in St. Mark and St. Luke, and a critical examination into the real import of those two phrases in various parts of Scripture, will soon convince a careful inquirer, that by the coming of Christ is here meant, not his coming to judge the world at the last day, but his coming to execute judgment upon Jerusalem ; and that by the end of the world is to be understood, not the final consummation of all things here below, but the end of that age, the end of the Jewish state and polity ; the subversion of their city, temple, and government."

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THIS course of lectures for the present year will begin with the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Matthew ; which contains one of the clearest and most important prophecies that is to be found in the sacred writings.

The prophecy is that which our blessed Lord delivered respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, to which, I apprehend, the whole of the chapter, in its primary acceptation, relates.

At the same time it must be admitted, that the forms of expression, and the images made use of, are for the most part applicable also to the day of judgment; and that an allusion to that great event, as a kind of secondary object, runs through almost every part of the prophecy. This is a very common practice in the prophetic writings, where two subjects are frequently carried on together, a principal and a subordinate one. In Isaiah there are no less than three subjects, the restoration of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, the call of the Gentiles to the Christian covenant, and the redemption of mankind by the Messiah, which are frequently adumbrated under the same figures and images, and are so blended and interwoven together, that it is extremely difficult to separate them from each other.* In the same manner our Saviour, in the chapter before us, seems to hold out the destruction of Jerusalem, which is his principal subject, as a type of the dissolution of the world, which is the under part of the representation. By thus judiciously mingling together these two important catastrophes, he gives at the same time (as he does in many other instances) a most interesting admonition to his immediate hearers the Jews, and a most awful lesson to all his future -disciples ; and the benefit of his predictions, instead of being confined to one occasion, or to one people, is by this admirable management extended to every subsequent period of time, and to the whole Christian world.
After this general remark, which is a sort of key to the *
Bishop Lowth on Isaiah lii. 13.

whole prophecy, and will afford an easy solution to several difficulties that occur in it, I shall proceed to consider distinctly the most material parta of it.

We are told in the first verse of this chapter, that " on our Saviour's departing from the temple his disciples came to him, to show him the buildings of it;" that is, to draw his attention to the magnitude, the splendour, the apparent solidity, and stability of that magnificent structure. It is observable that they advert particularly to the stones of which it was composed. In St. Mark their expression is, " See what manner of stones, and what buildings are here ;" and in St. Luke they speak of the goodly stones and gifts with which it was adorned.

This seems at the first view a circumstance of little importance ; but it shows in a very strong light with what perfect , fidelity and minute accuracy every thing is described in the sacred writings. For it appears from the historian Josephus, that there was scarce any thing more remarkable in this celebrated temple than the stupendous size of the stones with which, it was constructed. Those employed in the foundations were forty cubits, that is above sixty feet, in length ; and the superstructure, as the same historian observes, was worthy of such foundations, for there were stones in it of the whitest marble, upwards of sixty-seven feet long, more than seven feet high, and nine broad.*

It was therefore not without reason that the disciples particularly noticed the uncommon magnitude of the stones of this superb temple, from which, and from the general solidity and strength of the building, they probably flattered themselves, and meant to insinuate to their divine Master, that this unrivalled edifice was built for eternity, was formed to stand the%hock of ages, and to resist the utmost efforts of human powej to destroy it. How astonished then and dismayed must they have been at our Saviour's answer to these triumphant observations of theirs ! Jesus said unto them, '^See ye not all those things ? Verily I say unto you, there shall' not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down." This is a proverbial expression, used on other occasions to denote entire destruction ; and therefore had the temple been reduced to ruins in the usual way, the prophecy would have been fully accomplished. But it so happened that this prediction was almost literally fulfilled, and that in reality scarce one stone was left upon another. For when the Romans had taken Jerusalem, Titus ordered his soldiers to dig up the foundations *
Josephus de Bell. Jud. 1. x. c. 5.

both of the city and the temple.* The Jewish writers also themselves acknowledge, that Terentius Unfits, who was left to command the army, did with a plough-share tear up the foundations of the temple ;t and thereby fulfilled the prophecy of Micah. J " Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field." And in confirmation of this remarkable circumstance, Eusebius also assures us, that the temple was ploughed up by the Romans; and that he himself saw it lying in ruins.ll The evangelist next informs us, that as Jesus sat on the mount of Olives, which was exactly opposite to the hill on which the temple was built, and commanded a very fine view of it from the east, his disciples came unto him privately, saying, " Tell us when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world." The expressions here made use of, the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world, at the first view naturally lead our thoughts to the coming of Christ at the day of judgment, and the final dissolution of this earthly globe. But a due attention to the parallel passages in St. Mark and St. Luke, and a critical examination into the real import of those two phrases in various parts of Scripture, will soon convince a careful inquirer, that by the coming of Christ is here meant, not his coming to judge the world at the last day, but his coming to execute judgment upon Jerusalem ; and that by the end of the world is to be understood, not the final consummation of all things here below, but the end of that age, the end of the Jewish state and polity ; the subversion of their city, temple, and government.**

The real questions therefore here put to our Lord by the disciples were these two :

1st. At what time the destruction of Jerusalem was to take place : " Tell us, when shall these things be ?"

2dly. What the signs were that were to precede it : " What shall be the sign of thy coming ?" Our Lord in his answer begins first with the signs, of which he treats from the 4th to the 3 1 st verse, inclusive. The first of these signs is specified in the 5th verse, " Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many." *

Jos. de Bello Jud. 1. vii. c. i. p. 170. B. t See Whitby in Loc.
J Chap. iii. 12. || Euseb. Dem. Evang. 1. vi. 13. {
See Mark xiii. 4. Luke zzi. 7. Matth. xxiv. 4, 5 ; xvi. 28. John
Mi. 22. **
The word aion (here translated the world) frequently means nothing more than an age, a certain definite period of time. See Matth. xxiv. 6. 14. Mark xiii. 7. Luke xxi. 9, compared with ver. 20. He-
brewi ix. 26.

This part of the prophecy began soon to be fulfilled ; for we learn from the ancient writers, and particularly from Jose- phus, that not long after our Lord's ascension several impostors appeared, some pretending to be the Messiah, and others to foretel future events. The first were those whom our Lord here says should come in his name, and were therefore false Chriets. The others are alluded to in the eleventh verse, under the name of false prophets : " Many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many." Of the first sort were, as Origin informs us,* one Dositheus, who said that he was the Christ foretold by Moses ; and Simon Magus, who said he appeared among the Jews as the Son of God. Besides several others alluded to by Josephus.t

The same historian tells us, that there were many false prophets, particularly an Egyptian, who collected together above thirty thousand Jews whom he had deceived.J arid Theudas a magician, who said he was a prophet, and deceived many ; and a multitude of others, who deluded the people even to the last, with a promise of help from God. And in the reign of Nero, when Felix was procurator of Judaea, such a number of these impostors made their appearance, that many of them were seized and put to death every day. II The next signs pointed out by our Lord are these that follow. " Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars ; see that ye be not troubled ; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet : for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom ; and there shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places : all these are the beginning of sorrows."

That there were in reality great disturbances and commotions in those times, that there were not only rumours of wars, but wars actually existing, and continued dissentions, insurrections, and massacres among the Jews, and other nations who dwelt in the same cities with them, is so fully attested by all the historians of that period, but more particularly by Jose- phus, that to produce all the dreadful events of that kind which he enumerates, would be to transcribe a great part of his history. It is equally certain, from the testimony of the same author, as well as from Eusebius, and several profane historians, that there were famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. It is added in the parallel place by *
Origen ; Adv. Cels. 1. 1 and 6. t De Bell. Jud. 1. i. p. 70S. $
Jos. Antiq. 1. 20. c. 6. and c. 4. B. 1. ||
Ib. c. 7. s. 5.

St. Luke,* " that fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven." And accordingly Josephus, in the preface to his history of the Jewish war, and in the history itself, enumerates a great variety of astonishing signs and prodigies, which he says preceded the calamities that impended over the Jews, and which he expressly affirms, in perfect conformity to our Saviour's prediction, were signs manifestly intended to forbode their approaching destruction.t And these accounts are confirmed by the Roman historian Tacitus, who says that many , prodigies happened at that time ; armies appeared to be engaging in the sky, arms were seen glittering in the air, the temple was illuminated with flames issuing from the qlouds, the doors of the temple suddenly burst open, and a voice more than human was heard, " that the gods were departing ;" and soon after a great motion, as if they were departing.| The sign next specified by our Saviour in the ninth and the four following verses, relates to the disciples themselves. "

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake."

The parallel passages in St. Luke and St. Mark are still stronger, and more particular. St. Mark says, " they shall deliver you up to the councils ; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten ; and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them."|| St. Luke's words are, "

They shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings-and rulers for my name's sake." That every circumstance here mentioned was minutely and exactly verified in the sufferings of the apostles and disciples after our Lord's decease, must be perfectly well known to every one that has read the Acts of the Apostles. You will there see that the lives of the Apostles were one continued scene of persecution, affliction, and distress of every kind ; that they were imprisoned, were beaten, were brought before councils, and sanhedrims, and kings ; were many of them put to death, and were hated of all nations, by the heathens as well as by the Jews, for the sake of Christ ; that is, for being called by his name. The very name of a Christian was a crime ; and it exposed them to every species of insult, indignity, and cruelty.

To all these calamities was to be added another, which we *
Luke xxi. 11. ;t Jos. Proem, sect. 11. De Bell. Jud. 1. vi. c. 5.
f. 3. & 1. 7. c. 30. \
Tacitus, 1. T. |
j Mark xiii. 9. { Luke xxi. 12.

find in the tenth verse. " Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another." The meaning is, that many Christians, terrified with these persecutions, shall become apostates to their religion, and renounce their faith ; for that is the meaning generally of the word offend in the New Testament. That this would sometimes happen under such trials and calamities as the first Christians were exposed to, we may easily believe, and St. Paul particularly mentions a few who turned away from him, and forsook him ; namely, Phygellus, Hermogenes, and Demas.* The other circumstance here predicted, " that the disciples should betray one another," is remarkably verified by the testimony of the Roman historian Tacitus, who, in describing the persecution under Nero, tells us, " that several Christians at first were apprehended, and then, by their discovery, a multitude of others, were convicted, and cruelly put to death, with derision and insult.t

It is a natural consequence of all this, that the ardour of many in embracing and professing Christianity, should be considerably abated, or, as it is expressed in the twefth verse, that the lave of many should wax cold; and of this we find several instances mentioned by the sacred writers. : " But he that shall endure'unto the end," (adds our Lord in the thirteenth verse) " the same shall be saved." He that shall not be dismayed by these persecutions, but shall continue firm in his faith, and unshaken in his duty to the last, shall be saved, both in this world and the next. It is, we know, the uniform doctrine of scripture, that they who persevere in the belief and the practice of Christianity to the end of their lives, shall, through the merits of their Redeemer, be rewarded with everlasting life. And with respect to the present life, and the times to which our Saviour here alludes, it is remarkable, that none of his disciples were known to perish in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.

Another sign which was to precede the demolition of the temple and the city of Jerusalem, was, that the Christian religion was first to be propagated over the greater part of the Roman empire, which in scripture, as well as by the Roman writers, was called the world. " This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations ; and then shall the end come." Then shall come what is called in the third verse, the end of the world ; that is, the Jewish world, the Jewish state and government, i *
2 Tim. i. 15. iv. 10. t Tac. Ann. 1. 15.
J 2 Tim. iv. 16. Heb. x. 25.

And accordingly St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Colossians, speaks of the Gospel " being come unto all the world, and preached to every creature \mder heaven."* And we learn from the most authentic writers, and the most ancient records, that the Gospel was preached within thirty years after the death of Christ, in Idumea, Syria, and Mesopotamia ; in Media and Parthia, and many parts of Asia Minor ; in Egypt, Mauretania, Ethiopia, and other regions of Africa ; in Greece and Italy ; as far north as Scythia, and as far westward as Spain, and in this very island which we inhabit ; where there is great reason to believe Christianity was planted in the days of the apostles, and before the destruction of Jerusalem. And this, it is said, was to be " for a testimony against them ;" that is, against the Jews ; for a testimony that the offer of salvation was made to them in every part of the world where they were dispersed ; and that, by their obstinate rejection of it, they had merited the signal punishment which soon after overtook them.

Our Lord then goes on to still more alarming and more evident indications of the near approach of danger to the Jewish nation. " When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet,t stand in the holy place (let him that readeth understand ;) then let them that be in Judea flee into the mountain." The meaning of this passage is clearly and fully explained by the parallel place in St. Luke : " when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh." The abomination of desolation, therefore, denotes the IwSiian army which besieged Jerusalem, and which Daniel also, in the place alluded to, calls the abomination which makes desolate.

The Roman army is here called an abomination, because upon their standards were depicted the images of their emperor and their tutelary gods, whom they worshipped : and it is well known that idols were held by the Jews in the utmost abhorrence ; and the very name they gave them was the expression here made use of, an abomination. The word desolation is added for an obvious reason, because this mighty army brought ruin and desolation upon Jerusalem. This city, and the mountain on which it stood, and a circuit of several furlongs around it, were accounted holy ground ; and as the Roman standards were planted in the most conspicuous places near the fortifications of the city, they are here said to stand in the holy place, or, as St. Mark expresses it, *
Col. i. 6. 23. t GWp. ix. 27.

to stand where they ought not." And Josephus tells us, that after the city was taken, " the Romans brought their ensign* into the temple, and placed one of them against the eastern gate, and sacrificed to them there ; which was the greatest insult and outrage that could possibly be offered to that wretched people."*

When therefore this desolating abomination, this idolatrous and destructive army appeared before the holy city, " then," says our Lord, " let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains ; let him which is on the house top not come down to take any thing out of his house, neither let him that is in the fields return back to take his clothes." These are allusions to Jewish customs, and are designed to impress upon the disciples the necessity of immediate flight, not suffering themselves to be delayed by turning back for any accommodations they might wish for. " And woe unto them that are with child, and to those that give suck in those days ! And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath-day ;" that is, unfortunate will it be for those who, in such a time of terror and distress, shall have any natural impediments to obstruct their flight, and who are obliged to travel in the winter season, when the weather is severe, the roads rough, and the days short ; or on the sabbath-day, when the Jews fancied it unlawful to travel more than a mile or two. These kind admonitions were not lost upon the disciples. For we learn from the best ecclesiastical historians, that when the Roman armies approached to Jerusalem, all the Christians left that devoted city, and fled to Pella, a mountainous country, and to other places beyond the river Jordan. And Josephus also informs us, that when Vespasian was drawing his forces towards Jerusalem, a great multitude fled from Jericho into the mountain- mix country for their security.t

And happy was it for them that they did so, for the miseries experienced by the Jews in that siege were almost without a parallel in the history of the world. "Then," says our Saviour, " shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." This expression is a proverbial one, frequently made use of by the sacred writers to express some very uncommon calamity,! and therefore it is not necessary to take the words in their strictest sense. But yet in fact they were in the present instance *
De Bell. Jud. 1. vi. c. 6. s. 1. p. 1283.
t De Bell. Jud. 1. iv. c. 8. s. 2. p. 1193.
J Ex. x. 14. Joel ii. 2. Dan. xii. 1. 1 Maccab. ix. 27.

almost literally fulfilled ; and whoever will turn to the history of this war by Josephus, and there read the detaif of the horrible and almost incredible calamities endured by the inhabitants of Jerusalem, during the siege, not only from the fire and sword of the enemies without, but from famine and pestilence, and continual massacres and murders from the fiend-like fury of the seditious zealots within, will be convinced, that the very strong terms made use of by our Lord, even when literally interpreted, do not go beyond the truth. Indeed Josephus himself, in his preface to his history, expresses himself almost in the very same words : " Our city," says he, " of all those subjected to the Romans, was raised to the highest felicity, and was thrust down again to the lowest gulph of misery ; for if the misfortunes of all from the beginning of the world, were compared with those of the Jews, they would appear much inferior upon the comparison."* Is not this almost precisely what our Saviour says, " there shall be great tribulation, such as was- not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." It is impossible, one would think, even for the most stubborn infidel, not to be struck with the great similarity of these two passages ; and not to see that the prediction of our Lord, and the accomplishment of it here described by the historian, are exact counterparts of each other, and seem almost as if they had been written by the very same person. Yet Josephus was not born till after our Saviour was crucified ; and he was not a Christian, but a Jew ; and certainly never meant to give any testimony to the truth of our religion. -

The calamities above mentioned were so severe, that had they been of long continuance the whole Jewish nation must have been destroyed ; " except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved, says Christ, in the 23d verse ; but (he adds) for the elect's sake, those days shall be shortened." They were shortened for the sake of the elect, that is, of those Jews who had been converted to Christianity ; and they were shortened by the besieged themselves by their seditious and mutual slaughters, and their madness in burning their own provisions. "

Then, continues Jesus, if any man shall say unto you, Lo ; here is Christ, or there, believe it not : for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch that (if it were possible) they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. *
De Bell. Jud. Prooemium, p. 955.

Wherefore, if they shall say unto you he is in the desert ; go not forth : behold he is in the secret chambers ; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there shall the eagles be gathered together." Our Lord had already cautioned his disciples against believing the false Christs and false prophets who would appear before the siege, and he now warns them against those that would rise up during the siege. This, Josephus, tells us, they did in great abundance ; and flattered the Jews with the hope of seeing their Messiah coming, with great power, to rescue them from the hands of the Romans.* And they also pretended to shew signs and wonders ; the very words made use of by the same historian, as well as by our Lord.t And it is remarkable that Christ here foretels, not only the appearance of these false prophets, but the very places to which they would lead their deluded followers ; and these were, the " desert, and the secret chamber." And accordingly, if you look into the history of Josephus, you will find both these places distinctly specified as the theatres on which these impostors exhibited their delusions. For the historian relates a variety of instances in which these false Christs and false prophets betrayed their followers into the desert, where they were constantly destroyed ; and he also mentions one of these pretenders, who declared to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that God commanded them to go up into a particular part of the temple (into tJie secret chaniber, as our Lord expresses it) and there they should receive the signs of deliverance. A multitude of men, women, and children went up accordingly ; but, instead of deliverance, the place was set on fire by the Romans, and six thousand perished miserably in the flames, or by endeavouring to escape them.J

But the appearance of the true Christ was not to be in that way ; it was to be as visible and as rapid as r. flash of lightning : " for as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west , so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." It shall not be in a remote desert or in a secret chamber of the temple, but shall be rendered conspicuous by the sudden and entire overthrow of Jerusalem, and its inhabitants. *
Jos. de Bell. Jud. 1. vi. c. 5. a. 2. p. 1281. and Euseb. Hist. Eccle*.
1. iv. c. 6.
t Jos. Antiq. I. xx. c. 27. s. 6. p. 983. $
Jos. Antiq. 1. xx. c. 7. s. 6. and c.,7. B. 10. De Bell. Jud. 1. ii. o.
13. s. 4. and 1. vii. c. 11. s. 1.

For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together." By the carcase is meant the Jewish nation, which was morally and judicially dead ; and the instruments of divine vengeance, that is the Roman armies, whose standards were eagles, would be collected together against the wicked people, as eagles are gathered together to devour their prey.

In the three following verses, the language of our divine Master becomes highly figurative and sublime. " Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven : and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather his elect from the four winds, from the one end of heaven to the other."

Few people, I believe, read these verses, without supposing that they refer entirely to the day of judgment, many of these expressions being actually applied to that great event in the very next chapter, and in other parts of scripture ; and indeed several eminent men and learned commentators are of that opinion, and imagine that our Lord here makes a transition from the destruction of Jerusalem to the end of the world, conceiving that such very bold figures of speech could not with propriety be applied to the subversion and extinction of any city or state, however great and powerful. But the fact is, that these very same metaphors do frequently in scripture denote the destruction of nations, cities, and kingdoms. Thus Isaiah,* speaking of the destruction of Babylon, says, " Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate, and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven, and the constellations thereof, shall not give their light ; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine." And in almost the same terms he describes the punishment of the Idumaeans,t and of Sennacherib and his people.J Ezekiel speaks in the same manner of Egypt ;|| and Daniel of the slaughter of the Jews ; and, what is still more to the point, the prophet Joel describes *
Ch. xiii. 9. t Ch. xxxiv. 3. 4.
JCh.li.6. || Ch. M*ii. 7, 8.
JCh..26.

this very destruction of Jerusalem in terms very similar to those of Christ. "I will shew wonders in the heavens; and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord shall come."*

It is evident then that the phrases here made use, of " the sun being darkened, and the moon not giving her light, and the stars falling from heaven, and the powers of heaven being shaken," are figures meant to express the fall of cities, kingdoms, and nations ; and the origin of this sort of language is well illustrated by a late very learned prelate,t who tells us, that in ancient hieroglyphic writing, the sun, moon, and stars, were used to represent states and empires, kings, queens, and nobility ; their eclipse or extinction denoted temporary disasters, or entire overthow, &c. So the prophets in like manner call kings and empires by the names of the heavenly luminaries. Stars falling from the firmament are employed to denote the destruction of the nobility, and other great men ; insomuch, that in reality the prophetic style seems to be o speaking hieroglyphic."].

In the same manner, in the next verse, those awful words, " then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven : and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory," seem applicable solely to the last advent of Christ to judge the world ; and yet it is certain, that in their primary signification they refer to the manifestation of Christ's power and glory, in coming to execute judgment on the guilty Jews, by the total overthrow of their temple, their city, and their government ; for so our Lord himself explains what is meant by the coming of the Son of man, in the 27tb, 28th, and 37th verses of this chapter. And when the prophet Daniel is predicting this very appearance of Christ to punish the Jews, he describes him as " coming in the clouds of heaven, and there was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom. "(| The same remark will hold with regard to the 31st verse : " he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the earth even to the other." These words also, though they seem as if they could belong to no other subject than the last day, yet most assuredly relate principally to *
Ch. ii. 30, 31. t Bishop \Varburtoa. \
Div. Leg. v. 2. b. iv. . 4. | Daniel vii. 14.

the great object of this prophecy, the destruction of Jerusalem ; after which dreadful event we are here told, that Christ will send forth his anges ; that is, his messengers or ministers (for so that word strictly signifies)* to preach his Gospel to all the world, which preaching is called by the prophets, "lifting up the voice like a trumpet ;t and they shall gather together his elect (that is, shall collect disciples and converts to the faith) from the four winds, from the four quarters of the earth ;" or, as St. Luke expresses it, " from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south. "f Our Lord1 then goes on to point out the time when all these things shall take place, and thus answers the other question put to him by the disciples, " Tell us, when shall these things be ?" " Now learn," says he, " a parable of the fig-tree ; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh : so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."

The only observation necessary to be made here is, that the time when all these predictions were to be fulfilled is here limited to a certain period. They were to be accomplished before the generation of men then existing should pass away. And accordingly all these events did actually take place within forty years after our Saviour delivered this prophecy ; and this by the way is an unanswerable proof, that every thing our Lord had been saying in the preceding part of the chapter related principally, not to the day of judgment, or to any other very remote event, but to the destruction of Jerusalem, which did in reality happen before that generation had passed away. " But of that day and hour knoweth no man ; no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only ;" that is, although the time when Jerusalem is to be destroyed, is, as I have told you, fixed generally to this generation, yet the precise day and hour of that event is not known either to men or angels, but to God only. This he speaks in his human nature, and in his prophetic capacity. This point was not made known to him by the spirit, nor was he commissioned to reveal it. It is supposed by several learned commentators, that the words, that day and that hour, refer to the day of judgment, *
Vid. Haggai, i. 13. Malachi, ii. 7. iii. 1. Matth. xi. 10. Mark,
i- 2. Luke, vii. 27. -
t Isaiah, Iviii. 1. $ Luke, ziii. 29.

which is immediately alluded to in the preceding verse, heaven and earth shall pass away. This conjecture is an ingenious one, and may be true ; but if it be, this verse should be inclosed in parentheses, because what follows most certainly relates to the destruction of Jerusalem, (to which St. Luke in the seventeenth chapter expressly confines it,)* and cannot, without great violence to the words, be applied to the final advent of Christ. " As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away ; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field ; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill ; the one shall be taken, and the other left." That is, when the day of desolation shall come upon the city and temple of Jerusalem, the inhabitants will be as thoughtless and unconcerned, and as unprepared for it, as the antediluvians were for the flood in the days of Noe. But as some (more particularly the Christians) will be more watchful, and in a better state of mind than others, the providence of God will make a distinction between his faithful and his disobedient servants, and will protect and preserve the former, but leave the latter to be taken or destroyed by their enemies ; although they may both be in the same situation of life, may be engaged in the same occupations, and may appear to the world to be in every respect in similar circumstances.

Here ends the prophetical part of our Lord's discourse ; what follows is altogether exhortatory. It may be called the moral of the prophecy, and the practical application of it not only to his immediate hearers, but to his disciples in all future ages ; for this concluding admonition most certainly alludes no less to the final judgment than to the destruction of Jerusalem, and applies with at least equal force to both. Indeed the prophecy itself, although in its primary and strictest sense it relates throughout to the destruction of the temple, city, and government of Jerusalem, yet, as I have before observed, may be considered, and was probably intended by Jesus, as a type and an emblem of the dissolution of the world itself, to which the total subversion of a great city and a whole nation bears some resemblance. But with respect to the conclusion, there can be no doubt of its being intended to call our attention to *
Luke, xvii. 26, 27, 35, 36.

the last solemn day of account ; and with a view of its producing this effect, I shall now press it upon your minds in the very words of our Lord, without any comment, for it is too clear to require any explanation, and too impressive to require any additional enforcement. " Watch ye, therefore, for ye know not at what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man c'ometh. Who then is a faithful and a wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season ? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods- But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, my Lord delayeth his coming ; and begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken ; the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites ; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

 

" a due attention to the parallel passages in St. Mark and St. Luke, and a critical examination into the real import of those two phrases in various parts of Scripture, will soon convince a careful inquirer, that by the coming of Christ is here meant, not his coming to judge the world at the last day, but his coming to execute judgment upon Jerusalem ; and that by the end of the world is to be understood, not the final consummation of all things here below, but the end of that age, the end of the Jewish state and polity ; the subversion of their city, temple, and government."

 

 

 



























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