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"These passages show that the revelation of Christ in
judgment was, very near, on the eve of opening when the
revelator wrote, which, as we have said, was immediately
preceding the event, about A. D. 69; and the destruction of
Jerusalem took place about two years after, A. D. 70, so
fulfilling all the predictions of Christ and his apostles."
A MONTHLY MAGAZINE,
BIBLICAL LITERATURE ; EXPLANATIONS OF SCRIPTURE ; DOCTRINAL
AND MORAL DISCUSSIONS ; AND THE PROMOTION
OF PRACTICAL PIETY.
Rev. G.A. Skinner, and Rev. E.H. CHAPIN, Editors.
"APPEARANCE," "COMING," "REVELATION,"&c.--SCRIPTURE
FOR the right understanding of many
important portions of sacred Scripture, it is necessary that
we should come rightly to apprehend the usage of. certain
words and phrases in them, which mostly constitute the key
to their meaning.
Among these words and phrases may be
counted "Coming," of God or Christ; "appearance;"
"Revelation" of Jesus Christ, &c. Without some acquaintance
with the manner in which these terms are used in the
Scriptures, it is quite impossible to get at the idea
represented in many passages of the Old and New Testaments.
The careful student of the Bible,
however, will readily discover that the terms "Coming,"
"Appearance," &c., were in common use among the Jews to
represent any seeming or real manifestation of God's power
or providence; and especially any punishment or judgment
which he inflicted upon a people or nation. Hence it has
been said, "God's coming signifies some new manifestation of
his presence; either by a resplendent and awful symbol, as
to Israel of old, or by the operations of his power in mercy
or judgment, in which sense he may be said to visit men from
age to age."
This will appear from the following: "Let
the heavens rejoice before the Lord, and the earth be glad;
for he comes to judge the earth: he shall judge the world
with righteousness, and the people with his truth." Psalm
xcvi, 10-13; xcviii, 9. See also Psalm ci, 2. Again: "Behold
! the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into
Egypt and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his
presence." Isaiah xix, 1.
So also in Psalm xviii, 9, it is said God
"bowed the heavens, and came down; " and in Exodus
xix and xrxiv, it is written that God "descended" to Mount
NOW it must be obvious that God cannot be
said strictly to "come," or "descend," or "ride" to Egypt or
Sinai; he cannot be said to change place as a man, because
he is omnipresent, fills all space, and lives everywhere.
"Do not I fill heaven and earth ? saith the Lord." Jeremiah
xxiii, 24. Hence his "coming," "descending," &c., in these
passages signify only the exercise of his power as a ruler
of the earth, or the manifestation of that power in some
especial manner. "The Lord appeared to Abraham," Gen. xii,
71, Acts vii, 3; to Isaac, xxvi, 2; to Jacob, xlviii, 3; but
we are not to understand by this any thing more than the
communication to these patriarchs of his will and purposes,
in a direct and, perhaps, unusual manner. So 1 Sam. iii, 21,
"The Lord appeared again in Shiloh; for the Lord revealed
himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord." These
events, after the style of the age, the writers call an
"appearance," or "revelation" of God, or God's "coming" to
the persons concerned.
Josephus, who was a Jew, and wrote about
the time of the New Testament authors, has furnished. us
with some excellent examples of the Jewish usage of the
phrases "appearace," "presence," and "coming of God." And
what is of great moment to the right understanding of the
phraseology, he employs, in several instances, the same
original Greek word which oc6urs in those passages of the
New Testament that speak of the "appearance" and "coming of
the Son of man," "of the Lord," &c.
He makes the servant of Abraham to call
his accidental meeting with Rebecca (Genesis xxiv, 16, 46),
a "divine appearance," (theias epiphaneias); that is,
he regarded it as an
interposition, or a special providence of God. The opening
of the waters of the Red sea is called an ''appearing" (epiphaneian
tou THEOU). Here the appearing of God was
the miracle, or manifestation of his power in behalf of
Israel; and this not directly even, but only indirectly,
A fortunate shower of rain, regarded as
an interposition of heaven, is called the "appearance" (epiphaneian),
and the "presence" (parousian) of God.
[Whiston's Jossphucl, Ant. B. is 16, 8. B. ii, 16, 2, 3. B.
xviii, 8, 6. This paragraph is indebted for its examples to
a very valuable article in the Expositor for Janauary, 1839,
pp. 19,80. The article is by H. Ballou] These
examples show very clearly the great latitude with
which these expressions were used among the Jews at the time
the New Testament was composed. The careful thinker will at
once see that, to a great extent, they must modify and
govern our interpretation of the same or similar phrases in
the New Testament ; since the writers of the New Testament
were Jews, and would of course understand and use language
in the same sense in which the Jews understood. and used it.
The legitimacy and logical strictness of this inference, no
well-disciplined mind will think of questioning.
Let us now look at these expressions as significant of that
display of divine power. which comes in the form of
punishment or judgment, and which is, we believe, the sense
they bear, in part, in most of the New Testament passages
where they occur. Illustrations of this usage will be found
in the prophets. The passage already quoted from Isaiah xix,
is an example: "Behold the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud,
and shall come into into Egypt,'-and then follows a
lengthened description of the desolating judgments he was
about to bring upon Egypt, showing that the "coming" was a
coming to judgment or punishment. "Behold your God will come
with vengeance, even God with a recompense." Isa. xxxv, 4.
"Behold the Lord wilt come with fire, and with his chariots
like a whirlwind, lo render his anger with fury, and his
rebuke with flames of fire." Isa. lxvi, 16. The coming of
the Lord here is clearly significant of the calamitous
judgments which he would bring upon the people for their
sins. See also Psalm 1, 3. Mal. iv. 6.
[We have very similar expressions in common use, to set
forth any great trial or calamity. We say of a painful
sickness, or a heavy misfortune, - "It is a severe
visitation," - that is, of God. And in cases of sudden
death, where the cause is unknown, the jury of inquest still
observe the form of verdict, - "Died by visitation (or
visit) of God"]
So in the New Testament, the terrible
judgments and entire destruction, the wrath to the
uttermost, which fell upon the Jews at the close of the Law
dispensation, are described, after the same style, under the
figure of Christ's "coming" to take vengeance on the
enemies and false professors of the gospel. "The day, the
time, and the manner of the execution of this vengeance,"
says Dr. Lightfoot, "are called "The day of the Lord,' 'The
day of Christ,' 'His coming in the clouds, in his
glory, in his kingdom.'" "Any signal
interposition in behalf of his church,--or in the
destruction of his enemies, may be metaphorically called a
coming of Christ." "The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus is
emphatically called the corning of Christ. The spirit of
prophecy speaks particularly of this, because the city and
temple were then destroyed, and the civil and ecclesiastical
state of the Jews subverted." [Newcome,
Obs. pp. 280, Note, (6) 281, Note.]
The reader will notice the perfect
correspondence between this "coming" or "appearance" of
Christ at the overthrow of Jerusalem, in behalf of his
followers, and in destruction of their persecuting enemies,
and the "appearance of God" at the Red Sea, as worded by
Josephus, in behalf of the Israelites, and in the
destruction of their persecuting enemies, the Egyptians. The
events in these great points, and in the phraseology of
description, are marvellously alike.
The following examples, alluding to this event, will
illustrate this usage in the New Testament. "When the Son of
man shall come in his glory," &c. Mat. xxv, 31. "And
they shall see the Son man coming in the clouds of heaven,"
&c. Mat. xxiv, 30, 31. "Likewise as it was in the days of
Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they
planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of
Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and
destroyed them all: even thus shall it be in the day when
the Son man is revealed." Luke xvii, 28, &a. So Paul says,
"The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night; for
when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden
destruction cometh upon them, and they shall not escape." 1
Thes. v, 1-4. "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven
with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on
them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our
Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting
destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the
glory of his. power, when he shall come to be glorified in
his saints," &c. 2 Thes. i, 7-10. "And now, little children,
abide in him, that when he shall appear,
we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his
coming, (1 John ii, 28,) that is, "that when that great
fatal day of visitation comes, the coming of Christ so long
expected, wherein the obdurate unbelievers shall be
destroyed, and the believers delivered and preserved," &c.
Hammond's Par. in loco. See also 1 Peter v, 4.
In these passages we see clearly that
the "coming," "revelation, ''appearing," &c., are
significant of punishment or judgment upon the earth, being
the particular judgment which resulted in the destruction of
the Jewish people.
The time of this "coming in the clouds of
heaven with power and great glory," the time when Christ was
to be "revealed from heaven," to "take vengeance on them
that obeyed not his gospel," and to 'r reward every man
according to his works," giving "life eternal" to the
faithful, and "everlasting punishment" or "destruction" to
his enemies, is clearly, and beyond doubt, fixed by the
Saviour himself. Speaking of John, he says, "I will that he
tarry till I come." John xxi, 21-23 ["What
is oft meant in the Gospels by the coming of Christ,
viz., that famous execution upon the Jews, hath been oft
mentioned. This John did survive, continuing not only to
Titus's time, but through Domitian's and Nerva's to Trojan's
reign, above an hundred years after Christ's birth, and so
thirty years after this coming of Christ was past!"
Hammond's Annot. on the passage.] Of course he must
have come while John was yet living. To his disciples he
said, "When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into
another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone
over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come."
Mat. x, 23, ["Be assured from me
that by the time you have gone through all the cities of the
Jews, vs. 7, this fatal day shall come upon your
persecutors." - Hammond's Par. in loco.]
"Verily I say this generation shall not pass till all these
things be fulfilled!" Mat, xxiv, 33, 34: "There be some
standing here which shall not taste death, till they see the
Son of man coming in his kingdom!" Mat. xvi, 27, 28.
But, this "coming" or revelation" of the
Son of man was not only to be in judgment upon the enemies,
but also upon the false professors and apostates of the
gospel. This Christ set forth clearly in the parables of the
"Marriage Feast," the ''Unfaithful Servant," &c. It would be
said by some of these, My Lord delayeth his coming," "and
they would eat and drink with the drunken;" but the Lord
would come unexpectedly, and cut them off, and "appoint them
their portion with the hypocrites, (scribes, Pharisees,
hypocrites, Mat. xxiii,) where should be weeping and
gnashing of teeth." Mat. xxiv,46-51. On these declarations
of Christ are based certain of the apostolical exhortations
to fidelity and holiness of life. Wherefore gird up the
loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the
grace (favor) that is to be brought unto you at the
revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not
fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your
ignorance, - but as he which hath called you is holy, so be
ye holy in all manner of conversation." 1 Peter i, 13-16.
"And this I pray, that ye may be sincere, and without
offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits
of righteousness," Phil. i, 6-1 1. "And I pray God your
whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto
the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. " 1 Thes. v, 23. "I
charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall
judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and (in) his
kingdom, preach the word; be instant in season, out of
season," &c. 2 Tim. iv, 1-8. See also 1 Cor. i, 4-8; Phil.
ii, 14-16. 1 Thes, iii, 13, 13. 1 Tim, vi, 13-16. 1 Pet. iv,
This "coming" or "appearance" of Christ in judgment is on
the enemies and false professors of his religion, at the
close of the Law dispensation, occupies a large space in the
New Testament; and it is a profitable study to follow its
traces from the Gospels to the Apocalypse, and note how it
had woven itself into the thoughts, and counsels, and
exhortations of, the Master and his disciples. We have
already seen something of this, but a more careful survey of
the ground, and a classification of some of the passages
referring to it, according to time and circumstances, will
not be without their use in illustrating the phraseology in
While yet with them the Saviour comforted
his disciples, in prospect of the persecutions which they
mould have to suffer, with the assurance that when he should
"come" or "reveal" himself, their enemies would be
scattered, and they delivered from their persecutions. Hence
he says, "he that endureth to the end shall be saved,"
--that is, he that is faithful to the end of these
persecutions, or till the Son of man come, shall be
delivered. Mat. x, 17-13. This will be clearly seen in the
following. After describing the signs which, would precede
his "coming" to the destruction of Jerusalem, he adds, "then
shall men's hearts fail them for fear, and for looking after
these things which are coming on the earth; for the powers
of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the
Son of man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory.
And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up,
and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
Luke xxi, 27,28. This redemption was from the persecutions
of the Jews, who were to be destroyed when "the Lord Jesus
should be revealed from heaven;" for then Jerusalem was to
"be trodden down of the Gentiles," and "the power of the
holy people scattered," and they "punished with everlasting
destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the
glory of his power." Luke xxi, 2-4; 2 Thes. i, 7-9. See also
Mat. x, 23, quoted in a previous paragraph.
Now if we take a step forward to the apostolic times and
writings, we shall find similar allusions to this "coming"
or "revelation" of Christ, made under similar circumstances
of persecution; but now also, after years of waiting,
accompanied with earnest assurances of its approach, and
consebuent exhortations to patience.
We discover from many passages of the apostolical epistles,
that the early Christians, growing faint and weary with the
severity and length of their persecutions, began to waver in
their faith, to lose confidence in the promises of the Lord,
and that he would come to their deliverance, and even to
doubt whether it would be so. And their enemies even taunted
them with the seeming non-fulfilment of the prediction,
saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? for since the
fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from
the beginning of the creation." I Peter iii, 4. Out of this
state of things come such exhortations of the apostles as
these: "Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of
the Lord. . . . Be ye patient; stablish your hearts; for the
coming of the Lord draweth nigh." James v, 7, 8. This was
written after twenty-seven years waiting, and about ten
years before the coming of Christ, in A. D. 60 or 61.
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial
which is to try you, as though some strange thing had
happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers
of Christ's sufferings, that when "When his glory shall be
revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." 1 Peter
iv, 12, 13. This was written four years later, A. D. 64.
"Cast, not away your confidence, . . . . for ye have need of
patience, . . . . for yet a little while, and he that shall
come shall come, and will not tarry." Heb. x, 35, 37. This
was written from A. D. 62 to 64, about six or seven years
only before the coming of Christ to the destruction of
Jerusalem, and the Jewish persecutors of the Christians.
[See also 1 Cor. i, 7, 8. Phil. iv, 6.
1 Peter iv, 17. 1 Thes. i, 10. Heb. x, 26. 1 Peter i, 6-7,
and Hammond's Note on 2 Thes. i, 6-10, in explanation of the
"salvation revealed in the last time," "being deliverance
from the persecution of the Jews."]
Now if we take one more step forward to
the Apocalypse, we shall find the expressions respecting the
"coming" or "appearance" of Christ the Lord, increasing in
force and earnestness as the time drew nearer. And if we
remember that the Apocalypse was written only two years
before the destruction of Jerusalem, we shall at once see
the reason and propriety of this additional earnestness of
the passages alluding to this event. "The Revelation of
Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his
servants things which must SHORTLY come to pass." Rev. i, 1.
"The time is at hand," i, 3. "Behold, I come
QUICKLY,!" iii, 11; xxii, 7.. "Behold, I stand at the door!"
iii, 20. "Seal not the sayings of this book," &c.
xxii, 10, diligently compared with Daniel xii, 4. "Behold, I
come QUICKLY, and my reward is with me, to give every man as
his work shall be." xxii, 14, diligently compared with Mat.
xvi, 27,28. "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and
he that is filthy, let him be filthy still, " (xxii, 11,)
that is, the event is so very clone at hand, that there is
now no time for preparation or change, and he that is
wicked, or an enemy of Christ, must remain so, and be
overwhelmed in the common destruction. These passages show
that the revelation of Christ in judgment was, very near, on
the eve of opening when the revelator wrote, which, as we
have said, was immediately preceding the event, about A. D.
69; and the destruction of Jerusalem took place about two
years after, A. D. 70, so fulfilling all the predictions of
Christ and his apostles.
Thus have we finished what the limits of this article will
permit us to say, in illustration of the Scripture usage and
import of the phrases "Coming of God," or Christ,
"Appearing" or "Appearance," "Revealed," "Revelation, &c. It
seems very clear, that they were employed by the Jews and
the Scripture writers to designate any special exhibition of
the divine will or purpose, any special or unusual
manifestation of the power of God, or Christ, either in
mercy or judgment. Hence these terms are emphatically
applied to that greatest of all exhibitions of divine power,
which resulted in the destruction of the Law dispensation,
of the temple and holy city, and in the setting up of the
gospel dispensation, the new Jerusalem, to which all the
nations of the earth shall at last be gathered, rejoicing in
the salvation of God.