"When ye shall see all these things know that he is nigh at the doors."-- Jesus.
When Jesus was already in Palestine, and had been for many months delivering to the sons of Israel Yahweh's Message of peace through the reestablishment of the kingdom and throne of David, the subject of his "Coming" was dwelt upon with much interest among his disciples. He had already come, and was there among them; but with that coming neither he nor they were satisfied. How could they! He and they were in deep poverty and great reproach. However much attached to his person, it was not in the nature of things possible for them to be content with such a coming; nor was Jesus himself satisfied with it as a finality; for he prayed, saying, "And now glorify thou me, O Father, with thyself for the glory that I had in thy sight before that the world was." He desired to be glorified, and for the Father to be glorified also through him; and that he might have that glory promised of the Father to Abraham's seed before the foundation of Israel's Commonwealth. The desire of his disciples was akin to his; for he had told them that "WHEN the Son of Man should sit upon the throne of his glory, they also should sit upon twelve thrones ruling the twelve tribes of Israel." But after having received this promise, Jesus informed them that he was going to leave Palestine on a journey to a far country, and for a long time. This troubled their hearts greatly; for it would separate them from their beloved friend, and leave them, as they supposed, defenseless, comfort-less, and forlorn; and the realization of the promised Sovereignty over Israel, which, as David had said, was "all their salvation and all their delight," a questionable affair in the then weak condition of their faith. Jesus perceived this, and sympathized with them, saying, "Let not your hearts be troubled; have faith in God and have faith in me. In the house (or kingdom) of my Father are many abodes; if it were not so I would have told you. I go away to prepare a place for you. And if I go away and prepare a place for you, I COME AGAIN, and will receive you to myself; that where I am ye may be also."
These words were a comforting assurance for the future. They all had faith in Jesus, except Judas. They not only believed that he was the Anointed Son of God, but they believed what he said, and thereby proved that they really loved him; which is more than the pious millions of our day, who profess great love and devotion to him, can do. "I will come to you. * * * If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will COME unto him, and make our abode with him." These are they to whom the Lord will come--not to those who believe he is coming, but to those who look for this, and prove their love to him in keeping his words. They shall not go to him; for said he, "As I said unto the Jews, whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you:" but He will come to them, as he wrote to the Thyatirans, saying, "Hold fast that which ye have till I come," and to the Philadelphians, "Behold, I come quickly;" and to the Laodiceans, "Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." The coming of Jesus was the all-absorbing topic of the apostolic and christian mind of the first century. The last words ever uttered by Jesus to mortal man were, "Surely I come quickly." No well-instructed believers have any idea of going to heaven where Jesus is; their prayer is ever in the faith of his coming to them. "Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning; and ye yourselves like unto men waiting for their lord, when he shall come away on account of the wedding; that coming and knocking, they may open unto him immediately. This is their attitude at all times and seasons; and death is forgotten in the earnest expectation of his appearing. They believe his words, that he will come quickly; and their hearty response to them is, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
Let the reader then bear in mind as a first principle never to be forgotten in his reasonings, that the attitude and expectation of those who are "taught of God," is waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus from heaven--1 Thess. 1:10. But it may be asked, What did the apostles and their brethren expect him to accomplish when he came? In answer to this I would reply, that before the ascension of Jesus, they expected him in having joined them again, immediately to "restore the kingdom again to Israel;" but that from the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit brought all things to their remembrance, and onwards, they looked for him to come and take vengeance on his murderers and to burn up their city; and at some time after that not revealed to them, but, in general terms, when "the Times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled," to come and destroy the Gentile powers, and regenerate Israel, that in that regeneration, or restitution of all things Jewish, not incompatible with the sacrificial and sacerdotal character of Jesus, they might sit with him upon the thrones of the House of David, ruling the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Thus, they expected two judgment days.
1. The judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem by means of the Gentile; and,
2. The judgment upon the Gentile Powers, the oppressors of Israel and the saints, by means of Judah and Israel, commanded by their king.
These two judgment days are covered by the oracle contained in the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. The judgment of Judah and Jerusalem is there predicted in these words: "the Prince's people coming shall destroy the City and the Temple; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and to the end of the war desolations are decreed." The same judgment is also foretold in Daniel 7:10-12, saying, "The Little Horn of the Goat waxed great above the army of the heavens; and it cast down of the army and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. And it magnified itself above the Commander of the army, and by it the daily was taken away, and the foundation of its holy place was cast down. And an army was given against the Daily because of rebellion, and it cast down the Truth to the ground; and it practiced and prospered." And in verse twenty-three of the same chapter, "When the transgressors are come to the full, a king (Moses styles the power--"a nation") of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences (Moses says, "whose tongue Israel should not understand"), shall stand up (or be brought against them). And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper and practice, and shall destroy multitudes, even the people of the holy ones." This was the "abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet" that was to "stand on the holy land," encompassing Jerusalem with its armies, to which Jesus referred, saying, "When you see this, then let them which be in Judea flee unto the mountains; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written (against Judah's Commonwealth) may be fulfilled. For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people"--"great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the State to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh (of Judah's race) be saved; but on account of the chosen, those days shall be shortened."
The judgment upon the Gentile powers is thus spoken of by Daniel in the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks: "That determined shall be poured upon the Desolator." The words are few, but full of terrible import. What is that which is determined? This question opens up the details of "the judgement written," to execute which "is the honor of all God's saints." The present Desolator is the Turk; but the Desolator contemporary with the judgment is Gog, who succeeds the Turk in hostility to the peace and welfare of Judah and Jerusalem.
Gog is the last dynasty destined to occupy the throne of the Little Horn of the Goat, which represents a power common to Daniel's third and fourth beasts; and consists in taking away the dominion of three of them, and in destroying the body politic of the fourth with fire and sword. The systems represented by these four beasts, the fourth of which is comprehensive of the Dragon, the Ten Horned and Two-Horned Beasts, Image of the Beast, and the False Prophet of the Apocalypse; these all occupy "the court of the Gentiles" for the times thereof appointed. When these times are fulfilled, the hour of their judgment comes; and, if that of Judah and Jerusalem was terrible, that of the Gentiles shall be more so. Judah's tribulation at the hand of the Roman Horn of the Goat, was greater than anything that had befallen them since the foundation of their commonwealth; but the trouble that awaits the powers of the Gentile heavens and the nations over which they rule, is such as the history of the world from the confusion of human speech to that same time, can afford no adequate idea; for the hour of their judgement is "the great and the terrible day of the Lord."
Between these two judgments, 1783 years have hitherto elapsed. A few more years have yet to expire ere the second judgment arrive. The beginning and ending of this long period is marked by the fall and rising again of Jerusalem; and its course by the calamities of Judah and the prostration of their city as expressed in the words of Jesus, saying, "And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, UNTIL the Times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."
Having fixed the attention of his disciples upon the end of the times allotted to the nations for their ascendancy over Judah and Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus informed them that at that crisis "Signs shall be in the sun, and moon, and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear and anticipation of the events coming upon the habitable; for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And at that epoch they (Judah) shall see the Son of Man coming in cloud with power and great glory."--Matt. 26:64.
From this testimony of Luke we see that this shaking of all nations is associated with the coming of Jesus in power and glory, as he declared to the High Priest when he stood before his. Of this future coming there can be no doubt in a mind enlightened by the word of truth, and purged of the traditions of the scribes an Pharisees. But as there are two grand post-Pentecostian judgments, so there are two comings which must not be confounded. These comings may be thus stated:
1. The coming of Messiah the Prince with the army given against the Daily, because of the rebellion against him; and,
2. The coming of the Lord Jesus against the Lawless King (an autocrat) to consume him with the Spirit of his Mouth and to destroy him by the manifestation of his presence.
3. In Matt. 10 we are informed that on sending forth the twelve before his crucifixion to preach the gospel, Jesus commanded them not to go the Gentiles and Samaritans, but "to the lost sheep of the House of Israel." This was the pre-pentecostian beginning of their proclamation. Jesus, however, contemplated its continuance in a time when they should be brought before kings and governors on his account, "for a testimony to them and the nations;" but they were to go the Israel first, and afterwards to the Gentiles.
They were to proclaim that "the kingly power of the heavens hath approached." This fact, namely, that His Majesty, the king of the Jews was actually present among them, was urged as a reason why the lost sheep of Israel's house should "repent." But, if they would not repent, then they were to denounce judgment against their cities; for, said Jesus, "in a day of judgment it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, than for that city." This was "the end" set before Jerusalem and all her sister cities of Judea, for despising the testimony of the apostles to the validity of the claims of the Lord Jesus to the throne of Israel. It should be more tolerable for "the land of Sodom and Gomorrah" than for the land of Judah; therefore, he said, "Let them which are in Judea flee to the mountain; and let them who are in the midst of Jerusalem depart out; and let not them who are in the countries enter thereinto. For these are the days of vengeance for the fulfilling all the things written. And there shall be great calamity (or tribulation, Matt. 24:21) upon the land, and wrath against this people."--Luke 21:21-23.
The attaining to this "end," without apostasy from the faith, hope, and walk of the kingdom's gospel, was a work that tried the reclaimed sheep of the house of Israel to the utmost; for even "children would rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death;" and as to the apostles, they would be hated of all on account of their testimony for the name of Jesus. "But," said he, "he that endureth to the end shall be saved."
This terrible end of Judah's Commonwealth was the ful-filment of Moses' prophecy in which he threatened Israel that if thy did not venerate "the glorious and fearful Name Yehowah Elohekha, I SHALL BE, THY GODS," they should "be plucked from off the land whither thy were going to possess it. And the I shall be should scatter them among all people from the one end of the earth even unto the other." The "I SHALL BE" was to do this, because they did not fear his name, which he caused to be proclaimed to them by the apostles. These announced that name covered two gods; the God of Abraham and the God Jesus, his Son in whom He delighted; and in whom He dwelt by his Holy Spirit. This glorious indwelling was Abraham's God manifested in Abraham's seed--a Divine Manifestation which Judah despised, reproached, and rebelled against; wherefore after the long-suffering of the God of their fathers had endured forty years from the baptism of his Son, wrath came upon them at length through the power of the Little Horn, as the executioner of the Mosaic sentence against them.
The Roman Horn of the Goat was the agent of him whose name is, "The who is, the who was, and the who is to come." When therefore that power went against Judea, the Divine Name came against it, and the Romans were for the time being "the people of the Prince" of Judah. The Lord Jesus was as literally present at the overthrow of their commonwealth, as he was present and near to Paul a few minutes before he threw him to the ground, and demanded why he persecuted him? He was present, but not seen by Paul and his companions, nevertheless they felt his power. The operations of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem were under his directions; hence, that unaccountable interruption of the siege, in which for no obvious cause the Romans drew off their army from the city, and afforded the faithful in Christ an opportunity to "depart out of it."
But, it may be inquired, How do you know that Jesus was present at the siege in the absence of the testimony of eye-witnesses? I answer, because Jesus declared he world be present at the end of the age. The subject of the Mount Olivet discourse was the parousia and the erchomenos of Jesus. The word parousia signifies "presence," or being nigh to; from pareimi, nigh to, and I am; and is used in connection with the sunteleia tou aionos, "The end of the age" related to the Mosaic Law. Jesus reproduces Daniel's prophecy of the destruction of the temple, saying, "There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." This was in effect proclaiming the end of the age when read in connection with the declaration that Jerusalem should thenceforth be trodden down of the nations until their times be fulfilled; at the end of which times, the city should see him again, and hail him the blessed of the Lord. The disciples, who were Jews, understood it thus; and therefore they said to him, "Tell us when shall these things be? And what the sign of thy being nigh, and of the end of the age?" The sign of his parousia, or being nigh, was also the sign of the end of the age; and this was the sign--the abomination of desolation standing on holy ground, or as Mark expresses it, "Standing where it ought not," as foretold by Daniel. Luke expresses the sign with less ambiguity--"When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof draweth nigh." This was "the sign" to that generation of the parousia or nighness of Jesus, and of the end of an age or dispensation, or cycle, that could not exist without the temple.
In giving this sign of his nighness, Jesus warned the disciples not to be misled by any report of the Christ being in the desert, or in any secret chambers. His proximity would not be indicated by messages appointing places of rendezvous for his friends; therefore they were not to believe any sayings upon the subject. For like the lightning, the sign would break forth from the east and proceed westward against Jerusalem; "so," said he, "shall the parousia, or nearness of the Son of Man be:" and here is the reason why it shall be so; "for," continues he, "wheresoever the carcass (or body politic of Judah) is, there will the eagles (of Rome) be gathered together"--that is, according to the history, Titus at the head of the Roman Legions of the East should compass Jerusalem, for the purpose of destroying it.
The parousia, or proximity, of the Son of Man to Jerusalem in the crisis of its overthrow was to be in the lifetime of that generation, according to the words of Jesus, who said, "This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled." But of the precise time when the temple should disappear, and the Mosaic Economy "vanish away," the Father only could tell; for Jesus said, "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only." Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32. The disciples were permitted to know only the proximity of the judgment of Gehenna, termed in our English version "the damnation of hell." :As the days of Noah, so would the parousia of the Son of Man be;" unexpected to the faithless, but looked for by them who watched for the sign, though not knowing the hour of its approach.
But before the great sign of the desolation, that is, "Jerusalem compassed with armies," there was another striking indication to the believer that "the parousia of the Lord hath approached." as James expresses it, he parousia engike; and "that the Judge standeth before the door: or, as Peter indicates the same thing, saying, "The end of all things has approached," when "judgment must begin at the house of God," preparatory to "the end of those that obey not the gospel of God." This indication was the full accomplishment of the work the apostles were commissioned to do. "THIS gospel of the kingdom," said the greatest preacher of it, "shall be heralded in the whole habitable, for a testimony to all the nations (thereof), and afterwards shall come THE END." Matt. 24:14. Jesus spoke these words before "his death, burial, and resurrection;" and also said to his apostles, "Verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come." And after his resurrection he added, in relation to the gospel he began to preach in Galilee as God's message to Israel, "Go through the whole state, and make known the Gospel to every creature (thereof). He having believed and been baptized shall be saved; but having not believed, he shall be condemned." The apostles understood this commission to extend only to "the lost sheep of the House of Israel;" not to the Gentiles. Had they understood it as extending to every Gentile creature of the whole Roman Habitable, it would have been unnecessary for the Lord afterwards to have prepared Peter in a special manner for a ready compliance with the invitation from Cornelius to come and "tell" his pious Gentile household (proselytes to Moses) "words whereby they might be saved." The Twelve were commissioned to the Circumcision; so that the kosmon apanta, rendered in the Common Version "all the world," relates only to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Israel; a truth which well defines the limits of the phrase, I am with you all the days, till the consummation of the age--to the end of the age and the end of the commonwealth; two ending things, hence the word SUN teleia, for the state once had an end before in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar; but not "the age:" that did not end till the parousia of the Son of Man, when both were finished for a time.
Judah not proving faithful to the required extent, the time arrived to extend the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom to the Gentiles of the Roman Habitable. Paul was called for this purpose. He published it for a testimony to the nations, while the Twelve were "going over the cities of Israel;" and he appears to have accomplished his work before them. For in his letter to the Colossians he says, that at the time he was writing to them, the faith and hope of the gospel, of which he was a minister, had been preached to every creature under heaven--c. 1:23. Here, then, was the Olivet indication of the end being near. The Gospel of the Kingdom Jesus come to preach had been preached by Paul, who labored more abundantly than the rest of the apostles and his companions under the whole heaven of the Roman Habitable. What did the faithful look for next? The end of all thing Mosaic. And why? Because Jesus had said that after this universal proclamation throughout the habitable, "the end shall come;" and if the date of Paul's Epistle to the Colossians be correct, it did come in eight years afterwards; and before the other apostles had gone over the cities of Israel.
During these eight years a very lamentable state of things obtained in the churches of Judea. Many were seduced from the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and became again entangled in the pollutions of the world. They were the "perilous times of the last days" of the Mosaic economy, in which professors were "lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, devils (diaboloi), incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that were good, betrayers, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." They maintained the form of Christianity, but the false prophets among them neutralized its power over them by their traditions, which deceived and corrupted them. They betrayed and hated one another; smote their fellow-servants, and ate and drank with the drunken in their disgusting revels. They were presumptuous and self-willed, and spoke evil of the things they did not understand. They were spots and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feasted with the faithful. Cursed children, who had forsaken the right way for the wages of unrighteousness--the scoffers of the last days, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the (fulfillment of the) promise of His parousia or proximity? What evidence is there of His being near to put and end to the age and commonwealth of Israel--"the (Mosaic) heavens and the earth which are now," A.D.. 66? For since the fathers (of the nation) fell asleep, all things continue as from the creation (of the state?)
Such was the apostasy foretold by the Lord Jesus, which exhausted the patience of God with Judah; and caused them to be broken off as a withered branch at the destruction of their city and temple. "Many," said He, "shall be seduced (skandalist-hesontai, caused to stumble), and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of the many shall be cooled. But he who suffers patiently to the end, the same shall be saved." This state of things in the Jewish churches was a great affliction to the apostles; who saw much of the work done under their administration about to be consumed as wood, hay, and stubble--mere tares bound up in bundles to be burned in the fiery furnace of divine wrath upon the land. But they did not forget the words of the Lord Jesus, who had told them, saying, "When ye shall see all these things know that HE (the Son of Man) is nigh at the doors"--engus estin epi thurais. This nearness was His parousia, inappropriately rendered "coming" in the Common Version. They, and the gold, and silver, and precious stones, who continued steadfast in the faith, perceived it, and watched with intense solicitude for the end. For the apostles wrote to them, saying, "the end of all things hath approached: be ye therefore sober, and watch even to prayers;" "looking for and earnestly desiring the nearness of the day of God, through which, heavens being on fire shall be abolished, and elements burning, IT is dissolved--teketai, that is, the state. The judgment that was to effect this was "the baptism of fire" foretold by John the Baptist, with which the Son of Man was to baptize, overwhelm, and consume, the unfruitful trees of that viperous generation--the "unquenchable fire with which He was to burn up the chaff," or ungodly men of Judah, who lived in pleasure and wantonness on the land; and nourished their hearts for a day of slaughter. Those who remained faithful and true saw what was coming; for they were "mindful of the words before spoken by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of the apostles of the Lord and Saviour." They were therefore as rocks in the stormy sea; and not to be moved from their steadfastness in Christ, though the heavens were rolled up as a scroll, and the land became blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. They knew that the Mosaic system must vanish in a loud tumult of war and desolation--"pass away with a great noise"--before the kingdom of God, in which dwelleth righteousness, could be established; for so long as that economy continued, there could be no Melchisedec High Priest in Israel reigning over the Twelve Tribes on His father David's throne; and consequently no inheritance for them and partakers of His joy. Hence, this being the position in which they were placed by their faith, Peter wrote to them, saying, "seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless. Ye, therefore, beloved, seeing that ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away by the deceit of the lawless, fall from your own steadfastness; but grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and in the day if the age. Amen."
Such, then, were the signs of the Son of Man's coming, and invisible presence at and before the overthrow of the Mosaic system in Judea, and which for the sake of clearness, may be summarily presented as follows:
1. The appearance of many impostors claiming the Messiahship of Israel;
2. Wars, and rumors of wars; famines, pestilences, and earthquakes;
3. The appearance of many false prophets among the Christians.
4. Apostasy to a great extent in the churches of Judea;
5. The apostolic mission to Roman nations fully accomplished;
6. The state of things in Judea, a fac-simile of society in the days of Noah;
7. Jerusalem compassed with armies, or the abomination of desolation, spoken of in Dan. 7:9.
8. Zion's sun and moon darkened; and her stars cast down to the ground, and stamped upon by the Roman horn of the goat, which thus establishes "the end."
Jan. 16, 1855.