Online Bible and Study Tools
Translate || Vine / Schaff || Alts/Vars/Criticism/Aramaic

 
 


End Times Chart


Introduction and Key

BOOKS:  BIBLICAL STUDIES (1500BC-AD70) / EARLY CHRISTIAN PRETERISM (AD50-1000) / FREE ONLINE BOOKS (AD1000-2008)



Church-State Relations and the Book of Revelation
An Introduction to The Parousia: A Careful Look at the New Testament Doctrine of the Lord's Second Coming
by James Stuart Russell (1878) // Written by
Todd Dennis, Curator
 



 

FREE ONLINE BOOKS

 
 
 

Free Online Books

Free Online Books



Apocalyptic | Apocryphal | Archeology | Lectures | Biographies | Dead Sea Scrolls | First Century History | Foreign | Jewish Sources | Josephus

Click For Site Updates Page

Free Online Books Page

Historical Preterism Main

Modern Preterism Main

Hyper Preterism Main

Preterist Idealism Main

Critical Article Archive Main

Church History's Preteristic Presupposition

Study Archive Main

Dispensationalist dEmEnTiA  Main

Josephus' Wars of the Jews Main

Online Study Bible Main

 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

175: Irenaeus: Against Heresies

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

310: Eusebius: Divine Manifestation of our Lord

312: Eusebius: Proof of the Gospel

319: Athanasius: On the Incarnation

320: Eusebius: History of the Martyrs

325: Eusebius: Ecclesiastical History

345: Aphrahat: Demonstrations

367: Athanasius: The Festal Letters

370: Hegesippus: The Ruin of Jerusalem

386: Chrysostom: Matthew and Mark

387: Chrysostom: Against the Jews

408: Jerome: Commentary on Daniel

417: Augustine: On Pelagius

426: Augustine: The City of God

428: Augustine: Harmony

420: Cassian: Conferences

600: Veronica Legend

800: Aquinas: Eternity of the World

 


1000-2006

FUTURIST
HISTORICAL
MODERN

1265: Aquinas: Catena Aurea

1543: Luther: On the Jews

1555: Calvin: Harmony on Evangelists

1556: Jewel: Scripture

1586: Douay-Rheims Bible

1598: Jerusalem's Misery ; The dolefull destruction of faire Ierusalem by Tytus, the Sonne of Vaspasian

1603: Nero : A New Tragedy

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

1776: Edwards: History of Redemption

1785: Churton: Prophecies Respecting the Destruction of Jerusalem

1801: Porteus: Our Lord's Prophecies

1802: Nisbett: The Coming of the Messiah

1805: Jortin: Remarks on Ecclesiastical History

1810: Clarke: Commentary On the Whole Bible

1816: Wilkins: Destruction of Jerusalem Related to Prophecies

1824: Galt: The Bachelor's Wife

1840: Smith: The Destruction of Jerusalem

1841: Currier: The Second Coming of Christ

1842: Bastow : A (Preterist) Bible Dictionary

1842: Stuart: Interpretation of Prophecy

1843: Lee: Dissertations on Eusebius

1845: Stuart: Commentary on Apocalypse

1849: Lee: Inquiry into Prophecy

1851: Lee: Visions of Daniel and St. John

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

1883: Milton S. Terry: Biblical Hermeneutics

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

1917: Morris: Christ's Second Coming Fulfilled

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

1987: Chilton: The Days of Vengeance

2001: Fowler: Jesus - The Better Everything

2006: M. Gwyn Morgan - AD69 - The Year of Four Emperors

Print and Use For Personal Bookmark or Placement in Bookstores


Christ's Prophecy (Matt. xxiv) of the Destruction of Jerusalem, and of His Second Coming

David N. Lord

1858

CLICK HERE TO READ PDF FILE

CHALLENGING THE "DOUBLE FULFILLMENT" METHOD OF JOHN OWEN:

"the one event is typical of the other; his coming to destroy Jerusalem in representation, faint, indeed, but real, of his glorious and awful coming to take vengeance upon the finally impenitent ; and that language, therefore, is used of it which seems appropriately to belong to the final judgment." — Pp. 318, 319.

The assumption on which Dr. Owen here proceeds is surely as complete a "jargon of hermeneutics " as that of Mr. Alford. For he divests the language of the Saviour altogether of a predictive office, and assigns that function to tlie events which his words denote ; making the coming of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven, a mere type or symbol of the acts of his providence by which Jerusalem was destroyed ; and then assigns to those acts of providence by which that city was overthrown, the office of representing his real personal coming at the last judgment, to take vengeance upon the finally impenitent. Can a worse error in " hermeneutics" be conceived than this, which thus wrests from the language of prophecy all its predictive meaning, and transfers the office of prediction to the events which it signifies, as types and symbols of a different class of events ; and then makes these last events types and symbols of the other class that are literally denoted by the language of the prediction, and by which they are themselves held to be represented? Or is there any other principle that makes the interpretation of the Sacred Word more entirely the work of a wild and lawless fancy? (p 414)

 

(Formatting Help Would Be Appreciated)

The Theological and Literary Journal
VOL. X. — NO. iii. 27


Christ's Prophecy (Matt. xxiv) of the Destruction of Jerusalem, and of His Second Coming

THE expositions of this prophecy with which we have met in recent commentators, add little of importance to its elucidation ; they contribute rather, in some respects, to obscure and perplex it. Thus Olshausen, though presenting in the main a very just and impressive view of the import of its two great predictions — of judgment on the Jews, and of Christ's second coming — falls into the singular error of regarding it as representing that the overthrow of Jerusalem and the second advent of Christ would be contemporaneous.

"As regards the contents of the discourse, a great difficulty lies in its placing in apparent juxtaposition circumstances which, according to the history, are separated by wide intervals. Obvious descriptions of the approaching overthrow of Jerusalem and the Jewish polity are blended with no less evident representations of the second coming of the Lord to his kingdom. . . We do not hesitate to adopt the simple interpretation, and the only one consistent with the text, that Jesus did intend to represent his coming as contemporaneous with the destruction of Jerusalem and the overthrow of the Jewish polity." — Com.,vol. ii, pp. 221, 222.


This statement surprises us ; as there not only is nothing in the prophecy to justify it, but it is an impeachment of the accuracy of the prediction. As Christ's coming was not in fact to take place at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, nor till many centuries after, how can a representation that they were to be contemporaneous consist with truth ? Why would not such a contradiction to the Divine purpose form as decisive a proof of the error of the prophecy, as an equal contradiction to the Divine designs and to fact in respect to any other events? And what motive can be supposed to have prompted such a false exhibition of the relations of the two events in time, which, on its being demonstrated by the fall of Jerusalem without the personal advent of the Son of man, would have convicted the prophecy of error in the judgment of all careful readers, divested it of authority, and debarred it from the faith of the church? The supposition is thus in every respect
untenable.

Mr. Alford falls into the equally singular error of holding that the prophecy has, in its earlier part, a double meaning. He says : —

"For the understanding of this necessarily difficult prophetic discourse, it must be borne in mind that the whole is spoken in the pregnant language of prophecy, in which various fulfilments are involved. The view of the Jewish Church and its fortunes, as representing the Christian Church and its history, is one key to the interpretation of the chapter. Two parallel interpretations run through the former part as far as v. 28 : the destruction of Jerusalem and the final judgment being both enwrapped in the words, but the former, in this part of the chapter, predominating.

Even in this part, however, we cannot tell how applicable the warnings given may be to the events of the last times, in which, apparently, Jerusalem is again to play so distinguished a part. From v. 28, the lesser subject begins to be swallowed up by the greater, and our Lord's second coming to be the predominant theme, with, however, certain hints thrown back, as it were, at the event which was immediately in question, till in the latter part of the chapter and the whole of the next, the second advent, and at length the final judgment ensuing on it, are the subjects." — The Greek Text, vol. i., p. 21 V.


These views are put forth as though they were so obviously
in harmony with principles on which the prophecies
are framed, that no proof was necessary of their applicability
to the predictions of this chapter. They are, however,
wholly groundless and mistaken. Where is there any
authority for the assumption that the Jewish church and its
fortunes are representatives of the Christian church and its
history? Most assuredly none is furnished by the Scriptures;
and most assuredly the Jewish chnrch or people cannot
be representatives in this chapter of the Christian church and its history ; as, if they were, the representation
would be proved to be false ; inasmuch as the history of the
Christian church, instead of a parallel, is the very opposite
of that of the Jewish church or people. The Jewish church
was swept from existence ages ago. The Christian church
has undergone no such annihilation. The Jewish people
have been denationalized and held in exile from their land,
and among the Gentiles, for a long train of generations and
ages. The Christian nations have undergone no such
denationalization and dispersion from their own soil among
the population of other parts of the globe. The Jewish
temple was destroyed and its peculiar worship intercepted
soon after the prophecy was uttered. No such destruction
of the sacred edifices of the Christian church and interception
of the worship offered in them has taken place. The
Jewish church and people were smitten with those judgments
because of their apostasy and rejection of Christ.
The Christians, whose persecution and slaughter are here
foreshown, were persecuted and slain not because of their
having apostatized, but for their fidelity to the Saviour. It
is clear therefore from history, that the great events foreshown
of Jerusalem, the temple, and the Jewish people,
cannot have been representatives of corresponding events in
the Christian church. How is it that these palpable facts
escaped Mr. Alford's notice ?
We may add, that there are no predictions in the Scriptures
formed on the principle which Mr. Alford ascribes to
this prophecy. There are no prophecies in which the event
directly and expressly foreshown, is set forth as being also a
representative of still another event of a different nature.
Of the numerous prophecies that are interpreted in the
sacred writings, and that are represented as fulfilled in occurrences
that have taken place, there are none that are
exhibited by the explanation of their meaning as filling such
a double office. The allegorization of the sacred word in
that manner, is altogether unauthorized and arbitrary, and
occupies itself wholly in the invention of imaginary and
false senses.
Were the things, moreover, enumerated in this prophecy,
representative of others of a different nature, on the principle
on which the agents, objects, and events of an allegory and of symbolic predictions are used, then those agents and
events would be employed simply as the media of the prophecy,
and would not themselves come into existence. The
seeming predictions of false prophets and false Christs, of
famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, of hatreds, persecutions,
and apostasies, would no more have a fulfilment, than
the representations in Daniel and the Apocalypse of beasts
rising from the sea, a dragon in the sky, a woman standing
on the moon, and other agents and events, have, or are to
have a literal fulfilment : and Mr. Alford's interpretation
of those parts of the prophecy, as to have a literal as well as
an allegorical accomplishment, is overthrown.
Dr. Owen falls into still greater errors. Both Olshausen
and Mr. Alford hold that vs. 29-31 foreshow the personal
coming of the Son of man to establish his kingdom on the
earth. Dr. Owen maintains, that they relate exclusively to
the overthrow of Jerusalem ; and in order to remove the
obstacles to that construction, assumes first, that the questions
of the apostles, to which the prophecy is a reply, related
only to the fall of that city and the destruction of the
temple. (Com. pp. 306, 307.) But that is against the clear
meaning of those questions. Christ had said : " See ye not
all these things" — the buildings of the temple? "Verily
I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon
another that shall not be thrown down." In reference to
this the apostles said : " Tell us when shall these things be?
And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end
of the age ? " vs. 1-3. Here are certainly two distinct subjects
of inquiry — the time of the overthrow of the temple,
and the signs of Christ's coming and of the end of the age ;
and they as certainly received separate and different
answers from Christ. He foreshows, that the destruction
of the temple was to take place immediately after the
abomination of desolation should be set up in the holy
place. But the sign of his coming and of the end of the
age is predicted as immediately to follow the great affliction
that was to commence with the invasion of Judea by the
Romans, the siege and capture of Jerusalem, and the dispersion
of the survivors of the nation into exile, and was to
extend through the long series of ages, denominated the
times of the Gentiles. Luke xxi. 24-27. When that period closes, then the sign of the Son of man shall appear in
heaven, and he will be seen coming in the clouds, to put an
end to the present and to introduce a new age. The answers
to these two questions are thus as distinct as the questions
themselves are, and their periods — the event has shown —
are separated from each other by more than eighteen centuries.
And next, to evade the direct prediction, vs. 29, 30, 31,
that the Son of man is to come in the clouds of heaven after
the close of the Jewish affliction, which is to end with the
times of the Gentiles, Dr. Owen assumes first, that the predicted
coming is representative of a providential interposition
to destroy Jerusalem by the agency of the Romans in the first
century, eighteen hundred years before the Jewish tribulation
terminates and the Gentiles cease to tread their holv
w
city ; and then, that that providential coming is representative
of Christ's real coming at the day of the final judgment.
Thus he says on the comparison, v. 27, of the publicity
of Christ's coming to the visibleness of a shaft of
lightning that flashes in dazzling splendor across the sky : "
This advent is primarily the one to take vengeance upon
the Jewish nation, but may secondarily, and in a higher sense,
be referred to his final coming to judge the world. But we
are not to adopt such a jargon of hermeneutics as to make this
coming of Christ refer primarily to both events, or to consider,
with Alford, that both these comings are enwrapped in the
words. To adopt such a principle of interpretation would soon
lead to the attaching as many senses to the words of a passage
as one's fancy might dictate, and destroy all reliance upon language
as a medium of fixed and definite thought." — Comment.,
pp. 317,318.
And he says of the direct prediction of Christ's coining
in the clouds, vs. 29, 30 :— . "
The similarity of language to that employed in reference to
his coming at the day of judgment, is found in the fact that
the destruction of Jerusalem was a great type or symbol of the
day of general doom, and the language of the one may, with
little variation, be applied to the other; . . . the one event is
typical of the other; his coming to destroy Jerusalem i? n
representation, faint, indeed, but real, of his glorious and awful coming to take vengeance upon the finally impenitent ; and that
language, therefore, is used of it which seems appropriately to
belong to the final judgment." — Pp. 318, 319.
The assumption on which Dr. O. here proceeds is surely
as complete a "jargon of hermeneutics " as that of Mr. Al-
ford. For he divests the language of the Saviour altogether
of a predictive office, and assigns that function to tlie events
which his words denote ; making the coming of the Son of
man in the clouds of heaven, a mere type or symbol of the
acts of his providence by which Jerusalem was destroyed ;
and then assigns to those acts of providence by which
that city was overthrown, the office of representing his real
personal coming at the last judgment, to take vengeance upon
the finally impenitent. Can a worse error in " hermeneutics"
be conceived than this, which thus wrests from the
language of prophecy all its predictive meaning, and transfers
the office of prediction to the events which it signifies,
as types and symbols of a different class of events ; and
then makes these last events types and symbols of the
other class that are literally denoted by the language of the
prediction, and by which they are themselves held to be
represented? Or is there any other principle that makes
the interpretation of the Sacred Word more entirely the
work of a wild and lawless fancy?
But where is there any authority for the assumption, that
the acts of providence, by which Jerusalem was overthrown,
were types and symbols of Christ's coming in person in the
clouds to take vengeance upon the impenitent at the close
of the present age? Dr. Owen alleges none. None can
be adduced from the word of God. It is not only gratuitous,
but it is against the laws of analogy. Christ's coming in the
clouds in visible glory has no adaptation to symbolize the
march of the Eoman armies into Judea to overthrow Jerusalem.
The advance of those armies to Jerusalem and destruction
of the city and temple, have no adaptation to
symbolize the personal coming of Christ in the clouds to
take possession of the earth, destroy his incorrigible enemies,
raise his saints from the grave, reward his people, and redeem
the earth from the thraldom of sin and death. No
agents can be more unlike each other, than Christ and the debased, lawless, and idolatrous Romans ; no events can present
a greater contrast, than their invading Judea to avenge
the revolt of the Jews from their crnel rule, and Christ's
coming in the clouds to assume the sceptre of this world, of
which he is the creator and Savionr, and redeem it from
the dominion and curse of sin. The ground on which Dr.
O. founds his construction of the prophecy, vs. 1-42, as relating
only to the overthrow of Jerusalem and dispersion of
the Jewish people, is thus altogether arbitrary and irreconcilable
with the laws of language. Had he interpreted it
on the principles of philology, which are his guides generally
in his commentary, he would have held vs. 29-31 to be a
clear prediction of the personal coming of the Son of man
at the close of the Jewish exile and captivity, which had
their commencement at the fall of their city and temple.
It is surprising that any who have made the interpretation
of the sacred word a subject of study, should have
imagined that the prophecy, or any part of it, is symbolical
or representative. There are neither any symbols nor allegories
in it. It is a pure language prophecy, and its grammatical
sense is its predictive and only meaning. This is
too clear to need any formal demonstration. The writers
who assume that parts of it are symbolical or allegorical,
offer 'no proofs that they are such. They make the assumption
either under the false notion that the Scriptures generally
are to be spiritualized, or treated as having a double
meaning ; or else simply because the grammatical sense
contradicts their preconceived notions respecting Christ's
second coming. If they can verify their assumptions, why
do they not demonstrate that those parts of the prophecy
which they construe as symbolical or representative are truly
such ? Instead of this, Dr. Owen admits that he finds nothing
in the language, that indicates that that which it grammatically
denotes, is but a mere symbol of a different event
which it is the aim of the prophecy to foreshow. Thus in
reference to v. 15 : " When ye, therefore, shall see the
abomination of desolation standing where it ought not, then
let them which be in Jndea flee to the mountains." He
says: — "
Our Lord now proceeds to point out some of the more immediate signs of his coming to destroy Jerusalem, and put an
end to the Jewish state and dispensation. Even Olshausen,
who blends in such inseparable union the proximate and remote
comings of our Lord, admils that vs. 15-21 'contain a very
minute representation of the destruction of Jerusalem, without
any pause being observed, or any intimation being given, that
what follows is to be separated from what has preceded.' It is
precisely for this reason, viewing the Saviour's reply to his disciples
as designed to be intelligible, that in this portion of the
prediction, I can find no direct reference to the day of judgment,
only as the whole event of the coming to destroy Jerusalem
is symbolical of that great and final coming to take vengeance
on the ungodly." — P. 312.
In regard also to v. 30, " and then shall 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," he
says : — "
That the language is similar to that in which Christ's final
coming is described, cannot be denied. But that is not strange,
when we consider, as has been remarked, that the one event is
typical of the other ; that his coming to destroy Jerusalem is a
representation, faint indeed but real, of his glorious and awful
coming to take vengeance upon the finally impenitent, and that
langttage therefore is used of it, which seems appropriately to
belong to the final judgment." — P. 319.
By his own concession there is thus nothing in the language
or form of the prophecy to indicate that it is symbolical
or allegorical. It has all the characteristics of a
mere language prophecy. The assumption, accordingly,
that it is not such, but is symbolical, is not only gratuitous,
but directly against its nature.
That it is not symbolical nor allegorical is clear, moreover,
from the fact that its predictions are in the future tense —
not in the past, as they would have been if it were symbolical ;
and from the fact, also, that the agents, objects,
and events of which it treats were not exhibited to Christ,
nor by him to the apostles, in vision. All the representatives
of the symbolic prophecies were exhibited to the eyes
of the prophets through whom they -were made; they beheld them exerting the acts, or passing through the
changes which are ascribed to them, and their descriptions
of what they beheld are accordingly in the past tense —
never in the future. But there is nothing of that nature
here. The events foreshown arc foreshown only through
the language of the prophecy ; and that represents them as
not yet in existence, but as to take place at a time that was
then future. The prophecy is of the same nature throughout.
It is framed on the same principle, and presents no
more indication in one part than in another, that the events
which it is employed to foreshow are not those simply which
its language directly denotes. If, then, it is in any part
symbolical or allegorical, it must be throughout. If any one
of its predictions is to be taken as representative, the whole
must be. Dr. Owen, however, and others who assign to
portions of it a representative office, do not pretend that the
whole of it is of that character. They do not attempt to
subject the whole to a symbolical or allegorical construction,
but apply that method of interpretation only to such parts
as must be invested with a sense that supersedes the
grammatical meaning, in order to shield their preconceptions,
respecting the time of Christ's second coming, from
confutation. They hold that the predictions of false Christs
and false prophets, of wars and famines, of pestilences and
earthquakes, of persecutions and martyrdoms, of the abomination
of desolation, and of the great affliction and slaughter
of the Jewish people, are literal, and exclusively so.
They do not attempt to divest their grammatical meaning
of its predictive office, and make that which it denotes the
mere representative of a different set of events. But why
not? If their assumption is just in respect to those parts of
the prophecy which they treat as symbolical, it must be
equally so in regard to the others, and the whole should be
interpreted as of that nature.
But there are parts of the prophecy that cannot be allegorized
without involving anomalies and falsehoods so palpable
and revolting, that no writer of judgment can acquiesce
in them. Who, for example, can the false Christs and
false prophets denote, if instead of men of whom those names
are proper denominatives, they are mere representatives of
intelligences of different orders and pretensions? "WTio can a false Christ, spiritualized, be ? What can a spiritualized
false prophet be, in distinction from a literal false prophet ?
What can Christ's disciples being hated of all nations for his
name's sake, be allegorized ? What, interpreted on that principle,
can the abounding of iniquity denote, and the love of
many waxing cold? What can be the meaning of fleeing
to the mountains, not coming down from the house tops,
and not turning back in the fields to take their clothes ?
But as the whole prophecy is framed on the same principle,
and language is its only medium, the fact that these
and other parts of it cannot be allegorized without perverting
it, and without making it a vehicle of absurdity and
contradiction, is a proof that no other part of it can, without
equal violence and an equal misrepresentation of its meaning.
But that it is to be interpreted by the laws of language
exclusively, and that its grammatical is its true and only
sense, is placed out of doubt by the fact, that a large share
of it has already been accomplished, and has had its accomplishment
in the exact events and in those alone, which
taken in its grammatical sense it foreshows. Thus its predictions
of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, of
the hatred, persecution, and martyrdom of Christ's disciples,
of the rise of false prophets, of delusions and apostasies,
of the prevalence of iniquity and the decline of love, of
the siege of Jerusalem, the demolition of the temple, the
affliction of the Jewish people, their exile from their country,
and the possession of their capital by the Gentiles, as foreshown
in the parallel passage in Luke xxi. 24, it is admitted
by all interpreters, have had their accomplishment according
to their grammatical sense ; and this fact makes it
certain that all its predictions that have not yet had their
fulfilment, are to have it in the same manner in the events
which their language literally denotes. There is no more
reason for supposing that its unaccomplished parts are not
to be literally fulfilled, than there is for imagining that
those which are already accomplished were not The coming
of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven with power
and great glory, and gathering his elect together, can no
more be treated, without a total violation of the prediction,
as a mere symbol of the invasion of Judea and destruc- tion of Jerusalem by the Bomans, than the endurance of
hatred, persecution, and martyrdom by Christ's disciples,
can be interpreted as representing the persecution and martyrdom
of pagans and idolaters, or than the demolition of
the temple can be held to symbolize the demolition of the
fanes of pagans and idolaters, or any other event to which
it bears no analogy.
We shall proceed, therefore, to analyse and interpret it as
a pure language prophecy, and hold its grammatical to be
its true and only meaning.
The prophecy consists of five parts : 1. A prediction of
the demolition of the temple (vs. 1, 2). 2. Predictions for
the purpose of guarding the disciples from deception in respect
to the events of which they had inquired of him, or
signs of them — namely of the rise of false Christs, of wars between
the nations, and of convulsions and disasters in the
natural world ; and especially of the persecution of the teachers
and believers of the gospel, of the apostasy of many, of
the prevalence of irreligion, and finally of the proclamation
of the gospel to all nations, immediately before the end (
vs. 3-14). None of these announcements are direct answers
to the questions of the apostles. While the cautions (vs. 5,
6) imply that the followers of Christ were for a time to
look for his speedy advent, their aim is to foreshow on the
one hand, that the course of the political and natural world
would continue to be what it had been for ages, marked by
conflicts and destroying judgments ; and on the other, that
those who received and obeyed the gospel, instead of rising
into power, were to be obstructed, persecuted, and in many
cases put to death, down to the time when the glad tidings of
salvation shall be proclaimed to all the nations. 3. A prediction
indirectly of the setting up of the abomination of
desolation in the holy place, as a sign of the siege and destruction
of Jerusalem and the temple ; predictions of the
dangers, sufierings, and calamities of the Jewish people, that
were to commence with that event, with directions to the
disciples to escape them by flight ; and forewarnings again
of the rise of false Christs and false prophets, and cautions
against deception by them (vs. 15-28). Here are no
specific indications of the time when the temple and city
were to be destroyed. There is only an announcement of an event at the beginning or early stage of the war, in which
they were to fall, that was to be a signal for the flight of
Christ's disciples ; a prediction of the great calamities and
sufferings that were then to begin ; a forewarning that false
Christs and false prophets were then to arise ; and cautions
against being betrayed into the belief that he had or should
then come. 4. A direct and specific prediction that immediately
after the close of the affliction of the Jewish people,
which was to commence with the siege and destruction
of their city and temple, extraordinary phenomena shall occur
in the sky — the obscuration of the sun and moon, and the
fall of stars — and that then the sign of the Son of man shall
appear in the heavens, all the inhabitants of the earth shall
see him coming in the clouds of heaven with power and
great glory, and his elect shall be gathered from the different
parts of the world to his presence (vs. 29-31). The events
here foreshown, are wholly different from those previously
announced, and are expressly represented as to take place,
after those before enumerated shall have been accomplished.
5. Then follow assurances that these events would take place
in the order indicated : forewarnings that the world would
disbelieve and disregard the prediction ; and cautions to believers
to be watchful and ready for Christ's coming (vs.
32-42).
That these are the great points of the prophecy, and the
forms in which they are presented, will fully appear from
the exposition of its several parts.
The prophecy was occasioned by some of the apostles
pointing to the temple and expressing their admiration of
its material structure. They were prompted to this, probably,
by the forewarning Christ had immediately before
uttered to Jerusalem, that because of her persecution and
slaughter of the prophets and rejection of him, her house —
her temple, or perhaps the whole mass of edifices her people
inhabited — should be left a desert: Chap, xxiii. 37, 38, "
And Jesus going out departed from the temple, and his disciples
came and showed him the buildings of the temple," v.l,
and referred especially, it would seem from Mark and Luke,
to the beauty of the materials and massiveness of the structure. "
See, Master, what stones, and what structures,"
Mark xiii. 1 ; " And some spoke of the temple as adorned with beautiful stones and sacred gifts," Luke xxi. 5. To
this Christ replied, " See ye not all these things? Yerily
I say unto you there shall not be left here a stone on a stone
that shall not be thrown down," v. 2. This is a simple
prediction of the total demolition of the temple, without
any intimation of the time or circumstances of its destruction ;
and it led the apostles to inquire when it should be
accomplished, and what signs should indicate the approach
of the catastrophe, and of his coming, and the close of the "
And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples
came unto him by himself, saying, Tell us when shall these
things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and
of the end of the age?" v. 3. T« irvir«*t!«s r»v «;«»•f denotes
the end of the age, not of the natural world. Here are
thus two distinct questions. The first relates to the time
when the temple should be overthrown, so that not one
stone should be left upon another ; the other to the nature
of the sign that should foretell Christ's coming, and the end
of the age. The latter question shows that the disciples
were aware that Christ was to come again, and therefore
that he was to depart before that second coming ; and the
assumption that one sign was to foreshow the approach both
of his second coming and of the end of the age, indicates
that they expected his coming and the end of the age at the
same epoch. And that departure and return they manifestly
regarded as personal. If they expected him to remain in
person at Jerusalem, how could they have conceived of an
act of his providence there as a return to that place? If. on
the other hand, they believed he was to depart in person
from the earth, as he would then continue to exercise a
providence over it, how could they have regarded an act of
his providence at Jerusalem as his coming again to that
place ? That Mark and Luke omit the question respecting
the sign of Christ's coming and of the end of the age, and
represent the apostles as asking what the sign should be
when the overthrow of the temple was about to be accomplished,
does not imply that the questions were identical,
nor that the destruction of the temple and his coming were to
be at the same period. The evangelists differ from each
other equally in stating the apostles' remarks in respect to the structure of the temple, and Christ's counsels and predictions
in the prophecy ; and often vary from each other in
their narratives of his ministry ; each omitting incidents and
particulars that are recorded by the others, and mentioning
facts and relating discourses that the others do not notice.
To these questions Christ replies first, by cautioning them
against deception by what they might mistake for signs of
his coming; and forewarns them, that events were to occur
that would expose them to that danger. " And Jesus answered
and said unto them : Take heed lest any one should
deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying I
am the Christ, and shall deceive many," vs. 4, 5. Their
coming in his name, was their coming with the pretence
that they were the Messiah, and asserting the prerogatives,
and claiming the homage, that belong to him. Their coming
was of course to be a personal one. They were to appear
among the Jewish people, and openly announce themselves
as the Christ, and claim the rights that belong to him.
This forewarning of the disciples is of great significance,
therefore, and throws, if rightly contemplated, important
light on the expectations that were to prevail in regard to
the nature of Christ's coming, of which the disciples asked
the sign, and which he, towards the close of the prophecy,
foreshows. For the appearance of those false Christs indicates,
that there was to be a general impression at the period,
that the true Messiah was then to come in person. Why
should they then announce themselves as the Messiah, and
attempt the assumption of his prerogatives, if no expectation
was entertained by the people that he was to appear at that
crisis ? The prevalence of such a belief and hope might
naturally prompt impostors to attempt to pass themselves
off as the Messiah, and rise by that means to conspicuity
and power. But if no such belief was entertained, their
attempt to personate him could have had no prospect of
commanding the faith of the people.
But the cautions addressed to the disciples indicate with
equal clearness, that they were to be looking for the personal
coming of Christ. For if they were to entertain no such
expectations; if they were to have a direct and full persuasion,
that he was not to come at that epoch ; what
danger could there be, that the pretexts of false Christs would betray them into the persuasion that he had actually
come, and manifested himself to others, without having revealed
himself to them ? If his coming in person at that
period had been against their positive knowledge of his
purposes, and clear and settled belief, the rise of impostors
professing themselves to be the Messiah, could have had no
power to draw them from their established convictions.
But holding it possible and probable that he would then
come in person, the report that he had actually appeared,
in some scene at a distance, might deceive them, and draw
them into sin. This forewarning, therefore, proceeds on it
as a fact, that the disciples were actually to look for the
coming of Christ, as possible and probable, at the period
when those false Christs were to arise ; and shows also, that
the coming for which they were to look, was a personal
coming, not a mere interposition by an act of providence.
For if they were not to look for a personal coming, if they
were only to expect some extraordinary act of providence,
what adaptation could the personal coming of impostors,
pretending that they were the Messiah, have to deceive
them into the impression, that he had come, not in person,
but by an act of providence? The coming in person of
false Christs, impiously pretending to be him, and claiming
the honors that were due to him, could be no rational ground
of belief that he had come impersonally by an act of avenging
providence, to destroy the temple, and convert the city
into a desert. The coming, therefore, for which they looked,
and for the sign of which they inquired, was demonstrably
a personal coming. In the light of this truth accordingly,
the whole prophecy is to be interpreted ; for the coming
which it foreshows, is that for which they looked, and for
the sign of which they asked.
Christ next warned them of another class of events which
they might be in danger of mistaking for signs of his
coming. "
And ye shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars. See
that ye be not troubled : for all these must happen ; but the
end is not yet," v. 6. The prediction as presented by
Luke, differs slightly. " When, moreover, ye hear of wars
and commotions (insurrections and revolutions), be not terrified.
For these must come to pass first; but the end is not to be immediately," Chap. xxi. 9. That there was danger of
their mistaking these events as signals of Christ's coming,
indicates that they held that the time of his coming was to
be a time of wars and commotions. For why else should
they be in danger of regarding wars of which they heard,
and rumors of wars, as signals of his advent? This persuasion
they may have derived from the ancient prophets ;
as from the prediction, Ps. ii., that the nations were to rage,
and the kings of the earth were to set themselves against
Jehovah, and his Messiah, to prevent the establishment of
his throne on Zion ; and Zechariah xiv., where it is foreshown
that at the time of Jehovah's coming with his saints, the
nations are to be gathered together against Jerusalem.
That wars and commotions were regarded by them as to
precede and herald his coming, shows also that the coming
for which they Jooked was a personal coming. For why
are those events called by their proper names, and not his
coming, if the event called his coming was to be of the same
nature ? And how could wars and rumors of wars in other
parts of the world be regarded as signs of a war on Jerusalem,
with which they had no necessary connexion ? Wars
between the Romans and other nations were not uniformly
followed by a war between the Romans and the Jews.
T« rJ'AIJ, the end, which he foreshows, was not to be yet,
and of which wars were not to be a sign, is the end of the
age, doubtless, when he is to come in the clouds of heaven ;
as he proceeds to predict that a long series of wars, earthquakes,
famines, and other calamities were to take place
before the end comes. "For nation shall rise against nation,
and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall be
famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in diverse places.
All these are the beginnings of sufferings," vs. 7, 8. The
language of Luke is, '• Then, he said unto them — nation
shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and
there shall be great earthquakes in divers places, and there
shall be famines, and pestilences ; and there shall be fearful
and great signs from heaven," chap. xxi. 10. 11. That these
were to be «fxS *J«'»»', the beginning of birth pangs, and
were to be to the miseries that were to follow, what first birth
pangs are to those that succeed, indicates that a vast train of
calamities and sufferings was to intervene before the end should arrive, when Christ is to come and deliver his elect
people.
Christ next proceeds to foreshow that the disciples whom
he was to send forth to preach the gospel, instead of meeting
a welcome, and rising to the power they are to enjoy
when he comes and establishes his kingdom, were to be repulsed,
scorned, and persecuted. Mark and Luke here relate
predictions that are omitted by Matthew. Thus Luke: "
But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you and
persecute you, consigning yoa to synagogues and prisons,
you being brought before kings and rulers for nay name's
sake, and it shall turn to yon for a testimony. Settle it
therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye
shall answer. For I will give you a month and wisdom
which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor
resist," chap. xxi. 12-15. The "all these" before which
their adversaries were to " lay their hands on them and persecute
them," were the wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes,
and fearful prodigies predicted, Matt. xxiv. 7, 8.
And this prediction was signally verified ; as the seizure
and persecution of the apostles in Judea began within a few
days after they commenced their ministry, and in Syria,
Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy, almost with the first proclamation
of the gospel in those regions; and Stephen,
James and others were soon put to death at Jerusalem, and
many others in other cities and provinces of the Roman
empire; while the wars, earthquakes, and famines, that were
the beginning of miseries to the Jewish people in Judea and
other parts of the empire, were of a later date. The first
famine of the peyod mentioned by historians, occurred in
Palestine. Italy, and other parts of the empire, in A. D. 4D,
and contributions were sent by the churches of Greece and
Asia Minor to relieve the suffering believers in Judea.
Others occurred subsequently. The first earthquake of
note, appears to have taken place in Italy in A. D. 46 ; and
others followed at intervals in that country, in Greece, Asia
Minor, the islands of the Mediterranean and Judea, for the
next twenty years. The invasion of Judea by Cestius
Gallus did not take place till A. D. 66, two years after the
first great persecution of Christians by Nero.
Mark's language is : " But take heed to yourselves : for they shall deliver you to councils (Jewish sanhedrims or
senates) and ye shall be beaten in synagogues, and ye
shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, in
order to a witness to them : and the gospel must first be
preached to all nations," chap. xiii. 9, 10. Their being
arraigned before rulers and kings, was to open the way for
their delivering to them their testimony respecting Christ.
That the gospel must first be preached to all nations, and
for a testimony to them, as Matthew states, implies therefore,
that it was to be proclaimed to them as it was to the
rulers and kings, as alien and hostile, and prove by their
rejection of it a test of their character and a witness against
them.
The prophecy as related by Matthew, then proceeds : "
Then shall they deliver you up to affliction (the injuries
and miseries of persecution), and they shall kill you : and
ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And
then shall many be offended (stumble, and become alienated
and hostile), and shall betray one another and hate one
another. And many false prophets shall arise and shall
deceive many, and because iniquity shall abound, the love
of many shall become cold. But he that shall endure unto
the end, shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom
shall be preached in the whole inhabited world for a witness
unto all nations, and then shall the end come," vs.
9-14. T««, then, in the expression, v. 9, " then shall
they deliver you to affliction," refers to the time of the
wars, famines, and earthquakes, vs. 7, 8, which were to be
the first throes of the long train of miseries of the Jewish
people that was to comprehend the fall of their capital and
their captivity and exile among the nations. The first persecutions
of his disciples, Luke relates, were to precede
those first inflictions on the nation (chap. xxi. 12-15).
The persecutions and slaughters here foreshown, were to be
of a later period. They were to commence riii, then, that
is, at the time of those first calamities, vs. 7, 8, that were to
fall on the Jewish people, and were to extend, it is implied,
to Christ's coming and the end of the age. For the preaching
of the gospel of the kingdom throughout the inhabited
world for a witness to all nations, as it was to be preached
to the persecuting rulers and kings for a witness to them,indicates that it was to fill the same office to the nations as it
was to fill to those persecuting monarchs and rulers, namely,
simply to apprise them of its glad tidings and its claims ;
while they were to be left to show their hostile dispositions
by rejecting it and persecuting and slaughtering its ministers
and disciples. And this is confirmed by the peculiarity
which distinguishes this persecution from those that preceded
it, namely, that the members of the church itself were to
be the active agents in it. In the persecutions at the first
promulgation of the gospel, the adversaries of the apostles
and disciples were unbelieving Jews and Pagan Gentiles,
who openly rejected and resisted the gospel. But the far
more terrible persecutions .that were waged, after the overthrow
of the Jewish state, by Trajan, Antonine, Sevems,
Valerian, Diocletian, and others, prompted many as predicted,
v. 10, to renounce their faith and become informers
against others ; and on the nationalization of the church by
Constantino, the gospel in its purity and those who adhered
to it, became objects of dislike to the church itself, generally ;
and the zealous partisans of the state religion, prelates and
private members, became the principal actors in the denunciation
of those who resisted the false doctrines and superstitious
rites which they patronized, and subjection of them to
exile, imprisonment, labor in the mines, and death; and
that has been the character of the persecutions with which
the faithful disciples of Christ have been pursued through
the long tract of ages since. The Asiatic, the African, the
Greek, the Roman churches, have been the prompters and
agents of all the chief persecutions and martyrdoms that have
raged in their several jurisdictions from the legalization of
Christianity, in A. D. 311, to the present time; and those
persecutions have been ceaseless. The repression of the
truth by the restraint, disfranchisement, dishonor, and
slaughter of the faithful witnesses of Jesus, has been the
policy and practice of the churches of the East from their
association with the state by Constantino, under all the
changes of political rule through which they have passed,
to the present age. It has been still more conspicuously
and sternly the aim and business of the Romish church
wherever she has established her power, and whatever has
been the political rule under which she has subsisted. One of her most extensive and energetic organizations is, her
band of spies, inquisitors, and torturers. Her whole priesthood
and membership, indeed, is a police, whose office it is to
detect, denounce, and exterminate those who refuse submission
to their usurped authority and reject their idolatrous
worship. She has had her dungeons, her instruments of
torture. and her martyr-fires in every city of Europe, and
has at times employed powerful armies to sweep those who
rejected her faith, and their families and the communities to
which they belonged, from existence by promiscuous slaughter.
Millions on millions have thus perished by her murderous
hands.
This great feature of the persecutions depicted in thif
passage, and so conspicuously and exclusively belonging i(
those that took place subsequently to the Jewish war, am.
have prevailed fifteen or sixteen centuries, shows with the
clearest certainty that the period to which this part of the
prophecy relates, is that which followed the overthrow of
the Jewish state, and the union of the church with the civil
governments, and extends down to Christ's second coming.
That is the only one in which it has had a fulfilment ; and
through that long round of centuries, it has had an accomplishment
on a scale far more extensive, and in forms far
more dreadful, than could beforehand have been thought
to be indicated by the terms of the prophecy.
This makes it clear, accordingly, that the end, which is
to arrive at the close of this persecution, is the end of the
age, when Christ is to come in the clouds of heaven ; and
that the preaching of the gospel throughout the inhabited
world, for a witness to all nations, that is immediately to
precede it, is a preaching to them as unbelieving and
hostile, for a witness to and against them, as it was to the
persecuting rulers and kings in the first age, before whom
the apostles were arraigned. The notion held by many
expositors, that this proclaiming of the gospel to all nations,
was to precede the fall of Jerusalem, is thus shown to be
mistaken. The view entertained by others, that it is to
precede Christ's second coming by the period denoted by
the millennium is also wholly erroneous. Here are no signs
of the conversion of the nations prior to the end of the age
and Christ's appearing. So far from it, they are exhibited as continuing alien, and the messengers and disciples of
Christ as proclaiming the gospel to them as the devotees of
false religions, and hostile and persecuting to the end. To
preach it for a testimony, is to preach it to those who before
were without a knowledge of it, and to place them thereby
in a condition, if they choose, to accept it. To preach it for
a witness to those who already knew, received, and obeyed
it, would seem to be solecistical. In what form could it be
a mere witness to them, when it was no new announcement,
but had already been the means to them of salvation ?
Instead of a proclamation to believers, it is to be that,
undoubtedly, foreshown (Rev. xiv. 6, 7) by the angel flying
through mid-heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach
unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and
kindred, and tongue, and people ; saying with a loud voice, "
Fear ye God and give glory to him : for the hour of his
judgment is come. And worship ye him who made the
heaven, ami the earth, and sea, and fountains of waters."
This is a summons to them to fear and honor God, the creator
of the universe, and a warning that the hour has arrived
in which Christ is to come and judge them. It is to be a
testimony to them, therefore, of their duty and their danger;
and the preaching of the gospel throughout the world
for a witness to all nations, foretold in .this part of Christ's
discourse, is to be of the same nature : a summons to them
to turn from their idols to the worship of Jehovah, and an
announcement that the Son of man is speedily to come in
the clouds and judge them. •
This division of the prophecy thus contains no answer to
the inquiry of the apostles respecting the time when the
temple should be destroyed, nor any respecting 'the sign of
Christ's coming and of the end of the age, except in the
last verse, in which it is foreshown that the gospel shall at
length be preached throughout the world for a testimony
to all nations. It is occupied in cautioning the disciples
against the dangers of deception to which they were to be
exposed from their supposing Christ's coming might take
place many ages before it will; and in forewarning them
that they and their successors were not only to be persecuted
by unbelieving Jews and Gentiles before the commencement
of the calamities with which the Jewish people were to be overwhelmed ; but were after that to be hated,
betrayed, and put to death by apostates and false disciples
in the church, till the great hour shall arrive of his advent
in the clouds to judge his enemies and redeem his chosen
people.
Christ now, in the third division of the discourse, proceeds
to indicate an event that would be a sign to his disciples
that the destruction of the temple was at hand, and
directs them to withdraw from Jerusalem and the open
parts of Judea to the mountains, predicts the great calamities
and sufferings with which the Jewish people were
then to be overwhelmed, and warning them not to be led
by false teachers to the belief that he had come, tells them
that when he comes, it will be publicly and conspicuously
to all eyes. "
When then ye see the abomination of desolation, [the
abominable desolator] spoken of by Daniel the prophet,
standing in the holy place (let him who reads understand),
then let those in Judea flee to the mountains. Let not him
that is on the house-top go down to take the things from his
house ; and let not him that is in the field turn back to
take his garments," vs. 15-18. By " the abomination of
desolation " is meant — not the desolation itself, or its character ;
as at the twne to which the passage refers it was not
to have been accomplished — but the authors of that desolation, "
the abominable desolator," namely, the Roman army.
This is clear, also, from Lnke xxi. 20, where, in answer to
the question, " What shall be the sign when the destruction
of the temple is about to take place ?" the presence at the
city of a foreign army is given as the signal that its desolation
is at hand : " But when ye see Jerusalem surrounded
by armies encamped, then know ye that its desolation is
near." By Jerusalem's being encircled by camps of the
enemy, is not meant its being besieged ; as that would have
precluded the flight from it which Christ immediately enjoins ;
but simply the establishment of camps of the enemy
on the principal lines of approach on the different sides of
the city ; indicating their design to intercept the inhabitants
from flight and subject them to a strict siege ; for camps on
the high grounds on the different sides of the city, at the
distance of many miles, might be seen from the Mount of Olives and other heights in the vicinity. At this signal,
accordingly, the disciples were directed to flee without
delay, both from the city and open country. And Christ
added as a reason, " For they are days of vengeance, for
the fulfilment of all the things that have been written " [
predicted]. The »«»r« r« yiyf«w»rr«, all the things that
have been written, are all the predictions in the Old Testament
of the siege and desolation of the city, the suffering,
slaughter, captivity, and subjection of the people to the
power of their enemies, with which God was to punish them
for their rebellion; such as Dent. xxviii. 49-53: "The Lord
shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of
the earth, as the eagle flieth, a nation whose tongue thon
shalt not understand, a nation of fierce countenance, that
shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favor to the
young; and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy
high and fenced walls come down wherein thon trustedst,
throughout all thy land ; and he shall besiege thee in all
thy gates throughout all thy land which the Lord thy God
hath given thee ; and thon shalt eat the fruit of thine own
bod}-, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters which the
Lord thy God hath given thee, in the straitness wherewith
thine enemies shall distress thee." Isaiah xxix. 1-6, also,
where it is predicted that during the feiege of the city,
Jehovah should " visit it with thunder, and with earthquake,
and great noise, and with storm, and tempest, and
the flame of devouring fire." And Daniel ix. 26, 27, where
it is foreshown that soon after the Messiah should be cnt off,
the people of the prince that should come should destroy
the city and the sanctuary, and the end of them should be
as with a flood. And this desolation of the city and subjection
of the people to the power of their enemies, it is
expressly foreshown, Deut. xxix. 58-68, was to be of long
continuance. It seems to be indicated, Dan. ix. 27, that it
is to continue till the desolator himself is destroyed, as is
foreshown chap. vii. 9-11 : " And over the border," that is,
the surrounding region, Judea and Palestine, " there shall
be a waster, until the destruction that is determined," and
foreshown, chap. ii. 40-45, vii. 9-11, "shall be poured on
him," the prince of the Roman people, " who is to be
destroyed." And this corresponds with Christ's prediction as recorded Luke xxi. 24, that Jerusalem shall be trodden by
the Gentiles — that is, held in subjection by them, until the
times of the Gentiles shall end. And all these and other
similar predictions of the ancient prophets have been literally
fulfilled.
Christ next predicts the distress to which the people
should be subjected. " But woe to them that are with child
and to them that give suck in those days. But pray ye that
your flight be not in the winter, nor on the sabbath. For
there shall then be great affliction, such as has not been from
the beginning of the world until now, nor could be. And
except those days should be shortened, no flesh could be
saved. But on account of the elect those days shall be
shortened," vs. 19-22. This affliction is referred by r«'r»,
then, v. 21, to the period of the flight of the disciples from
Jerusalem and Judea, and the siege and war that followed ;
and exhibited as reaching the whole people, and of such
severity as to threaten their destruction, if it were not
shortened. There is here no indication through how long
a time it was to extend. The prophecy, as given by Luke,
however, foreshows, that the infliction on the nation was
not to be confined to that war, but that after many were
slaughtered, the survivors were to be carried into captivity,
and the city remain under the dominion of the Gentiles until
the times of the Gentiles should be finished. " But woe
to those with child, and those giving suck in those days.
For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath on
the people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword,
and shall be led captive among all the nations. And Jerusalem
shall be trodden by the Gentiles, until the times of the
Gentiles shall be finished," vs. 23, 24. It is thus expressly
foreshown here, that the days of suffering and wrath were
not to be confined to the siege and capture of the city and
devastation of the country by the conquering army, but that
after those calamities, the remnant of the people were to be
carried captive among all the nations, and that their city
was to remain in possession of the Gentiles, till the times of
their supreme rule, as foretold in the prophets, Joel, Isaiah,
Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, and others, should end. The
times of the Gentiles are the times especially of the fourth
or liomau empire, that are to extend to the coming of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven, Dan. vii. 7-13 ; one
portion of which is designated as to consist of " a time, time?,
and half a time," Dan. vii. 25. The treading of Jerusalem
by the Gentiles is to continue therefore to the overthrow of
the powers of that empire in their last form, as foreshown
Dan. vii. 7-10, Rev. xvii. 8-li, xix. 19-21. This shows accordingly,
that the coming of the Son of man, of which the disciples
inquired, was not to take place at the overthrow of
Jerusalem by the Romans ; for he is not to come until the
end of the age ; and the end of the age is not to arrive until
the times of the Gentiles, which still continue, are finished.
The .coming of Christ, therefore, to which they referred, instead
of having taken place at the fall of Jerusalem, is still
future.
Christ now warns his disciples against being deceived by
the false reports they might at this period hear, that he had
come. " Then, if any one should s'ay to you, Behold here
is Christ, or here, believe ye not. For false Christs and
false prophets shall rise, and shall show great signs and
prodigies, so as to deceive if possible, even the elect. Behold,
I have told you before?" vs. 23-25. The time to
which r.rf, then, v. 23, refers, is the time of the great affliction
of the Roman invasion and siege, the days of which
were to be shortened, lest the whole nation should perish.
These forewarnings that false Christs were to rise at that
period, indicate, in the clearest manner, that the expectation
was to prevail that Christ would then appear, and that
his coming would be a personal one. For why should impostors
pretend to be the personal Christ, and affect to
prove it by their public acts, if no expectation was then
entertained of his personal and visible advent? If the
advent for which the people looked, were a mere invisible
advent, the false Christs who professed to be of the seed of
David, and to have come in person, would have contradicted,
instead of conciliating the faith of those on whom they
attempted to impose themselves. On the other hand, these
cautions of the disciples against being deceived by the pretexts
and prodigies of the false Christs, into the belief that
he had come, indicate as clearly that the apostles and believers
generally of that age, thought it possible and probable
that Christ's coming might take place at that time, and that it was to be a personal and visible coming. For if they did
not look for a personal coming, and a personal coming only,
how could they be deceived by the pretexts of the psendo-
christs, who were human persons, and showed themselves
publicly, into the belief that Christ had come? If they
looked for an invisible advent, the visible personality of
these false Christs would have shown that he had not come
in them, instead of indicating that he had. The notion of
an impersonal advent of the Messiah is indeed wholly
foreign to the word of God, and to the Jewish mind. Not
a hint exists in the Scriptures that such an advent of
Christ was ever to take place ; not a trace appears in any of
the uncanonical writings of the Hebrews, that such a coming
of their Messiah was ever expected by them. It is the
invention of a recent age, and is in total contradiction alike
to Christ's nature as God-man, and the revelations he has
made of his coming.
Christ next warns them against being misled by another
class of deceivers, who should pretend, indeed, that Christ
had come in person, but that his coming and revelation of
himself were private, instead of public. " Should they then
say to you, behold he is in the desert ; go ye not forth. Behold,
he is in the secret chambers ; believe ye not. For as
the lightning comes from the east and shines unto the west,
so also shall the coming of the Son of man be. For
wherever the dead body may be, there the eagles will be
gathered," — vs. 26-28. The expression, "Should they
then, or therefore, say to you, behold he is in the desert,''
implies that this class of deceivers would endeavor in this
form to delude them, after the false Christs of v. 24 had
attempted to betray them into the belief that he had come
publicly in them. And these cautions again show, that
the advent of Christ which the disciples were to deem possible
and probable at that time, was a personal and visible
one. For what. could the presence of Christ in the desert.
or in the secret chambers be, in distinction from his presence
in other places, if he was not personally and visibty there ?
Or what inducement could there be to any to go to the
desert or to secret chambers in search of him, if it was not
supposed that he could be seen there, any more than in any
other scene ? But this is placed beyond doubt by the emphatic announcement, v. 27, first, that his coming is to be
the comjng of the Son of man, the eternal Word in his
human body, that is naturally and necessarily visible, unless
concealed by a miracle. His coming must, therefore, be
personal and visible. No greater contradiction can be conceived,
than that he should come to this world, and yet that
at the same time his complex person should remain in
heaven. It implies that his human body, which is material
and finite, may at the same time be in a specific place, and
yet not be in it ; and may at the same moment be in two
places immensely distant from each other. And next, that
his coming is to be public and visible, like a dazzling shaft
of lightning that darts from one side of the heavens to the
other, and flashes its splendors resistlessly on every eve,
whether directly gazing at it or not. No language could
declare more clearly and emphatically that the only advent
of the Son of man for which the disciples were to look, is a
personal, public, and official one, in the splendor and with
the attendance of the God-man, who comes to take possession
of the earth, clear it of his enemies, and make it the
scene of his everlasting reign. The notion of an impersonal
and invisible coming not only has no place here, but it
is a revolting solecism. To make it the theme of the prophecy,
is to ofi'er a direct contradiction to the definition the
Saviour himself gives of it as public and resplendent to all
eyes, in distinction from one of which, even though personal,
no signals were given to the world, and no manifestation
made even to his own disciples. And this is confirmed
by the passage that follows, " For where the dead body is,
there the eagles will be gathered," v. 28 ; which, as it is
given to illustrate the universal publicity and conspicnity
of Christ's coming, its meaning is, as is seen by Luke xvii.
37, that as the eagles gather wherever there is a dead body,
so Christ will be seen coming in power and glory, wherever
there are human beings to be judged and punished, or saved
by him.
It is thus clear, that this part of the prophecy, which
treats of the destruction of Jerusalem, presents no intimation
that the coming of Christ, of which, in reference to the expectations
and inquiries of the disciples, it speaks, was to
take place at that epoch, and was to be an invisible and mere providential coming. So far from it, it expressly
shows on the one hand, that the advent for which the disciples
were then to look, was a personal one ; and on the
other, that his advent, when it takes place, is not only to be
personal, bnt public and conspicuous to all the human beings,
on whom he comes to take vengeance, or to bestow salvation.
To attempt to wrest this fact from the prophecy, and put an
impersonal coming, which is a positive not-coming, in its
place, is to reject the prediction, and thrust an arbitrary
and senseless human vaticination in its room. It has no
ground in the language; it has none in the nature of things;
bnt is as contradictory to the person of Christ, as it is to his
words.
Christ now proceeds in the fourth division of his discourse,
in answer to the question of his disciples, to foreshow the
signs of his coming, and its time relatively to the calamities
he had predicted were to be inflicted on the Jewish people ;
and to depict it as a public and glorious coming in the clouds
of heaven, according to the representations of it by the ancient
prophets and the subsequent predictions by the apostles, "
But immediately after the affliction of those days, th« «
nn shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
and the stars shall fall from heaven (the sky), and the powers
of the heavens shall be shaken," v. 29. This obscuration of
the sun and moon and fall of stars, are represented by Luke
as signs, and of Christ's coming. " And then shall be signs
in the sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress
of nations in perplexity, the sea and surf roaring, men's hearts
fainting from fear and apprehension of the things that are
coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens shall
be shaken," chap. xxi. 25, 26. That the event of which these
are to be signs, is the coming of the Son of man in the clouds,
is shown by the prediction which follows, that the period
of these signs is to be the period of his coming. " Then"
at the epoch of these signs, " shall they see the Son of man
coming in a cloud, with power and great glory," v. 27.
What then is the period of these signs ? What is the relation
of their time to the time of the Jewish afflictions which
Christ had just foreshown ? It is expressly defined as subsequent
to those afflictions. The language of Matthew is : "
But immediately after the affliction of those days" — namely, the days of the invasion of Judea, the siege of Jerusalem,
the flight of the disciples, and the distress that was to
follow to the Jewish people, — immediately AFTER those days '• —
the sun shall be darkened." Mark also assigns it to the
period that is to follow the calamities to the Jews, just before
predicted. " But in the daya after that affliction, the sun
shall be darkened," chap. xiii. 24, 25. What calamities then
are included in that affliction, and over what space are they to
extend ? They are expressly defined in the prophecy, as
recorded by Luke, as comprehending the captivity of ike
Jewish people among all nations, and to extend down, to the
close of the times of the Gentile domination, as foreshown
by Daniel : " Woe to those with child and that give suck in
those days ; For there shall be great distress in the land, and
wrath on the people ; And they shall fall by the edge of the
sword and shall be led captive among all nations ; and Jerusalem
shall be trodden by the Gentiles, until the times of the
Gentiles shall be finished," chap. xxi. 23, 24. The distress
thus, after the completion of which those signs are to take
place in the heavenly bodies, and on the earth, includes not
only the calamities of the period of the Roman invasion and
siege of the city, but all the calamities in which that war
issued ; namely, the sale of the surviving inhabitants into
bondage, their dispersion among all nations, and their continuance
in exile from their national land, till the close
of the times of the Gentiles, at the destruction of the
powers of the fourth empire, as foreshown, Dan. viL 9,
10. No definition could be more explicit ; no language
could more unequivocally declare the absolute precedence
of the whole period of the inflictions on the Jewish nation
foreshown in the predictions pronounced immediately before.
There is not a term in the passage that is vague or uncertain
in respect to the chronological relation of these signs to
the distress of the Jewish nation. There is nothing wanting
in the definition to make it certain that that distress included
all the calamitous issues of the Roman invasion and capture
of the city — extending through the period of the dispersion
of the people among the nations, till the time of the
Gentile domination over Jerusalem, and over them, ends.
This fact, accordingly, wholly precludes the notion held by
so many commentators, that these signs were contemporaneons with the siege of Jerusalem and were portents of its
fall. That construction is not only without any ground
whatever, but is in direct contradiction to the statements of
the prophecy. It has not the plea in its favor of even a
faint plausibility or possibility, but is an undisguised rejection
of the meaning of the prophecy, and substitution in its
place of a directly opposite sense, in order to evade the confutation
Christ's language presents, of a pre-conceived theory
respecting the time and nature of his coming.
This is confirmed also by the prediction that next follows,
which exhibits these signs in the heavenly bodies, as of the
same epoch as the sign of the Son of man in heaven, which
is immediately to precede his coming in the clouds. "And
then shall appear the sign of the Sou of man in heaven ; and
then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn ; and they shall
see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with
power and great glory," v. 30. Mark omits the appearance
of the sign, and the mention of the tribes of the earth. '•
And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the
clouds with great power and glory," chap. xiii. 26. Luke
also states simply, that " then shall they see the Son of man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory," chap. xxi. 27.
They thus concur in exhibiting the sign and the coming of
the Son of man in the clouds, as of the same period as the
signs in the sun, moon, and stars mentioned in the preceding
verses ; and as separated, therefore, from the siege and desolation
of Jerusalem by the same space, as was to separate
the signs in the sun, moon, and stars from that siege. As
the signs in those orbs are not to take place until the times
of the Gentiles and subjection of the Jewish people to their
domination are finished ; so the coming of the Son of man
iu the clouds, which is to be, r«H, of the same period as those
signs, is not to take place till the times of the Gentiles and
their treading Jerusalem, are finished. No artifices of philology
can wrest this teaching from the passage ; and it
should have withheld commentators from the pretence that
those signs in the heavenly orbs, and the coming of the Son
of man, which is to take place at the same time, in fact
preceded and were contemporaneous with the siege of Jerusalem,
instead of following that siege and the dispersion of
the Jewish people, in which it issued. The annals of interpretation furnish no example, perhaps, of a more palpable
misrepresentation of the sacred word, for the purpose of
upholding a mistaken theory.
The coming here foreshown is the second personal coming
of Christ, to establish his kingdom on the earth. The notion
that it is an invisible impersonal coming at the destruction
of Jerusalem, besides being wholly contradictory to the
language, is precluded by the explicit designation of its
period, as AFTER the Jewish tribulation, not contemporaneous
with its commencement. It is expressly and unequivocally
described as a personal and visible coming. T»r«,
then, THE SON OF MAN — not an act of providence, not an act
of will, not a fiction of the imagination — but THE SON or
MAN shall be seen by all the tribes of the earth, coming in
the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Can a
grosser misrepresentation of this prediction be devised, than
to maintain that the coming which it foreshows and declares
is to be beheld by all the tribes of the earth, is nevertheless
neither to be visible to men, nor a coming with clouds
and glory, nor even a coming of the Son of man himself,
nor finally any coming whatever, but only a mere act of
will or providence, permitting the Eoman army to march
into Judea and overthrow the temple t It is surprising that
the writers who have endeavored to fasten on it this arbitrary
and preposterous construction, have not recoiled at the
undisguised violation of the passage of which they were
guilty. If it is to be a coming of the Son of man, it cannot
be a not coming of him. If it is to be visible to all human
beings, and with clouds and glory, it cannot be an invisible
coming and without clouds and glory. The contradiction
of their construction to the text is too glaring and portentous
to escape any who are not blinded by preconceptions
and prejudices. ,
It is plainly the second coming of Christ which is here
foreshown, from the identity of the description with that
which is given in other predictions of his second coming.
Thus it is the same as that of the vision, Daniel beheld of it. "
I saw in the night visions, and behold one like the Son of
man came in the clouds of heaven, and there were given him
dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations
and languages should serve him." Dan. viL 13, 14. John also predicts: "Behold he cometh with clouds, and every
eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him, and all
kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him," Rev. i. 7.
These are unquestionably predictions of the same event.
If they are not predictions of a personal coming of the Son
of man, then none of the similar passages in the Scriptures
are, and that great event, on which the church is required
to keep its eye fixed, should be struck from its faith.
It is shown to be a real visible coming, by the effects it is
to produce. All the tribes of the earth are to be overwhelmed
with awe and terror at his presence, and are to wail because
of him. Matt. xxiv. 30 ; Rev. i. 7. His appearance in the
clouds is also exhibited, Rev. vi. 15-17, as filling the kings
and their armies with consternation, and causing them to fly
to the caves and rocks of the mountains, to hide themselves
from his wrath. To deny that such a manifestation of the
Son of man is to take place on the occasion to which these passages
refer, is not merely to offer a point-blank contradiction
to their representation, but is to exhibit the terror and dis-
pair, with which men are then to be smitten, as the work of
delusion. For what greater self-deception, what more delirious
fanaticism can be imagined, than that all the tribes
of the earth should persuade themselves that the Son of man
is beheld by them coming in the clouds of heaven with power
and great glory, to assign them their eternal rewards, when
no such coming, nor any visible revelation of him whatever
is seen by them, or takes place ? But if their fears are to be
the result of deception, can they reflect any honor on Christ?
Is it not to impeach his wisdom and truth to suppose, that
he avails himself of such means, as the most effective in his
power, to strike his creatures with a sense of his glory ; —
that the profoundest impressions that are ever to he made
on them of his presence, dominion and wrath, are to be the
sheer work of delusion ! Such is the usual issue of attempts
like this, of commentators, to wrest his word to the
support of their false theories. They begin by rejecting the
plain unmis.takeable meaning of his predictions, and substituting
a fiction in their place ; and then end in virtually
impeaching his rectitude, and exhibiting him as accomplishing
the most momentous effects of his government by deception
and imposture. If their construction of this passage is correct, then the answer of Christ to the adjuration of the
high priest, "Thou hast spoken it. Moreover, I tell you,
at a future time ye shall see the Son of man seated at the
right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven,"
Matt. xxvi. 64, was deceptive. Instead of meaning, that
he would actually come in the clouds of heaven visibly to
them, it only meant, that in a lit of frantic hallucination they
would imagine that they saw him coming in the clouds,
when no such coming took place.
It is shown to be his literal coming also, by the acts which
Christ is to exert after his coming. He is then to " 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 heaven to the other," v. 31. This separation of
the good from the evil by the angels, it is foreshown in the
parable of the wheat and tares, is to be at the end of the age,
when the harvest of the world is to take place. " The good
seed are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are the
children of the wicked one. The harvest is the end of the
age; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the
tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be at
the end of this age. The Son of man shall send forth his
angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things
that offend, and them that do iniquity. Then shall the
righteous shine forth as the snn, in the kingdom of their
Father," Matt. xiii. 33-43. Christ foreshows, also, Luke
xvii. 37, that this separation of the holy from the evil, is to
be at the time of his second coming. There is no prediction
that it is to take place at any other epoch.
He is at this coming to judge the living nations. He
predicts in immediate connexion with this prophecy, that •' "
When the Son of man shall come in his glory and all the
angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his
glory, and all the nations shall be gathered before him,"
Matt. xxv. 31, 32.
He is then, also, to destroy his incorrigible enemies: "At
the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven, with the
angels of his power, he is to take vengeance with flaming
fire on them that do not know God, and them that do not
obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ," 2 Thess. i. 7-S.
And he is then to destroy the wicked one, the man of sin, by the brightness of his coming," 2 Thess. ii. 8. These
passages all point "to the same period. The acts they foreshow
are to be exerted by Christ in person, and the coming
they predict, is a personal visible coming. This cannot be
denied, without in effect denying that there is any prediction
in the Scriptures of his coming to the earth a second time in
person. These several predictions are the same in form, they
are nearly the same in language, and they all present the
same view of the coining they foreshow, as a coming of the
Son of man himself, not of a representative or act: — a coming
with a visible attendance of clouds and of glory, and
with power, or with angels the agents of his power. If that
in the prophecy under consideration can be shown to signify
no such personal coming, but only a mere act or permission
of providence, or a hallucinated conception of men, then, on
the same grounds, each of the others may be subjected to
the same construction, and no prophecy remains that Christ
is ever to come to judge and redeem the world. Indeed, if
the assumption, on which those who deny that the advent
here foreshown, is the personal coming of Christ, is legitimate,
it must be as applicable to the other parts of the prophecy,
as to this, and it results that not one of the persons,
objects, or events, mentioned in it, is that which the
language properly denotes. They become mere representatives
of some imaginary and indeterminable thing of a different
nature, and the prophecy is converted into a jargon
of empty and deluding spectres. The temple is no longer
the temple, nor its overthrow its overthrow. False Christ?
are no longer false Christs, nor wars, famines, and earthquakes —
wars, famines, and earthquakes. Persecution, martyrdom,
apostasies, hatreds, and wickedness, are no longer
such. The siege and desolation of Jerusalem, the distress
of the Jewish people, their slaughter, captivity, and dispersion
among the nations, no longer have any reality, any
more than the coming of the Sou of man in the clouds with
power and great glory. The whole is a mere procession of
vague shadows — an unmeaning and mocking pageant.
Such is the issue to which the assumption of these writers
leads. For what right have they to claim that the principle
on which they empty this prediction of Christ's coming,
of its natural and grammatical meaning, shall be applied only to that, and such other parts of the discourse, as must
be allegorized, in order to yield a sense that does not conflict
with their preconceived theories of what Christ should
have revealed f
This prediction is indisputably then a prediction of the
personal coming of the Son of man in glory, to judge the
nations, and establish his kingdom on the earth.
Christ now, in the last division of his discourse, assures his
disciples of the certainty of these events, and gives a further
answer to the question respecting the sign of his coming,
and the end of the age, by a comparison of the signals he
had already foreshown of his coming, with the prognostics
which the budding of the figtree in the spring, furnishes of
the approach of summer. "
But learn a similitude from the figtree. When now its
branch becomes tender and puts forth leaves, ye know that
summer is near. So also when ye see all these (events), ye
may know that (this) is near, at the doors. Verily I say
unto you, this generation shall not pass away, until all these (
events) take place. .The heaven and the earth shall pass
away, but my words shall not pass away," vs. 32—35. As
the budding of the figtree is an infallible signal of the
approach of summer, so the occurrence of the events he had
foreshown as to precede, his coming in the clouds, would be
a signal of the approach of that coming. That it is his
coming of which those events are to be prognostics, is seen
from the statement by Luke, that it is the kingdom of God
which those occurrences are to indicate to be near. " So
also ye, when ye see these events taking place, may know
that the kingdom of God is near," chap. xxi. 31. What then
are those.events that were to be signs of Christ's coming, and
yet were to come into existence, before the generation whom
he addressed, passed away ; while his coming itself was
not to take place till a long period after ?
The seeming incompatibilities of these predictions, have
perplexed commentators greatly, and led many of them to
deny that the advent here foreshown, is a personal one, and
treat it as a mere figure or representative of the act of
providence by which the Romans were permitted or employed
to destroy Jerusalem, and drive the nation into exile.
No such expedient, however, violating the language, and subverting the prophecy, is requisite. The predictions are
wholly consistent with each other, and were literally verified,
before the generation had passed away that was in life
when they were spoken. The events referred to, were those
Christ had predicted that were to precede the time of his
coming • not those like the signs in the sun, moon, and
stars, that were to be contemporary, or of the same period
with it. This is seen from their being signals that it was
near, as the buds of spring are signals of the approach of
summer, not of its actual arrival. As a space of some
length intervenes between the first unfolding of the buds and
leaves in spring, and the arrival of summer, so a proportional
space was to intervene between the occurrence of those
preliminary events and the advent of Christ of which they
were to be the prognostics and harbinger. What then were
all those events, which were to come into being before that
generation passed away, and were to be signals of the
approach of his advent? They were the rise of false
Christs, the persecution of his disciples, the occurrence of
wars, earthquakes, famines, and pestilences, alienations and
apostasies among his professed followers, the invasion of
Judea by the Romans, the distress of the nation, the siege
and desolation of Jerusalem, and the captivity and dispersion
of the survivors of the people among all nations : for
these are the events, and all the great events, that he had
foreshown as to precede the time of his coming ; and all
these events actually took place during the life of that
generation, and far the most significant of them to the Jewish
people, namely, their captivity and dispersion in foreign
lands, and the treading of their city by the Gentiles down
to near the time of Christ's coming, were to be a continually
present sign, that the remaining predictions of the prophecy
were to have a like exact fulfilment. Events of all these
classes, verifying this prediction, thus actually took place,
ere that generation passed ; and that verification was not
only consistent with the fact, that some of those events, such
as the captivity and dispersion of the Jews, the persecution
of believers, and the prevalence of iniquity, continued
through long periods after ; but also with the long delay of
Christ's coming. The prolongation of the Jewish dispersion,
presents no inconsistency with the fact, that it commenced within a few years of the time when the prophecy was
spoken. Nor is there any contradiction to its commencement
in that age, or its prolongation, in the fact that Christ
has not yet come. For the prophecy foreshows that his
coming is not to take place, till the period of the Jewish
tribulation is ended ; and that tribulation, it foreshows, is to
be prolonged till the times of the Gentiles are finished.
The prophecy itself thus contemplated the intervention of a
long space between the commencement and the end of the
Jewish dispersion. The coming of Christ, accordingly, was
as near to the commencement of that dispersion, proportionally
to the great events that were still to precede his advent,
as summer is to the first buds of spring, proportionally to
the events that intervene between those bads, and the
arrival of that season.
Christ apprises them, however, that notwithstanding these
signs the -time of his coming was to be unknown to men. "
Yet of that day and hour no man knows, nor the angels of
heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe, so
also shall the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the
days of Noe before the flood, they were eating and drinking,
manning and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe
entered into the ark, and they knew not till the flood came
and took them all away, so also shall the coming of the Son
of man be. Then two shall be in the field ; one shall he
taken, and one shall be left. Two shall be grinding in the
mill ; one shall be taken, and one shall be left," vs. 36-40.
That both, believers and unbelievers, were thus to be left in
uncertainty of the exact period of his coming, implies that
a considerable time was to pass between the fulfilments of
the prophecy that were to take place before the generation
passed, that was living when it was uttered, and his coming.
And men were not only to be ignorant of the precise time
when he was to come, but were to sink into utter thoughtlessness
and indifference in respect to it, and devote themselves
to the cares and pleasures of this life, as regardless of
his approaching advent to judge them, as though no such
event had been revealed to them, and was impending. And
how has this prediction, in both its parts, been verified !
Those who from time to time have attempted to fix the day
of his coming, have only shown their ignorance and presumption : while not only the world at large, but the church
generally, has sunk into an almost total disbelief of his speedy
advent, and regards it with aversion. It is very generally
denied indeed, that the advent here foreshown, is a personal
advent, and maintained that no coming of the Son of man
is to take place, till a time arrives when the race is to be
arrested in its multiplication, the work of redemption brought
to a close, and the earth consigned to annihilation ; and those
who reject these portentous fictions, and believe and defend
the teachings of this and the other prophecies respecting
Christ's coming and kingdom, are often jeered as fanatics,
and repelled with insults and scorn. A very slight knowledge,
however, of the events, in which they hold that this
prophecy had its accomplishment, would reveal to them
their error, and silence their reproaches. No facts respecting
the siege and capture of Jerusalem, in which they hold it
had its fulfilment, are more notorious and indisputable, than
that they did not occur suddenly and unexpectedly to the
Jewish people. The Iloman army entered Palestine about
four years before the siege of the capital was begun, and in
the meantime had conquered all the other chief cities and
districts of the holy land. Jerusalem was the last to be assailed,
and the approaches to it of the legions from the west,
north, and east, were very gradual, and gave time to such
of the inhabitants as wished, to withdraw and retreat to a
place of safety. Whatever the time may be, therefore,
when the event denominated Christ's coming is to take
place, it is certain that it cannot have been that of the approach
of the Iloman army to Jerusalem, and its siege and
capture ; as these events did not occur unexpectedly, nor
suddenly, to the Jewish people. They were forewarned,
that it was to be attacked, and in continual expectation of
it from the commencement of the war in A. n. 06, to its fall
in A. D. 70.
But Christ cautions his disciples against this unbelief and
worldliness, and teaches them that their uncertainty in respect
to the time of his coming, instead of leading to forget-
fulness and insensibility, should prompt them to perpetual
watchfulness and prayer: " Watch, then, because ye know
not at what hour your Lord comes," v. 42. And Mark
adds : " Take heed, watch and pray ; for you know not when the time is. As a man travelling, leaves his house, and
gives the servants authority and each one his work, and
directs the doorkeeper to watch ; so watch ye : for ye know
not when the Lord of the house comes, at evening, or at midnight,
or at cock-crowing, or at morning ; lest, coming unexpectedly,
he find you asleep. And what I say unto you,
I say unto all ; Watch." xiii. 33-37. The time of his coming
was thus left uncertain, in order that his disciples might
ever keep it in their thoughts as the great event to which they
were to look forward for the completion of their redemption,
live tmder the impression of it as an impending reality, and
watch for and pray for -a preparation for it. This was their
duty, whether their period in the present dispensation, during
which Christ reigns on the throne of heaven, was at
evening, at midnight, at cock-crowing, or at morning. They
who lived in the first centuries .after Christ's ascension, were
to watch for his return. They were to watch for it, who
should live in the midnight of the dark ages. They were to
watch for it whose period should be the cock-crowing of the
Reformation : and they also should watch for it, who are to
live at the great moment when he is to come. What a
token this presents of its immeasurable importance ! What
a rebuke to the slight and aversion with which it is now
generally regarded ! And what a confutation of those who
maintain that it is not a coming of the Son of man, but only
a mere permission of providence ! Tf the illustration which
Christ gives in the departure and return of the householder,
presents a parallel to his own departure and coming ; then
as the householder was literally absent during the period in
which he commanded his doorkeeper to watch, so Christ was
to be literally and absolutely absent from Jerusalem and the
world, during the period in which he commands his diseiples
to watch for his return. The assumption of the writers
who maintain that the coming here foreshown, was a mere
act of providence, implies, accordingly, that Clrist's ./»wi'-
dence was to be absolutely withdrawn from Jertfalem and
the world, so that not a solitary act was to be Verted by
him during the period that elapsed from his de*h to the
siege and capture of Jerusalem ! Their theory \ thns a
denial of his dominion over the world, as well * of his
second coming as foreshown in this prediction ; exhibits the whole prophecy as unworthy of reliance. For
if Christ exerted no providence over the world for the long
series of years that intervened between his death and the
overthrow of Jerusalem, how could he have accomplished
these predictions? Who upheld the world in existence
during that period ? Who gave the power to the apostles
by which they proclaimed the gospel to the Jews and Gentiles ?
Who called the church into existence, and sustained
it under the fiery trials to which it was subjected ? Who
heard and answered its prayers amidst the labors and successes,
the persecutions and defeats of that period ? Their
theory thus overthrows itself, by implying that Christ had
withdrawn his providence from the world, and that therefore
there could not be an accomplishment of the prophecy.
And, finally, Christ again shows the error of their notion
in his closing words, in enjoining not only the generation
whom he addressed to watch, but all who were to come
after them, down to the time of his advent : " And what I
say unto you [who are now in life] I say unto all, watch."
As all are to watch until he comes, the coming for which
they are to watch cannot have been the overthrow of Jerusalem,
which took place centuries and ages before multitudes
of them come into life. But as his coming is to be a personal
coming as the Redeemer and Judge of the world, and as the
time of his coming is unknown, though it is revealed that it
was to be preceded by the dispersion of the Jewish people,
and the end of the times of the Gentiles — so all, whatever
were the age in which they were to live, were to look forward
to it in earnest expectation and watch for its arrival.
Those alone who thus continually look for it, have any just
sense of its significance. Those who disbelieve, scorn, and
forget it, will, when it arrives, be taken by surprise, and be
swept to destruction by his avenging fires, as the ancient
world was by the flood.
Such are the clear and momentous teachings of this prophecy.
No part of the word of God is more simple, intelligible,
and free from all reasonable doubt as to its meaning.
There is not one of its terms or expressions, the grammatical
sense of which is equivocal or uncertain ; and all those on
which the construction principally turns, such as false
Christs, persecutions, wars, earthquakes, the encircling of Jerusalem by armies, the distress of the Jewish. people, their
slaughter, captivity, and dispersion among the nations, the
times of the Gentiles, the terms of time — such as then,
before, when, after, — the signs in the sun, moon, and stars
the Son of man, his coming in the clouds of heaven, and
the terms and comparisons that are employed to exemplify
the signs of the approach and manner of his coming, have
a clear and settled meaning. This is most emphatically
the fact with the terms and expressions to which a totally
foreign and false sense is attached by those who interpret
the prophecy wholly of the Roman war and full of Jerusalem ;
namely, the Son of man, his coming in the clouds of
heaven, the definitions that are given of his coming as personal
and visible, and the representation that the great
events that were to precede and foretoken his coming, were
to take place before the generation contemporary with him
should pass away. There is no uncertainty in respect to
the import of the name, the Son of man. It is the denominative
of the Eternal Word in his union with man — the
Redeemer. So * Trxpivrix m vi«v »»v iitpZxw, " the coming of
the Son of man," has a clear and fixed meaning, and is used
in only one sense in the Scriptures ; and that is, the personal
coming of the Redeemer to judge the nations and establish
his throne on the earth. So, also, his coming, and being
seen coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great
glory, have a single and perfectly settled meaning, namely,
his coming, and being beheld by men coming in person, in
that visible and glorious manner. The terms neither have,
nor can by the laws of language have, in the form in which
they are used, any other signification. In like manner, tht•
terms employed to indicate the relation of precedence or
subsequence, in time, of the great events predicted, have a
clear and established meaning, and show on the one hand,
with the ntmost certainty, that the siege and desolation of
Jerusalem, and the captivity and dispersion of the Jewish
people were to precede the coming of the Son of man in the
clouds of heaven ; and, on the other, that his coming is not
to take place till after the Jewish tribulation reaches its end.
and the times of the Gentiles are finished. It is accordingly
only by arbitrarily rejecting these meanings, and attaching.
by allegorization, a foreign and false sense to the terms, that commentators force on them the construction by which
they substitute an act of providence, or the Roman army,
in the place of the Son of mau, and the march of that army
into Judea for his coming in the clouds, and make the time
of the coining the time of that invasion and the overthrow
of Jerusalem, instead of a time that is to follow the captivity
of the Jewish people and the domination of the Gentiles
over their city. And it is only by assuming against the
clear definitions of the text, that the great predicted events
that were to take place before the generation living when
the prophecy was spoken should pass away, included th«
coining of the Sonofman in the clouds, instead of preceding
it at an unknown distance, that they extort from that passage
a seeming support of their false construction of his coming,
as an event of the period of the Roman war.
The prophecy is thus demonstrably a prophecy of the
events which its language, taken in its simple grammatical
sense, denotes ; First, foreshowing the dangers and
sufferings to which Christ's disciples were to be subjected
bv false teachers and persecuting enemies, down to the end
of the age ; next, indicating, in answer to the apostle's
questions, the signs that were immediately to precede the
destruction of Jerusalem, and the great calamities that were
then to be inflicted for a long period on the Jewish nation ;
then predicting the signs that at the end of that period, are
to appear as his heralds in the heavens, and his visible
coming in the clouds with power and glory ; and finally,
forewarning his disciples that his advent will be unexpected
and full of terror to the tribes of the earth generally, and
enjoining them to live continually in expectation of it, and
to desire and watch for it as the great event in which their
redemption is to reach its completion. And these warnings
and commands he announces in the last words of the
prophecy, are addressed to all. " And what I say unto
you, I say to all, — Watch," and show that the duty is as
incumbent on us as it was on those whom he directly addressed.
Faith in his coming in the clouds, which he has
here foreshown, an earnest expectation of it, and awed and
prayerful watching for it, are enjoined by him on his followers
of the present day, as expressly as they were on those
to whom he spoke the prophecy. May his Spirit open the eyes of his people to discern the reality and glory of the
advent he has here revealed, and prompt them to look and
watch for it with the faith and joy with which it should be contemplated.

What do YOU think ?

Submit Your Comments For Posting Here
Comment Box Disabled For Security


 

FREE ONLINE BOOKS

  

Click For Index Page

Free Online Books Historical Preterism Modern Preterism Study Archive Critical Articles Dispensationalist dEmEnTiA  Main Josephus Church History Hyper Preterism Main

Email PreteristArchive.com's Sole Developer and Curator, Todd Dennis  (todd @ preteristarchive.com) Opened in 1996
http://www.preteristarchive.com