BOOKS: BIBLICAL STUDIES (1500BC-AD70) / EARLY CHRISTIAN PRETERISM (AD50-1000) / FREE ONLINE BOOKS (AD1000-2008)
James Hastings (1900)
Professor Godet believes that it is in our midst. And not only so, but that it is within us. No doubt its full realization is future, and will be ushered in by a great catastrophe, which will visibly come from heaven and terribly shake the earth. But the kingdom of heaven is 'at hand.' It has already ' come upon ' Christ's adversaries. And especially it 'is within' the disciples (Lk 17:21). For Professor Godet cannot admit that 'within' is merely a synonym for ' among '. In Ps 39:3 the expression is the very same : 'My heart was hot within me ', and there the proper meaning of within is easily seen and strongly accented. The more important question, from the point of view of the pulpit, is, What is meant by the Second Coming of the Lord ? The secret of the answer Professor Godet finds in a passage in St. Matthew : ' I say unto you that henceforth ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven ' (Mt 26:64). The word 'henceforth' applies not only to the sitting but also to the coming. Jesus regards the whole of the time which is to elapse till the end as the period both of His sovereignty in heaven and of His return to the earth.
Accordingly, Professor Godet sees the Second Coming of
the Lord first of all in the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the same breath as
He promises to send the Holy Spirit He promises to come Himself. ' I will
send Him unto you. . . . I will come to you.' As He gives the Holy Spirit
His work to do, He announces that He will do it Himself: 'Behold, I stand at
the door and knock ; if any man open to Me, I will come in to him, and will
sup with him, and he with Me.' Professor Godet also sees the coming of the
Lord in the death of each believer. ' From on high,' he says, 'where Jesus
hovers sovereignly over the course of the ages, His hand is lowered to pluck
the ears that have reached maturity.' His proofs are such familiar passages
as these : ' I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I
am, there ye may be also' (Jn I43) ; ' If I will that he tarry till I come,
what is that to thee?' (Jn 2i22); 'Blessed is that servant whom his lord
when he cometh shall find him watching, ... let your loins be girded and
your lamps burning.'
And, finally, he sees the Second Coming of Christ in the judgment, the moral judgment, that daily falls on nations or churches or individuals. ' Repent ... or else I will come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place' (Rev a5); 'If thou dost not watch, I will come as a thief, and thou shall not know what hour I will come upon thee ' (33).
The common conception of the Second Coming of Christ as wholly a future event Professor Godet thus regards as a mistake. And he believes that the mistake is due to the confusion of two separate things : Christ's Coming and His Arrival. In the Greek it was scarcely possible to keep these ideas separate. The one Greek word (erchomai) involves them both. But we have two words, and can keep the ideas separate easily. We have seen what the Coming is.
The Arrival is the end of the Coming. It is the sensible manifestation of Jesus as King. In the beginning of the Apocalypse Jesus is described as 'He who is, who was, and who is coming' — that is His Coming properly. But immediately after it is added, 'Behold, He cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him' — that is His Arrival. We could easily keep the two thoughts separate. But we are not careful. In the end of the Apocalypse we read, 'Yea, I come quickly'.
We read it as if it were, ' Yea, I come soon.' But the reference is not to the Arrival. And the meaning is not, ' I shall soon be there,' but 'I am coming swiftly.' It means that His pace is not really slow at any time, however slow it seem. And the Church says, ' Amen, come Lord Jesus'; and as she says so, she does not presume to hasten the moment of His arrival, but she undertakes to do all that is in her power to clear the way for His daily coming to judgment or to consolation. Of the duration of the Coming we know nothing. The disciples knew nothing. It was uncertain even to the eyes of Jesus. The disciples did not know that they knew nothing, and greatly shortened its duration. But that was of little moment. For the duration of the Coming, like all questions of time, is of secondary importance. What is of primary importance is the fact of His Arrival. For His Arrival places the last completing stone upon the edifice of His work. And the disciples were certain of the fact of His Arrival and faithfully attested it." (The Expository Times Published by T. & T. Clark., p. 52-55)
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