The Parousia of Christ a Past Event
The Kingdom of Christ a Present Fact
With a Consistent Eschatology

“Πάλιν ἐρψομαι – Jesus
“Ἑ παρουσια τοῠ κυριου ἠγγικε” – James
“Ἰδοὺ, ἔρχεται” - John


AD 1900

Cincinnati : CURTS & JENNINGS
Copyright by EATON & MAINS, AD 1900
Eaton & Mains Paiss, 150 Fifth Avenue, New York.

[eBook version prepared by Philip P Eapen, 2011]
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PART ONE: The Parousia of Christ a Past Event

  1. Preliminary
  2. CHAPTER I: The Parousia
  3. CHAPTER II: The Argument from the Words of Christ and His Apostles
  4. CHAPTER III : The Argument from the Great Eschatological Discourse of Our Lord
  5. CHAPTER IV: The Argument from the Great Eschatological Discourse Of Our Lord— Continued
  6. CHAPTER V: The Argument from the Great Eschatological Discourse Of Our Lord — Continued
  7. CHAPTER VI: The Argument from the Great Eschatological Discourse Of Our Lord— Concluded
  8. CHAPTER VII: The Argument from the Apocalypse
  9. CHAPTER VIII: Other Statements of the Apocalypse Adjusted
  10. CHAPTER IX: The Argument from Necessity
  11. CHAPTER X: The Argument from Necessity — continued
  12. CHAPTER XI: The Argument from Necessity — concluded
  13. CHAPTER XII: The Argument from the Dispensation of the Holy Spirit
  14. CHAPTER XIII: The Argument from a Parallel Case
  15. CHAPTER XIV: Evasions Met
  16. CHAPTER XV: Objections Answered
  17. CHAPTER XVI: Objections Answered— Continued
  18. CHAPTER XVII: Objections Answered— Continued
  19. CHAPTER XVIII: Objections Answered— Concluded
  20. CHAPTER XIX: Deductions

PART TWO: A Consistent Eschatology

  1. Preliminary
  2. CHAPTER I: The Resurrection
  3. CHAPTER II: The Resurrection Body
  4. CHAPTER III: The Change of the Living
  5. CHAPTER IV: The Rapture of the Saints
  6. CHAPTER V: The Judgment
  7. CHAPTER VI: The Judgment— Continued
  8. CHAPTER VII: Future Destiny
  9. CHAPTER VIII: The Intermediate State
  10. CHAPTER IX: The Millennium
  11. CHAPTER X: The New Jerusalem
  12. CHAPTER XI: Changes Required




This book is an attempt to prove, after twenty-seven years of close attention to the subject, that the second coming of Christ, or the parousia, is a past event, and then to present an eschatology consistent with such a showing.

The course pursued is: First, to show that the parousia is an event, not a dispensation, though an event ushering in a dispensation; that dispensation not to end with a cataclysm, but to be extended indefinitely. Second, to show, by a series of arguments so arranged as to give them cumulative force, that this event has taken place.

So far from being wise above what is written we have delighted in drawing our chief arguments from the written Word, and we reject everything that cannot be proved thereby or that may be in conflict therewith. In our study we have not gone on the principle of consulting commentators and exegetes, and merely copying their opinions, though we do not despise these helps to a right understanding of the Word; but we have chosen to go directly to the divine oracles ourselves, and, comparing spiritual things with spiritual and Scripture with Scripture, we have sought prayerfully, and with reliance upon the Holy Spirit, the real meaning of the Word and its true teaching, thus giving the most accurate interpretation obtainable.

Our quotations are made from the Revised Version, believing that to be nearer the original in verbatim and grammatical meaning, though there may not be in it the rhythm or idiomatic beauty and richness of expression found in the Authorized Version.

We acknowledge our great indebtedness to the scholarly and reverent work of J. Stuart Russell, A.M., entitled The Parousia, London, 1887; to the highly interesting and ingenious work of I. P. Warren, D.D., entitled The Parousia of Christ, Portland, Me. ; to Dean Farrar’s Early Days of Christianity; to Dr. M. S. Terry’s Biblical Hermeneutics and Plan and Scope of the Apocalypse, and other authors and works duly credited in the body of the book.

Asking for a calm and unprejudiced consideration of our arguments and conclusions on the part of the Christian public, we sincerely pray that through God’s blessing this book may prove a help and a comfort to many souls.

San Francisco, Cal.


The Parousia

The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ was considered by himself and his apostles as the most important event that was to occur in all the future, if we may except his crucifixion and resurrection. Our Lord’s allusions to this event were more frequent and full than to his sacrificial death on the cross, and there is no event in the apostles’ future that has anything like the prominence and interest given it which is attached to the parousia of Christ. This was the event to which their wistful eyes were directed, and on which their longing hearts were fixed with an intentness almost painful; because they believed it to be the herald of their triumph over death, and the foretoken of their glorious and eternal reign with their adorable Lord.

Believing that this parousia was a specific event in the minds of the apostles, and that they believed it to be an occurrence that was to take place in their days, or not many years from the times in which they wrote their epistles, and that they were correct in their belief, and that it, therefore, did occur about thirty-seven years after Christ’s ascension, we proceed to discuss it as a definite and positive past occurrence.

The word used in the New Testament Greek to denote this event is παροθσια [parousia], a word derived from two other Greek words, παρα, with, and a form of the verb ειμι, to be, and signifying, according to the best scholars, “a being present,” “presence,” “the becoming present,” “arrival.”

It occurs twenty-four times in the New Testament, and is translated “coming” twenty-two times, and “presence” twice. The revisers, where they do not translate the word by “presence,” place it thus in the margin: “Gr. presence;” thus intimating that they consider this a proper rendering of the word wherever it occurs. There is no doubt that it will bear this rendering in many places, if not all, but there is certainly, in a number of instances where it occurs, the idea presented of the arrival of the person spoken of, though there may be also the idea of the abiding of the person after such arrival. (See 2 Cor. vii, 6; Phil. i, 26.)

The parousia of Christ is, in a number of places, spoken of as a coming by the use of another word, ἔρχομαι, as in Matt, xxv, 31, “When the Son of man shall come” (ἔλθῃ , future of ἔρχομαι); “I go away, and I come [ἔρχομαι] unto you” (John xiv, 28). So numerous other places. Jesus Christ is also called ὁ ἐρχόμενος “the coming One,” as in Matt, xxiii, 39, “Blessed is he that cometh [the one coming] in the name of the Lord,” spoken by Christ of himself in regard to his second advent.

So also Christ’s second coming is spoken of as an “appearing,” ἐπιφάωεια as in 2 Tim. iv, 8, and a number of other places. It is also spoken of as a “revelation,” ανοκαλύψις, an uncovering or a revealing, as in 1 Pet. i, 7, and several other passages.

The better interpretation, therefore, to give the phrase “the parousia” would be that of a certain, definite event, taking place within a well-defined and narrow period but succeeded by the continuous presence of Christ among men; not only by his Spirit to convince, regenerate, witness, guide, enlighten, seal, and strengthen them, but also as Judge, to decide in all individual, communal, and national matters; as King, to rule in all willing hearts, establishing the kingdom of heaven in all believers, and ruling in the world forever and ever; while as Life-giver he raises into eternal life all who trust him and condemns to destruction all who reject him.

The New Testament does not speak of numerous parousias of Christ. We may speak of the “coming” of Christ to our souls, and in his providences, as in our current theology and hymnology, but there is only one “parousia,” as there is one “resurrection” and one “crucifixion.” We do not speak of these events taking place at various times, neither should we so speak of the parousia.

We subjoin an extract from J. Stuart Russell’s work:

“There is in fact no ambiguity whatever as to the coming referred to in the passage now under consideration [Matt. xvi, 27, 28]. It is not one of several possible comings, but the one, sole, supreme event so frequently predicted by our Lord, so constantly expected by his disciples. It is his coming in glory; his coming in judgment; his coming in his kingdom; the coming of the kingdom of God. It is not the same thing as the destruction of Jerusalem — that is another event; related, and contemporaneous, but the two are not to be confounded. The New Testament knows of only one parousia, one coming in glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is altogether an abuse of language to speak of several senses in which Christ may be said to come; as at his own resurrection, at the day of Pentecost, at the destruction of Jerusalem, at the death of a believer, and at various providential epochs. This is not the usage of the New Testament, nor is it accurate language in any point of view. This passage alone contains so much important truth respecting the parousia that it may be said to cover the whole ground; and, rightly used, will be found to be a key to the true interpretation of the New Testament doctrine on this subject” (The Parousia, pages 31, 32).

The question now arises. What is the time of this definite occurrence? The greater part of the Christian world believe that it is still in the future, liable to take place at any time, and to be attended by the destruction of this material globe and the consequent cessation of all mundane affairs. From the time of Montanus and Cerinthus, in the first century of the Christian era, to the present year there have not been wanting men who have professed to believe that Christ was about to make his second visible appearance, and many in every century have gone so far as to set the date, even to the specifying of the precise year; though they have refrained from fixing the day and the hour from respect to Christ’s words recorded in Matt, xxiv, 36.

The year 1000 was perhaps most universally believed in as the date of Christ’s second advent. Mosheim, in his Ecclesiastical History, tells us that a general belief prevailed in Europe toward the close of the tenth century that the year 1000 would witness the coming of Christ, the day of judgment, and the end of the world. As the time drew near a general panic seized the minds of men. Many abandoned their homes and their families and repaired to the Holy Land; others made over their lands to the Church, or permitted them to lie uncultivated, and the whole course of ordinary life was violently disturbed and deranged.

A similar delusion, though on a smaller scale, prevailed in our own country in the year 1843. William Miller, a man of small educational advantages, by calculations based on the assertions in Dan. viii, 14, regarding the two thousand three hundred days, came to the conclusion that the end of the world would take place in the year mentioned. This caused great consternation among multitudes of people. Some sold their farms and houses; some cast their stocks of goods from their stores into the streets, to be taken by whomsoever they might, and others completely lost their reason. The most serious result of this craze was, however, that many sincere Christians lost all confidence in the Scriptures, and became skeptical in their opinions and worldly in their lives. Some such idea seems to have possessed the church at Thessalonica shortly after its institution. They supposed that the day of the Lord had already come (ἐνέστηκεν) — was actually present. This misconception the apostle Paul endeavored to rectify; and the argument is not, as we shall see more fully in a future chapter, that the day of the Lord was not near, but that it was not actually present. Paul used two arguments to show that it could not really have arrived; namely, (1) that the apostasy spoken of by Christ, Matt, xxiv, 9-12, had not yet taken place, and (2) that the “man of sin” had not yet been revealed. Had he believed that there was to be, at the parousia, a bodily manifestation of Jesus Christ he certainly would have used the fact that such a manifestation had not occurred as an argument against the opinions of the Thessalonians.

We have in our own day people who are looking daily for the personal coming of the Lord in a bodily form, and who, believing that the world is growing worse and worse, and that this is in accord with God’s word, seem to think that their chief business is to proselyte from other denominations of Christians, and thus get ready a people prepared for the Lord at his coming. We have also another alliance of Christian people who believe that the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles teaches that there is to be gathered out of the now existing nations by the Lord “a people for his name;” that as soon as all the nations have been visited, the Gospel message proclaimed “for a witness” to all nations, and these people of the Lord gathered from these nations, then the Lord will come — according to the sixteenth verse of the chapter cited, “After these things I will return” — and taking his chosen ones to himself the marriage supper of the Lamb will occur and the Bride, the true Church, be forever saved in heaven. Then he “will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen,” which means the conversion of the Jews, and that this people, being converted in all parts of the world, will become the great converting agency in Gospel work, and cause “the residue of men” to seek after the Lord, and all the other Gentiles shall be converted.

We need not do more than to call attention to the incorrect interpretation which such a theory puts upon this Scripture. In the seventh verse Peter says: “A good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the Gospel, and believe.” He then tells how they had believed and had been purified in heart, and insists that a yoke should not be placed upon them. Now it is plainly apparent that this is the visiting of the Gentiles and the taking out of them a people for the Lord which is spoken of in the fourteenth verse, for so James declares. It is also evident that James quotes from the Old Testament to establish this position, and not to prophesy of an event still in the future. But with reckless exegesis, and still more reckless exposition, these people present their theory with great earnestness and prevail on their hearers to give large sums of money that the Gospel may be preached for a witness to hasten the day of the Lord; and the consequence is that a hasty and superficial work is done which certainly is greatly harming the genuine work of the Church, and causing great injury to the real evangelization of the world.

It is to combat such views as these, and to present a more scriptural and reasonable doctrine with regard to the second advent of our Lord, that this work is written. If it be said that it is necessary that the ministry should continue to preach the startling doctrine of a personal, bodily, and visible appearing of the Lord, in order to move men to be reconciled to God through the fear such preaching might produce, we reply that certainly the preaching of error is not necessary to the salvation of men, and that if the exaltation and kingdom of Christ be preached with full belief in his actual presence among us in Spirit, and with intense earnestness and zeal, the results might be Pentecostal in their character.

The doctrine, therefore, which we present is that the second advent of our Lord is a past occurrence; that his parousia took place about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem; and that we are therefore in a very different relation to this event from that in which the primitive Christians were, and cannot regard it in the same manner that they did.


The Argument from the Words of Christ and His Apostles

The first argument we present for the support of this doctrine of a past parousia is from the express assertions of Christ and his apostles, giving first the teachings of the apostles.

I. The apostles believed that the second coming of Christ was to take place in their own time.

This is evident from many passages in their epistles, every one of them alluding to the parousia and nearly every allusion being declarative of its imminence. We quote first from the epistles of Peter because he was one of those to whom our Lord addressed his discourse on the Mount of Olives, and who also showed that he believed he was living in the last days when, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, he quoted the prophet Joel and referred his prophecy to his own days when he used the words, “And it shall be in the last days” (Acts ii, 17):

1 Pet. i, 5. “Who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

1 Pet iv, 5. “Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.”

1 Pet. iv, 7. “But the end of all things is at hand.”

1 Pet. iv, 17. “For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God” (Gr., It is the time of the beginning of judgment at the house of God).

1 Pet. v, 1. “A partaker of the glory that shall be [Gr., is about to be] revealed.”

2 Pet i, 16. “We made known unto you the power and coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 John ii, 17. “And the world passeth [is passing] away.”

1 John ii, 18. “It is the last hour.”

1 John ii, 28. “Abide in him; that, if he shall be manifested, we may have boldness, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (Gr., in his parousia).

1 John iv, 17. “That we may have boldness in the day of judgment.”

(The testimony of John in the book of Revelation will be considered later.)

James v, 3. “Ye have laid up your treasure in the last days.”

James v, 7, 8, 9. “Be patient, brethren, until the coming [parousia] of the Lord. … The coming [parousia] of the Lord is at hand. … Behold, the judge standeth before the doors.”

Jude 18, 24. “In the last time there shall be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts. … Now unto him that is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy.”

Paul affirmed the same doctrine in his sermon at Athens: “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge [Gr., is about to judge] the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained” (Acts xvii, 31); and in Acts xvii, 1-10, we find him in Thessalonica preaching Jesus as the King; also he says in 1 Thess. 1, 10, “And to wait for his Son from heaven.” So throughout his epistles to the people of that city he insists on the nearness of the parousia:

1 Thess. iv, 15. “We that are alive, that are left unto the coming [parousia] of the Lord.”

Olshausen says on this verse: “Certainly the proceeding of the older interpreters who thought Paul spoke in the plural only conversationally, without really meaning to say that they themselves, he and his readers, might be still living at the occurrence of that catastrophe, is decidedly to be rejected.” So also Lünemann; and also Auberlen in Lange’s Commentary (quoted in The Parousia of Christ).

1 Thess. iv, 17. “Then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.”

1 Thess. v, 23. “May your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Death is the dissolution of the union between body, soul, and spirit, and the apostle’s prayer is that spirit, soul, and body might ‘all together’ ὁλόκληρον] be preserved in sanctity till the Lord’s coming. This implies the continuance of their corporeal life until that event” (Russell).

Rom. ii, 5. “Treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”

Rom. viii, 18. “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed [Gr., is about to be revealed] to usward.”

Rom. xiii, 12. “The night is far spent, and the day is at hand.”

If it had been death he was thinking of he would have said “the night is at hand.”

1 Cor. i, 7, 8. “Ye come behind in no gift; waiting [looking earnestly: same word as in Rom. viii, 19] for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall confirm you unto the end [ἕως τέλους ], that ye be unreprovable in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Cor. vii, 29. “But this I say, brethren, the time is shortened.”

The interval between now and the coming of the Lord has arrived at an extremely contracted period.

1 Cor. x, 11. “They were written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages [ends of the world] are come.”

Here two ends of the world, at least, took place in Paul’s day.

1 Cor. xv, 51, 52. “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.”

“To take the term ‘we’ as equivalent to ‘we Christians,’ that is, those who shall then be alive, is entirely arbitrary” (Kling).

“The subject of these verbs must be Paul himself, and the whole of those who, like him, shall yet witness the parousia” (Meyer).

1 Cor. xvi, 22. “Maran atha” (“The Lord is coming”). The Syriac watchword of primitive Christians is part of “the salutation of me Paul with my own hand,” and immediately precedes his solemn benediction.

Phil. i, 6. “He which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Phil. iv, 5. “The Lord is at hand.”

Col. iii, 4. “When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory.”

1 Tim. vi, 14. “Keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”

2 Tim. iv, 1. “I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Jesus Christ, who shall [Gr., is about to] judge the quick and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom.”

Titus ii, 13. “Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ”

Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews: Heb. iii, 6. “If we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end.” So iii, 14, and vi, 11. “Unto the end” is in Gr.μέχρι τέλους the end of the age, not the end of life.

Heb. ix, 28. “Christ … shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for him, unto salvation.”

Heb. x, 25. “And so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh.”

“The day of Christ’s coming was seen approaching at this time by the threatening prelude of the great Jewish war wherein he came to judge that nation” (Conybeare and Howson).

Heb. x, 37. “For yet a very little while, he that cometh shall come, and shall not tarry.” The words μικρὸν ὅσον ὅσον mean the smallest possible time. “Nothing could express more forcibly the idea of the speediness of the event referred to. Yet, as if that were not enough, the same thing is repeated in the negative form, ‘and shall not tarry’”

These extracts are sufficient to certainly prove that the apostles of Christ expected the parousia to take place within their own lifetime, and that they would be living witnesses of its glory.

Now we are forced to this dilemma:

1. Either these apostles were under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and, being correct in their assertions, did state what actually came to pass within a short time after their epistles were written, and the parousia did take place; or,

2. The apostles were mistaken in their belief and inaccurate in their statements, and the parousia with its accompanying events did not then take place.

If we take the second horn of the dilemma, and believe the apostles were mistaken, what necessarily follows?

  1. That they were false witnesses of God, as Paul says of himself and his fellow apostles, 1 Cor. xv, 15, if the resurrection of Christ did not occur: for they testified that God was about to send his Son from heaven to judge the world in righteousness, whom he sent not if the parousia did not take place as they asserted it would.
  2. That the apostles were in error respecting a matter of fact about which they had the most ample means of information, and about which they professed to speak with authority as the organs of a divine inspiration.
  3. If they were in error in regard to this matter of fact we can repose no confidence in them on other subjects, especially those which may be in their nature obscure, abstruse, and mysterious.
  4. That they were certainly not under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which the Saviour promised should guide them into all the truth, and teach them all things, and bring to their remembrance all that he had said unto them.
  5. That, consequently, his promises in this respect were unfulfilled and worthless.
  6. That, there being no distinction between what they taught and believed on this subject and what they taught and believed on other subjects, all their teachings are vitiated.
  7. That we are thus led to a rejection of all apostolic doctrines as divine truth.

On the other hand, if we accept these apostolic teachings as true, and believe that the parousia of Christ did take place centuries ago, as they indicate was to be the case, then we have a consistent body of divine truth and are only to proceed to give an interpretation of these teachings which will accord with the events predicted, and to show conclusively, as we believe can be done, that not only did Jesus make his second advent, but that the sleeping dead were actually raised, the judgment of the dead took place, the judgment of the living was inaugurated, the saints were raptured, and Jesus Christ took the throne in conjunction with the Father to commence his mediatorial reign, which is never to have an end.

II. The apostles invariably addressed their hearers and readers as if they fully believed that many, if not all, of them would live to see the parousia of the Lord.

We give some of the many instances in the epistles where this form of address is used and italicize some of the pronouns.

1 Pet. i, 7. “That the proof of your faith … might be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ”

1 Pet. i, 13. “Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought [Gr., is being brought] into you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

1 Pet. iv, 12, 13. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, … but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy.”

1 Pet. iv, 17. “For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begin first at us ,” etc.

2 Pet iii, 11. “Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be, … looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God?”

2 Pet iii, 14. “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace.”

James v, 3. “Ye have laid up your treasure in the last days.”

James v, 7, 8. “Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. … Be ye also patient; … for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

Jude 24. “Now unto him that is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you before the presence of his glory,” etc.

1 John ii, 18, 28. “Little children, it is the last hour: … whereby we know that it is the last hour. … And now, my little children, abide in him; that, if he shall be manifested, we may have boldness, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.”

1 John iii, 2. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is.”

1 Thess. ii, 19. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying? Are not even ye, before our Lord Jesus at his coming?”

1 Thess. iii, 13. “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”

1 Thess. iv, 15. “We that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord.”

So verse 17.

1 Thess. v, 23. “May your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Rom. xiii, ii. “It is high time for you to awake out of sleep.”

1 Cor. x, ii. “They were written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages are come.”

Phil, i, 6, 10. “He which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ. … That ye may be sincere and void of offense unto the day of Christ.”

Col. iii, 4. “When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory.”

Heb. x, 25. “And so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh.”

Heb. xii, 28. “Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace,” etc.

These quotations are ample, and sufficient to fully prove that the apostles firmly believed that those living with them between the years 50 and 68 of the Christian era might personally behold the coming of the Son of man, so far as it could be a visible procedure, before they died. For this is not the language of those who expected to die themselves and supposed that their readers would also die long before Christ would make his second appearance; but it is the language of faith in the near approach of the parousia, and of personal participation in it as living men.

Now we come to another dilemma:

  1. Either the apostles taught their brethren, and other readers, the truth, and were thus safe guides regarding divine things; or,

  2. They taught what was erroneous and thus became false guides, misleading their pupils and followers, and rendering themselves unfit to be believed in regard to anything they uttered.

If we cannot accept, as we certainly should not, the second horn of this dilemma, then we must accept the first, and believe that the teaching of the near approach of the parousia was correct, and that many of those addressed did live to see that wonderful event as a great crisis in the affairs of God’s government, and did participate in the rapture of the saints; and that the apostles are now in possession of their crowns of life and righteousness which the righteous judge did bestow when he assumed the throne of his glory and conferred rewards on those who had followed him, and who had endured the persecutions which a profession of faith in him had brought upon them.

III. The apostles derived their views and doctrines from the express teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, who asserted most positively that his parousia would soon take place.

The sayings of our Lord which fix the parousia as a near event are these:

1. Matt. x, 23. “But when they persecute you in this city, flee into the next: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone through the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.”

What the exact meaning of the phrase “cities of Israel” may be we will not now stop to consider, reserving that discussion for another portion of the work; but this is certain: that whether it mean the cities of the land of Palestine, or the cities of the habitable world dwelt in by Israelites, our Lord can have but one meaning in his address, and that is that not a long time would transpire before he would return in his kingdom and glory.

2. Matt, xvi, 28. “Verily I say unto you, There be some of them that stand here, which shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”

The transfiguration is inadequate to a fulfillment of this prediction, as are also the occurrences of the day of Pentecost. The phrase, “shall in no wise taste of death,” indicates that all would not live to see him coming in his kingdom; that the greater part might not, but that some certainly would; and this would inferentially place the date of that coming about thirty five or forty years after this prediction. We discuss this text more fully in “The Argument from the Great Eschatological Discourse of Our Lord,” Chapter III.

3. Matt xxiv, 34. “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished.” We have abundant proof from the usage of Christ and his contemporaries that the phrase “this generation” means the mass of the people living at the time the prediction was made.

Olshausen says that the word genea (generation) is not used in the sense of nation in any one passage either in the New Testament or of any profane writer. (See Chapter V, page 71.)

A study of this verse will show that nothing else can be actually meant by “this generation” than the contemporaries of Christ and his disciples. Here, then, also, Jesus teaches that his coming will take place in about forty years from that time; for that “coming” is one of the main items of “these things” — if not the one great thing — of which he has been speaking, all of which were to take place in that generation.

4. Matt, xxiii, 39. “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

This was the usual Messianic salutation and is used by Christ merely in that sense, and not to indicate that he would not come till the Jewish nation would gladly receive him. And those who heard him utter these words were the very ones who should live to be aware of his coming in the clouds of heaven, with great glory, to judge their guilty nation. Therefore this text fixes the parousia as a near event

5. Matt, xxvi, 64. “Henceforth ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Luke xxii, 69. “From henceforth shall the Son of man be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”

“The qualifying phrases are very explicit, not signifying, as the English ‘hereafter,’ some indefinite period in the future, but one commencing at that very moment — immediately, forthwith” (Dr. Warren). So Meyer, in loco: “Something that, beginning now, is continued henceforth.” Indicating that they were soon to have ample evidence that he had been raised from the dead and made the ruler of the nations, with power to utterly destroy all opposing powers, and manifest himself as judge. (See also Dr. Horton’s Teachings of Jesus, page 145.)

6. John xvi, 16, 17, 22. “A little while, and ye behold me no more; and again a little while, and ye shall see me. … What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye behold me not; and again a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? … But I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one taketh away from you.”

That this promise may refer to the descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost is possible, but is not probable, because that descent is always, in other passages, mentioned by our Lord in other terms. Again he here alludes to his coming personally, “I will see you again,” which is adverse to the idea he presents when speaking of the Spirit, for he is “another Comforter;” and this coming is evidently the one spoken of in chap, xiv, 3, 28: “I come again, and will receive you unto myself. … I go away and I come unto you;” for following this last sentence is the one quoted by the disciples, “Because I go unto the Father.” And this proves that the coming here spoken of was not his appearance to them after the resurrection, as some suppose; for when he died he did not go to the Father, as is shown in John xx, 17, where he says to Mary, “Touch [or hold] me not, for I am not yet ascended unto the Father.” The phrase “a little while” receives enforcement from Heb. x, 37, “For yet a very little while, he that cometh shall come and shall not tarry.” The phrase “very little” Tregelles renders, “How little ! how little !” At the time of the writing of the Epistle to the Hebrews the “little while” of Jesus had been shortened thirty-four years.

7. John xxi, 22. “Jesus saith unto him. If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.”

Some have supposed that Jesus meant for John to stay where he was till he should return from speaking with Peter privately; but the context shows that this is not an admissible interpretation. This is Dr. Qarke’s opinion; and Dr. Curry, in his notes to Clarke’s Commentary, says that it is now fifty years since Dr. Clarke thus wrote, “and though the progress of biblical learning has been simply wonderful, yet not the least progress has been made toward the solution of the questions involved in verses 21-23.”

This is amazing in view of the writings of Dean Farrar and other Preteristic authors, who hold that Christ did come in about forty years after this interview with Peter and John, and that John did, in all probability, live until the parousia took place.

The lifetime of John connected the two advents. When Peter was forewarned of his own death he inquired about the future of his friend John, and received this answer: ‘If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me.’ This does not mean that John should never die, but it does mean that he should not die till Christ came; and as John died in the city of Ephesus sometime in the first century Christ must have previously come. He came in the year seventy, and every apostle but John died beforehand. John was one of the ‘some standing here that should not taste of death till they saw the Son of man coming in his kingdom.’ Christ’s coming in John’s lifetime exactly agrees with his coming in the last generation of Judaism before the completion of the apostolic work, and before the death of all the great Teacher’s hearers” (Rev. John G. Manly).

Now in all these places, and in others as well, Jesus is represented as saying to his disciples that not a long time would elapse before he would return to them to receive them to himself, and to show his power and glory to the world. He also continually addresses them as though they were the very ones who should witness, while living, the signs of his coming and kingdom; as in Matt, xxiv, 42, 44, “Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh. … Be ye also ready: for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh,” and Luke xxi, 27-28, “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; because your redemption draweth nigh.”

Here we present a trilemma:

1. Either Jesus taught the exact truth when he instructed his disciples that he would, in a short time, come to them, and that he would at the same time judge the world, rendering to every man according to his works; or,

2. He was misleading in his teaching, and endeavored to induce his disciples to believe that he would soon personally return when he knew that his second coming would not take place for at least eighteen hundred and sixty-seven years after he solemnly assured them that that generation would not pass till he should come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; or,

3. He was himself deceived as regarded his proceeding from God, and was as an excited young man merely giving forth the utterances of a heated imagination; which seems to be the view of Renan.

If we cannot accept this last horn of the trilemma, because of its manifest absurdity in view of the wonderful clearness and wisdom revealed in his teachings and their continued power in the world during the era named from him, and if we find it impossible to accede to the second term of the syllogism and admit that Christ did intentionally mislead his disciples, then we are forced to accept the first proposition and believe that Jesus taught the truth, and that the disciples were correct in their deduction that the end of the age was shortly to take place, and Christ was to make his appearance to judge the world in righteousness.

We therefore accept the conclusion that this wonderful event did really take place centuries ago, being the grand inauguration of the universal reign of Christ; that the kingdom of heaven did then come with power, and has ever since been extending over the earth, as it has invaded the hearts of men; and that it will continue to increase until all human beings will submit to Christ, as their King to rule over them or their Judge to condemn them. The throne of God and the Lamb is now established. Jesus is “Lord of all and God is “all in all.”


The Argument from the Great Eschatological Discourse of Our Lord

The twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of the Gospel of Matthew have been the battle ground of great controversies, and extraordinary have been the attempts to show that our Lord was alluding to at least two great catastrophies, separated by long intervals of time. A favorite method adopted by those who have believed that the Saviour used the destruction of Jerusalem as an illustration of the destruction of the material globe, at a coming of his which is still in the future, is to attempt to find in the discourse points of transition where our Lord passes from the consideration of one topic to that of another, and then back again to the first, ad libitum.

We believe this to be a false method, because there is no call for such transference of discussion in the question asked by the disciples. In Mark there appears to be only one question, though it may be divided into two parts, and in Luke the question is in almost exactly similar words, and is also divided into two parts. In Matthew the question is divided into three parts, but still it is in reality but one question.

“And Jesus went out from the temple, and was going on his way; and his disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple. But he answered and said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

It is evident that the action of the disciples in directing our Lord’s attention to the magnificent structures about them was incited by the remark he had just made in regard to the temple being made desolate — deserted of God. They could not understand how such buildings, so elaborately finished and adorned, could be abandoned to destruction, and so they refer to the solid character of the edifices, when the Saviour intensifies his former assertion by specifically stating that not one stone should be left upon another which should not be thrown down; the destruction would be complete. Then they were all alive to know when this destruction would occur, and whether there would be a sign whereby they would be able to determine the nearness of the event. This suffices entirely for a reason why the question was asked as given by Mark and Luke, but in the question as Matthew gives it there are two other elements: his coming and the completion of the age. What gave rise to these elements of the question? Evidently, what he had just said in regard to the abandonment of the house by himself, the Lord of the temple, and then his solemn averment that they should not see him from that time till they should utter the salutation of Messianic welcome at his glorious return to judge the nation and to close the passing age. Now, as the consummation of the age was always associated in the Jewish mind with the coming of the Messiah in glory, which had been prophesied by Joel, Haggai, Malachi, and others of their prophets, and which had been so vehemently preached by John the Baptist, the disciples immediately combine the two events in their minds, and then very appropriately utter these combined thoughts in the tripartite question given by Matthew:

“And as he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying. Tell us, when shall these things be [ταυτα ἔσραι]? and what shall be the sign of thy coming [παρουσίας ], and of the end of the world [completion of the age]?”

As to the meaning of the phrase “these things,” the disciples doubtless also alluded to words of the Saviour uttered a few minutes previously. He had been denouncing the scribes and Pharisees, and asserting that terrible woes should come upon them, and told them to fill up the measure of their fathers. He assured them that they could not escape the judgment of hell, and then told them of scribes, wise men, and prophets who should be sent unto them, and whom they should scourge and persecute, that upon them might come all the righteous bloodshed on the earth (land). Then he uses his solemn “Verily,” and says, “Verily I say unto you, all these things [ταυτα πάντα] shall come upon this generation.” Here the Saviour fixes the period in which these woes shall be inflicted on these sinners, and consequently the disciples are intensely anxious to know when these events should occur — the exact date of their occurrence — thinking that they might be alive and thus personally cognizant of their taking place, being perhaps among the persecuted ones. So far from the Saviour correcting this supposition on the part of the disciples, he confirms it by telling them that they were the very ones who were to witness these very things: “When ye see all these things, know that he is nigh, even at the doors” (verse 33).

By “the sign of thy coming” the disciples referred to some special event or events which would indicate the close proximity of the parousia. In those very days of our Lord the Jews had been looking for the Messiah’s coming, and had been so often baffled that their courage threatened to desert them, and they had issued the rabbinical interdict, “Cursed is he who calculates the time of the Messiah’s coming.” “At last it was declared that ‘No indication is given with regard to the particular epoch at which the prophecy of the eleventh chapter (of Isaiah) is to be accomplished,’ but that the inspired messenger of God has furnished means of determining by the evidence of our senses the distinctive signs by which the advent of the Messiah is to be marked; namely, (1) the arrival of the golden age (vers. 7, 8, 9); (2) the rallying of the nations, unsought and uninvited, around the Messianic banner,” etc. (McClintock and Strong, art. “Messiah”).

So these disciples wanted a sign, and, as we shall see, Jesus clearly gives them the signs of his near approach and says the sign from heaven shall be seen.

It is extremely unfortunate that the expression “end of the world” should have been used to translate the Greekσυντελείασ τοὔ αἰὤνος. This Greek phrase never has any reference to the destruction of the material globe, but always refers to the completion of a dispensation or the consummation of an age. This is all that the disciples meant by it: “When shall this present age end, and the new one be inaugurated?” (See Chapter XVI, “Objections Answered,” Objection 3.)

This was not an unfamiliar matter to the disciples. They, doubtless, with all Jews of their times, frequently discussed it; and as to the parousia, the Lord had frequently alluded to it, and assured them that it would soon take place; and now that the disciples are desirous of knowing just when it will occur Christ informs them of the things which must take place before he comes in the clouds of heaven. That this is the thought in their minds, and is also the very thought that Christ was desirous of meeting in his answer, is peculiarly evident from the fact that he instantly and primarily speaks of that coming as the main subject of his discourse, and not of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple, which are only incidents of the greater event — his coming in glorious majesty to end one age and commence another.

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man lead you astray. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray.”

“Jesus warned his disciples that false Christs should arise, and the event has verified the prediction. No less than twenty-four such impostors have been enumerated as having appeared in different places and at different times; and even this does not exhaust the list. One by the name of Simeon was the first of any note who made a noise in the world. Being dissatisfied with the state of things under Hadrian, he set himself up as the head of the Jewish nation, and proclaimed himself their long-expected Messiah” (McClintock and Strong, art. “False Messiahs”).

This fact, that Simeon, who called himself Bar-Cocheba, the son-of-a-star, in allusion to Balaam’s prophecy (Num. xxiv, 17), “was the first of any note” that said, “I am Christ,” is used against the theory that the parousia of Christ is a past event; as it is insisted that if Simeon was the first false Messiah, and he did not appear until the reign of Hadrian, who was emperor from A. D. 117 to 138, then this prophecy of Christ will not apply to the times before or at the destruction of Jerusalem, but must apply to times since that event, and times still future.

But it is certain that when our Lord repeats this warning in the eleventh verse, and again in the twenty-fourth verse, he is there referring to matters that will take place in conjunction with the destruction of Jerusalem: for the desecrated temple is referred to (ver. 15); Judea is spoken of; occupation of the housetops is mentioned as a custom of the people among whom these scenes are transacted; the flight of the Jewish Christians into the mountains is alluded to; and the tribulation mentioned which is spoken of in the epistles as in progress, or just about to begin (2 Thess. i, 4-10; 1 Pet. iv, 12-19; 2 Pet. ii, 1, 2, 3; Jude 3, 4; Rev. ii, 10). “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or, there ; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you beforehand” (vers. 23-25).

This certainly fully proves that false Christs did arise just previous to Jerusalem’s overthrow, and the matter seems to receive corroboration from Josephus, as also from Rev. xiii, 11-18.

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars,” etc. Rather, “Ye are about to hear of wars” (μελλήσετε), etc These were about to occur first at a distance, so that it should be a mere rumor, increasing to actual warfare near them, but they were not to be troubled; for it was necessary that these wars and famines and earthquakes should occur, but the end (τὸ τέλος) of the age was not to come immediately. There was first to occur a time of persecution for the trial of the faith of these disciples and their brethren, and they were to be hated of all the nations for the name of Christ. This fixes the fact that the disciples whom Jesus was addressing were to be at least among those who were to suffer these trials. “Then shall they deliver you up unto tribulation, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all the nations for my name’s sake.”

It is also positive that “the nations” here alluded to were the nations among whom these very disciples were to be living, and thus is fixed also the meaning of the same phrase, “all the nations,” in chap, xxv, 32, as the same nations from whom the then living disciples should receive the treatment there spoken of; which treatment should be the criterion of judgment according to which reward and punishment should be bestowed.

“And then shall many stumble, and shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another… And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold. But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”

Here is an allusion to the great apostasy referred to in 2 Thess. ii, 3: “Except the falling away [ἀποστασία] come first.” Confirmation of this view is given by the use of the term τἤν ἀνομίαν in the phrase “iniquity shall be multiplied,” compared with the phrase in the epistle, τἤς ἀνομίας , “the iniquitous one,” or “the lawless man.” This matter we treat more fully in Chapter XVI.

The enduring mentioned is the enduring of the persecutions which should come upon them as Christians, and the end is again the end of the age, at which time the Lord would come “a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for him, unto salvation” (Heb. ix, 28, and x, 37-39).

“And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come.”

This is a crucial text. The “Gospel of the kingdom” is certainly the Gospel which Christ delivered to his disciples when he said, “And as ye go, preach, saying. The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt, x, 7).

“And he sent them forth to preach the kingdom of God. … And they departed, and went throughout the villages, preaching the Gospel” (Luke ix, 2, 6). That this is the reference is settled by the use of the same expression there as here: “But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved” (Matt, x, 22). And that this was the preaching which was to be done is evident from Matt, x, 23: “Ye shall not have gone through the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come;” confirming the view that the preaching here mentioned was not a preaching that should be uttered two thousand years afterward, but preaching which would be done by the very disciples then listening to him, and which was to be done before his second coming, or parousia.

This Gospel was to be preached in all the habitable world (οἰκουμένης). This world is the same as that which was taxed, or enrolled, by Caesar Augustus (Luke ii, 1) (οἰκουμέννη) ; the same, also, the kingdoms of which the devil showed Christ (Luke iv, 5); the same throughout which a dearth prevailed in the days of Claudius Caesar (Acts xi, 28); the same which was turned upside down by Paul and Silas (Acts xvii, 6); the same as that which worshiped the great goddess Diana (Acts xix, 27); and the same as that throughout which the Jews lived (Acts xxiv, 5). “From these passages it is clear that the word οἰκουμένη (world) was commonly applied to the inhabited regions of the Roman empire [including Judea], and this is conceded by all competent authorities” (Dr. Terry). All classical authorities unite in this opinion.

This Gospel was also to be preached “for a testimony unto all the nations” — εἴς μαρτ´θριον πανσιν τοις ἔΘνεσιν, in evidence to all the nations; that is, as an evidence that a new light had come into the world; and the parallel passage in Mark has, “And the Gospel must first be preached unto all the nations.”

By “all the nations” is not meant here what the phrase means in this day of extended geographical knowledge and world-wide telegraphic communication. To the evangelists it meant just about what the other phrase, “all the world,” meant, and comprised about the same countries and peoples as were comprehended in the phrase “from every nation under heaven” — απο παντὸς ἔθνους των ὑπὸ Τον οὐρανόν (Acts ii, 5); and when these nations or countries are mentioned, as they are in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh verses of Acts ii, we see that every nation under heaven dwelt in a region including and limited by Parthia on the east, Egypt and Arabia on the south, Rome on the west, and Pontus on the north.

Now, to all these nations the Gospel was preached before the year 58 of the Christian era; for (1) Paul tells us that he had “received grace and apostleship, unto obedience of faith among all the nations” (Rom. i, 5). So, “is made known unto all the nations” (Rom. xvi, 26). (2) Again in Rom. x, 18, quoting the nineteenth Psalm, verse 4, he says, “But I say, Did they not hear? Yea, verily, their sound went out into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world,” οἰκουμένης . (3) Then in Col. i, 5, 6, Paul tells the Colossians that they had heard “the word of the truth of the Gospel, which is come unto you; even as it is also in all the world bearing fruit and increasing.” Here another word is used for world, κόσμος, but this is a word used interchangeably with οἰκουμένη by the New Testament writers, as may be seen by comparing the original of Matt, iv, 9, with the original of Luke iv, 5; the word κόσμος being used by Matthew and the word οἰκουμένη by Luke to express the same thought (4) In Col. i, 23, we have a still stronger phrase to express the universality of the Gospel declaration in the apostle’s day: “ … and not moved away from the hope of the Gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven” (ἐν πασῃ κτίσει τῃ ὑπο οὐρανόν).

Here are words used more extensive and comprehensive in meaning than those used by our Lord; and yet they are applied to the preaching of the Gospel as it was promulgated before Paul wrote some of his epistles.

Moreover it is said (Acts viii, 4) that those who were scattered abroad “went about preaching the word” — passed through all parts, evangelizing the world. While this assertion might be taken literally, and pressed as an argument that the Gospel was preached throughout the world, yet we know, from verse 1 of the same chapter, that the preaching of the dispersion was limited to the regions of Judea and Samaria.

Another proof-text upholding the doctrine that the whole civilized world had heard the Gospel before the destruction of Jerusalem is Rev. xiv, 6, 7. Here the Gospel is preached to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and as this was one of the events which Jesus told John “must shortly come to pass” (Rev. i, 1) we are to believe it was fully accomplished.

“Then shall the end come,” that is, the end of the age or the dispensation, also the end of the local order of things, as in Ezekiel, seventh chapter. Here an “end” is repeatedly spoken of. Verse 6: “An end is come, the end is come, it awaketh against thee; behold, it cometh.” It was to be a time of great anger and wrath from the Lord (vers. 3, 12); a time of judgment (ver. 3); a day of tumult (ver. 7); a day in which some should flee to the mountains (ver. 16); a day when the trumpet should sound (ver. 14) ; a day of the sword, of the famine, and the pestilence (ver. 15); a day when the temple should be polluted (ver. 22); a day of the heathen (ver. 24), etc., etc. This was all fulfilled in that destruction of Jerusalem which occurred within five years after Ezekiel thus prophesied.

So the “end of the age” came in about forty years after the prophecy of Christ, and the affairs of the then existing “world” were wound up.


The Argument from the Great Eschatological Discourse of Our Lord — Continued

“When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand), then let them that are in Judea flee unto the mountains,” etc.

This abomination of desolation was to be seen by the disciples then listening to Jesus. The passage in Daniel (ix, 27) is obscure. The Hebrew is שִׁקּוּצִים֙ מְשֹׁמֵ֔ם וְעַד־כָּלָה֙ words which may be rendered, “and on the wing of the abominations, that which makes desolate.” Dr. Cowles translates and paraphrases thus: “Then down upon the summit of the temple, now an abomination before God, for the apostasy of those who worship therein, comes the desolator, the Roman legions— even until a complete, terrible, and predetermined destruction shall have been poured forth upon the desolate city” (Com, on Daniel, in loco).

(We might say in passing that all the prophecies of Daniel were fulfilled before and at the parousia of Christ, A. D. 70. Great confusion and injury have been caused by applying those prophecies to pagan or papal Rome, and other countries and personages of the current era.)

Jesus said that this abomination should stand in the holy place, τὸπῳ ἁγίῳ. “Place” here may mean the land, and so the phrase be translated, “the holy land,” This use of the word “place” is not infrequent in the New Testament, and in Heb. xi, 8, 9, it is used to indicate this very “land of promise” when speaking of Abraham’s sojourn.

The “abomination” may mean the Roman army or their ensigns, or standards; which Josephus informs us were worshiped by the soldiers, and so would be considered idolatrous abominations by the Jews.

That the allusion is to the army or its standards seems clear from Luke xxi, 20, where Jesus, instead of referring to the abomination, says, “When ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that her desolation is at hand,” and this would be the sign for them to flee to the mountains.

It will not be necessary for us to call special attention to the main drift of the succeeding verses, as all admit that they refer to the flight of the people of Judea who had believed in Christ from the barbarities and disorders attendant on the Roman arms. The tribulation may refer to the punishment which came on the Jews as the enemies of Christ, as in 2 Thess. i, 6; “affliction to them that afflict you,” and out of which the Christians were delivered and then came to stand before the throne in white robes. “These are they which come out of the great tribulation,” meaning this very tribulation of which Christ here speaks.

Still, the word may refer to both — the tribulations the Christians endured and those which befell the Jews, as in 1 Thess. ii, 14-16, where the tribulation of the believer is spoken of as sufferings and the tribulation of the Jews as the coming on them of wrath to the uttermost. So in 2 Thess. i, 3-12, where the “afflictions” of verse 4 is θλίψεσιν, “tribulations,” and in verses 6 and 7, “to recompense affliction [tribulation] to them that afflict [tribulate] you, and to you that are afflicted [tribulated] rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven.” Here it is evident that the apostle believes that the Lord will come while those to whom he writes are still living, and that those who afflict them will also be residing upon the earth. Thus the New Testament Scriptures agree in placing the coming of the Lord in that very generation.

Another proof of this is in the use of the words by our Lord, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be.” It is perfectly positive that the tribulation here mentioned was that which was experienced at the destruction of Jerusalem, for Jesus connects it closely with the flight of the disciples from Jerusalem and Judea, and gives its occurrence as a reason for their rapid flight. Yet this tribulation, ‘the great tribulation,’ as it is called in Revelation, was to be the most direful that had ever visited the world (κόσμος), or ever should visit it; and Christ certainly knew how to use universal terms. No more graphic description has ever been written than that of Josephus when he relates this awful series of terrible disasters, and certainly no such calamities ever elsewhere came upon men. Now, if these troubles which visited Jerusalem and her people are never to be equaled, according to Christ’s words, how is it that some still contend for a future coming of the Lord which shall usher in a day of wrath that shall totally eclipse in horrors the events attendant on the siege and destruction of the Jewish metropolis? We should certainly believe Christ, and not be looking forward to his coming, but backward to his parousia, as the commencement of his glorious reign.

The shortening of the days relates to the curtailment of the time during which these horrors should continue, so that there should not be a thorough extermination of the people of the land, and also that the elect might not have these severe trials too long, lest their faith should fail, their love wax cold, and they be unable to “endure unto the end” that they might be saved; or, as Luke puts it, “But watch ye at every season, making supplication, that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”

But who are the elect spoken of? No doubt the apostles and disciples of our Lord are included in the number, because, when the “elect” are spoken of in the twenty-fourth verse, our Lord immediately adds, “Behold, I have told you beforehand.” But we are not to hence conclude that these are all who constitute the chosen ones. The book of Revelation throws light upon the matter. In the sixth chapter of that book we have an account of the same events that are recorded in the passage we are considering. The war in which so many thousands of Jews perished is described as nearing Jerusalem, and the destruction attending it is depicted in verse 8. In the latter part of the chapter the great day of wrath is said to have come, and the same figures of speech are used to describe its awfulness as in Matt, xxiv, 29-31, and in Luke xxi, 25-28. In Matt. xxiv, 31, the angels are sent forth to gather the elect “from the four winds,” that is, from their force or destructiveness, and in the Apocalypse, vii, 1, we have also the “angels standing at the four comers of the land” (not earth), and these angels are “holding the four winds of the earth, that no wind should blow on the earth, or on the sea, or upon any tree,” till they had “sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads,” these sealed ones being the “elect Israel.” There should be no doubt as to these two descriptions referring to the same persons, and if they do so refer we have the elect as meaning the one hundred and forty and four thousand of the twelve tribes of Israel — the Jewish Christian Church of the apostolic age. We have the same “elect” again in chapter xiv of the Revelation, where they stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion, having been redeemed from the land, and from among men, and being the first fruits unto God. Then if we turn to Heb. xii, 23, we have the same class of persons mentioned as the “general assembly and church of the firstborn, who are enrolled in heaven;” and Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem are mentioned, which fixes the locality and the sameness of the persons. To this “general assembly” the Hebrews were come.

We need scarcely allude to a modem opinion which absurdly insists that these one hundred and forty-four thousand are the modern Christian Church, and constitute all who will be saved at the coming of the Lord — an opinion which arises from unwisely fixing the parousia as a future event.

These elect are referred to also in Rom. xi, 7, “But the election obtained it, and the rest were hardened,” though the word here is ἐκλογὴ and the phrase ή ἐκλογὴ which is exactly equivalent to οἰ ἐκλεκτοί, the elect.

Luke’s parallel passage seems to be taken out of its proper connection and placed in chap, xvii, 22-24. “Luke mentions individual occurrences without strict regard to chronological order” (Stier). In Luke the occasion for the remarks of Christ seems to have been the question of the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God should come, and the consequent desire on the part of the disciples “to see one of the days of the Son of man” — that is, a day wherein there would be a parousia of Christ — this desire rendering them susceptible to deception, as they are also supposed to be in Matt, xxiv, 11. So the Lord prophesies that certain persons with an ambition for prominence or a greed for gain would take advantage of this susceptibility to deception on the part of the disciples and present themselves as the Messiah, as one of the prophets, or as the returning Son of man.

Josephus confirms this part of the prophecy of Christ. He says (Wars of the Jews, book vi, chap, v, paragraphs 2, 3): “A false prophet was the occasion of these people’s destruction [those who perished while the temple was on fire]. Now, there was then a great number of false prophets. … Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God himself.” This affords another proof that the time of the destruction of Jerusalem was the period to which Jesus here referred. So John in his first epistle, written in the “last hour” of the Jewish State and Church, averred that there had arisen “many antichrists;” and Peter alludes to the same (ii, 1) in his second epistle, written at the same time.

“If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.”

Our Lord now warns his disciples against supposing that the parousia will be a local event, or one confined to a secret place. They were not to believe any who should tell them that Christ was in the desert, or that he was in the secret chambers; for the coming of Christ was to be of the most public and general nature.

He uses the lightning flash here not to indicate so much the suddenness of his appearance as to illustrate its publicity and to refute the notion of its localization. And here we have a solution of the difficulty some have felt in reading the words “every eye shall see him” (Rev. i, 7). This does not refer to the bodily appearance of Christ, but to the wide revealment which would characterize his parousia: “Every eye shall see him, even (καὶ) those that pierced him”— another proof that the Lord was speaking of a future near enough to be within the lifetime of his crucifiers.

The carcass, of verse 28, is undoubtedly the corrupt Jewish people, and the eagles, the Romans. Wheresoever the Jewish people were found there would swoop down upon them the Roman soldiers, with their ensigns surmounted by figures of eagles. Perhaps the reference is to Job xxxix, 30, where, in speaking of the eagle, it is said, “Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she.” In Luke (xvii, 37) this proverb is preceded by the question on the part of the disciples, “Where, Lord?” — that is, where would all these events, which he was predicting in regard to the sudden separations and the lightning-like appearance of the Son of man, take place? And he informs them that they would occur wherever the Jewish people resided; thereby indicating that these events would not be confined to any one locality, but would be a world-wide affair.

J. Stuart Russell, in commenting on 1 Thess. i, 9, 10, says with reference to the phrase “the coming wrath:” “It was now not far off, and though Judea might be the center of the storm, yet the cyclone of judgment would sweep over other regions and affect multitudes who, like the Thessalonians, might have been thought beyond its reach. We know from Josephus how the outbreak of the Jewish war was the signal for massacre and extermination in every city where Jewish inhabitants had settled. It was this ubiquity of “the coming wrath” that our Lord referred to when he said, ‘Wheresoever the carcass is,’ etc.”

Josephus says that in Caesarea 20,000 Jews were killed; in Scythopolis 13,000; in Askelon 2,500; in Ptolemais 2,000; a great number in Tyre; in Alexandria 50,000. There was also a plot laid against the Jews in Agrippa’s kingdom, etc., etc. (Wars of the Jews, chap, xviii).

“But immediately, after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth [γῆς, land] mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send forth 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.”

This is the central and most important passage of the discourse. We consider it carefully and with prayer that we may be directed aright.

The word here translated “immediately” is εὐθέως, a word which is translated in the New Testament in several ways: (1) as here, “immediately;” (2) “straightway;” (3) “forthwith;” (4) “anon;” (5) “as soon as,” etc. The sense is, always, immediate occurrence; and here, evidently, it is the mind of the writer to indicate that the events of the paragraph were to take place at once after the tribulation accompanying the dark days of Jerusalem’s overthrow. We are satisfied that there is no transition here from one topic to another, as some commentators suggest and insist. The narrative is continuous, and without breaks or digressions, and it is perfectly positive to the unprejudiced mind that our Lord places his parousia at the end of the Jewish age, or the dispensation then proceeding.

The difficulty with many is with regard to the fearful natural convulsions and changes here spoken of. They seem to imply a dissolution of nature, and to have been of such a character, in Christ’s mind, as to indicate events of a material nature which cannot yet have taken place. This difficulty will be averted if we attentively consider that all these figures of catastrophe were taken from the Old Testament Scriptures, and were perfectly familiar to every Jew as representing the downfall of cities, nations, and dynasties, and are thus alluded to by Angus in his Handbook of the Bible: “What is grand in nature is used to express what is dignified and important among men — the heavenly bodies, mountains, stately trees, designating kingdoms or those in authority… Political changes are represented by earthquakes, tempests, eclipses, the turning of rivers and seas into blood,” etc.

The Old Testament prophecies are full of symbol and metaphor, and we need not wonder that Christ depicted the events attending the end of the age in the same language used in the rolls of the prophets he had read and studied.

In Isa. xiii, 9-13, the day of the Lord comes with wrath; the land is laid desolate; the sinners are destroyed; the stars and constellations do not give their light; the sun is darkened; the moon does not shine; the heavens tremble and the earth is shaken out of her place — and only to indicate the fact that Babylon was overthrown.

The destruction of Bozrah of Idumea is thus announced: The mountains shall be melted with blood; all the host of heaven shall be dissolved; the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; their host shall fade away, as the leaf from the vine and the fading leaf from the fig tree (Isa. xxxiv, 3, 4).

Samaria’s judgment is thus declared: “Behold, the Lord Cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft” (Mic. i, 3, 4).

In the burden of Nineveh the mountains quake at the Lord; the hills melt; the earth is upheaved at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein; his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken asunder by him (Nah. i, 5, 6).

In the punishment of Pharaoh the heavens are covered; the stars are made dark; the sun is covered with a cloud; the moon does not give her light; the bright lights of heaven are made dark, and darkness is set upon the land (Ezek. xxxii, 7, 8).

When the Lord descends to judge the heathen in the valley of Jehoshaphat (Jah-is-judge) the sun and the moon are darkened; the stars withdraw their shining; the Lord roars out of Zion, and the heavens and the earth shake.

Farrar says: “There is not one of these metaphors [used by our Lord] which is not found in the Old Testament prophets, and in them they refer in every instance to the destruction of cities and the establishment of new covenants, or to other earthly revolutions.”

This language of our Lord, therefore, is in perfect accord with the gorgeousness of oriental diction and the vivid language of the Hebrew prophets, and is here to be applied to the overthrow of Jerusalem, the abolishment of the old covenant, the great political convulsions of the hour and the extraordinary changes resulting immediately therefrom, and not to some far-distant cataclysm for the occurrence of which we have no scriptural authority.

What the “sign” of the Son of man was is not clear. The Jews had demanded of Christ “a sign from heaven,” and some suppose that this refers to what is said in the Talmud, that the sign of the Son of man would be this very coming in the clouds of heaven, according to Dan. vii, 13, and that the sign and the coming mean the same. This is borne out by the fact that here, in Matthew, the beholding of this sign is the signal for “all the tribes of the land” (not the kindreds of the earth) to mourn; while in Rev. i, 7, “all the tribes of the land” (πασαι αἱ φυλαὶ της) (exactly the same phrase that Matthew uses) mourn when they see the Son of man himself coming with the clouds. But the “sign” may mean the cloud itself, on which, or with which, the Son of man comes, as the cloud of the wilderness signalized the presence of Jehovah.

Dr. Terry says: “But who can say what other sights appeared at the final moment of the catastrophe? The parousia was like the lightning’s flash, not abiding for days like the glory on Sinai (Exod. xxiv, 16). The sight of the glory of the Jehovah was like devouring fire on the top of the mountain to the eyes of the sons of Israel’ (Exod. xxiv, 17) ; and that glory was a real presence, a veritable parousia, for ‘Jehovah came down upon Mount Sinai’ (Exod. xix, 20). And yet in that Sinaitic parousia the Israelites saw no form or shape (תְּמוּנָ֡֔ה) of the divine Person (Deut. iv, 15). Whether those who saw the SIGN of the Son of man which appeared in heaven immediately after the tribulation of those days saw the person and form of the Son of man himself, or only some symbol of his presence, must remain a mystery.” (Note: The sign of the Son of man may mean the ruin of the Jewish temple considered as a sign that the old æon is ended and the new æon begun. The sign of the prophet Jonas was no miraculous phenomenon in heaven.) (Biblical Hermeneutics, pages 451, 452.)

In Luke there are additional particulars. It is asserted that there shall be “great distress upon the land and wrath unto this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led captive into all the nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

The phraseology of this passage fixes the locality of these terrible events, and also the time at which they occurred. It was certainly in the land of Palestine that these events were to occur, and on the Jews that these disasters were to fall.

The last sentence of the passage demands consideration. Some have attempted to prove that the reference here is to the occupation of Jerusalem by the various nations who have through all the centuries lorded it over the Jewish capital, and to the one which is still in possession of its once hallowed precincts. But a more sensible view is one obtained by a collation of this passage with one in the Apocalypse where a similar phrase is used to indicate Gentile domination. “And the court which is without the temple leave without [cast without], and measure it not; for it hath been given unto the nations [Gentiles] : and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months” (Rev. xi, 2). The time figure may be from Dan. vii, 25 : “And they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time.” (In Rev. xii, 14, the exact phrase is quoted.) This was a divided seven — three and a half — and signified a time of great calamity. It was about equivalent to forty and two months, and also to the thousand two hundred and sixty days of Rev. xi, 3. Attempts have been made, by the use of the exploded “day for a year” theory, to give this phrase, “forty and two months,” an unnatural meaning and have it indicate a long period; but it is more reasonable to let it mean just what it naturally expresses, and to believe that it refers to the occupation of the court of the temple, and subsequently of the city, by a lawless rabble of Idumeans and others, from between A. D. 66 and 67 to A. D. 70, the year of the destruction of the city. This was about three and a half years, and thus tallies with Daniel’s time of disaster; though it should not by any means be confounded with that period, as the passage refers to an entirely different matter occurring centuries before.

These banditti who infested the court of the temple are spoken of by Josephus in almost the very words of our Lord: “That place revered by the world and honored to the ends of the earth by aliens, to whom it is only known by report, is trampled under foot by wild beasts generated on the spot” (book iv, chap. iv). They belonged principally to a neighboring nation or ἔθνος, the Idumeans, and New Testament usage classes them as Gentiles.

The “coming with power and great glory” does not necessarily mean with outward demonstrations of energy, and with eye-dazzling brightness. Jehovah did not thus appear when he came to help David escape from his enemy Saul; yet “brightness” and “coals of fire” and “lightnings” are mentioned. So also in numerous instances in the Old Testament

The “power” which the Son of man exhibited when he made his second appearance was seen in the overthrow of the Jewish nation and their city, the reversal of former plans of divine government, and the establishment of the kingdom of God for the whole world. The “glory” was that of salvation and civilization through the preaching of the Gospel to all men, and the revelation of the grace of God in the saving of the race, begun in earnest when God became all in ALL, through the passing of the old covenant and the permanent establishment of the new covenant on “better promises.”

The sending forth of the angels is spoken of in the parables of the tares and the dragnet (Matt, xiii, 41, 49). The Son of man sends forth his angels at the end of the age (æon) to perform the great separation. The period of the parables and the prophecy is the same — συντελείᾳ του αἴωνος — the same phrase exactly being used in the parables and at the beginning of this sermon to indicate a time which is spoken of as near at hand, and not a far-distant season or period. We shall in the next chapter refer to the explanatory passage in the Apocalypse (Rev. vii, 1-3). In Matt, xvi, 27, the angels are spoken of, and also in 2 Thess. i, 7, where they take part in the great judicial scene.

Here again we are not to be misled by figurative or metaphorical expressions. We are not to imagine angelic personages visibly flying through the air or walking the earth, seizing on this one and that one, and hurrying them off to certain localities. These are events occurring in the invisible sphere, and denote the ministry of angels in carrying out the designs of the Lord in regard to those who are to be “heirs of salvation;” presumably in regard to those as well who are destined to destruction, as in the case of the army of Sennacherib and Herod Agrippa I, who were smitten to death without the angelic destroyer being visible. See 2 Kings vi, 17, where the prophet prayed that the young man’s eyes might be opened to see the invisible.

The trumpet — the summons — spiritual, of course, and not an article of brass or silver or horn — is the same as that of 1 Cor. xv, 52; 1 Thess. iv, 16; Rev. x, 7, etc., borrowed in these instances from this sermon.


The Argument from the Great Eschatological Discourse of Our Lord — Continued

“Now from the fig tree learn her parable: when her branch is now become tender, and putteth forth its leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh; even so ye also, when ye see all these things, know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you. This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

The parable given is a simple one, yet all-sufficient for its purpose — the impressing on the minds of the disciples how they might, by the same foresight exhibited about natural events, render themselves ready for the occurrence of the parousia.

Here again we cannot be too strongly impressed with the teaching that these very disciples were to be the men who should see all these things come to pass, and the very ones who needed to be warned of his coming. If these warnings were true for them, they are not true for us, and vice versa. It is not the overthrow of the temple merely that they were to expect. Of this event they were to be aware when they should see the signs Christ had previously pointed out as immediately preceding this disaster — the approach of the Roman army, etc. But now he tells them that when they see “all these things” come to pass they are to be as sure that he is nigh as that the summer is nigh when the fig tree puts forth her leaves. “Know ye that he is nigh” is the reading adopted by the revisers, and it is certainly the more correct one.

Now, how poorly adapted to the expression of the thoughts of Christ was this language if he did not wish to convey to the minds of his disciples the fact that he was to make his second advent within their lifetime; and how certain it is that he was not referring to a far-distant event, which now, after nearly twenty centuries, has not taken place, and of which there are now no more signs than there have been all through the centuries which have elapsed since he preached that memorable sermon.

As confirmatory of this view let us take the phrase “even at the doors,” and see how it is quoted by James in his epistle, written in A. D. 61, twenty-nine years after this discourse was uttered. He is warning the rich, and tells them (v, 3), “Ye have laid up your treasure in the last days” (ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις). Following, he exhorts his brethren to be faithful until the coming of the Lord; and then, in verses 8, 9, says, “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming [parousia] of the Lord is at hand. … Behold, the judge standeth before the doors.” James believed evidently that the parousia was very near, and no doubt thought of the Lord’s expression about “the doors.” He also believed that his brethren then living were to witness the parousia , so far as it was visible, and participate in its remarkable proceedings; as they did ten years afterward.

Peter personally heard Jesus deliver the discourse we consider; and in writing his epistles he has the same view of the nearness of the parousia. He says (1 Pet. iv, 5), in conformity with the thought of James, that Christ “is ready to judge the quick and the dead.” In verse 7 “the end of all things is at hand,” and in verse 17 the judge is already commencing his work, “the time is come for the beginning of judgment” (Gr.). John tells us that Christ informed him while he was on the isle of Patmos that he was standing “at the door” (Rev. iii, 20), and he speaks of “the time of the dead to be judged” (Rev. xi, 18) as one of the events which was soon to take place, or even then had come.

Verse 34 is another crucial text. The Saviour commences it with the solemn affirmation, Amen, “Verily,” that his hearers may be impressed with the importance of the utterance he is about to make, and he then utters this positive prediction, which is so assuredly decisive and determinate of the nearness of his advent.

A great controversy has raged around the phrase ἡ γενεὰ αὔτη, “this generation.” Does it mean the mass of people then living, whose lifetime would be measured by about forty years, or does it mean the Jewish race or nation?

1. If our Lord had intended to designate the nation, there was another form of this word he could have used with greater propriety, γένος, used in Mark vii, 26, “the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by race” (γένει) ; and in Gal. i, 14, “above many mine equals in my own race” (γένει).

2. If he had meant the Jewish nation, there was still another word which he might have used as more clearly expressing his meaning, ἔθνος, used by the Jews themselves when they wished to speak of themselves as a race; in Luke vii, 5, “he loveth our nation” (ἔθνος). This word is also repeatedly used by Jesus in this sense when speaking of the different races. Also in John, eleventh chapter, this word is used by the Pharisees and Caiaphas three times, when speaking of the Jews as a people; also frequently in the Acts.

3. The general sense of this word γενεὰ is fixed by its use in the first chapter of Matthew, where it is said, “All the generations from Abraham unto David are fourteen generations,” etc. Here it is certain that the meaning is, all the men of the Hebrews living within a period of about forty years.

4. Jesus uses the word frequently where it can mean no other than his contemporaries, the Jewish people of his own period, and, in fact, we may say that this is always his meaning. Instances: “All these things shall come upon this generation” (Matt, xxiii, 36); “Whereunto shall I liken this generation?” (Luke vii, 31.) No one has given the word any other meaning in these texts than this, “the people living at that period;” and Lange and Stier, advocates of the “race” theory, admit that here it refers to “the then existing last generation of Israel.” “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.” “The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation.” So the queen of the south. “Even so shall it be also unto this evil generation” (Matt, xii, 39, 41, 42, 45). An attempt has been made to show that, as the Gentiles (Ninevites, etc.) are here set in opposition to the Jews, it must be the Jewish race or nation that is here meant by “this generation;” but the generation which sought after the “sign” was the then existing generation, and it was also this generation, which resisted the preaching of John the Baptist and Christ, against which the Ninevites, etc., should rise up. “That the blood of all the prophets … may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zachariah, … it shall be required of this generation.”

Advocates of the “race” meaning admit that this refers to the then existing mass of people, but others insist that as the blood of all the prophets is spoken of it must be the race that is referred to, as it was the race which shed this blood. But certainly it was not this race which shed the blood of Abel, for he died long before the Hebrew or Jewish race commenced to be. The meaning is that the then existing generation, being so ungodly as to slay the Son of God, thereby acquired the guilt and accepted of a punishment measured by the iniquity of all these deeds of blood; as they said of Jesus, “His blood be on us and on our children.” So in the culmination of the French revolution of 1789 the punishment of all the deeds of crime and evil came on the people then living. “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me … in this adulterous and sinful generation;” “The Son of man … must … be rejected of this generation” — it is only necessary to quote these texts to show that Jesus could only refer in them to the then existing body of Jewish people.

These are all the instances in which this phrase is used by our Lord, and it is established beyond a doubt that the meaning we insist on is the meaning he intends; no other meaning is adequate to all the facts stated.

But suppose we adopt the meaning of “a race;” what significance is there in it? Did Jesus mean to say, when the inquiring disciples were gazing into his face, with intense interest depicted in their countenances, and he had told them to watch personally for his coming, that the Hebrew race would not pass away until all these things would be fulfilled? How unworthy of the hour and the theme! And how might his enemies say with truth, “Such prophesying is of a very safe kind!”

We can, then, only believe that our Lord meant to say that before forty years should elapse he would come again to receive his elect to himself. This opinion is reinforced by the following excerpts from good authorities:

“Unless we forge a meaning for the word (γενεὰ) in this place, which is not only unexampled elsewhere, but directly contrary to its essential meaning everywhere, we must understand our Lord as saying that the contemporary race or generation — that is, those then living — should not pass away till all these prophecies should be accomplished” (J. A. Alexander). “We can understand nothing else by ‘this generation’ than the contemporaries of Jesus and his disciples” (Keil). “This generation of living men” (Geikie). “Γενεὰ” (generation) is not used in the sense of nation in any one passage either in the New Testament or of profane writers” (Olshausen). “The generation of persons then living with Christ” (Denham, in Biblical Cyclopedia). “During the lifetime of the generation then living” (Meyer). (Quotations from The Parausia of Christ, Warren.)

The expression, “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” etc., is used to convey the idea of absolute certainty in regard to Christ’s words coming to pass; and not to indicate the removal of the temporary and the establishment of the permanent, as the Expositor’s Bible would have it. Christ used this expression in the Sermon on the Mount to indicate the certainty of the fulfillment of the law; and in Luke xvi, 17, he uses it in another form, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tittle of the law to fall.” This gives the correct meaning of the saying; namely, that the heavens and the earth — all created things — may pass away, the most unlikely of events may take place, but the words he spake would stand. The most uncertain of all events is used as a foil to set off the certainty of his words’ fulfillment.

After impressing the disciples with the certainty of his words’ fulfillment our Lord endeavors to impress them with the uncertainty of the day and hour of his parousia.

There are those who suppose that there is here a transition from one subject to another — from the destruction of Jerusalem to the destruction of the earth; and they teach that, while Jesus would instruct his disciples with regard to the time of the first-mentioned event, he would have them understand that in regard to the second they were to be utterly ignorant as to the time of its occurrence. But this supposition is fully shown to be incorrect by the fact that he informs his disciples in verse 42 that they are the ones who are to watch and be ready for his coming: “Watch therefore: for YE know not on what day your Lord cometh.”

And also in verse 44: “Therefore be ye also ready: for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh.”

It is well for us to attend to the reading of the original. Περὶ δὲ Τῆς ἡμερας ἐκεὶνς καὶ ὣρας, “But about that very day and hour,” is the reading. No one knew about it but the Father. In his power were put the times and the seasons (Acts i, 7); and this because only he who had perfect knowledge of all events and consequences could know the exact time for the parousia to take place.

Further, it is necessary for us to always keep in mind the important fact that the parousia was to be preceded by a time of trial which should “come upon the whole world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. iii, 10). It was to be a period of trial, judgment, and selection. All through this discourse there runs the thought that there were to be a certain number of persons elected to be saved from the dire troubles to be suffered in a few years. For the “elect’s” sake the days were to be shortened; if possible, the “elect” might be deceived; the “elect” were to be gathered together from the four winds. The preparedness of these persons was to be the criterion of their fitness for salvation, and this must be tested by a sudden coming: “Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping” (Mark xiii, 36). In order that this coming should be unexpected and in an unthought-of hour it was necessary that it should be carefully concealed in the Father’s own mind. At least this is one of the reasons we may surmise for the hiding of the exact day and hour of the Saviour’s parousia.

It is also well to note that it was the day and hour which were concealed, and not the year or the century. This shows that the parousia was to be an event limited to a very short space of time. Even the lightning’s flash is used to indicate it.

The Lord now cites, as an illustration of the suddenness with which he will make his appearance, the deluge of Noah. All the ordinary events of life were going on just before Noah entered into the ark; but when the door closed on him, then came the flood and took all away who were not protected by the ark. Yet not so suddenly but that there were forty days intervening between the first descent of water and the covering of all the high hills. So it was to be in the days of the parousia ; “as a snare” it should come “upon all them that dwell on the face of all the earth” (πάσης τῆς γῆς, all the land) — a phrase which indicates how local the event was to be, though its results, or consequents, might be felt wherever Jews or Christians might be found.

Now, from Josephus we learn that this suddenness characterized the catastrophe which signalized the end of the Jewish age. Accounting for the great number slain in the siege of Jerusalem— one million one hundred thousand — he says: “The greater part of whom were indeed of the same nation [with the citizens of Jerusalem], but not belonging to the city itself; for they were come up from all the country to the feast of unleavened bread and were on a sudden shut up by an army, which, at the very first, occasioned so great a straitness among them that there came a pestilential destruction Upon them, and soon afterward such a famine as destroyed them more suddenly’ (Whiston’s Josephus, book vi, chap, ix, sec. 3).

Some (among them Colonel Pember) have endeavored to show that the coming of the Son of man is a future event, and is to resemble the coming of the flood in that it is to take place after an age of great and universal wickedness such as preceded the deluge. But this is not the intention of our Lord’s allusion, as may be further shown by his citing, in the parallel passage in Luke, the case of the days of Lot In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah there was the same carelessness discernible which marked the days preceding the deluge, and the ordinary occupations of the people of the doomed cities are alluded to; but not a word is said about their wickedness. If it be insisted, however, that it was on account of the wickedness of the people that destruction was visited on the antediluvians and the Sodomites, we grant the contention, and contend, in turn, that we need not look to the future for a time of awful wickedness to serve as a prerequisite for the coming of the Son of man in judgment, but find it just at the time when we assert this event took place; that is, in the last days of the Jewish nationality. Most terrible was the wickedness that then abounded, as Christ says, “Because iniquity shall be multiplied” (ver. 12). Josephus says: “Had the Romans deferred the punishment of these wretches, either the earth would have opened and swallowed up the city or it would have been swept away by a deluge or have shared the thunderbolts of the land of Sodom. For it produced a race far more ungodly than those who were thus visited” Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book v, chap. xiii). “The whole nation seemed possessed with seven thousand devils” (Stier). What a remarkable commentary is this on the words of our Lord, even if the wickedness of the people be referred to!

Doubtless our Lord alludes prophetically to these facts when he relates the parable of the man with the unclean spirit who was afterward possessed by seven more wicked than the first; for he says, “Even so shall it be also unto this evil generation” (Matt, xii, 43-45; see also Rev. ix, 21).

“Then shall two men be in the field; one is taken, and one is left: two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken, and one is left.” In the parallel passage in Luke (xvii, 34) there is added: “I say unto you, In that night there shall be two men on one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.”

Let us first point out that these events are to take place in a country where men work in the field — an agricultural country; where they sleep on the housetop, from which they are not to come down to take anything out of the house; and in times when women are engaged in the domestic custom of grinding the family flour with stone hand mills. In this allusion there is a confirmation of the idea that these events took place in such a country as Palestine, where existed such a city as Jerusalem, with customs such as prevailed in the generation living at the time of our Lord’s sojourn on earth; and it is an undesigned coincidence that in the description of the Babylon of the Apocalypse, by which Jerusalem is symbolized, it is said, “And the voice of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee” (Rev. xviii, 22).

In this taking of one and leaving of another the great fact of selection is presented. The taking one of two teaches the same doctrine as is stated further along in the sermon (xxv, 31-46): that there were to be but two classes known in the parousia — the righteous and the wicked; the dividing of the sheep and the goats picturing the same scene as is given here.

Here the important and interesting doctrine of the “Rapture of the Saints” is set forth, a matter which we fully treat in a subsequent chapter.


The Argument from the Great Eschatological Discourse of Our Lord — Concluded

“Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. Therefore be ye also ready: for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh.”

Watchfulness is the great virtue and duty here enjoined on these disciples. They were to be the watchers, for in their own time the Lord might make his appearance; and readiness to meet the Lord was the one great desideratum. If it be objected that if this applies to the disciples, as those who were to be personally alive when the Lord came, therefore it cannot apply to us, we admit that it cannot apply to us in the same manner in which it applied to them. They were to be ready for a sudden event at the time of whose occurrence, if ready, they would be taken to be with the Lord. With us the readiness is to be the same, and the event which may occur at any time is the stroke of death. If we are ready, through the change which we speak of in a future chapter, we also shall be immediately with the Lord in the eternal glory. There is also an application of this teaching in regard to the necessity of watchfulness with regard to temptation: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt xxvi, 41). “Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil … walketh about,” etc. (1 Pet v, 8). Also as soldiers of Christ against all our spiritual foes, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Cor. xvi, 13). Also in regard to our easily besetting sin (Heb. xii, 1), etc., etc.

The illustration of the householder and the thief enforces the necessity of readiness and affords the basis of Paul’s words (1 Thess. v, 2, 4), and the positive application of the warning (vers. 4-6) to the very men to whom he was writing: “But ye brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief;” “So then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober.” So Christ says to the church at Sardis: “If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” (Rev. iii, 3).

Our Lord now presents three parables to enforce the great necessity of readiness for his coming. In the first (Matt, xxiv, 45-51) the faithful and wise servant represents the righteous and watchful disciple. Every duty is carefully performed; and the coming of Christ finds the faithful disciple in the very act of worship, or obedience to precept. This faithfulness is rewarded by an extension of authority. The righteous believer will be rewarded according to his works. The evil servant represents the careless believer, who is not watching for his Lord’s return but is intent on exercising brutal authority, and his heart is “overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life” (Luke xxi, 34). He is worldly, and forgets all about being prepared, religiously, to meet his righteous Judge. The Lord comes, and, finding this believer living a luxurious, sinful life, punishes him with a condign banishment from his presence and glory. Here the judgment is to come to these very disciples and end their earthly existence.

The parable of the ten virgins (chap, xxv) begins with the particle Τότε, “Then,” to show that this Mount of Olives discourse is one connected whole, and not a series of dissevered prophecies about several or even two events. As in the first parable, here are two, and only two, classes — the wise and the foolish. The foolishness of the μωραὶ is indicated by their unpreparedness in taking no oil with their lamps, and the wisdom of the φρόνιμοι in preparing for an exigency by taking oil in their vessels.

Some commentators have supposed a meaning in the slumbering and sleeping indicating the sleep of death which would come on all the nations of the globe before the coming of Christ. But this is certainly incorrect. The great doctrine enforced is the necessity of readiness on the part of those to whom the Lord addressed the discourse, as is betokened by the closing words : “Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour” (the best Greek MSS. omitting the words “wherein the Son of man cometh”).

The parable of the talents (vers. 14-30) also enforces the importance of readiness, with the additional thought that this readiness is the result of long-continued industry. The initial words, Ὥσπερ γὰρ, may be rendered, “For it is as.” There is no reference in them to “the kingdom of heaven,” a phrase introduced into the Authorized Version from the previous parable. The Lord’s meaning seems to be that, in the events to come to pass within the limits of the then existing generation, this parable would be a complete exemplification of the great obligation which rested on his followers to be sagacious and assiduous in the discharge of the duties of the Christian life, that they might be ready for the judgment. Attention has been drawn to the words, “After a long time the Lord of those servants cometh, and maketh a reckoning with them,” as though they denoted an interval of centuries between our Lord’s ascension and his parousia ; but this is certainly an unnecessary, if not a false, inference. It is to be observed that this “long time” is one related to the lifetime of a man, as being a portion of that lifetime, and need not be taken to mean more than thirty years. So in the parable of the ten virgins all the events take place within the limits of a day, or even a night time, and there is nothing in our Lord’s words to indicate that he had any intention of presenting the state of his general Church through the ages; the solemn warning was for his then present disciples.

We now come to verses 31-46, containing a description of the great judgment scene. The connection between these verses and the former part of the discourse is close, and this portion should not be considered a separate and foreign account of a distinct and far-off event The words in the Greek commencing this part of the discourse are, Ὅραν δὲ, “But when,” or, “And when;” showing that the writer and speaker considered this account as closely connected with what goes before.

This is an important and decisive portion of the discourse. If it can be proved that this describes a last general judgment limited to a day of twenty-four hours, still future, then “Futurists” gain their point, and it must be allowed that Christ speaks of what is still to come; but if it can be shown that all which Christ here predicts was probably fulfilled within that generation, then “Preterists” are sustained, and we may believe that the parousia has taken place.

Many commentators are Futurists, and believe it refers to a final judgment, when all the nations which have ever lived on the whole earth shall be simultaneously judged, and all mundane affairs come to an end by the destruction of the material earth, as supposedly described by the apostle Peter (2 Pet. iii, 10). But this view does not necessarily follow as a deduction from the words of our Lord, and we think it can be shown to be entirely inaccurate, leading to many hurtful inferences; that the opinion is preferable that this judgment did take place, or began, within the limits of the generation living at the time our Lord uttered this remarkable discourse; and that the prediction was fulfilled, in all its true meaning, about thirty-seven years after its utterance.

The coming of the Son of man here spoken of is evidently the same coming as has been predicted again and again in previous foretellings of our Lord. For instance, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke a coming is spoken of which agrees in all essential features with the one here delineated, and yet it was one which was to take place while some of those who then stood in the presence of Christ would still be living. We have collated the passages from the gospels referring to this coming in a previous chapter, and need only here say:

1. The transfiguration is not adequate as a fulfillment of these predictions.

2. Neither can it be said correctly that this coming was fulfilled at the resurrection of our Lord. Some take this view, and suppose that he came privately to his disciples, after he rose, to reveal himself and his glory to them alone. But this interpretation is too far-fetched and intricate to be credited. Neither is it adequate; for how could such a coming be a coming in the glory of the Father and with the holy angels — who, as Paul says, were to accompany the Lord Jesus in order to render vengeance on them that knew not God? (2 Thess. i, 8.)

3. Again, why should Christ use the phrase “shall” not taste of death” in regard to an event which was to occur in a twelvemonth? “This is a mode of speech which suggests that not all present will live to see the event spoken of; that not many will do so; but that some will. It is exactly such a way of speaking as would suit an interval of thirty or forty years, when the majority of the persons then present would have passed away, but some would survive and witness the event referred to” (The Parousia).

4. Neither can these collated passages relate to the day of Pentecost, for that was not a coming to judgment, nor a coming with the angels, but a coming of the Holy Spirit, in mercy, “before the great and notable day of the Lord should come” (Acts ii, 17-21).

5. Some are of the opinion that this refers to a coming at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem; but consider that coming “a type and earnest” of a final coming to which this is an occult and ulterior allusion. For this view there is not a single support in any of the words of Christ or the evangelists. Our Lord did utter ambiguous expressions, but they are always explained at once by the writers of the gospels, as in John ii, 19-21; vii, 32-36; xii, 33. If there had been a deeper or hidden meaning in the passage we consider, the evangelist would certainly have given at least a hint of it. But no such hint is given, and we are therefore left to believe that the meaning lies upon the surface of the expressions, which are to be taken in their most obvious sense.

6. It might be thought that there was intended by our Lord to be a distinction made between his coming and the coming of the kingdom; but a little reflection, with a reference to other passages, will show that one and the same event is referred to in the collated passages recently presented and in the one in review: (a) In Luke xxi, 28, our Lord tells his disciples that when the signs in the sun, moon, stars, and earth begin to come to pass they are to look up, and lift up their heads, for their redemption would then draw nigh; then in the thirty-first verse he adds, “Even so ye also, when ye see these things coming to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh.” We italicize these last words to call attention to the fact that according to Christ’s own words the kingdom of God was still to come, at least in its power, and that this kingdom would be still “at hand” when the Son of man should be seen coming in a cloud, with power and great glory (ver. 27). (See also Luke xxii, 15, for proof of this point) This fully establishes the identity of the event portrayed in the passage under consideration and of that spoken of by our Lord just before his transfiguration, (b) The Son of man as certainly comes in his kingdom in the passage we are elucidating as in the others mentioned. He sits upon the throne of his glory; he speaks to those on his right hand and left hand as the King: “Then shall the King say;” “And the King shall answer” (Matt, xxv, 34, 40) ; and his invitation to the righteous is, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom.” (c) Then it is to be noticed that in the passage Matt, xvi, 27, 28, those of the company about Jesus when he spoke of his coming in glory who were not to taste of death were to “see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” Mark the italicized words.

We now call attention to a passage already quoted, but which has a very close bearing on the positions here maintained: “But when they persecute you in this city, flee into the next: for verily I say unto you. Ye shall not have gone through the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come” (Matt, x, 23).

A close inspection of the tenth chapter of Matthew will show that it is made up of two distinct discourses to the disciples— one spoken at the time when Jesus sent forth his disciples to preach in the cities and towns of Judea, and the other spoken near the end of his ministry; probably about the same time that he delivered the discourse we are interpreting, or in conjunction with it.

Our Lord in the first years of his ministry evidently traveled much alone, and many of his addresses were made to individuals. In the second year, or year of popularity, he was accompanied at first by his disciples: “And it came to pass soon afterwards, that he went about through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good tidings of the kingdom of God, and with him the twelve” (Luke viii, 1). In the later Galilean ministry he sent forth the twelve to preach without his presence, giving them special directions how to conduct themselves in their travels. “And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two” (Matt x, i, 5; Mark vi, 7). In this mission of the disciples they were not to go in the way of the nations, and into the cities of the Samaritans they were not to enter; but were to confine their labors “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” These “nations” were not the nations of the whole earth, nor even the nations of the Roman empire, the οἰκουμένῃ, but the nations in the immediate vicinity of Palestine; more probably those within its borders of whom Josephus speaks. It was after giving his instructions to the twelve disciples, as contained in Matt, x, 5-15, that he also “departed thence to teach and preach in their cities” (Matt, xi, 1). From this mission the twelve disciples, or apostles, as they were now termed, soon returned, and told him of the works they had performed and what had occurred in their journeys (Mark vi, 30; Luke ix, 10).

After this, probably during the same year, “the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself was about to come” (Luke x, 1). The instructions given to these seventy are similar to those given to the twelve and are evidently mingled with them by Matthew, who also combines these two missions in his account; for the same reasons are given by him for the sending of the twelve that are here in Luke given only for the sending of the seventy; namely, the greatness of the harvest and the scarcity of laborers (Matt, ix, 37, 38; Luke x, 2). After sending forth these seventy Jesus goes out also to preach, but whether alone or with the twelve we do not know.

From their mission the seventy also return, and with joy, saying, “Lord, even the devils [demons] are subject to us in thy name.” Then Jesus adds some instructions which seem to be the same as those given after his resurrection, when he enlarged the mission of the disciples to the whole world (κόσμος) (Mark xvi, 17, 18); reminding us also that that commission, as stated by Matthew, was to all the nations (Matt, xxviii, 18-20).

Referring now to that part of the tenth chapter of Matthew beginning with the sixteenth verse, we notice a strong resemblance between many of its phrases and those used by our Lord in his discourse on the Mount of Olives. Collate verses 17-22 with xxiv, 9-13; Mark xiii, 9-13; Luke xxi, 12-19; John xv, 18-21; xvi, 1-4. It is obvious that Matthew has placed in the tenth chapter of his gospel words which were spoken by our Lord in his charge to the disciples just before his crucifixion, and that therefore we are justified in placing the words of the twenty-third verse of the tenth chapter in this last charge: “But when they persecute you,” etc.

We take it that the phrase “cities of Israel” does not mean merely the cities and towns of Judea, or even the cities of the whole of Palestine; but that it has a wider meaning, and refers to all those cities into which Israel had been scattered, or dispersed. This dispersion was referred to by the Pharisees when they said in response to the assertion of Jesus, “Whither I go, ye cannot come,” “Will he go unto the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks?” This Dispersion is also mentioned in James i, 1, who wrote his epistle to the “dispersion” (διασπορᾷ) also by Peter (1 Pet. i, 1, Authorized Version), “The twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (διασπορας). From this dispersed Israel came the devout men mentioned Acts ii, 5: “Devout men, from every nation under heaven.”

It might have taken the disciples thirty-seven years to have thoroughly evangelized all the cities of the land of Palestine; but if it is objected that this work could have been done in a much shorter time, and that therefore it must have been “finished” long before the destruction of Jerusalem took place, we reply that, taking the phrase “cities of Israel” with the allowable and much more probable meaning we have assigned it, it is evident it was a work which could not have been, and was not, “finished” when the city of Jerusalem was destroyed, the age ended, and when our Lord appeared “in the glory of his Father and his holy angels.”

“And before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats.”

This verse has been considered an indisputable proof of a judgment, now still future, in which all the nations of the round earth are to be assembled before the judgment seat of Christ for a great final adjustment of the affairs of this world at the end of its duration as a planet. But close attention to the terms used by our Lord, and a calm consideration of the verses which follow, may show us that this is by no means the necessary or explicit teaching of this text.

Much depends on the meaning given the phrase “all nations” (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη) — “all the nations,” as the revisers correctly render it.

  1. The use of the definite article points to certain particular nations, and these probably the nations to which the disciples were to go preaching the Gospel in the name of Christ, and representing him in their individual persons.
  2. The equivalent Hebrew word,גּוֹי , goi — plural, goyim — is used repeatedly in the Old Testament for the tribes expelled from Canaan by the Israelites Qosh. xxiii, 3, et seq.).
  3. The phrase “all the nations” has its parallel in the phrase “all the tribes of the earth” (Matt, xxiv, 30; Rev. i, 7); the latter erroneously rendered in the Authorized Version “all the kindreds of the earth.”
  4. Universal propositions and phrases are used in the Scriptures in a restricted sense; as when Jesus says, in this very sermon, “Except those days had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved.” The great tribulation about which Jesus was speaking when uttering this expression was confined to Judea; or, at least, to Judea and the lands in its immediate vicinity.
  5. Abraham was to be the father of many nations (Gen. xvii, 5; Rom. iv, 17, 18), and yet the Scriptures confine the meaning to the twelve tribes of Israel.
  6. “In our Lord’s time it was usual to speak of the inhabitants of Palestine as of several nations. Josephus speaks of the ‘nation of the Samaritans;’ ‘the nation of the Batanseans;’ ‘the nation of the Galileans;’ using the very word, ἔθνος, which we find in the passage before us. Judea, Samaria, Idumea, Galilee, Peraea, Batanaea, Trachonitis, Iturea, and Abilene were separate nations; having at times rulers of their own, kings or ethnarchs, nation rulers.”
  7. The command of our Lord, “Go, teach all nations,” was probably not understood by the apostles to mean a mission to all the inhabitants of the globe; for they did not act upon it as such a command. The words of our Lord evidently conveyed no such meaning to their minds. Professor Burton, in his Bampton Lectures, says: “It was not until fourteen years after our Lord’s ascension that St. Paul traveled for the first time and preached the Gospel to the Gentiles, nor is there any evidence that during that period the other apostles passed the confines of Judea.”
  8. The apostles were greatly surprised when the Gentiles believed, exclaiming in their wonder, “Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life” (Acts xi, 18).
  9. Peter did not vindicate his conduct, in going in unto men uncircumcised, by pointing to the Gospel commission; and it needed a special vision to convince him that preaching to the Gentiles was allowable.

By the phrase “all the nations,” then, is presumably meant all the nations of Palestine and vicinity; though there may be also the teaching that all nations of the inhabited earth now came under the supervision and judicial authority of Christ; and that he would, from the time of his parousia, proceed to judge all peoples as they might appear on the scene of human action.

The singular test used at this judgment shows that it was not of a universal character, and certainly did not include in its field the nations which had existed previous to Christ’s first advent, or those who had never heard of Christ through the preaching of his apostles or ministers. This test or criterion consists of the treatment these nations had given him in the person of his brethren, those whom he had sent forth to preach his Gospel or whom he had chosen to represent him as partakers of his life and Spirit. The sheep represent those who had shown him kindness, and the goats those who had neglected to do so. This test could not have justly been applied to people who had never heard of Christ; neither could it apply to nations where Christianity has been powerful and flourishing, and where the followers of Christ have not suffered hunger, thirst, nakedness, sickness, and imprisonment on his account, and where, consequently, they could not be relieved from the effects of severe persecution.

But if we consider that it is the rejected “King of Israel” who is the judge, and the last and worst generation of guilty Israelites who are the culprits, then all is plain, and the judgment scene is in perfect accord with the charge of Jesus Christ when he sent forth his disciples to preach: “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matt. x, 40-42). There may be also the wider application that Christ now establishes, as a law to govern him in all future adjudication in his kingdom, that love for him, in his own person or in the person of his followers, shall be the grand criterion whereby everybody shall be judged from the time of his parousia.

We therefore conclude that those who here appear before the throne of the Son of man are the nations of Palestine, the individuals of which received or rejected him in the person of his brethren, and that the rejecters stood there to be judged and doomed, according to Matt, xxii, 6, 7, while the receivers of his disciples entered into the kingdom.

But this may represent also the initiation of the reign of “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and the Lord of lords,” who, sitting on his everlasting throne, assumes the authority of Judge as well as King, and continues his decisions through the reign which is to become universal and have no end.

We are to be careful not to be misled by the figurative and symbolic language of this graphic description. The costume is rich, and heavy with ornament. We are to remember there is no actual, material throne, no visible attendant angels, no audible sound of trumpet, no words really proceeding from the mouth of a bodily and visible Christ, no separation of persons and the placing of them in different localities, no verbal replies from the judged to the Judge. All these belong to the costume of the narration. When divested of rhetorical and parabolic drapery it becomes this: that Christ would invisibly sit in judgment, and all would have to answer to him to whom all judgment was committed (John v, 22, 23). (We treat the matter more fully in Chapter v, Part II, “The Judgment.”)

Thus it must be obvious to all unprejudiced minds that this inimitable prophetic discourse of our Lord does not necessarily teach that Christ will make a still future appearance, or that its expressions and phrases demand a dissolution of our material globe and a consequent cessation of all earthly affairs in order to their fulfillment. All its propositions and assertions are compatible with a belief in the parousia of Christ as a past event, and many of them prove it to have been such.


The Argument from the Apocalypse

We now proceed to a consideration of the book of the Revelation for the purpose of verifying and confirming the positions we have taken in the previous chapters in regard to the parousia as a past event.

The Apocalypse has been a puzzle and a perplexity to many people, even commentators professing their inability to understand it. Jerome said, “The book has as many mysteries as words;” Augustine, “It is full of obscurities;” Luther, “It is a dumb prophecy;”Adam Clarke, “I cannot pretend to explain the book; I do not understand it.” This confusion has arisen in great part from incorrect opinions in regard to the design of the book. Some have thought that it contained an abstract of all ecclesiastical history to the end of time — the school of the continuous Historical interpreters. They have sought to find in the symbols and visions of the book descriptions of all the principal events in Church history in the past, an epitome, at least, of what is occurring at present, and a prophecy of what will take place in the future. This has resulted in forcing most improper and romantic meanings on many of the figurative expressions of the book.

Another class of interpreters is called the Futurist school. They believe that very little of the book has been fulfilled, and that the future will disclose and make plain what may now be hidden and obscure. The Preteristic school (named from the Latin word praeter, past) takes the position that all, or nearly all, the events related or predicted in the book have already taken place. Scholars of this school believe that the frequent statements of the book itself, as to the immediateness of the events it predicts, give the key to its perfect interpretation.

No one is more competent to speak of the character and value of these different schools of interpretation than Dean Farrar, of the Church of England, an eminent scholar and a sincere investigator, who says, in his Early Days of Christianity, page 431 : “The Futurist school has always been numerically small, and at present may be said to be nonexistent. The school of Historical interpreters was founded by the Abbot Joachim early in the thirteenth century, and was specially flourishing in the first fifty years of the present century. (Note: Some scholars make Revelation a history of the Church; others, a history of the world.) The views of the Preterists have been adopted, with various shades of modification, by Grotius, Hammond, Le Clerc, Bossuet, Eichhom, Hug, Wetsteih, Ewald, Herder, Zullig, Bleek, De Wette, Lücke, Moses Stuart, Davidson, Volkmar, Krenkel, Dusterdieck, Renan, and almost the whole school of modem German critics and interpreters.” To these may be added the names of a number of other American scholars, among whom are Milton S. Terry, D.D., of Evanston, and the late Professor Cowles, of Oberlin.

Dean Farrar then alludes to the common idea that the Spanish Jesuit Alcazar (1614) was the founder of the Preterist school, and adds: “But to me it seems that the founder of the Preterist school is none other than St. John himself; for he records the Christ as saying to him, when he was in the Spirit, Write the things which thou sawest, and the things which are, and the things which are about to happen (ἃ μἐλλει γενέσθαι) after these things’ (Rev. i, 19). No language surely could more clearly define the bearing of the Apocalypse. It is meant to describe the contemporary state of things in the Church and the world, and the events which were to follow in immediate sequence … The seer emphatically says that the future events which he has to foreshadow will occur speedily (ἐν τάχει), and the recurrent burden of his whole book is the nearness of the Advent (ὁ καιρὸς ἐγγύς). Language is simply meaningless if it is to be so manipulated by every successive commentator as to make the words ‘speedily’ and ‘near’ imply any number of centuries of delay.”

Dean Farrar then shows that a number of the Christian fathers held to the Preteristic interpretation, that Augustine and others recognized the partially retrogressive and iterative character of the later visions, and thereby sanctioned one of the most important principles of modem interpretation, and adds: “If, however, the reader still looks with prejudice and suspicion on the only school of Apocalyptic exposition which unites the suffrages of the most learned recent commentators in Germany, France, and England, I hardly know where he is to turn. The reason why the early date and mainly contemporary explanation is daily winning fresh adherents among unbiased thinkers of every Church and school is partly because it rests on so simple and secure a basis, and partly because no other can compete with it. It is indeed the only system which is built on the plain and repeated statements and indications of the seer himself, and the corresponding events are so closely accordant with the symbols as to make it certain that this scheme of interpretation is the only one that can survive.”

He then shows the utter absurdity of other systems, instancing the case of the locusts: “They are ‘heretics’ (Bede); or Goths (Vitringa); or Vandals (Aureolus); or Saracens (Mede) ; or the mendicant orders (Brightman); or the Jesuits (Scherzer); or Protestants (Bellarmine);” and proceeds: “It is needless to multiply further instances. They might be multiplied almost indefinitely, but their multiplicity is not so decisive of the futility of the principles on which they are selected as is the diversity of results, which are wider than the poles asunder. What are we to say of methods which leave us to choose between the applicability of a symbol to the Holy Spirit or to Pope Gregory; to the two Testaments or the Emperor Theodosius? Anyone, on the other hand, who accepts the Preterist system finds a wide and increasing consensus among competent inquirers of all nations, and can see an explanation of the book which is simple, natural, and noble; one which closely follows its own indications and accords with those to be found throughout the New Testament. He sees that events mainly contemporary provide an interpretation clear in its outlines, though necessarily uncertain in minor details. If he takes the view of the Spiritualists [those who spiritualize the visions and symbols], he may, at his pleasure, make the symbols mean anything in general and nothing in particular. If he is of the Historical school, he must let the currents of Gieseler or Gibbon sweep him hither and thither at the will of the particular commentator in whom for the time he may chance to confide. But if he follows the guidance of a more reasonable exegesis, he may advance with a sure step along a path which becomes clearer with every fresh discovery” (Early Days of Christianity, page 435).

Again, “It may be laid down as a rule, to which there is no exception, that the commentator who approaches the Apocalypse without the fullest knowledge of the fact that in its tone and symbols it bears a very close analogy to a multitude of other Apocalyptic books, both Jewish and Christian, is sure to go utterly astray. But if he knows the symbols and their significance, not only from the Old Testament, but also from seeing how the imagery of the Old Testament was applied in the first century to contemporary events, he will be prepared to see that, to the original readers of the Apocalypse at any rate, the book had and could have but one meaning, and that the intended meaning is partially discoverable by those who do not read its visions through the ecclesiastical veil of unnatural and fantastic hypotheses” (ibid., page 437).

Another matter of great importance in considering the Apocalypse is the date of the book. A great controversy has raged over this matter, but it seems to be now very generally considered that the earlier date should be preferred.

Farrar says: “We cannot accept a dubious expression of the Bishop of Lyons [Irenaeus] as adequate to set aside an overwhelming weight of evidence, alike external and internal, in proof of the fact that the Apocalypse was written, at the latest, soon after the death of Nero.” Again, “But while the date may be fixed with much probability, it cannot be fixed with certainty. All that can be asserted is that the book was written before the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple. This is clear from the beginning of the eleventh chapter. The temple is there spoken of as still standing, in language which closely resembles, and indeed directly refers to, the language of our Lord in his great eschatological discourse.” Again, “The internal evidence that the book was written before the fall of Jerusalem has satisfied not only many Christian commentators who are invidiously stigmatized as ‘rationalistic,’ but even such writers as Wetstein, Lücke, Neander, Stier, Auberlen, Ewald, Bleek, Gebhardt, Immer, Davidson, Düsterdieck, F. D. Maurice [J. Stuart Russell, the author of The Parousia], Dean Plumptre, the authors of the Protestanten Bibel, and multitudes of others no less entitled to the respect of all Christians” (ibid., pages 408, 412, 434).

With this agrees Dr. Milton S. Terry in his brochure, Plan and Scope of the Apocalypse of John: “We adopt this early date with a thorough conviction that the internal evidences in favor of it far outweigh the single statement of Irenaeus, and all else that can be said in favor of the opinion that it was written after the fall of the great city and temple of Jerusalem.”

Other considerations confirming this view are: (1) The Lord’s day in which John found himself was evidently not the first day of the week, there being no passage in the New Testament where that day is termed the Lord’s day, but the “day of the Lord” so frequently mentioned in the apostolic writings; there being no difference whatever between ἡ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ the expression used in the original of Rev. i, 10, and ἡ ἡμὲρᾳ κυρίου, the expression used in 1 Cor. i, 8; 1 Thess. v, 2; and 2 Pet. iii, 10 ( The parousia ). (2) The imminence of the great Neronic persecution (Rev. iii, 10). (3) That evidently the book is an elaboration of the sermon on the Mount of Olives. Says Dr. Terry: “The theme of the Apocalypse is identical with that of Jesus, as reported in Mark xiii and the parallels in Matthew and Luke, when, in answer to the disciples’ question, he spoke of the sign of his coming and the end of the age” (Plan, etc., page 6). J. Stuart Russell, in The parousia , says: “The Apocalypse is nothing else than a transfigured form of the prophecy made on the Mount of Olives,” Dean Farrar writes, alluding to the sermon on Olivet, “In the very discourse on which the Apocalypse is an expanded and symbolic commentary” (Early Days, etc., page 410).

This being admitted — and a close comparison will inevitably establish the similarity, and consequently show why John, who was one who heard Jesus on Olivet, did not mention that sermon in his gospel — and the assertion of the book itself accepted, that it is a prophecy (Rev. xxii, 18, 19), to place its writing after the destruction of Jerusalem would be to rob it of its professed character and make it utterly incapable of satisfactory interpretation.

Another matter of very grave importance in its influence on religious thought, and in the interpretation of eschatological passages in other books of the New Testament, is the position of the book of Revelation in the canon. Great loss, intense confusion, grave misapprehensions, and endless difficulties are occasioned by placing last in the canon a book which is probably earliest of the now last nine books, and of thus closing the Bible with the material symbols and terrible scenes, visions, and noises of Revelation rather than with the gospel of John or his first epistle. (See Farrar.)

Having now ascertained (1) that interpretation of the Apocalypse to be the preferable one which allows all its events to have taken place; (2) that its true date is in or near the reign of Nero ; (3) that it is in all probability a graphic elaboration of the discourse of Christ on Olivet; and (4) that it should come before several other books in the canon — let us consider especially its teachings in regard to the second advent of our Lord, and show how it proves this momentous occurrence to be a past event.

The keynote of the book — indeed we may say its thesis — is the seventh verse of the first chapter: “Behold, he cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they which pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over him. Even so. Amen.” The word “and” after the words “shall see him” is καὶin the Greek, and is an instance of the use of what is called the epexegetical καὶ, or explanatory καὶ, equal to “that is,” or “even;” this being one of its generally accepted meanings. So read, “Every eye shall see him, even those which pierced him,” indicating that the crucifiers of our Lord would live to see his coming; for this could not be asserted of them if they were to die before that event, as it is fixed by 1 Thess. iv, i6, that the Lord was to descend from heaven before the dead were raised.

The second annotation we make on this important text is in regard to the phrase “tribes of the earth.” In the Authorized Version of the Bible we have the reading “kindreds of the earth” which leads to a supposition that all the nations of the globe are meant. But neither this nor the improved reading of the revisers is exactly the correct translation of the original. It should be “tribes of the land,” πᾶσαι αἱ φυλαὶ τῆς γῆς; meaning, as in other parts of the book, the tribes of the children of Israel then residing in Palestine. The reference is to Zech. xii, lo, 12: “And they shall look unto me whom they have pierced: and they shall mourn for him. … And the land shall mourn, every family apart.” This rendering also fixes the period of this mourning as one before the great deportation of the tribes by the conquering Romans.

Third, “Every eye shall see him” does not refer to the certainty of his being beheld by every person ever born, but to the publicity of the parousia, which was to be an event known throughout the habitable world.

We here point out also that by this seeing might have been meant a perception rather than an ocular view, as in Matt, xxvi, 64: “Henceforth ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The word “hereafter” is the Authorized Version translation of the Greek phrase ἀπʼ ἄρτι, which means from just now, from this moment, and is therefore much more properly translated by the revisers of the New Testament, “henceforth.” So the reading should give this sense: “From this time on ye shall see the Son of man invested with divine power and coming with heavenly influences.” For they certainly were not actually, with their bodily eyes, to see him sitting “at the right hand of power” any more than they were to so see such a hand itself. Figurative language prevails in both these passages, and it must not be too literally rendered.

Similar expressions are found in the Old Testament: “The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isa. lii, 10). Here the meaning is not certainly that all the nations should see with their bodily eyes a great bare arm in the sky, but that the people of all the nations should perceive that God was working among them and that his salvation should be experienced by those afar off; with the idea of general universality, yet not necessarily including every individual. “And thou, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are upon thee” (i Kings i, 20) — that is, all Israel are waiting with great attention for David’s decision. “The eyes of all wait upon thee” (or look unto thee, Authorized Version margin) (Psa. cxlv, 15). “And I will magnify myself, and sanctify myself, and I will make myself known in the eyes of many nations” (Ezek. xxxviii, 23). This was in the day of judgment on Gog. (See previous verses.) The whole passage has a figurative meaning. “For the eye of man and of all the tribes of Israel is toward the Lord” (Zech. ix, 1). This may be the original from whence the expression of Revelation was taken, and the idea here is certainly not of ocular regard, but of mental attention. We produce another New Testament passage: “Before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified” (Gal. iii, 1). The people of Galatia had not seen Jesus crucified with their bodily eyes; still, they saw him by his being presented in the preaching of Paul (ver. 2). (For more on this subject see Chapter xv, Part I, of this book.)

But the immediateness and certainty of the parousia of Christ is the great theme of this verse, and consequently the loud warning, “Behold! He comes!” So all through the book this is the constant and special topic of the revelator.

In the sixth chapter, verses 12-17, the great day of the wrath of the Lamb comes, and he appears in some manner, for the kings of the land (γῆ) and others call on the mountains and rocks to fall on them, to hide them from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. This phraseology indicates that neither appearance, of the Father or of the Son, is a bodily appearance; and it also fixes the locality as the land of Palestine, with its many caves to which the people fled in their desire to escape from the Roman army.

In the tenth chapter we have another account of the appearance of our Lord; he is described as a mighty angel, or messenger, “arrayed with a cloud” — shrouded or veiled; the descriptive imagery agreeing with that of chap, i, 14, 15, and deciding the personality, which is evidently the same as that of 1 Thess. iv, 16. In chap, xiv, I, there is the third statement regarding the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is represented as the Lamb surrounded by the one hundred and forty and four thousand who have his Father’s name written on their foreheads.

Another description of the parousia is given in chap, xiv, 14-20. One like unto the Son of man sits on a cloud, and reaps the land; the figure reminding us of the language of John the Baptist (Matt, iii, 12), and of our Saviour’s own words in the parable of the tares of the field (Matt, xiii, 30, 41).

Yet another description of the second advent of our Lord is given in chap, xix, 11-16, where heaven opens and the Faithful and True One appears. He comes in judgment — “he doth judge;” he comes in his kingdom, indicated by his “many diadems,” or crowns; he appears as the crucified One, wearing the vesture dipped in blood; he comes with his saints riding “white horses;” and he comes in wrath, for “he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.” Then the descent of the angel for the purpose of binding Satan may be considered as a representation of the coming of the Angel of the Covenant to repress the devil and inaugurate the thousand years of rest from national persecution (chap, xx, 1-3). Again, the appearance of the great white throne and the judgment of the dead (chap, xx, 11-13) corresponds in some particulars with the description of the judgment in Matt. xxv, 31-46, and reminds us of the words of Paul (Acts xvii, 31) when he informs the Athenians that God is about to judge the world by Jesus Christ. Then we have such direct and explicit assertions as these from the mouth of Christ himself: “Behold, I come as a thief” (chap, xvi, 15); “Behold, I come quickly” (chap, xxii, 7; “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me to render to each man according as his work is” (chap, xxii, 12); “He which testifieth these things saith, Yea : I come quickly. Amen: come, Lord Jesus” (chap, xxii, 20).

This glorious coming of the Lord Jesus being, then, the prominent and persistent theme of the book, we not only must consider it as one of “the things which must shortly come to pass” (chap, i, 1), but the principal event which was about to transpire, and which did transpire shortly — “quickly” — after the book was written.

Let close attention be given to the fact that the book of Revelation contains “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show unto his servants, even the things which must shortly come to pass” (chap, i, 1), and that it asserts: “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things which are written therein: for the time is at hand,” Also: “These words are faithful and true: and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly come to pass. And behold, I come quickly. Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book.” Also: “Write therefore the things which thou sawest, and the things which are [now happening], and the things which shall come to pass hereafter” — that is, the things which shall come to pass after these things which are (chap, i, 19). And still again, “Seal not up the words of the prophecy of this book; for the time is at hand” (xxii, 6, 7, 10). Here the word for “at hand” is ἐγγύς, as in i, 3. Liddell and Scott give the meaning as regards time to be “near at hand, soon” (Lexicon, in loco). The phrase “must shortly come to pass” is in Greek, δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει, “must necessarily be immediately.”

This language certainly teaches with positiveness that the things written about were to occur within a short space of time, and that the readers and hearers of the words of the book were to understand what it was telling about; for how could they “keep the things written therein” unless they had a clear perception of those things? Again, the blessing which was to come to him who read and those who heard was made to depend upon the very fact that the time of this occurrence was extremely near, and they were to keep themselves, for this reason, in constant readiness: “Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (xvi, 15).

This close proximity of the date of occurrence is the chief point of these and other passages and phrases, and to more imperatively enforce this idea the words of the first chapter regarding this nearness are carefully repeated in the last chapter; and also to show that this time principle applies to all that is written in the book. The Lord’s coming is, as we have seen, one of the things positively prophesied, and its immediateness is insisted on again, again, and again. Language, therefore, has no meaning if these assertions do not teach that the parousia was close at hand when John wrote the book of Revelation.

The argument, then, is this:

  1. As the things which are written of in the book of Revelation were to take place at once; and,
  2. As the coming of the Lord was one of those things — the main thing written about — therefore,
  3. We are under the imperative necessity of believing that the Lord did come in power and glory within the years immediately succeeding the writing of the book; or,
  4. We stultify ourselves by denying the plain and positive statements of an inspired writer, who professes to be the actual mouthpiece of Jesus Christ.


Other Statements of the Apocalypse Adjusted

To this plain and positive doctrine of the parousia we now proceed to adjust the statements of the Apocalypse with regard to other facts and events.

Dr. Terry divides the book into two main parts: (1) The Revelation of the Lamb, i-xi; (2) the Revelation of the Bride, xii-xxii. But we prefer the plan of J. Stuart Russell, A.M., presented in his able work, The Parousia. He says about the book : “The plan of its construction is simple, and almost self-evident. The number seven governs it throughout.” He then proceeds to give an arrangement which we reproduce, presenting also a condensed epitome of his views:

Section Passage
Prologue i, 1-8.
1. Vision of the Seven Churches i, 9-iii.
2. Vision of the Seven Seals iv-vii
3. Vision of the Seven Trumpets viii-xi
4. Vision of the Sun-clad Woman xii-xiv
5. Vision of the Seven Vials (Bowls) xv, xvi
6. Vision of the Great Harlot xvii-xx
7. Vision of the Bride xxi, xxii, 1-5
Epilogue xxii, 6-21

There are also subordinate divisions. All the divisions have a common structural resemblance, and each concludes with a finale — an act of judgment or a scene of victory. The most remarkable feature is that these visions are only varied representations of the same facts or events. They are not telescopic, but kaleidoscopic. As Pharaoh’s dream was one, though seen under two different forms, so the visions of the Apocalypse are one, though presented in seven different aspects. “For that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice, it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass” (Gen. xli, 32). In like manner the events foreshadowed in the Apocalypse are declared by their sevenfold repetition to be sure and near (The Parousia, pages 377, 378).

The first vision, the messages to the seven churches, was evidently written for the emboldening and comforting of the Christian churches of Asia Minor, and they have a direct and personal application to those churches which they can never have to any other. These messages are all divisible into seven parts, and each of them alludes to an imminent crisis; and it would deprive the words of all significance if they refer to a consummation which has not yet taken place.

The second vision, that of the seven seals, presents war and its concomitants. Not the age-long conquests of imperial Rome; for the seven churches could not investigate the pages of Gibbon or any other great historian for these events; but they refer to events which were just about to occur in their own vicinity. The first seal is broken, and the Jewish war in the reign of Nero, A. D. 66, under Vespasian, commences. The opening of the second seal shows peace taken from the land of Palestine, and the war approaching Jerusalem. The third shows famine following on the heels of war and slaughter. To hurt the oil and the wine refers to the Jews acting unjustly (ἀδικήσῃς) with regard to the oil and wine reserved for sacred uses in the temple (Whiston’s Josephus, book v, chap, xiii, sec. 6). The fourth shows the ghastly specters of Death and Hades following the train of the war and the consequent famine. The fifth changes to the temple, and under the altar of sacrifice are seen the souls of those slain for the word of God. On Jerusalem was to come all the blood of the prophets. The disciples of Christ were to be delivered to death. These souls are the elect of our Lord’s parable of the unjust judge (Luke xviii, 1-8), and the account elucidates 1 Pet. iv, 6, where the Greek reads, “For, for this cause a comforting message was brought even to the dead, that they though condemned in the flesh by man’s judgment should live in the Spirit by the judgment of God.” (This view is elaborated by Russell in The parousia , pages 394-396.)

The sixth seal brings the catastrophe, the great and terrible day of the Lord, so precisely described by Jesus on the Mount of Olives (Luke xxi, 11 ; xxiii, 30; Matt, xxiv, 7, 29). The kings of the land, βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς, are the rulers of Judea who flee to the caves common in that country, as we have seen (page 104).

The action is now suspended till the elect of God are sealed — the chosen of the Jewish nation who have accepted Christ. (See our exegesis of Matt, xxiv.)

The vision of the seven trumpets goes over much the same ground as the vision of the seals, and we are to remember that it is Israel — Judea — Jerusalem, on which the prophet is gazing.

The fifth trumpet reveals the hosts of hell swarming out upon the curse-stricken land of Israel. Jesus, in Matt, xii, 43-45 compares the generation of the Jewish people then existing to a demon-infested man repossessed by a sevenfold force of devils; and Josephus says, “No generation ever existed more prolific in crime.” Stier observes: “In the period between the ascension of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem this nation shows itself, one might say, as if possessed by seven thousand devils” (Life of Jesus).

The sixth trumpet shows the loosing of the angels, which is equivalent to the mobilization of the Roman legions stationed at the Euphrates, which were four in number, and the gathering of the auxiliary forces which assisted the Romans in the reduction of Jerusalem and the subjugation of the Jews. These were composed of cavalry — fierce, fiendish hordes of barbarian horsemen. (See Conybeare and Howson’s St. Paul, chap, xxii; and Josephus, Wars, book v, chap, i; and Tacitus, History, book li, sec. i.) The four angels were not prepared for an hour, a day, etc. ; but for the hour, the day, etc.— destined of God to do a special work at a certain time.

At the tenth chapter the action is again interrupted by the introduction of episodes. The mighty angel is, no doubt, as we have shown, the Saviour himself. The name Archangel belongs to Christ, as does Archegos, Archiereus, Archipoimen. He is the Michael of Daniel, who is identified with the Messiah (Dan. xii, 1). His voice wakes the dead, as in 1 Thess. iv, i6. He is a divine person, for he says, “I will give unto my two witnesses” (xi, 3). The Apocalypse was probably known to the Thessalonians, and Paul evidently alludes to this description.

This glorious personage does not swear “that there shall be time no longer,” but swears that the time shall not be delayed, or, rather, “that the time shall not be now (ὅτι χρόνος οὐκέτι), but in the days of the voice [sounding] of the seventh trumpet or angel, then the mystery of God shall be finished, or completed, as he hath declared, or evangelized, to his servants the prophets.” This refers us to the sixth chapter, where the comforting declaration is made to the souls under the altar, the souls of the slain prophets (Matt, xxiii, 34, 37).

We quote from Russell: “Lastly, observe the period indicated in this comforting announcement (εὐαγγέλιον). It is ‘in the days of the voice [sound] of the seventh angel that the mystery of God shall be finished.’ Turn to chap, xi, 18, which describes the result of the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and what do we find? It is declared there, ‘Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets.’ How perfectly this coincides with the statements in 1 Pet. iv, 6, as well as those in Rev. vi, 9-1 1, and how obviously they refer to the same period and the same event hardly needs to be pointed out. It raises probability to certainty, and demonstrates the truth of the explanation already given, by a subtle and recondite correspondence which will bear the most minute and critical inspection” ( The parousia ).

We come now to the eleventh chapter. The measuring of the temple shows that it was still standing when the book was written, and the same measuring denotes that it is about to be destroyed, as in Lam. ii, 7, 8; Isa. xxxiv, 11; and Amos vii, 7-9. The court without the temple was “cast out” (Greek), because it was already desecrated, being in possession of a band of Zealots and Idumeans who were as members of other nations (ἔθνη), “Gentiles,” treading it under foot, as they trod the whole city underfoot forty and two months, or one thousand two hundred and sixty days. Josephus describes this event in his Wars of the Jews, book iv, chap. v. The last fatal struggle began when Nero sent Vespasian to put down the rebellion. This was early in the year A. D. 67, and in August, A. D. 70, the city and temple were a heap of smoking ashes. (See Russell, in loco.)

The two witnesses were, as Alford says, “individual men, well known, and distinct in their individuality.” The author of The Parousia is of the opinion that these two men were Peter and James, and also that Peter was never in Rome, the persuasions of the early and Roman Church to the contrary notwithstanding. He was a citizen of Jerusalem, and includes himself among the number of those who were in the city at the beginning of the judgment at the house of God, the worshipers in the temple: “And if it begin first at us” etc, words which declare him to have been in Jerusalem just before its destruction. With regard to James, we know from the historian Hegesippus that he perished as a martyr in the last days of Jerusalem.

The vision of the woman clothed with the sun presents the trials of the persecuted Church, the Church of the apostolic days, the Church of Judea, the Hebrew Christian Church in the closing days of the Jewish age.

The man child represents, not the Lord Jesus Christ, but the mass of the members of that Church, and the being “caught up unto God, and unto his throne,” refers to the rapture of the saints, which Jesus speaks of when he says, “One is taken and one is left”

The dragon which now appears upon the scene is that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which instigated the Jews to persecute these Christian Hebrews, represented by the woman which fled into the wilderness; perhaps alluding to the flight from the devoted city of those who believed in Christ according to the command, “Come forth, my people, out of her, that ye have no fellowship with her sins” (xviii, 4). The first wild beast seen, rising up out of the sea, is now generally admitted to be Nero, the impersonation of the Roman imperial power (see our remarks on this question in Chapter XVI); and the second wild beast, rising up out of the earth, represents Gessius Florus, who impersonated the officiary and priesthood of the Roman empire, so potent for evil against the Jews in the last days of their nationality.

Dean Farrar, however, presents a strong claim for Vespasian as the second wild beast. He was from the heathen world; his language and nature were lamb-like compared with those of Nero and Caligula; he had two sons, men of mark, who may have been symbolized by the two horns; he used the language of paganism, full of craft and deception; he was the visible delegate of the first beast; he made the earth worship the first beast, Nero— this was Vespasian’s mission to the East; he stamped his soldiers with the image of the beast — the brand of service; and he forbade all to buy and sell who had not the mark of the beast by getting possession of Alexandria and its corn ships and forbidding all exports of wheat from that city, thus starving Rome to accept his “mark of the beast”— that is, his claim to be emperor.

Others think the “mark of the beast” was the slave brand whereby house servants were marked, and still others that it was the forehead mark of idol worshipers. Certain it is that it has no reference whatever to the pope or the keeping of Sunday as the Sabbath, as some absurdly suppose.

In the vision of the Lamb on Mount Zion we have the contrast to the vision of the wild beast ruling as vicegerent of the dragon.

Three angels now fly across the field of vision. The first has an eternal Gospel to preach, and his work fulfills the prediction of our Lord when he said, “This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt, xxiv, 14). This prophecy is here fulfilled, as one of the events which was shortly to come to pass, and is not, therefore, something still to take place in the future. A second angel predicts the fall of Babylon; and a third denounces the wrath of God on all idol worshipers, while a voice from heaven pronounces, in contrast, “Blessed are the dead who are dying in the Lord from henceforth: to the end that they may rest from their labors [persecutions] and their works [or results of their works, possessions] follow with them.” (See the Greek.)

This “henceforth” (ἀπʼ ἄρτι) is the emphatic word, and signifies that a peculiar blessedness belongs to all who die in the Lord after a certain specified period. (See this subject more fully treated in Chapter I of Part II.)

Now we have another description of the parousia as a denouement of this vision. The harvest denotes the salvation of God’s elect people; the vintage of the land, the destruction of his enemies. The winepress is trodden without the city of Jerusalem, and blood like a river comes from it. The words of Jeremiah are fulfilled: “The Lord hath trodden as in a winepress the virgin daughter of Judah” (Lam. i, 15). The horses of the Roman invaders of Judea may be said to have swam in blood in that dreadful carnage, which, as related by Josephus, exceeded all that is recorded in the sanguinary annals of warfare, and the sea of blood extended throughout the land of Palestine, about “one thousand and six hundred furlongs.”

The visions of the trumpets and the vials, or bowls, are parallel. The first four vials, like the first four trumpets, affect the natural world, as our Lord said (Luke xxi, 25, 26): “There shall be signs in sun and moon and stars; and upon the earth,” etc. Josephus says that the destruction of Jerusalem was preceded by portents of the most alarming kind. The third vial is poured out on the rivers, and they are turned to blood. The Jewish people shed the blood of the saints and prophets, and said of Christ, “His blood be on us, and our children,” and God “gave them blood to drink.” The fifth vial had effect in the invisible sphere. The sixth vial affected the Euphrates, drying it up so it would be easy for the kings of the East, such as Antiochus and Sohemus, to join their forces with the Romans for the destruction of the Jews and their city. The seventh vial denotes the end. “It is done!” — γέγονεν — All is over! The great city (Jerusalem) is divided into three parts by an earthquake, denoting the great political dispartation of the Jews into three strongly marked parties, during the war, and the great hail symbolizing the stones thrown by the ballistae of the Romans. “The stones that were thrown were of the weight of a talent” ( Josephus, book v, chap. vi).

The sixth vision shows the harlot city. The majority of commentators make this city to symbolize Rome, but a more probable view is that taken by Dr. Terry and others — that it means Jerusalem the old, in contrast with Jerusalem the new. She was the great city (chap, xi, 8); she was the adulteress which left her husband, Jehovah; she sat upon seven hills — Zion, Moriah, Acra, Bezetha, Ophel, Garab, and Goath; she reigned over the kings of the land (βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς), whom Peter speaks of Acts iv, 26, 27, quoting the second Psalm, οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς) (Sept.). Josephus says, “Jerusalem as the seat of royalty is supreme, exalted over all the adjacent region as the head over the body.” She was really guilty of idolatry in profaning the temple. Dr. Hodge says, “The essence of idolatry was profanation of God; of this the Jews were in a high degree guilty. They had made his house a den of thieves” (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans).

Dr. Terry, in his Plan and Scope of the Apocalypse, contends that this description does not fit Rome from the following considerations: (1) It contravenes the analogy of biblical symbolism to portray a pagan city under the figure of a harlot. Rome was never in covenant relations with God. (2) If the beast is the Roman empire, the harlot must be some other city than the metropolis of the empire; for how can it be said that any kings, represented by the ten horns of that beast, hated Rome and burnt her utterly with fire? (Rev. xvii, 16.) (3) The seven mountains are a misleading fancy. The mountains are no more to be understood literally that the waters of verse 1 and the scarlet beast of verse 3; for the woman sits on many waters, on the beast, and on seven mountains. (4) He shows that “the kings of the earth” mean the rulers of Judea.

Jerusalem was drunk with the blood of saints and martyrs; in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all that were slain in the land : “All the righteous blood shed on the earth” (Matt, xxiii, 35). The holy prophets and apostles were to rejoice that God had avenged them on her, and we find the correspondence exact between our Lord’s prediction, in Luke xi, 49-51, and its fulfillment, in Rev. xviii, 24: “Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send unto them prophets and apostles; and some of them they shall kill and persecute; that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation.” “And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that have been slain upon the earth.”

The seven kings are probably Roman procurators of Judea under Qaudius and Nero, as the title “kings” is often used as synonymous with “rulers” or “governors;” and these procurators were really viceroys and bore supreme rule in Judea. They were (1) Cuspius Fadus; (2) Tiberius Alexander; (3) Ventidius Cumanus; (4) Antonius Felix; (5) Fortius Festus; (6) Albinus; (7) Gessius Florus. The ten horns represent the auxiliary princes and chiefs who were allies of Rome and received commands in the Roman army during the Jewish war, such as Antiochus, Sohemus, Agrippa, and Malchus. The sitting on many waters may represent the influence exercised by the Jewish race, represented by Jerusalem in her dispersed inhabitants through all parts of the Roman empire. (See Acts ii, 5-11.)

Great Babylon falls — Jerusalem is destroyed; the old dispensation ends, the new is introduced. The Bride makes herself ready, the Bridegroom comes, and the marriage supper takes place as an event that was shortly to occur.

Thus we see that all the events of the book of Revelation (we must, of course, except the thousand years in which Satan is bound and the saints reign in life with Christ — a, subject which we consider in a future chapter) did probably, and we may say certainly, take place a few years after the book was written; thus imposing on us the belief that the Lord Jesus Christ came with wrath for his enemies and blessing for his saints, that his parousia did take place of necessity, as we shall see hereafter, and that therefore to be looking forward for the occurrence of this event in the near or the distant future is indulging in a vain hope.

We close this chapter with a quotation from Johann David Michaelis, one of the greatest of German biblical scholars:

“If it be objected that the prophecies in the Apocalypse are not yet fulfilled, that they are therefore not fully understood, and that hence arises the difference of opinion in respect to their meaning, I answer, that if the prophecies are not yet fulfilled, it is wholly impossible that the Apocalypse should be a divine work; since the author expressly declares (chap, i,1) that the things which it contains ‘must shortly come to pass.’ Consequently either a great part of them — I will not say all — must have been fulfilled, or the author’s declaration that they should shortly be completed is not consistent with fact. It is true that to the Almighty a thousand years are but as one day, and one day as a thousand years; but if we therefore explain the term ‘shortly’ as denoting a period longer than that which has elapsed since the Apocalypse was written, we sacrifice the love of truth to the support of a preconceived opinion. For when the Deity condescends to communicate information to mankind he will, of course, use such language as is intelligible to mankind, and not name a period short which all men consider as long, or the communication will be totally useless. Besides, in reference to God’s eternity, not only seventeen hundred, but seventeen thousand years are nothing. But the author of the Apocalypse himself has wholly precluded any such evasion by explaining (chap, i, 3) what he meant by the term ‘shortly,’ for he there says, ‘Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.’ According, therefore, to the author’s own declaration, the Apocalypse contains prophecies with which the very persons to whom it was sent were immediately concerned. But if none of these prophecies were designed to be completed till long after their death, those persons were not immediately concerned with them, and the author would surely not have said they were blessed in reading prophecies of which the time was at hand if those prophecies were not to be fulfilled till after the lapse of many ages” (Introduction to the New Testament, vol. iv, pages 503, 504).


The Argument from Necessity

We now proceed to produce the argument from necessity — that is, to prove that it was necessary that Christ should place his parousia when he did, soon after his ascension, in order to the accomplishment of the divine plans regarding the winding up of the affairs of the Messianic kingdom, the salvation of the elect in Israel, the glorifying of the ancient saints, the rewarding at the earliest period possible his faithful witnesses, and the bringing in of the reign of God, in Christ, over all the races, tongues, and peoples of our globe.

We commence by quoting 1 Cor. xv, 20-28, a passage which has proved difficult of solution principally because it has been made by the majority of commentators to refer to a far-distant period, when all earthly affairs should be ended and the universe cease to be. But another view is tenable— one which has been presented by Preterists, and is a much more satisfactory explanation of an intricate subject.

“But now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the first fruits of them that are asleep. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits; then they that are Christ’s, at his coming [ἔπειτα οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτου], then they who are of the Christ in his parousia] . Then cometh the end [εἰτα τὸ τέλος, then the end], when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death. For, He put all things in subjection under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put in subjection, it is evident that he is excepted who did subject all things unto him. And when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all.”

Here is a must: “He must reign till he hath put all his enemies under his feet;” an imperative necessity in order to the occurrence of a most necessary and important event and the fulfillment of one of God’s sure promises. Death must be rendered ineffective; it must be abolished in the sense of being rendered inoperative, at least on a certain class of people, and that because God had promised that all things should be subjected to Christ. But this was a necessary condition in order to a still more necessary and ultimate fact – the subjection of the Son himself to the Father, that God might be all in all.

This subjection of all things to Christ is presented in several other places: as he asserted, “All authority “hath been given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt, xxviii, i8). Eph. i, 22, “And he put all things in subjection under his feet.” Heb. ii, 8, “Thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet.” 1 Pet. iii, 22, “Angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” So Phil, ii, 9, 10, “Wherefore also God highly exalted him,” etc., and Rev. v, 12, “Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power,” etc.

In all these and similar passages this exaltation of Christ over his enemies, and his being placed over all principalities and powers, etc., they being made subject to him, is spoken of in connection with his death and resurrection — “that through death he might bring to nought [abolish] him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” words equivalent to those in the passage under consideration, “The last enemy that shall be abolished is death,” and all leading to, and explanatory of, that victorious and triumphant assertion of the risen Christ: “I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Rev. i, 17, 18). Christ, with his own chosen ones, is to perfectly triumph over death. Christ was the first fruits. Then, in the parousia, those who belonged specially to him were to rise; then would come “the end,” when the great act of delivering up the kingdom to the Father should take place.

This phrase, “the end,” then, is one pregnant with meaning, emphatic in character, and fixes the terminus ad quern of the events of the whole passage. What end ? Some say the “end of the world,” “the dissolution of nature” (Beet), “the consummation of all worldly affairs.” Dr. Terry speaks of it in this manner: “The final manifestation of the Christ, when he shall have completed the work of redemption and delivers over the kingdom to the Father, is left by the sacred writers in too great mystery for us to affirm definitely anything concerning it” (Biblical Hermeneutics, page 493). (Italics ours.) This is certainly an amazing admission in regard to an event which seems clearly set forth, and about which there are many positive points which should fully denote what the apostle intended to teach and the period to which he refers. This assertion is the more to be wondered at because the author quoted positively asserts, on a previous page, that “The Son of man came in heavenly power to supplant Judaism by a better covenant, and to make the kingdoms of the world his own, and that parousia dates from the fall of Judaism and its temple.” Now, as the parousia of Christ is mentioned in this passage as occurring just previously to “the end” when the kingdom is delivered up, the two events being closely connected, the interpretation he gives is certainly faulty, and, besides, demands that we shall believe in two great comings of Christ.

Suppose, now, we make this “end” (τὸ τέλος) to mean the same as “the end” of which Jesus speaks when he says “the end [τὸ τέλος] is not yet;” “he that endureth to the end [τὸ τέλος] shall be saved;” “and then shall the end come” (καὶ τότε ἥξει τὸ τέλος). Indeed, is not this the very phrase which the apostle uses, slightly changed? The same “end” is spoken of by Peter and said to be close by: “But the end [τὸ τέλος] of all things is at hand” (1 Pet. iv, 7) ; and by Paul elsewhere, “Who shall confirm you unto the end” (ἕως τέλους) (1 Cor. i, 8). “Upon whom the ends of the ages are come” (εἰς οὓς τὰ τὲλη τῶν αἰώνων κατήντηκεν, unto whom the ends of the ages have arrived, or stretched out) (1 Cor. x, 11). And this is an important text, standing as it does in the same epistle from which the passage that we are considering is taken. Paul here defines what he means by “the end:” the end of an age; and by alluding to the “ends of the ages” he means that he and his contemporaries stood at a point where the then present age and the age to come were meeting. This same “end” is several times spoken of by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews: “Hold fast … firm unto the end” (μέχρι τέλους) (Heb. iii, 6); same expression in verse 14. “And we desire that each one of you may show the same diligence unto the fullness of hope even to the end” (ἀχρι τέλους) (Heb. vi, ii). And then is added, “That ye be not sluggish, but imitators of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

It is evident from a study of these exhortations to the Hebrews that the writer of the epistle was cautioning and encouraging men who he believed would, while living, see this “end” of which he speaks, and that he connected this “end” with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. For he tells them that to those who wait for Christ he shall appear a second time, apart from sin, unto salvation (chap, ix, 28). Also that they had need of patience, “that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise. [See chap, vi, 12.] For yet a very little while, he that cometh shall come, and shall not tarry” (Heb. x, 36, 37). He also informs them that they were not come to Mount Sinai, where the then present dispensation was commenced; but that they were already come (προσεληλύθατε) “unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” etc. (Heb, xii, 18-25), quoting doubtless from the Apocalypse, where all these phrases find their originals; this conclusively proving that this “end” of which he speaks, and the coming of the Lord, with the end of the age, as depicted in the Apocalypse, are one and the same event.

Having shown that the “end” of which Paul speaks is the end of the age, at which time Christ was to be manifested in power and glory, we proceed to prove that at that time he delivered up the kingdom to the Father, that God might be all in all.

What kingdom was this which Christ is represented as delivering to the Father? Certainly not the mediatorial kingdom, which Dr. Terry hints may be the case, in that he speaks of Christ “completing the work of redemption, and delivering over the kingdom to the Father.” To think of Christ delivering up the mediatorial kingdom to the Father is absurd; for, as Jonathan Edwards says in his Observations (pages 88, 89): “Christ’s mediatorial kingdom will never be delivered up to the Father. It would imply a great absurdity to suppose that Christ should deliver up or commit the work of a mediator to the Father, as if the Father should thenceforward take upon him the work of mediating between himself and man. Christ’s mediation between the Father and the elect will continue after the end of the world, and he will reign as a middle Person between the Father and them to all eternity.”

There is a reign of Christ which is to be eternal. This reign is spoken of by Daniel: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. vii, 13, 14). Also prophesied of by the angel of the annunciation : “And of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke i, 33). Peter speaks of it as “the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. i, 11). Taking into consideration the quotation from Edwards just made, and remembering that Christ is represented in the heavenly places as a lamb newly slain, and that the last sight we get of him in the Apocalypse is as the Lamb on the throne with the Father reigning conjointly with him (Rev. v, 6; xxii, 1), we believe we properly apply to this kingdom the title mediatorial, and that our contention is just when we assert that this mediatorial kingdom continues forever; and that, therefore, it cannot be this kingdom which Christ delivers to the Father after having subdued all his enemies.

We are forced, then, to the conclusion that the kingdom which Christ ceases to administer is the theocratic or Messianic kingdom which the Father bestowed on the Son when it was declared, “Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will tell of the decree : the Lord said unto me. Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations [not heathen, as in the Authorized Version, goyim] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth [land] for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Now therefore be wise, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth [land]. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish in the way, for his wrath will soon be kindled. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Psa. ii, 6-12).

Here Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one (Psa. ii, 2), is appointed to a kingdom, and thus constituted King of Israel. As such Zechariah prophesies of him: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zech. ix, 9). This prophecy Matthew quotes, and shows how it was fulfilled when Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem and the multitudes cried: “Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matt, xxi, 4-9). Mark records that they also cried: “Blessed is the kingdom that cometh, the kingdom of our father David: Hosanna in the highest” (Mark xi, 9); and Luke (xix, 38), that they added, “Blessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord : peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” The multitudes instinctively hailed Christ as the King of Israel, and did homage to him as such. Jesus himself accepts this honor, as David’s heir, when he says to the Pharisees, “How say they that the Christ is David’s son? For David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet. David therefore calleth him Lord, and how is he his son?” (Luke xx, 41-44.)

He is also declared King of Israel by Nathanael: “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art King of Israel” John i, 49). Pilate asks him if he is the King of the Jews, and Jesus answers that he is (Mark xv, 2); also telling Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world, not an earthly kingdom, but one where he reigns, or wishes to reign, in the hearts of men (John xviii, 36). He is mockingly addressed as the King of the Jews by the soldiers (John xix, 2). Pilate says to the Jews, “Behold, your King,” and asks, “Shall I crucify your King?” And the Jews reject him, asserting that they have no king but Caesar (John xix, 14, 15). When he is crucified Pilate writes the title, and affixes it to the cross: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.”

In the Acts we have several references to Christ as King: Peter insisting that “Him did God exalt with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins” (Acts v,31), and the rabble in Thessalonica shouting, “These all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus” (Acts xvii, 7).

As to the time when the Son received this kingdom from the Father the Scriptures are not definite; though they make it probable that it was at the time of the ascension that he was invested with royal power and prerogative. Here Peter, in the passage quoted, seems to place this accession; and Paul also, when he declares, “He raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion” (Eph. i, 20, 21). This also seems to be the teaching of Dan. vii, 13, 14.

Christ himself also seems to point to this time in the parable of the pounds, where he compares himself to a nobleman who “went into a far country, to receive far himself a kingdom and to return” (Luke xix, 12). When he receives the kingdom he returns and calls his servants; rewarding those who have been faithful, and punishing the one who has been slothful. Then he commands: “Howbeit these mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”

This notably sustains our view — that Christ was inaugurated into his Messianic kingdom at the ascension, and that he returned at the parousia, before that generation ceased to be, to perform judicial acts as King of Israel.

This view is still further sustained by a parallel passage in the parable of the wicked husbandmen, where Christ asks the question, “When therefore the lord of the vineyard shall come, what will he do unto those husbandmen?” and his auditors answer, “He will miserably destroy those miserable men” (Matt, xxi, 41). Now we are told by Luke (xx, 19) that “the scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him in that very hour; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he spake this parable against them.”

So in the parable of the great supper. When the remnant entreated the king’s servants shamefully he sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned their city (Matt, xxii, 7). These expressions decidedly show that the persons who were the objects of the wrath of God, on account of the rejection of the Messiah, were the recalcitrant Jews; and the time of the manifestation of this wrath was the period at which Jerusalem was destroyed.

This, then, was also the very time when the enemies of Christ were put under his feet, and therefore the time when his reign over the Jews, as a local and restricted dominion, came to an end; he delivering up this kingdom to the Father, as he teaches in the parable of the barren fig tree. The owner of the tree comes seeking fruit, and, finding none, he says to the vine dresser: “Cut it down; why doth it also cumber the ground? And he [representing Christ] answering saith unto him. Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit thenceforth, well; but if not, thou shalt cut it down” (Luke xiii, 6-9).

Christ was exalted to the right hand of God, being given princely and kingly power, until he saw his enemies put to rout and their city burned. He then delivered up this Messianic kingdom to the Father, as there was no more need for this partial, theocratic rule of a rejected nation; and then, having been given a universal dominion over all peoples and nations, he, with the Father, everywhere reigns forever and ever. This is “the kingdom of God,” “the kingdom of heaven,” so often spoken of in the New Testament. It had not fully come when Christ established the Eucharist, for he then said, “I will not drink from henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come” (Luke xxii, 18). It had not come at the destruction of Jerusalem, for Jesus told his disciples, “When ye see these things coming to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh” (Luke xxi, 31). But when the city of the murderers was burned, Christ coming in his parousia, and the end coming, then was ushered in this all-prevailing kingdom, this everlasting reign of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

And it is to be remembered that this kingdom is a spiritual, unobservable kingdom — that is, one not to be seen or cognized by the physical sense. When the Pharisees demanded of Christ when this kingdom should come he replied, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation,” παρατηρήσεως, genitive of παρατηρήσις — “In such a manner that it can be watched with the eyes — that is, in a visible manner” (Thayer). It was not to be introduced with great pomp and noise, with blare of trumpet and display of insignia; it was to come in great simplicity, and without any scenic accompaniments, yet with great power and wonderful results. “Neither shall they say, Lo, here! or. There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you” — in the midst of you or in your hearts ; a kingdom where Christ rules the affections, and brings every thought into sweet captivity to his loving sway. The outward is subjected to the inward; the sensuous to the spiritual.


The Argument from Necessity — Continued

The position of the preceding chapter is fully confirmed when we turn to the book of Revelation and read the tenth and eleventh chapters. In the tenth chapter we have the description of a mighty angel descending from heaven clothed with a cloud, and in his hand a little book. As we have seen in our exposition of the book of Revelation, this angel is the Lord Jesus Christ. He sets his right foot upon the sea and his left on the land; then lifting his hand to heaven he swears by him that liveth forever and ever that the time shall not be now (ὅρι χρόνος οὐκέτι ἔσται) but in the days of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, then the mystery of God shall be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets (Rev. x, 1-7). The word οὐκέτι has for one of its meanings “not now.” The word “declared” in the passage is “evangelized” in the Greek. If we turn to the sixth chapter, we read that it was said (ἐρρέθη = εὐηγγελίσθη) to the souls under the altar that they should rest for a little time, until their fellow-servants had fulfilled their course. Turning still back to 1 Pet. iv, 6, we read: “For unto this end was the Gospel preached even to the dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” Here the apostle is speaking of suffering with Christ (ver. 1), and it follows that these dead ones of whom he speaks are those who have been martyred for Christ’s sake. The phrase “was the Gospel preached” is the translation of one word in the Greek, εὐηγγελίσθη, translated in the margin of the Revised Version, “were the good tidings preached.” A proper translation would be “were evangelized;” were comforted or gladdened by good tidings. So the whole verse may read: “For to this end a comforting declaration was brought even to the dead, that, though they had been condemned in the flesh by the unjust judgment of men, yet they should in their spirit enjoy eternal life, according to the righteous judgment of God.”

Reading it in this way, it must be apparent that Peter was well acquainted with the Apocalypse, which was written before his epistles, and in circulation before the destruction of Jerusalem; and it is also apparent that he refers to this very passage of the sixth chapter regarding the souls under the altar, and of the comforting declaration made to them.

The same persons are doubtless alluded to by Christ in his parable of the unjust judge, when he says: “And shall not God avenge his elect, which cry to him day and night, and he is long-suffering over them? I say unto you, that he will avenge them speedily. Howbeit when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (τήν πίσριν ἐπί τῆς, the faith upon the land?) thus closely connecting this crying of the elect with his coming.

This, then, is what is referred to by the angel clothed with the cloud when he speaks of what God had “declared [evangelized] to his servants the prophets.” The revisers’ translation of this whole passage reads:

“And the angel which I saw standing upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven and sware by him that liveth forever and ever … that there shall be time [delay, margin] no longer: but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then is finished the mystery of God, according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets.”

All this points to a future event which is not in the far distance, but nigh at hand and about to occur, according to God’s own announcement to his martyred prophets for their consolation.

Now, if we turn to the eleventh chapter, we find this very event mentioned in a highly important and, to many, a puzzling passage. It reads in the Revised Version as follows: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there followed great voices in heaven, and they said. The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign forever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sit before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces, and worshiped God, saying. We give thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, which art and which wast; because thou hast taken thy great power, and didst reign. And the nations were wroth, and thy wrath came, and the time of the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear thy name, the small and the great; and to destroy them that destroy the earth” (τῆν γῆν, the land) (Rev. xi, 15-18).

Let it be carefully noted that here we have a series of events which were to happen, or come to pass, very soon after the book was written, according to chap, i, 1, 19, and chap, xxii, 10, and various other passages in it.

The reading in the Greek of the passage quoted varies from the Revised Version somewhat. Instead of reading the fifteenth verse as the revisers render it we may read: “The dominion of the world is become our Lord’s and his Christ’s, and he shall reign [or have dominion] unto the ages of the ages.” Mark the aorist (ἐγένετο) of the verb γίνομαι, “became our Lord’s,” etc.

The teaching here is not that all the kingdoms of the world, all the various governments of the earth, will be subjected to Christ, so that he shall reign personally, or otherwise, over all the states and sovereignties of civilized and heathen nations; but rather that now the dominion or sway of the whole world (κόσμος) becomes the right of God, with Christ; and that this sway or reign is to last forever. The local and the temporary passes. Christ is no longer merely the King of the Jews, or the Saviour of Israel; he has delivered up this local administration to the Father, “become subject to the Father,” as Paul puts it, and the Father, conjointly with his Christ, assumes the sway of all nations and tongues and peoples, according to the prophecies. This view is confirmed by the words which follow in the seventeenth verse, being the acclamation of the elders: “We give thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, which art and which wast; because thou hast taken thy great power, and didst reign.” Here God the Father is said to assume the power and to commence his personal control of the administration of the kingdom; a most important corroboration of the view we are taking of this matter. This is again confirmed by the song of the victors who stand on the glassy sea and exclaim: “Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are thy ways, thou King of the ages. Who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy; for all the nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy righteous acts have been made manifest” (Rev. xv, 3, 4). So again, “Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth” (Rev. xix, 6).

Returning to the eleventh chapter, we see that the wrath of the nations is aroused against God and his people, and the wrath of God comes upon them (the form of the verb expresses past action, as of something already accomplished), and the time arrives to give reward to God’s servants the prophets. As we have noticed, the sixth chapter speaks of these servants of God as souls under the altar to whom a comforting declaration, good tidings, is made, and to whom white robes (heavenly bodies?) are given. They were told “that they should rest yet for a little time, until their fellow-servants, … which should be killed even as they were, should be fulfilled,” or, should have fulfilled their course (Revised Version margin).

Here, then, we have complete proof of the truthfulness of the Preteristic theory. These souls were, of course, the souls of martyrs already dead. They cry for vengeance, as did the blood of Abel (see Matt, xxiii, 35), and they are comforted by being told that they are to wait “A LITTLE TIME” (χρόνον μικρὸν). In the eleventh chapter these same souls have their reward bestowed, and receive, with the saints and those that fear the name of God, the bliss for which they have been waiting under the altar. Therefore this day or time of wrath, this day of judgment for the dead, and this day for the bestowal of reward on the prophets and the infliction of punishment, by their destruction, on the polluters of the land, must have certainly occurred long centuries ago, and cannot possibly be a day or a time that is still to come, a period or a beginning of judgment that is still in the future.

Still further: when we inquire what was this reward which was bestowed on these servants and saints we recall the promise of Christ (Matt, xix, 28) in answer to the question of Peter: “Lo, we have left all, and followed thee; what then shall we have?” “And Jesus said unto them. Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” All admit that this promise relates to the heavenly world, and not to any mere earthly exaltation. The sitting of Christ also upon the throne of his glory must be the same as that spoken of in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, where Christ says of himself, “But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory.”

Now, if it can be proved that the reward given those souls under the altar was this sitting on thrones, then it follows, “as the night the day,” that the “regeneration” of which Christ speaks, or his “coming in his glory,” was an event that has already occurred.

Let us turn to the twentieth chapter of Revelation, fourth verse, and see what we find there: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshiped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” The words “I saw,” occurring the second time, are italicized because they are not in the original.

There is a reading of the Greek which we will put in place of the reading by the revisers; the difference consists in leaving out the italicized words and changing the preceding word “and” to “even.” This καὶ of the original is the explanatory καὶ, and is equivalent to “even,” or, “that is.” Thus changed, the reading would be: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: even the souls of those who had been beheaded,” etc. This change gives clearness to the passage, and shows us that those who sit on these thrones and judge are the souls of the martyrs.

Now, it cannot be disputed that these who are sitting on thrones and judging and reigning are the same souls which are spoken of in the sixth chapter, for those were the souls of those “who had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held” (διὰ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ διὰ τὴν μαρτυρίαν ἣν εἰχον) ; and these are the souls of those “who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God” (τῶν πεπελεκισμένων διὰ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησου καὶ διὰ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ). The points of resemblance could not be more perfect, and we must believe that the same beings or persons are alluded to in these two passages.

Again, as these souls were the souls of those who had been slain for testifying about Jesus, and preaching, as prophets, the word of God, and as we see them enjoying their reward, sitting on thrones judging, and living, even reigning, with Christ, we are forced to the belief that here we have presented the very state of reward and blessedness which Jesus promised his apostles, and that some of these reigning saints are the twelve chosen ones of Christ enjoying the signal reward which he had promised them while he walked with them on earth; and that, as his coming was to precede this reigning of his apostles, therefore that coming must have occurred long years ago.

In the passage we are considering (Rev. xi, 15-18) we find the sentence, “and the time of the dead to be judged” (ὁ καιρὸς τῶν νεκρῶν κριθῆναι). Here we have the judgment time already come, and those who are judged are the dead. Now, in the twentieth chapter, twelfth verse, we have also the judgment of the dead: “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; … and the dead were judged” (καὶ ἐκρίθησαν οἱ νεκροὶ). This is not a general judgment of the dead and living at the end of the world, as some incorrectly explain it, but, as is stated, a judgment of the dead in the invisible sphere.

If we will take into consideration the iterative character of the Apocalypse (before alluded to), we shall see that again and again this judgment day is mentioned, and as we find it to be one of the things which were shortly to come to pass, we are compelled to believe the words of the prophecy of the book and accept the fact that the judgment day spoken of in the book is a past event if it be a day, or a contracted period of time; that if it be a long period of judicial administration which is alluded to, its inauguration must have taken place centuries ago; and that, the reign of God and Christ still proceeding, the judging of the nations is a continuously progressive act. (See Biblical Hermeneutics, page 450.)


The Argument from Necessity— Concluded

Let us now return to the passage from the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians and study the sentence, “The last enemy that shall be abolished is death” (ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάωατος). The word καταργεῖται a form of the verb καταργέω, a word which occurs twenty-seven times in the New Testament in its various tenses. It is rendered in our Authorized Version twelve different ways. In the very passage we are discussing it is translated in two ways, being rendered in the twenty-fourth verse “shall have put down,” and in the twenty-sixth verse “shall be destroyed;” but in these places the revisers translate it uniformly. In Rom. iii, 3, it is rendered “shall … make … without effect;” in the same chapter, verse 31, “do … make void;” in Rom. vii, 2, “is loosed;” in the same chapter, verse 6, “are delivered;” in 1 Cor. i, 28, and ii, 6, “bring to nought,” and “come to nought;” in 1 Cor. xiii, 8, “shall fail;” in 2 Cor. iii, 7, 13, “which was to be done away,” and “which is abolished;” and in Gal. v, 11, “is … ceased.” Its classical sense is, “to leave unemployed or idle;” and its most general New Testament sense, “to make useless or void,” then “to abolish,” and, lastly, “to free.” (See lexicons.) So when we read in Heb. ii, 14, 15, “that through death he might bring to nought [destroy, in Authorized Version] him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage “ we are not to consider this to be an annihilation of the devil, but merely a reference to the cessation of his power over those in whom he had produced this fear of death. Neither when it is said of the widow (Rom. vii, 2) that she is made void (καταργεῖται) from the law of her husband, that she ceases to be; but merely that she is “discharged” from being under that law; so the revisers render the word in this place. Again, when in Gal v, 4, it is said, “Christ is made void,” or (Authorized Version) “become of none effect unto you” (κατηργήθητε ἀπὸ Χριστοῦ), we are not to understand that either Christ or the Galatians ceased to be; but that they were “severed from Christ,” as the Revised Version has it.

So when we read, “the last enemy that shall be abolished is death,” it is not necessary that we should suppose that death ceases as a fact, or event, but that his power as an enemy of Christ is taken away, and that he no longer lords it over those who are Christ’s; but that all the saints are delivered from his power, having been brought up out of his dominions by the Lord Jesus Christ when “he led captivity captive,” or led captive a multitude of captives, after he descended into the lower parts of the earth (Eph. iv, 9) — that is, went and preached to the spirits in prison, captives of death, or sheol. Bringing out all those who were his people, he ascended on high and appeared in the heavenly regions to show that, having the keys of death and Hades, he was able to deliver all his own from the doleful regions of the underworld and cause them to stand with him on the Mount Zion, forever to enjoy the heavenly glory.

Paul therefore writes to Timothy and speaks of the Saviour as “Jesus Christ, who abolished [καταργήσαντος] death, and brought life and incorruption to light through the Gospel” (2 Tim. i, 10). Here the apostle speaks of the abolishment of death, or of its being made of none effect, as a past event, and yet he expected to take his departure soon — that is, die a martyr — though he had previously hoped he might live to see Christ appear. He, however, had the victory, for he exclaims in his triumph, “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. xv, 57); for Christ had said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die” (John xi, 25).

We ascertain, then, that there is no demand in the language of 1 Cor. xv, 20-28, rightly interpreted, to place the delivering up of the kingdom to the Father, or any other of the events there mentioned, in the future, as concomitants of a grand finale such as some are expecting may now take place at any time; but we conclude that these occurrences are all in the past, as particulars of a great plan which it was necessary for God to consummate in order to confer on Christ the honor and glory which he deserved, as the one who had humbled himself to the death of the cross, and had been rejected, despised, and cruelly treated by his own nation, whose king he was and on whom they should have believed.

Yet the elect of Israel were to be gathered; “the remnant according to grace” were to be brought in, and the probation of the Jewish nation was to be prolonged so that under the most favorable circumstances possible they might have opportunity to accept the Gospel and form part of “the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven.”

To this end Christ forbade the twelve to preach to the Gentiles at the first: “Go not into any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. x, 5, 6). To the woman of Canaan he said, “I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt, xv, 24). And though afterward Christ extended the commission of the apostles to the world, and had told them to preach the Gospel to the whole creation (Mark xvi, 15) and to make disciples of all the nations (Matt xxviii, 19), yet it is evident, as we have seen (Chapter VI), that the apostles did not consider this a commission to the Gentiles ; for it was about fifteen years after the ascension before the first Gentile convert was registered in the Christian Church, and when Peter rehearsed the conversion of Cornelius and his household “the apostles and brethren” seemed to be greatly surprised; for they exclaimed, “Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life” (Acts xi, 18).

The apostles were to begin at Jerusalem with their preaching, and offer first to the chosen people the glad tidings of salvation; and nearly all their efforts after Pentecost were directed to the salvation of the Jews. The commission of Christ to the apostles to be his witnesses cannot be considered as opposed to this; for when he says they should be his witnesses “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth,” the last part of the sentence is καὶ ἕως ἐσχάτου τῆς (and unto the extremity of the land) ; meaning, doubtless, the extremity of the land of Palestine. Another word, οἰκουμένη, would probably have been used had he meant the bounds of the habitable earth.

So Peter asserts that Christ had been exalted “to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and [καὶ, even] remission of sins” (Acts v, 31); and Paul, at Antioch of Pisidia, “Of this man’s seed hath God according to promise brought unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus. … Brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and those among you that fear God, to us is the word of this salvation sent forth” (Acts xiii, 23, 26). When some of the Jews revolted Paul said, “It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you” (ver. 46). So ever) where Paul, “as his custom was,” went into the synagogues of the Jews proclaiming to the children of Israel the great salvation, and became to the Jews as a Jew that he might gain Jews (1 Cor. ix, 20). He also could wish himself anathema from Christ for his brethren’s sake, his kinsmen who were Israelites (Rom. ix, 3); and avers that “Christ hath been made a minister of the circumcision” (Rom. xv, 8). But he also saw that what Israel was seeking for he obtained not, but the election obtained it, and the rest were blinded or hardened; that this fall was to be the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles; and that this hardening in part had befallen Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved — that is, not the children of the flesh, but the children of the promise; for they are not all Israel which are of Israel (Rom. xi, passim).

So all through the Epistle to the Hebrews the great importance of their salvation as Hebrews predominates, and the offering up of Christ has particular value for them — “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus” (Heb. iii, 1).

Thus strenuous efforts were to be made to convert the Jews, as Jews, before the coming on the nation of the wrath of God. For this coming wrath was imminent when the apostles preached and wrote, and the cities of Israel must be gone over as rapidly as possible; yet Jesus assured his disciples that before they had fully finished (τελέσητε) the cities of Israel he would come to gather the elect ones, through the agency of his angels, and to visit with vengeance those who knew not God and had not obeyed his Gospel (2 Thess. i, 8). Thus the necessity appears of his second coming at that special time.

It was also necessary that this parousia of Christ should take place when it did that through that glorious manifestation he might judge that guilty nation, and, sweeping it away, bring to an end the old dispensation in order that the more glorious dispensation might be fully inaugurated in all its splendor and usefulness. While the temple stood, and Jewish jealousy and obstinacy reigned, the Gospel was most terribly hampered and impeded; but when Judaism fell, and Christianity was delivered from the fetters of ceremonial observances and outworn rituals, then Christ could be more successfully preached to all nations, and his religion be evidenced in its innate power and adaptation to all individuals.

Says Dean Farrar: “And indeed the fall of Jerusalem [which he says, in the previous paragraph, was in the fullest sense the second advent of the Son of man], and all the events which accompanied and followed it in the Roman world and in the Christian Church, had a significance which it is hardly possible to overestimate. They were the final end of the old dispensation. They were the full inauguration of the new covenant. They were God’s own overwhelming judgment on that form of Judaic Christianity which threatened to crush the work of St. Paul, to lay on the Gentiles the yoke of an abrogated Mosaism, to establish itself by threats and anathemas as the only orthodoxy. Many of the early Christians — and those especially that lived at Jerusalem — were at the same time rigid Jews. So long as they continued to walk in the ordinances of their fathers, as a national and customary duty, such observances were harmless; but it is the inevitable tendency of this external rigorism to usurp in many minds the place of true religion. In every Church, as we see from most of the catholic epistles as well as in those of St. Paul, the Judaists asserted themselves and won over the devoted adherence of the multitude, which is ever ripe for the slavery of rigid dogmas and narrow forms. It required the whole force of St. Paul’s inspired and splendid genius to save Christianity from sinking into an exclusive sect of repellent Ebionites. No event less awful than the desolation of Judea, the destruction of Judaism, the annihilation of all probability of observing the precepts of Moses, could have opened the eyes of the Judaizers from their dream of imagined infallibility. Nothing but God’s own unmistakable interposition, nothing but the manifest coming of Christ, could have persuaded Jewish Christians that the law of the wilderness was annulled; that the idolized minutiae of Levitism could no longer claim to be obligatory; that the temple … had been smitten to the ground as though by flashes of God’s own avenging fire; that the sacrifices … had been finally, decisively, and by the direct action of divine Providence, annulled” (Early Days of Christianity, pages 489, 490).

It was necessary that Christ should relinquish the local and the temporary and assume universal sway; for only when he became King of kings and Lord of lords could he go forward to the acquisition of a worldwide dominion. And now we see this acquisition going on more and more rapidly, and the expectation growing that as the centuries advance his kingdom shall increase until

“Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom spread from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.”

For this it is the privilege of the Church to pray and labor, instead of watching with folded hands for the improbable, and we may say the impossible, to take place.

“That God may be all in ALL.” This was the great end to which all the subevents of the passage we are considering tended, and for the consummation of which they took place. God must no more be a mere local and restricted divinity. Salvation was of the Jews, but the hour was to come, and that as soon as possible, when neither at Jerusalem nor at Samaria were men to worship the Father; but in every place where lived the humble, truthful, spiritual worshiper, there would the Father be present to receive homage and hear prayer. “Or is God the God of Jews only? is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yea, of Gentiles also: if so be that God is one” (Rom. iii, 29, 30). It was necessary that all dividing lines, all walls of separation, all class, tribal, and national distinctions, should vanish, and God and Christ become the Father and Mediator of all men, in all this wide world. To hasten this desideratum, and to speedily bring in this all-inclusive kingdom, it behooved Christ to appear in his glory as soon as possible and inaugurate this universal rule; thus giving God to all the nations as their gracious and glorious ALL FATHER.

It was also necessary that Christ should come when he did that those who had long lain in the gloom and deprivation of the underworld should be raised up into the brightness and blessedness of the heavenly Canaan. For this they had longed and sighed (Heb. xi, 13-16); and when Jesus had accomplished his work of redemption, and had also given a sufficient probation to the nation he loved, and sufficient warnings and drawings of the Holy Spirit to his enemies, he finished the work in righteous judgment, cut short the days (Rom. ix, 28), and brought the one hundred and forty and four thousand of the tribes of Israel, with all the Old Testament saints, into the inheritance which he had prepared for them, they being made perfect by that “better thing” which God had prepared for the Hebrews who lived after the crucifixion of Christ (Heb. xi, 40).

How much better to believe this, and to think of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all others who believed in a coming Christ, as safe in the heavenly Canaan, that “better country,” and already come to the “Mount Zion, and … the heavenly Jerusalem,” forming part of “the general assembly and Church of the firstborn” (as the twelfth chapter of Hebrews now considers them), than to believe that they are still in Sheol, and still without the glory and the blessedness purchased for them by the sufferings of Christ; which he has been able to bestow upon them, so far as we can see, for thousands of years, and yet, according to the opinion of some, has withheld.

So God’s truth and justice demanded that Christ should come as quickly as possible, in order that his promises should be fulfilled and his faithful witnesses amply rewarded at the earliest period possible. To those who should be faithful unto death he had promised “a crown of life” (Rev. ii, 10). Paul, when he wrote his second epistle to Timothy (iv, 8), was expecting “a crown of righteousness” to be given him by “the Lord, the righteous judge, … at that day”— that is, at the day of his appearing; and not to him only, but to all those that then loved his appearing was this crown to be given on the same day. So Peter tells his brethren, “When the chief Shepherd shall appear ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away,” an amaranthine crown. Jesus had promised his disciples that after a little while he would return and receive them to himself, that where he was they should be also. He had prayed the Father that they might be with him and behold the glory which he was to become possessed of (John xiv, 3 ; xvii, 24). At the revelation of Jesus Christ in the glory of his second coming all those who were suffering contempt, ignominy, distress, loss of goods, loss of friends, loss of health, loss of life, were to be completely remunerated —even by the enjoyment of everlasting life and the reception of a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. All who overcame were to eat of the tree of life; were not to be hurt of the second death; were to eat of the hidden manna, and receive the white stone. They were to be given power over the nations; were to be clothed in white raiment; were to be made pillars in the temple of God, and to go no more out. They were to have written on them the name of God and of the city of God, the new Jerusalem, which was coming down out of heaven from God, and to sit with Christ on his throne as he had overcome and had sat down with his Father in his throne (Rev. ii, iii). All these promises point to the perfection of bliss to be enjoyed by Christ’s faithful overcoming witnesses in the heavenly state, and do not, as is clearly seen, designate their enjoyments in an earthly condition, or in a mere intermediate state.

And, secondly, these promises were all to be fulfilled at the parousia of Christ, when he should “come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all them that believed” (2 Thess. i, 10). Then it was that they were to receive their crowns; then it was that their vile bodies were to be changed and made like unto Christ’s glorious body (Phil, iii, 20, 21); then it was that they were to enter upon an eternal and unbroken reign with Christ, and to shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matt, xiii, 43).

Now, if Christ has not appeared the second time “unto salvation,” but is still tarrying away from his Church, and still delaying his coming with the clouds of heaven, then what? Then all these promises are still unfulfilled, and all his faithful witnesses are still in an intermediate state of some kind, waiting longingly for their reward; still unblest with the perfect heavenly rest which Christ so long ago fully purchased for them, and which he promised so long ago to quickly bestow upon them, and which he might long ago have caused them to enjoy by manifesting himself in glory and receiving them all to himself. Then the Bride still waits for her absent Lord, and wonderingly inquires why he should delay his coming for a score of centuries, when, so far as can be seen, there exists not a single reason for this long, tedious, and serious delay.

How much better to believe the express assertions of the Scriptures, and assent to the doctrine that Christ has come to perfect his glorious plans in regard to his saints, and has gathered to himself all his own who have lived before us, and has also provided a way whereby those who now fall asleep in him may immediately on leaving this earthly body put on the heavenly body and enter at once into the rest that remains for God’s people.


The Argument from the Dispensation of the Holy Spirit

Though it may not be certain that there is, separately, a dispensation of the Father, a dispensation of the Son, and a dispensation of the Holy Spirit regularly following one another, yet it is certain that we are now living in what we may appropriately term “the dispensation of the Spirit.”

It is also certain that the Father and the Son unite in sending forth the Spirit to perform a personal and an extraordinary part in the conviction and regeneration of the world, as well as for the enlightenment and guidance of the Church generally.

“He,” said Christ, “shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you;” “He shall bear witness unto me;” “He shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things so ever he shall hear, these shall he speak : and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you” (John xiv, xvi).

Thus the Spirit was not only to be the great Guide, he was to be the great Revealer also; and as the only begotten Son which was in the bosom of the Father was chosen by the Father to declare him unto the world, so the Spirit was chosen of Christ to declare him unto the disciples; and to glorify him by taking of his things and showing these unto them.

Christ also assured his disciples that it was expedient for him to depart unto the Father, to retire into the invisible state, in order that a higher and better condition of things might be ushered in. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged.”

The words we have italicized indicate that the Spirit was to fully take the place of Christ, as a model of righteousness, probably by so filling the disciples that they would all become as Christs to the people; and thus be his witnesses not only by proclaiming his truth and goodness by word of mouth, but by also living as he would live, and doing as he would do, in all circumstances. Thus, by the coming of the Spirit to the disciples, the world was to be convicted of sin and righteousness and judgment. He was to be the great power whereby sinful men were to be brought to a consciousness of their lost condition, and thus led to trust in the great atonement for acceptance with God.

He was also to be the mighty Regenerator. Men were to be born of the Spirit before they could enter the kingdom of heaven. On them was to pass the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit before they could be fitted for entrance into the family of God. He was to be the special Witness to the Father’s adopting love; bearing witness with the spirits of men to their sonship and heirship, and because they were sons he was to be sent forth into their hearts, crying, Abba! Father! He was to be the Sealer of the saints. His impress was to be put upon them, so that they should be recognized as God’s property, and heirs to the heavenly inheritance. He was to be the Sanctifier of all believers; perfecting the work of holiness within them, after imparting life, and fully preparing them for communion with God here and for the enjoyment of the heavenly bliss beyond. He was to raise from the dead all who trusted in Christ, and to fit those who died in the Lord with bodies spiritual, glorious, powerful, and eternal; that, being like Christ in body and soul, they might live and reign with him in the heavenly glory forever. He was to be the Inspirer of all true prayer; the Inciter of all true praise; the Director of all true worship; the Guide into all truth; the Leader of all Church enterprises; the Imparter of all spiritual gifts; the Speaker in every witness for Christ; the great Power of God working continuously in the Church to bring the world to the feet of Christ, and fill heaven with multitudes of redeemed souls.

In view of these Scripture facts let us consider a theory which has been adopted by a number of sincere believers, and held by them as the only solution of the problem of the world’s conversion. It is that it is necessary for Christ to make his second appearance in order that he may, by setting up his kingdom personally on the earth, banish the forms of evil now existing therein, and by manifesting his personal power, through a visible presence, subdue the nations to his sway and bring in the millennium. It is held that the heathen are to be given to Christ for an inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession, as an actual, earthly sovereign, sitting on a material throne in Jerusalem, or elsewhere, and maintaining a localized form of government. It is expected by these people that when this parousia which they are hoping for shall take place there shall come a most wonderful ingathering of the Gentiles, and when these are made Christians the Jews will also acknowledge Christ as their Messiah, and thus the earth become covered with the glory of God as the waters cover the deep. It seems to us that this opinion is working injury to the cause of Christ. Hands hang down, and efforts for the salvation of others cease while these people wait for the coming of Christ to give evidence of the truth of his Gospel and bring conviction to the minds of men such as cannot be experienced under the present order. The usual means of grace and the ordinary well-tried plans are thought to be ineffectual, and there is engendered a morbid, uneasy looking for a sign from heaven, or the occurrence of some extraordinary phenomenon, which shall strike beholders with awe and produce signal consternation in the hearts of the ungodly.

Besides its paralyzing and morbid effect, it must be manifest that this view is one extremely dishonoring to the Holy Spirit, to whom has been committed this momentous work of the world’s conviction and conversion. He is one of the “persons” of the adorable Trinity, and as such is endowed with all the attributes of divinity. In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead. He possesses all the resources necessary for the promotion of God’s cause and the building of the Church. And now to say that it is necessary for Christ to come personally, in order to superintend this work, is to say not only that one of the persons of the Godhead is incompetent to the task assigned him, but it is also to say that a great mistake was made by Christ, and even by the Father, in thus agreeing to send the Holy Spirit as their representative for the performance of this all-important achievement.

It may be admitted that the Church does not advance as it should. There is certainly not the increase in numbers or power or piety that there should be. The work lags at home, and moves with slowness and unsteadiness in foreign lands; but the blame must not be attached to the divine Spirit, and his incompetency consequently asserted. The Church is the guilty party. If we as the people of God were willing to receive the fullness of the Spirit; if he could come to us and make his abode within us; if we were so “strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner man” that Christ dwelt in our hearts through faith, that we would be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, and thus become filled with all the fullness of God through this dynamis of the Spirit — certainly the work of God would then go forward with amazing strides and a nation be born in a day.

Again, to insist on a physical manifestation of Christ as a permanent fact, and to maintain that there must be a visible and palpable appearance of Christ in a body of flesh and blood, to reign personally from some handmade throne at the eastern terminus of the Joppa railroad, or some other earthly locality, is to drop from the higher to the lower; to retrogress, not to progress; and to reverse all the laws of spiritual advancement and development.

The spiritual is higher than the physical, and when the spiritual is called into action we cannot expect any higher influence to be brought to bear in the direction of accomplishment. The argument of the apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians is apropos here. He vehemently interrogates his Judaizing brethren: “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?” (Gal. iii, 3.) They were foolish because they resorted to the works of the law instead of relying on the faith, through the exercise of which they had received the Spirit (ver. 2). They turned to the “weak and beggarly elements,” and observed days and months and seasons and years; so that the apostle was again in travail until Christ was formed in them and they should walk by the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh. “If we live by the Spirit,” said he, “by the Spirit let us also walk;” and he would have them understand that it was the fruit of the Spirit that constituted the highest Christian character, and that it was through sowing to the Spirit that they were to reap eternal life.

So, in this case, the highest results and the greatest success come through the work of the Spirit. To revert to the spectacular and the material, after having used, or being able to use and pursue, spiritual methods, is to acknowledge defeat while in possession of the highest and most available helps. To resort to the physical and adopt outre means, in the age of the spiritual, is to resort to the matchlock and the smoothbore in the days of arms of precision and magazine rifles.

Such methods Christ repudiated while here in the body. He would not grant the sign from heaven, when the Pharisees requested it, as a spectacular proof of his divinity; and when the rich man of the parable, or narration, insists that if one went from the dead to his brethren they would repent, Christ puts into the mouth of Abraham the reproving words, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, if one rise from the dead.”

So may we suppose Christ to reply to those who insist that if he will come in bodily form to this earth, to reside permanently and to call men to repentance, then certainly there would be a great turning away from iniquity, “If they hear not the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, neither will they be persuaded though I should come to them in bodily form.”

There was a time when incarnation was necessary to the Son of God. A body was prepared him, and in that body of flesh and blood he suffered the ills of mortality and died the degrading death of the cross. With that body it was necessary that he should come forth from the grave to show that an actual resurrection had taken place, and in that visible form it was necessary that he should be taken up and received out of sight; but when these things had taken place all uses for a body of “flesh and bones” forever ceased. Christ became glorified, and when he did afterward appear it was in such splendor that the men to whom he revealed himself fell down in helplessness as if dead, or soon fell asleep in death, as did Stephen. All these manifestations were also instantaneous and brief. So there may have been a manifestation at the parousia of like character when, as the lightning flash, the Son of man was momentarily revealed and all became as it was before. But such a manifestation here on earth, for a thousand years of kingly jurisdiction, would be of very doubtful expediency, if at all possible, under any earthly conditions with which we are acquainted or which we could possibly imagine, and in express contradiction of the teachings of Christ.

Another consideration of the greatest importance in this argument is that in the Apocalypse, where the revelator has portrayed to us the coming of the Christ in judgment, and would then delineate the glories and enduring conditions of the New Jerusalem — the Church of Christ in her triumphant and perennial happiness perpetually proving a blessing to the nations — he represents the throne of royalty occupied by God the Father and the Lamb, the sacrificed Son, and out of this throne proceeded “a river of water of life, bright as crystal.” This river flows through the street of the city, while “on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner [or crops] of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev. xxii, 1, 2). It is difficult to believe that anything else is intended here but a description of the source, outgoing, and influences of the Holy Spirit. Water is frequently used in the Scriptures as the Spirit’s symbol. It is “poured out,” “shed forth” and “drank in.” It flows out of Christ as “rivers of living water;” it springs up in the recipient, as a well of water, unto everlasting life, and refreshes and cleanses the Church.

The use of this symbol, in the place that it occurs, certainly implies that the Spirit is to be, throughout all the triumphant years of the Church, its great source of blessing and potency. The figure of the tree of life growing on either side of the river bearing its twelve crops of fruit, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations, teaches distinctly that the conversion of the nations of the earth is to be through the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit flows through the Church as a clear, bright, majestic river, and gives birth to agencies which save the nations from their evils and disorders, and cause them, in turn, to bring their glory and honor into the city — the Church. Then, nearly the last verse of the Bible consists of an invitation from the Spirit, the Church, and the hearer to every thirsty soul to come and take the water of life freely, as though this were the great and crowning blessing of all God’s gifts and mercies — which is most certainly the case.

Lastly, Christ most expressly promised the Spirit as a perpetually abiding Comforter. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that HE may be with you FOREVER, even the Spirit of truth.” And then the sentiment is confirmed by the words which follow : “For he abideth with you, and shall be in you.”

It is evident from this precise and positive language that the Spirit, as the great energizer of the apostles and their followers in the work of the world’s salvation, was not to be superseded, supplanted, or even supplemented by any other agency. Christ chooses the Spirit to supply his place fully, in all earthly conditions and responsibilities; and it is therefore a delusion and a snare to suppose that the bodily appearance of Christ will work changes which cannot be produced by the almighty and eternal Spirit, through whom Christ himself was enabled to offer himself “without blemish unto God” (Heb. ix, 14). No description of the parousia of Christ presents him as coming for the purpose of converting men; but he is always represented as coming to punish those who have rejected him, and to gather to himself those who have already believed in him and are looking and waiting hopefully for his appearing. He was to appear “apart from sin, unto salvation;” but this salvation is for those who, as believers, wait for him, and is, as will be clearly seen by a careful reading, a salvation into glory.

We therefore hold that the dispensation of the Spirit having been established— a dispensation which is to continue through all the future of the Church, for the conversion of men and the purifying and strengthening of the Church — there is no demand for a future bodily appearing of Christ to these ends; and that we are thus far debarred from expecting the parousia of Christ as a future event.


The Argument from a Parallel Case

The great majority of the Jewish people were disappointed in Christ. His first advent was not in accordance with their preconceived ideas. He was born in the town where the scribes told Herod he should be, and was brought up in Nazareth, that he might be called a Nazarene, to the fulfilling of the Scriptures. In many outward things he fulfilled the ancient testimonies concerning him, and answered fully in character to the descriptions of the prophets. Yet he was despised and rejected by his own people, as those same prophets asserted he would be — and this because he did not come as a conquering world king, to deliver them from the Roman rule and to bring the nation into a condition far surpassing that in which David left it. Even his own disciples were disappointed in him. They supposed that they were to have exalted positions in an earthly kingdom which he was to establish, and two of them at least had no hesitancy in making known their ambitious desire to sit, the one on his right hand and the other on his left, in that kingdom. They were surprised at his humiliation, confounded at his attitude toward the men and things of his time, and astonished beyond measure when he told them of the death he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. They quarreled frequently about having the preeminence in his kingdom, and even just before his last sad interview with them; still retaining their incorrect and shortsighted views after his resurrection, wishing even then to know if he was not about to restore the kingdom unto Israel (Acts i, 6).

The Jews of that day rejected, insulted, and crucified Christ, and the Jews of the present day, as a body, will not receive him, but are still looking for their Messiah to appear; or, having given up all hope in this direction, have given themselves over to skepticism, rationalism, or indifferentism. When we inquire for the cause of this rejection of the Christ on his first advent we find that it was occasioned by a false interpretation of the highly figurative language used concerning him by the prophets of the Old Testament.

Moses had prophesied that a prophet should be raised up like unto himself. Moses was a leader of the people — the great lawgiver; communing with God amid the clouds and fire and terrible sounds of Sinai; magnificent in intellect; full of wisdom; superior in action — the grandest man of the age. David had prophesied that the Messiah of God would be a King sitting upon the holy hill of Zion, breaking the nations with a rod of iron, and dashing them in pieces as a potter’s vessel. In the forty-fifth Psalm he is addressed as a powerful Sovereign: “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O mighty one, thy glory and thy majesty.” Isaiah prophesies of him as “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” and asserts that “Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with judgment and with righteousness from henceforth even forever.” Isaiah avers, “A king shall reign in righteousness;” exclaims, in God’s name, “Behold, I have given him for a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples;” then in the sixtieth and sixty-first chapters of his prophecy portrays in glowing colors the future glories of Israel under the triumphant and blissful reign of the Messiah. Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Daniel and the minor prophets all allude to the coming or times of the Messiah in terms of the greatest enthusiasm, and with rapturous expectations of a golden age of widespread contentment and extraordinary prosperity.

From these highly wrought poetic representations the Jews obtained a dazzling view of the Messianic age, and applying all these vivid portrayals to the person and acts of the Christ, in a literal sense, they indulged in high hopes of deliverance from the national subjugation under which they writhed, and joyously expected a time when they should possess unspeakable advantages and supreme authority over all peoples.

Says Dr. Geikie: “The central and dominant characteristic of the teaching of the rabbis was the certain advent of a great national deliverer — the Messiah, or anointed of God, or, in the Greek translation, the Christ. In no other nation than the Jews has such a conception ever taken such root or shown such vitality. From the times of their great national troubles under their later kings the words of David, Moses, and the prophets had alike been cited as divine promises of a mighty Prince who should ‘restore the kingdom to Israel.’ … With a few the conception of the Messiah’s kingdom was pure and lofty. … But very few realized that a heavenly king must imply a holy kingdom; that his true reign must be in the purified souls of men. Few realized that the true preparation for his coming was not vainglorious pride, but humiliation for sin. The prevailing idea of the rabbis and the people alike, in Christ’s day, was that the Messiah would be simply a great prince who should found a kingdom of matchless splendor. Nor was the idea of his heavenly origin at all universal; almost all fancied that he would be only a human hero, who should lead them to victory” (Life of Christ, pages 55-57)

Now, it must be very obvious that this idea of Christ coming as a temporal prince, to establish a splendid earthly kingdom and to lead his chosen people to victory over all subjugating powers, arose from a wrong interpretation of the prophecies. The highly figurative language of Isaiah and others had been taken in a literal sense, and all the similes, metaphors, and parallels used to predict the spiritual glories and successes of the Prince of Peace had been taken to refer to earthly triumphs, and interpreted in a most material and sensuous manner. The Jews, therefore, as a nation, did not believe that the Christ had ever appeared. They could not believe that the magnificent descriptions of his glorious coming and reign were fulfilled in the birth of the babe of Bethlehem and the lowly life of the Nazarene. Whatever view they might have taken of Jesus of Nazareth they did not consider him in any sense their majestic Messiah. They cast scorn and contempt upon him, and upon all who accepted him as the Christ, or who spoke of his coming as a fulfillment of the ancient prophecies concerning the advent of their glorious Deliverer. They believed the facts totally inadequate to the allegations, and utterly refused to give the least credence to those who endeavored to prove to them the fulfillment of the prophecies in Jesus, the peasant of Galilee.

Now, it seems to us there is an exact parallel to all this in the position taken by many members of the Christian Church, who profess faith in the New Testament and accept its assertions in regard to a second advent of Christ but give them a rendering not intended by the writers. Taking the assertions of Christ himself and of his apostles in a purely literal sense, they have fallen into hurtful error; making the same mistake that was made by the contemporaries of our Lord. Much of the language of the New Testament in regard to the second coming of Christ is just as symbolic and poetic as that of the Old Testament in regard to his first advent. Especially is this true of the Apocalypse, written by a Jew profoundly read in the vaticinations of the Hebrew prophets. Imbibing from them the same figures of speech, and using them lavishly in the preparation of his own work, he even excels them in the rich ornateness of his style, and far surpasses them in the multitude and variety of his symbols. Christ, in the portrayal of his own parousia, speaks of the sun being darkened, of the stars falling from heaven, and of the powers of heaven being shaken. He tells of his appearance in great glory and of his sitting on a throne to judge the nations. Peter speaks of the day of the Lord as one in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, the elements melt with fervent heat, and the earth and the works therein be burned up. John, as we have intimated, uses all through the Apocalypse an army of figures and constellations of imagery to describe and picture the events of the day of the Lord in which he found himself, in spirit, and to delineate especially the coming in the clouds of the Son of man, to reward his friends and punish his adversaries.

All these highly wrought tropes and figures are taken as sober, literal fact by many persons, and supposed to refer to actual scenes and occurrences which can be recognized as outward phenomena by the senses; and because they have not, as far as they know from historical accounts, taken place in a physical matter-of-fact way, and because there has not been an appearance of the Lord in all respects fulfilling these highly figurative declarations, they deny that he has come at all, are still looking for a future advent, treat as a huge joke the opinion of the Preterist, and condemn as heretical the doctrine of a past parousia; apparently forgetting, or repressing, the positive and persistent assertions of our Lord, and of all his apostles who have written at his dictation, that he would not delay his coming, but quickly come, even in that very generation.

As it was certainly well for the holy people living at the time of Christ’s first advent, Zacharias, Elisabeth, Mary, Anna, Simeon, John the Baptist, and others, to joyfully believe the babe of Bethlehem and the man of Nazareth to be the predicted Christ of the Old Testament, and that he made that first advent when the angels sang “Peace on earth,” and thus to come into the experience of all the joy and comfort resulting from such a belief, so it is well for us to believe that this same Jesus, going away, did again come and fulfill all his blessed promises of a speedy return to receive his people to himself and prepare the way for all who love him to be with him as they put off this tabernacle, and thus to enjoy all the comfort and peace which come from this most glorious faith in an already perfected Christ, who has completed all his work of preparing the place for us and waits to immediately receive us to the full and complete joys of the eternal kingdom, when we change the image of the earthly for the image of the heavenly.

And as there came to those who doubted that advent long years of unrealized hopes and unfulfilled expectancy, resulting, in many cases, in utter hopelessness and confirmed unbelief in the coming of Christ at all, so is it not possible that unbelief in the second advent of the Christ as already accomplished may result in the same despondency, and, in many cases, in utter hopelessness and unbelief?

“The logical and practical issues of the initiative kingly advent must not affright or confound us. The Hebrew people of God ignored the lowly priestly advent and accepted the lofty regal advent. The scribes of Christ’s day said that Elijah was yet to come, when he was come already. If the Church has long been blind to the actual advent of the King, we must not be blind also. If many Christians erroneously look for a visible second advent, or for an advent delayed for eighteen hundred years, or to ‘the end of the world;’ for a King that tarries long instead of coming quickly; for a kingdom without a king which is not a kingdom; for a kingdom localized at Jerusalem, as specialized in Palestine, instead of catholicized in a cosmical brotherhood — why should this confound us? Christendom has had its mediaeval night of a thousand years, and has still its baptized heathenism, its revived Judaism, its huge apostasies, its infantile weakness, its fragmentary divisions and diversities, its superimposed ecclesiasticisms; but the things to be removed are shaken, and the word of our God shall stand forever” (sermon in The Complete Preacher, by Dr. Manly, of Canada).


Evasions Met

We are aware that endeavors have been made to evade the conclusions we have arrived at in the previous pages of this work.

One method is to throw uncertainty over all the predictions concerning the coming of our Lord in his kingdom by quoting 2 Pet. iii, 8, where, evidently referring to the ninetieth Psalm, he says: “But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” The reference in both the Psalm and the epistle is plainly to the great truth that God does not take any particular note of the lapse of time in carrying out his vast and universal plans. One day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day, so far as any effect time can have on the certainty of those plans coming to pass. The mockers were saying to the apostle and his brethren: “From the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation;” and they wished it to be inferred that all things would continue in the same condition indefinitely. But Peter assured them that, though God might bear long with them, yet the day of the Lord would certainly come, and that these men would inevitably meet a merited destruction; the delay not indicating looseness of purpose on the part of God, nor an inability to carry out that purpose, but demonstrating a determination to save as many as possible. Yet, whether a day or a thousand years should intervene, the judgment was sure; the day of the Lord would come.

But this is a very different thing from saying that when God asserts he will bring something to pass in a day he will not, or may not, bring it to pass for a thousand years; or that when he threatens an evil after an interim of a thousand years he may inflict it after a space of twenty-four hours. If this were the case, then he would be “slack concerning his promise,” and all of God’s promises and threatenings would be unutterably confused, and entirely unreliable as a basis of action. This is one of the texts relied upon by the supporters of the fallacious “day for a year” theory, which has been so thoroughly exploded by the late Professor Cowles, of Oberlin, in his Notes on Daniel.

Apply the principle to some of the familiar texts of Scripture, and its absurdity becomes at once apparent: “And after three days rise again” (Mark viii, 31). Do these three days mean three thousand years, and have only two days passed of this time, and is Christ still in the grave — to remain there for another thousand years?

Other evasions we will throw into the form of questions, acknowledging our indebtedness to Dr. Warren for assistance in giving the answers:

Question. “But might not the apostles, and even Christ, have been mistaken, as Dr. Barnes (Com., on 1 Cor. xv, 20) and Professor Fisher (Beginnings of Christianity, page 366) intimate?”

Answer. If so, all faith in the New Testament Scriptures goes by the board, and we may, in the same manner, evade the force of any and all the teachings of Christ and his apostles — the need of the new birth, the punishment of the wicked, and the witness of the Spirit.

Question. “Did not Paul, in his later years, abate the fondness of his anticipations and modify his belief in the nearness of the parousia?”

Answer. No; his later epistles, even those written when he calls himself “Paul the aged” (Philem. 9), contain just as strong expressions of his hope and belief in the parousia as an imminent event as any of his writings (Phil, iv, 5; Col. iii, 4; 2 Tim. iv, 1, 8, 18; Tit. ii, 13). The reading of 2 Tim. iv, i, being “I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who is about to judge the quick and the dead.” And even if this were not the case, he was certainly just as fully inspired when he wrote his first epistle as when he wrote his last.

Question. “Might not Jesus purposely have used language calculated to mislead his hearers for the sake of the moral effect to be thus gained, as Olshausen supposed?”

Answer. It would not have been possible for Jesus, who came to be a witness for the truth and who was the truth, to resort to such tricks to secure an “ethical influence” over his disciples. All deceit injures. What a shocking invention!

Question. “Might not Paul have supposed the near approach of the parousia possible, but not certain, and might he not have spoken obscurely in order merely to express the opinion that he should perhaps live to that event?”

Answer. This empties the solemn admonitions of Paul of half their meaning; teaching that the day may be near, which implies, of course, that it may not. This is to assume “that the ethical benefit of the expectation may be gained, and at the same time his credit as a prophet will be saved, if it turns out to be a mistake!” Does the Holy Spirit guide men into such double dealing as this? Besides, Paul does not speak obscurely, but with the greatest distinctness and emphasis.

Question. “May not these declarations about the nearness of the parousia have been merely the utterance of the desires or longings of the apostles, as Ellicott and Dorner intimate?”

Answer. Dean Alford’s words in his Prolegomena of Second Thessalonians (page 64) are a sufficient reply: “Was the apostle, or was he not, writing in the power of a Spirit higher than his own? Have we, in any sense, God speaking in the Bible, or have we not? If we have, then of all passages it is in these which treat so confidently of futurity that we must recognize his voice. If we have it not in these passages, then where are we to listen to it at all?”

Question. “Should not the speedy coming of the Lord be anticipated at all times, or as ‘possible at any time; that no generation of believers should regard it as impossible in theirs,’ as Archbishop Trench avers?”

Answer. Where in the Scriptures is the second coming of the Lord represented as continually imminent, so that it may occur at any moment? It was imminent before A. D. 70, but that does not make it always imminent. If it was imminent then, it is not imminent now. If the expressions and phrases which assert its nearness were true then, they are not true now; and if they are true now, they were not true then. This demonstrates the error of all believers in the future sudden appearance of our Lord, in using terms and phrases to prove its present imminence, after the lapse of more than eighteen centuries, which, when employed by our Lord and his apostles, did teach the imminence of his coming. The words “quickly,” “at hand,” “in a little while,” etc., mean soon or they do not. If they do, then, as God is faithful, the event came to pass long ago. If they do not, then they are of no possible value to prove it near to-day. What was true for the apostles may not be true for us. What was applicable to their case may have no application whatever to ours. Good “ethical” effects can flow only from the truth. It cannot benefit one to believe that the second coming of the Lord is imminent unless in fact it is. Nothing has caused more skepticism than this very insistence on the near approach of the parousia, and the reiterated failure of such prophecies. The infidelity and loss of respect for the Bible on the part of many of the followers of William Miller, when they found that his calculations were fallacious, were fearful. Time after time has been set, only to pass without the event occurring. A Boston paper admitted, years ago, that ten times it had fixed the time for the Lord’s coming, and as many times was, of course, disappointed. What can such a course produce in many minds but despondency, and then utter incredulity?

Question. “May there not be a double sense in prophecy, and may not our Lord have the final judgment, as a far future event, in his mind while he discourses on the destruction of Jerusalem as a near occurrence?”

Answer. Professor Fisher, of Yale, says: “The rigid application of the grammatico-historical method is the only means of arriving at the sense of Scripture.” Dr. M. S. Terry says: “We may readily admit that the Scriptures are capable of manifold practical applications; otherwise they would not be so useful for doctrine, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. iii, 16). But the moment we admit the principle that portions of Scripture contain an occult or double sense we introduce an element of uncertainty into the sacred volume and unsettle all scientific interpretation” (Biblical Hermeneutics, page 493).

What wonderful things well-meaning men and women have found in the Scriptures by adopting this theory of a double sense! The wild beast of Revelation which rose out of the sea becomes papal Rome, and his “mark” is the observance of the Christian Sabbath, the first day of the week, it being insisted that Sunday is an institution of papal Rome. The stone cut out of the mountain becomes the United States. The war between Michael and the dragon becomes the late civil war between the North and the South, whereby slavery was abolished. The battle of Armageddon is a great conflict which is soon to take place between allied England and America and the European Powers. The new Jerusalem is an actual city, built of stone and mortar, as high as it is long and wide — and a thousand and one other vagaries as hurtful, perhaps, as they are visionary and fallacious.

Let us by close study of the holy writings find what is the one meaning of the Holy Spirit, and then, however it may agree or disagree with our own opinions and wishes, or however many applications we may make of the truth taught, to ourselves or others, let us heed Tennyson:

“Hold thou the good; define it well; For fear divine Philosophy Should push beyond her mark, and be Procuress to the Lords of Hell.”


Objections Answered

Objection 1. “No coming of the Lord which has yet taken place is adequate to the descriptions of the parousia given by Christ and his apostles; even the destruction of Jerusalem and its attendant events not fulfilling such descriptions.”

It is shown by Preterists that this is an unsafe and unsound principle of interpretation. If Jesus taught distinctly and positively that the parousia would take place before that generation passed away, then that was his assertion; and even if it was not fulfilled, the fact that he said so is not disproved. The very men who say that the facts do not fulfill the words are sometimes the very ones who insist that, when it is said “that it might be fulfilled,” we must not evade the force of the expression in the least, but accept the assertion as true even though we cannot solve the meaning. (See criticism on Dean Alford in Dr. Warren’s Parousia of Christ, page 97.)

The destruction of Jerusalem was not the coming of Christ. It was only one of a cluster of events in the visible and invisible spheres which formed the most remarkable combination of prodigies which the world has ever known, or will know. For, according to the words of Christ, the troubles of those days were never to be paralleled: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be.”

Then the great Mosaic dispensation, inaugurated amid the terrible scenes of Sinai, came to an end. Then a theocracy which had existed for sixteen hundred years ceased to be. Then a system of rites and ceremonies grander and more impressive than any ever practiced by man was entirely disavowed by its divine Author, and disused forever by those who had participated in them. Then the magnificent temple at Jerusalem, for ages the glory of the city and the land, the holy and beautiful house, the palladium of the nation’s safety, was foully desecrated, and so demolished that there was not left one stone upon another. Then the chosen people of God, the race which had for centuries shared the peculiar favor of Jehovah, and had considered themselves the most honored and blessed of all people, were suddenly overwhelmed with the most terrible calamities which ever befell a nation; were driven out of their land, deprived of their nationality, put to death in multitudes, and crushed out of all semblance to their former selves — a byword and a hissing to all the world. Then was ushered in that great and terrible day of the Lord which should burn as an oven, prophesied of by the seers of Jehovah centuries before. Then occurred “an event the most awful in history” (Farrar) ; “one of the most awful eras in God’s economy of grace, and the most awful revolution in all God’s dispensations” (Warburton).

Then transpired, says Farrar, “events that had a significance which it is hardly possible to overestimate. … They were God’s own overwhelming judgment on that form of Judaic Christianity which threatened to crush the work of St Paul.”

Then was inaugurated, on the other hand, the all-embracing and everlasting kingdom of God, which was still “at hand” and not fully come, before the siege of Jerusalem (Luke xxi, 31). Then, as we have seen, the Son delivered up the Messianic kingdom to the Father; and the Father affectionately called to his throne, as joint sovereign with himself, his beloved Son, the Lamb of God, who as Mediator was to reign forever and ever (Rev. xi, 15; xxii, 1).

Then was to be fully opened a new dispensation, with new ordinances; a new covenant established on better promises; a new kind of sacrifices; a new High Priest; a new order of lower priests; a new temple; a new way to the holiest of all ; a new dwelling place for the Shekinah; new hopes, new aspirations, new joys; a new heaven and a new earth, presided over by one who declared, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. xxi, 5). Then was to be more rapidly built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles the new Jerusalem, which was to far surpass in greatness and glory the old Jerusalem. Then the narrow and exclusive was to be succeeded by the world-wide and all-inclusive; all nations were to participate in the privileges and glories of the new order. Then was ushered in that resplendent day, foretold for so many centuries by the prophets of God, when the mountain of the Lord’s house should be established in the top of the mountains, and all nations should flow unto it.

Then was created a new world, a new age, “the world to come,” the αἰῶν μέλλον or οικουμενη μελλουσα of the New Testament, of which Meyer says: “The του αιωνος with the article, but not further defined, is to be understood as referring to the then existing, the then current, age of the world — that is, to the αιων ουτος which is brought to a close (συντελεια) with the second coming, inasmuch as with this latter event the αιων μελλον begins. The second coming, the resurrection, and the last judgment fall upon the εσχατη ἡμερα (John vi, 39; xi, 24), which, as it will be the last day of the αιων ουτος in general, so of the εσχατων ἡμερον in particular” (Com., on Matt xxiv, 3). This was not merely the future state, the invisible world of spirits, but a dispensation including both the visible and the invisible spheres, when the glories and privileges of the Gospel were to be enjoyed in all their fullness. So we find the apostles frequently contrasting the age that then was with the coming age, which was to so far surpass it in all that tended to rich experiences in the Christian life, and especially in the glorious advantages and higher attainments of the invisible sphere, these forming part of this incoming era of light and progress.

Then were the saints of the Old Testament times to be brought from Sheol and admitted to this light and glory of “the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Then a new order was established in regard to those dying in the Lord; for then they were to commence to enter, and to continue to enter, into the joy of their Lord and the rest that remained for God’s people.

When these and many other attendant wonders are duly considered it certainly will not be denied that the period which was marked by such an array of unprecedented events is worthy to be considered the time of the coming of the Lord, the day of his appearance, the hour of his manifestation and parousia.

Those who have made this objection have evidently given the subject inadequate consideration, or have been misled by phraseology which we will endeavor correctly to interpret in the next section.

Objection 2. “The stupendous physical phenomena which are spoken of as accompanying the parousia did not take place in that age, nor since.”

The sun was to be darkened, and the moon turned into blood; the powers of heaven were to be shaken; the stars were to fall from heaven; the Son of man was to be seen coming in the clouds of heaven; the angels were to separate the wicked from the just; there was to be the sound of a trumpet; the heavens were to pass away with a great noise; the earth was to be burned up, with all the works therein; the elements were to melt with fervent heat, and a new heaven and a new earth to be created — all these expressions being given a material and physical meaning. Says Dr. Joseph Agar Beet in his late work, The Last Things: “And nothing happened at the capture of Jerusalem which can by the wildest stretch of imagination be described by language used in Matt, xxiv, 29, 30.”

It is at once admitted that these events did not take place literally and physically, and we must therefore insist that the language in regard to the prediction must be modified, or there must be a modification of the language describing these attendant circumstances. But the language used in stating the prediction is direct and simple in the extreme, and we know that those to whom it was first spoken had, undoubtedly, no other view than that the great event predicted was soon to occur. But in regard to the costume of the event, the concomitants, we find that the language is in the highest degree poetic and symbolic; utterly incapable of being taken in a literal and commonplace sense. Was the sun actually to be turned into darkness? Was the moon really to be turned into blood — “a vast globe of clotted gore?” Were the stars to leave their orbits, and fall toward the earth — one of the least of the planets of our system? Were the elements, earth, air, fire, and water — for these were the physical elements of the ancients (Josephus, book iii, chap, vii, sec. 7)— to be melted? Were the heavens — the infinite blue expanse above us — to be rolled together as a scroll? Was there to appear a real throne of white marble, or some other material, on which Jesus was to sit as he judged the nations? Was he to have on his head a veritable “golden crown,” and bear in his hand “a sharp sickle,” made of steel? How preposterous any such supposition! This is all figurative language, which was well understood by the disciples and apostles of our Lord; for they were familiar with it as used by their own prophets, and as we shall be if we carefully peruse the Old Testament Scriptures.

According to these highly poetic and florid statements, the Lord had frequently made his appearance in the past, sometimes with local physical phenomena, and sometimes entirely without. The elders saw him, “and did eat and drink” (Exod. xxiv, 11). Manoah and his wife saw him as he ascended in the flame (Judg. xiii, 20). Job could say, “Now mine eye seeth thee” as he appeared in the whirlwind (Job xlii, 5). “He bowed the heavens and came down” to David’s deliverance (Psa.xviii,9). Isaiah saw him “sitting on a throne, high and lifted up” (Isa. vi, 1). He put forth his hand and touched the mouth of Jeremiah (Jer. i, 9). Ezekiel saw him and heard his voice (Ezek. i, 26-28). Daniel saw him in the night visions, coming with the clouds of heaven (Dan. vii, 13); and he was seen riding into Egypt on “a swift cloud” (Isa. xix, 1).

The Old Testament Scriptures are full of this phraseology, as we have shown in Chapter VII. The earth is “removed,” “turned upside down,” “clean dissolved,” etc., etc. The heavens are rolled together as a scroll, and their host dissolved and falling like leaves. The world and all that dwell therein are burned. Habakkuk tells us that when the Lord came from Teman the everlasting mountains were scattered, and the perpetual hills did bow. In Joel’s day, when the Lord uttered his voice before his army of locusts the earth quaked before them, the heavens trembled, the sun and moon were dark, and the stars withdrew their shining (Joel ii, 10). And in the same kind of language he describes the phenomena which will occur in a future day of the Lord, which Peter tells us was to come soon after his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Joel ii, 3; iii, 15, with Acts ii, 20).

Now, it is absolutely certain that these expressions do not refer to actual occurrences in the physical world, but, being tropical terms, are used to suggest to the mind of the reader great perturbations and changes in political, social, and religious matters; even describing great mental experiences, as in the case of David (Psa. xviii). Yet there is, as has been intimated, a physical basis in some of these instances, as in the locust invasion described by Joel. In that case there was the darkening of the sun, in a literal sense, by reason of the enormous swarm of insects, and in the event of an invasion of a country by an army of men there would be the smoke of burning cities and the clouds of dust from the moving masses of men and beasts.

But, barring these slight allusions to physical events, it is manifest that the intention of the Old Testament writers was to convey to their readers ideas of great national disasters, and the downfall of prominent cities and men, by means of these highly wrought descriptions of material phenomena. And this is admitted by many who hold to the literal interpretation of the New Testament language on these subjects; though we see with great surprise that Dr. Beet holds that the language of Joel ii refers to a “dissolution of nature.”

But when we come to the interpretation of exactly the same expressions in the New Testament, many of those who admit the tropical character of the Old Testament utterances insist on attaching a literal sense to the predictions of Christ and his apostles, borrowed though they are from the Old Testament; and, because these extraordinary changes and convulsions of nature have not actually taken place in the sensible sphere, are ready to declare those predictions unfulfilled, and to treat with utter disdain the doctrine that the parousia of the Lord has already taken place, and that we are now in postadvent times.

Surely this is not a scholarly or rational course to pursue. These figurative expressions mean the same in the mouths of our Lord and his apostles that they do in the mouths of the old prophets, and signify merely the great and universal changes which were to accompany and follow the advent of Christ in the political, social, moral, and religious realms.


Objections Answered — Continued

Objection 3. “The parousia was to bring the end of the world, and to be accompanied by the resurrection of the dead, the rapture of the saints, the judgment, and the consequent bestowal of reward and infliction of punishment. As these have not visibly occurred, the parousia has not taken place.”

So far as the objection relates to the phrase “the end of the world,” an answer is easily made. This phrase reads in the Greek, συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος and merely means “the completion of the age,” or, “the end of the dispensation.” A great world crisis was to arrive, and the whole order of God’s dealing with the nations of the world was to be changed. This took place when the entire Jewish economy was overthrown, the city of Jerusalem and its temple destroyed, the rites and ceremonies of the Levitical law abrogated, and the new covenant, with all its wonderful and enlarged privileges and blessings, firmly established and put in force. (See Chapter XV.)

The “end of the world” as a destruction of this material globe on which we dwell is nowhere taught in the Scriptures. The phrases which seem to teach such a catastrophe are capable of bearing, and should be given, an entirely different meaning, as we have seen in answering the second objection; and their interpretation as meaning the passing away of our planet, or even its sudden transformation into a paradisaical condition, arises from a tendency of the common mind to give a material sense to expressions which should have affixed to them a higher signification, and in many instances one entirely spiritual.

There is no passage in the Bible more expressive of an actual demolition of the universe than that found in the third chapter of Second Peter; and if it can be shown that here the dissolution spoken of was not that of the solid earth and the material heavens, then it logically follows that all like passages may be capable of a like interpretation, and that none of them refer necessarily to the ruin of the physical universe. Let us therefore consider this passage:

1. It is evident that the apostle is speaking of something which was soon to occur. He had said in his first epistle, “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Pet iv, 7). He had averred that “the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God” (ver. 17); and in this epistle he tells of scoffers coming in the last days, and (2 Pet. iii, 5) alludes to them as then living; for he says, “for this they willfully forget” (present tense. Revised Version). He also exhorts his fellow-disciples then living thus: “Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God” (vers. II, 12). “It follows, therefore, that it could not be the literal destruction or dissolution of the globe or the created universe concerning which the spirit of prophecy here speaks. But that there was at the moment when this epistle was written an awful catastrophe impending; that the long-predicted ‘day of the Lord’ was actually at hand; that the day did come both speedily and suddenly; that it came ‘as a thief in the night;’ that a fiery deluge of wrath and judgment overwhelmed the guilty land and nation of Israel, destroying and dissolving its earthly things and its heavenly things — that is to say, its temporal and spiritual institutions — is a fact indelibly imprinted on the pages of history” (The Parousia, pages 319, 320).

2. Nearly every phrase used by Peter can be duplicated from the Old Testament prophets, as can be seen by referring to Objection 2 and its answer. Now, we know that the dissolution of the material earth was not “necessary to the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies; therefore, neither is it necessary in order to the accomplishment of the predictions of the New Testament.”

3. Peter refers to the flood as an illustration of what was to take place in the last days. He tells us that “the world that then was” perished, the agency used being water. But we know that this perishing was not a destruction of the earth itself, for that remained intact, and it is the same earth that we inhabit. We must then find another meaning for the phrase “heavens and earth” and, following good authorities, make it to mean the people who then dwelt on the earth, with their institutions. Now, in order that there may be coherence in the apostle’s argument, the same or similar “heavens and earth” which perished by water must be those which were to perish by fire, and therefore the destruction to occur was not one which involved the material heavens and earth, but merely the men of that age, with their institutions, as he says in verse 7, “reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” This is fully confirmed by verse 5 of chapter ii: “And spared not the ancient world … when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly.”

Sir Isaac Newton says: “The figurative language of the prophets is taken from the analogy between the world natural and an empire or kingdom, considered as a world politic” (On the Prophecies of Daniel).

Dr. John Brown, of Edinburgh, as quoted by the author of The Parousia: “The dissolution of the Mosaic economy and the establishment of the Christian is often spoken of as the removing of the old earth and heavens, and the creation of a new earth and new heavens. For example: ‘Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth : and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind;’ ‘For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain’ (Isa. Ixv, 17; Ixvi, 22). [Texts which plainly refer to the setting up of the Christian dispensation.] The period of the close of one dispensation and the commencement of the other is spoken of as ‘the last days’ and ‘the end of the world;’ and is described as such a shaking of the earth and heavens as should lead to the removal of the things which were shaken” (Hag. ii, 6; Heb. xii, 26, 27).

4. There is significance in the use of the word στοιχεια, “elements,” in this passage. This word signified originally the first principles of anything; it then came to be applied to the first elements of language, then to primary matter out of which things visible were made, and then to the elements of knowledge. In the New Testament the only other writers who use the word are Paul and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Its use by Paul is to contrast the elementary religious knowledge of the Jews with that possessed by the followers of Christ, and he therefore calls the knowledge possessed by the Jew “weak and poor elements” (Gal. iv, 9). There may have been, therefore, in Peter’s mind this meaning of the word, and he might have chosen it intentionally to carry with his figure of the destruction of the material heavens and earth the idea that the Jewish heavens and earth, the grand religious forms and ceremonies as well as the local political government, were all to pass away; to be succeeded by the permanent new heavens and earth, the dwelling place of righteousness, the glorious and blessed dispensation of Christianity.

5. If it be insisted that, as the agent used in the destruction of the antediluvian world was a physical agent, therefore, to carry out the analogy, the agent used for the destruction of the antiadvent world must also be a physical agent, and that the “fire” of verse 7 is to be understood as literal fire, we may reply that literal fire had much to do with the destruction of the Jewish polity, as it was fire that totally destroyed the temple (so far as fire could affect it), and also assisted in the destruction of the city of Jerusalem.

Therefore Peter quotes Joel in his sermon on the day of Pentecost as prophesying: “I will show wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke” (Acts ii, 19). But Joel (ii, 30) reads, “blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke” (timroth, from tantar, a palm tree). Peter may have had these words in mind when he wrote his second epistle. The figures used are drawn from scenes of war and carnage: the blood indicating the slain, and the fire the destruction of the cities of the invaded country, while the pillars of smoke are the fumes arising from the camps of the enemy and the destroyed towns while burning. All this points to “a fiery deluge of wrath and judgment” which “devoured the adversaries” of Christ as the Father “sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (Matt, xxii, 7). But fire is used all through the Bible as the figure of destructive force; and when It is desired to describe the destruction of anything it is spoken of as being subjected to the power of this agency. So God himself becomes a consuming fire (Heb. xii, 29) to the wicked, and the Lord Jesus is represented as being revealed in flaming fire to take vengeance on them that know not God (2 Thess. i, 8). Many other passages use this agent as the symbol of destruction. (See 1 Pet. i, 7; iv, 12; 1 Cor. iii, 13, 15; Heb. vi, 8.)

Thus interpreted, 2 Pet. iii, 7-12, gives no support to the theory that the dissolution of this material universe is intended, and, in fact, no such doctrine is anywhere taught in God’s word; but, on the contrary, the stability and ever-enduring character of the earth is repeatedly asserted. For instance, God’s covenant with Noah was “for perpetual generations,” Ledoroth olam. So in Psa. civ, 5, “Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be moved forever.” Also Eccles. i, 4, “One generation goeth, and another generation cometh; and the earth abideth forever.” It was the opinion of Philo and other learned Jews that God had created the earth to endure forever, and that it was derogatory to the power and wisdom of God to think otherwise.

As to the resurrection of the dead, the change of the living, the rapture of the saints, and the judgment, we expect to deal with these subjects in future chapters; but it may here be noticed:

  1. That those who hold that the word “parousia” means “presence” answer this objection by saying that, the parousia not being an event but an era, ample time is afforded for the occurrence of all these events during its progress; but as our theory makes the parousia an event, though an event which ushered in the permanent reign of Christ, we are under the necessity of showing that the probabilities all point to the fact that these processes began to take place at a point of time coeval with the end of the Mosaic economy, or about A. D. 70.

  2. The resurrection from the dead, or of the dead, is not necessarily a visible, palpable occurrence. It is an event which takes place in the invisible sphere. Even Christ’s resurrection was not witnessed by mortals; therefore that the resurrection has not taken place as a visible occurrence should not be held as evidence that the parousia has not taken place.

  3. The change of the living was something which was to take place in the twinkling of an eye, and therefore was not an event to be plainly seen.

  4. As to the judgment, we merely quote a few lines from Dr. Terry, reserving the full discussion of the question to our chapter on the subject: “Nothing could be more unscriptural than the notion that the judgment of nations and individuals is limited to one last day” (Biblical Hermeneutics, page 450).

Objection 4. “This view of the parousia is inconsistent with the perpetuity of the Lord’s Supper, which Paul teaches was to be observed till he come.”

We can do no better than to present here a condensation of the argument of Dr. Warren in his work, The Parousia of Christ, pages 102-105. The passage does not deny that the coming of Christ was near, but is founded on that very fact, which is affirmed and reiterated all through this epistle; and so the objection lies against Paul himself, and not against the theory we are endeavoring to uphold.

But there exists no inconsistency. The phrase “till” or “until,” ἄχρι οὐ ἀν, while specifying a time unto which something is continued, does by no means imply that its continuance then ceases. The children of Israel increased in Egypt “till another king arose,” etc.; but did they not increase afterward also? (Acts vii, 17, 18.) “Until the law sin was in the world;” was it not here also after the law was given? (Rom. v, 13.) “That which ye have, hold fast till I come” (Rev. ii, 25). Here is a case exactly in point. Here is the very same phrase precisely, and used under much the same circumstances. Did Christ mean that the church at Thyatira was not to be faithful after he came? No more can we suppose that Paul meant that the church at Corinth was not to celebrate the Lord’s Supper after Christ came. But they were to live continually with the watchword in their mouths, Maran atha “The Lord cometh,” or, is coming, and do all things in view of this event, which was hastening on rapidly. So the Eucharist was to be partaken of in view of Christ’s coming, and not as a secular feast. “Fe do show forth the Lord’s death till he come.” They were the very ones who were to solemnly perform this behest of Christ, for they were the ones who might live to see him appear.

But whence would the Corinthian church after A. D. 70, and whence do we in A. D. 1900, derive the obligation to observe this ordinance? From the command of Christ: “Take, eat; this is my body … Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood.” All Christians are to observe it as a memorial of their Lord, as a witness of Christ’s death, and as a means of fellowship with one another, and of communion with the Lord, while here in the flesh.

There is no bodily, visible, corporeal presence of Christ in the parousia, nor while exercising the prerogatives of his dominion over the nations of the world. We must apprehend him by faith, as the primitive Christians did. Hence a use of this rite as a memorial of the Lord and a monument of Christianity for the instruction of the Church and the world, till we come to enjoy his presence in the glorified state.


Objections Answered — Continued

Objection 5. “The coming of Christ was to be a bodily, visible one, and no such coming has taken place; therefore the parousia must still be a future event.”

It is nowhere asserted in the Scriptures that the coming would be a bodily one, and nowhere in the Bible is it asserted that men would see him descending from heaven in a bodily form. What the angels said to the disciples after Christ’s ascension is treated in the next section of this chapter. It is asserted that “every eye shall see him,” but, as we have fully shown, this was not to be a visual perception of him as a material object. These words indicative of physical vision are frequently used in the Bible to indicate mental acts, as in the beatitude “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt, v, 8); “Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith” (James ii, 24). Sometimes they refer to an experience : “If a man keep my word, he shall never see death” (John viii, 51); “And have seen the end of the Lord” James v, 11), etc., etc. So the Scriptures speak of seeing the unseeable, or the invisible: “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (2 Cor. iv, 18); “For he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb. xi, 27).

Yet some insist that Christ will come actually sitting upon one of the clouds of our atmosphere (Rev. xiv, 14). Why not, then, make the sickle, which he is said to hold, an, object also of bodily vision; and why not insist, again, that Christ will actually ride a white horse, well caparisoned, and have on his head a number of real diadems, and wear a military cloak sprinkled with crimson gore, and have proceeding from his mouth a sword of Damascus steel, a rod of iron in his hand, and his feet actually treading an ancient wine press? (Rev. xix, 11-15.)

Again, we are not to insist that, because the word parousia means the presence of the body in referring to a man who can be present as a man, in no other way — as were Paul and Timothy and Titus in various places — therefore our Lord, in his glorified condition, can be present in no other manner. Where two or three were gathered in his name, there he was to be in the midst; and with his disciples he was to be “all the days, even unto the completion of the age.” He was certainly present with his disciples during all the forty days intervening between his resurrection and his ascension, and yet for the greater part of that time he was invisible to their bodily eyes. Dr. Whedon says: “Perhaps all will grant that our Lord’s ordinary stay or abode between his resurrection and ascension was in the invisible” (Com,, on Luke xxiv, 39).

Still, we allow that there may have been a visible manifestation of Christ at his parousia such as Paul saw on his way to Damascus, or such as Stephen saw at his martyrdom; but this was a flash, a lightning like manifestation, and not a long-continued tarrying in bodily form.

Again, the word parousia is used in regard to the day of the advent: “Looking for and earnestly desiring the coming [παρουσιαν] of the day of God” (2 Pet iii, 12). Now, a day, as a period of time, cannot be seen with the bodily eyes; yet Jesus says, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad” (John viii, 56); and the Hebrew Christians were told to exhort one another, “and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh” (Heb. x, 25).

This seeing must have been a mental perception of the nearness of the day of the Lord because of the existence of the signs of the coming of the Son of man. So the seeing of the Lord is a mental or heart perception of Christ’s presence, as in the text, “Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. xii, 14).

So with regard to the word αποκαλυψις, translated “appearing,” “revelation,” etc. This does not refer necessarily to a bodily presentation, for our Lord says: “Neither doth any know the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal [αποκαλυψαι] him.” Now, that the Father is ever invisible, and only spiritually perceived, the advocates of the “bodily” theory must admit. If, therefore, the invisible God can be revealed to man, why cannot Christ be revealed, yet not necessarily in an ocular manner? So indeed Christ asserts that he was not revealed, in his true character, to Peter by flesh and blood, but that he had been revealed (αποκαλυψεν) by the Father, and therefore spiritually.

“Epiphany” (ἐπιφαωεια) is another word which the supporters of the “bodily” theory use in support of a corporeal, resplendent appearance, because this is the original import of the word. But all words of mental perception, in all languages, are derived from roots of physical import, and this is the very word, in its verbal form, used by Christ to assure his disciples that he would manifest himself in a spiritual way to them, as is shown by the context: “I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him” (ἐμφανίσω αὐτῷ ἐμαυτὸν) (John xiv, 21). This was to be a personal manifestation, but it was not therefore to be a visible manifestation. Visibility is not necessarily an adjunct of personality. God is a divine Person, but he is not therefore an object of sight. And even in regard to a man, philosophy teaches us that a man is really just as invisible as God, and that the proofs of man’s existence are the same as the proofs of God’s existence.

We believe, therefore, the proper view to be that the second coming of Christ was to be an invisible coming, and that the expressions “coming in the clouds of heaven” or “coming with the clouds” indicate the obscureness, or invisibility, of Christ at the time of his second advent. We quote with entire approbation the following from a lecture on the second advent by the Rev. John G. Manly, of the Methodist Church of Canada :

“We cannot understand the two advents of Christ unless we distinguish between the visibility of his priesthood and the invisibility of his kingdom.

“The priesthood of Christ was visible because he had a visible sacrifice to offer, and because, for the relief of the world, his sacrifice must be seen and testified. The sacrifice of Christ was his flesh for the life of the world; and so he came and lived and died visibly. He was born in Bethlehem in the days of Herod the king, and was seen of the shepherds and the wise men. He was visibly brought up in the family of Joseph and Mary, in the northern city called Nazareth. He visibly labored as a carpenter till he was thirty years old. He was visibly baptized of John in the Jordan, and then visibly exercised his priestly ministry for upward of three years. He visibly died at Jerusalem, the true center then of the world, in the face of the Jewish nation that was assembled for the Passover, and in the presence of the world’s great Roman power. Whatever event of history is denied or questioned, the death of Jesus can never be doubted. The world condemned him, crucified him, saw him die.

“But the kingdom of Christ is an invisible kingdom. The kingdom of God is within you— cometh not with outward show — is not meat and drink, like sensible priestly Judaism, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.’ The Holy Spirit is invisible (for the world beholdeth him not’), and so are the holiness and happiness in him that constitute the divine kingdom. The kingdom of God is not in word,’ in optical marks or aural indications, though these are eminent instruments; ‘but in power’ the invisible power of the invisible Spirit coming upon us. The kingdom of God is a ‘mystery,’ the mystery of a hidden and divine life, like the life of the buried seed or the human birth ; and as such unseen. ‘My kingdom,’ says Christ, ‘is not of this world;’ which means that it is of unworldly nature and unworldly origin, and therefore spiritual and divine. ‘If my kingdom were of this world’ in its nature, if it were, like the world, sensible and carnal, ‘my servants would fight’ with the worldly weapons; but ‘the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, since, ‘though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.’ ‘Now is my kingdom not from hence,’ not of worldly origin or nature. The subjects of the kingdom ‘walk by faith, and not by sight;’ and the life which they live in the flesh is a life of faith in the Son of God. ‘Flesh and blood,’ or carnal nature, ‘cannot inherit the kingdom of God.’ It cannot be known or attained through the senses; it cannot be discerned by eyes or ears of flesh; it cannot be grasped by hands of flesh or taken by physical force. It is invisible, like hidden leaven, hidden treasure, hidden seed, and secret growth.

“The Head of this invisible kingdom is an invisible King. He has been invisible ever since his ascension, and is so permanently. So he forewarned his disciples: ‘A little while’ of a few hours, between my last supper and my death, ‘and the world beholds me no more. … ‘A little while’ of forty days, between my resurrection and ascension, ‘and ye,’ my disciples, ‘behold me not. … I go to my Father’ at my ascension, ‘and ye beheld me no more. … And now,’ from my decease, ‘I am no more in the world’ [to be seen of them]. ‘The days are coming in which ye shall desire to behold, but shall not see one of the days of the Son of man’ in his visibility. So Paul understood and taught: ‘Though we have known Christ after the flesh,’ seen him with our eyes of flesh, heard him with our ears of flesh, handled him with our hands of flesh, ‘yet now henceforth,’ now forever, ‘know we him no more’ through flesh and sense.

“As the kingdom and the King are invisible, so must be also the kingly, or second, advent. This is what Christ means by his advent in clouds. Clouds are the concealing clothing of the Deity and the dust of his feet. ‘Clouds and darkness are round about him.’ He came of old into Egypt unseen, riding upon a swift cloud. His kingly return, according to the angels, was to be like his departure. He left in a cloud, and he was to come back in a cloud. He left personally, and he was to return personally. He left at Jerusalem, and he was to return at Jerusalem. It is a mistake to say that he left visibly and was to return visibly. He was necessarily visible before he left, but immediately on leaving he became invisible, for a cloud received him out of their sight.

“The invisibility of the kingly advent is taught us in the ninth of Hebrews, by the contrast of ὄπτομαι with φανεροω. The first of these verbs occurs fifty-seven times in the New Testament, and in fifty-three instances signifies either spiritual sight or supernatural appearance. Whenever our incorporeal knowledge of Christ is meant, in contrast with corporeal, it is denoted by the word ὄπτομαι. So it is in Heb. ix, 26, 28: ‘Now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested [πεφανέρωται, the first time] to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. … So Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear [ὀφθήσεται, a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for him, unto salvation.’ The first coming is indicated by a word that means to bring to light, show, display; but the second coming is denoted by a word that means incorporeal knowledge, or supernatural appearance, in fifty-three instances out of fifty seven, and that always means spiritual knowledge in the six instances of its contrast.

“Whenever the clouded or concealed coming of Christ is meant it is denoted, in all the second six instances, by ὄπτομαι. So in the beginning of the Apocalypse: ‘Behold, he cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see him’ — ὄψεται αʼθτὸν, shall spiritually see him, for the clouded One could not otherwise be seen.

“The invisibility is what is meant by Christ’s second coming ‘as a thief in the night.’ Not unexpectedness, for Christ was expected, as all the epistles show; not suddenness, for very often a thief comes slowly, to be sure of his way and to detect danger; but invisibility, in the darkness of the night. Christ and his day came unseen as a thief in darkness. Judaism visibly departed; Christianity invisibly began.

“This invisible kingly advent is what Christ means by coming to his disciples to receive them to himself in the prepared places; this is what he meant in answer to Judas the loyal by the coming of the Father and himself (as one) to them that love him; and this is what he means by coming to his disciples that they might not be orphans. In all these expressions he means an invisible coming; not the first, but the second; not the priestly, but the regal.

“Well, then, it may be asked. Shall we never see Christ? Never in the flesh. Out of the flesh we shall see him; in our new resurrection body we shall see him; but after the flesh or through the flesh Christ will never more be known.

“Neither the Church nor the world shall ever see Christ corporeally. However much men may desire it, they can never again see one of the priestly days of the Son of man’s visibility. Neither at ‘the end of the world’ nor at any other time shall either saints or sinners see Christ with fleshly eyes. Flesh and blood can neither discern nor inherit the kingdom of God. ‘From my flesh’ or without my flesh, as Job says, shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.’”

Objection 6. “The angels told the disciples that Jesus would come again in like manner as they had seen him go into heaven. As that was a bodily ascension, so must his second advent be a bodily coming.”

The passage Acts i, 9-11, is supposed by many to be a complete refutation of the Preteristic doctrine of the second coming of our Lord; as it is supposed to teach that Christ will not only make an appearance in a bodily form, but will come to remain among men, and live here on earth as he did after his resurrection.

But a little consideration of the passage, in the light of a correct exegesis, will show that it does not necessarily teach even the appearance of the body with which he ascended, much less his abiding among men in a material form.

The strength of the adverse argument depends upon the rendering given the Greek phrase ὄν τρόπον rendered in our English version “in like manner as.” Many commentators give the phrase the rendering of our Authorized Version, and insist that it means identity of mode or manner. But they are not all of this opinion. Some agree with the late Professor Crosby, of Dartmotith College, when he says, as quoted by Dr. Warren: “In reading this passage we are in danger of attaching more force to the expression in our version, ‘in like manner as,’ than the original words — ὄν τρόπον — require. These words have no necessary reference to the particular manner in which a thing is done.” Thayer, in his Lexicon of the Greek of the New Testament, gives the meaning thus: “as, the same as, like as.”

If we study the other passages of the New Testament in which this phrase occurs we shall be forced to the conclusion of Professor Crosby. Take the passages Matt xxiii, 37, and Luke xiii, 34, which may be considered for our purposes identical: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as [ὄν τρόπον] a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Now, did Jesus mean to say that he would gather the people of Jerusalem under his sheltering care in the identical manner with which a hen broods her chickens? Certainly not. The expression means more than that he would positively care for them if they would allow him to do so. It means that with tender solicitude and fidelity he would screen them from the eagles of the terrible Roman army, which were preparing to swoop down upon them; but it plainly does not mean that he would spread wings of feathers, or other material, and have the citizens of the devoted city run under them for shelter!

The next passage is Acts vii, 28: “Wilt thou kill me, as [ὄν τρόπον] thou didst the Egyptian yesterday?” Now, did this Israelite want to know whether or not Moses would kill him exactly in the same manner as he killed the Egyptian — with a sword, or dagger, or staff, or what not — and then bury his body in the sand? Or did he merely mean to inquire whether or not it was to be done, whatever the exact manner might be? Surely this last meaning was in his mind, and there is no reference whatever to the mode of the killing.

The last passage in which the phrase occurs is 2 Tim. iii, 8: “Now as [ὄν τρόπον] Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth.” It certainly is not intended by Paul to assert that the corrupt men of his day resisted the truth in precisely the same manner as the magicians resisted Moses — by changing rods into serpents and the waters of the Nile into blood. The point in Paul’s mind was only that there was resistance as a fact, with no allusion to the outward form of the resistance. When this phrase is used in the Septuagint “the point of comparison is in the similarity of results, and not in any identity of the outward act” (Dr. Warren).

The phrase ὄν τρόπον should have been rendered uniformly in all places, and then there would not have existed this apparent allusion, in the passage we consider, to the appearance of a bodily form when the coming of Christ is spoken of.

Let us now ask. Did the disciples really see Jesus go into heaven? Certainly not into the third heaven, where he was to be seated in regal power on the throne of his Father. They saw him ascend into the aerial heaven — the atmosphere — but a cloud received him out of their sight as he ascended, and he became invisible to them. Now, if he is to return in precisely like manner as he went up, a cloud must receive him out of sight as he descends, and he will then, of course, become invisible to the onlooker.

Still again, if he is to come again in precisely the same manner as he went up, then what becomes of all the sublime descriptions of his second advent? He departed under the same physical form as he had when conversing with his disciples just before that departure, and, manifestly, the same as he had borne during the forty days elapsing since his resurrection; looking just as he had during the days of his previous life.

But is this to be his appearance when he comes in flaming fire to take vengeance on them that know not God? Is the manner of his descending to be the same as of his ascending? Where, then, is the “glory of his Father;” where the “mighty angels” who are to accompany him, the thousands of his saints who are to attend him, and the great white throne of his glory whereon he is to sit? If we insist on likeness of manner in these two acts of Christ, then this text is in irreconcilable conflict with every other which describes his wonderful apocalypse. This is, of course, on the supposition that the belief in the material character of his parousia is correct.

One thing, however, is clear: these words of the angels comforted and gladdened the disciples, and this because they believed that he would come again soon. Had they supposed they must wait — in the body or out of the body — two thousand years for the event, would they not have been saddened and depressed beyond all expression?

Let us also, in concluding this answer, give attention to the fact that there is no good reason for Christ to return again to this earth to live here, in bodily form, as he once did, “Goulburn, in the Bampton Lectures for 1850, argues that the object of Christ’s appearing to men in bodily form, after his resurrection, was not only to show to men the fact of a resurrection, but also the nature of the resurrection body. There were, then, uses for a visible body at that time which will never exist again; therefore it is unreasonable to suppose that on his return he will have such a body” (Dr. Warren).

Objection 7. “There was to be a dispensation of the Holy Spirit, intervening between the ascension and parousia of Christ, which was merely to supply the place of Christ until, and in view of, his own personal coming. This dispensation still continuing, the Saviour has not yet personally come the second time.”

We have discussed this matter of the dispensation of the Spirit in a previous chapter, but as there appears to be a point in this objection which may not have been specially answered in that chapter, we shall endeavor now to meet the point, and thus, if possible, completely remove the objection.

The defect is in the first term of the syllogism. That term asserts that the dispensation of the Spirit was merely to supply the place of Christ until his own personal return, and in view of this return. But this is an extremely difficult position to maintain, if reliance is placed on Scripture texts for its support. There is not a single expression of Christ that we can now recall that lends the slightest support to such a doctrine; but, on the contrary, it is expressly stated by our Lord that the Comforter was to be sent that he might be with believers forever (John xiv, i6).

Then, the sending of the Spirit was for the purpose of glorifying Christ. “He shall glorify me: for he shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you. All things whatsoever the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he taketh of mine, and shall declare it unto you” (John xvi, 14, 15). It was necessary that our Lord should receive the glory that he had with the Father before the world was John xvii, 5), before the Spirit could declare that glory unto believers. So it is asserted (John vii, 39), “For the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified.” As soon as Jesus was glorified — had sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high — then he sent forth the Spirit, and when the Spirit came to the disciples, on the day of Pentecost, then did they have manifested to them the things of Christ; the things which eye had not seen, nor ear heard; which had not entered into the heart of man; but God revealed them to the apostles by his Spirit (1 Cor. ii, 9, 10), and then was Christ so declared in his glory to them, by the Spirit, that they were fully empowered to be witnesses unto him to the uttermost part of the land.

But there was to be another manifestation of Christ’s glory personally; for he had prayed the Father that those whom the Father had given him might be with him, that they might behold his glory (John xvii, 24). So he tells them that he would come again, and receive them to himself, that where he was they might be also (John xiv, 3). This coming was to take place in a “little while” indicating that in a short time their sorrowing would be forever ended. The sorrow they had at the death of their Lord was alleviated and dispersed by his appearance to them at his resurrection: “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.” But sorrows of a darker hue and heavier type were to come to them in the sad hour of Jerusalem’s overthrow: “But all these things are the beginning of travail [or sorrow]. Then shall they deliver you up unto tribulation, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all the nations for my name’s sake” (Matt. xxiv, 8, 9). These troubles, or sorrows, became the lot of almost all the followers of Christ living in that fearful age. “But the world shall rejoice” (John xvi, 20). See how this was verified in the case of two of these disciples (Rev. xi, 10): “And they that dwell on the earth [land] rejoice over them, and make merry; and they shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth” (land). “But I will see you again,” said Jesus, “and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” There was coming an hour when Jesus would look upon their miseries, hear their cries, as they called to him from beneath the altar (Rev. vi, 9-11), and, avenging their blood on them that dwelt on the earth (land), bring them to enjoy the everlasting bliss of living and reigning with him for a thousand years of unalloyed enjoyment which no man would be able to deprive them of.

We see, then, that Christ was not to come for the purpose of ending the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. This, as we have shown in Chapter XII, is still proceeding, and will continue indefinitely. But his return was for the purpose of gathering his elect to himself, ending all their troubles, and bestowing upon them their well-merited reward.

The dispensation of the Holy Spirit did intervene between the ascension and the parousia of our Lord, for it was to be in this dispensation that the elect of Israel were to be converted and sanctified, that they might be fitted to stand in white robes with the Lamb on Mount Zion as the Church of the firstborn. It was also necessary that the Spirit should act in that period for the commencement of God’s gracious work among the Gentiles; and then, after the Son should become sunthronos with the Father, it was, as we have seen in our chapter on Revelation, to roll forth as a river for the salvation and purification of the nations (Rev. xxii, 1, 2).


Objections Answered Concluded

Objection 8. “Paul wrote his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians to counteract the wrong impressions of the first, and to show that the day of the Lord would not come until certain great events had first taken place; which events not yet having occurred, the parousia has not yet taken place.”

It may be conceded, as Dr. Terry most sagaciously says, that Paul did write the second epistle to counteract impressions made by the first, “yet nothing can be found in this second epistle which legitimately implies that the parousia would not be in that generation, or that any statement of the former epistle was incorrect or misleading” (Biblical Hermeneutics, page 459).

The supposition that Paul corrects himself arises in great part from the incorrect rendering, by our Authorized Version, of the second verse of chapter ii. The rendering of the Revised Version is as follows: “To the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is now present;” or, as Dr. Terry translates it, “as that the day of the Lord is just now at hand.”

It would seem that advantage had been taken of the first epistle by some disturbers in Thessalonica who had gone about to “beguile” the Christians of that city into a belief that the day of the Lord was already upon them, and thus incited them to give up their employments and wait in idleness for the immediate appearance of Christ. To these busybodies he seems to allude in chap, iii, 11, 12. Just such transactions have taken place in our own time and under our own observation. Men have abandoned their usual occupations and waited days and nights for the sudden appearance of the Son of man.

Now, to correct these false and illegitimate impressions he wrote this second epistle, and insists that the day of the Lord has not already come. The word used by him in the Greek is ἐνέστηκεν which means present : is present” (Auberlen); “the actual presence and commencement of the day” (Ellicott) ; “extreme proximity is signified by this word” (Bengel); “that the day of the Lord is come” (Conybeare and Howson); adding by a note, “Literally, ‘is present.’ So the verb is always used in the New Testament.”

This shows us that the error of the Thessalonians which the apostle wished to correct was not the supposition that the day of the Lord was near (ἤγγικεν), but that it had already appeared. That this was the intention is shown by the fact that the apostle in the second epistle, as well as in the first, speaks of the nearness of the day. He says in the very chapter containing the passage above: “So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours.” Now, by epistle of his he had reminded them how they “turned unto God from idols … to wait for his Son from heaven,” and had assured them that those who were then alive might remain until that coming from heaven. He does not take back what he has taught, but reiterates it; and only cautions them not to suppose that he meant that Christ was immediately to appear, or had already come. In order that he might establish this caution he avers that two great events must occur before the parousia could or would take place: (1) “the apostasy;” (2) the manifestation of “the man of sin.”

The objection we are now considering takes for granted that these two events have not yet come to pass, and consequently the second coming of Christ is a still future event. Certainly this supposition would never have arisen had close attention and proper study been given to the words of our Lord and those of his apostles. Let us now consider attentively and prayerfully these two ominous events:

1. “The apostasy;” The words which refer to this momentous fact are these: “For it will not be, except the falling away come first” (2 Thess. ii, 3). The words in the Greek are ἡ ἀποστασια, “the apostasy.” The use of the article indicates that some definite and well known event was alluded to which the Thessalonians had heard of, and which they only needed to have mentioned in order to see that it had not yet occurred. What was this “falling away?” If we turn to Matt. xxiv, 9-13, we have it clearly described. Jesus says there, in speaking of his coming and the end of the age: “Then shall they deliver you up unto tribulation, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all the nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many stumble, and shall deliver up one another. … And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray. And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold. But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”

Such a defection occurred among the churches of the early Christian age, and is a matter of historical record. Tacitus says, in speaking of the accusation brought against Nero for setting Rome on fire: “Hence, to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. [Jews and Christians were classed together by heathen writers.] Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius; but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a while, broke out again not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also. … Accordingly, first those were seized who confessed they were Christians; next, on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city as of hating the human race” (Annals, book xv, chap. xliv).

This apostasy is frequently alluded to in the later epistles of the New Testament: “All that are in Asia turned away from me” (2 Tim, i, 15). “In the last days grievous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of self, … holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof” (2 Tim. iii, 1, 2, 5). “Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God” (Heb. iii, 12). “But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their lascivious doings; by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Pet ii, 1, 2). “Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Pet iii, 17). “Now unto him that is able to guard you from stumbling,” etc. Jude 24). “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen” (Rev. ii, 5). (See also Rev. ii, 10, 14, 20; iii, 1,2,10, 15-19.)

About seventeen years intervened between the writing of the epistles to the Thessalonians and the destruction of Jerusalem, and it was during these years that this great apostasy took place. The loosing of Satan, and his deceiving the nations, consequent thereon, have nothing to do with this falling away, as will be fully shown in a future chapter on the Millennium.

No one, certainly, can carefully consider the facts, quotations, and texts here presented and not believe that a great defection, or apostasy, took place among Christians just before the destruction of Jerusalem, according to the prophecy of our Lord, and that here we have an occurrence completely adequate to the description of the apostle in the passage under view.

Again, we must believe that some of those whom the apostles addressed were, in all probability, overtaken in this flood of iniquity and yielded to the pressure of ungodliness, to the ruin of their souls; and we have, therefore, in this fact another strong evidence that the parousia of Christ took place before that generation passed away, as this apostasy was to be preliminary to the coming of the day of the Lord.

2. The revelation of the man of sin. This revelation was the second of the two great events which were to immediately precede the coming of the Lord.

Who was the man of sin(ὁ ἄνομος),or the “lawless one” (ver. 8)?

  1. He was one of whom the apostle had frequently spoken to the Thessalonians: “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I was telling [ἐλεγον, imperfect] you these things?” He was therefore one in whom the Thessalonians were personally interested, and one whom they knew about as a contemporary, and not as a personage who was to appear in a far distant age, one whose malign influence was already beginning to work, and whose terrible lawlessness would soon break forth in limitless fury. The apostle and his readers were well acquainted with the cognomen “the man of sin,” and the Thessalonians readily comprehended who was denoted thereby.

  2. There was some one, or something, which stood in the way of the revealment of this lawless one, with whom, or with which, they were also well acquainted, for Paul writes: “And now ye know that which restraineth,” and, “There is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way.” The translation of the revisers clearly points to a person as this restraining force, and the formation of the original indicates that this restraining, or withholding, is not something done by the Lord, but by some contemporary person, who prevents the “man of sin” from displaying his true character or his desperate malignity.

  3. This “man of sin” was some one of whom the apostle could not, or would not, write plainly and openly. He had, evidently, spoken of him to his brethren in all plainness and fullness, but now he is extremely cautious and reserved; not wishing to write what or as he had spoken.

    This reserve does not, certainly, arise from ignorance, nor from a desire to mystify his readers. What, then, is the occasion of this obscurity? He could not with safety be more explicit. There was danger. The source of that danger was Jewish bigotry and malice or Roman jealousy and hate. But Paul could not increase the Jewish hostility by anything he could say. He could, however, occasion Roman jealousy to be increased by inveighing openly against some superior power of the state.

  4. This “man of sin” was one who had a perfect prototype in an ancient “man of sin” (ἀνδρος ἁμαρτωλον), mentioned in 1 Macc, ii, 62: “Fear not then the words of a sinful man : for his glory shall be dung and worms.” A perusal of this apocryphal book will show that this man of sin was Antiochus Epiphanes, spoken of in chap, i, 10, thus: “And there came out of them [Alexander’s servants, or successors] a wicked root, Antiochus Epiphanes.” No name was more hateful to Jewish ears than this, and the “lawless one” was to resemble him in his deeds of villainy as well as in his painful death. Daniel says of Antiochus Epiphanes: “I beheld at that time because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake; I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and he was given to be burned with fire” (Dan. vii, 11).

    The second book of Maccabees tells us that this tyrant and oppressor died in a terrible manner by the visitation of God: “But the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, smote him with an incurable and invisible plague: … a pain of the bowels that was remediless came upon him, and sore torments of the inner parts; … but it came to pass that he fell down from his chariot, carried violently; so that having a sore fall, all the members of his body were much pained. … So that the worms rose up out of the body of this wicked man, and while he lived in sorrow and pain, his flesh fell away, and the filthiness of his smell was noisome to all his army. … Thus the murderer and blasphemer having suffered most grievously, as he entreated other men, so died he a miserable death in a strange country in the mountains” (2 Macc. ix).

  5. This “man of sin” was the son of perdition (ὁ υἱος της ἀπωλείας), the exact phrase which our Lord uses in speaking of Judas (John xvii, 12). Evidently, then, this personage was to be of a Judas disposition, betraying his best friends for sordid gain, murdering his most intimate companions, and thus bringing on himself eternal loss, going, finally, “to his own place” (Acts i, 25).

  6. This “man of sin” was opposing and exalting himself against all that was called God, or that was worshiped; so that he as God was sitting “in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God.”

    Here two great prototypes appear: Antiochus Epiphanes, as spoken of in Dan. xi, 36, and the prince of Tyre, alluded to in Ezek. xxviii, 2, 6, 9. The apostle quotes the Old Testament, from both these passages to indicate the blasphemy practiced by this impious personage. Dr. Cowles says in his Commentary, in loco, regarding Antiochus: “His character, and his deeds as illustrative of character, are the subject in these verses. He is proud and self-conceited; thinks himself above every god; speaks marvelous things against the God of gods — things that excite the wonder of mankind for their horrid blasphemy and pride. This is the prophecy to which accords the history of Antiochus in the books of the Maccabees, ‘having spoken very proudly’ (1 Macc, i, 24). See also 2 Macc, ix throughout. In this chapter the author commenting on his fall from his chariot says: Thus he who a little afore thought he might command the waves of the sea (so proud was he above the condition of man), and weigh the high mountains in a balance, was now cast on the ground, and carried in a horse litter, showing unto all the manifest power of God.’ Also this: ‘A man who thought a little afore that he could reach to the stars of heaven,’ etc. Throughout, the historical testimony to his pride and self-conceit is remarkably in harmony with this prophetic portrayal.”

    So the prince of Tyre said, “I am a god, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art man, and not God, though thou didst set thine heart as the heart of God” (Ezek. xxviii, 2). And again: “Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God?” (ver. 9.)

    So this “man of sin” was to proudly arrogate to himself divine honors, as did these blasphemers of the olden time.

  7. The mystery of lawlessness was already working, and was therefore evidently something which the apostle expected to be revealed within, at most, a few years.

  8. This man of sin was to be slain by the breath of the Lord Jesus, and brought to nought at the manifestation of his parousia (ἐπιφανεία τῆς παρουσίας αὐτου). Here the correct rendering would be “in the appearance — dawning — of his parousia ;” for the construction is the dative of time.
    “It is the coming of the Lord, the parousia, which is to be the signal of his destruction; yet not the full splendor of that event, so much as the first appearance or dawn of it. Alford (after Bengel) very properly points out that the rendering ‘brightness of his coming’ should be the ‘appearance of his coming;’ and he quotes the sublime expression of Milton — ‘far off his coming shone.’ Bengel with fine discrimination re-marks, ‘Here the appearance of his coming, or, at all events, the first glimmerings of his coming, are prior to the coming itself. This evidently implies that the man of sin was destined to perish, not in the full blaze of the parousia, but at its first dawn or beginning’” (J. Stuart Russell). The language with which the apostle here describes the taking off of the man of sin is borrowed from Isa. xi, 4: “And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” This highly figurative language tells of the divine interposition at the death of the man of sin, but does not necessarily teach that there would be any external miraculous phenomenon observable in the slaying, as it was in the case of the “destroyer” and the Egyptians (Exod. xii, 23), the angel and the pestilence sent for David’s sin (2 Sam. xxiv, 16), the angel of the Lord and the destruction of the army of Sennacherib (2 Kings xix, 35), and the deaths of Antiochus and Herod Agrippa. While the destruction might have been due, outwardly, to natural causes, yet the divine record reveals to us the fact that in some of these instances there was an angelic person administering the deathstroke, and so indicating there might be angelic interposition in all. So in regard to the man of sin; he was to be slain by the breath of the Lord, and yet his end was to come to pass, perhaps, by means which men might call ordinary.

  9. This man of sin was also to have a parousia . “Whose coming [παρουσια] is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders [or, rather, power and signs and wonders of falsehood], and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that are perishing.” There was to be an attempt by him, at his revealing, to mimic the miracles of Christ, and an effort made to deceive the people who would give attention to his wiles.

So the beast that cometh out of the earth “doeth great signs, that he should even make fire to come down out of heaven upon the earth in the sight of men” (Rev. xiii, 13). Gibbon tells us that Pompeianus, prefect of the city, had been persuaded by the art or fanaticism of some Tuscan diviners that by the mysterious force of spells and sacrifices they could extract the lightnings from the clouds and point their celestial fires against the camp of the Barbarians (Decline and Fall, vol. iii, page 270). So the three unclean spirits wrought miracles — performed wonders— of falsehood (Rev. xvi, 14).

Now, here are a large number of traits and circumstances which point out and designate this extraordinary personage:

  1. He is a man, and not an abstraction or a principle.
  2. He is a public person, evidently, from the powers with which he is invested.
  3. He is one whom it is dangerous to mention by name.
  4. He was one frequently spoken of to the Thessalonians.
  5. He was one in whom they were personally interested.
  6. He had not yet come to the fullness of his power.
  7. He was hindered from displaying his power and character by some contemporary person well known to the Thessalonians.
  8. He had his prototypes in Antiochus Epiphanes and the prince of Tyre.
  9. He is characterized by enormous wickedness: “the man of sin;” the incarnation of iniquity.
  10. He holds the highest rank and authority in the state.
  11. He is perfectly lawless as a ruler: “the lawless one.”
  12. He is heathen, and not Jewish.
  13. He claims divine names, prerogatives, and worship.
  14. His power and influence were already working in the apostle’s day.
  15. He was doomed to suffer a miserable death, by divine interposition.
  16. His apocalypse and his destruction were to immediately precede the parousia of Christ

Who was the person thus distinctly pointed out? Who was there then living in the Roman empire in whom all these signal marks were found?

There was just one man, and that man was Nero: the first persecuting emperor; the violator of all laws, human and divine; the monster whose cruelties and crimes entitle him to the name “man of sin.” He was contemporary with the apostle and with the Christians of Thessalonica, and might have been well known by them. He was just about to occupy the throne of the empire, where his true character was revealed; but was hindered by the reign of Claudius, his stepfather, who, in less than a year after this epistle was written, was “taken out of the way” by the infamous Agrippina, assisted by Nero, her son. He was one of whom the apostle could not write plainly without bringing certain death on himself and on those to whom he wrote. He was an antitype of the villainous Antiochus. He was a Judas; a betrayer and a murderer. He exalted himself above all that is called “god,” or an object of worship, by inscribing on his coins and statues Divus (god), and insisting on the payment of divine honors to his image. “He was a deity on earth; and the worship paid to him was a real worship” (Conybeare and Howson).

The mystery of lawlessness was already working when the epistles to the Thessalonians were written — say, A. D. 52 or 53. “For the influence of Nero must have been powerful in the last days of the wretched Claudius; the very plots were probably being hatched that paved the way for the accession of the son of the murderer. A few months more would witness the advent to the throne of the world of a miscreant whose name is gibbeted in everlasting infamy as the most brutal of tyrants and the vilest of men” (Russell). Tacitus says: “Nero wallowed in all sorts of defilements, lawful and unlawful; and seemed to leave no atrocity which could add to his pollution” (Annals, book xv, chap, xxxvii). He was to be destroyed at the epiphany of the parousia of Christ. Dean Howson, speaking of his earlier years, says: “He had not as yet plunged into that extravagance of tyranny which, at a later period, exhausted the patience of his subjects and brought him to destruction” (Paul, vol. ii, page 442).

“The misgovernment of this monster was brought to an end in the year 68. In this year an insurrection under Vindex broke out in Gaul. … Soon Virginius, one of the noblest characters of that age, lent his support to the insurrection, and the senate took courage to proclaim Nero a public enemy and condemn him to be put to death ‘after the manner of the ancestors’ — scourging to death, followed by beheading. He fled from the city to take refuge in the villa of a faithful freedman, but hearing the sound of the horsemen who were in pursuit he ordered his freedman to slay him. Among his last words were a lamentation that such an artist should perish” (Suetonius, Nero, 49, Myers, Ancient History).

Now, this year 68, in which Nero perished, was the one in which the Jewish war was at its height, which ended in the capture and destruction of the city of Jerusalem. Believing the second coming of Christ to be coeval with that terrible event, we see how strong an evidence we have, in this case of Nero, for the correctness of the theory presented in this work, as the death of this monster of wickedness took place in the dawn (ἐπιφανεια) of the parousia , and thus positively fixes the coming of the Lord at that period and makes it a past event.

All this is confirmed by what is said in the book of Revelation concerning the beast that rose up out of the sea (designating a foreign power). Says Dean Farrar: “In these paragraphs, then, we have sixteen hints as to who and what is intended by the Apocalyptic wild beast, and it is undeniable that every one of these directly points to Rome and Nero. The most remarkable indication that Nero is mainly intended is that it is exactly in the most enigmatical particulars that the resemblance is most close.” He then quotes Jewish Talmudists, pagan historians and authors such as Tacitus, Suetonius, Dion Cassius, and Dion Chrysostom; and Christian fathers such as Irenseus, Lactantius Victorinus, Sulpicius Severus; the Sibylline books, and Jerome and Augustine, as those who have preserved this clue to Nero being this wild beast, and adds: “Nothing can prove more decisively than these references that for four centuries many Christians identified Nero with the beast” (Early Days of Christianity, page 467).

Farrar then proves most conclusively, as does Russell in The Parousia, that the number of the beast — the number of a man, Six hundred and sixty and six (Rev. xiii, i8) — is the symbol for the name of Nero (as one of the Caesars), given in Hebrew letters thus:

נ (50) + ר (200) + ו (6) + נ (50) = 306

ק (100) + ם (60) + ר (200) = 360

306 + 360= 666

The name of Nero, as thus given, occurs in the Talmud and other rabbinical writings (ibid., pages 468-473). In view of this perfect correspondence of “the man of sin” with Nero, how unwise to seek this personage in some other man or set of men, or in some principle or abstract evil, or at some other period of history!

Some think they find him in the popes, but Dean Alford justly observes: “In the characteristic of verse 4 of the second chapter the pope does not, and never did, fulfill the prophecy. … If the papacy be Antichrist, then has the manifestation been made, and endured now for nearly fifteen hundred years, and yet that day of the Lord is not come which, by the terms of our prophecy, such manifestation is immediately to precede” (Prolegomena to Second Thessalonians).

Let us be satisfied with perfect resemblance, and believe that by “the man of sin” Paul meant no one else but Nero.

These two wonderful and necessary events having taken place shortly after the apostle wrote to his Thessalonian brethren, we are forced to believe that the coming of the day of the Lord, which was to be preceded by these events — and immediately preceded by them — was then discernible, and that in a few years afterward the “day” was fully ushered in, and all the amazing events which it was to contain and bring forth did actually occur as depicted by the pen of inspiration.

Objection 9. “If the parousia of Christ has taken place, there certainly would be some historical notice of it, or at least of the wonderful events attending it; as the rapture of the saints. This not being the case, it has not occurred.”

We shall discuss this matter of the rapture of the saints in a future chapter; but here remark:

1. There is a full and complete account of the pouring out of God’s wrath on the nation that rejected Christ. There should be no doubt that Josephus was selected of God to most positively and minutely describe the events contained in his Wars of the Jews in order that the prophecies of Christ might have a most extraordinary confirmation from an outside source — concurrent testimony, from one who wrought unconsciously, to the fulfillment of the New Testament predictions. From McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia we take the following: “But, even though Josephus may not in all things be implicitly relied upon, his writings are to the theologian especially invaluable, and we may well say, with Casaubon and Farrar, that it is by a singular providence that his works, which throw such a flood of light on Jewish affairs, have been preserved to us” (art. “Josephus”).

2. As we have seen (Chapter IV), the parousia of Christ was to take place in connection — and very close connection — with the outpouring of God’s wrath on the Jewish people. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days” was the Son of man to appear; and so we have fixed the exact time of that appearing, and must believe — if we believe the plain and positive words of Christ — that the parousia of our Lord did take place at that time, whether we have any profane historical account of it or not.

3. There is no extant Church history whatever for three quarters of a century after Luke ceased to write the Acts of the Apostles. All Church historians assent to this statement. Of this period the learned Neander says that “we have no information, nor can the total want of sources for this part of Church history be at all surprising.” There being no Church history whatever of that period, there is, of course, no historical account of the coming of the Lord, or of the events attending that coming.

4. We quote J. Stuart Russell: “It is strange that so great incredulity should exist in this day respecting the plain sense of our Lord’s express declarations on this subject. Fulfilled or unfulfilled, right or wrong, there is no ambiguity in his language. It may be said that we have no evidence of such facts having occurred as are here described: the Lord descending with a shout, the sounding of a trumpet, the raising of the sleeping dead, the rapture of the living saints. True; but is it certain that these are facts cognizable by the senses? Is their place in the region of the material and the visible? As we have already said, we know, and are sure, that a very large portion of the events predicted by our Lord, and expected by his apostles, did actually come to pass at that very crisis called ‘the end of the age.’ There is no difference of opinion concerning the destruction of the temple, the overthrow of the city, the unparalleled slaughter of the people, the extinction of the nationality, the end of the legal dispensation. But the parousia is inseparably linked with the destruction of Jerusalem; and, in like manner, the resurrection of the dead and the judgment of ‘the wicked generation’ with the parousia. They are different parts of one great catastrophe; different scenes in one great drama. We accept the facts verified by the historian on the word of man; is it for Christians to hesitate to accept the facts which are vouched by the word of the Lord?” (See Part Second, Chapter IV.)



Having thus endeavored to establish the doctrine that our Lord’s parousia is a past event, occurring about 70 years after his first advent, we proceed to present some deductions which must necessarily follow the establishment of said doctrine:

I. The attitude of the Church of to-day toward the second coming of Christ is evidently very different from that held by the primitive Christians. We know that apostles, disciples, and believers generally were all looking forward to the parousia of Christ as an event which was to take place within their own times, and in the exciting scenes of which they were to be participants. This expectation excited them to preparation; and many lived in constant readiness to meet the Lord. They “hastened” the coming of the day of God by living holy lives and practicing godliness of every sort. They were constantly “exhorting” one another, as they saw the day approaching, to faithfulness in the performance of every Christian duty and the practice of every Christian virtue. This hope —that in a few short years they would probably see the sign of the Son of man, and, escaping to the mountains of Judea, or waiting in the seclusion of their homes in the cities of other lands, they would be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and so be forever with him — sustained them in all their persecutions, and gave them strength to endure the sore trials they experienced and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods; knowing that in heaven they had a better and enduring substance which would soon be theirs in all its glory and blessedness.

This blessed hope was implicitly indulged in because they had been instructed of Christ that he would “shortly” appear; and the apostles had iterated and reiterated this assurance of Christ until it became the all-absorbing idea of their lives and a constant spur to all their endeavors in the religious life. The nearness of the day of the Lord was doubtless also made the strong incentive to abandon sin, and accept of the righteousness of Christ, in many, if not all, of the appeals to the unconverted; as Paul used it in his sermon at Athens, insisting that all men everywhere should repent, because God had appointed a day in which he was about to judge the world by Jesus Christ. But how different the condition of things at present! The glorious hope of living to see the Lord appear has been almost entirely eliminated from the hearts of modern believers, and even belief in the second coming of Christ has almost ceased to exist in the Church of today. We are aware that there are certain small sects of professed Christians who make this second advent of Christ the prominent article of their faith, as a formula, but the increase of members in these societies is exceedingly small, and in some places they have entirely died out.

Dr. Beet, in The Last Things, deplores this decadence of faith in the parousia of Christ as a future event, or as a future event that can possibly take place soon; and every careful observer, or even casual observer, must be aware of the same lack of faith in what was once the supreme object of believing hope. When we inquire for the cause of this deterioration of faith in the second advent we find ourselves unable to believe that it arises from a general religious apathy in the Church or from widespread religious declension. No period of the Church was ever more marked with religious activities than the present; and never was the Church purer and more faithful to her Lord than in the present century; though even now we may regret there is not the spiritual power in her ministers and members that should exist. The many prophecies that have been put forth in certain quarters and by enthusiastic foretellers of the nearness of the parousia, with the consequent dismal failure of all said vaticinations, may have had some effect in bringing the Church into its present condition of indifference regarding the second coming of the Lord; but this certainly will not fully account for the singular state of affairs now existing.

Rationalistic interpretation of the prophecies and assertions of the New Testament has been also suggested as a cause of the defection. So also the constant effort on the part of certain commentators and expositors to show that the New Testament declarations regarding the Lord’s coming are all to be taken in a spiritual sense, and that they never have been, and never can be, realized in a literal or historical manner, has had much to do with settling the question, in many minds, by causing them to reject all literal interpretation of the texts bearing on this subject and to adopt a spiritual or mystical interpretation such as Swedenborg gives the matter. Yet even this will not account for the almost universal rejection of this genuine New Testament doctrine of the parousia of Christ as an actual event, of the same character as the crucifixion or the resurrection of our Lord.

Is it not, rather, owing to the fact that there is a very prevalent impression among Christian people that we are in a very different relation to the parousia of Christ than were the primitive believers? Are not many aware of a nascent conviction that the parousia of the Lord has already taken place, according to the express assertion of our Lord that he would return to receive his disciples to himself in “a little while?” Is it not felt to be an impossibility that the same event could be imminent at two different periods, separated by an interim of nearly two thousand years; and that, consequently, if it was imminent then, it is not imminent now? Is it not therefore felt that there is a grave misconception on the part of those who insist that the Church of the present sustains the same relation to the “coming of the Lord” which the primitive Church sustained; and that, therefore, it would be the merest affectation to indulge in the earnest hope of Paul and his contemporary brethren?

This, then, is the position we take: that Christians of the present time do sustain a very different relation to Christ’s second advent from that held by those who lived before A. D. 70, and that therefore there should be a different outlook, and a different course pursued. Our faith should take hold of a present Lord, who has all authority in heaven and earth and is exerting that authority to prepare us for immediate enjoyment of glorious blessedness in the invisible state, when this body of our humiliation is dissolved and we at once possess the house that is eternal and heavenly.

We are to believe that the Father and his Son, “the Lamb of God,” are reigning, in their everlasting dominion, over all nations, tribes, and people, to bring them into the enjoyment of the blessedness of eternal redemption, and that it is our glorious privilege to forward the interests of that world-wide kingdom to the limit of our powers.

So the incentives used to incite the unconverted to a life of godliness must be of a different character from those used by the primitive Church. Men must now be persuaded that they stand in the immediate presence of the Judge of all the earth, and that to depart from this life is to stand before his “judgment seat” to be judged for the deeds done in the body just as certainly as if they were to hear the sound of a trumpet or see descending from the skies a great white throne. Men must be urged to repent of sin and believe unto righteousness because their lives here will be of far more value to themselves and others if they believe and practice the truths taught by Christ and his apostles than if they stolidly remain under the debasing influences of vice and sin, instead of merely appealing to their fears and threatening a day of physical manifested wrath for which there is no real warrant in God’s word.

Not that appeals to the fears of men should not be made, but they should be made in a legitimate way, and without attaching to such appeals references to the immediateness of a day of the Lord which shall burn as an oven, with literal fire, or to the certainty of a hell made hot with sulphur and burning marl— in which teachings they have come to have less faith than in the Church itself. Most truly does Dr. Warren write:

“Let the parousia as a now existing fact be preached with as much earnestness as they preached it as an anticipated fact — in other words, that Christ has come; that he is now upon the throne of his kingdom, ruling, judging, and rewarding men according to their works, with his mighty angels attending him to do his will, and by the new-creating energy of his providence and Spirit making ‘all things new’ — and I believe that the events witnessed on the day of Pentecost, and even greater, would speedily follow” (T A Parousia of Christ, page 77).

What immensely strengthens this position is the fact that not only does the preaching of the second coming as a future event and the judgment day as a simultaneous judicial arraignment of all men as general doctrines of the Church seem to have lost all its force, but that even when presented by those who make them a specialty, enforced by all the vividness of a heated imagination and all the spectacular images which can be gathered together in a discourse, these teachings seem to fall dead; as in the camp meetings held by those who hold the second advent as a special tenet there is no conviction visible, no revival feeling, no altar work, no conversions, but only the reclaiming of a few who have allowed their faith to “forsake its hold,” and have become worldly and indifferent.

II. It is necessary that we take a different view of all the great doctrines which cluster about the parousia of Christ as the great central doctrine of Christian eschatology.

All these doctrines, such as the resurrection, the change of the living, and the judgment, must be adjusted to the Preteristic theory, and to opinions held by modem Christians widely different from what were held by those who heard Christ and his apostles preach, or who read the epistles of the New Testament canon as those who were immediately addressed by their writers.

Singular, and even startling, demands may be made, and very different renderings of Scripture may be given from what have generally been accepted; but this should not deter from diligent searching of the Bible to see if these things be so, nor prevent a respectful consideration of the opinions offered so long as they chiefly consist of devout inferences from God’s word of truth.

III. The reception of this eschatology will also demand changes of a marked character in the creed, the ritual, and the hymnology of the Church. These changes may be the most objectionable feature of the system, and the part which will be the subject of the most adverse criticism from the conservative and the timid. But the truth should be stated no matter how iconoclastic may be its nature, and the true teachings of God’s word accepted no matter how different from manifest misinterpretations.

We therefore now proceed to make such an adjustment as has been alluded to in order that we may have the nearest approach possible to a consistent, coherent, and tenable system of New Testament eschatology to take the place of much that is crude, vague, and unsatisfactory; and thus assist in the diffusion of correct ideas and of sentiments that will comfort and console as well as edify.

Then will follow a chapter on the changes required by the system.




By a consistent eschatology we mean an eschatology which shall be consistent with the view taken in the first part of this book — that the second coming of Christ is a past event; also one that shall be consistent in itself, all its parts agreeing with each other; and, third, above all, one consistent with the Scriptures in their fullest and most correct interpretation.

It is well here to consider the great difference between revelation, inspiration, and interpretation. Nearly all the differences in regard to these matters of eschatology arise from differences in interpretation. When we have arrived at the most correct interpretation of the word through assiduous study and consultation of the best authorities, crowning all with ardent prayer to God for the assistance of his Holy Spirit to make plain the written truth, we may rest content with the result.

With regard to eschatology it must be an obvious fact to all theological students and investigators that there is a remarkable lack of thorough and consistent teaching on this subject in many of the works on dogmatic theology. A few pages suffice for its discussion in some standard works, and the little that is said has not the positive and satisfactory character which gives complete assurance.

We do not profess to be able to settle these great questions for all; neither may our scheme seem complete to all our readers, but we present it as the result of many years of careful and devout study of God’s word, and indulge the hope that it may be received in the same spirit of sincerity and kindness with which it is presented. Our only desire is to know and disseminate the truth, that the Church of Christ may be built up in faith and holiness.

Here, as in Part First, we quote from the Revised edition of the Bible, and again acknowledge our indebtedness to the authors already mentioned, adding here the name of Bishop R. S. Foster, of the Methodist Episcopal Church.


The Resurrection

As we have already intimated, it is certainly taught that the resurrection of the dead, or the resurrection from the dead, was to be an accompaniment of the second coming of the Lord. Christ asserts that he will raise the one who believes in him “at the last day” — that is, the last day of the age. Paul teaches that “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised,” and this trumpet was to be the “last trump;” referring, no doubt, to Rev. xi, 15-18, where the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, and “the time of the dead to be judged” comes; which contains the idea of the resurrection. Again, Paul teaches that “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven … and the dead in Christ shall rise first,” etc., etc.

The general conception in regard to this awe-inspiring transaction has been that the graves would open and the dead bodies be seen coming out of the breaking earth ; the sea also pouring out bodies from its recesses, and even the air be filled with flying members of bodies hastening to find their mates and to be again fitted to their places in the corporeal organization. (See Young’s Night Thoughts) No doubt much of this bizarre presentation of the subject comes from a reading of the thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel in a literalistic way, and with the conclusion that, as this is a description of a resurrection by an inspired writer, therefore all resurrections are to be of the same literal character; these literalists not stopping to consider that this is all imagery, and only describes the return of Israel from captivity, as is perfectly evident from the thirteenth and fourteenth verses of the chapter.

We grant that a resurrection was to occur at the parousia, but deny that it was to be visible to the eyes of mortals, and therefore insist that it must have taken place just as the Scriptures assert it did; and that, being thus an invisible transaction, it may be still proceeding, as a legitimate part of the events which mark the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ as the One who sits on the throne of authority and power to judge and give life— eternal life — with spiritual bodies to all who are believing in him as the years roll on.

We therefore proceed to define the term, and then to show conclusively from the Scriptures that the resurrection of which they speak as occurring at the parousia, and subsequently, was to be an invisible one; asking an unbiased consideration of the subject, and a willingness to accept unfamiliar, but preferable, renditions of Scripture.

The word “resurrection” comes from the Latin re-, again, + surgere, rise; and has its equivalent in the Greek words :ἀναςτασις , a standing again, and ἔγερσις, the act of rising up. It means a rising from the dead, and has been held, as a doctrine, in three different forms: “(1) As a literal resurrection of the selfsame body which has been laid away in the grave; for example, ‘All the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever’ (Westminster Confession of Faith, xxxii, 2). (2) As a resurrection from the dead, a coming forth from the place of the departed, but without the body with which the spirit was clothed in life; either with no body or with a new body given for the new life, and one having no connection with the present earthly body, or none that can now be apprehended; for example, ‘Resurrection of the body, as taught in the New Testament, is not a rising again of the same body, but the ascent into a higher body’ (J. F. Clarke, Orthodoxy — Its Truths and Errors, xii, sec. 6). (3) The doctrine that every man is possessed of two bodies, a natural and a spiritual, the latter within the former, and that at death the natural body is laid aside and the spiritual body rises at once from the death of the natural, resurrection thus taking place for everyone immediately upon, and simultaneously with, death. The doctrine of the resurrection has been held in various other forms in detail, but they may all be classed under one of these three general heads.”

In regard to these definitions it may be here stated that there is some truth in them all, and that the most accurate definition might be one comprising details from each.

But it is not our intention to discuss the doctrine of the resurrection in a general or critical manner, but to present what we believe to be the teachings of the Scriptures, and especially those of the New Testament, in regard to the matter, and then to show how these teachings may be properly adjusted to that great central truth, the parousia of Christ, considered as a past event; with the admission that the great evangelical Churches have almost unanimously held to the first opinion given in the above extract — a literal resurrection of the same body laid away in the grave, at a judgment day still to occur.

In the synoptic gospels we find Christ raising the dead to life in several instances, and the standing up again (ἀναςτασις) of those who have lain down in death, or who have been after death laid on the bier or in the tomb, is the most literal and visible form of the resurrection. Our Lord also refers frequently to his rising from the dead, and to his issuance from the sepulcher of Joseph on the third day, which was a resurrection from among the dead, and was a pattern of our spiritual resurrection to a new life, or the life of righteousness, and, also, as supposed by some, a model of our bodily resurrection; though when Paul says, “Now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the first fruits of them that are asleep,” we are not under the necessity of supposing that in every particular the resurrection of Christ is to be the pattern on which the resurrection of every believer is to be fashioned.

There is one passage in the gospels to which we call attention, as one in which the word “resurrection” is used in a different sense from its ordinary signification, namely, Matt, xxii, 23-33; paralleled in Luke xx, 27-40. Here the Sadducees, who did not believe in a resurrection (Acts xxiii, 8), brought up the case of the woman who had seven brothers as her husbands, successively, and asked: “In the resurrection therefore whose wife shall she be of the seven?” The word resurrection is here used to indicate a state or condition, and Jesus uses the word in the same sense when he replies: “In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven.”

He then proceeds to teach that the word resurrection may be used with regard to those who, having once lived on earth and having died, exist in a conscious condition, and that they may be said to have had a resurrection: “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” This is equivalent to saying that the existence of the patriarchs in a conscious state is tantamount to their being raised from the dead or to their having a resurrection.

But it is in the teaching of our Lord as recorded in the Gospel of John that we have the clearest and most positive presentation of this very important subject. Jesus is there represented as saying, “For as the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son also quickeneth whom he will;” and then, as proceeding to show in what different ways this quickening is performed: “Verily, verily, I say unto you. He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life. Verily, verily, I say unto you. The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself: and he gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done [practiced] ill, unto the resurrection of judgment” John v, 24-29).

It will be evident to those who closely study this passage that there are three resurrections here spoken of. The first is in verse 24, and is called a passing out of death into life. We are reminded of 1 John iii, 14: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.”

This is certainly a description of the spiritual birth of a person, and as certainly refers to the very same fact which Paul speaks of in Romans, sixth chapter, where he compares the conversion or regeneration of a believer to a resurrection after the likeness of that of Christ; and in Ephesians i and ii, where he speaks of the same power which was exerted in the raising of Christ as being exerted to quicken and raise believers from the death of sin into the life of righteousness. Also in Col. iii, i: “If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.”

Here the resurrection is a spiritual one, experienced by all those who “hear” the word of Christ and “believe” in him that sent him. It is a resurrection that occurs in the invisible sphere, and is therefore not a matter of ocular apprehension.

In the twenty-fifth verse a second resurrection is spoken of, which was occurring at that very time and had for its subjects those that merely heard the voice of the Son of God — that is, heard that voice commanding them to return to the present earthly life, the spirit to return to the body, that they might continue this earthly life. So he commanded the ruler’s daughter, “Maid, arise;” so he commanded the son of the widow, “Young man, arise;” so he commanded Lazarus, “Come forth;” and all these heard the voice of the Son of God and lived. This was a resurrection occurring in the visible sphere and plainly perceived by all; for it was part of the special work of Christ, which he was to perform before men, that his divinity might be perfectly proved, or his coming from the Father evidenced to the disciples of John the Baptist and others. Such a resurrection also was that of the bodies of the saints, who, at the cry of Jesus on the cross, came forth from the tombs and entered into the holy city.

In verses 28 and 29 we have a third resurrection spoken of — that of all who are in the tombs or were in the tombs at that time. Of these it is said they shall hear his voice, and shall go forth, not come forth, as the Greek is ἐκπορευσονται (they shall go forth). We believe this word was used with special care and wisdom for the purpose of giving a different idea to the hearer and the reader regarding the mode of the resurrection here spoken of from that conveyed if the word ἐλευσονται (they shall come forth) had been used. All that were in the graves were to go forth to the resurrection of life or to the resurrection of judgment; indicating that it was to be a proceeding from the graves, or tombs, to a condition of enjoyment or punishment, rather than a coming forth from these burial places into the sight of men.

A little consideration will show us that this resurrection is not a visible one, at least so far as the righteous are concerned, for we learn from the apostle Paul that the dead shall be raised incorruptible (ἀφθαρτοι), equal to immortal — that which cannot die or be dissolved and perish. The apostle teaches, in regard to the resurrection of the dead, that it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; that it is sown a natural body (σῶμα ψυχικον), it is raised a spiritual body (σῶμα πνευματικον); that there are celestial bodies (σώματα ἐπουρανια), heavenly bodies, like those of the angels; and that as believers have borne the image of the earthly they shall also bear the image of the heavenly (εἰκόνα τοῦ ἐπουρανίου).

Now, all these expressions, and others that might be quoted, point to the fact that the resurrection body is not an earthly, visible body, but a heavenly, spiritual, invisible body; and that therefore the resurrection which Paul speaks of, and consequently the one which Jesus prophesied about, was not to be a material, visible resurrection of flesh and blood, of the veritable body which had been put in the grave, but that in this rising a change takes place, and the body which is raised is a spiritual, invisible, glorified body.

The phrase used by Christ, “in the tombs,” need not trouble us, for this is merely synonymous with the word “Hades” or “the underworld,” and does not refer so much, if at all, to the bodies as to the persons themselves who have died and been buried. In the Scriptures it is always the persons that are spoken of, and not the bodies which have been buried.

The same doctrine of the rising of a spiritual body is taught by Peter: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. i, 3-5). This inheritance is a spiritual, indissoluble, imperishable body — 3, conclusion which will appear natural and rational if we consider that the hope of this inheritance is created by the resurrection of Christ from the tomb of Joseph with a body of just such a character; which, if not always invisible, could, as Peter well knew, be made invisible at will. Therefore this is the same as saying that this “inheritance” is an invisible, immaterial body, and its resurrection, therefore, would be an invisible process.

Paul’s argument in the fourth and fifth chapters of Second Corinthians supports the same fact, that the resurrection body of the Christian believer is an invisible body. He says: “The things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Here is the scriptural statement of the phenomenal and the noumenal, as meaning the outward, external thing, and the inward basis, undiscernible by the senses. We could, perhaps, properly invert the terms and say with truth the visible things are temporal, and the invisible things are eternal. If this is allowed, then we have here perfect proof of the invisibility of the believer’s resurrection body ; for the apostle says: “For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens” (v, 1). (Compare the “eternal tabernacles” of Luke xvi, 9, Revised Version.) And that he has reference to the body of the believer in the first verse quoted (iv, 18) is evident, for he speaks of the outward man which is decaying, and the inward man which is renewing.

Again, the “first resurrection” of Rev. xx, 5, is not a visible resurrection, nor, apparently, a resurrection of bodies. The “souls” that are mentioned in this chapter are the same as those spoken of in the sixth chapter; and their resurrection consists in their being brought from under the altar and placed on thrones, where they live and reign with Christ a thousand years. This process indicates a change of condition, yet it is spoken of as a resurrection. It is not a change perceptible to the senses, for the revelator beholds it “in spirit” (ἐν πνεύματι). It is certainly, however, a resurrection to life, for these souls “live and reign” — live, that is, reign — “with Christ a thousand years.” They are raised to a condition of blessedness and authority or power. This may be the very resurrection to life of which our Lord speaks in John v, 29.

And thus we see that when Jesus says so frequently of the one that believes in him, “I will raise him up at the last day,” he may be, and probably is, speaking of the last day of the then passing age, at which time he raised from the dead, or released from the captivity of Hades, all believers in him who had lived during that age, and brought them to enjoy his everlasting glory in the heavenly places; yet this was not necessarily a resurrection visible to mortal eyes, but one brought about entirely in the invisible sphere.

We are also to consider that the resurrection of the righteous is one spoken of as taking place instantaneously, so quickly that it was to be impossible for anyone to be fully cognizant of it — that is, by sense perception. “We shall not all sleep,” says the apostle, “but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” The language of this passage will allow us to believe that the meaning is that, both the change and the resurrection taking place at the same period, they are to take place also with the same rapidity and at the same instant. The phrases used to express the instantaneousness of the event are ἐν ἀτόμῳ, in an atom — an indivisible point of time; and ἐν ριπῇ, admirably translated “in the twinkling of an eye.” Such an operation would, of course, be unobservable to an onlooker, the language used being, undoubtedly, purposely employed to present this idea. We are therefore to believe that the resurrection of saints which occurred at the parousia was an invisible and supernatural event, brought about by the “power of God” (Matt, xxii, 29).

To return to the twentieth chapter of Revelation. What became of those who did not rise with the saints? “The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished” — that is, they lived not with these reigning saints during the thousand years. This is merely a negative statement, to show that there were a great many who were not worthy to enjoy this special felicity. What, then, became of them? They went forth from their graves to “the resurrection of judgment” The revelator sees these remaining dead, small and great, standing before the great white throne to be judged out of the things which were written in the books. But this “standing” (ἑστῶτας) does not denote a resurrection, but merely position, as may be seen by reference to the passages where it occurs in the original. (It sometimes refers to a mental state — “stand fast in the faith,” etc.) The word is only once used in connection with a resurrection, in the New Testament, and that is in Rev. xi, ii, where the two witnesses are said to have arisen “and stood upon their feet.” This having been a bodily resurrection, the word is properly used, but in other cases the word is anastasis, from ἀνιστημι, to set or place up again.

“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them : and they were judged every man according to their works.” This “giving up” of the dead and their judgment is a past event, according to the word of God, for these were among “the things” which “the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show unto his servants … which must shortly come to pass” (Rev. xxii, 6); and we must remember that all these things take place in the invisible sphere. There is no trumpet really blown, nor any loud voice heard, nor any white throne apparent, nor any books actually opened, nor any persons visible. Here also the revelator is “in (the) spirit” (ἐν πνεύματι) (Rev. i, 10; iv, 2), not in the Holy Spirit, but rapt into the invisible state, and all these things, pertaining to the condition and action of the dead, are spiritual verities not cognizable by the senses.

There is a text in Second Timothy which may demand some attention here: “But shun profane babblings: for they will proceed further in ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a gangrene: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; men who concerning the truth have erred [have missed the mark, ἀστοχέω], saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim. ii, 16-18). “The precise meaning of this expression [the one italicized in the quotation] is by no means clearly ascertained; the most general, and perhaps best founded, opinion is that they understood the resurrection in a figurative sense of the great change produced by the Gospel dispensation. … Now, as the doctrine of the resurrection of the body was found to involve immense difficulties even in those early days (Acts xvii, 32; 1 Cor. xv, 35), while, on the other hand, there was so great a predisposition in the then current philosophy (not even extinct now) to magnify the excellence of the soul above that of its earthly tabernacle, it was at once the easier and more attractive course to insist upon and argue from the force of those passages of Holy Scripture which enlarge upon the glories of the spiritual life that now is, under Christ, and to pass over or explain away allegorically all that refers to a future state in connection with the resurrection of the body” (Mc-Clintock and Strong, art. “Hymenaeus”).

This explanation being accepted, it is at once perceived that the error of these men was not that there had been a resurrection of the body; and therefore those who now maintain such a doctrine are not properly classed with these heretics.

Even if they had maintained that a resurrection of the body had taken place, it is to be remembered that this was before the parousia of Christ, and therefore such teaching might then have been erroneous, while now it may be, and, as we believe, is, the only correct teaching, and such as should not subject one to the spear of the heretic hunter.

The faith which was overthrown was doubtless a faith in an actual resurrection of a body into the eternal life of the future. This the upholders of our theory do not interfere with, but sustain with all their powers; only it is maintained also that, this resurrection being necessarily invisible to the bodily eye, it has already occurred, according to the plain and incontestable teachings of Holy Writ.

We now come to the question: “What shall be the destiny of those who are now dying as believers in Christ?”

  1. It is evident that a great crisis was to come in the affairs of the spiritual realm as well as in temporal matters, or the course of historical events, at the time of the parousia of Christ.

  2. Various texts point to the fact that this crisis was to include a great change in what we may term the modality of the believer’s transition to the heavenly state.

  3. A very emphatic text in the Apocalypse appears to explicitly present the details of this change:

“And I heard a voice from heaven saying. Write, Blessed are the dead which die [or are dying, ἀποθνήσκοντες] in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them” (Rev. xiv, 13).

First, there is drawn a contrast between worshipers of the beast and his image (ver, 9), and those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (ver. 12). The former “have no rest day and night,” and the latter “rest from their labors.” A parallel text is 2 Thess. i, 6, 7. The word translated “labors” (κόπων), which has the original meaning of striking or beating, may be properly rendered sufferings, afflictions, or tribulations; and the word rendered “works” (ἔργα) may be here more correctly translated “possessions,” or those things which are gained by labor or effort; as the “treasures laid up in heaven” of Matt, vi, 19-21, and the “everlasting habitations” or “eternal tabernacles” (Revised Version) of Luke xvi, 9, and “the good foundation against the time to come” of I Tim. vi, 19. The teaching seems to be that those who died in the Lord, after the certain time specified in the text, entered at once into the rest that remained for the people of God; and, ceasing from all their toils, came into immediate possession of the glorious reward gained by their faithful work in the cause of their Lord and the sufferings they may have endured as witnesses for their Saviour.

  1. It was this rest of which the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks so frequently, and which was just about to be enjoyed by himself and his faithful Hebrew brethren who were believers in Christ: “For we which have believed do enter into that rest” (Heb. iv, 3). This rendering of the revisers is not as explicit as that of the original, though more so than that of the Authorized Version. The sentence may read, “For we which are believing are entering into that rest.” These Hebrew Christians were instructed by this inspired writer to believe that they were very near this rest, though they had not actually attained it. They were “come unto it;” they were just about to enter upon its felicities, God having provided some better thing for them, that the ancient saints without them— or apart from what they enjoyed — should not be made perfect (Heb. xi, 40). Those believers under the old dispensation not only had no advantage over them, so far as the possession of the promised inheritance was concerned, but they had to wait long for the fullness of time when Christ should be sent forth to suffer the death of the cross and open up the new and living way into the holiest of all, that all saints might enter together the heavenly Canaan. “But now the time was come when the inheritance was about to be actually entered and enjoyed, and the believers of the old covenant, with those of the new, were to enter at once and together into the promised rest” (The Parousia, page 278).

The same arguments are presented by Paul in the third chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians and in the fourth of Romans. Dr. Terry says: “Then a voice from heaven pronounces them blessed who die in the Lord from henceforth, as if from that eventful epoch the dead in Christ should enter at once into a rest which the dead of the previous æon could not know” (Biblical Hermeneutics, page 367). Now, as all these believers were about to enter into this rest when the Epistle to the Hebrews was written, just before the destruction of Jerusalem, and as it is certain, from the teaching of the Scriptures, they did a few months afterward enter in and enjoy this rest that remained for the people of God, it is evident that those who died after that period were not under the necessity of waiting at all for their admission into the same rest as believers in the Lord; but through the merits of the Saviour in whom they trusted, and by means of the complete preparation made by him, they immediately entered in, ceasing from their labors and at once enjoying the heavenly inheritance. And if they, through the merits and work of Christ, did thus enter in, then all believers since, and all living now, have, evidently, the same privilege, and, departing in the Lord, enter also at once into this rest, to enjoy it forever — not to return to this world or to go to any other to be judged, and in this way, or any other, to be prepared for this place which is already prepared for us.

Therefore every theory of an intermediate state or a place of purgation for Christians “is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the word of God” (Fourteenth Article of Religion of the Methodist Episcopal Church).

In the old dispensation there was a place and a demand for an intermediate state, because the Old Testament saints had to await the coming, and sacrifice, and resurrection, and ascension, and parousia of Christ to open the way fully to these heavenly regions; but there is no such necessity now:

“The saints who die of Christ possessed,
Enter into immediate rest;
For them no further test remains,
Of purging fires and torturing pains.

“Who trusting in their Lord depart,
Cleansed from all sin, and pure in heart,
The bliss unmixed, the glorious prize,
They find with Christ in paradise.

“Yet, glorified by grace alone,
They cast their crowns before the throne,
And fill the echoing courts above
With praises of redeeming love.”

This hymn, number 983 of the Methodist Hymnal, teaches a correct doctrine, but it has been prefaced with an incorrect title by the compilers of the book, namely, “Disembodied Saints.” But how “disembodied” saints can wear crowns, or take them off and cast them before the throne, or fill the echoing courts with praise, is a mystery unexplained.

This leads us to a consideration of the necessity existing for a proper vehicle for the soul, a nexus, that there may be conscious existence and communion with other beings as separate existences.

This will form the subject of the next chapter.

As is said by a learned recent writer: “Perhaps the exegetical harmony of some biblical passages with the doctrine of a past second advent may seem to some impossible or difficult. Difficult it may be, but not impossible; for what is impossible to some is possible to others. Every man is not an exegete, as every man is not a poet, painter, or sculptor. ‘Every man hath his proper gift of God.’ Exegetical success in the labyrinthine or alpine walks of the Bible is not only a specialty, but a progress. What has been impossible will sometime be achieved, as all the Bible is given to be understood. But the appearance of such difficulty or impossibility must not prevent us from taking what is verified. We should rejoice in all we find, and labor for the rest The primary question is not how the priority of the second advent can be reconciled with every biblical reference, but whether it is biblical truth. All truth is harmonious; all biblicism is one. If the actual accomplishment of the second advent is a fact, we have no choice but to hold it fast in faith, and follow on to know its perfect harmony. … If an accomplished advent modifies the faith of the resurrection, the judgment, and the millennium, let it be so. If it changes some customary exposition and revolutionizes eschatology, what then? Truth is great, and shall prevail. ‘Buy the truth, and sell it not!’ What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.’ Unto the King of the ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory unto the ages of the ages. Amen.”


The Resurrection Body

It is very doubtful that it is possible for the soul to exist apart from any corporeal nature. There is no evidence of the truth of such a theory, and it appears to be a pure assumption. It is seemingly an intuition of the mind that the soul needs a body for the full enjoyment of the life to come, and so popular sentiment, placing a wrong construction on some phrases of God’s word, insists on the re-formation of these same bodies we now possess, however far apart their atoms may be scattered or despite the “base uses” to which they may be subjected. The contention is that the power of God is sufficient for this miracle; and various illustrations of the diffusion of a body’s particles and their refusion again into the original shape are suggested as proofs of the possibility of the truth of such a theory.

But this is really a re-creation theory, rather than a theory of a resurrection. And even the supporters of this theory admit that after this body is thus reformed and reorganized and revivified it is necessary that a wonderful change should take place in its nature whereby it shall be spiritualized and made incorruptible and eternal.

Why is it not a more rational course to accept at once the doctrine of a spiritual body prepared of God in conjunction with this animal body, or distinct from it, though having its germ in the original nature of man, and believe that in such a body, not made with hands, unmanufactured by man (ἀχειροποίητον) the soul shall dwell, eternally enjoying the presence and society of its Saviour?

This re-creation theory does not seem to be supported by the Scriptures, as we shall endeavor to show further on, but we now turn our attention to the necessity of the soul’s having some kind of bodily organization for its residence and for the full display of its powers.

Dr. I. P. Warren says: “There is no reason to believe that a soul separated from a bodily organization can maintain a conscious existence. It certainly can have neither force nor consciousness here unless such connection be preserved, and that in a healthful condition. Say the authors of the Unseen Universe: ‘One of the essential requisites of continued existence of the individual is the capability of retaining some hold upon the past, and inasmuch as we are unable to contemplate such a thing as a finite disembodied spirit, or, to speak more precisely, an unconditioned finite spirit, it is further evident that this hold implies an organ of some sort.’ ‘He must possess an organization in which there is the power of calling internal forces into play at irregular intervals dependent on his will’ (page 78). Professor Harris states the same thing potentially: ‘It is possible that spirit acts in and through a material organization. The finite spirit as a subcreative center of reason and free power may weave for itself a material vesture of ethereal texture and from fitly elaborated matter through which it acts and by which it is revealed… If it should be found that all finite spirit in the universe is in some way connected with some form of matter, the fact would not conflict with the fact of its existence… Matter is not the bound and prison of the spirit, but rather gives occasion and excitement, instruments and resources, place and scope, for its action and development’ (Philosophical Basis of Theism, pages 412, 437). Professor Westcott regards Christ’s resurrection — which proves that ‘the soul does not remain alone in a future state, but is still united with our body, that is, with an organism which in a new sphere expresses the law which our present body expresses in this’ — as evidence of our own possible continued existence and personality” (Parousia of Christ, pages 325, 326).

Dr. Warren then quotes President Porter and Isaac Taylor to the same effect, and states that the same doctrine is taught by Cudworth in his Intellectual System; who shows that this was the view of the fathers and, to some extent, of the philosophers. He then speaks of the provisional or phenomenal body of Delitzsch and others, who quote Dante and refer to such scriptural cases as Samuel, Moses, and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, the rich man and Lazarus, and the citation of the “white robes” of Revelation, the mention of which so frequently makes it “exegetically impossible to regard the white raiment as a mere figure of speech” — which creates the inference that these “white robes” were the heavenly bodies of the saints. Dr. Warren then adds: “But while we admit that these and similar passages … may teach the existence of some bodily investiture of the soul after death, it is altogether gratuitous to say that this is merely a provisional or phenomenal body and not the true body of the resurrection. Of the real existence of the latter we are sure; of that of the former we know nothing. Why resort to a mere figment of fancy to explain what is much better done by the not doubtful teachings of revelation? If we deny the reality of a corporeal organization for the soul after death, I see not how we can escape the dreary alternative of supposing it to sink into a state of unconsciousness, or what is called the sleep of the soul. If it is dependent on the body, as that which gives it ‘occasion and excitement, instruments and resources, place and scope for its action and developments,’ then when the body dies it must lose all these and pass into a condition differing in no way perceptibly from annihilation. I am aware that many men of eminence, and even some entire denominations of Christians, have accepted this as an article of their faith. To my own mind scarcely anything could be more shocking. Have all the past generations of men perished in this abyss of nothingness?” (Parousia of Christ, page 330.)

Nowhere in the Bible is this doctrine of a spiritual body more clearly taught than in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, from verse 16 of the fourth chapter to verse 10 of the fifth chapter. Here two encasements for the soul or being of the man are mentioned — the earthly house and the house from heaven; one to fit us for our earthly conditions, and the other to fit us for heavenly conditions.

As to these two bodies these facts are evident:

  1. The earthly house is to be dissolved. The word is καταλύω, the same which, in the plural future, is used by Christ to indicate the complete ruin of the temple, when he says, “There shall not be left one stone upon another which shall not be thrown down.”
    This fact seems to be referred to in chap, iv, i6, where the outward man is said to be decaying, while the inward man is renewed day by day.
  2. This dissolution is to occur at death, when, as Peter describes it, the tabernacle is to be put off (2 Pet. i, 14).
  3. When the earthly house is dissolved the soul will be found naked (should no other provision be made for it) — a condition extremely undesirable, even if a possible one.
  4. At the very time when the earthly house is put off the heavenly house is put on, and being thus clothed the man is fitted to enjoy heavenly companionships.
  5. That certain phases of these companionships cannot be enjoyed while in this body, but when absent from it we are then present with the Lord.
  6. That this heavenly house is eternal in its nature and, thus far, is a body which cannot be dissolved, and is therefore not an atomic body, but a nonatomic body, though some doubt that the existence of such a body is possible.
  7. That what is mortal will be completely superseded by that which is living and enduring.
  8. That once in possession of the heavenly house, and at home with the Lord, all groaning will cease, every burden be forever laid down, and unalloyed bliss be our portion.

Here, then, we have ample support for the belief that when the hour for the departure of the Christian from this world comes he shall be clothed upon with an habiliment which shall be age-lasting, and by means of which we shall at once take our place with the glorified.

Another text which confirms the theory, or rather doctrine, we here present is 1 Cor. xv, 44: “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” This text has been made the basis of an argument which seeks to prove that every person has two bodies now in possession. Dean Goulburn supposes that man has a spiritual body coeval in origin with his creation, and already existing, in its elements, within the present body. Heard, the author of The Tripartite Nature of Man, supposes that there may be a distinction between sentient and nutritive life, and between the organs of these two departments of man’s being; and that, as Paul teaches, “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy [καταργήσει, render ineffective] both it and them;” so that there may be restored to us the excito-motor system without the lower nutritive organs, and quotes Bonnet, a distinguished French entomologist, as saying, in his Palingenesie Philosophique (1767), “that within our material system there lurks an exquisite spiritual organization, invisibly pervading it and constituting its vital power, which seems to be the first conception of the nature of the spiritual body which is at once philosophical and Christian.” Isaac Taylor says: “Have the dead ceased to exist? Have those who are fallen asleep perished? No; for there is a spiritual body, another vehicle of human nature, as well as a natural body; and therefore the dissolution of this animal structure leaves the life untouched” (Physical Theory). President Porter (Yale University) says: “That the soul begins to exist as a vital force does not require that it should always exist as such a force, or in connection with a material body. Should it require another such body or medium of activity, it may have the power to create for itself, as it has formed the one which it first inhabited; or, it may have already formed it in the germ, and hold it ready for occupation and use as soon as it sloughs off the one which connects it with the earth. These possibilities permit the only theory of the soul’s continued existence in another state consistent with the facts of our present being” ( Human Intellect, page 39). Professors Stewart and Tait, the authors of the Unseen Universe, thus speak of this subject: “We maintain that we are logically constrained to admit the existence of some frame or organ which is not of this earth, and which survives dissolution, if we regard the principle of continuity and the doctrine of the future state as both true. Besides, the analogy of Paul, in which the body of the believer at death is compared to a seed put into the ground, not only implies some sort of continuity, but also expresses his belief in a present spiritual body” (1 Cor. xv, 44; 2 Cor. v, 1). To an objector who asks, “If there be, as you say, this duality in the present human frame, how can the spiritual part remain latent so long as it does? Even if trammeled by the grosser substance, we might expect that, at least on rare occasions, it should somehow manifest itself,” they reply, “It is possible that there have been, and that there are, occasional manifestations of -this spiritual nature” (pages 207, 208).

We distinctly remember reading in The Christian Advocate years ago an account of the death of Dr. Hiram Mattison, in which it was stated that those who watched at his bedside asserted that they saw rise from the body, as it lay on the bed, an ethereal form. Might not this have been such a manifestation as is referred to by Professors Tait and Stewart? In Louisa A. Alcott’s Letters and Journals, page 97, there is an instance given of the same kind, and the researches of the Psychical Society of London seem to establish the same fact.

Joseph Cook claims that it has been made certain that the soul even here dwells in an ethereal and spiritual body. He says: “It is Ulrici’s view that the soul is the occupant of a nonatomic ether that fills the whole form and lies behind the mysterious weaving of the tissues, etc. … It becomes clear, therefore, that even in that state of existence which succeeds death the soul may have a spiritual body. … If this ethereal nonatomic enswathement of the soul be interpreted to mean what the Scriptures mean by a spiritual body, in distinction from a natural body, there is entire harmony between the latest results of science and the inspired doctrine of the resurrection” (Cook’s Lectures on Biology).

The late Josiah P. Cooke, Professor of Chemistry in Harvard University, says: “I know that there are some who entertain a vague fear that these well-established facts of chemistry conflict with one of the most cherished doctrines of the Christian faith, but, so far from this, I find that they elucidate and confirm it. I admit that they do disprove that interpretation frequently given to the doctrine of the resurrection which assumes that these same material atoms will form parts of our celestial bodies; but then I find that this interpretation is as much opposed to Scripture as to science.

“The Saviour himself, in reply to the incredulous Sadducees, severely rebuked such a material conception of his spiritual revelation, and the great apostle to the Gentiles, in his vision of the glorified body, distinctly declares that this body is not the body that shall be; but that, as the grain sown in the furrow rises into the glory of the full-eared com, ‘so when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality,’ our natural body, sown in dishonor and weakness, will be raised a spiritual body clothed in glory and in power. ‘And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.’

“The glorious doctrine of the resurrection here presented modem scientific discoveries most fully confirm. They have shown that our only abiding substance is merely the passing shadow of our outward form, that these bones and muscles are dying within us every day, that our whole life is an unceasing metempsychosis, and that the final death is but one phase of the perpetual change. Thus the idea of a spiritual body becomes not only a possible conception, but, more than this, it harmonizes with the whole order of nature; and now that we can better trace the processes of growth in the organic world and understand more of their hidden secrets, the inspired words of Paul have acquired fresh power, and convey to us a deeper meaning than they ever gave to the early fathers of the Church. It is no wonder that when men were less enlightened the doctrine should have been misinterpreted; but now, when the truth has been illuminated by the study of nature, why longer harass the understanding and vex the spirit with these material clogs? Hear again the words of the apostle: ‘This I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.’ ‘For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.’ And now, turning to the glorious truth as Christ revealed it and Paul preached it, how greatly is our faith strengthened by these lights of nature! All philosophy assures us that the finite and limited can be manifested only under form.

“‘That each, who seems a separate whole,
Should move his rounds and, fusing all
The skirts of self again, should fall
Remerging in the general Soul,

“‘Is faith as vague as all unsweet:
Eternal form shall still divide
The eternal soul from all beside;
And I shall know him when we meet.’

“Chemistry has shown us that it is the form alone of our mortal bodies which is permanent, and that we retain our personality under constant change, and, lastly, in organic nature the sprouting of the seed, the breaking of the bird from the egg, the bursting of the butterfly from the chrysalis, and ten thousand other transmutations not less wonderful, which we are daily witnessing around us, all unite their analogy to elucidate and confirm the glorious and comforting doctrine of a material resurrection in form.

“Moreover, when we remember that our organs of vision and hearing are capable of receiving impressions of either light or sound only when the rapidity of the undulations which cause them is comprised within certain very narrow limits, and when we recall the facts, stated in a previous lecture, that there are waves of light and sound of which our dull senses take no cognizance, that there is a great difference even in human perceptivity, and that some men, more gifted than others, can see colors or hear sounds which are inaudible or invisible to the great bulk of mankind, you will appreciate how possible it is that there may be a world of spiritual existence around us inhabiting this same globe, enjoying this same nature, of which we have no perception; that, in fact, the wonders of the new Jerusalem may be in our midst, and the songs of the angelic hosts filling the air with their celestial harmony although unheard and unseen by us. Let me not be understood as implying that science has in any sense revealed to us a spiritual world, or that it gives the slightest shadow of support to those products of imposture, credulity, and superstition which, under the name of witchcraft, mesmerism, or spiritualism, have in every age of the world deceived so many. The only revelation man has ever received of a spiritual existence is contained in the Bible; but modem science has rendered the conception of such an existence possible, and in this way has removed a source of doubt The materialist can no longer say that the spiritual world is inconceivable; for these discoveries show that it may be included in the very scheme of nature in which we live, and thus, although science may not remove the veil, it at least answers this cavil of materialism” (Religion and Chemistry, pages 104-108).

A recent writer, the Rev. W. W. Peyton, in The Contemporary Review for January, 1899, presents the same view with great scientific accuracy:

“An unseen universe of force invests us, of which light, heat, electricity are the showing, which are appearances of an unseen force in and behind the seen. An unseen universe of matter invests us, of which nitrogen, water, iron are the showing, which Lord Kelvin tells us will be found to be vortex rings whose attributes are the same as light and heat. Life is the great unseen, issuing out of the universe, and utilizing matter and force to organize creatures. Consciousness is the greater unseen, issuing out of greater depths in the unseen universe, which, utilizing matter, force, life, organizes personality. The visible universe is only a manifestation of the invisible universe; its high-class energy is derived from the invisible; the two are one system of action and reaction. Here we are, consolidate of unseen elements and forces; the crucible of death cannot reduce the secrets of their corporate life. What happens in death is that these invisibles withdraw into their own home sphere; what happens after death is that these invisibles are arrested to organize an appropriate personality. Consciousness subsists only with individuality,

“The religious faculty, throughout its long career, has foreshadowed a body for the future existence. It was reserved for the religious faculty, under the resurrection impact, to get rid of rude figurations, and to pronounce, in clear, simple tones, there is a natural body and there is a spiritual body. In recent times the difficulty of the bodily resurrection was forced upon the mind from the fact that the gases of every dead body have been worked up into other bodies, which would thus have several claimants at the last day, Boston, in his Fourfold State, asks to be spared him a single particle of unused sweat, as that would suffice for the seed of the new body — which was preserving identity with a pathetic humor. In our day the physical doctrines of the conservation of matter and the transmutation of energy have shown us the potential mechanism of the new body and the mode of resurrection. But the religious mind was first in the field with the idea of immortality of the body, which is no other than conservation and transmutation.

“The beautiful mystery which we here encounter is the relation of life to the invisibles of the carbon compounds and the invisibles of light, heat, and electricity which go to compose the inner body. The outer body is a limiting organization, inclosed in the three dimensions of length, breadth, and thickness. Death is the dismissal of the limitations and the liberation of the invisibles of the present body for another. Consciousness cannot be dispersed, and the religious faculty has always sought the materials of the reclothing in the present body, and poetry has helped with analogies. Our growing insight into nature is showing us how the arrangement may be carried out. Death dismantles dimension; everything else is retained. We have only to see the elements behind the walls organized again with such accessions as the unseen universe, teeming with elements and forces, will supply to life in its liberated estate, and we have the future body in which consciousness will now wake up with regenerated strength.

“Death is the spent physiology of the dimensioned body, but death has no more power to spend away life than it has to spend away matter and motion. There is economy in the universe. The unspent is organized again; the splendid residuum, the real major part, is organized at once. We lodge the ultimates of nature in the unseen universe. The body is compact of these ultimates in the innermost of it, which are rearranged in death — so our intuitions have hinted, and nature is on the way to verify. The coats, humors, lens which make the eye are of the nature of light, just as the cells which compose the brain are of the nature of electricity. When the eye glazes in death dimension has broken down, but the light of light remains. Death cannot resolve the invisibles of the body. The Duke of Argyll has happily said. The deeper we go into science the more certain it becomes that all the realities of nature are in the region of the invisible.’ Religion has been beforehand with this fact; our roost is on the visible physics, the home in the invisible.

“Without sensation nature would be dark, silent, without form or color, but it is not lost; it retires into the supersensible. There is a light more beautiful and quite other than that which is sensed by the eye, sounds more melodious and quite other than the ear reports; there is a rose and green and purple more bewitching than ever graced a landscape of sea or land, and there are lines and shapes more entrancing than ever were seen on a maiden’s face. Death passes us into a body of supersensible elements by which the sensible world is undergirded. The break-up is an illusion; assisted by the resurrection, we see a transfusion of persistent forces into a new form. There is a silent side to the body as to thought; it has a double, and just now the double is in its infancy. In death consciousness slides into a body of silence and invisibility, composed of the invisibles of life, matter, and motion. The future body has definable antecedents in the present body. The chamber of death is a robing room ; the ascension robe is already ordered.

“Science lives by the suspicion of things unseen and hoped for. The scientific mind is on the search of its suspicions, and when they are found science is glorified by what it sees and shows of the unseen. Argon was an element in air long ago suspected by Cavendish, but only found the other day by Lord Rayleigh. Light is loaded with suspicions, and the Rontgen rays were recently found. Electricity is the modem suspicion of boundless promise, and Lord Armstrong has last year found electric waves of a rotatory kind which move one within another, the inner current moving in a reverse direction to the outer, behaving as a whirlwind. Thought is more suspicious still, for we know that consciousness has ‘abysmal deeps,’ and the Psychical Society has been for some time announcing that thought can be transferred hundreds of miles away without a medium, and Professor Crookes suspects that there are brain waves of ‘high frequency’ which carry thought, just as ether waves carry light and heat But the religious faculty is the most suspicious of all; it has been communicating with the infinite and eternal, pushing men into the farthest recesses of the universe to discover unseen things. We have been long ago told of primitive religion that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, giving substance to things unseen. In the Christian age the religious faculty has discovered Christ in the unseen universe, and in communication with him has found things which prophets and wise men had desired to see and had not seen them. As the scientific faculty develops within the religious, it shows to us the unseen universe telescoped in the seen, and religion opens a piece of the telescope and shows to science death unfolding forces enfolded in the body of flesh for the spiritual body.

“Except the transformation scene of the ascension had discovered it for us, we had not appropriated these physical conceptions, nor have come near to the idea of the continuity of the present and future body, the passage of the body terrestrial into the celestial body by an orderly cosmic procession in the medium of death.

“The likeness between the resurrection of Christ and our resurrection holds only as we regard our resurrection immediate on death. The resurrection body of Christ was transformed in the ascension into a body of glorified invisible physics, while the visible physics were dropped, exactly as we have here regarded the human body in death to pass into the unseen elements which lie always folded in the seen and then to be organized into the body of the regeneration. To gather the dispersed gases of the body from the ends of the earth, after the scattering of thousands of years, into a new body has no likeness to the resurrection and ascension of Christ Our death is the immediate exchange of the visible physical for the invisible physical like unto the ascension. Death is our assumption into the invisible physics; the assumption is the service which death gives us; it is instant on death, the spring of another existence without a wintry ghostly interval. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we repossess our body in death; death is our ingression into the spiritual body without a leap or break. ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.’ We know that when our earthly house of this temporal residence is dissolved we have — not shall have — a building of God, a residence of eternal elements in the heavens.”

We thus see that revelation and science agree in making the resurrection body an invisible, spiritual body, and its identity to consist not in its being formed of the exact material atoms which may constitute our present body at the time of its dissolution, and which cannot, as “flesh and blood,” “inherit the kingdom of God,” but that the identity to be possessed is an identity of form (that being really also the only identity our body now possesses), which shall still distinguish us in the invisible sphere, a form of a substance invisible to mortal eyes and eternal in its nature.

So our hope in Christ is resplendent with the glories in store for us as we look for our own immediate manifestation with him in the heavenly places so soon as we cease to bear the image of the earthy and begin at once to bear the image of the heavenly.


The Change of the Living

Another great and wonderful event which was to occur at the parousia of Christ was “the change of the living.”

The parousia having taken place, as we have endeavored to prove, the change of the living is also considered a past event — as to its commencement; but as we hold it to be a continuous process it becomes our duty to show that it still operates, and that under the reign of Christ as the life giver there takes place now in every believer in Christ and true child of God a preparation for the heavenly world while living here, which preparation consists not merely in a cleansing of the heart and a renewing of the spiritual nature of the man, but in an alteration, or modification, of the corporeal nature, so that the man is fully fitted to occupy heaven immediately at the time of the dissolution of this material tabernacle.

This is a wonderful mystery, but is none the less a veritable and comforting fact. It is presented as such a fact in several passages of Scripture, some of which we give:

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. xv, 51). “For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself” (Phil, iii, 20, 21). “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. … Then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. iv, 15, 17, 18).

The evident teaching of these passages is that there was to come to pass in living persons such an alteration in their natures as would be equivalent to the being raised in incorruption, power, and glory from the grave, or underworld. Those who had fallen asleep had not perished; they were awaiting a time when, hearing the voice of the Lord Jesus, they would go forth from their tombs to a resurrection of life, yet not be discerned, while so doing, by any eye of flesh, as we have endeavored to show in a previous chapter.

Bishop Foster, in speaking of the resurrection state, says: “The resurrection state is the culmination of glorified humanity; is the change of the earthly for the heavenly; is the putting off of flesh and blood and the putting on of the spiritual body. The resurrection is the standing again after death; the body of the resurrection is the body with which the spirit is clothed for its celestial life. The organizing life principle is uninterrupted and identical. It begins in the natural and weaves its curious integuments of dust for earthly use; it weaves the new robes for the departing soul; it fashions the celestial organism; or, more properly, God gives us a body, as it hath pleased him, now and beyond the grave” (Beyond the Grave, pages 181, 182).

Here we have the usual teaching in regard to the resurrection body of the righteous dead, in which all evangelical Christians concur, and which it will not be necessary for us here to any further discuss; but we call attention to the italicized words in the extract, as being exactly in line with what we here wish to enforce regarding the change which takes place in the living: “It [the organizing life principle] weaves the new robes for the departing soul.” Bishop Foster here alludes evidently to the “white robes” of Revelation, which, as we have seen (page 270), are believed to be, by good scholars, the celestial bodies which the righteous possess as the vehicles wherein their souls dwell in the supernal regions. These robes can be woven here, and so the soul have at the time of the dissolution of the earthly house a heavenly home, a “celestial” body.

We are under the necessity of admitting that Bishop Foster seems somewhat confused in writing on this subject On page 144 of his book he says: “Is it probable that the spirits of men are wholly nude of organism during their existence in the intermediate state? There is not a word of information on the subject.” Yet he immediately admits that the animal soul may survive the body as an organism; that it is “probably true” that the angels have organisms; that “the fact that Moses and Elias appeared in form intimates it may be a something;” then positively states that “the subject is too occult to be brought within the range of rational investigation;” then endeavors to show that there are four stages in the existence of man with regard to his organism — the womb period, this life period, the intermediate period, and the glorified period — and just as positively states in regard to the third period that man has a body as he has before stated the subject to be too occult for rational investigation. “Death opens the door of release — is birth.

He enters upon a third state greatly in advance of this… We are born into new conditions, with a psychical body of some kind, which as imperceptibly develops while we live as the body of the child unconsciously grew in the womb” (page 147). He then asserts that there is still another “birth,” and that “into an organism generically and lineally connected with the one initiated in the womb, worn throughout the earthly life, and eliminated by death” (page 147). Here, then, we are taught that man has three bodies in turn, which is certainly antiscriptural. “There is an animal body [λῶμα ψυχικόν, a psychical body], and there is a spiritual body [πνευματικόν];” “the image of the earthy, … the image of the heavenly;” “terrestrial bodies, and bodies celestial” — these two kinds are all that the Scriptures speak of, and it is best for us not to manufacture others to suit a theory.

Our contention is that the heavenly body of the saint is, under the present order of things, possessed by him at death, as Paul most certainly and positively teaches in 2 Cor. v, 1. Whether this heavenly body exists in germ or otherwise during our life here, or in what manner it is connected with “the earthly house of our tabernacle,” we do not now stop to consider. The teaching of the Scriptures is exact and emphatic that a change takes place in the living that fits them for the enjoyment of Christ’s presence; and this is performed by the power of God, “according to the working whereby he is able to subject all things unto himself.” Not only those who should be alive at the point of time when Christ would appear, but all who should live after that time, were blessed, because they should by a change be fitted to pass at once into the rest of God. And not only so, but the inspired apostle appears to teach that all those living when he wrote were to experience this change instead of being subjected to death, and thus be under the necessity of having a resurrection. “The Greek word translated ‘that are left’ (1 Thess. iv, 15, 17) — οἱ περιλειπόμενοι — is,” says Ellicott, “simply and purely ‘present.’ At the time of writing these words St. Paul was one of the ‘living’ and ‘remaining,’ and as such he distinguishes himself from the ‘sleeping,’ and naturally identifies himself with the class to which he belongs” ( Parousia of Christ, page 355). He therefore believes that he, continuing alive “unto [or rather in, εἰς] the coming of the Lord,” would not pass through death’s iron gate, as Watts puts it, but by “the change” be fitted to be immediately with the Lord; and not only so, but that this was to be the privilege of all those then living or who should thereafter live, this “change” being in lieu of the resurrection.

Those who place the coming of the Lord in the future believe that those who are then alive will experience this “change,” and will not, therefore, have a resurrection in the usual acceptation of that term; and believing, as they must, that none of the particles of this earthly body are necessary to the formation of the heavenly body which the change shall put us in possession of, they are also under the necessity of believing that when this change takes place the visible earthly molecules or atoms of this body will be resolved back again into their original elements, and the saint stand in his heavenly, invisible body, with which he shall be able to ascend, or “be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.”

Why not believe, then, that this “change,” not necessarily, nor possibly, being a visible one, may in this life be experienced by all believers? that they do not die as men once died, but are changed, and pass away to be with the Lord, their earthly bodies being “dissolved,” as Paul says, and their heavenly bodies being “put on,” and they thus imperceptibly fitted to be present with the Lord; while the wicked pass to be “destroyed,” to suffer the punishment they deserve (2 Thess. i, 9) — “eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might?”

Alford, in commenting on the words in 2 Tim. i, 10, “Christ Jesus, who abolished death,” says: “By the death of Christ Death has lost his sting, and is henceforth of no more account; consequently the mere act of natural death is evermore treated by the Lord himself and his apostles as of no account (compare John xi, 26; Rom. viii, 2, 38; 1 Cor. xv, 55; Heb. ii, 14), and its actual and total abolition foretold (Rev. xxi, 4).” So Dr, Horton: “If we interpret Jesus by himself … death is an incident which may be ignored” (Teaching of Jesus).

This change takes place suddenly, “in the twinkling of an eye” (and hence again its invisibility), with all believers who live at or after the parousia under the reign of Christ as life giver; they all go to meet the Lord in the air — being caught up in the clouds of the spiritual realm, not in the clouds of the material atmosphere. As we speak of “going up to heaven,” so these expressions of the apostle indicate merely the fact that we go to the heavenly mansions, and not the visible method of approach.

Jesus said to his sorrowing disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” John xiv, 1-3).

Now, if it be noticed that Jesus says to his disciples, “I come again” (present tense), and further on in this same discourse says that he will come again soon — “again a little while, and ye shall behold me” — then it will certainly be concluded that these disciples expected their Lord speedily to return and receive them to himself; and we must also decide that it was impossible for them to suppose that centuries would elapse before they would be with their Lord.

So we contend that in a little while he did come and take them to be at home with the Lord. There was no intermediate place; there was no waiting in Hades for their transfer to their bright abodes; there was no long interval of unconscious or defective existence before they enjoyed the bliss so fully purchased Christ was to go into the underworld, but not to remain. He was to come forth as conqueror of death, and at his parousia he was to destroy both death and Hades — render them wholly ineffective and inoperative in regard to all believers. This was when he received these loved ones to himself, and gave them perfect victory over these enemies.

After Jesus had said, “That where I am, there ye may be also,” he added, “And whither I go, ye know the way.” “Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; how know we the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John xiv, 4-6) — that is, “I am the way; I am the true way; I am the living way” (Heb. x, 20), these nouns in apposition having the force of adjectives, as is frequently the case with nouns in the New Testament Greek and generally in the Hebrew (Young). Just as Jesus said to Mary, “I am the resurrection, and the life” — so that he who had him had the resurrection, and was already raised from the dead virtually — “he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die;” he passes out of death into life and never tastes of death, because Christ has tasted death for him (Heb. ii, 9); so, Christ being the resurrection to the dead, he is the way to the living. He who has him has the way to the Father and to the Father’s house. He changes our body so that it becomes like his glorious body, or the body of his glory, “according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself” (Phil, iii, 21). And if we consider how that body which came out of Joseph’s tomb was rendered visible and invisible at pleasure; and how it was capable of transference from place to place at will; and how it was exempt from the laws governing material bodies, especially from what we call the law of gravitation, when he was “taken up,” we will certainly conclude that the body with which Christ manifested himself during the forty days of post-resurrection life was not the old natural body of flesh and blood, which, as a dead body, was buried in the tomb, but a new, “spiritual body,” freed from every element of decay, with death and dissolution forever impossible, as Dr. Mc-Giffert contends in his late work, The Apostolic Age.

This, then, is the comfort with which we are “able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. i, 4). We are allowed to tell them that as soon as their bodily eyes close on earthly scenes they will open the eyes of their spiritual bodies upon the realities and glories of the mansions of the Father’s house. Yes, better; they open those eyes upon the glory which the Father bestows upon his beloved Son. All the resplendent scenes of the glorified state burst upon the enraptured vision; all the enchanting harmonies of angelic choirs and the symphonies of the redeemed greet the ears of the glorified saint. In bodies like their Saviour’s, and like those possessed by Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, they shall appear in human form to the eyes of other glorified ones, with features similar to those they bore while on earth, to mingle forever in one another’s society, continuing to some extent, possibly, the relationships of earth, but certainly fully satisfied to awake in that celestial clime in the image of their Lord, and to be able to claim him as their elder brother, in whom are combined all beauties, all attractions, all relationships, all satisfactions. “The righteous” now “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Here, with bodies spiritual, incorruptible, glorious, powerful, perfectly adapted in all particulars to the wants and will of the glorified spirit; with vastly enlarged potencies, and utterly incapable of weariness; with the whole universe to explore, they enter upon an eternity of enjoyment, culture, and activity.

Longfellow has caught the truth we have here endeavored to elucidate, and given it a wondrous setting in his poem entitled “Resignation:”

“There is no death!
What seems so is transition:
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
Whose portal we call death.

“She is not dead
— the child of our affection —
But gone unto that school
Where she no longer
needs our poor protection
And Christ himself doth rule.

“In that great cloister’s
stillness and seclusion,
By guardian angels led,
Safe from temptation,
safe from sin’s pollution.
She lives whom we call dead.

“Thus do we walk with her,
and keep unbroken The bond which nature gives,
Thinking that our remembrance,
though unspoken.
May reach her where she lives.”


by Allen S. Walker

He is not dead
Whose good life’s labor
liveth evermore;
He is but sped
To join the noble
spirits gone before.
He is not dead.

What man calls death
Is but a passing sleep
in man’s great life;
Man’s spirit saith:
“It is the sleep of peace
at close of strife;
There is no death.”

Lost is no soul
That nobly suffered,
labored, loved, and lived; That made its goal
The great mysterious
Light its heart perceived.
Not lost that soul

There is no death;
Though mind and body
but a span endure,
Man’s spirit saith:
“My living spirit’s
highest thought is sure
There is no death.”
— The Academy


The Rapture of the Saints

At the coming of the Son of man one was to be taken and another left (Matt, xxiv, 40, 41). In the parousia of the Lord those that were alive, that were left, were to be caught up(ἁρπαγησόμεθα),and to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. iv, 17).

In the preceding chapter we have shown how this last passage may be interpreted to refer to the change of the living, and that it does not necessarily refer to a simultaneous snatching away of all believers, but may be a description of the usual manner in which believers, in post-advent times, are to reach the blest abodes; or rather, a statement of the fact that now Christians are translated that they “should not see death” (Heb. xi, 5), being prepared by the power of Christ for the abodes of the blest and caught up in the clouds of the spiritual realm.

But in the first passage referred to there seems to be taught a general taking away of the watching and chosen ones, and it is therefore often termed “the rapture of the saints,” and supposed, in connection with other Scriptures, to teach that at the coming of the Lord many would be instantly transferred to the heavenly mansions. The subject is one of great mystery, and we desire to keep close to the word of God that we may present only the truth, and be saved from vain imaginings and foolish speculations. A number of instances are given in the Scriptures of those who have been the subjects of this singular experience.

Enoch was the first who is believed to have been raptured. “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Gen. v, 24). “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God translated (μετέθηκεν) him: for before his translation (μεραθέσεως) ) he hath had witness borne to him that he had been well pleasing unto God” (Heb. xi, 5). Here the word for translation or rapture is different from the one used in 1 Thess. iv, 17, to indicate this experience. It means ‘ to place with;” there, ‘ to place differently;’ so, to transpose, or transfer; and with regard to Enoch means that he was placed in a different locality, and, as we all believe, that locality was heaven. As to the details of this event the Scriptures, as we know, are entirely silent.

Moses was in all probability translated. His body was never found, and his sepulcher was never known. The sacred writer tells us that the Lord buried him in a certain valley; and this was doubtless true of his mortal body, but he may have had his heavenly body given him there. Certain it is that he appeared in a glorious body with Christ, and talked with him about his sacrificial death, and was seen and known by the disciples (Deut. xxxiv, 6; Matt, xvii, 3, 4). Elijah was raptured: “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, which parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up [יַּ֙עַל´  yahal] by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings ii, 11). It is said in the first verse of the chapter that the Lord took Elijah up to heaven in the whirlwind, and it was a special favor that Elisha saw him as he ascended, for it seems that he might have been taken up just in that way and not have been seen by Elisha at all (ver. 10). Philip was raptured: “And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord [the angel?] caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more” (Acts viii, 39). Here the word for caught away is from ἁρπαζω, to snatch away. This, however, was not a rapture into heaven. Paul was raptured: ‘1 know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not; or whether out of the body, I know not; God knoweth), such a one caught up [ἁρπαγεντα] even to the third heaven” (2 Cor. xii, 2). The word describing the catching away is in both these instances from the same Greek verb as that used when describing the rapture of the saints in 1 Thess. iv, 17 (ἁρπαζω). The two witnesses were raptured: “They went up to heaven in the cloud” (Rev. xi, 12); and it is stated as a notable

fact that their enemies beheld them. The “man child” of Rev. xii, 5, “was caught up [same verb again — ἁρπαζω] unto God, and unto his throne.” This man child doubtless represents the Jewish-Christian church (Terry), and this his rapture is the statement of the event which occurred to the faithful and watching Christians at the coming of the Son of man. This rapture of the Jewish-Christian saints was not to be necessarily an obvious fact to the sense of sight. The one taken was snatched away without warning, and so, possibly, entirely unobserved by the one at his or her side. The one left was left in the bed, or at the hand mill, and the affairs of life went on as usual. Says Dr, Terry: “Does not all the doctrine of our Lord as we have traced it in the Gospel Apocalypse warrant us in believing that all these events occurred at that momentous crisis of the ages when Judaism and her temple fell, a hopeless ruin? Why should it be thought a thing incredible that God should then have raised many of them that slept in death? Why assume that the rapture of living saints must needs be visible to all mortal eyes? The parousia , according to the Scriptures, was to take place at the end of an age, and not to involve the cessation of the human race on earth. Our Lord most plainly declared that then some should be taken and some should be left; and as we have already shown there is no sufficient reason for assuming that such a rapture of living saints must have been visible to those who were left. The ascension of Christ was witnessed by no great multitude” ( Biblical Hermeneutics, page 458).

This authority evidently looks upon the ascension of Christ as a rapture “And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up [ἐπαιρω, lifted up] ; and a cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts i, 9). He disappeared from view suddenly, as he did while reclining at the table in Emmaus (Luke xxiv, 31).

In all these cases of rapture the question of the sudden dissolution of material substances presents itself. How could these bodies thus suddenly disappear? How could the raiment also as suddenly vanish? For it is manifest in the case of our Lord, as well as in other cases, the raiment was resolved into invisible particles. In fact, the case of Elijah is the only one wherein anything is mentioned about the clothing.

Here the mantle of the prophet falls from him as he ascends, and Elisha takes it and immediately through its agency works a miracle by smiting the waters; and they were divided, and Elisha passed over (2 Kings ii, 14). In the case of Christ it must have been possible for him to form proper clothing for himself at will, and to cause it to as suddenly disappear as did his body. He was taken naked from the cross; he was wrapped in linen by Joseph; his grave clothes were seen lying in the tomb; yet he appeared abroad, no doubt, properly clothed. When he vanished from the sight of the disciples his clothing vanished also, and when he reappeared his raiment also became visible.

How this could all be we do not know. What matter is we do not know. But we do now know that substances are not dead, inert lumps. The best definition to which philosophy and science have arrived is that the material atoms of which all substances are composed are individualized forces. Professor Bowne says : “If we are to retain the atom in our science, we must cease to regard it as an indifferent lump, secure forever in solid singleness, but must rather postulate it as an active something, or as an individualized force which is so related to every other as to be sensitive to every change throughout the universe” (Studies in Theism, page 250).

With this definition in our minds, and knowing that the Creator of all things has all matter as force under his control, there is no difficulty in believing that he is “able even to subject all things unto himself” (Phil, iii, 21), and therefore to fashion the bodies of our humiliation, and conform them to the body of his glory; and there is no more difficulty with our raiment than with the bodies that wear it. If skepticism scoffs at such Scripture teaching, let us be content with directing attention to the wonderful transformations which substances are undergoing all about us — becoming visible and invisible even at the pleasure of the chemical manipulator. The wonders of electricity and magnetism also stare us in the face; and the newest wonder of the day (June, 1898) — the liquefaction of common air, so that it can be dipped up and poured out and experimented with in a hundred different ways, entirely disappearing, of course, on a moderate degree of heat being applied or on an ordinary temperature being entered — renders it easy for us to accept all the statements of Scripture as entirely compatible with the highest science and the truest philosophy.

We have seen, in the chapter on “The Change of the Living,” that the mutation necessary to prepare believers in Christ for the heavenly state may be a process that is continuously going on through the reign of Christ as life giver. So with regard to the rapture of the saints; it is not necessary for us to suppose that this is a phenomenon limited to a certain specified point of time, but one that may be going on in conjunction with the “change” all through this wonderful and final dispensation of the Spirit; unperceived by mortal eyes, yet no less actual, and the more actual because taking place in the sphere of the invisible and the spiritual, for “the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Still there appears to be the teaching that at the time of the parousia, as a special and tactual event, a great many of the saints were simultaneously taken up to be with the Lord. This seems to be a just inference from the passages of our Lord’s sermon on the Mount of Olives which refer to this event, and also from the teachings of First Thessalonians and the Apocalypse. We have seen that the rapture of the man child probably symbolized the translation of the Jewish-Christian believers to the Mount Zion, where they are represented as standing with the Lamb as the one hundred and forty and four thousand — the Church of the first born.

Assuming this to be true, there arises the objection that if such a wonderful transaction had taken place in the past, there certainly would have been some historical notice of it from ecclesiastical writers; and there being none is proof positive, in the minds of these objectors, who are generally Futurists, that no such event could have occurred in the past. Dr. Beet in his late work, The Last Things, alludes to the matter, and, believing the objection valid, treats the whole thing with arrogant ridicule.

This objection we believe to be fully met and completely overthrown by J. Stuart Russell in the preface to the new and revised edition of his able and reverent work, The Parousia (London, 1887), of which the British Quarterly Review says: “Nothing can be more reverent, scholarly, or thorough than the author’s treatment of the different passages, or than his criticisms on their various interpreters. His volume deserves the very careful study of all students of eschatology.”

Mr. Russell says: “What evidence, for example, may be reasonably required that the most seemingly incredible event predicted in Matt xxiv, 31, and in 1 Thess. iv, 17, commonly denominated ‘the rapture of the saints’ actually took place? The principal, if not the only, portion which seems to come within the cognizance of human sense is the removal of a great multitude of the disciples of Christ from this earthly scene. We might expect, therefore, that there should be some trace in history of this sudden disappearance of so vast a body of believers. It surely must have made a blank in history; a failure, at the least, in the continuity of the records of Christianity… Is there, then, any vestige in history of such a blank? Most certainly there is; and just such an indication as we might expect. A silence which is expressive. Silence where a moment before all was life and activity. The ecclesiastical historian will tell you that the light suddenly fails him. The Christian Church of Jerusalem, of which an apostle could say, Thou seest, brother, how many myriads there are among the Jews which have believed,’ suddenly dwindles into two wretched sects of Ebionites and Nazarenes. Where are the many myriads of St. James? Where are the ‘hundred and forty and four thousand’ whom St. John saw with the seal of God on their foreheads, and standing with the Lamb on the Mount Zion? Did they perish in the siege of Jerusalem? Certainly not; for it is universally agreed that, forewarned by their divine Master, they retired from the doomed city to a place of safety. Yet they seem to disappear and leave no trace behind. Ask the ecclesiastical historian to put his finger on the spot where the records of early Christianity are most obscure, and he will unhesitatingly point to the period when the Acts of the Apostles end. Of this period the learned Neander says that ‘we have no information, nor can the total want of sources for this part of Church history be at all surprising.’ And again, he speaks of ‘the age immediately succeeding the apostolic,’ of which we have unfortunately so few authentic memorials (Planting and Training, chaps, v and x). Heudekoper, a Dutch theologian, in his work entitled Christ’s Descent to the Underworld, remarks that ‘on leaving the apostolic age we almost lose sight of the Christians in an historical chasm of sixty or eighty years.’”

Mr. Russell then quotes from Dean Farrar’s great work, The Early Days of Christianity, wherein it is stated that “the facts of their [the early Christians’] corporate history, and even the closing details in the biographies of their very greatest teachers, are plunged in entire uncertainty;” and in giving the reason for this says, “It is probable that this silence is in itself the result of the terrible scenes in which the apostles perished.”

The reviewer of Renan’s St. Paul is then quoted as saying in the Edinburgh Review that by four bold strides the infant Christian Church advanced from Jerusalem to Rome, and then adds: “Once arrived there, once securely planted in that central and commanding position, strange to say, the Church, with all its dramatis personæ, suddenly vanishes from our view. The densest clouds of obscurity immediately gather round its history, which our eager curiosity in vain attempts to penetrate. It is gone amid a wreath of smoke, as completely as when a train plunges into a tunnel.” The reviewer then quotes Renan himself as saying, “Black darkness falls upon the scene; and a grim and brooding silence, like the silence of impending storm, holds in hushed expectation of the ‘day of the Lord’ the awe-struck breathless Church. No more books are written; no more messengers are sent; the very voice of tradition is still.”

Mr. Russell then resumes: “It remains for the reader to consider whether the causes suggested in the preceding quotations furnish an adequate explanation of this singular phenomenon, or whether the solution of the problem is not to be found in the actual occurrence of the events predicted by our Lord and his apostles. There, in the written record of inspiration, stand the ineffaceable words which foretell the speedy return of the Son of man to judge the guilty nation and avenge his own elect. His coming was indissolubly connected with that same generation. The attendant circumstances of his coming are set forth with marked precision. Everything points to a sudden, swift, far-reaching catastrophe analogous to that which took place in the days of Noah, when the flood came and took them all away, or in the days of Lot, when the tempest of wrath overwhelmed Sodom and Gomorrah. These are the very images used by our Lord to describe the suddenness and swiftness of his appearing. No wonder that there should be a total blank in contemporary history; that there should be a solution of continuity in the records of the Christian Church; that the pen of St. Mark should be arrested in the midst of an unfinished sentence; that St Luke should abruptly break off his narrative of the life and labors of St. Paul. Grant that there is no failure in the predictions of Christ, that his words had a veritable accomplishment, and all is explained. There is an adequate cause for the otherwise unaccountable hiatus which occurs in the Christian history of the time, and for the total obscuration of the Church and all its greatest luminaries. Is it unreasonable to ask that the plainest declarations of the Lord himself and of his inspired witnesses should obtain a candid hearing and a cordial belief from all who own him as Lord and Master? Surely that robust faith is not utterly extinct which once could say, ‘Let God be true and every man a liar.’”


The Judgment

Another fact connected with the parousia of Christ was the judgment. “But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all the nations : and he shall separate them one from another” (Matt, xxv, 31). “Inasmuch as he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained” (Acts xvii, 31). “At the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God,” etc. (2 Thess. i, 7, 8). “And I saw a great white throne, … and they [the dead] were judged,” etc. (Rev. xx, 11-13).

As the position taken is that the parousia is an event of the past, it becomes obligatory on us to show that the judgment also was initiated at the time of the parousia; our contention being that it is a continuous process running all through the kingly rule of Christ as the joint administrator of justice with the Father, as he occupies the throne with the Father (Rev. xxii, 1) in the new heavens and the new earth. (See Chapter XI, Part I.)

1. The Judge. “For neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgment unto the Son; that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father” (John v, 22, 23). “And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth” (Matt xxviii, 18). “And he charged us to preach unto the people, and to testify that this is he which is ordained of God to be the Judge of quick [living] and dead” (Acts x,42).

The power of judgment was granted to Christ while he was here in his humiliation, and yet it was not exercised, at least generally, during his earthly life; for the prophet predicts that he should be dumb before his oppressors, and by oppression and judgment he should be taken away (Isa. liii, 7, 8). And he declares, “And if any man hear my sayings, and keep them not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (John xii, 47). His coming at his first advent was for the purpose of living a suffering life and dying an ignominious death that he might redeem us from sin; but his second advent was to be a coming to judgment, and the agency was the word he uttered; for he also declares, after speaking the words just quoted, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John xii, 48).

Christ was to sit on the throne as King and Judge, joining the judicial authority with regal sway. To reign and to judge are words of nearly synonymous meaning in the Old Testament, and are often used there interchangeably. The King is the Judge, and the Judge is the King. “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat [βηματος] of Christ” (2 Cor. v, 10). “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand,” etc. (Matt, xxv, 34). In his one person Christ combines these two important prerogatives of reigning and judging; therefore as long as he reigns he will judge.

2. The Costume of the Judgment. “I beheld till thrones were placed [not ‘thrown down’], and one that was ancient of days did sit: his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and the wheels thereof burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened” (Dan. vii, 9, 10).

Mede says: “The mother text of Scripture whence the Church of the Jews grounded the name and expectation of the Great Day of Judgment with the circumstances thereto belonging, and whereunto almost all the descriptions and expressions thereof in the New Testament have reference, is that vision in the seventh chapter of Daniel of a session of judgment when the fourth beast came to be destroyed; when the great assize is represented after the manner of the great Synedrion, or Consistory of Israel, wherein the ‘ Pater Judicii’ had his ‘Assessores’ sitting upon seats placed semicirclewise before him, from his right hand to his left ‘I beheld,’ says Daniel, ‘till the thrones or seats were pitched down’ (for the senators to sit upon; not ‘thrown down’ as we of late have it), ‘and the Ancient of Days (Pater Consistorii) did sit,’ etc., ‘and I beheld till the judgment was set (that is, the whole Sanhedrin), and the books were opened.’ Here we see both the form of judgment delineated and the name of judgment expressed, which is afterward yet twice more repeated (vers. 21, 22y 26). From this description it came that the Jews gave it the name of Yom Din and Yom Dina rabba, the ‘Day of Judgment’ and the ‘Day of the Great Judgment;’ whence in the Epistle of Jude (ver. 6) it is called κρίσιν μεγάλης ἡμερας, the judgment of the great day. From the same fountain are derived those expressions in the Gospel where this ‘day’ is intimated or described; ‘The Son of man shall come in the clouds of heaven.’ The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels,’ forasmuch as it is said here, ‘thousands and thousands ministered unto him,’ etc., and that Daniel saw (ver. 13) ‘one like the Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven, and he came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him (or placed him) near him,’ etc. Hence St. Paul learned that ‘the saints shall judge the world,’ because it is said ‘many thrones were set,’ and (ver. 22) by way of exposition, that ‘judgment was given to the saints of the most high’” (Joseph Mede, quoted by Bush, Anastasis, page 279).

This costume is somewhat modified by our Lord in his description of the judgment scene; for he represents himself as the Judge and King sitting on a throne, with multitudes of angels attending him and ready to do his bidding. The “ten thousand times ten thousand” of Daniel is changed into “all the nations” of Matthew, and these are summoned by a trumpet call (Matt, xxiv, 31); and the criterion whereby these nations are judged is the treatment given the brethren — the disciples — of the Judge as they went among these nations preaching the nearness of the kingdom which Christ now establishes.

In the Apocalypse the costume is again modified. Here there are books which are opened, and the book of life in which are the names of the acquitted ones. But we have mentioned the same destroying fire of Daniel. Into this fire Death and Hades, with all whose names are not found written in the book of life, are cast.

Much confusion and many false impressions with regard to the judgment will be avoided if due attention is given to the fact that the judgment is almost always presented in its costume, and not, as it really is, as an invisible process, conducted in the spiritual realm, with no spectacular manifestations whatever.

There is no material throne, nor breath-filled trumpet calling mortals to stand before it. There is no great assemblage of persons in one locality, nor separation of one class from another by actual space. There is no conversation carried on between the Judge and the judged, nor any real fire into which the guilty depart. There are no printed books opened, each man’s book being his own consciousness and power of memory; there is no fleeing away of the physical heaven and earth from a visible face. All this is costume — figurative language employed for the purpose of impressing abstract truth on minds which can only be duly influenced by concrete representations.

The judgment is a spiritual process pure and simple. (See 1 Tim. v, 24, 25.) It takes place continuously during our natural lives, through the operations of conscience. Even the decisions of the “King immortal, invisible” may have already been given with regard to many or all of us. “He that heareth my word … cometh not into judgment” (John v, 24). “He that believeth not hath been judged already” (John iii, 18). Christ as Judge is constantly approving or disapproving our conduct His suspension of penalty or reward pending our probation is a judicial act. He came in his parousia during the lifetime of some who heard his words while he was on earth, and began then to “render unto every man according to his deeds” (Matt, xvi, 27, 28), and he still continues this administration of justice. As our probationary period here ends — our only probation — we enter upon the enjoyment of the reward for deeds done in the body or the suffering of punishment for sins committed. To suppose this must be waited for thousands of years is manifestly the baldest of absurdities.

3. The Time of the Judgment. “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds. Verily I say unto you, There be some of them that stand here, which shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matt, xvi, 27, 28).

This text certainly fixes the time of the judgment, at least in its beginning, within the lifetime of some of those who stood listening to Jesus as he declared the things of the kingdom.

Again, “But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all the nations,” etc. (Matt, xxv, 31, 32). Here it is affirmed that at the very time when the Son of man shall come in glory he will then judge and make final decisions.

In verses 30 and 31 of the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew it is said, “And they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet,” etc. Now, it cannot be reasonably doubted that these comings are the same, for they are both comings in glory and with the angels, yet in the thirty-fourth verse of the same chapter our Lord solemnly declares: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished.” As, therefore, his coming in power and glory was one of “these things,” we are forced to the conclusion that he did come in glory within about forty years after the utterance of the sermon on the Mount of Olives, that that coming was a coming to judgment, and that therefore the judgment day came long centuries ago.

To this fact witness all the apostles of our Lord. Paul said, in the words already quoted (Acts xvii, 31), that God was about to judge the world by Jesus Christ The reading of the English text does not convey exactly the meaning of the original. The Greek reads, καθότι ἔστησεν ἡμέραν ἐν ᾑ μέλλει κρίνειν τὴν οἰκουμένην ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ, “inasmuch as he hath set a day in which he is about to fudge the inhabited world in righteousness.” The verb μὲλλω is used to indicate an action about to be performed, one on the point of being done (Liddell and Scott) ; and the real intention of the apostle, as shown in the use of this word, is to assert that the judgment is just on the point of taking place. (See Acts xviii, 14; xx, 3; xxi, 27, xxvii, 33; and many other places, where forms of the same verb are used.) We find the same expression in regard to the judgment in one of Paul’s epistles (2 Tim. iv, 1) : “I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the quick and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom.” Here the reading of the Greek is also with a form of τοῦ μέλλοντος κρίνειν ζῶντας καί νεκρούς, “who is about to judge the living and the dead.”

Some assert that Paul, in his letters to Timothy and other later epistles, retracts his former expressions of joyous hope in view of the near approach of the day of the Lord’s revealing; but this is certainly a mistake, for he here most positively insists that the coming of Christ to judgment is a near event; and though he sees that his own life is about to be cut off, and that he will not probably live to see the Lord appear, yet he speaks with certainty of Timothy’s living to greet the Lord coming as judge. The text teaches that the judgment was near at hand.

So in Acts xxiv, 25, where Paul addresses Felix, the words “a judgment to come” should be “a judgment about to come” — κρίματος τοῦ μέλλοντος. (See also 1 Cor. iv, 5, and 2 Tim. iv, 8.)

If we turn to Peter, we have the same teaching: ‘Who shall give account to him that is ready [ἑτοίμως] to judge the quick and the dead” (1 Pet. iv, 5). No expression could be used which would more clearly indicate that Christ was on the point of performing his great judicial work. Everything is prepared and waiting for the event. The Judge holds himself in readiness. (See 1 Pet. iii, 15; Luke xiv, 17; Acts xxi, 13; 2 Cor. x, 6; where the same word, in the same or another form, is used.)

Again Peter says, “For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God: and if it begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the Gospel of God?” (1 Pet. iv, 17.) Here again the expression of the original is stronger: It is the time of the beginning of judgment (ὅτι ὁ καιρὸς τοῦ ἄρξασθαι τὸ κρίμα). There is no doubt that this refers to the great day of judgment, which came at the time Jerusalem was destroyed; and so first-class commentators, among whom is Alford, admit and teach. Peter was then living in Jerusalem, and he saw that the judgment was near, and that it would involve himself and his fellow-Christians; so he speaks of it as already commenced; it was the beginning of judgment.

James is just as positive in regard to the nearness of the Judge and the consequent nearness of the judgment: “Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming [parousia] of the Lord. … Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming [parousia] of the Lord is at hand. Murmur not, brethren, one against another, that ye be not judged: behold, the Judge standeth before the doors” (James v, 7-9). This apostle could not more positively teach that the judgment was about to commence, and that the Judge was already to pronounce judgment in regard to the men to whom he was writing. Certainly this is not the way in which he would have written had he believed the judgment day a thousand years away.

John also bears his testimony to the same fact of nearness: “Little children, it is the last hour: and as ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour. … And now, my little children, abide in him; that, if he shall be manifested, we may have boldness, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (parousia); “Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment” (1 John ii, 18, 28; iv, 17). This collation of passages shows that John was believing in the immediate nearness of the judgment day.

Jude also says: “For there are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old set forth unto this condemnation [κρίμα, judgment]… And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying. Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment [κρίσιν] upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have ungodly wrought” (Jude 4, 14, 15). These words κρίμα and κρίσιν are used for either judgment or condemnation interchangeably. Mark that Jude was speaking of men who were living in his own time, and says that Enoch prophesied of them, or to them, to the effect that the Lord came and judged them.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews would impress the same fact: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh. [That is, the day of Christ’s coming to judgment.] For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries” (Heb. x, 25, 26).

Here the writer connects the day of Christ’s coming, which he says they see drawing nigh, with the judgment, which they may expect shall come at the same time, the fire of which shall destroy those who oppose Christ and apostatize from the faith.

Thus we see all the apostles and writers of epistles to the churches concur in the teaching that the time of judgment was near at hand and the Lord was ready to set up his great assize.

To this testimony we now add that of the Judge himself. In his messages to the churches of Asia the Lord Jesus says, through the angel which talked with John: “Seal not up the words of the prophecy of this book; for the time is at hand. He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him do righteousness still: and he that is holy, let him be made holy still. Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is” (Rev. xxii, 10-12). Here the Lord Jesus assures the churches that he comes quickly Ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ, that is, he comes soon to judgment, for his reward, or wages, is with him, and the time is at hand when the condition of many will be irrevocably fixed.

With this agree other passages in the Apocalypse. In chap, xi, 18, we are told that the Lord takes his great power and reigns — “and the nations were wroth, and thy wrath came, and the time of the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to thy servants the prophets,” etc. Here the judgment is spoken of as something which has already taken place, and which we must believe did take place shortly after the writing of these words; for this was one of the things which was soon to occur (Rev. i, 1).

Again we have the rewarding of the servants and saints of the Lord with eternal life, and the judgment of the dead with the destruction of the cursed in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Rev. xx, 4, 10, 15). So in chap, vi, 17, the great day of the wrath of the Lamb comes, and the question is asked, “Who is able to stand?” which determines the day to be a day of judgment connecting with the first Psalm, “Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment.”

The Apocalypse is reiterative; so, over and over, does this day of judgment appear as one of the events which was very soon to happen, and all the passages which teach the nearness of the parousia also teach the nearness of the judgment; for the parousia was to take place in order to the judgment.

These quotations are then certainly decisive that the uniform teaching of the New Testament is to the effect that the judgment day — the day of the Lord — was at hand in the period when it was written, and it argues great hardihood on the part of anyone to insist, in view of these positive statements, that the judgment is an event or process still in the future, while it is evidently extremely incorrect to believe or teach that this day will be one in which all who have ever lived on earth will be gathered in one mass to be simultaneously judged.

4. The Duration of the Judgment. “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world” (Acts xvii, 31). “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men … by Jesus Christ” (Rom. ii, 16). “The judgment of the great day” (Jude 6). These and similar texts have led many to suppose that the judgment was to be limited to one day, or a period of twenty-four hours.

There is obviously the teaching in the New Testament that there would come a certain point of time when the judgment would be ushered in, or begin, as Peter says in his first epistle. This is fixed by all the terms which imply a readiness on the part of the Judge to appear in his judgment power, and by the assertions that he is about to commence judicial action. But this by no means obliges us to conclude that the process will be limited to a single day. This word “day” is used to indicate long periods of time; as in Gen. ii, 4, “These are the generations of the heaven and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven;” “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad” (John viii, 56); “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing” (John xvi, 23).

Professor Owen says: “The phrases ‘end of the world,’ ‘day of judgment,’ ‘day of the Lord,’ and the like, are not to be compressed to an inconsiderable period of time like our day of twenty-four hours, but in the very nature of things must be referred to an indefinitely prolonged period, the length of which is known to God only. It is called the day of the Lord because it refers to a period definitely fixed in the counsels of eternity, and not because it is embraced in the limits of a common day. Thus in Gen. ii, 4, the work of creation is referred to as performed in a single day, whereas we are told in the preceding chapter that God was employed six days in the creation of the heavens and the earth. These days were probably great time periods, and yet we are not misunderstood, nor do we use language improperly, when we speak of the day of creation. In like manner the process of the resurrection and final judgment may embrace long-extended periods of time, and yet be properly referred to as the day of the Lord, the day of judgment, or, still more concisely, the hour when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man and come forth.” Van Oosterzee says: “It is self-evident that the imagery in which the last judgment is presented in Holy Scripture admits of no literal explanation, and on that account all opposition to the reality of the fact by reason of the plastic form of its description arises, if not from malevolence, at least from misconception. Even in the Middle Ages it was readily granted — totum illud judicium, et quoad discussionem, non vocaliter sed mentaliter perficietur — that entire judgment, as respects both the investigation and the sentence, will be performed not in audible words, but in mental processes (Thomas Aquinas).” (Both quotations from Dr. Warren’s Parousia of Christ)

Dr. Terry says: “We miss the full scriptural idea of judgment when we conceive of it as confined to one last day, one formal rehearsal of every act of human history, before a tribunal in the heavens at which the individuals of all nations and ages shall be simultaneously assembled. So far as this conception involves the fundamental idea that every individual shall be brought into judgment before God, and that the issue of such judgment will be according to character and deeds, is warranted not only by numerous particular texts, but also by the whole drift of Scripture teaching concerning the character of God and his governmental relations to men. … But nothing could be more unscriptural than the notion that the judgment of nations and of individuals is limited to one last day. It is a continual process running through the Messianic [mediatorial?] era, and a necessary part of the administration of the King of kings. Nations are continually undergoing signal judgment [Joel iii, 2, 12], and the eternal destinies of individuals are being determined every day. And this is essentially the order of Christ’s reign” (Biblical Hermeneutics, pages 450,

All along through the past centuries has the judgment of nations and communities and individuals been going on. John the Baptist prophesied that the ax was laid at the root of the trees, and that the fan was in the hand of one mightier than he — “and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor; and he will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.”

Soon after this prediction the judgment process commenced in regard to the land of Israel, and it became a sea of blood, while the capital was blotted from the earth. Then Rome herself, used of God as a besom of destruction against Jerusalem, haughtily exalted herself as a persecutor of Christ’s beloved ones, and she came into judgment, and went down to punishment beneath the flood of barbarous northern hordes. Emperors set themselves against God; kings endeavored to thwart his designs; popes resisted the pleadings of the people and their own consciences; and all felt the judicial and chastizing hand of the Lord in the reversal of their plans and the condemnation of their purposes. “A nation whose capital witnessed a St. Bartholomew’s day, and whose supreme assembly sought by a decree to legislate God out of existence and voted death an eternal sleep, is made to feel the horrors of a revolution at whose recital the cheek turns pale. A great republic, which boasted of her Christianity while holding four millions of souls in iron bondage, is arrested in her guilty boasting and taught on a thousand bloody battlefields that the Christ whom she professed to worship was he whose office it was to break every yoke and let the oppressed go free.” Even while these lines are being written this same republic is being used of God, apparently, to chastise another nation — arrogant, self-willed, and tyrannical; to administer well-merited punishment for centuries of oppression and cruelty, and to bring out into the light of liberty and true religion multitudes of oppressed and besotted people who have long lain in depths of ignorance and superstition, thus forwarding civilization. We need only to gaze at the history of the nations of the earth in mediaeval times, and modern times as well, to learn that Christ is ruling with a rod of iron, and frequently dashing in pieces as a potter’s vessel wicked and perverse powers. “That a history of the world is a continued judgment of the world is acknowledged by all who attentively and believingly observe it” (Van Oosterzee).

The judgment scene in Matt, xxv, 31-46, is evidently intended as a description of the inauguration of Christ’s judicial reign over, the nations; commencing with those who at his coming could be judged by the criterion he then institutes — the treatment given his disciples as they went through these nations preaching the kingdom of heaven and declaring that Christ was soon to appear as judge of the living and the dead. But this same criterion may be extended to other nations as the Gospel is carried to them, and this law of love, as the great cardinal law of the kingdom, be the standard whereby all the other nations may in time be judged. Or we may look upon that judgment scene of Matthew as the beginning of the judgment, under Christ, which is to be continued, with regard to humanity, so long as Christ shall continue to reign, which, according to the Scriptures, is forever and ever (Rev. xi, 15).


The Judgment — Continued

5. The Judgment of the Dead. We have seen in the previous section how Christ is the Judge of the living; we now call attention to the judgment of the dead.

“And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment” (Heb. ix, 27).

The teaching of this text seems to be that only after men cease their earthly life can they be judged, because they are to be judged for the deeds done in the body, or according to their works, and it is plainly seen that decisions on this basis can only be formed, so that they will appear just to the one judged, after all the acts of the earthly or bodily life cease to be performed. There is a teaching that the judgment must be delayed until all the beings which are to inhabit the earth have completed their earthly life and all the affairs of the world have been wound up; because then alone can the influence of those lives on others be fully, and therefore justly, determined. But this view is embarrassed, first, by the fact that He who knows “the end from the beginning” would not be obliged to wait at all to judge justly of the influence of deeds done in the body; and, secondly, because if the Judge must wait until the entire influence of the deeds of the individual be exerted and exhausted, the waiting would last to all eternity, as, obviously, the influence of our deeds and words will never cease being exerted on some one.

“And the time of the dead to be judged” (Rev. xi, 18). “And I saw the dead, the great and the small standing before the throne; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them : and they were judged every man according to their works” (Rev. xx, 12, 13).

In this judgment scene there is at least the suggestion of simultaneous assemblage and coeval adjudication. This may be accounted for by the consideration that this judgment day marks the end of one dispensation and the commencement of another. Jesus Christ was selected of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. All judgment was given unto him; and he now sits on the throne of his glory to judge not only his contemporaries, as one living the life of a man, but also the inhabitants of the world who had lived previous to the Christian dispensation. This relation of Christ to the people of the past is hinted at by Peter: “Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit; in which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which aforetime were disobedient, when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing” (1 Pet. iii, 18- 20). These “spirits in prison” are not to be confounded with the “dead” of chap, iv, 6. (See Chapter x, Part I.)

We know from Acts ii, 31, that Christ was in Hades— οὔτε ἐγκατελείφθη εῖς ἀδην — which is equivalent to the expression in the epistle that he went to the spirits in prison. Both expressions are the utterances of one man. Christ went to the spirits in prison to preach to them (ἐκήρυξεν). This does not necessarily mean that he preached the Gospel to them. The word means to declare or announce, in general; and the teaching of this text may be, and probably is, that Christ went and declared to these spirits confined in Hades the great fact that they were now to be released from their prison in sheol, and be brought before his throne to pass the judgment.

It is also taught in Jude 6 that the angels were “kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day,” indicating that this great day of judgment was one wherein wicked spirits received their awards; it being asserted also that about this time the devil is “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” (Rev. xx, 10), agreeing with Matt, xxv, 41, where it is related that the King from the throne of his glory shall say to those on his left hand, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels.” Here, then, we have, presumably, the dead of all the previous ages brought to the judgment throne of Christ, and receiving the awards of judgment according to what is written in the books of human consciousness, and also according to whether their names are recorded in the Lamb’s book of life or omitted therefrom (Rev. xiii, 8, and xxi, 27).

Yet there is plainly stated the individual character of this judgment, for “they were judged every man according to their works,” and it is the most plausible and consistent view to take of the judgment of the dead, who die after the parousia, that as they individually leave this earthly life they stand before the judgment seat of Christ and are judged, severally, for the deeds done in the body, and assigned their places with the saved in glory or with the lost in Gehenna.

For if we place the judgment still in the future, and insist on a simultaneous assemblage and coeval adjudication in regard to all who have lived, say, since the Christian dispensation commenced, then we are met with the following manifest contradiction and absurdity: the apostles and martyrs, who were looking for their reward to be bestowed at an early date from the time of their persecution and death for the sake of their Master, have either obtained their crowns of life and glory or they have not. If they have not, then the joyful expectation of Paul and others has met with a terrible setback, and they are still waiting for a reward which Christ has the ability to bestow but does not. Then, too, the promise to the souls of the martyrs under the altar of sacrifice, that if they would wait for “a little time” their blood would be avenged and they would sit on thrones of authority and victory, has not been fulfilled, and they are still waiting, as they have been for two thousand years, for the “little time” to end.

But if this is too absurd a position to admit, and if Paul has his “crown of righteousness” and Peter his “crown of glory,” and they, with the other apostles and saints, have been enjoying the bliss of heaven for centuries on centuries, then they must, according to the theory of a still future judgment day, leave those heavenly regions, and, ceasing their loving service to the Master, in the Father’s house, appear before the judgment seat of Christ, somewhere, to receive their sentence and be awarded anew the glorious crowns which they have for so many hundreds of years been wearing with fancied security. “Judas fell away, that he might go to his own place” (Acts i, 25). Now, must Judas, and all who with him are justly enduring eternal wrath, come from their place in Gehenna, and, taking their position before the throne, having as their companions Paul and his fellow-apostles from glory, all be judged, in a judgment day still in the future? Is not the idea too preposterous to be entertained for a moment? But if we do not, as we cannot, accept this alternative, then it only remains for us to accept the opposite theory, and believe that the judgment of these people is a thing of the past, the dead of this dispensation having been judged, as well as those who had died previous to the commencement of the era.

6. The Awards of the Judgment.

1. The awards of the judgment will be according to character. We refer again to Rev. xxii, 11, 12. The passage is Hebraic in its construction, being a very marked New Testament instance of parallelism. Unrighteousness and filthiness are contrasted with righteousness and holiness, or, rather, those who are characterized by these conditions are contrasted, and the eternal destiny of these individuals is settled by their moral and religious state. We refer also to i Tim. v, 24, 25. Here the sins of men as well as their good works determine the judgment rendered.

We find it again and again asserted in the Scriptures that men shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body, and the awards of the judgment will be made in view of works performed and of words spoken; but a careful consideration of the texts above referred to, as well as others which readily occur to the mind, will assure anyone that character is the ultimate criterion. A man’s works or words are of value to the judge only as they declare character. The circumstances of a moral act must declare the animus or prepense that instigated it, in order to the rendering of a just judgment by earthly judge or jury. “What was the motive of the man?” is the question above all questions. According to the goodness or badness of the act, as arising out of a good or a bad heart, is the verdict rendered or the sentence given. Deeds declare the man, and only as they manifest character are they of value in determining the justness of reward or punishment So with words, “And I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt, xii, 36, 37). Why? Because, “The good man out of his good treasure bringeth forth good things: and the evil man out of his evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” Therefore the offspring of the viper, “being evil,” cannot speak good things, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt, xii, 34, 35. See also Matt. xv, 18, 19, 20). So all the works and words are from the heart, and the state of the inner man determines all actions. So the affections and motions of the soul are works to be judged. “What must we do, that we may work the works of God? … This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John vi, 28, 29). Real character is therefore that which will meet with reward or punishment “in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men” (Rom. ii, 16).

2. The awards of the judgment are righteous. “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts xvii, 31). “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. xviii, 25.) “And in righteousness he doth judge and make war” (Rev. xix, 11).

“In the corrupted currents of this world, Offense’s gilded hand may shove by justice, And oft ‘tis seen the wicked prize itself Buys out the law : but ‘tis not so above ; There is no shuffling, there the action lies In his true nature ; and we ourselves compelled. Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults, To give in evidence”

(“Hamlet,” act iii, scene 3).

There is no more gratifying thought to a righteous man than this: “I shall be judged by a righteous Judge, who knows all things.” Omniscience gives ability to adjudicate justly every case. Every award will be measured by the highest and strictest criteria. Every conscience will approve each sentence.

3. The awards of the judgment will be personal. “Then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds” (Matt, xvi, 27). “So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. xiv, 12). “That each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done” (2 Cor. v, 10). “And they were judged every man according to their works” (Rev. xx, 13). The whole world is to be judged, but in an individual manner. There will be two great classes; but each class will, as we know, be made up of persons, and be acquitted or condemned as such. There will be no possibility of hiding in a crowd if guilty; neither will there be any acquittal en masse. Each soul meets the Judge as such, and nothing proves more conclusively the spiritual character of the judgment process than this particularity and isolation.

4. The awards of the judgment will be eternal. “And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt, xxv, 46). “But whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark iii, 29), and consequently of eternal judgment or condemnation. “And of eternal judgment” (Heb. vi, 2).

It would be impossible for the writers of the New Testament to indicate more plainly or strongly than they do the absolute, endless perpetuity of the awards of the judgment; and it has been well asserted that the pillars of heaven rest upon no more stable foundations than those from which rise the vaults of hell. If eternal life is everlasting spiritual activity and enjoyment, the second death must be its exact antithesis. The intimations of Scripture are oftentimes more positive and convincing in this regard than the more direct assertion. And it is never to be forgotten that “the Faithful and True Witness” is he who has most emphatically instructed us in regard to the utter hopelessness of the condition of the wicked after probation; and that the most appalling language respecting the horrors of the finally lost proceeded from the mouth of Him who came to seek and to save men from that terrible destiny which awaits all the obdurately impenitent.

5. The awards of the judgment are final. “And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they which would pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence to us” (Luke xvi, 26). Here our Lord most definitely instructs us with regard to the finality of the conditions of all who pass out of this life. Nowhere is there any opposite teaching. No text can be cited which clearly teaches a second probation. The preaching to the dead of 1 Pet. iv, 6, has an entirely different meaning from that put upon it by upholders of the second probation theory, as we have shown in Chapter VII, Part I. After the judgment he that is filthy will be filthy still, and he that is holy will be holy still (Rev. xxii, 11). And it is well to understand that even the promoters of the theory mentioned allow of no second probation to those who have heard the Gospel message in this life.


Future Destiny

1. The Reward of the Righteous. It is not within the scope of this work to exhaustively treat the subject of this chapter. Those who desire to see such a treatment of the themes here touched on will find it in Dr. Joseph Agar Beet’s scholarly work, The Last Things; though we caution the reader against the reception of Dr. Beet’s teaching with respect to the coming of the Lord.

Our Lord, in directing the attention of his disciples to the reward of the righteous, uses frequently the figure of a kingdom. “I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and ye shall sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” In, these and other similar passages our Lord does not seem to be speaking of the kingdom of God, but appears to be representing the enjoyment of the future state as consisting in the possession and exercise of great authority, as in Rev. ii, 26, and iii, 21 : “And he that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations;” “He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne.” To the oriental mind nothing was more desirable than kingly authority. This was the highest possible attainment to man, in the common mind; and hence used by Christ to express the height and bliss of the heavenly state. He also describes this heavenly enjoyment under the figure of a treasure laid up, and then enjoyed through the ages of the life to come; also as a feast, where they should recline with the patriarch, and where the waiting servant would be the Master himself (Luke xii, 37); then as “eternal tabernacles,” dwelling places which should never fall to pieces, the idea being expanded and dignified in John, where the Saviour comforts his troubled disciples with the assurance that in his Father’s house are many mansions abiding places — μοναί — from the rooms of the priests and Levites close by, or forming a part of the temple building, near which, or in which, he stood while he thus addressed them. No place, to a Jew, was so sacred as the temple and its area. “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord” — not the words of David, but of a later psalmist Here he desired to dwell forever, and our Lord takes this idea and founds on it the teaching with regard to the heavenly dwelling places being far more attractive and inviting than any earthly habitation, not excepting the temple itself, because they would be in a place of which he would personally supervise the preparation, and to which he would personally receive them: “That where I am, there ye may be also.” In the presence of the Lord was to be the source of highest enjoyment. So Paul thought it: “Having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better;” “We are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.” To be present with Jesus is to be at home; to be in the Father’s house, safe from all the storms of life, and secure forever from the alarms and woes of this earthly journey. It is also spoken of as an inheritance and a heavenly country.

And we are to be like our Lord, “for we shall see him even as he is;” and he “shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory.”

And this idea of glory is a favorite one with the sacred writers, no doubt following the blessed Lord’s utterances: “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” “And the glory which thou hast given me I have given unto them… I will that where I am, they also may be with me; that they may behold my glory.” So Paul: “For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory;” or, as we would say in modem terms, “a wealth of blessing.” And as God’s glory is in the heavens, and the heavens declare his glory, why may we not believe that when Jesus, who is the Creator of all worlds, asks the Father that his beloved ones may behold his glory, he means that the blazing constellations with their attendant planets may be the field for eternal exploration, investigation, and accumulation of knowledge on the part of the saints, who, with bodies incapable of weariness, and entirely at the dictation of the spirit, shall, with the rapidity of thought, pass through and examine all parts of God’s universe?

The Bible gathers all the figures and imagery possible to portray the blessedness of the heavenly state. The saints are before the throne, amid the blaze of the attendant glories and beauties, issuing in streams of entrancing delight The tabernacle is spread over them; they hunger no more; they thirst no more; the sun strikes them no more; Jesus shepherds them, and guides them to fountains of the water of life; and the Father assuages every sorrow. They have eternal life in the knowledge of the only true God and of Jesus Christ his Son. They have eternal righteousness, with all its accompanying satisfactions. All delightful sounds meet their ears, and the most delightful of sentiments and feelings ravish their souls. They enjoy the society of the redeemed, and forever mingle in saintly companionships and angelic associations.

2. Heavenly Recognitions. Here it may be well to present a few thoughts in regard to the recognition of friends and saints of God in the heavenly world.

We have seen that the resurrection body of the saint is to have substance and form, and that form will, in all probability, be the human form, and assuredly so if we grant the hypothesis of a spiritual body now existing “coincident with the human physical outline;” Christ himself so appearing, and recognized in that body by his disciples.

Isaac Taylor says: “We assume that the apparent import of some passages and phrases of Scripture tends to suggest the belief that the die of human nature, as to its form and figure, is to be used again in a new world. Partly on the ground of inferences from general principles, and partly on the strength of particular assertions, we suppose that the fair and faultless paradisaical model of human beauty and majesty which stood forth as the most illustrious instance of creative wisdom — the bright gem of the visible world — this form, too, which has been borne and consecrated by incarnate Deity — that it shall at length regain its forfeited honors, and once more be pronounced ‘very good,’ so good as to forbid its being superseded; on the contrary, that it shall be reinstated and allowed, after its long degradation, to enjoy its birthright of immortality” (Physical Theory, chap. xi).

We quote from Dr. Warren: “Having the human form, that spiritual body will wear, sufficiently at least for recognition, the features of the present body. President Dwight, in his sermon on the resurrection, says, That the body will be the same, in such a sense as to be known, appears sufficiently evident from the Scriptures. Mankind will know each other in the future world, and their bodies will be so far the same as to become the means of this knowledge.’ Here, then, we find an answer to the question so often wrung from bereaved and sorrowing hearts, ‘Shall we know our friends in heaven?’ — a question forced upon them by the defectiveness of our traditional ideas of the resurrection. As before remarked, it is difficult to form a definite conception of a disembodied spirit. Form and features are the result of extension, and that is a property of matter. The attributes of spirit are thought, feeling, volition, but these do not constitute personality. There is nothing in such case for the imagination, the creative faculty of the mind, to lay hold of and shape into a conception which it can think of, much less can view as corresponding to an actually existing being. Therefore to an ordinary apprehension the heavenly world is a realm of shadows, and the broken heart, turning back from its cheerless emptiness, cries out piteously for any evidence that the dear departed can ever be known. But if the soul goes forth not unclothed, but arrayed in its glorious spiritual body, bearing the known and loved features of this life with their expression only intensified by the perfection they will have attained in putting on immortality, then the recognition will be even more easy than here on earth. So the conditions are realized upon which society becomes possible. As the risen saint can ‘be with’ his risen Lord, so risen saints can be with each other. There can be intercourse and communion between them. They can together worship and serve. From the East and the West they can come and sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God. Heaven becomes a community; its inmates members of the family of Christ, one in him as he is one with the Father,

“It does not seem impossible or improbable that the relationships of the present world, in their spiritual aspects at least, may be continued in the resurrection life… We do not believe that all the pure loves, the tender sympathies, the sweet companionships of time, which give to life here its chiefest enjoyments, are to perish with the expiring breath… Were there no other proof of this, the very fact that our Lord himself was born into these human relationships, and sanctified them by his divine experience, would be to us a pledge of their perpetuity. He will no more cease to be the Son of man than he can cease to be the Son of God” (Parousia of Christ, pages 364-367).

Bishop Foster does not believe that the special relationships of earth are renewed and perpetuated in heaven, because the family is an earthly institution, and because he believes our Lord settles the matter in his reply to the Sadducees about the conditions of the resurrection state. So also the peculiar affections of this life will not be perpetuated in the next, if the relationships are not. Yet love will be the very essence of heaven, and those we loved most dearly here will be loved most dearly there; though “the noble passion, purified from all alloy, will rise into far grander and more ravishing intensity.”

He then proceeds to establish the proposition, “In the next world we shall know and remember those known in this life.” This he bases on the fact of memory, the ability to recollect persons as well as experiences, and then from the fact that this life is a probation, and that we must remember our acts in order to enjoy recompense for them. He then establishes the point that we shall know others as particular persons, and remember our relations to them as husband, wife, etc. This is shown by proving that the departed exist in society; they will be together, and have social intercourse, and this because man is constituted for fellowship. He quotes from Jahn’s Archeology: “The Hebrews regarded life as a journey, a pilgrimage on the face of the earth. The traveler, as they supposed, when he arrived at the end of his journey, which happened when he died, was received into the company of his ancestors who had gone before him. Opinions of this kind are the origin and ground of such phrases as ‘to be gathered unto one’s people,’ ‘to go to one’s fathers.’” He then quotes the words of Christ already given in previous pages, “I go to prepare a place,” etc., etc.; also from Revelation, “Therefore are they before the throne,” etc., etc., and insists that these texts establish all he claims: “that souls will be gathered together in the same place, constituting an assemblage and society, taking part in the same religious rites, joining their voices and uniting their hearts in the same strains and sentiments of worship.”

The bishop seems to have difficulty in proving that spirits will be able, as mere spirits, to recognize each other; but fully yields his contention, that “we go to heaven before the resurrection of the body, as mere spirits,” by saying: “Souls clothed in spiritual bodies will appear in perfect dress, with a beauty far surpassing anything we knew of them when they were with us in houses of clay. Nevertheless we shall see and know them in their altered dress — know and see them as we did not on the earth — know them fully. Allowing this to be so, recognition would be immediate and inevitable!” (Beyond the Grave, pages 188-211.)

We do most certainly “allow” this, and perfectly agree with Bishop Foster when he proceeds to state that “Scripture makes certain that beings in the next world are formal and distinguishable, and retain resemblances to their former person when in the body;” and then supports the position by alleging the cases of the appearance of Samuel to Saul, and the case of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration; and asserts that the teaching is, “The dead are represented as appearing in such form as to be known.”

But when this author, to calm doubt as to recognition, brings forward the resurrection of this material body as a future assured event, and says, “No one is able to determine authoritatively what is the precise doctrine on the subject of the resurrection,” and then insists, “But, whatever it is, it furnishes the means of perpetuated resemblances to the fashion of the present form,” we confess ourselves confused, and must ask. If the “spiritual bodies” of the souls of the glorified, this “perfect dress” which they shall possess, according to the author, enables them to “appear” in “surpassing beauty,” so that “we shall see and know them — know and see them as we did not on the earth — know them fully,” wherein lies the necessity of another body being raised from the grave and fitted to us, in order to our recognition in the future state? Is it not far better to believe that this “spiritual body” is the heavenly house, and that when we depart this life we are clothed with it for our eternal life in heaven?

But another question arises in regard to this matter of recognition: If memory still operates, and relationships are recollected, what will be the effect on the bliss of the righteous to know that some to whom they were related on earth are not with them, and are therefore lost? It may be sufficient with some to say that we should be reconciled to what God does, believing it to be best; but this will not satisfy all. Is it not a better position to take that the love for Christ will so take possession of our hearts that all earthly loves will be overwhelmed and, as we may say, absorbed in this one glorious and all-satisfying affection? Will not the sight of Christ in his wonderful glory so attract and entrance us that all other “special loves,” as Bishop Foster calls them, shall be utterly displaced by the expulsive power of a new and all-engrossing affection?

It is noticeable that all through the New Testament this all-absorbing desire to see Christ and be with him is what attracts the dying saint and gives triumph to the departing apostle. This is what Paul wished for; not to see his brethren in the flesh, or his Brethren in spirit, in the heavenly mansions, but to see and be with the Lord. And all through the book of Revelation it is never presented as an incentive to reach heaven that we shall there meet our friends and loved ones, but that the Bride, the Lamb’s wife — the Church of Christ — will come to be with the Bridegroom in heavenly felicity forever, and the feast to which we shall sit down, with unutterable delight, will be the marriage supper of the Lamb. In fact, there is not a single text in the Bible where the meeting with our loved ones and earthly friends is held out as an incentive to make sure work for heaven.

The doctrine we present is that, being changed by grace here, and being changed from glory to glory as by the Spirit, the Lord, in our heavenly life — transported by the sight of our glorious Master and Lord — transformed into his image and becoming like him because we see him as he is, the special loves will fade away from our remembrance; and as we forget even our closest friends here, so that we do not recognize them after the passage of years, and come to have no desire for the presence and acquaintance of those who have polluted themselves with base sins, so that the sister can say of the brother, “I wish never to see or think of him again,” so also in the heavenly life we shall be perfectly contented with the presence of our Lord, and love all others because they love him, and enjoy the society of the blessed because it is the assemblage of those who, with us, adore and serve him who hath washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God.

3. The Doom of the Wicked. The post-judgment condition of the wicked is a subject about which hangs much obscurity. They “are driven away in their wickedness.” Here we have the idea of separation from God. The prophet Isaiah most graphically portrays the cause of this separation: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isa. lix, 1, 2). The result of this is that sinners “look for light, but behold darkness; for brightness, but we walk in obscurity. We grope for the wall like the blind, yea, we grope as they that have no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the twilight; we are in dark places like the dead” (Isa. lix, 9, 10). So in the New Testament the sinner “is in the darkness, and walketh in the darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John ii, 11). Even here the sinner walks in darkness, a self-chosen darkness, because the true light now shineth, but ‘men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil” John iii, 19). Then Christ teaches that the “sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt, viii, 12). So the man who had not on a wedding garment was bound hand and foot, and cast into the outer darkness (Matt, xxii, 13). Iniquity separates from God; the wicked one is driven away in his wickedness, he goes farther and farther from God, the darkness increases, the obscurity becomes more dense; the soul loses the light and dwells in darkness, “even darkness which may be felt” (Exod. x, 21).

We therefore find the King in the great judgment scene of Matt, xxv, 31-46, saying to those on his left hand, “Depart into eternal fire” — εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον — into age-lasting fire. This expression has its exact parallel in Matt, xviii, 8, and is, doubtless, equivalent to the “hell of fire” — τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός —of Matt xviii, 9, and Mark ix, 43, 45, 47. The figure is taken, as all know, from the continuous fires kept burning in the valley of Hinnom for the destruction of the refuse of Jerusalem. In Matt, xiii, 42, those who “do iniquity” are represented as being cast “into a furnace of fire” — κάμινον τοῦ πυρός; itself a figure of another figure, the burning of the tares of the field. The fact which serves for the basis of this figure is the destruction of vegetable or other perishable matter by fire, a figure of frequent use in the Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testament. So the destruction of the wicked is frequently spoken of: “Who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction” (2 Thess. i, 9) ; “And the smoke of their torment goeth up forever and ever” (Rev. xiv, 11), et al. This destruction is an age-lasting destruction, just as the punishment — κόλασνι— of Matt, xxv, 46, is an agelasting punishment; and the combined teaching of these texts seems to be that the destruction is the punishment. It is not necessary for us to suppose that this destruction is annihilation, for the word is used to indicate merely the taking of life, as in Mark iii, 6, “how they might destroy him” — that is, Jesus; and also to state the fact that some prerogative is removed, as Heb. ii, 14. They suffer this destruction in experiencing a deprivation of eternal life and the enjoyments of the heavenly state. All their prerogatives as men capable of communion with God and fellowship with the holy are forever taken away, and they are reduced to the condition of the fallen angels who left their first estate, and were cast down to Tartarus, and committed to pits of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment (2 Pet. ii, 4).

The state of the finally impenitent is also described as one of loss — ἀπώλεια — “Whose end is perdition” — ὡν τὸ τὲλος ἀπώλεια (Phil, iii, 19). The wicked exist after the awards of the judgment, but they exist in a confined, depressed condition. They may be said to be in the prison house of despair. The highest poetic ability has written over the door of that prison the fateful words: “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.” Hope flies from them forever.

So there is the loss of the society of the blessed; the loss of God’s love, and the gaining of his wrath; the loss of Christ’s mercy; the loss of the Spirit’s consolation; loss of the respect of others; loss of all self-respect; the loss of all good and the enduring of all evil; while conscious also, as was the rich man, that others may join them — and that, perhaps, through their example. They are ruined forever.

Here we call attention to one of the most mysterious phrases of the New Testament — “the second death,” a phrase which occurs only in the Apocalypse. “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (Rev. ii, 11). “Over these the second death hath no power,” authority (chap, xx, 6). “This is the second death, even the lake of fire” (chap, xx, 14). “But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death” (chap, xxi, 8).

  1. It is one of the greatest of blessings to escape being injured by this terror. “He shall not be hurt,” etc. It is a negative good, placed on a par with such positive joys as eating the hidden manna and reigning with Christ.
  2. It possesses great power, or authority, which it cannot exercise on those who have part in the first resurrection, and it is evidently put in antithesis to that distinguished exaltation.
  3. The second death and the lake of fire are one and the same thing. To be cast into the lake of fire is to experience, therefore, the second death.
  4. As fire is the great symbol of destruction, and this fire, being mingled with sulphur, is peculiarly destructive, we are to understand that, as the casting into the lake of fire indicates final destruction, so the second death indicates the same final destruction.
  5. The devil, the beast, and the false prophet all suffer this destruction (chap, xx, 10), as do also death and Hades (chap, xx, 14).
  6. When we read elsewhere of the “destruction” of the devil and death we find that the word used to denote this destruction is not one that denotes utter extinction of being, annihilation, but is some form of the verb καταργέω which has the force of the phrases “to leave unemployed, to render ineffective or inoperative, to abolish, or to do away.” So when it is said that Christ destroyed him that had the power of death — that is, the devil — we are to understand that he rendered him ineffective; and also, when it is said Christ abolished death it is meant that he took away its power to harm. So here the casting of Hades into the lake of fire denotes the discontinuance of the intermediate state, or that it is “abolished,” in that it no longer receives the souls of the departed.
  7. Note that this is a death of the dead, and therefore a second death. The dead which are represented as standing before the great white throne did not “live” as did the other souls, but, as “the dead,” died a second time by being cast into the burning lake.
  8. Here is taught again the “destruction” of those who become victims to this second death.
  9. It not being taught that the wicked have a bodily resurrection, we are left to suppose that they may be left in a bodiless condition, and merely as souls, or spirits, may be shut up to themselves, to the exercise of memory, and other mental operations; having no means of intercourse with other souls. The demons of Christ’s day preferred to embody themselves in the swine rather than to go as demons into the abyss.


The Intermediate State

All are aware that this is a phrase used to denote the state or situation between their death and resurrection of those who have departed this life. As will have been perceived by our readers, we maintain that this state is “destroyed;” a position demanded by the doctrine of the book. The parousia of Christ having, according to our belief, occurred, and the Scriptures teaching that at the second coming of Christ the dead in Christ were to be raised, the rest of the dead judged and condemned to experience the second death, the full glories of heaven inaugurated, and the lake of fire receiving its victims, there is no longer any necessity for this intermediate state, and consequently it has been abolished — a fact represented in the figurative language, “Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. xx, 14).

Among the heathen various theories existed in regard to the state of the person after death, but these theories were merely theories, unsupported by any facts. It was all surmise and conjecture, and the outlook, to the common mind at least, was one of gloom and despondency; for they had no prospect beyond the shadowy realms of the underworld.

The Hebrews termed this state, or place of the departed, sheol — “the place of departed spirits” and “the state of the dead.” There is no other way of determining the meaning of the word but by considering “the context of the most remarkable passages in which it occurs” (McClintock and Strong, art. “Sheol”). “According to the notions of the Jews, sheol was a vast receptacle where the souls of the dead existed in a separate state until the resurrection of their bodies. The region of the blessed during this interval, or the inferior paradise, they supposed to be in the upper part of this receptacle; while beneath was the abyss, or Gehenna (Tartarus), in which the souls of the wicked were subjected to punishment” (ibid.).

The Hebrew, differing from the heathen, indulged in the hope of a resurrection as the reversion of the evil brought upon the world by sin. The intermediate state, or sheol, was a place of waiting; its inhabitants were in suspense; for there were intimations that they were to be rescued from its dreary regions in the distant future and its rule over those subjected to its dominion forever done away. So the promise by Isaiah: “Thy dead shall live; my dead bodies shall arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust” (Isa. xxvi, 19, 20); and Daniel: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. xii, 2). Hosea cries by the Spirit of the Lord, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave [sheol]; I will redeem them from death: O death, where are [or, I will be] thy plagues? O grave [sheol], where is [or, I will be] thy destruction?” (Hos. xiii, 14.)

When the Old Testament came to be translated into Greek the word שׁאוֹלsheol — was rendered by the word ἃδης — Hades — a word which has much the same import as sheol but which cannot be understood as so frequently referring to the grave. Its strict meaning is what is out of sight; the invisible world. As with sheol, so this word Hades presented the idea of a place where dwelt the spirits of the righteous and the wicked, and so we come to have the terms Paradise-Hades and Tartarus-Hades in modem theology. Therefore to this place went both the spirit of Christ and that of the penitent thief; and the soul of the saved malefactor was with the soul of the Holy One (Psa. xvi, 10 ; Acts ii, 31). It may have been the place to which Paul was caught up — raptured. Here were the beggar and the rich man, after they died — one in Paradise-Hades, the other in Tartarus-Hades; here were the spirits in prison, to whom Christ went, in spirit, and preached; and here were the souls under the altar, waiting in suspense for the avenging of their blood, waiting, also, with other souls, for the coming of a new era that they might come forth to judgment, and have bestowed the reward of the righteous or fearfully receive the doom of the wicked.

The idea of the Roman Catholic Church, that there is a place of purging fire to which the souls of the righteous are consigned if they are not completely fitted for heaven, was hinted at by some of the early fathers of the Church, and supposed by them to have some basis in certain Scripture texts. “But the complete scheme owes its paternity to Gregory the Great [A. D. 540-604], who propounded it as an article of faith, along with intercessory masses for the dead; finding a supposed warrant in 2 Mace, xii, 45” (McClintock and Strong, art. “Intermediate State”)

The same authority summarizes fatal objections to this theory of purgatory: (1) A fiction borrowed from paganism; (2) repugnant to reason and common sense; (3) contradictory to God’s word; (4) subversive of cardinal doctrines of the Gospel; (5) robs the Christian of peace and consolation; (6) was unknown to the primitive Church.

The writer of the article quoted there states the common belief of many Christians that they pass at death immediately to heaven; and opposes this view because of “the known truth that a long — probably immense — interval of time will elapse between the decease of Christians of the present age — and certainly of past centuries — and the revival of their bodies at the general judgment.” We have already shown the absurdity of such opinions by the quotation of Scriptures in point; and it is clearly futile for the writer we quote to endeavor to sustain his position by asserting that the passages quoted by those who believe in the doctrine which he condemns are figurative in phraseology, and that this is “legitimately debatable ground.”

He proceeds to establish his theory that an intermediate state is possible and can justly exist, by laying it down as an axiom that “pure spirit is necessarily freed from all the relations of space,” and that, therefore, though there may be communication of spirit with spirit, there is no connection with the present relation of things, and all communication with earthly things or persons is entirely broken, unless we “confound mind and matter, or unconsciously clothe the departed spirits with some ethereal form of body.” But this the Scriptures do. They insist that when this earthly body is dissolved we have a heavenly body (2 Cor. v, 1). He then holds that the spirit of the departed saint must await the resurrection of this material body before he can enjoy the delights of his final abode. He also asserts of the departed soul that it is in no particular place, has no local habitation. “It can neither be said to be somewhere nor nowhere, nor yet everywhere.” The second proposition is that “the soul can have no cognizance of the passage of time while disembodied” and therefore the “intermediate state will pass to all its subjects as an instant” So that, in regard to Noah and others who died years ago, they will not seem to pass any longer time in this state than the last saint who died. He therefore concludes, “This theory meets and harmonizes all their cases, and vindicates the divine impartiality.” This position is sustained by insisting on the simultaneousness of the judgment

But it seems to us that the teaching of Christ with regard to the departed refutes the first proposition, about noncognizance of space. The rich man is represented as conscious of the idea of space, for he “seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke xvi, 23). Again, “And he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house; for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” Here the rich man is aware that he is distant from his father’s house and thinks that Lazarus might be sent there, and is also aware that he is in a place. Still again, he thinks that Lazarus might come from his place to the place of torment, and he certainly is cognizant of the facts of Abraham’s argument in opposition when he says, “Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they which would pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may come over from thence to us.” All this without reference to the philosophical ideas of space and time, questions we do not here discuss.

In reference to the second proposition, regarding the noncognizance of the passage of time, there is a text of Scripture which entirely refutes this — Rev. vi, 9-1 1. Here the souls of the departed martyrs are represented as crying with a great voice, “How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” In order to comfort them they are told that they “should rest yet for a little time.” But what comfort was there in this if they were utterly incapable of taking any note of time, and why should they cry, “How long?” if they were not conscious of being weary with waiting as it passed? If we therefore grant, as we do, that disembodied souls are not conscious of the passage of time, we must believe that these souls had bodies of some sort, for the word expressly declares that they were conscious of the passage of time; and therefore we are obliged to believe that the phrase “disembodied saints” does not correctly describe the departed righteous.

Our contention is that when Christ came in the glory of the Father, he having perfectly achieved man’s redemption, and prepared eternal glory for him, all things were ready for the total abolishment of the states and conditions which obtained through the previous age of restricted privileges and partial enjoyments, and great changes were made by bringing in immensely greater privileges; and that these changes extended to the invisible world as well as to earthly conditions, so that he that sat on the throne could truthfully say, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. xxi, 5). There are new heavens as well as a new earth, and place is made for them by the passing away of the old.

Among the things which were abolished, as we have seen, were death and Hades — the intermediate state. They were both cast into the lake of fire, the strongest figure the revelator can use to indicate destruction. This being one of the things which was “shortly” to come to pass, we are constrained to believe that Hades — the intermediate state — no longer receives the souls of the departed. This is confirmed by the words of Christ to John in Patmos. As John falls at his feet, like one dead, the glorified Saviour lays his right hand upon him, and exclaims: “Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” The possession of these keys shows that our Redeemer has abolished these states, or conditions, and that they no longer exist “When Lafayette sent the key of the demolished Bastile to Washington it was a sign and a proof that that hideous prison house existed no longer.”

Believers in Christ were no longer to depart, as did the ancient saints, to go to the dreary abodes of the underworld, or sheol

“A land of deepest shade;
Unpierced by human thought;
The dreary regions of the dead,
Where all things are forgot” —

there to await through long centuries the appearing of the Morning Star. That star had arisen, and Christ could be addressed in the language of the Church’s ancient triumphal hymn, the Te Deum, “When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.” Now the saint passes immediately and directly to the presence of the Lord. There being no more death, the last enemy having been destroyed — rendered ineffective to him — there need be no resurrection from the dead expected for those who live after the parousia of Christ. Their animal bodies fall away, to mingle with the elements of earth; the “psychical” body is left here, as the redeemed one weighs anchor — departs “to be with Christ;” but, clothed with the spiritual body, he rises into the heavenly state to take possession of the abiding place completely prepared for him by his living, victorious Redeemer.


The Millennium

The word millennium is, as is well known, from two Latin words, mille, a thousand, + annus, year, and is often used to indicate an aggregate of a thousand years in historical matters. Its Greek equivalent is χίλια the neuter of χίλοιο thousand; and from chilia we have chiliad, a thousand; chiliasm, the doctrine of the millennium; chiliast, a believer in the doctrine of the chiliasm, or millennium; chiliastic, relating to the chiliasm, or millennium.

The meaning of the word millennium, in theology, is “a period during which the kingdom of Christ will be established upon the earth and will predominate over all other authority. The phrase ‘a thousand years,’ in Rev. xx, 1-5, has been understood literally, or (on the principle that in Scripture prophecies a day stands for a year, and the Jewish year contained three hundred and sixty days) as representing three hundred and sixty thousand years. It is generally regarded as indicating an indefinite but long period, and belief in such a period is universal in the Christian Church. But whether this predominance of the kingdom of Christ will be accomplished gradually by the Gospel and will precede Christ’s second coming, or will follow his second coming and be accomplished by it, is disputed. This question divides theologians into two schools: the postmillenarians, who hold the former view; and the premillenarians, who hold the latter; while many hold that the millennium represents the Gospel dispensation, or reign of the Church, and has accordingly already prevailed for many centuries” (Century Dictionary).

It is not the purpose of this work to enter into the millenarian controversy. Those desiring to investigate the matter will find a concise presentation of it in McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopædic and in the works of those who take one or the other of the views stated above. Of the three views stated we prefer the third, which makes the millennium to mean the Gospel dispensation, the “thousand years” denoting an indefinite period; but there are serious objections to even this view; so we present a fourth view, which, to our minds, takes precedence of all others we have seen, and has advantages of very great value when considered in relation to the general theory of this work, and reconciles differences which cannot be settled, apparently, on any other basis.

As all Bible readers know, this much-disputed matter is mentioned in but one place in the Scriptures, and that the twentieth chapter of Revelation. To be sure, the word has become a sort of general term for a period of religious prosperity and high moral order such as seems to be foretold by the Old Testament prophecies, and thus becomes a synonym for the reign of Christ as it spreads over the earth, and brings universal peace and enjoyment. But in the Apocalypse it is specifically stated to be a period of a thousand years, which we see no good reason for interpreting to mean anything else than what the term usually indicates, during which the martyrs reign with Christ and Satan is bound, and after which he is loosed, that he may go out and deceive the nations, to gather them to war (Rev. xx, 1-10).

We therefore insist that a proper exposition and fair interpretation of this much-abused passage of holy writ will give us all the light the Scriptures afford in regard to this interesting subject, and we proceed to carefully and prayerfully Consider the passage referred to with the sole desire to find the truth and present it to our readers.

We give the passage in sections, and quote from the Revised Version of the Bible.

“And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand” (ver. 1).

It would be in entire accordance with other passages of Scripture to consider this angel to be the Lord Jesus Christ. He is “the angel of the covenant,” “the angel of his presence,” “the angel of the Lord,” and the “strong angel” that stands on the sea and land (Rev. x, 1). Here he is represented as repressing Satan, that his power shall not be exercised, as it had been formerly, for a long period. This is in perfect accord with the work Christ was sent to perform. When the disciples returned from their mission, and informed Christ that the demons were subject to them, he assured them that he had seen “Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” The demons knew him, and knew that he had power to send them into the abyss (Luke viii, 31). He through death brought to nought “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. ii, 14). In Rev. i, 18, we have the glorified Living One asserting that he has the keys of death and Hades, which may there represent his complete triumph over those powers and the demolition, as it were, of their castles. He also speaks of himself as possessing the key of David, opening and shutting at will, with none to successfully oppose his operations (Rev. iii, 7). It is therefore in complete harmony to represent him as bringing from heaven the key of the abyss, wherewith he may confine his ancient adversary, and a chain, that the constraint in which he is placed may be perfect. The idea of fetters and imprisonment is given also in Jude 6, but with a somewhat different application than in this passage.

“And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished : after this he must be loosed for a little time” (vers. 2, 3).

It should be noticed most distinctly that Satan is here suppressed, and his power limited as the great instigator of national persecutions. He incites nations to oppose and, if possible, extirpate the Christian Church. In chapter xii he is represented as having wonderful power over royal and noted personages, symbolized by “the stars of heaven;” also as standing before the woman about to be delivered of the man child, to devour her child as soon as it should be born, which denotes the persecuting power of this adversary against “the churches of God which are in Judaea,” persecuted by the Jews who, under the instigation of this archfiend, “both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drave out us, and please not God, and are contrary to all men” (1 Thess. ii, 14, 15). For “when the dragon saw that he was cast down to the earth [or land], he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.” And again in the seventeenth verse: “And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus.” The dragon gives to the beast rising out of the sea “power, and his throne, and great authority” (chap, xiii, 2). The beast, thus authorized, has also given him, by the dragon, “to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (ver. 7).

These texts and references are sufficient to show that the dragon being the great instigator of persecutions, his being chained and sealed in the abyss means that this persecuting power is for the time repressed, checked, and nullified. And as he is thus imprisoned, that he may deceive the nations no more for a thousand years, it is evident that it is in this particular role, as a nation deceiver, that he is here specifically alluded to.

Hengstenberg, as quoted by Warren, says: “The subject of discourse here, as the connection shows, is not Satan’s deceiving in the general, but his deceiving with the view of stirring them up to an open attack on the kingdom of Christ for the purpose of destroying it, and so as even to threaten its destruction” (Hengstenberg, Apocalypse, vol. ii, page 355).

The Church of Christ was to be a persecuted Church, and the establishment of the kingdom of heaven was to be the signal for the rulers to take counsel against the Lord and against his Messiah, saying, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”

“Hence another proof that the institution set up at the day of Pentecost was the true ‘kingdom of heaven’ that should be inaugurated at Christ’s coming. If that kingdom is still future — the kingdom of the so-called millennium — it can never be a persecuted one, for by the supposition the enemies of its king are then all destroyed” (Dr. Warren).

The author just quoted presents a theory in regard to the national persecutions of Christians which we cordially adopt, namely: There were three great sources of persecution against the Christian Church — Jewish, Roman, and Mohammedan. The first was waged by Judaism: blinded by spiritual pride, and eagerly looking for a temporal earthly kingdom, the Jews sought to destroy the real kingdom of God. This persecution was to precede the destruction of Jerusalem, according to the prediction of Christ on the Mount of Olives, and, as we have seen that the Apocalypse is merely an elaboration of Christ’s sermon there, we have in chapters vi-xi the details of that persecution, culminating in the death of the two witnesses. Then comes the terrible destruction of the enemies of the infant Church, and the permanent establishment of the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, which is to continue forever and ever (Rev. xi, 15). This Jewish persecution ceased, as a national affair, with the demolition of the temple and the utter destruction of the, capital city; and, though Jewish animosity has since existed, Jewish national persecution against the general Church of Christ has never revived.

The second class of persecutions came from paganism, especially as represented in the Roman empire. Her policy was to tolerate all religions, and Christianity was no exception so long as it did not interfere with the public welfare. But, as we have seen (Chapter XVIII, Part I), Nero, to avert the execration of the people of Rome for setting the city on fire, charged the crime on the Christians and began one of the most fearful and bloody of persecutions. Then followed nine others from Roman malevolence, having for their dire object the extirpation of the religion of Christ from the civilized world.

In the book of Revelation we have these persecutions depicted. In chapter xii the great red dragon is represented as being cast out of heaven and coming down with great wrath upon the earth; this great wrath arising from the fact that he knows that “he hath but a short time.” The dragon stands on the sand of the sea and beholds, rising out of the sea, a terrible wild beast (therion) having seven heads and ten horns. This beast represents the empire of Rome as impersonated in Nero. As has already been stated, the dragon gives this beast power to make war with the saints and overcome them (chap, xiii, 7).

Another beast arises out of the earth, or land, which speaks “as a dragon.” He exercises all the power of the first beast, and does great wonders. This beast symbolizes the proconsular and priestly power of Rome as impersonated in Gessius Florus; and the persecuting power is also rampant in him, for he causes that “as many as should not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (chap, xiii, 15).

The ten kings which receive power with the beast, and give their power and strength unto the beast, make “war against the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings” (chap, xvii, 12, 13, 14).

Then in the nineteenth chapter the revelator says: “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought the signs in his sight, wherewith he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image: they twain were cast alive into the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone: and the rest were killed with the sword … which came forth out of his mouth: and all the birds were filled with their flesh” (vers. 19-21). Here we have the prefigurement of the repression and cessation of the persecuting power of the Roman nation, through its imperial, senatorial, military, and judicial functionaries. We are to translate all these concrete figures back into the abstract, and see in this description the one great fact that pagan persecution, from national sources, ceased to be practiced.

There should be no chapter division between this vivid and graphic description of the revelator and the next paragraph, for now follows merely another scene in the same drama: the punishment of the arch enemy of Christianity and the great instigator of all this malice against its adherents. The dragon himself is seized by the angel and cast into the abyss, and shut up and sealed, “that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished.”

This was a great crisis in the world’s history. There was a marked and decisive check given to the persecuting power of pagan nations, and the power of the devil, which deceived them into thus persecuting the Church of Christ, was for a time, at least, entirely broken. It was, as Schlegel describes it, “the decisive crisis between ancient and modem times;” and he asserts that the introduction and expansion of Christianity “has changed and regenerated not only government and science, but the whole system of human life” (Philosophy of History, page 276).

This era of the Church’s rest from persecution was fully inaugurated at the accession of Constantine, A. D. 312, and the issuance of his edict of toleration in 313. McClintock and Strong say: “In January, 313, he published the memorable edict of toleration in favor of the Christians, by which all the property which had been taken from the Christians during the persecutions was restored to them. They were also made eligible to public offices. This edict has been regarded as marking the triumph of the cross and the downfall of paganism” (art “Constantine”). “Heathenism seemed to be annihilated at one blow” (Uhlhom). From that time this edict “was received as a general and fundamental law of the Roman world” (Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chap. xx).

What is very remarkable in this connection is that the Christians of that time, with Constantine himself, believed that his edict and its results were the fulfillment of this very prophecy in the book of Revelation.

The well-known labarum was made, which consisted of a Roman standard with the first two letters of the name of Christ (xP) upon it, and a monument was erected representing the emperor with a cross over his head, and under his feet Satan as a serpent falling head-long into the abyss. Uhlhorn, as quoted by Warren, thus describes it: “At the entrance of the imperial palace there attracted the gaze of all who went out and in an immense picture representing Constantine himself with the labarum, the banner of the cross, in his hand, and under his feet pierced with arrows a dragon, the dragon of heathenism.” And Eusebius says: “For the sacred oracles in the books of God’s prophets have described him as a dragon and a crooked serpent; and for this reason the emperor thus publicly displayed a painted resemblance (cera igne resoluta) of the dragon beneath his own and his children’s feet, stricken through with a dart and cast headlong into the depths of the sea. In this manner he intended to represent that concealed adversary of the human race, and to indicate that he was consigned to the gulf of perdition by virtue of the trophy of salvation placed above his head.” So Schaff: “This rising significance of the cross was a faithful symbol of the extraordinary change in the empire. … The despised religion exerted a molding influence upon civil legislation, ruled the life of the people, and began to control the general course of civilization.” Davidson says: “This leads to the ancient view, namely, that the period [of the millennium] is past, not future. It will be observed that the beast and the false prophet are both destroyed (chap. xx).

Now, the beast cannot mean the papacy, as has been often assumed. It refers to the heathen power which was opposed to Christ and his religion. Hence the millennium began after the abolition of paganism in the Roman empire” (Interior, vol iii, page 630). Professor C. A. Briggs: “The millennium begins not with any definite event or year of time, but in general with the supremacy of the Church or kingdom of Christ over the Roman empire or world power. … John Fox is said to be the first who dated it from Constantine. He was followed by Lord Napier, Patrick Forbes, Hugh Broughton, and most interpreters since” (Independent, August, 1883). (These last three quotations from Warren’s Parousia of Christ.)

“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshiped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (vers. 4, 5, 6).

These “souls” which John sees seated on thrones are, as we have previously shown (Chapter x, Part I), the same “souls” that were seen under the altar. They appear again in chap, vii, 13-17. They are alluded to in chap, x, 7: “Then is finished the mystery of God, according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets.” Again we meet them in chap, xi, 18: “And the time to give their reward to thy servants the prophets;” then again in chap, xiv, 1-5, they stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion; in chap, xv, 2, we see them standing on the glassy sea, and still later (xix, 14) they are the armies on white horses in fine linen, white and pure. All this is in exact accordance with the iterative character of the book; it gives the same events over and over.

This sitting on thrones of those who were previously under the altar is called a “resurrection” not because it is a rising from the graves of bodies which had been dead. There is nothing said of the resurrection of bodies. “This resurrection is to be explained as a resurrection from Hades to heaven. Those who have suffered in this world and have been slain ascend to their thrones in heaven” (Professor Briggs). “The resurrection is ascribed to these persons only in a figurative sense; that, namely, of a transition into a new and glorious existence; as is indicated by the expression This is the first resurrection’” (Hengstenberg). Hence in the original this resurrection is denoted by a phraseology differing from that which is applied to the resurrection of mankind in general. It is lost sight of in our English version, but it is a peculiarity of too much importance to be rightfully disregarded. The latter is usually styled simply the resurrection of the dead; that of Christ and his martyrs, the resurrection from or from out of the dead. So, in the Vulgate, the resurrectio a or ex mortuis is distinguished from the resurrectio mortuorum. (See Rom. viii, 11 ; x, 7 ; Eph. i, 20; Heb. xiii, 20; 1 Pet. i, 3, 21.) It implies that out of the whole number of the departed there shall be those who attain a peculiar honor, one which they do not share in common with the rest.

“Being the most exalted state of future reward, it became the object of intensest desire on the part of persecuted saints. Even Paul declared that he made it the object of his most strenuous effort (Phil, iii, 10-14): ‘If by any means I might attain unto [Gr.] the resurrection which is from among the dead.’ It was the same inspiring hope that actuated the Christians of the succeeding centuries and led them to seek the bloody crown of martyrdom, the pledge of the crown of victory above. So the sneering Gibbon, chap, xvi” (Parousia of Christ, pages 200, 201).

(We here necessarily repeat some previous points.) It will be perceived that the words “I saw,” when used the second time, are in italics, to indicate that they are not in the original. A better translation would read, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them, even [καὶ, explanatory] the souls,” etc. The words “that had been beheaded” stand for two words in the Greek: τῶν πεπελεκισμένων — those who had been beheaded by the short sword or ax of the Roman executioner, pelekus. This word fixes the class who are here meant; they were the souls of the martyrs who had suffered death at the hands of the ancient headsman. As to their nationality, we read in chapter vi, “How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (γῆς, land) — that is, the land of Israel. We turn to Luke and we read about this same cry for vengeance: “And shall not God avenge his elect, which cry to him day and night, and he is long-suffering over them? I say unto you, that he will avenge them speedily [ἐν τάχει]. Howbeit when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”— ἆρα εὑρήσει τὴν πίστιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς — shall he find the faith upon the land? (Luke xviii, 7, 8.)

Here Christ connects the cry of these elect with his coming, of which he had been speaking just previously (chap, xvii, 22-37). He shortly after uttered his imprecations on the scribes and Pharisees (Matt, xxiii, 34-37), saying, "Therefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: some of them shall ye kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous bloodshed on the earth [ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς , upon the land]…

Verily I say unto you, AH these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killeth the prophets," etc. He then speaks of the signs which shall attend his coming, and of the destruction of Jerusalem, and emphatically asserts, “For these are days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. … For there shall be great distress upon the land [γῆ ], and wrath unto this people” (Luke xxi, 22, 23). (Here the word γῆ is translated “land” in the English version, as it should be in the other cases.)

Then he asserts, “But for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matt, xxiv, 22). (See Chapter iv, Part I, for more about “the elect.”)

Now, if we put these things together, we will be persuaded that these souls under the altar were the souls of those who had been killed in the land of Israel and elsewhere, and were the Christian Jews who had stood for Christ in the great persecution which prevailed in Palestine and other lands before the destruction of Jerusalem and the parousia of our Lord. Some were doubtless crucified, as our Lord said they would be, but others were “killed with the sword.” Those that were beheaded — slain by the headsman’s ax — were “beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and the word of God.”

This view is borne out by the words of the comforting message brought to these souls. These were to rest yet for a little while until “their fellow-servants also and their brethren, which should be killed even as they were, should be fulfilled” (or had fulfilled their course). The words “fellow-servants” indicate those who were intimately connected with them in the affairs of this life, and the word “brethren” denotes those who were their relatives — of the family of Israel ; this being the sense in which the word is mostly used in the New Testament. They were also to be slain in exactly the same manner as those persons had been whose souls were seen under the altar — ὠς καί αὐτοί — and this killing of the others was about to take place: ὁι μελλοντες ἀποκρέννεσθαι — those about to be killed.

These souls, then, are the souls of the martyrs who suffered death during the first persecutions; and we find their enjoyment of their reward as one of the things which was about to occur (Rev. i, 1).

Besides these souls of martyrs, there are mentioned others, namely, “such as worshiped not the beast … and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand.” These were the confessors who might not have suffered a violent death, but were just as noble and meritorious as their fellows who had been beheaded, because they yielded not to the persuasions of the beast nor the false prophet (chap, xix, 20). Now, as the “beast” was Nero, and the “false prophet” Gessius Florus, a procurator of Palestine, or Judaea, this again fixes the time and place when and where lived these martyrs and confessors when in the body.

They sat on thrones, “and judgment was given unto them.” This reminds us of the words of Christ to his disciples: “Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt, xix, 28) ; and of the doxology given in Rev. 1, 5, 6, “Unto him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father,” etc. The meaning is that ‘these souls were brought into a condition of great honor and glory such as the kings and judges of Israel enjoyed in the prosperous days of the kingdom.

“They lived, and reigned” — better “they lived, that is, reigned;” as in the sentences “God, that is, the Father;” “Grace, that is, the apostleship.” To live is frequently used in the New Testament to denote a state of high religious or spiritual blessedness. “He that doeth them shall live in them” (Gal. iii, 12). “Now we live, if ye stand fast” (1 Thess. iii, 8). “This do, and thou shalt live” (Luke x, 28), etc., etc. These souls not only lived, but they reigned with Christ

They had overcome, and now they sat down with Christ in his throne, as he had overcome and had sat down with his Father in his throne (Rev. iii, 21); this being only another figure to illustrate the high kingly honor and felicity which those who were faithful should enjoy. So with all the figures used in the messages to the churches — the crown of life, the hidden manna, the white stone, etc., etc.; they all are efforts to define and emphasize the wonderful beatification of the glorified saint “This is something more than ‘entering the kingdom,’ ‘seeing the kingdom,’ ‘inheriting the kingdom,’ etc., which is promised to all believers. Every loyal subject of a monarch may share in the happiness flowing from his reign, its peace, prosperity, security, and glory. But not all are elevated to princely rank in it, and made participants in the government itself. This special honor is reserved in Christ’s kingdom for the martyrs and confessors who have been faithful unto death. In our loose way of quoting the Scriptures we have become habituated to cite these extraordinary promises as pertaining to all Christ’s people. I doubt, however, if an instance can be found in which this dignity of kingship in heaven is not predicted solely of those who, like their Master, reach it by the way of suffering and death for his sake. ‘Inter feras, per crucem, ad coronam’” (Dr. Warren).

This distinctive reward of the martyrs is frequently alluded to in the New Testament, and is signally mentioned as distinct from the ordinary enjoyment or reward of the Christian (Rom. viii, 16, 17): “The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit that we [all Christians] are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.” So 1 Pet. iv, 12, 13. So the logos, saying, “If we died with him, we shall also live with him: if we endure, we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. ii, 11, 12).

John is antithetical in all his writings, Mark especially his epistles; and so in the Apocalypse. This exaltation of the saints is put in contrast with the abasement of Satan. Satan has had his day of lawless violence when the saints endured all sorts of cruelty and infamy. Now the scales are turned, and he is cast into the abyss while they are raised into glory. While he suffers this repression the martyrs reign with Christ. Not that they may not have reigned with the Lord some time before Satan was imprisoned, and not but that they may reign an eternity after the thousand years are finished; but there is in the text we are examining, collated with the other texts in which these souls are mentioned, that which seems to fix the millennium as a past period — not one we are to look for in the future.

The souls under the altar were the souls of those that had been slain. These persons had already died when John wrote. They were then waiting for the avenging of their blood, and were told to rest for “a little time”— χρόνον μικρὸν — until their fellow-servants who were about to be killed should be slain. It is thus certain that, the “little time” soon expiring, these souls, after a few years, entered upon their reward with their brethren. Now, the expressions regarding time in the Apocalypse — and there is no other book in the Bible wherein time is so exactly marked — linked with the chronological concatenation presented here, forces us to the conclusion that these two events — the suppression of Satan and the accession of the saints — were not separated by thousands of years, but occurred near together, and therefore should be considered events long since past. When it is stated that “the rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished” we are to understand it as a mere negative assertion, to assure us that the wicked dead lived not in the sense that these saints lived — that is, they did not enjoy like felicity during these thousand years.

We have already discussed the points concerning the first resurrection and the blessedness of those who were partakers in it.

“And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four comers of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Here the imagery is drawn from Ezekiel’s prophecy, chapters xxxviii and xxxix. That prophet is supposed to have had in view a vast marauding expedition of Scythians made about B. C. 625, or near the time of the fall of Nineveh. These wild hordes were driven back only after twenty-eight years of strenuous effort. Gesenius thinks that this event gave the prophet Ezekiel “the handle for such a prophecy” as he presents in the chapters mentioned. (See Cowles, on Ezekiel) McClintock and Strong say: “In Rev. xx, 7, 9, the terms Gog and Magog are evidently used tropically, as names of the enemies of Christianity, who will endeavor to extirpate it from the earth, but will thereby bring upon themselves signal destruction. But that Ezekiel, in his prophecy, meant to be understood as predicting the invasion of Palestine by Gog and Magog in the literal sense is hardly credible. He uses these names to designate distant and savage nations; and in the same way John employs them. Just in the same manner we now employ the word barbarians. That both writers should employ these two names in a tropical way is no more strange than that we should employ the words Scythian, Tartar, Indian, etc., in the same manner. Nothing could be more natural than for Ezekiel, who lived in Mesopotamia, to speak of Gog and Magog, since they were the formidable enemies of all that region; and that John, writing on the same subject, should retain the same names was equally natural” (art. “Magog”).

It will be readily seen, in reading Ezekiel carefully, that he cannot refer to an actual invasion of the Holy Land by a real army, but that he desires to foretell a vast invasion of evil and immoral forces which should leave behind them immensely corrupting influences difficult of removal, and which would continue long to pollute the land. So with John. The figure is used to foretell a mighty and somewhat prolonged effort on the part of Satan to override and extirpate the Christian religion, yet without effect, but to be followed by his signal overthrow and destruction in the sense of being rendered non-effective against the Church; of having his power entirely abrogated as an instigator of national persecution against Christianity. What, then, was to be the last persecution here depicted? In answer we transfer to these pages the following from Dr. Warren:

“The thousand years have expired, and Satan is loose again. In the distant regions of the earth [the comers] — the land of Gog and Magog — are mighty nations, with a population innumerable ‘as the sand of the sea.’ These he stirs up against the saints. They leave their barbarous homes, invade the Christian territory, surround its capital and the beloved city, Jerusalem, but are destroyed by the lightnings of heaven. What is this but a graphic description of the rise, the conquests, and the ultimate overthrow of the Ottoman Empire, the great monarchy in which Mohammedanism, the rival religion to Christianity, enthroned itself and undertook the conquest of the world?

“Magog was the second son of Japheth (Gen. x, 2), and the name seems to have been borne also by the people descended from him. He and his brothers are generally regarded as having settled in the northern regions of Asia beyond the Euxine and Caspian Seas, and become the progenitors of the various tribes bearing the general designation of Scythians. Jewish tradition, as preserved by Josephus and Jerome, extended the name (Magog) to all the nomad tribes beyond the Caucasus and the Palus Maeotis, and from the Caspian Sea to India, thus including the Tartar and Mongolian tribes, as well as those more properly belonging to the Scythians’ (Kitto). In the prophecies of Ezekiel are recorded a series of denunciations against this people, in which Gog appears as their prince or ruler, and Magog as the designation of their country.

‘This vast region, the inexhaustible hive of the northern barbarians, who from time immemorial had been the terror of the civilized world, was the original source of the Turks, who began to figure in history in the sixth century. As early as A. D. 545, a Turkish invasion overspread the continent from the Euxine Sea to China, but their power lasted only about two centuries. From time to time they appeared again amid the commotions of the East, and in 1206 they composed a part of the empire of the Great Mogul Zingis Khan, who reduced to his sway nearly all Asia and a large portion of Europe. In the year 1299 Athman, or Othman, one of their chieftains, invaded and plundered the Christian province of Nicomedia, in Asia Minor, and twenty-seven years later obtained possession of its capital, the beautiful city of Prusa, now Broosa. The lives and properties of the Christians were ransomed on the payment of thirty thousand crowns in gold, and the city converted into a Mohammedan capital. ‘From the conquest of Prusa,’ says Gibbon, ‘we may date the true era of the Ottoman empire.’ This was in the year 1326, one thousand and two years from the promulgation of the imperial edict of Constantine.”

All readers of history know that this empire became very formidable, and lorded it over a vast territory which had been the possession of twenty empires and kingdoms. Its founder was Othman, and its history was one of blood and carnage incited by a desire for world-wide domain. We resume the quotation:

“The identification of this formidable power with the Gog and Magog of the Apocalypse is affirmed with great confidence by the learned Grotius. I quote at length: ‘Rev. xx, 3, 7, 8. The beginning of the thousand years should be reckoned from the edict of Constantine related by Eusebius, in which mention is made of the bound dragon. … The edict of Constantine for the freedom of Christianity was issued about A. D. 311 [some 313, some 324]. A thousand years after this the Ottoman dynasty arose, which carried the religion of Mohammedanism, shown to be the religion of Satan, not only into Persia and the extremities of the Roman empire, but also into its most central and powerful parts, Asia and Greece. … Here, therefore, by Gog is to be understood the Ottoman family, which first showed itself in that part of Asia.’

“That the Turkish empire has ever been hostile to Christianity is one of the most familiar facts of history. In 1460, under Mahomet II, Constantinople was captured with terrible slaughter, its people slaughtered or sold into captivity, its churches burned or converted into mosques, and the city of the first Christian emperor made the capital of Islam. In 1517 the Holy Land was overrun, and Jerusalem itself, ‘the beloved city,’ taken. For more than three centuries it has maintained its sway over the lands where the Saviour and his apostles taught and died, and has exercised a pitiless despotism over all their followers. The market places of her cities have been public marts, where Christians of both sexes and of all ages have been sold into perpetual slavery. Confiscation, oppressive taxation, and open robbery have despoiled them of their goods, and the murder of an ‘unbelieving dog’ has been esteemed as a service to Allah and his prophet. It is only within the present generation, under the growing influence of the Western kingdoms, that its hostility has at all abated, and a toleration of the Christian faith has been reluctantly conceded.

“Upon the destruction of this third great persecuting power, it is predicted that ‘the devil that deceived those nations shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are’ — his former allies in enmity to Christ — ‘and shall be tormented day and night forever.’ That is, bearing in mind the part that he has been acting hitherto, persecution by hostile nations against Christianity shall forever cease” (Parousia of Christ, pages 185-191).

And how wonderfully is this coming to pass! Now no nation, as a nation, raises its hand against Christianity to persecute it. Even the late cruel treatment of the Armenians was more of a racial matter than a concerted attempt on the part of the kingdom of Turkey to erase Christianity.

And we are not to look for an outward phenomenal destruction of these enemies. The fire from heaven is merely a symbol of the destruction of these persecuting powers by heavenly influences. As in the case of Nero and the proconsular power of Rome there was no open spectacular display of vengeance, so also the casting of the devil into the lake of fire is no more an event visible to the eye than was the casting of him into the abyss. Both are transactions of the invisible sphere, and indicate, the last, suppression of power for a season in regard to the persecuting agency, and the first, entire cessation or destruction of this power, so that no nation now, as such, attempts to extirpate the Christian religion from the earth, but, on the contrary, all nations open their doors to its coming and invite its agencies and its civilization.

We thus see that this description of the thousand years does not refer to a future period, but to one that is past. This is not the description of an era of prosperity either before a future parousia of Christ, as the postmillennialists would have us believe; nor a season of wonderful glory after the parousia of Christ, as the premillennialists endeavor to persuade us. Neither is it an adequate description of the grand reign of Christ, under the peace and blessedness of which Christianity prevails over all the earth. As the author just quoted most truthfully observes: “The more critical studies of recent scholars are showing that this assumption is unwarranted, and that it confounds things which are unlike in nearly every particular. Take from them the idea that both involve a curtailment, in some sense, of the power of evil, and there is nothing in common between them. On the other hand, the differences are radical and irreconcilable.

The millennium of the Apocalypse is the binding of Satan as a persecutor only, the instigator of the bloody hostility to the Church of which the beast and the false prophet had been his instruments; the latter-day glory of the prophets is a period of universal holiness. The former was to last one thousand years, the latter to be without end. That was to coexist with nations in the distant parts of the earth that had never been brought into subjection to Christ [who these nations are is a question which causes great perplexity to millenarians], ‘whose number is as the sand of the sea’ this was to be absolutely universal, ‘from sea to sea, and from the rivers unto the ends of the earth,’ ‘from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same.’ The one was to be followed by the loosing of Satan again, and the gathering of vast numbers of yet unsubdued enemies in a final assault upon Christ’s kingdom — an idea utterly inconsistent with the everlasting triumph and peace of the other. It is impossible to identify the two periods from the descriptions given in the Scriptures, without doing violence to every principle of consistent interpretation.”

We therefore conclude that the millennium is not a future event to be thought of and longed for as a period bringing desirable conditions and times of wonderful glory. Rather let us believe that Christ now reigns in all his glorious power, and that this blessed reign shall continue forever and ever, and that meanwhile this earth shall be brought into complete subjection to redeemed man, and possibly be the dwelling place of glorified humanity.


The New Jerusalem

The new Jerusalem is the triumphant Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a city in which the Church dwells; the city is the Church. All precious things which could be used with effect by the writer of the book of Revelation were used by him to portray the spiritual beauties and heavenly glories of the Bride of the Lamb. She is represented as coming down from God out of heaven, to indicate her divine origin. In the mind of God originated the idea of the Church, and so believers were chosen in Christ, before the foundation of the world (Eph. i, 4). All her principles, all her sentiments, all her experiences, all her joys, all her blessings, are heavenly in character; so she is shown to John as descending from heaven. Her glory is also divine. Earthly power, earthly dominion, earthly conquest, earthly honor, earthly pleasures, add not to her dignity, nor do they bestow a single ray of glory. The great boast of the Church should be that the great God is her originator and sustainer. The light which she sheds forth is of a peculiar character, as that which might come from the most precious stone imaginable combined with the diamond of the purest luster. She is the light of the world. She is to be the luminary that shall dispel all moral gloom from mankind forever. The wall is great and high, to indicate perfect separation from the world. “For what fellowship hath righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor. vi, 14-16).

But while there is to be perfect separation, there is also to be complete access; so twelve gates are provided, that the righteous nations may become part of the Church represented by the city; and these gates are continually open, and not, as were the gates of ancient cities, closed at nightfall, for no night comes to the new Jerusalem. And through these gates are brought the glory and the honor of the nations, but there cannot enter through them anything unclean or he that maketh an abomination and a lie, but only they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

These alone form this city; no church register of earth is consulted when the gate is approached by the traveler, but the record kept within the city and written by the hand of the Lord. The angels guard the portals. No perverse one can gain admittance. The wicked are without These gates face the great divisions of the world, so that they may come from the east and the west, and from the north and the south, and sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God. The foundations of the wall have on them the names of the twelve apostles, for these foundations represent the great doctrines of the Gospel as preached by those sent personally by Christ, and thus the principles of the Gospel become the foundation for the separation demanded and for the security of the Church from invasion and corruption.

The city is constructed according to plan. That plan is in the divine mind. God possesses the archetypes. Everything is by measurement, as were the great temples of the ancients. The reed is golden, for it is a perfect measure, and by it the city is found to be a perfect cube, the symbol of perfection. A great number is given for the symbol of its extent, that we may be sure that there is room for all mankind to be encompassed by its security and admitted to the enjoyment of its privileges, and the measurement is tripled, that here also there may be perfection of room. The perfection of the wall is indicated by the twelve times twelve of the cubits of the angel-man.

The material of the wall is of the most precious and costly character, to indicate its perpetuity, and the whole city is of the most valuable material known, gold refined to transparency, to denote the value which God puts upon true and sincere holiness. The foundations are adorned with all beautiful and costly stones, perhaps constructed of these costly materials, and it will be found, doubtless, that here are the very stones which sparkled in the breastplate of the high priest; and could we ascertain their true colors, we should find that they presented a perfect gamut of color, corresponding, perhaps, to the musical scale. The gates are all alike, and of a single pearl each, to denote that there is no variation in the qualifications demanded for entrance into Christ’s true Church. Even the street — there is but one street — is of gold, and that also highly refined, to show the necessity of the highest holiness in the approach to the throne of the holy God and the Lamb without spot.

But though there be a throne — perfect rule and perfect law — there is no temple; for God is himself the temple of the Church, and the Church is the temple of God. There is no need of earthly lights or material luminaries, for this is a spiritual city, and the glory of God lightens it. “He that followeth me,” said Jesus, “shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light; of life.” God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. Light is the symbol of truth, and light is sown for the righteous.

Through the pure golden street of the city flows a river bright as crystal. It is the Holy Spirit, which waters the tree of life and causes it to bring forth its fruit in supernaturally plenteous profusion for the use of the Church, its leaves figuring all those blessed agencies used for the conversion of the world. “The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Still, then, we find that the Church in its glorious estate, as here described, is yet related to the nations, and its sanitary, salutary, life-giving power is still put forth for the saving of all peoples. “And the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory into it.”

We are not, then, here viewing the Church in its glorified condition, far removed from earthly scenes and enjoying a heavenly seclusion:

“Far from this world of grief and sin; With God eternally shut in.”

“What is the greatest blessing of the new Jerusalem?” asked one saint of another. “His servants shall serve him,” was the reply. Yes, here we have the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ adorned as a bride for her husband, and beautified with all spiritual embellishments, that she may save the nations and glow with holy light to lead them to God.

Dr. Terry says: “The new Jerusalem is a symbol of the ‘Church of the first born who are enrolled in heaven’ (Heb. xii, 23). It is composed of that great multitude in earth and heaven who are conceived in the New Testament as already ‘raised together with Christ’ (Col. iii, 1). For such exalted saints death has no sting. According to John xi, 26, he who lives and believes in Christ shall never die. His life is hidden with Christ in God, and so, in the profoundest sense, the temple, in which he dwells and worships forever, is ‘the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb’ (Rev. xxi, 22; comp. 1 John iv, 16). The entire Church is thus conceived as the living body of Christ, and all ideals of triumph and glory which the Hebrew prophets associated with Messiah’s reign are included in the New Testament Church and kingdom of God. ‘They shall see his face; his name shall be on their foreheads, and they shall reign forever and ever’” (The Bible as Literature, pages 360, 361). Amen.


Changes Required

The system of eschatology which this work presents requires that certain changes be made not only in the current thought of the day concerning the second coming of Christ, but in creeds, articles of faith, rituals, and hymns, where they refer to this and kindred eschatological subjects.

These changes will be antagonized by some conservatives, as all reforms are liable to be, whether in physics, economics, or dogmatics. But we do not submit these propositions for alterations in symbols and formulas and hymns from a mere desire to meddle, or for the purpose of ridiculing the antique, but because we believe the truth demands these changes in what are mere human productions, possibly based upon erroneous opinions. We ask, therefore, for these suggestions an unprejudiced hearing; and being found in accordance with truth, they may be accepted because they are so, whether agreeing with preconceived opinions or not.

1. There is an imperative demand that there be made a rearrangement of the books of the New Testament, if not those of the whole Bible. As we have seen, great confusion and endless misapprehension have been created by placing the Apocalypse at the end of the New Testament series of books instead of in its proper place, before the Second Epistle of John; and It is just as certain that much would be made clear, and a great gain made in regard to the epistles of Paul, if they were placed in their chronological order and not, as at present, in the order of importance. We therefore suggest the following order: (1) Mark; (2) Matthew; (3) Luke; (4) Acts; (5) 1 Thessalonians; (6) 2 Thessalonians; (7) 1 Corinthians; (8) 2 Corinthians; (9) Galatians; (10) Romans; (11) Philemon; (12) Colossians; (13) Ephesians; (14) Philippians; (15) i Timothy; (16) Titus; (17) 2 Timothy; (18) Revelation; (19) 2 John; (20) 3 John; (21) James; (22) Jude; (23) 1 Peter; (24) 2 Peter; (25) Hebrews; (26) 1 John; (27) Gospel of John.

2. The next change we suggest is the alteration of the creeds. We know that alterations have frequently been made in these venerable symbols, both by the addition and subtraction of matter. The words “He descended into hell” were introduced into the Apostles’ Creed in the fifth century; the creed itself, in its present form, being generally admitted to be not older than the fourth century. Several additions were made to the Nicene Creed by the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, A. D. 381, and the Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America which met in 1785 passed an act expunging both the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds from the proposed Book of Common Prayer. When the book was placed before the English bishops they required the restoration of both creeds before they would consent to consecrate the American bishops, but the Convention refused utterly to restore the Athanasian Creed.

The change required is in the sentence which is nearly similar in all the three great creeds: “and from thence shall come again at the end of the world to judge the quick and the dead,” As the correct teaching of God’s word is that “the end of the world” is merely the end of the age; and as the end of the age has already occurred, taking place long centuries ago; and as Jesus Christ did come at the end of the age, as he promised he would, and therefore is not to make his second appearance at a supposed end of the world still in the future; and inasmuch as the judgment was inaugurated when he came and is now proceeding — the requisition is that the sentence be so altered as to read something like this : “as the judge of the dead and the living.”

3. Another change is one that should be made in the fourth of the Articles of Religion of the Church of England and the third of those of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The sentence objected to reads: “and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the last day.” Let it be altered so as to read: “and there sitteth as the judge of all men.”

4. The fourth change we ask for is one regarding the Ritual for the Burial of the Dead as used by some of the Churches. The usual forms could be greatly and profitably improved by ridding them of the melancholy tone imparted by the introduction of passages from the Old Testament some of which are unillumined by any ray of Christian hope, and confining biblical extracts to those parts which are bright with joyous hopes of a glorious immortality. The portion of the ritual in the English and American Episcopal prayer book commencing with “Almighty God, with whom do live the spirits of those who depart hence,” is admirable, and has been wisely inserted in the ritual of a large denomination; but from this strike ‘ the spirits of” and “the souls of;” for, as we have seen, the persons themselves dwell with God.

Another suggested alteration is to change the sentence “looking for the general resurrection in the last day,” for this: “believing in the spiritual body and the life of the glorified state.” As the “last day” is a day long since past and gone, and as the resurrection which was to take place on that day is an event which has long ago occurred, it is something which no one can actually look for.

The third change we suggest regards the sentence “at whose second coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the earth and the sea shall give up their dead; and the corruptible bodies of those who sleep in him shall be changed and made like unto his own glorious body.” As the second coming of the Lord has taken place, strike out all allusion to it here, and also allusion to the earth and sea giving up their dead, and then change the succeeding words so that the whole passage may read thus: “Believing in the spiritual body and the life everlasting in heaven through our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change the body of our humiliation that it may be made like unto his glorious body; according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself

Fourth, strike out the words “not” and “eternally” before and after the word “die” in the Collect, and insert “never;” so that the sentence shall read, as the Gospel has it, “and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die,” that the true teaching of our Lord may appear; and then so change the remainder of the Collect that it also may teach true doctrine and read thus: “That when we shall depart this life we may rest in heaven; and being found acceptable in thy sight, and received into the company of the glorified, may forever adore and serve thee in the mansions of thy house on high, prepared for us by thy blessed Son. Grant this,” etc.

5. In a Form for the Dedication of a Church, used by one of the denominations, we have false teaching. In the last paragraph we read, “and be at last received into the glorious temple above; the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Now, John tells us that in the new Jerusalem, which symbolizes the triumphant and glorified Church of Christ, there is no temple. “And I saw no temple therein” (Rev. xxi, 22). Again, if there were a temple, it would not be “the house not made with hands” conceived, in the sentence we criticise, as a building into which the people of God will be received en masse; for Paul teaches us, according to the opinion of the best modem scholars, that this “house not made with hands” was the spiritual and heavenly body which he expected to obtain at death. It would be well, therefore, to strike out these words entirely and supply something like this: “and at last make part of that city wherein is no temple, and where thy servants shall serve thee.”

6. This system demands that there should be numerous changes in the hymnology now current In the Churches. It requires that all allusions to a future coming of Christ be eliminated, and also all references to a final judgment, still in the future, at which shall be assembled all of earth’s inhabitants to be judged simultaneously. So also those expressions which teach that this material body is the one that shall be raised at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, in a still distant day; as:

“When the last trumpet’s awful voice
This rending earth shall shake;
When opening graves shall yield their charge.
And dust to life awake.”

Some hymns on these subjects are full of contradictory statements and irreconcilable situations. In one hymn we are told that “the saints who die of Christ possessed enter into immediate rest,” with the inference that this rest is “the glorious prize they find with Christ in paradise;” while in the next hymn the “faithful tomb” is asked to unveil its bosom and take a new treasure to its trust; and then the assurance is given that “no mortal woes can reach the peaceful sleeper here; while angels watch the soft repose,” and the advice given, “Rest here, blest saint, till from his throne the morning break and pierce the shade;” which implies that the rest is not a heavenly but a sepulchral one. In one hymn it is asserted of the saints,

“Yet glorified by grace alone
They cast their crowns before the throne,”

as soon as they die; and in another hymn on the coming of Christ we are told that he then comes “to make our joys o’erflow; palms of victory, crowns of glory to bestow.” In one hymn Charles Wesley triumphantly sings:

“Hark ! a voice divides the sky, —
Happy are the faithful dead!
In the Lord who sweetly die,
They from all their toils are freed;
Them the Spirit hath declared
Blest, unutterably blest;
Jesus is their great reward,
Jesus is their endless rest

“Enter,and receive thy crown;
Reign with me triumphant now,’

while a few pages onward J. R. Macduff sorrowfully sighs:

“Long thy exiles have been pining.
Far from rest, and home, and thee;
But, in heavenly vesture shining.
Soon they shall thy glory see;
Christ is coming !
Haste the joyous jubilee” -

as though it were not till Christ’s coming, in the near or far future, that Christians would obtain their rest and crown of glory. Other clashing lines might be quoted, but these will suffice to show the need of revision — allowing, that is, the truth of our doctrine.

7. We ask especially that there be a change in the notes on the International and other Sunday school lessons, so that the true teaching of the Scriptures may be imparted in our thousands of Sunday schools; and, if there cannot be made changes which some might consider too radical, let there be at least uniformity of exegesis and exposition, so that one part of the lesson help shall not contradict another in regard to these eschatological subjects.

These changes being made, there will be presented to the world a much more consistent and, we believe, a more acceptable body of truth; the Church of Christ thus becoming more fully “the pillar and ground of the truth” and the great enlightener of mankind.

The End