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sity of his confidential disciples, Peter, James, John, and Andrew; and when he sat down on the mount opposite to the temple, they enquired of him, apart, the time, and the signs, or prognostics of all these mysterious events, 1. the destruction of Jerusalem; 2. his second appearance in glory at the regeneration; and 3. the general judgment at the conclusion of the world*.
• Great has been the embarrassment and perplexity of commentators and sacred critics, respecting the meaning of this enquiry, as stated by the three Evangelists; and four hypotheses are still afloat, on the mysterious, but most important subject.
The first hypothesis confines the whole enquiry to the approaching destruction of Jerusalem. This has been adopted by Hammond, Le Clerc, Whitby, Dodd, &c. Bishops, Newton, Pearce, Newcome, &c. Wakefield, Campbell, Gerard, Elsley, Nesbit, &c.
The second hypothesis extends the enquiry to two questions, and includes the second advent of CHRIST in the regeneration, according to the Jewish expectation. This is supported by Tertullian, Beza, Lightfoot, &c.
The third hypothesis, instead of the second advent, substitutes the last advent of CHRIST, at the end of the world and the general judgment. This has been adopted by the framers of our Liturgy, (See the Collects of the first and third Sundays of Advent, &c.) Heinsius, Clarke, Gilpin, Bishops Porteus, Horsley, &c.
The fourth hypothesis unites all the preceding into three questions, and is supported by Grotius, in his excellent commentary thereon; the sagacious Mede, Henry Taylor, in his Thoughts on the grand Apostasy, Mr. King, in his Morsels of Criticism; and in this work, as appearing to be the least objectionable, and the most consonant to the context, and to the whole tenor of prophecy.
The original terms of the enquiry, may be thus harmonized.
MATTHEW Xxiv. 3.
1. Ποτε ταυτα εσται ;
2. Και, τι, το σημείον της σης παρουσίας ;
3. Και,-της συντέλειας
LUKE XXI. 7.
MARK xiii. 4.
Και, τι, το σημείον όταν μελλη παντα Taura συντελεῖσθαι ;
του αιώνος ;
In every hypothesis the first question in Matthew, repeated by the rest also, is, without hesitation, allowed to relate to the destruction of Jerusalem. Luke adds the sign, or prognostic, omitted by Matthew.
The second question, proposed fully by Matthew, is omitted by the rest. question, proposed elliptically by Matthew, is filled up and explained by Mark.
In the first hypothesis the term πupovσia is incorrectly rendered "coming," or "advent," and supposed to denote CHRIST's coming in judgment on Jerusalem, in the course of that generation, and σvvreλeia rov alwvoc is incorrectly rendered "the end of the age," or conclusion of the Mosaical dispensation; confounding ovvreλeta, "conclusion," with reλoç, "end," Matt. xxiv. 6-14, which unquestionably relates to the destruction of Jerusalem.
In the second hypothesis the term rapovoia is correctly rendered " presence,' or personal appearance, as opposed to aπovoia," absence," Phil. ii. 11, deuoting Tuρovσια του σωματος, "bodily presence," 2 Cor. x. 10. It was first technically used, on this occasion, by Matthew; and was thence adopted to denote our Lord's second ap00
I. "When shall these be?
And what, the sign, when these shall happen?
pearance in glory, as Daniel's SON OF MAN, Dan. vii. 13, by the succeeding writers of the New Testament; Paul, 1 Cor. xv. 23, &c. compare Heb. ix. 28; Peter, 2 Pet. iii. 4; James, v. 7, 8; 1 John, ii. 28; synonymous with εipavela, appearance," 1 Tim. vi. 14, &c. ажокаλviç, "revelation," 1 Cor. i. 7; 2 Pet. i. 7, iv. 13.
But in this hypothesis, συντελεια του αιώνος, is incorrectly confounded with the foregoing technical term, rapovoia; for the phrase is unequivocally used by Matthew, on two other occasions, to denote "the conclusion of the world," or "consummation of all things," as here explained by Mark, first in the parable of the tares, where "the harvest," or general judgment is to take place at the conclusion of the world," Matt. xiii. 39, 40; and again, where our Lord promised to support his Church until the conclusion of the world, Matt. xxviii. And the term ovvrɛλɛta, in the Septuagint version, which is the usual rendering of the Hebrew, (Chalah,) is translated in our English Bible, "a full end," Jer. iv. 27, v. 10-18, xxx. 31, xlvi. 28, Ezek. xi. 13, "an utter end," Nehem. i. 8; "the consummation," Dan. ix. 27; and "utter consumption," Neh. ix. 31. And in the Jewish apocryphal book of Enoch, the general judgment is expressed by a similar phrase, έως συντελεσθῃ κριμα του αιώνος των αιώνων, "until the judgment of the world for evermore shall be concluded."
In the third hypothesis this phrase is rightly understood; but the term πapovσia, is incorrectly used, as in the first hypothesis, chiefly upon the following grounds. 1. It is supposed to denote the sign of THE SON OF MAN, coming in the clouds of Heaven, to punish the Jews, in the course of that generation; coming in the execution of judgment,
as meant Dan. ix. 26.
But" the sign of THE SON OF MAN," Dan, vii. 13, Matt. xxiv. 30, is a distinct prophecy, intimating a visible appearance in the clouds, to found the kingdom of CHRIST, and of the saints, as proved before.
2. OUR LORD declared, that " some of the bystanders should by no means taste of death, until they see the SON OF MAN coming in his kingdom," Matt. xvi. 28, according to Dan. ix. 26.
But the verb oηTE, " see," here does not denote personal appearance, but only the event, or effect of his coming, in the punishment of the Jews; it is therefore equivalent to "observe;" in which sense it is evidently understood by the other Evangelists, in the parallel passages: Luke says simply, "until they see the kingdom of God," ix. 27; and Mark, "until they see the kingdom of God, actually come in power,” (tλŋλv0viav ev dvvaμɛ,) ix. 1; and Paul uses the phrase," the kingdom of GOD in power," to denote the miraculous power, or rod of chastisement for offenders, 1 Cor. iv. 20, 21. Whereas, the verbs expressive of our Lord's personal appearance, are ove00e, oчovrai, or openσeral, signifying to "view" or "be viewed," Matt. xxiv. 30, xxvi. 64, Rev. i. 7, Heb. ix. 28, añoкаλvπTεтαι “to be revealed," Luke xvii. 30, 1 Pet. i. 5, v. 1.
3. And this is confirmed by the omission of the verb "see," in the other texts, intimating the approach of the kingdom of heaven, Matt. iv. 17; or the coming of THE SON OF MAN, Matt. x. 23, in the course of that generation, Matt. xxiii. 36, xxiv. 34.
4. The omission of the second question entirely by Luke and Mark, and of the third question by Luke, is perfectly consistent with their confined plans, for the reasons stated in the text.
There remains, therefore, only the fourth hypothesis, which combines all that is good, and rejects all that is objectionable in the preceding; and sufficiently accords with the revelations to Daniel and to John.
III. And what, the sign when all these shall be concluded, or, of the conclusion of the world?”
For so may the three branches of the enquiry be completed from the joint accounts of the three evangelists; Luke supplying the sign of the first; and Mark the sign of the last; both omitted by Matthew. See the foregoing note.
That this is a correct interpretation of the whole enquiry, involving three distinct questions, may be inferred from our Lord's oracular response, containing three distinct answers to each; as given most fully and collectively, by Matthew, in the xxiv. and xxv. chapters, which ought not to have been separated: Luke and Mark chiefly noticing and explaining his answer to the first question, as of most importance to that generation; more slightly mentioning his answer to the second; and omitting his answer to the last; which they only notice incidentally elsewhere.
We shall, therefore, proceed to state the substance of these answers in order.
1. SIGNS OF THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM.
1 Sign. Many pretenders to be Christ, impostors, false Christs, or Antichrists, saying, that the season of redemption is at hand; who shall deceive many, Matt. xxiv. 5, Mark xiii. 6, Luke xxi. 8.
2. Wars, rumours of wars, and unsettlements, but the end of Jerusalem not yet, Matt. xxiv. 6, 7, Mark xiii. 7, 8, Luke xxi. 9, 10.
3. Great famines, pestilences and earthquakes in divers places; fearful and great signs from heaven, first to happen. All these the beginning of woes, Matt. xxiv. 7, 8, Mark xiii. 8, 9, Luke xxi. 11, 12.
4. Tribulation and persecution of the disciples, by Synagogues, Governors and Kings; trials, scourgings and executions, for CHRIST's sake. Promise of divine support, of utterance and wisdom to confute their adversaries.
5. Apostacy of many disciples; parents, children, relations and friends, hating, betraying, and informing against each other to death, Matt. xxiv. 10, Mark xiii. 12, Luke xxi. 16.
6. The disciples, hated by all for CHRIST's sake. (But a hair of their heads should not perish,) Matt. xxiv. 9, Mark xiii. 13, Luke xxi. 17, 18.
7. Many false prophets who should deceive many, Matt.
8. Prevalence of iniquity and lukewarmness of the many in the Christian Religion, Matt. xxiv. 12. (But the patient endurer to the end should be saved,) Matt. xxiv. 13, Mark xiii. 13, Luke xxi. 19, Heb. x. 36.
9. THE GOSPEL to be preached to all the Gentiles throughout the world; and then, the end of Jerusalem, Matt. xxiv. 14; compare x. 23, Mark xiii. 10; comp. Rom. x. 18, Col. i. 22, 23.
10. The sign of Daniel the prophet to be fulfilled, in the abomination of desolation, seen standing in the Holy place; or the desolation of Jerusalem nigh, when they should see the city surrounded by Roman encampments, Matt. xxiv. 15, Mark xiii. 14, Luke xxi. 20. (Their speedy flight from Jerusalem and Judea to the mountains, recommended to the disciples; and not to enter into the city from the country, during these days of vengeance,) Matt. xxiv. 16-20, Mark xiii. 15-18, Luke xxi. 21, 22.
11. Great and unprecedented tribulation in the land of Judea, and wrath upon the people of the Jews, who should be slain with the sword, and led captive to all nations. And Jerusalem to be trampled by the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled [in turn,] (Dan. viii. 13,) Matt. xxiv. 21, Mark xiii. 19, Luke xxi. 23, 24. (But these days [of war] to be shortened by THE LORD, for the Elect's sake,) Matt. xxiv. 22, Mark xiii. 20.
12. False Christs and false prophets, proposing signs and wonders; saying, that CHRIST is come [to restore again the kingdom to Israel, Luke xvii. 20, xix. 11, Acts i. 6,] and is here, or is there; [hiding] in the desert, or in the secret chambers. (The disciples forewarned not to believe nor follow them, neither to seek Him at that premature season,) Matt. xxiv. 23 -26, Mark xiii. 21-23, Luke xxi. 23.
Most remarkably and exactly were all these signs or prognostics fulfilled, before, and during the Jewish war, till the desolation of Judea by Adrian.
1, 7, 12. These three signs began, proceeded, and ended with false Christs and false Prophets; of which there were many, during that disastrous period, (1 John iv. 1,) as we learn from Josephus.
Theudas, an impostor, persuaded a great multitude to follow him to the river Jordan, promising to divide the river, and give them an easy passage across it; but Fadus, the Roman governor, sent a troop of horse against them, who slew many, dispersed the rest, and beheaded Theudas, about A.D. 48, Joseph. Ant. xx. 4, 1.
Several impostors and deceivers persuaded the people to follow them into the desert, where they proposed to shew them manifest signs and wonders, but Felix, the Roman governor, punished, and brought them back, about A.D. 57, Ant. xx. 7,6.
Soon after, about A.D. 58, an Egyptian false Prophet, led 4000 of the Sicarii, or "Assassins" into the desert, and from thence to Mount Olivet, promising, that they should see the walls of Jerusalem fall down at his command, and that they should then destroy the Roman garrison, and recover their liberty. But the citizens joined Felix, who slew 400 of them, and took 200 prisoners; the Egyptian himself escaped, and was seen no more, Acts xxi. 38, Antiq. xx. 7, 6, Bell. Jud. ii. 13, 5. For these public services, Felix was complimented by the orator Tertullus, Acts xxiv. 3.
Festus, his successor, sent, soon after, an armed force against a deceiver, who had led several persons into the desert, promising them deliverance; and destroyed the deceiver and his adherents, Ant. xx. 7, 10.
During the burning of the temple itself, A.D. 70, a false Prophet seduced about 6000 persons to go up on the portico of the outer temple, promising, that God would send them signs of deliverance; but the Roman soldiers, in their fury, set fire to the portico, and destroyed them all. And Josephus further remarks, that many false Prophets, during the siege, were suborned by the seditious tyrants, to promise the people assistance from God, in order to prevent them from deserting; in which they were but too successful; for as he judiciously remarks, "When the deceiver promises relief from pressing calamities, then the sufferer becomes full of hope," Bell. Jud. vi. 5, 2.
The last and most mischievous of these false Christs or impostors, was the noted Barchochab, "Son of the Star," a title which he assumed, as fulfilling Balaam's famous prophecy, Numb. xxiv. 17; and was patronized by the celebrated Rabbi Akiba. His bloody rebellion, in which he and his abettors were