« PreviousContinue »
rejected him, should gladly welcome him as their God and King. This is clearly implied in the declaration that they should see him no more until they should say "Blessed
is he who cometh in the name of the Lord."
The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, therefore, is a very distinct thing from the coming of Christ. If we keep this in view, we shall find no great difficulty in understanding the following prophecies.
Our gracious Saviour, as we have observed, had uttered these predictions while he was with his disciples in the temple* As he was departing from the sacred building, his disciples called his attention to its magnificence, seeming to say, must all this, the pride and boast of Israel, be indeed destroyed? His answer was:
"Seest thou these great buildings? Verily, I say to you, the days will come, in the which". "there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down!"
They were proceeding on their way to the Mount of Olives when they had arrived there, and were seated on its summit, with the temple full in their view, and all the holy city lying at their feet, four of his disciples came to him privately," saying,"
"But, Master, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming,' and of the end of the world?""
The subjects of their inquiry are two: 1. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple; 2. The coming of Christ, ever connected in their view with the " end of the world:" for the words " when shall these things be?" will
* Matt. xxiv.; Mark, xiii.; Luke, xxi.
1 Της στις παρουσίας.
2 Ζυντελείας του αιώνος,
naturally be applied to the destruction of the temple, of which they had just heard to their amazement: but, distinct from this, they make it an object of inquiry,"What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?" They meant evidently by his coming, the coming of which he had spoken in the temple, when Israel would see him again and salute him with blessings. By "the world," it is reasonable to suppose they meant what was usually understood to be the import of that term, as applied to the Messiah's coming. By this world, they would mean the present period and dispensation of religion at the end of this period, when Messiah came, they expected a new "world" to commence; a new period and dispensation of things. Such has been the import of the term 'world' in passages we have already considered; and "the world to come" was a term constantly applied, by the Jewish writers, to the times of the Messiah; not to the period of his humiliation, indeed, for of that they had lost sight, but to the season of his glorious reign, which had engrossed all their attention.
We may view, therefore, the prophecy before us very much in the nature of those Old Testament prophecies respecting the coming of Christ and erection of his kingdom, which, together with their grand object, embrace, or occasionally glance at, some nearer object of immediate importance to the church. Thus, in Isaiah's prophecies, the inroad of Assyria, the Babylonian captivity and restoration, and the afflictive scenes of the first advent, came occasionally in our view, while still the future glorious kingdom was the main theme of the prophecy; and our great business was to distinguish where the prophetic vision passed from one subject to another. So, in the prophecies before us, the second coming of
Christ, and the signs of that coming, are the principal subject; but the more immediate destruction of the city and temple, and dispersion of the Jewish nation by the Romans, comes also occasionally in view, and will require carefully to be distinguished from the main subject.
It will be useful here, before we proceed, to review a former prophecy of our Lord, delivered some time previously to the Pharisees, and which I have reserved to this place, as likely to afford an illustration of the one before us. In that prophecy, if I may so speak, the destruction of Jerusalem is not mixed up with the prediction of Christ's coming and kingdom, and yet we see the same general outline traced, as in the prophecy before us. That prophecy, therefore, we will first consider : -
"And when he was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation, neither shall they say lo here, or lo there, for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you," or, " in the midst of you."
I confess, after all that has been written in explanation of this passage, some difficulty remains. I cannot think, with Dr. Macknight, Christ meant to correct the mistaken notions of the Pharisees respecting the nature of the Messiah's kingdom, that it was "not to consist of an outward form of government, to be erected in that particular country:" because we do not know, that, in their conception of the grand outline of the predicted kingdom, they were mistaken; and, notwithstanding what Dr. Campbell has said in his note, I cannot conceive, that, speaking of his kingdom, as the development of a holy
* Luke, xvii. 20.
and vital principle in the hearts of men, he would say to the Pharisees, when he is addressing them as distinct from his disciples," the kingdom of God is within you." The translation of " among you," Dr. Campbell has very properly discountenanced.
I incline to a much more simple interpretation of the passage. The Pharisees mean to ask concerning the glorious kingdom of Messiah, and our Lord, in his answer, meets their question. This glorious kingdom "cometh not with observation;" does not so arise that men can observe and notice its approach, and mark or watch its progress. "It is within you," or " in the midst of you," manifested to the very soul of man: not observed coming by the common exercise of human vision, that sees first at a distance, and then traces the nearer approach of the object, so that the finger can point out "lo here" or "lo there :" but, like the electric darting of the lightning, it is every where in a moment. The wicked it takes unawares, as a thief in the night; it comes upon them as pangs upon a woman with child, and they cannot escape. With respect to the just," in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," they are changed. "For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." "The dead in Christ first rise, then we that are alive and remain shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air."
This I conceive to be the meaning of our Lord's words, "the kingdom of God cometh not with observation;" it cometh not so that you can observe its approach; it is in the midst of you," in a moment, bursting upon you from on high.
What our Divine Instructor immediately says to his
disciples, seems to me to convey the same notions of the day of his coming:
22. "And he said unto his disciples, The days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and ye shall not see it."
Plainly intimating, that the time of his appearing was a season, for which his church would long have to wait, and often would their anxious desires to see its commencement be disappointed. During this" long tarrying," also, greatly would they be harassed by impostors and deceivers, who would raise erroneous expectations of the coming of the Redeemer's kingdom. Our Lord cautions his disciples respecting this :
23." And they shall say to you, See here, or see there: go not after them, nor follow them: for as the lightning that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under the heaven, so shall also the Son of Man be in his day."
The flash of lightning, filling in an instant the whole horizon with light, bursting, in the same moment, into the midst of ten thousand assemblies, is the emblem here given us of the manifestation of the Son of Man to his church. His appearance will be sudden: it will be present to all;" all flesh will see together the glory of Jehovah." Whenever, therefore, we find men pointing to this event, or that event, as a fulfilment of the prophecy of "the coming of Christ," we need not examine their reasonings or go after them. "The coming of Christ" will be an event manifested before the eyes of all: it will not be an object of inquiry or of communication one to another:-a sufficient argument that when one advances an opinion, that the coming of Christ