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II. In passages expressing continuance until these events.
1 Tim. vi. 13, “I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession ; (14) That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ : (15) Which in his time he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords ; (16) Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto : whom no man hath seen, nor can see; to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen.”
The preceding charge occurs, it will be observed, in a private letter to a single individual.
Phil. i. 3, “ I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, (4) Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, (5) For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; (6) Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
1 Thess. v. 23, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (24) Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."
Rev. ii. 24, “But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, As many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden : (25) But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come. (26) And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations : (27) (And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers :) even as I received of my Father.”
What strange language, if the coming of Christ was not expected till thousands of years, it might be, after those who were addressed had all fallen into the sleep of death! And, upon this supposition, how remarkable the prayer in 1 Thess. v. 23, for the preservation of the body unto this coming! The corruption of the grave is surely a strange species of preservation! The following passage is cited in illustration, rather than proof.
1 Cor. viii. 13, “ Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”
III. In passages in which the Apostles speak of their own times as the last days, and find in them the predicted signs of these events. — Among these signs may be mentioned, —
1. The special outpouring of the Spirit predicted by the prophet Joel, whose words were thus cited and applied by the Apostle Peter upon the day of Pentecost :
Acts ii. 16, “ But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, (17) And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh : and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams : (18) And on my servants, and on my hand-maidens, I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: (19) And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath ; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke. (20) The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come. (21) And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved.”
2. The appearance of false teachers, which our Saviour had thus predicted : “ For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders ; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect,” Mat. xxiv. 24.
1 John ii. 17, “ And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (18) Little children, it is the last time : and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists ; whereby we know that it is the last time."
1 John iv. 1, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (2) Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God: (3) And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God. And this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come ; and even now already is it in the world.”
1 Tim. iv. 1, “ Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils ; (2) Speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron ; (3) Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. (4) For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving : (5) For it is sanctified by the word of God, and prayer. (6) If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. (7) But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. (8) For bodily exercise profiteth little : but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
2 Tim. iii. 1, “ This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. (2) For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, (3) Without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, (4) Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; (6) Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof : from such turn away. (6) For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts : (7) Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (8) Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth : men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. (9) But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.”
2 Pet. iii. 3, “ Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, (4) And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. (5) For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water."
Jude 17,“ But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ ; (18) How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. (19) These be they who separate themselves, sensual, haying not the Spirit. (20) But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
(21) Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (22). And of some have compassion, making a difference: (23) And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (24) Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, (25) To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”
In all these passages, it is manifest that the Apostles are speaking of their own times. With how little reason, then, do some apply the extract from 1 Tim. iv. to the Roman Catholic Church! Surely it could not have been of great consequence to warn the youthful bishop of Ephesus to “refuse the profane and old wives' fables” of errorists who were to spring up several centuries after his death ; and that he should not be carried away by the excessive stress which they would lay upon “ bodily exercise,” that is, upon ascetic training, or the mortification of the bodily appetites. Besides, other passages show that this error was prevalent in the times of the Apostles. See, for example, Col. ii. 20 – 23.
3. The preaching of the gospel throughout the world, in accordance with the prediction, " And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come,” Mat. xxiv. 14. Such had been the unparalleled fidelity and success of the Apostles and their coadjutors, that St. Paul regarded this sign as already fulfilled.
Rom. x. 17, “ So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (18) But I say, Have they not heard ? Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.”