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Remarks on some Passages in the First, Second, and Third
Chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.
We are told, in the Acts of the Holy Apostles, that our blessed Lord, during the “ forty days” between his Fesurrection and ascension, when he occasionally appeared to his disciples, “ spake of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” We may, however, fairly conclude, that nothing had transpired in these his last instructions, to alter, in the minds of his followers, those views of the final establishment of the kingdom of Messiah — to reign at Jerusalem and unto the end of the
earth - which, with all the Jews, they had received from the perusal of the Old Testament: for “ when they were come together,” to witness his ascension,
“ They asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou, at this time, restore the kingdom unto Israel ?"
This question takes for granted that such an event was to happen. They question their divine Master, not as to the fact, but as to the time. His answer, too, admits the justness of their expectations, but checks their inquiries as to the period :
“ It is not for you to know the times and seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power."
The appointment of the kingdom to our Lord and Saviour is ever considered as the gift of the Father, to
reward the merits of his only begotten Son, become the Son of Man, and destined to share the glory thus acquired with all his brethren, “ the children whom God hath given him." He, therefore, represents himself as waiting, at the head of his adopted family, the Father's pleasure concerning the kingdom, while, as their great Mediator, he offers up the prayers of his people for its coming.
It belongs to our subject, also, to notice the declaration of the angels, at the time of the Redeemer's ascension :
“ While they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight: and while they looked steadfastly towards heaven, as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, - which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up
you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
These celestial visitants evidently speak to the disciples as representatives of the church of God upon earth. They themselves, as individuals in the flesh, would not see him come again on the earth, - they would "
die, not having received the promise;" but the church is still to keep up the expectation of her Redeemer's coming — of his personal appearance in the clouds of heaven, as the ancient prophets and himself had said.
Compare with this St. Peter's address to the Jews after the day of Pentecost:
“ Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may
be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come,"
Luke, xxi. 8.--" And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived, for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ," Matt., Mark, " and shall deceive many;"-" and the time draweth near: go ye not, therefore, after them.”
I understand these words as a general and leading caution to the church of Christ, in all ages, waiting his second coming. Her great danger would be deceivers, usurping the office- by implication, if not professedly — of the only Mediator between God and man. "The time draweth near" may admit of two expositions: the time is near at hand when you, my disciples, will be exercised with this temptation: or they may mean, the abounding of these successful seducers will be a very conspicuous sign of my appearing; and to this agree the words of subsequent prophecies.
Another afflictive circumstance, which would long exercise the patience of his waiting people, and, in its extreme prevalence towards the last, serve as a sign of his appearing, was the circumstance of great wars and tumults breaking out among the nations of the earth, those nations especially which were professedly the people of God.
Mark, wars and rumours of wars,"these things must first come to pass. and by."
9. "But when ye hear of wars and commotions,"-- Matt "be not terrified, for all But the end is not by
That is," the end" of the world, for this was part of the disciples' question: "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" The answer is, generally, "The appearance of evil seducers,- and the prevalence of wars."
Our Lord's discourse next prepares them for the ap
THE APOSTOLICAL EPISTLES.
In pursuing the object of our inquiry through the apostolical Epistles, I shall generally observe the same chronological order which we have observed in consulting the former oracles of God, and take the Epistles according to their known or supposed dates.
In this view, the first and second Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians will first demand our attention: the Epistle to the Galatians containing nothing specific respecting the second advent, except that it distinguishes “ the Jerusalem that is above,” the “ mother of all true believers," from “ the Jerusalem that now is ;" which distinction we have already quoted in illustration of former prophecies, and to which we may again have to refer.
The last Part of the Fourth Chapter of St. Paul's First
Epistle to the Thessalonians.
In the fourth chapter of St. Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians, we have one of the most express revelations of the second advent any where found in the oracles of God :
13. “ But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."
As surely as Christ has died, and is risen again, that he might be the Lord both of the quick and of the dead, so surely shall God bring with him -- with the great Redeemer when he returns again on the earth, those that sleep in him : the believing dead, who — as to their bodies, sleep in the dust of the earth -- as to their spirits, rest in Paradise, waiting, in incipient happiness and undisturbed repose, the coming of the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
“ For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, That we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them that are asleep."
The apostle says this by express revelation and command of Christ. We notice in this place, again, the peculiar style which the Scripture very generally uses concerning the second advent. It views the church as one and the same waiting family, commanded to watch in constant expectation of its Master's return. Many members of this family, it is true, will die, and be numbered with those that sleep in Jesus, ere the coming of the Lord draws near; but they are equally interested in the approach of that day with the living members of the church that shall then exist on earth : nay, those that are alive and remain to the coming of our Lord will not “ prevent,” anticipate,” or “ be beforehand with,” those that are asleep - God will bring them with Christ. It even appears, from what follows, that they anticipate rather, in the glorious resurrection, those that are on earth :