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the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with them 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. But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly. that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape."
The connexion in this quotation is of such a character, and the coming of the Lord is here so intimately, so directly joined with the resurrection and gathering of all who are in Christ Jesus, as to render this a very important witness in this case. We have here almost every particular, named or implied, connected with Christ's coming in Matthew. 1. His coming in the clouds, we imply from * They shall be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” 2. Unexpectedly as a thief: "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." The fifth particular, that he will be attended by his angels, is implied from their being caught up to meet the Lord. 6. The gaihering his elect: “ The dead in Christ shall rise first, then we that are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them.” Here is the gathering of all the dead and living saints. 7. With the trumpet.“ The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. 8. He will reward his faithful servants. “And so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 9. And punish the unfaithful. “For when they shall say peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them.” 10. Then, wherever the godly and ungodly are associated, “ One shall be taken, and another left." add the suddenness of the event, also the clearness of it, will render it “ As the lightning." And that thus manifested to the world, all must see him, (the 3d and 4th particulars,) then we have every particular here embraced, which we have noticed in Matthew, connected with Christ's coming.
These things are to take place at the resurrection of the dead. Then so certainly as the dead are not yet raised, and the living saints are not yet changed, and both caught up together, so certainly the coming of Christ in the clouds, the gathering his elect with the great sound of a trumpet, the rewarding his faithful servants, and punishing the unfaithful with sudden destruction, is future, is yet to come.
Then, whatever opinion we may form of the figurative exposition of these predictions, we may be assured they are yet to receive a literal and full accomplishment in all their particulars. One quo
If we may
tation more to this point, among the numerous list that presents itself, must suffice.
2 Thess. i., 7–10. “And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power: when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.” We have here the coming of Christ, “ With his angels," " Like the lightning," " In flaming fire." I have now finished quotations embracing every particular, named in connexion with the coming of the Son of man, in Matthew. Every one who believes the testimony of the witnesses, must believe that those predictions are yet to receive their accomplishment.
VIII. It will be seen that this exposition agrees with the order of the events as recorded by the three evangelists. 1. The signs of that destruction which has involved the Jews, as a nation, in unparalleled tribulation. 2. The tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world, to this time. Take the national calamities of that people, consider both their severity and their duration, and they have no parallel in the world's history. 3. The signs of Christ's coming, after that tribulation. “Signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity ; the sea and the waves roaring.” 4. The appearing of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven. 5. The gathering of the elect by the angels, with the sound of the trumpet. 6. The reward of the righteous and wicked. All the events, in their several classes, by the literal exposition, occur precisely in the order in which they stand in the predictions. And this is certainly a circumstance to which some importance should be attached. "In the historical part of their writings, particular attention is not paid to the order of time in which the events occurred: nor is it important. But when we come to prophecy, when that order is necessary to a right interpretation, they all preserve the order of the predicted event, and a right exposition should agree with, not derange it.
2. When that arrangement of the events is expressly sanctioned by the Lord Jesus Christ, and he has explicitly told us that one event follows, is “after" another event, who would feel authorised to contradict the Saviour by their interpretation? This exposition does not contradict him. It admits, it places after that tribulation, the signs of a Saviour's coming. It gives credence to, it accords with, the Saviour's declaration. This cannot be said of the figurative exposition.
3. This exposition allows and exhibits a satisfactory fulfilment of all the particulars in the prophecy. By this exposition they see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great
glory. The elect, the people of God, are gathered together from one end of heaven to the other. They are all included and gathered, how much soever they may have been dispersed and scattered abroad. The work of redemption is, indeed, completed ; they are redeemed from corruption and death; they are caught up together in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so be ever with the Lord. Then the kingdom of God will come, and his will be done in earth as it is done in heaven; this is the redemption, this the gathering the elect, this the kingdom of God, for which the saints of God sigh, and hope, and wait. No redemption short of that will meet the wishes of the disciples of Jesus. “We wait for the adoption, to wit: the redemption of our body.”_" Then shall I be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness.”
4. While the figurative exposition is entirely unsupported by other scriptures, there not being a passage found in all the New Testament, which connects the tribulation of the Jews, and the coming of the Son of man, in point of time, this literal exposition receives abundant support from other scripture, as we have already seen. The coming of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven, and every following prediction is sustained by other scripture. And that other scripture is so connected with the resurrection of the dead saints, and the change of the living to immortality, that they cannot be carried back to the destruction of Jerusalem. There is such exact agreement in the particulars connected with the coming of the Son of man, in Mat., chap. xxiv., and i Thess., chap. iv., that we can hardly doubt their reference to the same events.
IX. If the reader will turn to his New Testament, and draw a line across after Mat., v. 22, Mark, v. 20, Luke, v. 24, and then will examine closely, he will find, 1. that the coming of the Son of man is not named in the preceding part of the chapters; save in the disciples question, not a prediction refers to it; but signs and admonitions followed, and concluded by the great and enduring tribulation of the Jews. This tribulation, bounded by no specified time of centuries or years, but by the undefined, uncertain time, “ Until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
2. After this mark he will find the prediction of the coming of the Son of man, preceded by the signs of his approach, and preceded and followed by cautions and admonition. He will not find the calamities of the Jews, their tribulation referred to at all, not named. It is the coming of the Son of man: “ And they shall see the Son of man coming." _“ So shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”—“ Ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”—" For, in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.”"Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he cometh, shall find so doing.”
3. He will find the coming of the Son of man, preceded by another class of signs, differing from the signs of the first event. And
that the signs of the second event, the coming of the Son of man, are expressly declared to be after the other event, the tribulation of the Jews, is terminated. Can it be possible, that events thus differing in the language of their description, and in the signs that precede them, distinct from each other in the order of their arrangement, and severed from each other by the express declaration of Jesus Christ, declaring the signs preceding one, to be after the conclusion of the other, can be believed to be the same event?
X. There are some difficulties in the way of this exposition. I will consider them. 1. Mat. xxiv., 29. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days, shall the sun be darkened." The word “ Immediately," presents the only difficulty in this passage, and it may be regarded as a singular fact, that the very words fatal to one exposition, should seem also to interpose difficulties in the way of the other. It is “after,” consequently cannot be at, or during the tribulation. It is “ immediately after,” and there would not seem to admit of so long delay as the centuries that have followed the time of the prediction.
We will insert what Luke records, which Matthew omits. “ For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”—“ And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”—“ And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake, those days shall be shortened.”—“ Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened." Does the death of those that perished, the captivity of the survivors, the destruction of their city and temple, and its possession by their enemies, all go to make up the tribulation of those days? Or did the tribulation consist of but a part of those particulars named? If we suppose the whole included in the “ Tribulation of those days," then the difficulty vanishes; for then the tribulation continues so long as the Jews are without a home and a country, and Zion, the city of their solemnities, is trodden down by the Gentiles. And why should we restrict the tribulation of those days, by the continuance of the days of war and siege? Did the tribulation end with the days! That the tribulation of days of war and siege, continues long after the close of the war, the sighs of the homeless captive, and the groaning of the prisoners abundantly prove. As Jesus himself so describes the tribulation, as to embrace that tribulation which was suffered, and also that occasioned by the war, we are under obligation so to accept it.
Mark'says, “ In those days, after that tribulation.” This has led some to suppose that he means the same days previously named : "For in those days shall be great affliction." But the language of the evangelist makes them necessarily different. Looking forward to the future, speaking of future days: “ Those days of great af
fliction,” and “ Those days, after that tribulation,” would be as evidently different days, as language could make them so. When we consider that Jesus had previously described the tribulation as recorded by Luke: " And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled;" and add, “ In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened,” it would seem as though the subject was placed beyond doubt.
Luke, and only Luke, records the language, particularly describing the tribulation. Mark assures us the signs of Christ's coming, "Shall be in those days, after that tribulation.” Matthew, that it shall be “ Immediately after."
Now, whoever would explain this differently, let them remember that they must do it so as to admit Luke, v. 24, before Mat., t. 29. And then they must place the signs of Christ's coming, after that tribulation, not before, nor at: and then, Christ's coming must follow the signs. Then if they can get the coming of Christ before the tribulation of the Jews, with the approach of the Roman army to invest the city, they can make themselves believe that which I cannot.
It may be proper to add to this section, the language of an apostle : “ There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, where is the promise of his coining ? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”—“ But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness ; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;" 2 Pet. iii., 3.
Mat. xxiv., 34. “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Several different expositions are given to this passage. 1. That the age then present, the men then live ing should not die, until all the preceding predictions were fulfilled. 2. That the age who should witness the destruction of the sun, the moon, and the falling of the stars, should not pass away until Christ came. 3. That family, the Jews, the family of Abraham, should be preserved, notwithstanding the persecutions and trials to which they should be subjected, until the accomplishment of all those predictions. 4. The disciples of Christ, who are a chosen generation, should be preserved, and the true religion continued in existence, until all those predictions should meet their accomplishment. The first exposition of this passage only presents objections to the literal exposition of these predictions. That only, therefore, need be particularly considered in this place. The definition given to the Greek word, here used, by Grove, in his Greek Lexicon, is, “ descent, succession, birth, parentage, a race, breed, kind, sort, species,