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That the apostles retained, on matters not positively revealed to them, a strong bias of Jewish sentiment, may be gathered from what Paul says touching the judicial powers of the saints. Do


not know that the saints shall judge the world ? . . . Know ye not that we shall judge angels ?”1 The remark savours of the request of the mother of Zebedee's children, that her two sons should sit on the right hand and the left hand of the Lord in His kingdom.2 And this request seems to have originated in what the Lord had previously said to Peter : “ When the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." 3 This promise was evidently the ground of Paul's expectation. They attached a personal idea to what was intended, as in the case of giving the keys to Peter, 4 in a widely typical sense. This subject of the assessorship granted to the apostles has caused a good deal of controversy. But unless we are ready to indorse the Papal view of the matter, we have no alternative except to conclude that the apostles did not grasp their Divine Master's meaning. What is said in the Revelation of John may, however, enable us to judge more accurately the significance of the Divine promise. We there read “that the holy city had twelve gates, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. . . . And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." 5 sages are clearly written in the purely prophetic style of the Word; but the remark of the apostle to the Corinthians is not properly a prophecy, but a Jewish idea of the mysterious words the Lord had spoken.

The Apostle Peter uses a striking expression regarding this matter. He says, "No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpreta

(reminding us of the Lord's words, “I have told you before it is come to pass, that when it is come to pass ye might believe”?). The word "private” fairly expresses the meaning of the Greek idios; but the original word is peculiarly strong, precisely equivalent to the Latin propriusthat which is properly one's own. How many of these "

own "opinions on prophecy have tended to mislead the world! The way in which the Apostle Peter introduces his remark is striking. He

says, We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto

ye do well to take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn.By a more sure word of prophecy the apostle evidently means that the prophecies of the Old Testament and 11 Cor. vi. 2, 3.

2 Matt. xx. 21. 3 Matt. xix. 28. 4 Matt. xvi. 19. 5 Rev. xxi. 12, 14.

6 2 Peter i. 20.)

7 John xiv. 29.

These pas


those of the Gospel were more certain than anything else; whilst he intimates that much of them was still obscure until the time of the Lord's coming

As might be expected, the way in which the Second Coming is generally mentioned in the Epistles is similarly vague, as an event certain yet not understood. Some thirty allusions to the subject occur in the apostolic letters; as “the day of the Lord;" “ the coming of the Lord;" “ the revealing” or “appearing of the Saviour ;" mostly implying the nearness of the event, and the need of solemn preparation for it. Only in some half-a-dozen instances do we find any particular statements about the mode of its fulfilment. But the statements contained in such texts cannot, as I have before remarked, be regarded as strictly prophetic; on the contrary, they simply present, it can hardly be doubted, the imperfect ideas attached by the writers to the prophecies of the Old Testament, and those which the Lord delivered, respecting the latter days. The writers either employ expressions taken from the prophets without explanation, or—with one solitary exception—they venture upon giving the prophetic words an application to the visible skies, quite overlooking their spiritual significance. In the face of these facts will any one contend that the apostles could not err about an event which they did not understand ?

The first passage to be noticed occurs in the fifte th chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. In this portion the Second Coming is treated in connection with the Resurrection; that important doctrine I can only briefly touch upon now. I must, however, remind the reader that the apostle speaks of “the resurrection of the dead” not the resuscitation of dead bodies. The Greek word for “dead” is always in the masculine gender; whereas, if dead bodies were intended, the neuter form would be employed. Hence he uses this striking expression, “I die daily.” He expressly affirms," there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” “A natural body is sown (not in the ground certainly, but at birth]; a spiritual body is raised.” He says positively " that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." This argument of the apostle is analogous to the Divine teaching in John v. 21-29, where the Lord employs these remarkable

“The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead [not dead bodies] shall hear the voice of the Son of God : and they that hear shall live." The apostle must have had such sentiments in his mind; and whatever other ideas he might have on the subject, it is evident the Divine teaching had a preponderating force. The reason why the apostle treats of the resurrection in connection with the Second


Coming is plain : it was believed that the Lord's Coming was near at hand. This is stated in unmistakable language. “Behold, I show you a mystery ; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." As the same argument is presented in the Epistle to the Thessalonians, I will also cite the latter passage : "For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For 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 [not dead bodies] 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.”1

These two passages are essentially the same, and the apostle's argument is evidently founded on the words which the Lord had spoken. We have here striking references to the spiritual phenomena which attended the vision of angels; as at the Annunciation; the host seen by the shepherds; the Transfiguration ; the Resurrection; and the Ascension. Whatever views the apostles held on this subject (on which they were not specially illuminated), it is plain we must go back to the original predictions in order to understand them at this day. It is clear enough the apostles were in error in supposing that the Lord would appear in their day. It is equally clear that they associated the Lord's appearing with ideas of physical phenomena“the clouds,” “ the air;" doubtless, also the voice, and the trumpet, were considered to be objects of sense. The phenomena which the apostles speak of plainly indicate such things as are described in the Revelation of John, where seven trumpets are represented as successively sounding; the "last trump" being the “seventh trumpet."

If the apostles had been specially illuminated to explain to the Church the meaning of the prophecies they quote, we should be bound to abide by their ideas on the subject. But as the matter stands, we should be compelled to obliterate all reasonable commentaries on the Revelation, all the discoveries of science, and the great doctrine of psychology. We should have to believe that angelic beings and the Lord Himself were objects of physical sense; that the human race would be entirely swept away from the earth; and that the universe would be destroyed. Nevertheless, the prophecies of the Old Testament, and those of the New, assume that the human race are to continue on the earth, and that the Divine kingdom is to be for ever established upon it. Say what we will, then, we are driven to the conclusion that the minds of the apostles were not clear on these latter-day questions; and that whilst their language shows their strong conviction about the Second Coming, there is also much which shows considerable obscurity. We have, therefore, 'no alternative but to take the original prophecies on which the apostles grounded their opinions, and to class them with the visions which are recorded in the Revelation. This will appear still more strikingly from the passages which remain to be noticed.

1 1 Thess. iv. 15-17.

The passage last adverted to so greatly disturbed the Thessalonian Church that the apostle wrote a second epistle to moderate the effects of the first. On reflection he qualifies his former statement as to the nearness of the Second Coming; calling to mind, evidently, the warnings which the Lord gave His disciples on the Mount of Olivet : "there will come a falling away first,” and “the man of sin will be revealed.” Yet he reiterates the momentous fact itself in the strongest terms. “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the Gospel ;” “ when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.” But we have here nothing more than the repetition of the Jewish prophets. “The day of vengeance is in Mine heart.” “I will tread down the people in Mine anger.” 1 “For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword will the Lord plead with all flesh.” 2 As pointed out in the second section of this essay,

these passages are applicable to both the Advents. But when the disciples would have called down “fire from heaven,” the Lord rebuked them, saying, “ Ye know not what spirit ye are of.”3 As regards the "sword” of judgment, we read in the Revelation, in the vision of the Son of Man, that “out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword.” 4 As regards the "mighty angels,” the same reflection applies here which arose from a consideration of the parable respecting the wheat and the tares. Necessarily the operations of angels are conducted in the world of spirits, not on the physical globe. Moreover, the judgment which the apostle speaks of is the same as that described in the Lord's parable of the sheep and the goats. Whatever explanation the parable involves must be implied in the citation. The apostle does not explain the parable ; he only refers to it. That the last judgment involved a momentous operation in the world of spirits, followed i Isa. lxiii. 4, 6. 2 Isa. lxvi. 15, 16.

3 Luke ix. 55. ' Vide p. 120.

5 Matt. xxv.

by marvellous effects in the present world, there is not a shadow of a doubt. And how truly applicable, so understood, are the words of Paul respecting the reception of the truth : “He shall be admired in all them that believe.

The next passage in which the Second Coming is particularly referred to is in the third chapter of the Second Epistle of Peter.

It is important to notice that the Apostle Peter introduces his remarks by referring to the two authorities from which they are derived. He does not really deliver a separate prophecy. He says, “Be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us [i.e. the commandment received by us], the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.” So, referring like Paul to the Lord's words on Olivet, he says, “There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming ?” Next he refers to “the Flood,” repeating the very words of the Lord in Matthew xxiv. Undoubtedly the Jews regarded this as a physical catastrophe, and the Lord did not specially explain His words. He then argues, still borrowing the imagery of the ancient prophets, that the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment, and perdition of ungodly men.” These words are synonymous with those in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians before quoted. But Peter in this case reveals somewhat of the “private" sentiments of the apostles. He says, “The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also shall be burned up.” “Nevertheless," says the apostle, going back to the prophet Isaiah, "we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteous

Now, it needs no argument to show that “righteousness” is no attribute of the physical globe, but of the Lord's kingdom in the hearts of men.

Thus, weighing well all that the prophets have written, and all that the Lord has said, upon this momentous consummation, I do not see that any absolute necessity is laid upon us to abide by the Jewish conceits inevitable in the apostolic age.

There is only one other passage in the Epistles to which I shall refer ; but it is one remarkably different from any other. By whom written it is hard to say, for the Epistle to the Hebrews, although commonly ascribed to Paul, does not bear either the usual initiatory formula or the concluding evidence. It is highly probable it was written by St. Luke, it may be at the request of Paul, and with some degree of dictation. But there can be no doubt that the Epistle bears

i Isa. lxv. 17.


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