Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

sight of and rejected the doctrine of a pre-millennial Advent of Christ, an interpretation has been sought for and persisted in necessarily at variance with that view of the kingdom of our Lord taken by me in former Essays; and accordingly it is at once concluded, that the subject now to be treated of refers to the general Resurrection and the ultimate Judgment.

In proceeding however to demonstrate, that this portion of Scripture relates to events which will occur immediately before, or at the beginning of, the Millennium, I desire to submit my sentiments upon the subject with unfeigned deference to the criticism of others. I am not, I trust, so wedded to a system of interpretation as to determine to make all things bend to it: yet there do appear to me insuperable objections to the reception of the ordinary interpretation. I shall begin first by pointing out some of these difficulties.

1. My first reason for concluding against it is derived from the whole scope of the Prophecy. I have already observed, that the discourse of our Lord, commenced in chap. xxiv. is continued throughout chap. xxv. The word "then," with which the parable of the Virgins commences, plainly evinces, that the time of the action of the events there spoken of must be the same as the time when those events are to be transacted, intimated in the latter part of chapter xxiv. The Reader will perceive that the word "for," with which the parable of the Talents commences, (v. 14,) equally connects that subject with the parable of the Virgins; and the Sheep and Goats must likewise be admitted to be a continuation of the same subject, unless we suppose that there is here an abrupt transition in the discourse of our Lord, for which I think it would be very difficult to assign a satisfactory reason. I conceive, that this chapter sets forth one and the same judgment, but under three different aspects; and of course exhibiting various circumstances of it. Commentators however interpret the Advent of our Lord described in chap. xxiv. as referring to his providential visitation on Jerusalem: and though there is not the slightest intimation that any other Advent is spoken of in chapter xxv. they nevertheless refer that, without any ceremony, to the period of ultimate judgment after the Millennium! I think the considerate Reader will find this an insuperable objection to the prevailing hypothesis.

2. Another difficulty which presents itself, if these two chapters are to be received as reaching down to the last judgment, is, that they do not contain the slightest intimation of the Millennium! It is a remarkable feature in the present state of prophetical investigation, that the thousand years period of felicity and triumph to the Church is not now questioned. A

century back numerous christians were sceptical on the subject; and, previous to that, eminent divines had laboured to prove that the Millennium had already passed. Indeed, within these last ten years only, ministers were not unfrequently interrogated for information on the subject by individuals who were acquainted with it by nothing but the name. Now, however, though men entertain very different views in regard to the character of the Millennium, and all are not agreed even in respect to the term of its duration, (some supposing that it may last for 365,000 years,*) yet, I repeat, the fact itself of a Millennium to come is not now disputed. But where (I ask) is it described in Matthew xxiv. and xxv. if the anti-millenarian hypothesis be correct? Is it credible, that a period of rest and glory to the Church, such as it is generally expected to prove, should be passed over in silence, in a prophecy which is assumed to describe the great tribulation of the Jews, the times of the Gentiles, and the connection of both with the Advent, Resurrection and Judgment! There is apparently no interval in the prophecy between the great tribulation and the final consummation of all things. Take the millenarian view, -that the Lord's second coming is to introduce the Millennium-and then the prophecy will appear consistent: take the other view, and I cannot at all reconcile it with the predictions of the prophets in general.

3. A third and very surprising circumstance is, that antimillenarians commonly appeal to the parable of the Sheep and Goats, and the last five verses of Rev. xx. as containing the most decisive and explicit descriptions of the general Resurrection and Judgment. I call it surprising, first, because both these passages are more or less involved in figure or symbol; and therefore they are not the Scriptures which one would expect to be appealed to as the basis or foundation of a system: and secondly, I shall proceed to shew, that there is no proper analogy between the two, and that they consequently do not describe the same events.

(1.) Matt. xxvi. describes an advent: "when the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory;" the whole implying that he comes to the earth, and that his throne will be there placed. Rev. xx. describes not an advent, but an apparition: "I saw a great white throne and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away;" so that there is apparently no earth in this instance for the throne to be placed upon, or for Him that sits on it to come to. (2.) St. John sees "the dead, small and great, stand before God;-and the dead * See the Treatises of Jones and Gauntlett on the Apocalypse.

were judged, &c." There is no mention of the living, or 'quick,' nor of the nations; it is "the dead," without any discrimination of nation, on whom the judgment takes place. In Matthew, on the contrary, there is no mention of the dead: those gathered before the Son of Man are "the nations" otherwise "the Gentiles,"—(ra vn) those Gentiles to whom the Gospel was first to be preached as a witness; those Gentiles whose times should be fulfilled, when the Jewish tribulation should be fulfilled.b (3.) It should further be noticed, that no mention is made in Rev. xx. 12-15 of rewards: it is the judgment and punishment of all whose names are not found written in the book of life. (v. 15.) The reason is obvious: the rewards have been distributed to the saints previously, being set forth in the beginning of the chapter by their sitting on thrones, and judgment being given to them. Agreeing with this is the invitation in Matthew,-'Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom,' &c.

Having pointed out these difficulties attending the interpretation of Matthew xxv.-if supposed to refer to the last act of judgment, and to be parallel with the judgment in Rev. xx.I shall notice two or three other circumstances, which, to my mind, evince the parable of the Sheep and Goats to refer to events prior to the Millennium.

First, the "everlasting fire" into which the Goats are ordered to depart (v. 41.) is said to be "prepared for the devil and his angels." This is evidently the same as "the lake of fire" into which the devil is described as cast, the torment of which is "day and night for ever and ever." Now the phrase "prepared for the devil" implies, that he was not yet cast into it: for otherwise, I apprehend, it would have been said of it, "where the devil is;"-the same as in Rev. xxiv. 10, it is said, "where the beast and false prophet are." Now the beast and false prophet (or the powers thus symbolized) are cast alive into the lake of fire, previous to the Millennium; (see chap. xix. 20:) but Satan is not cast in till after the thousand years are ended; (Rev. xx. 7, 10;) and the dead who are adjudged and condemned are not cast into the lake of fire until after Satan is there, (verses 14, 15,) that is-supposing the events of this chapter to follow in chronological order. It apppears to me, therefore, that the nations cast into everlasting fire "prepared for" the devil and his angels, and the dead cast into the lake of fire where the devil already is, cannot be the same parties. The "nations" of Matthew are probably the same as "the kings of the earth and their armies" confederated under the beast;-and the same as those of whom the a Matt. xxiv. 14. b Luke xxi. 24. c Rev. xix. 19.

Psalmist says, "He shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living and in his wrath." It is evident from Matthew, that the nations who are there accursed have, nevertheless, been evangelized;-not only from their being the same as the Gentiles previously mentioned, but in that they deny ever having neglected to minister unto the Lord. (v. 44.) So in the Psalmist just quoted, they are addressed as the "congregation"—which intimates that they are nominally the people of. God; though the context shows that they are apostates in spirit and action from his truth. Again, are they not probably the same as "the goats" mentioned in Zechariah x. 3, whom the Lord punishes at the time when he again visits the house of Judah and makes Israel "as his goodly horse in the battle?"*—and the same again with "the goats" of Ezekiel xxxv. whom the Lord, when "he judges between cattle and cattle," (v. 17,) condemns for "treading down his pastures and fouling the waters with their feet?" (v. 18.) The identity of the symbol is at least worthy of serious consideration.

Secondly, the throne and kingdom, mentioned in this passage, will prove a further guide to a right apprehension of it. When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, THEN shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. Christ is now seated on the throne of God; not on that throne in which the glory of the God-man shall be manifested; which is clear from its being stated that he shall then sit on it, when he comes in glory.t There is an evident distinction of these two thrones in Rev. iii. 21. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne; even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." It is clear, I think, from this, that the throne mentioned in Matt. xxv. is something peculiar to the kingdom of Christ: but we know from 1 Cor. xv. that a period shall arrive, when the kingdom shall be delivered up to God, even the Father. (v. 24.) So that it is not only capable of being proved, that "the throne of his glory," here mentioned, is not that throne on which he is at present seated; but that the period when he shall be made manifest in glory upon it must be prior to the time of his "delivering up" the kingdom: and I am utterly at a loss what period to refer it to, if it be not the time of the prosperity and glory and triumph of the

*Even Mr. Scott concludes, "that the recovery of the Jews and the whole House of Israel from their present dispersion, and future events for which that nation is reserved," are predicted in this chapter; and "that it can only be accommodated to any of the past affairs of Israel or of the Church." (See his Com. in loco.)

See this argument ably handled by Mr. Cuninghame, in his "Critical Examination of Faber," p. 107. a Psalm lviii. 9.

The

Church on earth, acknowledged by all to be foretold. same is further confirmed from verse 34-"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." This, from verse 31, is evidently the kingdom of the Son of Mán; yet it is a kingdom which shall not be inherited by his saints till "He shall come in his glory;" and a kingdom which, we have just seen, is nevertheless to be given up. When is this kingdom then to appear? It is not now it cannot be in the ultimate supernal state-it can be only in the intermediate period.*

Once more, there are two passages of Scripture with which the place now under consideration remarkably harmonizes, if the view I am taking be correct; but which, again, I am at a loss to reconcile with the ordinary interpretation. The first is Psalm cii. 13-16. "Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come: for thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof. So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory. When the Lord shall build up Zion he shall appear in his glory.' in his glory." Now if this alludes to the restoration of the Jews, and the literal rebuilding of Zion, it will be admitted, by all those who believe in the national restoration of that people, that it must be at the commencement of the Millennium. The millennial state cannot be accompanied by a universal recognition of Christ, whilst the Jews remain in unbelief: it were absurd to think of a millennium, in which they shall not bear a conspicuous part. But suppose we deny a literal restoration of the Jews, as Jews, and believe that the building of Zion, spoken of in the Psalm, refers to a future glorious triumph of the Church; we must equally date it from the beginning of the Millennium: for what sort of a millennium, I ask again, would that be, in which the spiritual Zion, the Church of the living God, should still remain trampled in the dust? Such a notion cannot, I apprehend, comport with any view of the Millennium at present entertained by Christians. It clearly follows then, whichsoever view we take, that the Lord appears in his glory at the beginning of the Millennium. And as the coming in glory, mentioned by Matthew, is equivalent to the appearing in glory of the Psalmist, so must this parable be connected with the beginning of the Millennium.

The expression, that it is a kingdom "prepared" for the saints, (v. 34,) coupled with the obvious fact, that they have not yet possessed it (or entered on the inheritance) will further serve to prove, that the "fire prepared for the devil, &c." is a punishment not yet inflicted on him, when the accursed are cast into it.

« PoprzedniaDalej »