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The Life of the Lord: Olivet Discourse

From: The life of the Lord Jesus Christ, a complete critical examination of the Origin, Content and Connection of the Gospels
pp. 130-137

By Johann Peter Lange

"As soon as Christ comes to the destruction of Jerusalem, He conceives it in the prophetic importance which it has to His disciples. He assumes that they will live to see the destruction themselves. He then points out to them the sign by which they were to recognise that the judgment was about to break over Jerusalem."



SECTION VII.

OF THE MOUNT OF OLIVES, SURROUNDED BY HIS CONFIDENTIAL DISCIPLES. THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE JUDGMENT OF GOD, OF THE DESTRUCTION OF THE HOLY CITY AND OF THE TEMPLE, AS WELL AS OF THE END OF THE WORLD. THE PARABLES OF THE TEN VIRGINS AND OF THE TALENTS. THE JUDGMENT OF THE WORLD—WATCH !

(Matt. xxiv. 3-xxv. 46; Mark xiii. 3-37; Luke xxi. 7-36.)

 

It was already perhaps about eventide, when the Lord, with His disciples, left Jerusalem to travel the accustomed road over the Mount of Olives to Bethany, for He had done a very heavy day's work. But when He had arrived at the Mount of Olives, He casts one more lingering look hack on poor Jerusalem. It was as if He could no more; as though it would have been impossible to Him to pass beyond the crest of the Mount of Olives immediately—at once to lose from His sight the beloved city. Upon the declivity on this side, He sate down directly opposite to the temple. Probably the sun was just setting, perhaps it had already disappeared. And there He sate, in the evening twilight, His gaze resting on the city; on the temple, the object of so many wishes and benedictions; on the holy place, which had been to Him the dearest on earth, but which now He saw doomed to judgment.

But grief did not cloud the clearness of His Spirit; it only gave to His gaze the more intense direction upon the future of Jerusalem, to the judgments which were to coine upon the city. And in the doom of Jerusalem He saw the type and foreshadow of all the judgments which should come upon the people of God, and upon humanity, even to the last judgment. He was now in the position of a great seer of the future judgments of God; and this foresight He would leave in its large outlines as an inheritance to His people.

Here in view of the holy city and of the temple, over which

1 [On the pathos and moral effect generally of the local situation of the speaker, and the parties addressed in this discourse, see Greswell, On the Parablel, v. 420.—Ed.]

the night was falling, He would communicate to His disciples the outlines of the coming judgments.

Probably, indeed, He knew that in so doing He was anticipating their own eager wish. The disciples must have some new information about the future, for the last disclosure of their Master had effected a great disturbance in their theocratic view of the world. The image of the future of the Messianic age, as they had constructed it for themselves, was shattered. They now were without any knowledge of their probable relation to the future, and they needed new information.

As simple Old Testament believers, they had until now expected that, with the manifestation of the Messiah, which they themselves had just hailed, and of which they had been the heralds, would be very soon associated the revelation of His glory,—the extension of His kingdom,— the glorification of Zion,—the judgment of the world; and therewith the end of the old order of things,—the beginning of a new world.

It is true they might, as pious readers of the Old Testament, have been in some measure familiar with the idea of the suffering Messiah. For although we learn from the Gospels, how much the knowledge or the right understanding of the prophets fell short in the time of Christ, still the prophecy of the old Simeon was a proof that it had not altogether failed. Added to this, Christ had predicted His sufferings and His death in so definite a manner. But we have already seen with how little of simple resignation they could appropriate to themselves this prediction. And if they at all received the idea of their Lord's death into their view of the future, the announcement of His resurrection on the third day nevertheless induced them somehow to hope for some wonderful turn of a happy kind soon to occur. Yet this hope had little power to support them at the time of Christ's crucifixion.

Moreover, they might indeed have known from the prophet Daniel also (chap. ix. 26), of a doom of destruction which impended over the city of Jerusalem and the temple in the days of the Messiah, and in connection with His sufferings; but the Evangelic history shows us how little the Israelites of that day had taken up into their practical view of things around them the threatening prophecies of this nature.

This much is evident from the earnest inquiry of the disciples, that the coming destruction of Jerusalem which the Lord predicted to them was something new to them, which extremely disturbed and disquieted their hearts.1 In every case they had probably pictured to themselves the sad intervening circumstances between the first appearance of their Lord and His glorification on Zion, as passing over quickly. But now they had received from Him the definite assurance that the temple must fall into ruins, Jerusalem be destroyed, her people undergo a terrible doom of reprobation. Therewith, before their eyes, had been opened a deep and fearful gulf which tore wide asunder the events of Christ's present manifestation from His coming glorification; a gulf which formed itself into a yawning abyss, in whose depths they saw nothing but judgment, calamity, and destruction, and in which even their hopes were in danger of being swallowed up. That was their difficulty, the great and terrible chasm between the first and second appearing of the Messiah—a chasm which was now certain to them. We might easily apprehend how this heavy intervening time would distress them, since it has been a temptation to Christians at all times,— a dark valley which many have sought to fill up and to hide by chiliastic schemes, chimeras, and systems ;2 while others preferred to abandon the expectation of Christ's coming altogether, which they melted away into spiritualistic ideas.

It was now, therefore, certain to the disciples that they had to separate between the present manifestation of Christ and His future return to His glorification, with which the judgment upon the world and the end of the world were associated; and that the destruction of Jerusalem was to occur in the interval. But they were altogether in uncertainty when that destruction was to happen, in what relation it was to stand to the end of the world, (or the second advent of Christ), and especially, whether they were to regard the destruction of Jerusalem as the sign of the judgment of the world or not. Hereupon they desired to have an explanation from the Lord.

1 The remark of Ebrard, ' Thus also the prediction of the suffering of Jesus was an impulse which complicated all their previous eschatological conceptions, and, as it were, dislocated their whole scheme,' is therefore so far to be modified, as that this complication was first effected by the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem.

2 To which especially belongs the completed curialistic Papacy.

We learn from the Evangelist Mark, that the three most confidential disciples of Jesns—Peter, James, and John, to whom on this occasion was joined Andrew—put before Him the question which occupied their minds. But they asked Him with an air of circumspection, in a confidential manner. How are we to understand this, since the Lord already had found Himself so nearly alone on the Mount of Olives with His disciples in the stillness of evening ? We can hardly suppose that He separated those confidential ones from the rest, and entrusted to them alone the communication—as He had once separated the three first in the explanation—that He was purposing. In that case it might be expected that He would have separated only the same three disciples again ; and at the same time, that the rest of the Evangelists would have mentioned this circumstance. The mysterious and confidential form, as it was used here on the mountain at eventide, must probably have had its peculiar reasons. Perhaps the Lord was anxious that the traitor should not be near them during their conversation. Perhaps, also, there were other disciples or other friends, who were sent in advance to Bethany. But, at any rate, we apprehend that the disciples, even in the solitude of the Mount of Olives, even in the shadow of evening twilight, could scarcely speak above a whisper of the impending destruction of the holy city and of the temple.

The narrative which the three first Evangelists, especially Matthew, have given of the discourse of the Lord upon the last things, has been not only found in many ways very obscure, but will more often be found also intricate and contradictory. Many later interpreters and critics have thought that they have met with certain chiliastic errors here, which they would willingly, even with reference to other places, charge upon the disciples, or even upon the Lord Himself.1

As regards the narratives of the three Evangelists, it will result from the representation of this subject, that they entirely agree with one another in the outlines, but they supplement one another in the details. From this we gain confirmation of the supposition, which besides for us is already established, that they have communicated in their accounts, not only individual and peculiar views, but the special teaching of the Lord. But it also results from the question of the disciples, as the Evangelists cite ' Compare the statement in Ebrard, 389.

it, that their chiliastic suppositions, which have been charged on them in their later position, were already altogether shaken by the announcement of the destruction of Jerusalem. They ask, ' When shall these things be 1 and what is the sign of this manifestation, and of the end (the consummation) of the world I' They thus not only distinguish between the destruction of Jerusalem and the second coming of Christ to the final judgment; but, at the same time, they give it plainly to be understood, that they do not consider it certain that the destruction of Jerusalem will be the sign of the impending end of the world. Indeed, it just as much follows from the question, that they are not yet convinced of the contrary, especially when we look back to the position of their question in Mark and Luke; so also the answer of the Lord, which not only specifies to them the sign of the approaching end of the world, but also the sign of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem. Their question is just as wavering and uncertain as their present position; the answer of the Lord, for the first time, gives them a true light upon it.1

In reference to the relation of the four Evangelists to the discourses of Jesus of the last things, it is well worthy of consideration, that John has recorded nothing of them in the Gospel.2 We have already on another occasion called attention to the fact that this omission may be explained by the circumstance that the Apostle would reserve to a special Apocalypse the disclosures of the Lord on the last things.3 Moreover, the comparison of this discourse of Jesus with the Apocalypse affords us more than one service. It teaches us, for instance, first of all to consider this discourse as the special life-germ of the New Testament Apocalypse. Moreover, it teaches us to estimate the apostolic character of the eschatology of the Apocalypse, finding as we do similar features in the apostolic history. But, finally, our attention is called by the Apocalypse to a circumstance which

1 Stier, iii. 244. There is thus no good reason for making two sharply distinct questions out of their question.

2 Stier (ii. 539, iii. 244) makes the sensible remark, that John had it as his peculiar esoteric privilege to record the sayings of Jesus of His coming to comfort; while, on the other hand, the Synoptists had to record the prediction of the Lord of His coming to judge.

3 See, in the author's miscellaneous writings, vol. ii., the treatise on the indissoluble connection between the individuality of the Apostle John and that of the Apocalypse, 181.

is of the highest importance to the elucidation of this place. This is the fact that the Apocalypse represents the course of the world's history, not in an unbroken sequence of events, but in large cycles, which always embrace the entire course of the world, while therein each cycle is drawing nearer to the end of the world.1 If this mode of representation had been recognised, here also this much discussed portion of Scripture would have been more easily relieved of many difficulties.

It is not to be denied that the prophecy of judgment as declared by Jesus—here as well as in the prophets—is treated perspectively; that is to say, that the judgment of God is represented in one large comprehensive picture upon Jerusalem, in connection with the future judgment of the world, and the former forms the foreground of the latter.2 Moreover, this explains how the great interval between the destruction of Jerusalem and the world's end, as it is sketched in Matt. xxiv. 22-26, not only strikes one very little, but also is represented definitely—under the point of sight of the judicial government of God, so to speak—in the twofold reflection of the flames of Jerusalem, and of the judgment at the end of the world.

It is thereby at once decided that in this representation there must be something typical. The destruction of Jerusalem must be in conformity with its nature, and therefore also, in conformity with this representation, a prelude of the second advent of Christ, of the last judgment, and of the end of the world. Nay, according to strict historical accuracy, the judgment upon Jerusalem must of necessity bring about the last judgment and the end of the world: only grace modifies this doom (for the elect's sake, these days of terror shall be shortened,

1 Compare the above -mentioned treatise.

2 Stier, iii. 249. On the origin of the opinion of the perspective view, see Dorner, de oratione Christi eschatologica, 35. [See Fairbairn's instructive chapter on the interconnected and progressive character of prophecy (Prophecy viewed in its Distinctive Nature, etc., c. vi.), and the remarks of Greswell (Parables, v. 198 ff.) on the interpretation of this prophecy of our Lord's. He says (223), ' One observation is very necessary to be made, and to be kept in view throughout: that the events predicted being regarded in the light of signs, bearing a special reference to a certain point of time before and after the period of their occurrence, it is the Jirst instance of such events with which we are properly concerned, and not such repetitions of the same as might occur again from time to time afterwards.'—Ed.]

Matt. xxiv. 22). And there occurs still an intervening period between the two great epochs of doom. But, strictly, such a characterization of this period suggests that the destruction of Jerusalem was the judgment of the world, preliminary, and interrupted by grace; and, on the other hand, that the last judgment is the continuation and fulfilment of that theocratic judgment of God which began with the destruction of Jerusalem.

If, however, the perspective and typical elements in the prophecy of Christ be brought into prominence, so as to melt their several expressions into one another, in a similar way to that in which perhaps they might melt together in Old Testament prophecies—this is altogether inadmissible. First of all, upon the general ground that Christ is a Seer, not in the concrete manner of visionary insight, and describes what He sees not in the way of ecstacy, which must neglect time and place; but in the completed knowledge, consciousness, and power of one who can modify the results.1 Then, moreover, because in this case there was required, not only for the questioning disciples, but also for the Lord who answered them, above all things, an accurate, even a sharp definition of the periods.2

First of all, the Lord gives to the disciples an accurate picture of the destiny of His people in their relation to the course of the world, even to the world's end,—a picture of the future of the world and of the Church as His future in the outlines which they for the most part needed. This is the first cycle (Matt. xxiv. 4-14; Mark xiii. 5-13; Luke xxi. 8-19).

The disciples had inquired of Him the times and the signs of the last things. The times and the signs were to them, in accordance with their more external, nay, chiliastic interest, the chief concern. Thus the answer of Christ, His first word as well as His first explanation, establishes a sharp contrast to the external interest of the .question : ' Take heed that no man deceive you,' especially lead you wrong just in respect of. those signs

1 Not exclusively Tu iritvftaTi; but just as much, ri? tot.

2 Dorner brings this out with reason and force in the above cited treatise, 9. Ebrard also, in the treatise, Adversus erroneam nonnullorum opinionem qua Chrislus, Christique apostoli judaicis somniis decepti ezistu- ma.ise perhibentur fore ut universale judicium ipsorum astute superveniret, 7.

and times. According to the view of the Lord, that is the chief point in the eschatological knowledge of His disciples—the foresight in the presentiment that many deceivers shall arise, but not the knowledge of external times and signs. Hence the holy suspense and concentration of mind in the presentiment that great risks and great deceits awaited the Christian at his entrance into a wide futurity, and that great sobriety of spirit, clear eye, and earnest hand must be his watchwords.

Hereupon Christ sketches the outlines of the world's course up to His advent. The entire description embraces in the consideration of the world's course,—the history of the nations, with the history of His kingdom,—the history of humanity, with the history of the earth and its world. It presupposes, as the point of commencement of the development of this world-system, the first manifestation of Christ. From this distinctive point of life, the world progresses in its development towards the future end of the world, with which the transformation of the world is to appear. This development is represented in two lines—in a more tranquil one which forms the foreground, and in a more tempestuous one which forms the background. The first shows in the more customary signs that the Church, humanity, and the earth, are advancing towards the end. The second sets forth, in large and startling vicissitudes, the birth-pains of the last times. Moreover, each line of view has two sides, a Christologic and a cosmic one.

That is the Christologic side of the first line in the world's career, that many come in the name of Christ, and say, I am Christ, and the time of the consummation of the world is at hand (Luke xxi. 8) ; and many allow themselves to be deceived and misled by them. Here is indicated every form of chiliasm, making itself known in false Messiahs, in false representatives of Christ, in heads of sects and pretended infallible philosophers, —making itself known generally in all religious, political, and philosophical schools and systems, which seek to declare the consummation of the world. To this excitement in the kingdom of spirits, which reveals that humanity is possessed with the thought of the coming of Christ to renew the world, is opposed the cosmic side of the progress: wars and rumours of wars, which, incessantly breeding themselves anew, cause their din to resound from the armies of the nations into the camp of the congregation; wars, to which, according to Luke, insurrections are added. It is thus plainly acknowledged that humanity is in movement, and the Church is in movement, and that the one line of progress must stand in mysterious rapport with the other. It is plain, moreover, that the course of the world is in progress towards the end of the world. But Christians are not to allow themselves to be disturbed, as if the end were immediately: they are to look calmly upon the world's wars, and not allow themselves to be startled; just as they are sharply to watch the false forms of Christ, and not to allow themselves to be led away. ' The end,' says Christ,' is not yet'—is not immediately at hand. The Christological development of the world is a development as high as heaven, profound, penetrating beyond the boundary of humanity, of the earth, and of the whole of this present cosmos; therefore it is a slow development.

In the second stadium, the world-crisis is represented as tempestuous; its pulses beat more hurriedly and impetuously. Here the Lord brings out, first of all, the cosmologic side. One people lifts itself up against the other; one kingdom against the other. Humanity is in a storm of excitement, as the waves of the sea beat against one another in the tempest. And now it is manifest that nature and the earth have a deep sympathy with humanity in this process of development. There appear famines, in which the distempered earth is wanting to man ; pestilences, in which distempered man is wanting to the earth (\ifi.ol teal \oifwl); great storms and earthquakes from place to place; fearful phenomena and great signs in heaven (Luke xxi. 11). According to the word of the Lord, these facts are to be regarded as the beginning of sorrows (o>Biva>v), of the labour- throes of the old world-form. They show, not only that in the mighty progress earthly nature is engaged in a parallel movement with humanity, but they represent the accelerated movement of this progress, in which one spasm follows on the other. Therewith also corresponds the increased distress in the Christo- logic development of the world's course. Christians are delivered over to affliction, —they are outlawed and excommunicated,— they are put to death. They are hated of all people for Christ's name's sake. Moreover, while they are thus externally afflicted, the congregation is also disturbed within. The matter originates thus :—That many are offended with one another; that they are exasperated with real and fancied grievances; that they are degenerate, and so lose their character as Christians. Then matters become worse: they deliver one another np, whether by giving one another bad names before the earthly adversaries, and putting one another to shame; or that, by fanatical excommunications, they give one another over to Satan. The result is, that they hate one another. Faith-hatred, creed- hatred, party-hatred, opinion-hatred, individual hatred, more public manifestations of darkness, which contradict the very root of faith and of creed, as well as the definition of Christian fellowship, of Christian individuality and conviction. But while thus, on the one side, there is abundant ill-feeling in the appearance of Church fellowship, under the pretext of offences given, the false prophets oppose themselves as antagonists to the deteriorated nature of the Church, as it appears in its obscured forms of life: who are appointed for judgment, and themselves again become liable to judgment; erroneous preachers of novelty, new preachers of error, as if called upon, and, as it were, necessitated by fanaticism, to adopt the side of opposition; and they succeed in leading away many.

But the foundation of these sad manifestations is found in the moral region ; it is evidenced in the thousandfold failures in faithfulness,—in faithfulness towards the law of the Lord, as it is treasured up in Scripture, and as it is written on the hearts. Because unrighteousness, or opposition to law, increases, therefore love in many will grow cold. For the law is absolutely the defence, the training and regulation, the horn and ornament of love.

These are the gloomy outlines of the world's history even to the world's end. It will be hard for the Church and hard for the individual to pass through all these risks. One thing, however, will aid,—patience even to the end; constancy and patience. ' He that shall endure unto the end,' says Christ, according to the two first Evangelists, ' the same shall be saved.' Luke has the stronger expression. In your patience shall ye attain your life (make it a free self-possession), after he has uttered the word,—' there shall not an hair of your head perish.' Unscathed, altogether unscathed, Christians were to pass through all the tempests of the world and its flames to the end of the world. They shall find their life once more altogether pure and glorified, if they preserve the life of their life with ceaseless constancy and patience.

The Evangelists Mark1 and Luke2 insert in this place several details which Matthew perhaps more rightly has included in the instruction which Jesus imparted to the apostles.

It is not to be denied that many of these details were fulfilled in a most striking way in the earliest days of the Church.3 The period up to the time of Constantine might be considered the first typical era of the entire Christian history of the world. But that abundance of eschatological features which is apparent in the foreground of Christian history, must not lead us to deny the universal side of these prophecies of Christ.

This is all the more manifest, when we see the agreeable features of the world's progress which Christ contrasts with those that are mournful. ' And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, for a witness to all people.' This is the first and the last pleasant feature in the world's history, which must and can outweigh all sorrowful features. The Gospel shall be preached in all the world, or to all the heathens (Mark xiii. 10). Then let the deceiving false Messiahs appear, one after the other; let bloody wars and wild rumour of war fill the world; let old systems be dissolved in democratic movements and revolutionary storms ; let public calamities visit the whole earth ; yea, let the earth itself shake into ruins,—yet the Gospel of the kingdom, of the coming kingdom of the new, and fair, and eternal polity of God, which is to issue from redemption, shall be announced to all people !

Thus decidedly shall this Gospel be published to all nations, until it has become, in respect of them, a witness which can

1 Chap. xiii. 9-12. 1 Chap. xxi. 12-16.

3 Stier, iii. 256-7. Among the <&ifiirrp*, etc., mentioned by Luke, can hardly perhaps be understood such omens as Josephus has cited, according to the popular belief of the Jews. Moreover, we do not thereby understand observations of the sun and moon nor comets, as Ebrard in the above cited treatise, 33 ; but such phenomena as actually testify of the progress of development of earthly life in its theocratic relation. [The passage of Josephus referred to is in the Bell. Jud., vi. 5, 3, which may be seen compared with passages of Tacitus, and with reference to this passage of the Gospels in Greswell, On the Parables, vol. v. p. 266. Greswell, whose whole dissertation is full of information, is decidedly of opinion that these were among the tfofivrp* here signified.—Ed.]

testify for or against them in judgment. Then will the end come.

And this end which here the Lord refers to is certainly the world's end, for it is designated as the end absolutely.1

Then begins a new cycle—the second. This describes the destruction of Jerusalem, with its omens and with its results,— as the great judgment of God resounding through the ages over the visible polity of God, until the great world-embracing advent of Christ (Matt. xxiv. 15-28; Mark xiii. 14-23; Luke xxi. 20-24).

As soon as Christ comes to the destruction of Jerusalem, He conceives it in the prophetic importance which it has to His disciples. He assumes that they will live to see the destruction themselves. He then points out to them the sign by which they were to recognise that the judgment was about to break over Jerusalem.

He sets forth this omen as the abomination of desolation, of which the prophet Daniel2 has spoken, that it should stand in the holy place. The Evangelist Luke explains this expression as referring to the besieging army of the Romans, which should compass Jerusalem. This army brings with it the abomination in the standards of idolatry, the Roman eagles, which pollute the holy place, the precinct of the holy city. The appearance of these signs of pollution, their establishment, the constant waving of these standards of the heathen world-power upon the holy hill, is the sign that now the desolation is determined upon the holy city. That these signs are meant, and not perhaps what occurred later, or possibly the desecration of the temple by the zealots who accomplished a massacre therein, or by the irruption of the Romans, appears from the fact that the Lord indicated this sign to the disciples as the signal for flight, and that subsequently the Christians did actually flee at the commencement of the siege of Jerusalem. If they had been told first to wait for the desolation of the temple, it would then have been much too late to take refuge in flight.

The Evangelists Matthew and Mark direct the attention of their Christian readers to this token of deliverance. They were to notice it accurately, for it was to be a sign of preservation for

1 Vide the above treatise of Ebrard, 171.

1 Chap. ix. 27. See Stier, iii. 266, on this expression.

the Christians in Jerusalem. It has even been concluded from their observation, that about the time when the calamities of war had already approached the city of Jerusalem, they must have written their Gospels.1

At all events, the note is not to be mistaken, ' Let him that reaaeth understand,'—a clear token on behalf of the true origin, the ancient historical efficiency, of the first Gospels ; especially a testimony that they must have appeared before the destruction of Jerusalem.2

The Lord now commands His disciples that all of them who are in Judaea should take flight to the mountains, as soon as they perceive the sign mentioned. Out of Judasa to the mountains, signifying thereby probably not the nearest mountains, as most convenient for refuge, but the high mountains of Peraea, that mountain-chain which was probably indicated from their position in Jerusalem merely as the mountains.

But the Lord has already asserted that this flight should be very hurried, in the first word in which He referred to the destruction of Jerusalem. When ye shall see the abomination of desolation,—flee. Moreover, He expresses the same in a succession of the most urgent instructions: ' Let him that is on the house-top not go down into the house, neither enter therein to take anything out of his house; and let him that is in the field not turn back again to take up his garments' (laid aside for his work). The one was immediately to hasten away over the house-tops, the other as he stood in his under garments. Thus strongly He urges them with hyperbolical expressions, whose full and lively truth is the energy of the admonition that then they would have absolutely no time to lose. ' For these be the days of vengeance,' He adds, 'when all things which are written shall be fulfilled.'3

Thus the Lord enjoined His people to abandon the Jewish people in, their last struggle. And, indeed, rightly so. For that last war was in the most peculiar sense a struggle for the

1 Hug, Introd. to the New Testament, ii. 14.

7 Olshausen, in loco.

3 ' Scil., not only in Daniel, but in every prophecy of judgment and wrath upon the people, from the curses of Moses to the D~in with which Malachi concludes.'—Stier, iii. 270.

presumptive truth of Pharisaism, of the fanatical hatred against the heathen—a war of chiliastic madness. Only in the delusive hope of the help of a Messiah, or of a divinity such as was conceived for itself by that very fanaticism which had crucified the true Christ, would the Jews have undertaken and persevered in this war. And therefore the Christians could take no part in the contest; for they would have thereby been partaking in the chiliastic frenzy of the Jews, which was contrary to their faith.

And thus, therefore, they faithfully followed the warning, saving instruction of the Lord in fleeing to Pella as soon as the Jewish war broke out. The preserving, delivering, pure Spirit- glance of Christ uttered the first word : it chiefly brought His own people into safety. And then He could also let the glance of His sympathy fall upon those who in such a time must suffer terribly: ' Woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days.' Then He adds: ' But pray ye that your flight should not be in the winter, nor on the Sabbath day.' Thus carefully He regards their flight. The addition, 'on the Sabbath day,' has been thought strange.1 But let it be well considered what a danger there was of the Christians drawing upon themselves the sorest persecutions of the Jews, if, in that time of burning, raging fanaticism, they wished to forsake the Jewish commonwealth in Judaea on a Sabbath day. Such a regardlessness would have sufficed to make them appear in the eyes of the Jews not only as heretics, but even as traitors.

Finally, Christ considers the inevitable misery itself. Those days shall be the time of great affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the world until now.

' Neither shall be,' He adds, by way of comfort.

This affliction He goes on to delineate. According to the narrative of Luke, ' There shall be wrath upon this people. 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.'

These words have been fulfilled, and are being fulfilled continually, with an accuracy which of itself is abundantly sufficient to glorify Christ as the Prince of the prophets.2

1 De Wette, in loc.

2 [They were fulfilled in the few years before and after the siege of Jerusalem, by the slaughter of about 1,500,000 Jews.—Ed.]

Hereupon Christ makes one observation which is of the highest importance for the true estimation of this second escha- tological cycle, as has been already intimated : ' And if those days were not shortened, no man should be saved: but for the elect's sake they shall be shortened.'

If those days were not shortened, all flesh, even humanity, would be destroyed without remedy. The meaning of that is clear enough, that, according to the stringent conception of theo- .cratic justice, the judgment upon Jerusalem must be transmuted into the last judgment of the world,—it must result in the end of the world. And, indeed, perhaps first on this account, because it is the retribution for the crucifixion of the Son of God, their Deliverer, by the theocratic people Israel, wherein lay the decree that they have incurred the doom, and because the heathen world have decidedly partaken in this doom. But further, however, for this reason, because the people of Christ, which from that time forward was the salt of the earth, might easily have perished with them in the destruction of Jerusalem, if they had not been sufficiently early warned and delivered by their Lord. Finally, in the third place, on this account, because in the war of extermination between the Jews and the heathens, the former, who had the charge of becoming teachers and priests to the heathen, and of communicating to them the blessing of Abraham, have arrived at the point of cursing the heathen a thousandfold in the bitterest fanaticism, and because the heathens have furiously trodden under foot the theocratic people, and their sanctuary, instead of moving with the highest joy to the place of the knowledge of the living God, and entering into the spiritual fellowship of the faithful people of God. Were there no elect, like angels, to overshadow this terrible conflict, and bring to humanity the assurance of its salvation, its highest good, this conflict must proceed in one unbroken course from godless tumults of the people to the judgment of the world. But for the elect's sake, for the sake of those who are believers already, or who will one day be believers, the days of this judgment shall be shortened, the judgment is abated—is, so to speak, interrupted.

Thus arises a period of interrupted, of suspended judgment. —a period in which the doom of the theocratic people is indeed not yet concluded, but continues in suppressed judgment-days ; in which, moreover, that deep feeling of divine wrath which is the condition of the peculiar terrors of judgment, has incurred a great suspense, after which the close of the judgment is to follow.

This, then, is the period between the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world: the period of shortened, suppressed judgment-days.1 The Lord is speaking of this period when He says, 'And then,3 if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, He is there ; believe him not.'

This period has a remarkable dual aspect. On the one side it is a great time of deliverance—the time of salvation of the elect; but on the other side, it shows the continuance of the judgment of the theocratic people still. First of all in the fact, that the calamitous consequences of the destruction of Jerusalem are still being worked out. Israel is scattered among the heathen. Jerusalem is trodden under foot of the heathen. In that respect that silent judgment is revealed, in which, throughout the entire interval, the people is disposed everywhere to seek a centre for the manifestation of Christ, for the glory of His kingdom, and finds it nowhere. It is the silent judgment upon the theocratic people of this period, in which the Christians sympathize with the Jews, that nowhere upon earth, in no place, in no institution nor fellowship, can they find an abode of the manifested glory of Christ the King, and yet would everywhere find it so willingly, so eagerly, so credulously. The third characteristic of this judicial position consists in the fact, that the people of God, as well as the world, must expect the Lord, who is their Kedeemer, also as their Judge. That second characteristic, the want of the manifestation of Christ, becomes a terible fate, by the readiness of the Christians during this period to be led away by the chiliastic imposture of those who cry, Here is Christ! there is Christ! Christians might allow themselves, in a thousand ways, to be so captivated by dim forms of the glory of Christ, as to

1 The word Jmao/sovk means directly to curtail, to mutilate, to shorten. Comp. LXX.; 2 Sam. iv. 12. But if the judgment-days are here represented as such as are curtailed or shortened, it is not thereby necessary to understand an earlier finishing of the time of judgment, but rather an abatement of the judgment, a silent continuance of it in suppressed judgment-days, in consequence of some modification.

2 The To'« is thus referred to this intervening period of suppressed judgment. Comp. Ebrard's Treatise, 22.

become entirely estranged from the deep source and the lofty splendour of His glorious kingdom ; from the spirit of His life, and from the life of His Spirit. In this period appear many chiliastic seducers : on the one side a false Christ, in pseudo- ecclesiastical form ; on the other side false prophets, in pseudo- reforming tendency ; and they do many wonders and signs. They represent as manifest, in powerful agencies, the irruption of new ideas and powers into the ancient forms of life, operating so marvellously, that if it were possible, even the elect would be deceived. ' Take ye heed,' adds the Lord; ' behold, I have foretold you all things:' that is, you are solemnly warned beforehand, on the one side, of the false phantoms of the Christ of the Church ; on the other side, of the false prophets of new revelations.

But there was one sign by which they were to recognise that those announcements of Christ would be false. They were always to be recognised by the circumstance, that they would represent only an external, one-sided, and therefore a limited Christ, as the Lord of glory; and that therefore they should proclaim such forms of Christ, or signs of His glory, as should follow quickly, one after the other, and which would absolutely contradict one another.

At one time they would preach a Christ who is in the desert— a Christ of false world-renunciation—a glory of Christ's kingdom, which was to rest upon the egress to the wilderness, upon hermits, upon convents, and the celibate, upon a priesthood externally opposed to the world, but internally again given over to the world.1

Thereupon would be proclaimed, in the direction of an opposite system, a chiliastic false Christ—a Christ in the chambers,

1 It must be distinctly remembered, that here in both cases an apparent external Christ, or kingdom of Christ, is spoken of; therefore such explanations are nothing to the purpose, as would find here, with Olshausen (iii. 259) and Stier (iii. 272), the opposition between the secret and the public kingdom. It is to be observed, that Olshausen wishes to find in the chambers the representation of the manifest; on the contrary, Stier that of the secret. But the desert (ipnfco;) sufficiently plainly recalls the hermits, and the world-historical external contradiction of the Church introduced by them. Moreover, also, the contrast plainly is suggested, whereby it is to be considered that Tecfcsion, first of all, imports the storehouses (Luke xii. 24).

in the treasure-chambers and the storehouses, in the enjoyment of earthly possessions, in the glorification of the present life, —an impersonal Christ of the chamber, in contrast to a personal Christ of the community, and a glorification of the kingdom of humanity, which was to be founded on the glory of the world.

But the one, as well as the other—as well the false Christs, with their dependents, as the false prophets, with their associates—will announce their doctrines with excessive fanatical excitement ('ISou! exclaim both parties). But in the first case it is said, ' Go not forth' (into the wilderness); in the other, ' Believe it not.'

For with the second advent of Christ the case will be wholly different. The Lord indicates the form of that coming by an image, which probably He had often opposed to chiliastic expectation : ' As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be,'—thus embracing the whole world at one time—penetrating it with one beam of light, shaking it with one shock; a manifestation which will yield to no double meaning, which will leave room for no doubt—which will just as little need a herald, as the lightning needs to be illuminated with human lights—as the thunder needs to be proclaimed by human voice.

Thus will it happen as by an inevitable necessity. For where the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.1 As soon as ever the world is ripe for judgment, ripe for redemption, both parties, Christians and antichristians, unalterably divided, fall into a conflict, which is to the death—the earth on the one side becomes heaven, on the other side hell; so that its portions falling asunder, strive towards a new union, as is the case with a decaying carcase. Then also will the eagles make their appearance, and seek for the spoil whose scent calls them near. On the one side, heaven will appropriate its portion ; on the other side, hell will appropriate its portion. Still there prevails here, in those separations, the view to the judgment— the view to a world which, in its old conditions, begins to corrupt, whilst it imagines that it has attained the highest aim with the

1 More accurately, the vultures. Upon similar expressions in the Old Testament, which authenticate the proverbial nature of this saying, vide Stier, iii. 275.

grandest advances. As soon as the world is thus ripe for judgment, then comes the Judge. But the doom which He executes is a consummation of the doom upon the theocratic people. The theocratic people itself—i.e., Christendom, in its external manifestation—has become a corrupting carcase. The New Testament people is now just as much decomposed by heathenish frivolity, as once the Old Testament Church was ruined by Jewish stubbornness. Hence the Lord represents the last things in the third cycle, the fundamental idea of which is the end of the world (Matt. xxiv. 29, etc.; Mark xiii. 24, etc.; Luke xxi. 25, etc.).

Here we must first of all be reminded, that in accordance with every scriptural supposition, the world's end forms the great closing epoch of the world's course. But all epochs appear in accordance with the same fundamental law. First of all, a lengthened and silent development of that principle in the life of the world, which is to be manifested in them, prepares for them through a preliminary period, and they suffer themselves to be waited for, as if they would never come. But then, when all the conditions of their appearance are fulfilled, they come so rapidly, so suddenly, as to surpass in the highest degree all human anticipations. As this is true of all epochs, so it is most especially true of the epoch of all epochs, the end of the world.

And this character of excessive suddenness is just what the Lord expresses in the impressive word ' immediately.'1 After the tribulation of those days (of the next subsequent days of modified judgment which follow upon the destruction of Jerusalem), the sun shall lose its light, and so on, with words which we take literally in the simplest manner.

For here certainly the end of the world is spoken of. It is true that the prevailing philosophy as well as the theology of the rationalistic school is disposed to regard the doctrine of the

1 That tv&ia; here indicates the rapidity, the suddenness, is plain, from the entire meaning and harmony of the passage; it denotes the wonderfully rapid breaking in of the great epoch. Dorner observes, on the contrary (14), that it must nevertheless be referred to fitra rw fatyi» ran iifcspon txtltan. But he thinks that the period after the destruction of Jerusalem cannot be understood as coming in under this fatyi;. It has resulted, however, from our consideration, that this period must be comprehended as embracing that affliction.

end of the world, or the last day, as a ' myth of the future.' But assumptions of this kind do not affect us in the least. On the other hand, we see an unspeakable narrowing of the speculative field of view, an unspeakable straining of healthful perception, when it is no longer found necessary to take up into the consideration of the progress of man's spiritual development, the cosmical side of humanity, the progress of the earth itself; or if nothing more is sought to be known at all of a final aim, for the gradual development of humanity. And in this respect we ought, perhaps, to commend as great philosophers and theologians, those heathenish framers of myths who could not reconcile themselves to any artificially constructed scheme of the world, without a beginning and an ending, in opposition to such modern philosophers and theologians as, at least in this point, are ever stupidly easy to be contented in the necessities of their spirit. Of the beginning and end of the world, the sound man must either know or invent something; otherwise, in this ' kingdom of the mean,' it becomes too limited, too narrow for him. It is an organic spirit-voice, which bids men conceive of a black Ahriman as overshadowing the beginning and the end of the world. Even geology always compels us again to the same result, keeping us familiar with the idea of a future end of the world. Thus the question, after all, can only be, whether we wish the knowledge of an end of the world that is to come subordinated to the interests of humanity, or of an end of the world related to the training ground of human life as a blind, confused, destroying destiny. Philosophers and theologians of the kind intimated, find eventually the latter supposition more reasonable than the former. Christianity, on the other hand, will only know of a world's end which is subordinated to the interests of humanity, which must thus coincide with the history of the development of humanity.1 In this sense, generally, we conceive of the relation of humanity to nature. Nature is the organic life-region of man. Thence follows, firstly, that the life of the earth must pass through a similar progress of development to that which is gone through by the life of humanity; secondly, that this progress of development must be dependent upon that of humanity; thirdly, that it must run parallel with it, and in all its substantial impulses must 1 See the author's paper, der Osterbote, Part i. p. 112.

coincide with it.1 Thus the paradisaic condition of the infant earth accords with the paradisaic condition of infant humanity. To the fall of humanity corresponds the distemperature of the earth in its physical relations. The earth trembles at the death and at the resurrection of Christ; for thereby there appeared a wondrous turning-point, as well in its life as in the life of human ity. Even through nature there prevails an impulse of development which urges forward its life towards a loftier position, just as is the case through the life of humanity.2 In this evolution it moves forward calmly, but incessantly: thence are manifested phenomena of the advancing development of the terrene cosmos, in earthquakes, famines,, and similar occurrences; just as the phenomena of progress are evidenced in the development of humanity, confirmed by Christianity. But when the end of all things shall come for humanity, because it is mature for judgment, then also the earthly sphere of humanity, its present cosmos, shall have become ripe for the catastrophe by which it is to be transformed into the new world of the new humanity.

There needs no special explanation of the way in which this view of the world accords with all sound ideas of the relation between the spirit and nature; while those hypotheses upon which nature, in relation to man, is to lie prostrate like a dead horse under the living rider,—a corpse which stiffens motionless under his feet, or finally, a corpse which may oppose the most unseasonable barrier to all his endeavours,-—utterly contradict the true estimate not only of nature and of the spirit, but of their mutual relations as well.

The Christian doctrine of the end of the world may be acknowledged, indeed, without finding it again in the place here

1 See above, vol. ii. p. 144. 2 Roru. viii. 19.

3 Thus Dorncr in the before-mentioned treatise. Dorner understands the text referred to as if it represented, in tropical imagery, the victory of Christianity over the nature-worship of heathenism (62). On other interpretations of this place, see Dorner, 61. Cocceius understands by the sun which loses its brightness, antichrist, as the false representative of the Sun in the Church; by the waning moon, the State; by the falling stars, the fall of the hierarchial lights of the Church. The great issue of these allegorical explanations is worthy of notice. The place is to be understood thco- cratico-historically. Upon other interpretations of this kind, which find in the text a picturesque representation of the destruction of Jerusalem, see Ebrard's Gospel History.

considered. But it is moreover plain, that here are specified more clearly such facts as are in general to characterize the end of the world itself, the sign of the Son of man in heaven, the advent of Christ, and the great final judgment.

But if the end of the world be spoken of here, it is in accordance with the nature of the thing that the change begins at the sun. For the earth does not stand alone in its sphere independently; its life is associated with the life of its maternal light-planet. If the earth is to be metamorphosed, the cosmical sphere must be metamorphosed with it, with which its planetary life is associated. This happens in this case, so that the change appears at first in the sun—the sun goes out, it loses its old brilliancy. Then, moreover, the moon also loses its shining; and the stars of heaven, which belong to this earthly family of planets, fall from heaven: they fall out, as Mark expresses himself; that is, perhaps, out of their old planetary association with the sun. This revolution in the cosmical sphere of the earth communicates itself then also to the earth. A distressing presentiment of the impending change invades the peoples (the new heathendom, into which at that time the great mass of humanity will be assembled); while the sea, in irregular tumult, roars and heaves. It is observed, that the powers which penetrate throughout the heavenly bodies waver; that the ancient laws of nature also—such, for instance, as the relations of gravitation—are about to be transformed. With this last change, which probably has the effect of changing the planetary-heavy relations of the earth into sidereal-light ones, to carry out the metamorphosis of the earth, will the sign of the Son of man appear in heaven, in any case perhaps a cosmical phenomenon ; wherein is recognised, that henceforth the region of the Church militant coincides in one with the region of the Church triumphant—the earthly territory of the kingdom of Christ with the territory of His heavenly glory.1 Therewith is brought about the advent of Christ. All the kindreds of the earth shall mourn, for they shall see 2 the Son of

1 See above, vol. ii. 27, 28; also the author's pamphlet, das Land iier llerrlichkeit, 147. Comp. Kurtz, Astronomy and the Bible. [A condensed abstract of this treatise is prefixed to Clark's translation of Kurtz, On the 0. T. Covenant,]

' Kal xwionTai, etc.; xa1 odorrai, according to Matthew, in a signifi

man as He comes in the clouds of heaven in power and great glory.

The Evangelist Luke has preserved for us here the admonition of the Lord to His disciples: ' When these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads ; for your redemption draweth nigh!'

Now follows the judgment. The call of the heavenly spirits resounds. The elect are summoned with the loudest trumpet- blasts from their dispersion among the outcast, into the assembly of the elect. A celestial call and attraction brings them together from all the four winds, from all the corners of heaven ; and therewith the separation between the good and the evil is completed.

Thus is the third cycle, the general description of the world's end complete. We see how, then, these three cycles work one into the other in very lively representation. The first embraces the representation of the entire progress of the Christian world to the end; the second sets forth God's judgment upon the theocratic community, as illustrated in the judgment upon Jerusalem ; the third, God's judgment upon the nations, as it coincides with the last judgment.

The disciples had asked for a sign by which to recognise the impending destruction of Jerusalem, and similarly they desired to know by what sign they might identify the second advent of Christ. Here, however, the Lord has given them the signs by which both of these events might be known. But it is evident that there is a peculiarity common to both of these signs. They could not well be used as special notes of warning, because the judgments which they should announce were to follow their appearance with such extraordinary rapidity. This circumstance our Lord proceeds to illustrate to His disciples by a parable.

' Understand the matter from the nature of the fig-tree.' When at length the branches of this tree become tender and full of sap, and its leaves shoot forth, then ye know that the summer

cant consonance of expressions. They shall cry out in lamentation, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven. The visible appearance of the Holy One to them is fulfilment of this terror, for they have lived in the supposition that the future cannot become present, the present not future—the holy not visible, the visible not holy. Hence they must needs be amazed when the great future appears brightly in the glory of judgment, in the midst of the sphere of the present.

is nigh. For the leaves of the fig-tree make their appearance late, later than the blossoms: they are late tokens ; and as soon as they appear, summer is immediately after them. ' So also it is with all the rest of the trees,' according to the word of Luke.1 And this is the case with the signs of those judgments: they do not long precede the judgments themselves, but the lightning and thunder-clap closely follow one another; because these judgments are great epochs which occur startlingly and suddenly. In this way is the word of the Lord to be understood. ' So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things as they come to pass, know that it is near, even before the doors.'

Should these signs occur within your experience, then prepare yourselves for the events which these signs announce, being close before your doors, yea, happening upon your very thresholds.2

He neither can nor will give them any portents of those events which may facilitate the expectation of them.

The disciples might now perhaps conceive that the expression of Christ, ' When ye shall see these things,' justified them in concluding that they themselves should live to behold the last day. Thereupon the Lord explains Himself now more closely as to His meaning: ' Verily I say unto yon, This generation' (this race of believers planted by Me) ' shall not pass,' that is, it will continue to exist, ' till all these things be fulfilled.'3 And

1 This addition is surely calculated (as Dorner remarks, p. 56) to act aside the ingenious explanation of Ebrard (Treatise, 28, 29), according to which the point of comparison lies in the fact that the leaves of the fig- tree are poisonous, and are nevertheless forerunners of a wholesome fruit; just as the errors of the past age conceal, under the appearance of the vigour of life, their mischievous poison, but nevertheless become presages of the noblest fruit, even of the triumph of the Church of Christ. The objection to this view is strengthened by the consideration that the parable drawn by the Lord was to represent, 1st, a sign patent to observation (which the poisonous character of the fig-leaf is not) ; 2dly, a sign upon whose track the circumstance announced follows immediately.

5 Hence also lyyi/; tar i is closely connected with the foregoing Wbktk rai/Ta, and it destroys the true meaning if anything else be supplied. This ira»T* Tasta, moreover, refers to the ' abomination of desolation,' as a sign of the immediate destruction of Jerusalem ; and to the darkening of the suu and moon, and the falling of the stars, as signs of the beginning of the last day.

3 That the word ytrta may indicate a special race—a special generation or family—is undoubted (compare Dorner, p. 30) ; but that it is here iufor what reason does He know so certainly that it will continue to exist ? He knows assuredly that His words are eternal, that these will continue even although heaven and earth should pass away. But His words must endure by their very nature; they must endure as words of life, living in living hearts, enlightening in enlightened hearts, reconciling and renewing in hearts that are reconciled and renewed. Thus, therefore, this His family, His race, shall assuredly endure.

For this reason He said to the disciples, ' When ye shall see all these things.' He says not these words to them in their individual character, but as representing His eternal people; and hence they could not, from His expressions, draw the conclusion that they themselves, as those individual men, should in their present state live to see that day of the commencement of the judgment. Had they been able to conclude thus, He could assuredly never have continued to address to them the words which follow—words which have it. as their very purpose to prevent such consequences :—

' But of that day, and that hour, knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.'

It must not be forgotten that it was the Apostles and Evangelists who transmitted these words of the Lord to the Church. It is evident from this consideration, that all those assertions are false which represent the disciples as expecting the advent of Christ in their lifetime. It rather follows from this passage, that wherever they have in a lively manner expressed their expectation of the advent of Christ, they must needs have spoken in the consciousness of the Church, as of that which should not pass away, which had the promise that it should welcome the advent of Christ, and the task of constantly expecting it; thus, therefore, of yeved avrrj,

Although this effect of the expression of Jesus has been overlooked, another has been in many ways falsely apprehended, —namely, the assertion that the Son knew not the day and the tended to designate the disciples of Jesus as an everlasting race, seems manifest from the connection, as has been here shown. Dorner's observation (S. 75) is Indeed without foundation : praeterea vero Christum dicere non oportebat: d,u»i» htyu i/fi'ui ov f'.-/I irnpihin :/t ytna autrn sed r, ytvta iifca» seu vfitrip*. The passage is rather entirely analogous in its mode of expression to the corresponding passage, Matt. xvi. 28. There also the Ix>rd speaks of the disciples in the third person, although he is speaking to themselves.

hour of the end of the world. It is indeed not to be denied, that the Lutheran doctrine of the ' communicatio idiomatum— the interchange of all attributes between the divine and human nature of Christ—finds here no manner of confirmation. But, on the other hand, it is an entirely ill-founded, nay, false idea to gather from this assertion of Christ any argument for the 'positive ignorance of ilie Son ' in respect of that day and that hour. Rather He knows not of that chronological determination, because it is not yet suggested as a subject of reflection for Him in His living experience, in the range of His present life. He does not yet specify that point in its temporality, because to determine it would contradict His perfect childlikeness. He opposes His not-knowing of that moment, as a holy nol-wili-to- know, to the sinful will-to-know of his disciples ; the divine loftiness of this not-knowing, to the human paltriness of a pretended knowledge of this kind. Thus, likewise, it is with the angels in heaven. It belongs to their eminence neither to know nor to wish to know of that externality, as perchance it belongs to the eminence of a perfect artist not to know by heart every little detail of the outward history of his art. It is thus a heavenly, an angelic, and divine ignorance, which is opposed to the pettiness and artificial importance, to the falsely, perchance sinfully, refining subtlety wherewith other men would determine and know that day.

To the Father alone it is attributed to know that day and that hour, always and eternally, because He is above the relation of time, and views all times in one eternal present; and because He knows how many millions of men have yet to be born before the tree of humanity has attained its growth ; how many millions of human corruptions have still to be overcome by His truth; how many millions of human groans have still to be heard by His grace; how many ecclesiastical, political, physical, and astronomical conditions have first to be fulfilled, bqfore the tremendous hour of the world's judgment, and the world's glorification by the coming of Christ, can strike.

If we cast a general glance upon the collective signs which Christ has declared to be portents of the judgment of God, it becomes evident that He has clearly distinguished two kinds of signs: the signs of the periodic development of the Christian world, or of the periodic course of the world; and the signs of the new epochs which begin with the judgments of God. In respect of the periodic signs, we must again separate between such as only generally indicate the advance of the world's development—for instance, wars and persecutions of the Christians; and such whereby it may be perceived that the progress of the world's history is hastened, that the end is drawing nearer: great disturbances in the life of nations, in the ordinary course of nature, and in the Church itself on the one hand ; on the other, the preaching of the Gospel throughout all the world. In respect, however, of the signs of the new epochs, the first, the abomination of desolation, has as its result the immediate destruction of Jerusalem; the last, the darkening of the sun, has as its immediate sequel the end of the world. Moreover, the first judgment itself is to be considered as a typical portent of the second.

The latter signs are thus of such a kind, they occur so closely to the judgments which they announce, that believers must not allow themselves to wait for these signs in easy security. The Lord urged this very stringently upon His disciples. This is especially the case with 'the signs of the last day. This will indeed be announced also by great periodic portents preceding. But these shall only indicate the beginning of the birth-pangs of the earthly world; with respect to the times, therefore, they will be very indeterminate tokens. Thus some will allow themselves ever and anon to be excited by these signs to chiliastic rashnesses and extravagance; while others will be disposed to regard them too little. Although, therefore, Christ has before warned the disciples against such excitements, He will now warn them just as urgently against this careless, comfortable view of the periodic portents of the world's history, as though such things were not of much consequence.

He finds this all the more needful, as He foresees that the world in general will not regard all the periodic signs of His advent. He sees that this degree of inconsideration of His tokens will always go on increasing to the end of the world. And hence He can set forth this very inconsiderateness, the perfectly thoughtless carnal security in which the world will be immersed, in the most utter forgetfulness of His coming to judgment, as itself a terrible portent of the approaching judgment. It might seem incredible that the world should be caught

unawares at the end, in the most stupid recklessness of the end of the world ; bat in the course of its theocratic history, humanity has once already illustrated this inconsistency, this recklessness (which of itself is a judgment) about its destiny—to wit, in the days of the deluge. Christ refers to that instance in the words, ' As it was in the days of Noah, so shall the coming of the Son of man be.' Hereupon He represents the picture of the world's life in the last days, in the image of those days of the flood, as a life of complete absorption in sensuality, and thus of utter for- getfnlness of God, and spiritual abandonment. ' They ate and drank, they married and were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not till the flood came indeed, and swept them all away. So shall it be,' He adds once more, with emphasis, ' also at the coming of the Son of man.'

He now represents how suddenly the doom of the world shall come upon the old customary condition of the world, in a description which we have already once considered before, but which, even in respect of its significance, might perhaps be repeated.1 Two men are working together in the field. The judgment comes upon them and separates them suddenly, whilst the one is taken, is taken by Christ, an'd that blessed company of heaven which attends Him, and that heavenly host carries out upon the other the opposite decree of rejection. The same separation occurs in the case of two women who are grinding at one mill.

To this picture is appended, in the liveliest manner, the exhortation to the disciples to watchfulness. Each one of the three Evangelists has preserved special features of this admonition : thus each one represents it in a special form.

According to the Evangelist Luke: ' Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged (lest your innermost life be depressed and laden) with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare it shall come on all those that dwell upon the face of the whole earth (who have so entirely devoted themselves to the interest of the great broad earth as to seek in time their only home). Watch ye therefore always, and pray that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.' 1 See above, Book II. v. 33.

In the Evangelist Mark it is: ' Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time shall be. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and also commanded the porter to do his work—namely, to watch. Watch ye therefore,' it is added; and thus the interrupted text is completed in the most significant manner, as if the Lord should say, I am the traveller; you are the porters, who are as watchful ones to receive me with welcome at my return. He adds: ' for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or at the breaking of the morning; lest, coming suddenly,' it is said in the abruptness of lively discourse, ' He find you sleeping. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch!'

The Evangelist Matthew represents the Lord referring at the same time to the relation of a master of a house to the thief of the night: ' If the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and it would have been easy for him to have prevented the irruption into his house.' The counter proposition it was for the disciples to complete; that the ignorance of the goodman of the house of the time at which the thieves come, makes the difficulty of the watchfulness.

In this picture, the disciples appear as the masters of the house, and the Lord compares His coming to that of a thief; whereas, according to the previous representation, the disciples appear as porters, who wait for the Lord of the house coming from without. In this opposition there lies perhaps a deeper meaning: when Christians regard themselves here below in their temporal relations as door-keepers of the coming Christ, then they know that they have to expect the advent of their Lord as an extremely joyous event; but when, on the other hand, they regard themselves with earthly feelings as the lords in this house, then they begin to consider Him as an unauthorized stranger—they learn to hate Him as a thief; but they shall in that case be easily overtaken in their sleep by His unexpected irruption into their comfortable earthly abode, to their terror.1 The Lord adds, moreover: ' Therefore be ye also ready; for ye know not what hour your Lord shall come.' 1 See above, Book II. iii. 11. VOL. IV. I 4

With these last words we arrive at the parables upon the last things, which we have already considered above.

These parables are one and all appointed to describe the true ' preparation of Christian people' for the advent of Christ.

The first parable, which contrasts together the unfaithful and the faithful servant, insists upon faithfulness in the life of duty.

The second parable, wlnch contrasts together the wise and foolish virgins, insists upon the life in the Spirit of Christ. Here the Spirit is the chief matter in the life of duty. Thus wise as well as foolish virgins are represented as slumbering. The external drowsinesses into which feeble nature might fall, do not cause a distinction in the lot of Christians at the last moment, but the distinction is founded upon the fact of their having the oil of the Holy Spirit or not.

The third parable represents, in the opposition of the faithful servants who traded with their pounds, and of the unfaithful servant who hid his pound in the earth, a life of duty which proceeds from the spiritual blessing of Christ, and again earns a new spiritual blessing. It shows how the calling in the Spirit is carried on, how the Spirit expresses itself in the calling.

Finally, the fourth parable represents the Lord, as He, in His return to judgment, separates men from one another, as a shepherd the sheep from the goats. Now He places the one at His right hand, because in them is matured the highest piety of life in living unity, with the completest Christian depth and spirituality; now He places the others at his left, because they have altogether failed both in the one respect and the other. The pious thus become blessed, because they, on the one hand, in all their good works, sought Christ with the deepest devotion, and loved and found Him; while, on the other hand, they represented all their blessed peace in Christ, with the deepest practical truth in works of mercy. That is the perfect Christian life: hence also the perfect watchfulness—the readiness to receive the Lord at His coming as the accomplisher of redemption.

But with the deepest earnestness, Christ in these parables emphasizes the doom of rejection, which infallibly for eternity awaits the unfaithful labourers in His service; which awaits those who do not live in His Spirit,—those, moreover, who do not realize in life the spiritual blessing which they receive from Him,—those, finally, who are neither fundamentally rooted in Christ, nor are fittingly authenticated by works of charity towards their neighbours.

Thus, through all these parables, there echoes the word with which Mark has closed the sayings of Jesus about the last things : ' What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch!' This is the practical and substantial thought of all the discourses of the Lord on the last things—that His people must watch! They are always to be in condition to welcome the last day with its terror, to be able to appear with good courage before the presence of the Son of man in His judgment. For that purpose a constant wakefulness is needed before all things,—a continual arousing of their faculties out of the illusion of spiritual sloth, which conceives that existing Christian attainments are good enough,—out of the illusion of ease, which thinks that present circumstances are permanent, into the aspiration and the holy fear with which the advent of Christ reasonably fills Christians. Further, there is needed a continually renewing refreshment of eye and heart by means of this expectation ; a continually renewed revival in the heart of the death of Christ, of His cross, of the judgment, of His Spirit; and an exclusion from the heart of everything which might establish in it a new spiritual sloth, lust, and fear, and contradict the life in the death of Christ. Finally, there is needed a more continual apprehension of the world, and of life, in that definite manner which is in accordance with the nature of Christ's advent,—the recognition, for instance, of the living unity and reciprocal action between His historical and spiritual advent; the being penetrated with the feeling of this unity, and the discovery therein of the explanation of the apparent contradiction between the manner and certainty of the coming of Christ, and the uncertainty and probable remoteness still of that advent.

The coming of Christ would not be historically what it should be, were it not at the same time spiritual; it would not be spiritually what it is, were it not likewise historical.

It belongs to the conception of the historical coming of Christ, that it cannot occur until the Church is matured to the recognition, in His appearance, of a fuller and more abundant salvation and life; until the faithless world is matured to behold in it a more public judgment; until thus the whole of humanity can behold in it a more manifest spirit, so that its effect shall not be of a sensible and chiliastic character, but a complete operation of the Spirit of Christ in the manifestation of Christ.

On the other hand, we may not speak rightly of a spiritual future of Christ, except we acknowledge in this future a security that He will one day appear in person. Certainly it is possible mistakenly to indicate the extension of Christian views and principles in a spiritual sense, as a spiritual coming of Christ; which must not only render its historical significance superfluous, but must even deny it. But in such a case, the spiritual advent of Christ is not spoken of according to the full value of the Christian conception: it is not of an illumination, in which Christ personally appears as the everlasting Son of humanity; not of a reconciliation, in which He atones as the everlasting High Priest of His race; not of a sanctification, in which He personally reigns as the Eternal King, who establishes a kingdom and makes it manifest. But the Spirit of the true advent of Christ is a Spirit which may be regarded as the vital breath of His approach, which testifies of His personal life, and establishes the personal life of those who receive Him in union with Him, and evermore transforms and so prepares them to become one day transplanted into the sphere of Christ's manifestation.

And thus, generally, the spiritual advent of Christ is related to His historical advent, as the period is related to the epoch. A new epoch comes, indeed, always with every impulse of the period which precedes it, especially with every movement which this period makes. Thus, also, the coming of Christ is announced in all the experiences of His people, of His believers, but especially in all the judgments of God upon corrupt forms of the theocratic people, in all reformations and purifications of His Church.

The apostles were penetrated with this consciousness. They knew that in the ground of the world's history, in the ground of their heart and of the heart of humanity, the Christian era had already begun ; therefore they had the presentiment of the last days, which belongs to the outer course of the world.1 They had the consciousness that Christ had overcome sin and death, and therewith the entire old form of this world; that He had

' See the passages on the subject in Ebrard's Treatise, referred to.

made use of the old world as the principle of a new life in the centre of humanity, and was penetrating, in order to transform it; that He also had thus taken possession of them, and that for that very purpose He was also constantly drawing near to them in His manifestation; and in this deep apprehension of Christ they said, ' He comes quickly.' Through Him they had a participation in the Spirit of God, in whose sight a thousand years are as one day; and in that great sense of God, by that keen perception of the eyes of the seer, which could sweep abroad over the field of time as with eagle's vision, they said, He comes quickly. They were pervaded with the consciousness of the Church, in a degree of which we have no knowledge; and they knew with certainty that the Church would greet the Lord at His coming, as a bride the bridegroom. Therefore they said, in their large sympathy with the Church, He will come to ui, ice shall behold Him. Moreover, this consciousness was not weakened by their individual Christian experience of life, for they knew that at their death the Lord would come to them; that they should then appear before His throne; therefore they spoke with the most universal living truth of the nearness of the advent of Christ.

And yet they not only determined nothing about the time and about the hour, but they distinctly opposed all chiliastic and precipitate announcements of Christ's advent, and pointed to conditions which made it improbable that in an outward historical sense the Lord could be manifested thus soon.1

They thus comprehended both the Christologic certainty and nearness of the coming of Christ, and the cosmical chronological uncertainty and conjectural remoteness of it, in one,—a great, calm, sacred, spiritual stimulus, which was at one with the deepest peace of the soul; and from this consciousness arose their peculiar expressions upon the nearness of the Lord.

We may consider these utterances as the expression of their deep, faithful watchfulness.

Thus these utterances must needs appear to the critic as words of fanatical self-delusion, in proportion as he has lost the perception of that great sense of God and God's measure of time which prevailed in the apostolic Church; of the energy of that conviction of Christ, of their sense of fellowship and confidence in their ' See 2 Thess., and 2 Peter.

divinely happy personality and immortality. But in proportion as one seeks to live up to the eschatologic relations of our real life, of our world's history in its relation to Christ, in that proportion will the understanding of the words of Christ and of His apostles be brought about; and it will be ascertained that the Evangelist Mark has rightly comprehended the whole doctrine of the last things, according to their practical application in the one word—Watch!

Notes.

1. Already in those early days spiritualism had been recognised in the Christian Church as the natural antipodes to Chiliasm, and had restrained without being able to get rid of it. It could not do the latter, because it was itself just as one-sided as the other, and therefore needed just as often to be corrected by it, as on its own side it imposed a curb on its antagonist. Chiliasm cannot wait for the regeneration of the new world by the Spirit, and thus represents that new world in something of a 'Fata morgana.' Spiritualism, on the other hand, has not the sound Christian heart to be able to expect the evolution of a new world out of the new birth which the Spirit of Christ brings about. The former imagines that Christ is to found a sensible spiritual kingdom—the latter that He is to establish a purely spiritual kingdom. Thus the former forgets that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God— that everything that appears glorified in the new world must proceed from the Spirit of Christ,-and must be a spiritual form pure as crystal. The latter loses sight of the fact that the Spirit of Christ is everywhere, according to the nature of Christ and of Christianity,—spirit and life: that it renews the life, and accomplishes the resurrection of the body.

2. Strauss (ii. 324) endeavours to make out that Jesus Himself had, in an erroneous manner, fostered the notion that soon after the fall of the Jewish sanctuary, according to Jewish notions the centre of the present world, this world itself would come to an end, and the Messiah would appear for judgment. This and similar suppositions were successfully combated in the above-mentioned treatise of Ebrard, ' Adversus erroneam nonnullorum opinionem,' etc., to which we refer the reader. Strauss endeavours to establish the above assertion, by showing that the evdea)<; (Matt. xxiv. 29), in its relation with what precedes, does not allow a ' vast period' to be interpolated between the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, according to the representation of the Evangelist, but especially by protesting that the word 17 yeved, v. 34, must always signify the generation; and that thus it is determined that the Evangelist represents the Lord as saying that the generation of His own contemporaries should live to see the end of the world. The last assertion finds its perfect solution in what Dorner has said in the treatise already cited (de orations Christi eschatologicd, p. 76) upon the meaning of the word yeved. As to the former argument, Strauss himself has manifested no strong disposition to rely upon it. It has been shown above, that the text certainly recognises a period of time between the destruction of Jerusalem and the eu#e'<o?. Moreover, if the Totc, v. 23, be referred to a length of time after the destruction of Jerusalem, the true importance of the words Ko\of$a>drja-ovTai al fjfi-epai eicelvai must at once be rendered even more prominent than has hitherto been the case. Fritzsche, in his Commentary on Maitliew (710), has shown that the shortening of the days referred to may be understood not merely of the shortening of the time, but als6 of the contraction of the individual days themselves. ' Certe Rabbi- nici magistri diei,' he says, 'quo mortuus esset Abasus rex, detractas esse decem horas tradunt (cf. Lightfoot, ad h. 1.) ne quis homini pessimo lessum posset facere.' But what can such a shortening of the individual days of judgment signify here, other than the continuance of the judgment in a suppressed and broken form, distinct from that which at first appeared? Consequently the Lord distinguishes the days of uninterrupted judgment, or the days of the great tribulation; and the shortened days of judgment, in which the chastisement of the theocratic church continues in a subdued form, and especially in the fact that as well the heathens as the Jews must do without a centre of the kingdom of God upon earth, or that Jerusalem shall be trodden under foot of the heathens, whilst the Gentile Christians everywhere are aroused and endangered by false symptoms of the coming Messiah, till their time also is fulfilled, till also the judgment on the heathen world in its antichristianity is matured. Dorner (p. 73) has observed with keen censure, that Strauss, ' nimis avide duplici virga Evangelium caedere tentans,' involves himself in a contradiction; assuming at one time that the two first gospels were written long after the destruction of Jerusalem, and then again that the Evangelists had reported with solicitude the words of Christ even then, according to whose tenor the end of the world was to follow soon upon the destruction of Jerusalem, although these predictions must by that time have already been proved erroneous. Thus, according to p. 345, the texts in Daniel ix. 27, and others, are to be referred exclusively to the desecration of the holy place under Antiochus Epiphanes. According to p. 348, however, they ought to be described in the texts Dan. vii.-xii., as calamities in other places, which announce and accompany the day of the coming of Jehovah, or were to precede the advent of the Messianic kingdom of the Holy One. Thus it is said, p. 339 : ' To consider the judgment of the world, the coming of Christ, as anything successive, is the directest contradiction of the mode of representation in the New Testament.' On the other hand, it is said, p. 352, upon the words of John iii. 18,77877 iceKpirai: ' This only asserts thus much, that the assignment to every one of his merited destiny is not reserved till the future judgment at the end of things; but every one bears in himself, in his internal condition even now, the fate meet for him: therefore an impending solemn award of judgment is not excluded.' The rest partakes of similar characteristics.

3. According to Stier, the sayings of the Lord concerning the last things ought to be distributed into three sections, which represent an orderly chronological sequence of escha- tologic events.1 First of all, p. 249, he says that the Lord treats of the destruction of Jerusalem, chap. xxiv. 1-28; secondly, of His other proper (mediatorial) coming to the public opening of His kingdom for His then assembled elect, chap, xxiv. 1-25, 30; thirdly, of the great day of judgment of the King, ' in full power and glory over all the people at the end of the world,' or of the last coming of Christ at the last day, Matt.

1 [It is due, however, to Stier to say that he counts this a misunderstanding of his view, and does ' not intend a strictly defining and adjusting chronology of the future, but only a progression in the stages here placed in juxtaposition, in which, at the same time, the whole is always reflected in each.' That is to say, he maintains the perspective view of prophecy, and holds that this is not inconsistent with the dignity of our Lord's person. —ED.]

xxv. 31—46. In a similar manner Olshausen characterizes the sections (see the Commentary, 908—918). Opposed to this, however, is the fact, first, that the consideration in Matt. xxiv. 14 goes at once to the end of the world ; secondly, that, according to chap. xxiv. 22, a period of time is specified after the destruction of Jerusalem; thirdly, that in ver. 29 the most definite features of character are declared of the end of the world, and that here already all peoples definitely express the presentiment that the judgment is now at hand; fourthly, that in ver. 33 the description is apparently closed with a retrospect and an application, to which belong the parables which follow, although they certainly serve more fully to unfold the doctrine of the last judgment; especially also to show that, after all the warnings of Christ, many men will still incur the judgment. It is indeed not to be denied, that the parable of the wise and foolish virgins has features which, in relation to those of the last parable of judgment, seem to point to the continuance of the judgment of Christ even to the last day. Apart from what has been observed, there are great difficulties in conceiving of the return of Christ to the establishment of the first resurrection (the kingdom of a thousand years), as an external visible thing,—not to refer to the Augsburg Confession. Especially there is found in Scripture no intimation of a second departure of Christ for a second ascension.

4. With this section must be compared the description of the destruction of Jerusalem in Josephus, in the history of the Jewish war; the Apocalypse also, and the result of the later Geology.

 

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