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THE SEASON AND SIGNS OF CHRIST'S COMING.
“ They asked him saying, Master, but when shall these things be? And what sign shall there be, when these things shall come to pass.”* The question seems to have been suggested by the remarks, which the Saviour had made relative to the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem. It is obvious, from the terms in which Matthew proposes it,t that it had an ulterior reference. The disciples inquired, not only with regard to the fate of their city, but also with regard to the period of the Saviour's second coming, and of the end of the dispensation. In this extended sense we understand the inquiry, and propose to collate, from the prophetical Scriptures, some of the more important and striking signs of the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We shall thus be furnished with an additional argument in proof of that coming being pre-millenial.
The theme is one of vast moment. The event itself involves our eternal interests, and the destiny of the world. If it be the fact that the once despised Nazarene, the persecuted Galilean, who was crucified between two thieves, but, having risen from the dead, ascended to heaven, and received all power and author. ity in heaven and on earth, is there waiting till the
* Luke, 21. 7.
| Matt. 24. 3.
appointed season of God's forbearance shall have been ended before he returns to earth to execute almighty and everlasting vengeance on his enemies, it behoves us to be on the watch, and to inquire diligently whether there shall be any, and if so, what will be the signs of his coming. Inattention and neglect here may prove fatal, as it has done, and will do yet, to multitudes.
It is but a poor excuse, though often made and extensively entertained, that the whole subject is involved in impenetrable mystery, and nothing definite or certain can be determined in relation to it. Enough is revealed to make us watchful, and to enable us to see when it is near at hand, although we may not be able to tell the hour or the year. Both the season and the SIGNS of Christ's coming are accurately described.
1. THE SEASON OF HIS COMING.—It appears from the prophetical Scriptures that this is dated BEFORE THE MILLENIUM. The prediction of Daniel* with regard to the destruction of the fourth beast, or Roman empire, under the ascendant, despotic, and arrogant sway of the little horn, or the Man of sin, furnishes an irrefragable argument in proof of this. Let any man carefully read this prophecy, and compare it with the eleventh, nineteenth, and twentieth chapters of Reve. lations, and he will see that they all refer to the same season and to the same scenes. The coming of Christ takes place at the destruction of the fourth, or Roman despotism, before the Millenium. The only way to evade the force of this argument is to make the coming not a literal but symbolical coming. This, how. ever, cannot be done without assuming things which have not been and cannot be proved, and without violat.
* Daniel, 7. 9–27.
ing the fundamental principles of that only true and legitimate system of exegesis to be applied to the Sacred Scriptures.
To the same effect is the prediction of the apostle Paul,* which determines the chronology of the Saviour's coming, and declares it to be at the time of the destruction of the Man of sin, “ that lawless one,” whom Jesus Christ shall“ consume by the spirit of his mouth, and destroy by the brightness of his coming.”
In like manner, the predictions concerning the conversion and restoration of the Jews, which, it is admitted, are to be fulfilled before the Millenium, are set forth as receiving their accomplishment in the same season, and by means of the coming of Jesus Christ. If the reader will compare Luke, 21. 24-27, with Matt. 24. 29, 30, and Mark, 13. 24-27, he will find that they all relate to the same coming, and describe the same scenes. “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles (or nations), until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled,"t-at which period the Son of Man shall be seen coming in the clouds of heaven. But it appears from Romans, 11. 25, &c., that the conversion and restoration of the Jews do not take place “till the fulness of the Gentiles be come in,” i. e. the completion of the times of the Gentiles.I
* 2 Thess. 2. 3–12. f Luke, 21. 24.
I The period during which the nations, in the exercise of their political sovereignty, should oppose a barrier to the kingdom of God, the time of the continuance of the great systems of politiçal dominion which Daniel saw in vision, and described as the four empires successively to arise in the world, during which the kingdom of God would be delayed, and the saints be subjected to the control and tyranny of the man of the earth. The words are, άχρις ου το πλήρωμα των εθνών εισέλθη. Bloomfield says πλήρωμα is best explained as equivalent to 7ñoos twv €Ovớv (as opposed to
Weadd yet further, that the destruction of the nations, which occurs in the war of Armageddon, predicted by John,* is evidently the same with that in the valley of Jehoshaphat, predicted by Joel.f According to John, f the beast and false prophet, the secular and spiritual powers of the Roman Empire, are to be destroyed. And in Joel's war in the valley of Jehoshaphat, Judah and Jerusalem are to be restored, and according to Zechariah,s they are to be converted, as was Paul, by the coming of Christ. The restoration and conversion of the Jews, therefore, occurring at the destruction of the anti-Christian nations, and both being pre-millenial, and cotemporaneous with the coming of Christ, the season of his coming must be dated before the Millenium.
The fact is, that all the other great events, which, it is admitted, must occur before, or at the introduction
the irrúllatt at v. 12) and signifying the great bulk of the heathens-in a manner, all. At sicéron must be supplied eis tiiv Bagiλείαν του Θεού, or εις την πίστιν. The ηττημα, or diminishing, referred to in the twelfth verse, however, is not that of the Gentiles, but of the Jews. The apostle there is not referring to time, but in the twenty-fifth verse he is. He does not use the word týpuna in reference to the Gentiles, or their universal accession to the cause of Christ, or entrance into his kingdom. The expression he applies to this is a loûtos čovớr—the riches of the Gentiles—as opposed to the diminution of the Jews. The towua aŭtūr—" their fulness," of the twelfth verse, is that of the Jews, and not of the Gentiles, as the context plainly shows. During the oppression, and diininishing, and scattering of the Jews, the Gentile nations are enriched by the gospel. If this great result has flowed, says Paul, from the diminution of the Jews, how much more enriched will the nations of the earth be by their fulness,-the completion of God's designs of mercy towards them, in the full complement of their redeemed nation ? If their depressed condition has enriched the world, how much more their prosperous condition ? * Rev. 16. 16.
† Joel, 3. 2-12. | Rev. 19. 19, 20.
Zech. 12. 10-12.
of the Millenium, such as the harvest and vintage of God's wrath,—the marriage supper of the Lamb,—the supper of the great God made for the fowls of heaven to eat the flesh of kings and captains, &c., and the like, are spoken of in prophecy as cotemporaneous with the coming of Jesus Christ ; and the only possible method of evading the force of the argument founded on them, in favor of his pre-millenial coming, is to assume and to maintain, that the coming, contemplated in all these cases, is merely figurative. This, we have shown, cannot be done consistently with correct principles of interpretation. We cannot, therefore, be at a loss with regard to the general season of Christ's appearing. This season is designated by
II. VARIOUS SIGNs, premonitory or symptomatic of its arrival. These signs are of a twofold character1. Those in general descriptive of the season by which it may be known when it arrives; and, 2. Those which mark, by definite events, how near we may be to it. The distinction here stated may be illustrated by what occurs to the traveller. He has had a description given him of a certain country, whither he is wending his way. The country may be known from its climate and soil, the character of its inhabitants, and other general characteristic traits. With this general description he is satisfied, till he enters the country, and begins to inquire the way to the place in it which he seeks--the end of his journey. He wants then something more definite, and would feel greatly pleased to find himself on the public highway, with its milestones regularly planted, apprising him, from stage to stage, how near or distant it may be.
It is thus with us, as time bears us forward to the great epoch of the Saviour's coming. The season, or