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Every word almost of this text intimates, that this coming is meant of a time after his ascension, and yet before the ultimate day of doom.
Behold! He cometh”-implies a future thing, now, after his ascension; and some eminent coming. "He cometh with clouds," that is, in the clouds; as the Greeks in the same manner say, a man with armour, for a man in armour. The meaning doubtless is, that this coming of Christ shall not be so obscure as at his incarnation, or as his coming among the disciples after his resurrection; but he shall come conspicuous and gloriously visible to all upon the earth. His people now see him with the eye of faith ; but they do not behold him visibly :r then however "every eye shall see him :” which must needs signify more than a sight by faith : for faith and sight are so distinct, that the Apostle makes them opposite. It is questionable, whether every eye, that is said here to see him, shall first see him by faith : for every eye must see him, and all kindreds of the earth shall mourn. Surely his enemies, whom he destroys at his coming, shall not see him by faith!
Even so, amen.”—John did certainly see Christ by faith ; and yet he prays for that sight of him in the clouds, and raises up his faith with a hearty Amen.
On the other hand this text cannot be understood of the ultimate day of judgement: First, because it is the same with Zech. i, 10; and therefore the same reasons prevail, which are noticed under that head. Secondly, because this is set here, as the main and general proposition to the Book of the Revelation ; of which the subject therefore is, to set forth Christ to come, and set up his Church into a most glorious estate on earth, before the day of judgement, (as we have seen abundantly,) and to make her reign with him on earth. Thirdly, it were very incongruous for John, in the last clause of verse 6, to applaud Christ's dominion as to continue for ever, (that is, while times and ages last, as the Greek imports,) and in the first clause of the next verse to say, he cometh to make an end of his dominion. For the ultimate day of judgement is the last act of Christ's dominion ; which he then lays down, that God may be all in all.t
Thus then observe, that Zechariah and John both prophesied in the aforesaid places of one and the same personal appearance
r 1 Pet. i, 8. * 2 Cor. v. 7, and Heb. xi. ti Cor. xv. 24, 28.
of Christ. This, from the whole tenor and time of the vision to John, must be subsequent to his ascension : but it cannot be understood of the ultimate general judgement, because they both speak of his pouring out grace on, and giving repentance to, the families of the Jews, and of his dominion, to continue thence for many ages. Therefore the said visible appearance of Christ is yet to be before the ultimate day of judgement.
Matthew xxiv, 30.
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; “ and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall
see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power, “ and great glory." Observe distinctly every clause and word. 1st,
Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man;" that is, the Son of Man shall appear for a sign that great things are at hand; as it follows, "they shall see the Son of Man, &c." 2nd, “ The sign of the Son of Man in heaven;" he was before in the highest third heaven, but now in the lowest first heaven, namely of the “ clouds,” as it also follows in this verse. 3rd, And then shall all the tribes of the earth (intimating Jews as well as Gentiles) mourn :" Why ?- They shall see the Son of Man; that is, as man. And how mourn ?-Doubtless, according to Zechariah and John, the the Jews with godly repentance; and his obstinate enemies with desperation for the ruin that is coming upon them. 4th, “Coming in the clouds,” or upon the clouds : from which John's meaning is proved when he said, Christ should come
Now Christ spake this before his ascension and going away above the clouds, and after he had come in the flesh. Therefore it must needs be fulfilled after he hath so ascended above the clouds ; for then, and not till then, will it be rightly said and properly fulfilled, that he comes in the clouds.
Nor can this coming and appearance in the clouds be here understood of the ultimate day of judgement, because of that which Christ afterwards affirmeth, “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.” (v. 34.) And then he seals and binds it up in the next verse, viz. “ heaven
and earth shall pass away, but my words (and particularly those words foregoing) shall not pass away.” Thus heaven and earth shall pass at Christ's coming, (that is in quality, not in substance, saith Ecumenius) for there shall be “a new heaven, and a new earth ;”u but Christ's word concerning that generation and the things spoken of should not pass. The Greek is " pass away,' it being the same word as is rendered pass away in reference to the heaven.
But the difficulty is in the words, "this generation.” Some would fain refer these words to the time of the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, adverted to in verse 2; but though that verse might have been then fulfilled, yet little reason is there from thence to infer, that therefore “ all things, spoken by Christ from verse 3 to verse 34, were then fulfilled. Christ in verse 3, is put upon speaking to three distinct things : viz. Ist, of the time, when those things, (viz. the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem) shall be ;-2nd, of the sign of his coming ;and, (mark the "and,") 3rd, of the end of the world. These are the “ all things” Christ speaks of, at the fulfilling of which he himself will appear in the clouds. But at the destruction of the temple Christ did not visibly appear in the clouds ; nor did he then "send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet to gather his elect from the four winds,” as he promises, verse 31. Therefore the words, “This generation shall not pass away, &c." must signify, that whereas many other nations have passed away, and been extinguished, leaving behind neither name, nor thing to keep up their remembrance; this nation of the Jews shall not be so extinguished, or annihilated, but shall continue a distinct nation, at least in note and name, till all these things be fulfilled. For as Christ saith after, my word shall not pass away, (that is, change, as the heavens and the earth shall pass away, or be changed, when that great reformation shall come ;) so the nation of the Jews shall not pass away to be changed into another people, or so drowned among many others as to extinguish their name and genealogies : but (as to this day, so from hence forward till that great time,) their name, kindred, and habitations shall be distinctly known,-at least of all them that are of their own blood.
u As Isaiah lxv ; 2 Peter iii; Rev. xxi.
This cannot be deferred to the last judgement, because of this reason also; that a little before this mention of all things to be fulfilled to the nation of the Jews before they pass away, Christ saith, that as, by the fig tree's tender branch putting forth leaves,
know that summer is nigh; so, when we see all these things come to pass, we may discern that the summer of the great restoration of the elect and of all things for their use, like the world in summer, is at hand. And further, in verses 46, 47, he intimates, that the time he speaks of is not the utmost last judgement, but of a glorious previous time on earth ; viz. “ Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall “ find so doing: verily, I say unto you, he shall make him ruler
over all his goods : (the Greek is, shall set him over all that he " hath :") which suits far better to the saint's reign on earth, than to any thing of their condition at the last judgement, when Christ lays down his own rule and power, and therefore gives no power of rule to his people.
Upon the words, “this generation shall not pass,” let me observe that thus far Pareus and others are of our mind. He says, That
though others understand by yeneration the whole world, yet it better pleaseth me to understand the Jewish nation, as the
generation upon whom these things shall be fulfilled. Matthew “xxiv, 2. Therefore the nation shall not pass, but continue “ scattered, till the end of ages, when they shall experimentally “ find the truth of Christ's predictions, though at present they
do not believe,”
2 Thessalonians, ii, 1–9.
“ Now I beseech you brethren, by the coming of our Lord “ Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye “ be not soon shaken in mind, as that the day of Christ is at “hand.
Let no man deceive you ; &c. for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of " sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth
himself above all that is called God; &c. so that he, as God, “sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. ' &c. And now ye know what withholdeth, that he might be " revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth
" already work; only he who now letteth, will let, till he be taken “out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, “whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, " and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming."
It would appear by this place, that soon after the ascension of Christ, there went abroad an expectation of his coming again before the ultimate day of judgement. This expectation probably began in the Apostles themselves, upon Christ's discourse to them during forty days, from his resurrection to his ascension, touching the kingdom of God; which moved them to ask him, “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel ?" For this kingdom Christ did not deny, but only then put them off, touching their knowing the time at present. I say then, that when the Apostle wrote this, there was an opinion (though a mistake in it, as touching the proximity thereof) that Christ would come again before the ultimate day of judgement. For this text speaks not of the general destruction of the wicked world ; but of the destruction of Antichrist by the brightness of Christ's coming; whereby a way is made for the gathering of the Jews and Gentiles into one universal visible church, before the ultimate day of judgement, as we have so largely proved.
We need not I conceive prove, that Antichrist is meant in this text ; for it is granted by all. Nor is it material to dispute, whether the Pope or Turk be the Antichrist ; for Antichrist is the body, (viz. the race of them that effectually oppose Christ, as Christ,) and the Pope and Turk are the two main limbs, as we have shown before. Our text then saith, The Lord shall consume Antichrist with the Spirit of his mouth, and destroy him with the brightness of his coming :" and although these two master-limbs of Antichrist should not fall together, but the Pope shall be first bowed down, and the Turk be ruined after him, (perhaps at the end of the forty-five years of the Jews' struggle with him,w) yet this text stands firm, that Antichrist must fall by the Spirit of Christ's mouth, and by the brightness of his coming.
The Spirit of his mouth is his word, called in Isaiah xi, 4, “ The rod of his mouth,” and “the breath of his lips," with
v Acts 1, 3, 6.
w See Dan xii. 12.