« PreviousContinue »
your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Previous to this, Christians suffered the most severe persecutions from the Jews, but then they had rest from their persecutors. At that period the kingdom of God came with power. Christ was glorified in them, and they were glorified in him. See on 2 Thess. 2: below. In the words-" then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of their father," there seems to be an allusion to Dan. 12: 3. which has been shown, refers to the same time and events.
Such is a brief statement of our views of this passage. In confirmation of them I would add the following. It has been shown that the temporal judgments of God on the Jewish nation are set forth under the figure of a furnace of fire. Now, we call on any man to produce a single passage, where a punishment in a future state of existence, is described under such a figure. It will not do to take it for granted, that this is done by our Lord in this passage, and in face of all the evidence we have adduced to the contrary. No; let proof be brought forward that this is his meaning. Let it be accounted for, why the temporal calamities which came on the Jewish nation are spoken of under the figure of a furnace of fire, yet future eternal punishment is never so represented in the Scripture? Besides, let some reason be given, why the same Greek phrase, rendered the end of the world, Matth. 24: 3. and allowed to mean the end of the age or Jewish dispensation, should not also mean the very same thing in the passage before us? Scripture usage, both as to this phrase and the furnace of fire, is against the common opinion, and in favor of the views I have advanced.
It is very evident also from the New Testament, that at the end of the Jewish age, a separation was to take place, and is represented under various figures, as well as in plain language. In the passage
before us, this separation between the righteous and the wicked, is represented by separating tares and wheat. In others, separating chaff and wheat, good and bad fishes, &c. The question is-Did a separation take place at the end of the Jewish age, answerable to these figurative representations? I answer without hesitation, yes. The whole Jewish nation. previous to the end of this age, were like chaff and wheat promiscuously on the same floor, whether believers in Christ, or unbelievers. Or like good and bad fishes in the same net, or as taręs and wheat growing in the same field. But no one doubts, that at the end of the age a separation did take place, when the Jews were scattered among all nations, and the separation between them and Christians, or children of the kingdom, has continued to this day.
It is very evident, that aion in this passage, could not well be rendered by any word signifying endless duration. If it were, it would make our Lord to say, "the harvest is the end of the everlasting or forever," and, "so shall it be in the end of this everlasting or forever." But who would impute such things to him, who spake as never man spake? To suppose he did, would make a plurality of forevers; for this forever implies another forever. Besides, it shows that forever is to end, and that the endless punishment of the wicked is only to begin at the end of the forever, if the furnace of fire means hell fire in another state of existence.
Any objections which have occurred to the views advanced, I shall state and answer.
1st. "How, upon your views, could it be said, that the devil sowed the tares among the wheat?" If this be any objection against my views, it lies equally against the common view taken of this passage. If my views of the devil be correct, this objection has no force.
2d. "Upon your views of this passage, how are angels to reap the harvest at the end of the age?" In reply, let it be noticed, that the term angel simply signifies a messenger. This will not be disputed. Let any one consult Whitby or Macknight, and he will see, that the angels here referred to were not angelic spirits, but human messengers. He will also see how the separation at the end of the age was effected by them. But see on Matth. 25: below.
3d. "Why was the temporal miseries which came on the Jews represented under the figure of a furnace of fire?" Answer; for a very good reason. A furnace of fire was the severest punishment which an eastern despot could devise. See Dan. 3. The temporal judgments which came on the Jews at the end of the age were such as the like had never been before, nor shall the like ever be again. The most severe eastern punishment, a furnace of fire, is therefore chosen to describe them. See Mark 13: 19, 20.
Matth. 13, 47–50. The same Greek phrase, as in the two preceding texts, occurs here, and is rendered in the same way. As our Lord is only illustrating the same things, and uses the very same figure of a furnace of fire, we forbear either transcribing it, or remarking on it. The remarks made on the last passage are sufficient here.
Matth. 28: 20. "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Precisely the same Greek phrase occurs here as in the foregoing texts, and is rendered the same way in the common version. Wakefield renders it-"the conclusion of the age ;" and Campbell-"the onclusion of this state." Parkhurst considers the Greek phrase here as referring to the end of the age of the Messiah, and as equivalent to the end of this world, yet precisely the same phrase, Matth. 24: 3. he says
signifies the end of the Jewish age or dispensation. But I ask-Why depart from the obvious sense of this expression, Matth. 24: 3.? Scripture usage ought not to be departed from without good reasons. What leads to such a departure here, probably is, that to say "the end of the world" means the end of the age or Jewish dispensation, would limit Christ's promise to be with his disciples to this period. This would not certainly follow. But I shall proceed to show that in the sense Christ here promised to be with his disciples, it was not needed beyond the end of the Jewish dispensation.
It seems to be overlooked, that our Lord was addressing himself to the eleven apostles. Nor is it sufficiently understood, in what sense he promised to be with them unto the end of the age. If verse 16. and the parallel texts are consulted, it appears that the apostles are the persons of whom he speaks, and he promised to be with them in a sense he never was, and never will be again with any other persons. He was with them, in teaching them the doctrine and laws of his kingdom, and enabling them to work miracles in proof of their being his ambassadors to the world. But will any man have the arrogance to affirm, that Christ is with them in such a sense? The vain and arrogant pretences of men to being ambassadors of Christ, we hope is now nearly exploded. Supposing then, that all the apostles had lived beyond the end of the age, or the destruction of Jerusalem, yea, let it be granted that they were all yet alive, there was no need for Christ being with them. longer than to the end of the age. Am I asked why? I answer, before this period arrived the gospel must be preached to all the world. See Matth. 24: 14. When it arrived, the apostles had all finished their work for which they were called, and all of them except John had also finished their course and left this
world. Allowing that they had all continued to live to the present day, would Christ have continued to be with them, still teaching them, and enabling them to word miracles? I ask what need there was for this? All the will of God was revealed, and his word attested by miracles before the end of the age. Unless God had some further revelation to make by them, they could but repeat what before was preached and committed to writing, and fully attested by miracles. Were they now alive, would they not like us believe and obey what God, previous to the end of the age, enabled them to communicate to the world? This I am persuaded few will question. It is easily seen then, that the phrase "the end of the world," is in agreement with the usage of it in all the other texts, and that Christ's promise to be with his apostles to this period, was as long as his promise was needed, or indeed could be enjoyed by them in this mortal state.
I may just notice, that I have no occasion to discuss the disputed question, that miracles were continued in the church for the first three hundred years. Granting that they were continued, let it be noticed, that none but the apostles were our Lord's commissioned and accredited ambassadors to the world. With them, and them only, we have to do as instructors. If he was with any others making miracles. beyond the end of the Jewish age, it does not concern us, nor does it affect the question we are at present considering.
It is very plain that aion, here rendered world, was not used to express endless duration. To suppose this, would make our Lord promise to be with his apostles to the end of everlasting or eternity. This would give rise to many questions. What time does eternity end? If it ends, pray when did it begin? And, were the apostles to live to the end of