« PreviousContinue »
power of the prince of darkness : according to the usual tenor of prophecy -" the visiting of the host of high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth on the earth;" or in the language of the Psalm just quoted :
After the order of Melchizedec
In short, it is still the destruction of Antichrist, that emphatical enemy, whom we have seen all along to be the object of the great Redeemer's vengeance when he shall appear. At that time, too, as we have ever been told, “ the last enemy, death, is to be destroyed,” “put down," as the same word is rendered above, or more strictly, be so debilitated or restrained in its powers, that it can no longer injure as an enemy.
Observe, it is not the subduing of death, as holding the wicked in subjection, which is here contemplated; but the victory over death, as having power to seize and to hold in subjection the people of God; that is to say, their bodies. In this sense, death is their last enemy, the last enemy that could ever touch them in the least degree; and in this sense death is destroyed, when, at Christ's second coming, the dead rise in their glorified bodies, or when the living saints experience such a change that death hath no more dominion over their animal frame.
The “ kingdom,” therefore, in this passage, I understand, not of the personal reign of Christ upon earth, , commencing from his second advent, but of his reign now, as seated at the right hand of power, — as seated, shall not always remain in this debased state, but shall one day be delivered from this subjection to the vain purposes of its degenerate master. It cherishes the hope of better times, and of being used to more noble and more suitable purposes. And it is no less extraordinary than true, that in every age of the world it has been the constant belief and expectation of mankind, that nature is not now in that state of perfection in which it once was; but that that primeval state of things, that “ golden age,” will at some distant period be again restored.
In the narrative of the sacred page we perceive the grounds of this tradition. Prophecy announces that the common expectation of mankind will not be disappointed.
22. “ For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now,” or “ travaileth in pain to this present [hour.)"
Employing still the metaphorical language which he had adopted, St. Paul represents creation distressed at its present slavery and abuse, and big with expectation of this great event, as groaning like a woman labouring with child. So that imagination may hear in the jarring elements, in the raging storm, in the bursting volcano, or in the more tremendous earthquake, the convulsive throes, as it were, of an agonizing mother. Thus the fabric of universal nature echoes in loud responses the daily prayer of the church, “ Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.”
23. “ And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan withirr ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body;" (or, “even we ourselves within ourselves do groan, earnestly desiring the adoption - the redemption of our body.*"]
The adoption means here the public manifestation of the children of God at the resurrection; the apostle's styling it “ the redemption of the body,” clearly connects the event which the whole creation is longing for, together with the saints themselves, with that resurrection or change of the mortal and corruptible part of the saints, which was the immediate subject of the last passage we considered : and we may compare with this, instead of quoting them separately, the following passages. In his epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul, speaking of the Holy Ghost, as given to the church, calls him “ The earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession;" or, purchased people, as some render it. And again, chapter iv. 30, “ Grieve not the Holy Spirit, by which ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” And compare, too, St. Paul's emphatical mention of the resurrection of the dead, Phil. iii. 11, “That by any means I might attain the resurrection from the dead." But to return.
Not only the powers of nature and the various parts of the creation are anxiously waiting for deliverance; but even the people of God themselves, though in part they participate in the glorious liberty of the children of God, having received the Spirit of adoption, yet even they do groan
within themselves for this same event; because the influence and indwelling of the Spirit, which they now feel, though it enables them to rejoice in hope, is but“ first fruits," “ an earnest:” the adoption, in its full sense,
* Compare Ephes. iv. So, &c.
they possess not yet. It is at present a secret whispered in their hearts by the Holy Ghost; but their manifestation in the character of the sons of God is yet an object of “ hope that is not seen.” In secret the believer rejoices in his high birth ; but he waits for this great revolution of nature before he expects to receive its honours. It is “ the grace to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Our “ life is hid with Christ in God; and when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory."*
The Eleventh Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. St. Paul's account of the rejection and future restoration of Israel, in the eleventh chapter of this same Epistle, must not be entirely passed over. He tells us that this rejection of the natural descendents of the patriarchs was neither to be total nor final : that in every period of their abandonment, there would be a reserve of a part; and, at a future period, a resumption of the general body. In the twelfth verse,
“ Now, if the fall of them was," – or, “ And if their failure was—to be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness," — “ how much more was their fulness to be!"
The apostle speaks as having the prophecies he had just quoted in his view. Did the prophecy speak of their
See Lectures on the Epiştle to the Romans.
Lord, faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy."
A Mediator is still wanted between “ God even the Father” and the nations upon earth ; for, as we have seen all along, there still remain nations upon earth : and the Son is about to descend on earth again, and to reign, not merely by his Spirit, but personally. His elect remnant, however, whose number is now accomplished, are not so much the subjects of this reign, as the partners of the great King in his rule over the earth ; are so honoured by the grace of their Restorer that they are called “not servants,” but “ friends :” according to a standard metaphor of Scripture, the redeemed of the Lord are now " the bride," “ the Lamb's wife,” the spouse of Christ, made one with Christ, and, through that link of union, one with God.
The mediatorial reign over the earth is not given up to the Father; but the mediatorial reign over the glorified saints. They are “the children of God, being the children of the resurrection," and after having been presented to their God and Father, complete in Christ, they are commissioned by their Father to go forth as the brethren and companions of their only Saviour and Lord, to judge the world, and govern the nations upon earth. The nations upon earth are the subjects immediately of the kingdom, not of the FATHER, but of Christ and his saints : and the saints in their reign have certainly, by delegation from the one Mediator, somewhat of a mediatorial character; for they are to reign with Christ, and are " priests of God and of Christ.” But the kingdom over these glorified saints is that of God even the FATHER ; and hence our