Prop. 129. The Jewish view of a Pre-Millennium resurrection requisite for the introduction of the Messianic Kingdom is fully sustained by the grammatical sense of the New Testament.
ATTENTION IS THUS PROMINENTLY CALLED TO THE FACT, THAT THE AGREEMENT EXISTING BETWEEN JEWISH BELIEF AND THE LANGUAGE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT MOST EFFECTUALLY SUPPORTS OAR DOCTRINAL POSITION.
OBS. 1. TO AVOID REPEATING, THE READER IS REQUESTED TO NOTICE HOW UNDER THE PRECEDING PROPOSITIONS RELATING TO THE RESURRECTION TAUGHT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, THE APOCALYPSE, AND THE GOSPELS AND EPISTLES, THE CONSTANT REFERENCE WAS MADE TO THE JEWISH BELIEF PREVAILING, AND QUOTATIONS WERE GIVEN FULLY SUSTAINING THE SAME FROM CRITICS, HISTORIANS, COMMENTATORS, ETC. NOW, WE ASK THE READER TO CONSIDER HOW IT WAS POSSIBLE FOR JESUS AND THE INSPIRED WRITERS TO EMPLOY LANGUAGE, IN VIEW OF SUCH AN EXISTING BELIEF, FULLY CORROBORATING IT, UNLESS THE BELIEF WAS A CORRECT ONE, IN STRICT ACCORD WITH THE DIVINE PURPOSE. WRITERS OF ALL SHADES OF OPINION, OPPOSERS TO CHILIASM INCLUDED, TELL US THAT THE JEWS DID NOT EXPECT A FULFILLMENT OF THE MESSIANIC PREDICTIONS, OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT AND THE PROMISES BASED UPON IT, WITHOUT A RESURRECTION, ECLECTIC IN ITS NATURE, ACCESSORY AND INITIATORY TO THEIR REALIZATION. THE STUDENT, IF HONEST AND SINCERE, MUST, BEFORE REJECTING OUR DOCTRINE, GIVE A SATISFACTORY REASON WHY THE STATEMENTS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT IN THEIR PLAIN GRAMMATICAL SENSE (FOR THIS SENSE IS ADMITTED, BUT A SPIRITUAL ONE IS SUBSTITUTED) TEACH THE SAME KIND OF AN ECLECTIC RESURRECTION, ASSOCIATED WITH A FUTURE REIGN OF THE MESSIAH. HE MUST ALSO, IF CONSIDERATE, SHOW WHY THIS JEWISH BELIEF, THUS CORROBORATED BY A SENSE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, WAS UNIVERSALLY HELD BY THE CHURCHES ESTABLISHED UNDER APOSTOLIC GUIDANCE, IF AN ERROR. THIS NO ONE CAN DO, WITHOUT IMPEACHING THE DIVINE INSTRUCTION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THE DIVINE GUIDANCE MANIFESTED IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. THE CONCLUSION, INEVITABLE, TO WHICH WE ARE FORCED IS THIS: THAT THE DOCTRINE IS TRUTH, FOUNDED ON DIVINE UTTERANCES AND ASSURANCES, AND COMMITTED TO THE CHURCH TO STIMULATE FAITH AND HOPE.
As to the Jewish belief, we only need to quote one authority hostile to Pre-Millenarianism, viz., Prof. Stuart, who (Com. Apoc., vol. 1, p. 177) says: “That the great mass of Jewish Rabbins have believed and taught the doctrine of the resurrection of the just, in the days of the Messiah’s development, there can be no doubt on the part of him who has made any considerable investigation of this matter.”
Obs. 2. Again, there is no question concerning the grammatical sense, for that is admitted even by our opponents, many of whom we have quoted. But we are assured that that sense is not the one intended; that a typical or spiritual meaning is the one to be received. Hence the doctrine of a literal Pre-Millennial resurrection is derided as “antiquated,” “Jewish,” etc., and utterly unfitted for the advanced thought of the age. A question, however, arises, which we will do well to ponder, viz., which is the safest to accept of, a God-given sense, or of one which is at the option of the interpreter? If a Pre-Millennial resurrection is an error, then it is one contained in the letter of the Word, and given by inspired men under the guidance of God Himself, and we are justifiable in entertaining it; but, on the other hand, if it be a truth, thus plainly declared, we are inexcusable in its rejection.
Obs. 3. Infidels object to the New Testament on the ground that it unmistakably teaches this previous existing Jewish view (so Strauss, Bauer, Renan, etc), and reject the whole as evidence of superstition and ignorance. Apologists lamely strive, by the application of spiritualistic interpretation, to avoid such a conclusion, while admitting (1) the Jewish view as existing at the First Advent, and (2) the grammatical sense expressing it, but which is, they say, merely an accommodation to existing prejudice, and must be understood in a higher and nobler sense. No wonder that many apologies only confirm the unbeliever in his state of unbelief, seeing that they are utterly unfair to the Record and derogatory to the divine teaching of the Master and the Apostles. We, on the other hand, fully admit the infidel’s objection grounded on Jewish belief and corroborative New Testament teaching, and, instead of apologizing for the same and explaining it away, we account for it as a matter grounded in God’s Redemptive Plan, contained in the covenants and predictions, and which simple consistency and unity requires to be taught in the New Testament.
Obs. 4. Judge Jones (Notes, p. 284) remarks of the Jewish opinion: “They understood that the promises (in covenants) which God made to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob were absolute; and they believed that He would surely perform them, even to those of former generations, who had part in them; and on this ground, mainly, they taught the resurrection of the dead, Act_24:15.” “Three opinions touching the resurrection prevailed to a greater or less extent among the Jews. (1) Some maintained that only the just or righteous of their nation would be raised; (2) others maintained that the whole of their race (all Israelites) would be raised; (3) and some maintained that all Israelites and some Gentiles would be raised. It is evident from Act_24:14-15, that the Jews of Paul’s day did not adopt the first of these opinions, but they appear to have limited the resurrection to their nation. In Rom_9:2-5, Paul teaches that the adoption, by which he meant the resurrection, Rom_8:23, pertained to Israelites; and hence it would seem that the resurrection, as a term of the original covenant, was limited to Israel. Rabbi Bechai says, God granted four special honors to Israel, viz., (1) the land of Canaan; (2) the law; (3) prophecy; (4) the resurrection of the dead. Josephus, though obscure, evidently did not believe the resurrection would be universal.”
Aside from the authorities quoted under previous Props., the student may refer to Lardner’s Works, Harmer’s Mis. Works, etc., and it will be found that in the various opinions expressed there still remained the idea of a limited, eclectic resurrection over against that of a universal one. In the resurrection pertaining to the Messianic Kingdom and Millennial blessedness, the prevailing view, based on covenant promises given to the nation, was that Israelites (and Gentiles incorporated by adoption) alone participated in it. Now this conception of the Pre-Millennial resurrection is retained in the New Testament, because, as we have shown in detail, the Gentiles called also experience its power and blessedness in view of their being received and acknowledged as the children of Abraham (see Props. 61-65). In numerous works we find references to this Jewish belief in a limited resurrection, as e.g. Pressense (The Early Days, etc., p. 74, quoting from Grimm’s Die Samariter) refers to the Talmud, declaring respecting the Samaritans, “this accursed people shall have no part in the resurrection of the dead.” The Book of Enoch (regarded by able critics as pre-Christian-see art. on M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclop.) expressly (Enoch 61:5; 91:10; 92:3; 100:5) teaches that the righteous shall be raised up and share in the blessedness of the Messiah’s Kingdom. Later works of a mixed character, as the Testament of Judah in the Twelve Patriarchs, allude to the resurrection and exaltation of the Patriarchs in the time of the Messiah, and express the faith: “They who have died in grief shall arise in joy, and they who have lived in poverty for the Lord’s sake shall be made rich, and they who have been in want shall be filled, and they who have been weak shall be made strong, and they who have been put to death for the Lord’s sake shall awake in life.” Jewish-Christian writings have varied references. The ancient Jews (Cudworth’s Intel. System, p. 797) called the resurrection of the body “the angelic clothing of the soul,” which reminds one of the saying of Jesus, “made equal unto the angels.”
Prop. 130. This Kingdom is preceded by a translation of the living saints.
THIS IS A PREREQUISITE, IN ORDER THAT THOSE ACCOUNTED WORTHY TO INHERIT THE KINGDOM, AND RULE THE NATIONS WITH CHRIST, MAY BE GATHERED. IN REFERENCE TO THE DEAD SAINTS, A PRE-MILLENNIAL RESURRECTION (PROPS. 125-129) IS PROMISED BY WHICH TO ATTAIN THIS OBJECT; AND WITH SUCH A RESURRECTION (I.E. AT THAT TIME) A TRANSLATION OF THE LIVING SAINTS IS ALSO CONNECTED IN 1TH_4:17, “THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST (OR AWAY);378 [Note: 78 378. Comp. Act_8:39; Mat_13:19, etc.] THEN WE WHICH ARE ALIVE AND REMAIN SHALL BE CAUGHT UP TOGETHER WITH THEM IN THE CLOUDS (OR, IN CLOUDS)379 [Note: 79 379. Barnes, Com. loci, says: “Greek: ‘in clouds’-without the article. This may mean ‘in clouds;’ that is, in such numbers and in such grouping as to resemble clouds. So it is rendered by Macknight, Koppe, Rosenmüller, Bush, and others. The absence of the article here would rather seem to demand this interpretation.” Compare Lange, Alford, etc.] TO MEET THE LORD IN THE AIR”380 [Note: 80 380. Many critics have “into the air” connected with the verb “caught away.” Compare Lange, Alford, Ellicott, Vaughan, etc. The phrase, with the suggested amendments supported by critical authority, would be as follows: “Then we which are alive and remain (who are living, who are left over) shall together with them be caught away (or snatched away) into the air in clouds to meet the Lord; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”] ETC. THE SAME IS REPEATED IN 1CO_15:51-52, IN UNION ONLY WITH THE RESURRECTION OF BELIEVERS: “BEHOLD, I SHEW YOU A MYSTERY: WE SHALL NOT ALL SLEEP, BUT WE SHALL ALL BE CHANGED” ETC.381 [Note: 81 381. Some writers (as Rev. Wilson in Proph. Times, vol. 12, p. 131) make the language (Joh_11:25-26) of Jesus to Martha applicable to this period: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (i.e. by the power of the resurrection); “and whoever liveth and believeth on me” (i.e. at the time of resurrection) “shall never die” (i.e. he shall experience a translation).]
Obs. 1. While all writers on prophecy insist upon the translation of living saints at the Advent of Jesus, and the Millenarian authors direct especial attention to it; while it was a special object of hope and desire to the early believers and to succeeding ones, it is only more recently, since eschatology has received remarkable study and investigation, that important additions (resulting from comparing Scripture with Scripture) have been made to our knowledge respecting it. Our work would be incomplete without noticing this feature, and adding something to a subject imperfectly comprehended by many.382 [Note: 82 382. A writer in the N. Y. Evangelist, under the title of “Pre-Millennial Incongruities,” not observing how we distinguish between the concealed and the open, visible Coming, finds fault with Dr. Brookes and “the Proph. Conference,” for saying in one place that the Advent may be immediate, and then in another place substituting events as preceding the visible Advent. The “incongruity” is in the critic, simply because he is ignorant of the doctrine that we hold. Again, in Lange’s Com. I Thessalonians 4, doc. 7, the two stages, resulting in a translation previous to the tribulation, is stigmatized as an “Irvingite interpretation” (because taught by E. L. Geering of the “Catholic Apostolic Church,” in his work Mahnung und Trost der Schrift in Beireff der Wiederkunft Christi). Not having seen Geering’s work, we still express a doubt whether he, as alleged, sets this up as a dogma having “salvation connected with the acceptance of it,” because our acquaintance with writers of this class indicates that not “salvation,” but great privilege and honor and deliverance is connected with its acceptance. The question, after all, is this: What is the teaching of the Word on the subject? Brookes (Maranatha, p. 493) aptly remarks of this opposition: “The objection to the truth advocated in this chapter is urged with a bad grace by those who insist that Christ has come thousands and millions of times since His ascension from the Mt. of Olives in every startling providence, in every revival, in every death during the last eighteen hundred years.”] A few preliminary remarks are necessary in order to appreciate some things pertaining to it. Thus e.g. the common view that the resurrection will be a public affair, to be witnessed by the world, is now discarded as untenable in the light of Christ’s (also pertaining to “the first-fruits”) resurrection, which was strictly private. It is now held, and properly, that the members will be raised like the Head was (for if a public resurrection, humanly speaking, is desirable, then surely it ought to have been that of Christ’s), in order that the preparatory events for the coming judgment of the world may be introduced in such a manner (privately) as to establish “the snare” and “the net” intended for the unbelieving and wicked. Leading prophetical writers justly have no hesitancy in asserting that no mortal eye of unbelief shall behold the resurrection. This at once places the translation of the saints in a new aspect, and indicates, as it accompanies the resurrection, that it also is unseen (like Enoch’s and Elijah’s) by the world. Again, careful students of the Word felt satisfied that the resurrection of the saints in Rev_20:4-6 was specifically that of those who passed through the great tribulation under the culminated Antichrist, and was preceded by that of others, as implied in Rev_14:1-5, etc. This is corroborated by the fact already presented (Prop. 127), that the word “first” applied to the resurrection has reference not to its being first in time (which would be incorrect, seeing that Christ’s resurrection and that of saints, Mat_27:52-53, preceded), but of its being a resurrection which also brings those who participated in it within the privileges of “the first-born,” viz., a double portion, Deu_21:17; priesthood, Num_3:13; and government or dominion, Gen_27:29:383 [Note: 83 383. This fact of several resurrections, all relating to the one specially promised to the brethren of Christ, has even led some writers to advocate a kind of continuous one. Thus e.g. Dr. Seiss, without, however, subscribing to it as a truth, says: “Selnecker, one of Germany’s greatest divines, of the age next succeeding the Reformation, quotes Ambrose as teaching that every year some saints are raised from their graves, and ascribes the same opinion to Luther, as well as accepts the same as his own.” Selnecker, however, most appropriately remarks: “To this resurrection belongs everything that is raised to immortality before the last day.”] The subject of the resurrection, for a long time, was not clear to the writer until he observed the real scriptural application of the word “first,” as just given. The first resurrection, viz., that resurrection pertaining to “the first-born,” “the first-fruits,” commenced with the resurrection of Jesus, and it receives its accessions as stated e.g. in 1Th_4:16-17, and in Rev_20:4-6. This also serves to illustrate the translation, preparing us, in view of several resurrections (belonging to that of the just), to appreciate references, allusions, and implications which indicate more than one translation. Again, prophetical writers are also agreed that what is called the Second Advent (the Advent itself as distinguished from the reign and Kingdom that follows) is not to be regarded as simply one act, but embracing a series of acts connected with the one Coming (for when Jesus comes again He remains upon earth). That is, the Second Advent is to be considered more in the light of the First Advent (which latter embraced not less than thirty-three years, and numerous acts predicted as related to His Coming), as something which, owing to a variety of things prophesied concerning it, cannot possibly be limited to a few years. Comparing all the events that are included in the Second Advent, it is simply impossible, without great violation of order, etc., to crowd them all together as the instantaneous resultants of such a Coming. This, then, impresses caution in not compressing what is intimated concerning the translation or removal of saints necessarily to one transaction or day. Again, admitting the requirement of not confining the Advent to a single act, or day, or brief period, previous to the establishment of the Kingdom in all its glory, writers now generally attribute to this introductory manifestation a period of seven years, of forty years, and of (thirty and forty conjoined) seventy years. (Considering the events to follow the Advent before the overthrow of Antichrist, such as the development of the confederation, the return of a portion of the Jews to Palestine, the doom of the harlot, etc., the longer periods are preferable.) This at once enables us to see how such resurrections and translations harmonize with the specific introductory period, in which God’s power and love is manifested at the time when the power of His enemies shall be also formidably exhibited and broken. Again, analogy favors the removal of the righteous in a time of severe and terrible judgment intended for the wicked, as in the case of Noah, Lot, the early believers at Jerusalem, etc., while previous translations are not lacking, as in the case of Enoch and Elijah. The Second Advent inaugurates a series of most tremendous judgments, both upon the Church and the world-so terrific that they are constantly pointed out as the culmination of God’s wrath-and it is reasonable to suppose, judging from God’s past dealings, that He again will grant special deliverance to those who are devoted to Him. At this time also, the removal being designed not only to save out of tribulation, but to prepare the saints, deemed worthy of it, for promised rulership then to be instituted, and for joint participation in the administration of judgments upon the nations, a translation accompanied by the same transforming change, glorification, which the resurrected saints experience, is precisely that which we ought to anticipate. Again, it is universally admitted by Millenarians that “the day of the Lord Jesus” is preceded not only by “a morning,” but that it virtually begins in “the night;” Christ representing His Coming to be when it is yet “night,” He being “the morning star,” which ushers in “the morning” of the glorious day. This refers the resurrection and translation of a chosen body to “the night,” i.e. to the close of this dispensation, as preparatory to the introduction of an incoming one.384 [Note: 84 384. The “morning star” comes before “the day” dawns; the “sun” shines during “the day;” Jesus is both. As the morning star, He is seen by few: as the sun, He is seen by all. Those who watch not merely for the sun, but for the morning star, properly heed the cautions and injunctions relating to the posture of watching.] Or, in other words, it warns us that, as the past shows, dispensations may overlap each other to some extent, in that certain initiatory movements of the incoming one commence and are in progress before the other entirely closes. This prepares us then to accept of the wonderful things which are predicted to occur at the winding up of this dispensation, and to regard them in their relationship to the One to come. Again, critical writers in investigating 2Th_2:2 have shown that the word translated “is at hand” (in the phrase “the day of Christ (or Lord) is at hand”) means, correctly rendered, “is come,” or “has come,” i.e. is something already present, and not something still future.385 [Note: 85 385. In Props. 121 and 123 this feature was only incidentally alluded to as our line of reasoning, referred mainly to the one verse showing a visible personal Coming as a distinctive event also connected with “the day of Christ.” Here, however, we bring out prominently this characteristic. The verb translated “is at hand,” in the sense of impending or near, is elsewhere translated “present,” its proper meaning. McKnight (who certainly has no sympathy for our views) translates it “hath come.” Alford (see Alford’s remarks) and Lange, “is present,” and so Bengel and Olshausen, “what is present.” Ellicott and Lünemann explain it as something already begun, i.e. present or “is now come.” Syriac version has it “is come,” so the Swiss version, Luther’s “vorhanden sei,” which may be taken either as “to be present” or as impending, at hand. Dr. Lillie says the word, as far as he can trace it, “invariably denotes actual presence.” The Revision has it “is now present.”] This correctly explains the trouble and alarm of the Thessalonian brethren, who were certainly not afraid of “the blessed hope,” which Paul says they waited for (1Th_1:10), and for which they were prepared (1Th_2:19; 1Th_3:13; 1Th_5:4-5), but apprehending that “the day of Christ” had already come, and they not having experienced the promised translation, and their pious dead being still with them without an experienced resurrection, they were troubled and distressed at the thought. Those brethren with hearts full of love for the Savior were not so fearful that they would desire and pray (as multitudes now) that the blessed Lord should delay His Coming, but, in some way misapprehending the real state of affairs, they believed that the initiatory proceedings belonging to the day of Christ had already commenced, and that they and their pious dead were left without realizing the exceeding precious promises given to them. This simple change in a single word, supported too by the strongest of evidence, explains not only the cause of the Thessalonians’ trouble (which Paul proceeds to remove by showing that an apostasy must first come to develop into the predicted Antichrist, implying that such an apostasy with its result necessarily required time, still in the future, before “the day of Christ” came), but throws much light, corroborative, on the subject of the resurrection and the translation of the saints. For, to cause such trouble they must have believed that “the day of Christ” would be inaugurated by preliminaries unseen by the world, and that the resurrection and translation would both be invisible, and they, not participating were doomed to terrible tribulation, or that the predictions were false. We say nothing respecting the source from whence they derived such thoughts, but one thing is impressive, viz., that the Apostle does not correct such impressions, but rather by his silence confirms them in them. Yea, more, in beseeching them “by our gathering together unto Him,” he virtually endorses the views entertained by them respecting this gathering.386 [Note: 86 386. One of the editors of the Proph. Times, vol. 5, p. 43, has so appropriately written upon this point that we reproduce it. “This passage also shows the very different manner in which the early Christians must have conceived of the Day of the Lord and the Coming of Christ, from that which now obtains, in order to have been liable to such an erroneous impression on the subject. With the present popular conceptions of the sudden grandeur, conspicuity, and universal publicity of the Coming of Christ, it would be utterly impossible to obtain currency for the idea that it was already present or accomplished. People now are looking for the world to come to an end-for an utter break-up of the whole system of nature-for a complete wreck of the universe. When we talk to them of the last day and the return of Christ, they begin to think of the burning up of all sublunary things, and of the complete extinction of human life, and even of the whole dwelling-place of man and all created things. But if the early Christians had thought of this subject after this style, how is it possible that they could have believed the last day had come, when the world still stood and the stars remained in. their places, and the whole course of nature was still going on as before?” etc.]
Obs. 2. But some other things, also introductory to the subject, must be attentively considered before we come to a decisive conclusion. Thus, as has been pointed out by many writers, the Scriptures describe a Coming of Jesus for or in behalf of His saints (as e.g. 1Th_3:14-17; 1Co_15:51-52), and then again another with all His saints (as e.g. Zec_14:5; Rev_19:14; 1Th_3:13; Jud_1:14-15), and these two, differing thus in an important particular, indicate separate stages or manifestations pertaining to the same Second Advent. Without allowing something of this kind, several acts pertaining to the one great Coming to this earth, it is impossible to reconcile such passages. For they are sustained in their difference not only by the simple act of coming for and with the saints, but in the design of such a Coming, viz., as to the former, for the purpose of salvation and glorification, and as to the latter, for the direct overthrow of the enemies of God, the restoration of the Jewish nation, and the glory (thereby promoted) of the saints. This is still more confirmed by the conclusive statements which the Spirit gives of this one Second Advent, when it is represented to us under two aspects, viz., one, a coming when men are at peace, buying, selling, marrying, etc., and anticipating no evil, but only “peace and safety,” all things apparently promising continued prosperity and happiness (so e.g. Luk_17:26-30; Mat_24:36-39; 1Th_5:3, etc.); the other, a coming in a time of war, of great distress and suffering (as e.g. Zechariah 14, Revelation 19, Joel 3, Luk_21:27, etc.); the one, a coming in a concealed, thief like manner, i.e. unobserved, unnoticed, unheralded (1Th_5:2; Mat_24:43-44; Luk_12:37-40; Rev_3:3, etc.); the other, a coming so open, conspicuous, that all shall witness it (as e.g. Mat_24:30; Revelation 19; Mat_25:31, etc.). The more students come to weigh and compare Scripture referring to this period, the more are they convinced that it would be presumptuous for us to limit all these varied utterances to one single act, and that we must allow a series of events to be comprehended under this Coming; the Spirit directing us now to one and then to another of them; the order of which is only to be attained by a careful comparison. It also is a fact that these “first-born,” to whom the honor of aiding in the execution of God’s judgments (and the translated belong to them) are given (e.g. Psa_149:9, comp. Prop. 154), must be both resurrected (and remember that the translation is connected with the resurrection) and translated before they can participate in inflicting “the judgment written” upon the nations (as Dan_7:22; Rev_2:26-27, etc.). Besides this, the significance of “the first-fruits” (which embrace not merely resurrected saints, but, as we have seen, translated ones, as both are cojoined by the Spirit) would be entirely lost, i.e. as something preceding a general harvest which is to follow, if we did not allow that the one necessarily goes before the other, leaving an interval between them, although “the first-fruits” and “the harvest” are both included under the same general Advent,387 [Note: 87 387. That we are to distinguish between “the first-fruits” and “the harvest” is self-evident, for they are separated and treated distinctively in Holy Writ, as e.g. Rev_14:1-5, where a specific number is designated “the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb” (to which Jam_1:18 evidently refers), and then afterward comes (Rev_14:14-15) “the harvest.” Rev. Dr. Newton (Proph. Times, vol. 3, p. 18) correctly thinks that this language and result is based on a typical Levitical ordinance, viz., the gathering of the wave sheaf and presenting it, as specially holy and relating to the sanctuary, to God as “the first-fruits of the harvest,” before the harvest itself was gathered. Perhaps we will find in those Levitical ordinances much that is typical of the future, to which we are now blind or short-sighted. Thus e.g. it is found that two leavened wheaten loaves were also waved, and called “the first-fruits unto the Lord,” which may adumbrate-for aught we know to the contrary-the resurrected and translated saints, who, “being many are one loaf” in their twofold, Jewish and Gentile character and dispensation. This field is an interesting one, but liable to abuse and perversion, as the past has taught us.] thus again showing that just as at the First Advent Jesus was only manifested to a few favored ones, and an interval of years elapsed before His final public manifestation, so at His Second Advent He will only be exhibited to those accounted worthy, and after a set interval ultimately to the world. It is by observing this characteristic of the Second Advent that the true force of the injunction to constantly look and watch for the Coming of Jesus can be appreciated. Not distinguishing that several aspects of this Coming, including separate acts, etc., are given, has led eminent writers to lay down certain things (such as a partial restoration of the Jews, a covenant with the Jews, etc.) as prerequisites to such an Advent, and they are correct, but only in reference to one aspect of it, viz,, the visible Coming or manifestation of the Son of Man with His saints, as e.g. Zechariah 14. On the other hand, we have assurances given to us not to interpose any event whatever between us and such an Advent, but to regard it as an event that may occur at any moment without any notification of its approach (excepting only such as are given by approximative signs), and these two representations of the same Advent are only reconcilable by noticing what a comparison of Scripture inculcates, that the first aspect of this Coming refers to a concealed, hidden Coming for specific purposes (viz., to raise, translate, and glorify His saints, to inaugurate the preliminaries of his Kingdom, etc.), which takes place before the events predicted as pertaining to His visible manifestation.388 [Note: 88 388. The student can well obtain a hint of this unseen (to the world) stage of the Advent, from the manner in which angels have come unseen and yet influenced kings, as e.g. Daniel 10 (comp. remarks of Barnes, Com. loci). From this last passage, which contains things beyond human knowledge, it may be conjectured that one reason why no greater details are given, why no minute unsymbolical exhibition of the coming order of events is presented, arises from the fact that in some way beyond our comprehension spiritual powers (as e.g. this same Michael, Dan_12:1) shall be enlisted in advancing the Divine Purpose in the coming Theocracy. In reference to the First Advent, the reader will observe that it is predicted that the Messiah comes as the Babe of Bethlehem, as entering the temple, as riding on an ass, as coming to Jerusalem, as appearing in Galilee, etc., and the history of Jesus embraces their respective fulfillment in separated stages of the same Advent. So careful comparison evidences a similar succession of acts in the Second Advent-two of which are held up-owing to their significance and results-with great prominency, viz., the thief-like Coming or presence, and the open, visible Coming or presence.]
Obs. 3. We now come to a passage which directly teaches a translation, viz., Luk_17:34-37, “I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken and the other left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken and the other left. And they answered and said unto Him, Where, Lord? And He said unto them: Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together” (see Mat_24:28). The context shows (1) that this relates to the personal Second Advent, and (2) occurs in a time of peace and apparent prosperity, precisely similar to that of the Antediluvian era just before the flood, and to that of Sodom before Lot’s removal. The passage itself teaches (1) that this translation is to be expected “in that night,” as if purposely to conceal it from the eye of unbelief; (2) that this is no gathering of nations, but of individuals, one here and one there; (3) that it is a separation of parties, one being taken and another being left; (4) this taking of one party and leaving of another indicates a previous judgment (just as the sudden taking and changing “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” 1Co_15:52, also evidences), and not such an one as is recorded e.g. in Mat_25:31-46; (5) that the removal of the one party is designed as a particular blessing in averting incoming evil, and the leaving of the other must be in order that they may experience it. Next, follows the much disputed verse respecting the eagles, and before discussing its meaning it is necessary to decide its location in point of time. It is very easy, as some do, to refer it to the Romans in Matthew 24, but it is rather difficult to apply this verse in Luke the same way, because in the context there is no allusion, even the most distant, to the Romans. On the other hand, Jesus pointedly links it with His own personal Advent (comp. Prop. 114), as the context plainly (Luk_17:22-30) proclaims. This effectually disposes of the Roman theory, but still leaves the verse subject to a variety of conflicting opinions.389 [Note: 89 389. For, aside from the Roman application (viz., that the eagles are the Roman legions, and the carcass or body the Jewish nation or Jerusalem, so Lightfoot, etc.), other interpretations are given, as e.g. a writer (“C.C.” Proph. Times, vol. 4, p. 22), owing to the first meaning of the word rendered “carcass” (viz., “a fall” or “thing fallen,” then “failure,” “fault,” and last, “carcass or corpse”) makes “carcass” in Matthew 24: “Where the fall (or failure, or fallen thing) is, there shall the eagles (saints) be convoked,” and applies this “fall” to that of Satan at the end, which the saints are to witness. The “body” in Luke he refers to the body of Christ. Reineke (Proph. Times, vol. 3, p. 129) makes “the carcass” in Matthew “the corrupt ecclesiastical systems established by the harlot and her daughters,” and the eagles are the saints, etc., while “the body” in Luke is “the Church,” and the eagles the saints gathered to it, etc. Another writer (Proph. Times, vol. 4, p. 26) interprets the eagles as representing the angels and the body Christ’s elect. Fritzsche (Olshausen, Com., vol. 2, p. 245) interprets the eagles of believers and the body or carcass of Christ. Olshausen makes the eagles Christ and the angels, and the body corrupt Israel; Fleck makes the body corruption, and the eagles false Christs. Augustine makes the body Christ (“because He died for us”), and the eagles saints (who “hereafter, as eagles, will be caught up to Him in the clouds”). Several writers (in Proph. Times) make the eagles saints, and both “the carcass” and “the body” to be Christ. This last interpretation, while consistently preserving both passages as parallel, certainly gives a harshness to it by making “the carcass,” i.e. the slain body, refer to Christ, because it is against fact, the saints not being gathered to a slain body, but to a living Christ. Comp. Rev_1:18, etc., or as Dr. Schaff (note, p. 227, Lange’s Com.), rejecting Wordsworth’s view, says: “A reference of carcass to the sacred body of the Savior, which never saw corruption, violates every principle of good taste and propriety.” Dr. West, in his Lect. “A Voice from Olivet,” makes the “carcass” to be “Gentile Christendom.” Rev. Brown, the Evangelist, presents this view: the prediction is future; the body or carcass being the Jewish nation, and the eagles that future anti-Christian power which shall assault the nation just before the open parousia of Jesus and His saints. Such an interpretation and application is not in conflict with the time and the order of events. Nast (Com. loci) makes the carcass to be “the condition of nominal Christianity-not of the true believers-when the times of the Gentiles are coming to a close;” and the eagles represent the judicial visitation of Christ. Dr. Rutter (Roman Catholic) in Life of Jesus, p. 415, interprets “the body” to be Christ, and “the eagles” to be elect, and in a note says that others, as Manduit, make “the body” to be “the soul of a reprobate,” and “the eagles” to be “devils.” He refers the gathering to the time specified in 1Th_4:16. Lange’s Com., Luk_17:37, touches it delicately, making it a proverbial expression, and simply indicative (Steir) of “where the corruption of death is, there must the eagles come,” but on Mat_24:28, “the figure of the eagles will express the necessity and inevitableness of the Advent,” and “the carcass must represent the moral corruption and decay of the world itself, and the eagles the judgment, not only in its personal but also in its physical elements and forces.” Alford (Com. loci) makes the carcass the whole world, the eagles the angels of vengeance, and the time at the Second Advent. Few now entertain the view of Grotius, that “the carcass means those who die to themselves; the eagles the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Meyer (Com. loci) says, “the carcass is a figure of the spiritually dead,” and the eagles “represent the same as is described in Luk_13:41, that is, the angels sent out by Christ.” We have laid no stress (leaving that to the discretion of the reader) on the symbolical or figurative import of the eagle as presented in dictionaries and typologies, but this certainly adds materially to our view.] Without assuming that the explanation following is infallibly the correct one, yet we give it as commending itself as reasonably the one containing the sense intended. And first: “the eagles” mentioned we must make, with numerous writers,390 [Note: 90 390. Vide quotations from Chrysostom, Origen, Jerome, Augustine, Hilary, Luther (as e.g. “as the eagles are gathered where the carcass is, so shall Christ’s people be gathered where He is”), in Proph. Times, vol. 9, p. 106 and 107, and references to others who teach the same, as Ambrose, Theophylact, Euthemius, Calvin, Brentius, Bullinger, Bucer, Gaulter, Beza, Pellican, Flaeius, Musculus, Pardfeus, Piscator, Cocceius, Jansenius, Quesael, Du Veil, Calovius, Suicer, Ravanell, Poole, Trapp, Cartwright, Pearce, Leigh, Andrews, Wordsworth. This list could readily be swelled to a vast extent, and we only refer to a few writers who have specially treated of it, as Seiss, Reineke, Bell, Chester, Brookes, Baxter, Ross, Purdon, Birks, Hunter, Phillips, Kelly, and others.] to denote the saints. Saints are represented by “eagles” in Isa_40:31; Deu_32:11-12; Psa_103:5, even as God Himself is likened to an eagle (Exo_19:4; Deu_32:11) and Christ to a hen (Mat_23:37). Such comparisons are not to be rejected because of any supposed incongruity (as e.g. being birds of prey), seeing that it is applied to messengers of the Divine procedure in Rev_4:7; in Rev_8:13 (the leading mss. and critics reading “eagle” instead of “angel”), and that similar comparisons are applied to Christ, as Rev_5:5. Scripture usage sustains such an interpretation, and even if the idea is made prominent that eagles prey, this itself would only confirm the application, because the saints accounted worthy of resurrection and glorification are to assist Christ in His judgments upon the nations (when Zep_3:8, the Lord “riseth up to the prey”). It may be that Jesus had in mind Isa_40:31 (Delitzsch’s transl.), “They who wait for Jehovah gain fresh strength, lift up their wings as eagles, run and are not weary, go forward and do not faint,” as applicable to the saints at this period. In the next place, what are we to understand by “the carcass” of Matthew and “the body” of Luke? One thing is self-evident, that they refer to the same thing-the passages being parallels-and hence all interpretations, no matter how plausibly presented, which makes “the carcass” one thing and “the body” quite another, must be avoided. The passage in Matthew is related to the Coming of the Son of Man; that in Luke to the Coming and a predicted translation or removal, and both make out a gathering of the saints to a certain place. Now, if we leave Scripture describe this gathering at the time of the end, we find that the saints or eagles are gathered (Zechariah 14, Revelation 19, Joel 3, etc.) to execute vengeance upon the confederation of wickedness. That this great confederation of the mighty of the earth is intended by “the carcass” and “the body” is apparent from two things: (1) such a manifestation of the saints really answers the question in Luke, for after the announcement of the removal of some the question was asked, “Where, Lord?” (i.e. when shall this be witnessed or be made known?) and the answer comes that as this is done “in the night,” not visible, the evidence of such a removal will be openly shown when these very ones shall be gathered together at the overthrow of Antichrist. (2) This is confirmed by the meaning of the word rendered “carcass” (although even the word “carcass” might be retained as indicative of both contempt and doom); the primary significations denoting “a fall, or fallen thing, or failure,” and thus directly referring to the fearful fall and overthrow of Antichrist which the saints are not only gathered to witness, but exultantly to participate in. The “body” of Luke refers to the same confederation, because, as Scripture informs us, “the body” of it, its congregated armies under the leadership of Antichrist, the vast bulk of it will be assembled together in Palestine or the East, where the Word assures us Christ and these eagles will come, Zec_14:5. It only remains to say that, considering the promise to these translated or removed ones to participate in the gathering of the saints at the overthrow or fall of Antichrist (and his “body,” Dan_7:11, is “destroyed”), it follows that such a removal must necessarily precede, by some interval of time, the formation of this confederacy, viz., in a time of peace, etc. The reader may, for himself, consider what power and ministrations may be included under this comparison of “eagles,” and whether, during the interval, it may not become an exceeding precious promise to suffering believers.391 [Note: 91 391. The Savior, no doubt, referred to this very translation and deliverance from incoming evil, when, after delineating the evils culminating in the vengeance of His open Coming, He said: “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads,” etc. Before the end itself, then already glorious deliverance comes. Before e.g. Psa_149:6-9 can be verified, there must be a previous resurrection and translation of those accounted worthy to participate in the promise. The Coming “as a thief in the night” is certainly not the Coming with His angels and saints in great glory and power-so that all shall, “every eye,” see Him-for vengeance, for the former is a secret, and the latter an open Coming. The Coming e.g. of Rev_16:15, which brings a blessing to them that watch, is certainly different from the Coming of Revelation 19, which is to take vengeance upon His enemies. Some hold to one stage alone of the Advent, referring us to Revelation 19 as the Advent which will result in the translation promised. But, aside from the Coming with His saints, the entire representation is one of Coming to judgment (in which His saints participate). The object of the Coming is specifically stated to be, not to resurrect and translate the saints, but, to “judge and make war,” “to smite the nations,” etc., and therefore simple consistency requires a proper discrimination of the stages of the Second Advent and of the events respectively related to one or the other.]
Obs. 4. Other passages either directly teach such a translation or removal, or else strongly imply it as a resultant or prerequisite. Take Revelation 14, and the order of events is in the highest degree corroborative of our position. Without discussing the relation that this chapter sustains to previous predictions, it is sufficient for our present purpose to notice that a time arrives before the final end when a certain specified number of saints, viz., the 144,000 (a symbolic number?) mentioned, are separated from among men, forming a chosen body called “the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb.” These “first-fruits” go before the incoming harvest, an interval of time (which includes (1) the proclamation of the particular message that God’s judgments are to be poured out, and insisting upon the worship of God in view of the Antichristian worship that will be required; (2) the downfall of Babylon, and (3) the fearful persecution and martyrdom of believers) being placed between the two, at the close of which the harvest comes, and the dreadful vintage follows. This teaches us then to expect that a gathering of saints before the harvest is indeed one of the Divine procedures pertaining to the last things of this dispensation.392 [Note: 92 392. It is a matter of amazement how coolly and deliberately men can appropriate Scripture to themselves which relates to the future. Sects, at various times, have professed to be those sealed ones of Revelation 14, as e.g. Joanna Southcote, who had her followers sealed, etc. Error constantly repeats itself; and today we have some of the Seventh Day Adventists (as e.g. seen in the writings of a Mrs. White) claiming that the Adventists of their party constitute this number. Others adopt the same view in respect to their own particular sect or organization. This is simply a perversion of the Scripture promise, which confines it to no special sect or denomination now existing, but to a gathering out of God’s favored ones wherever they may be in faith and love at the time of resurrection and translation. The translation itself is perverted by some, as e.g. evidenced in John Asgill (a.d. 1700), who published a work entitled “Argument, proving that men may be translated to heaven without dying,” etc., but applying it to the then present time (and not where the Scriptures locate it). Its absurdity was sufficiently manifested by his own death. In reference to the application by the Seventh Day Adventists of the 144,000 to themselves, this is based on a misconception of the time of the ten horns, of the Antichrist, of the two-horned beast, etc. Aside from the lack of propriety in appropriating such a magnificent portraiture to their present condition, these “first-fruits,” that precede the harvest, are not left here, as they pretend to do, to deliver the angel messages. It is simply amazing what self-confidence and credulity can do in the way of Scripture application to sect in order to bring forth claims of professed purity and pre-eminence. On the other hand, the Plymouth Brethren hold these 144,000 to be literally Jews. Thus e.g. Lincoln (Lects. on Rev.) correctly makes the enumeration of Revelation 7 and 14 identical, but overlooking the continuation of the election and the engrafting into the elect nation, he has these not the Church, but a portion of the Jewish race; not the first-fruits of believers in the Church, but the first-fruits of the Jewish nation. Aside from the difficulty of reconciling this with the Scriptural idea of the election, the engrafting by which Gentiles become the seed of Abraham, the order of fulfillment, etc., it is sufficient now to say that two considerations alone forbid its reception: (1) He thus has a portion of the Jewish nation literally upon Mt. Zion, etc., before the Antichristian persecution, which is amply rebutted by the prediction of Zechariah 14; (2) on his hypothesis it is impossible to reconcile the omission of the tribe of Dan, for Dan, according to the original promises, will likewise be restored, but in this process of engrafting which is thus expressed, a sufficiency and distinctiveness is presented to indicate the intimate and enduring relationship. We may add: the identity of number, the sealing and withdrawal just previous to the tribulation, etc., fully shows that the two descriptions relate to the same body.] The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Prop. 181) confirms this, for it instructs (aside from other particulars) us to anticipate at the Coming of Jesus that a certain class of persons (called the Wise Virgins in contradistinction to another class pronounced the Foolish), living at the time of the Second Advent, shall be so fortunate, owing to preparedness, as to be received by Jesus Christ at His Coming, while others shall be left. The adverb of time, “then,” binds this parable to the preceding context, and forces us to interpret it as a representation of the condition of the Church at some distinctive point of the Second Advent. Without insisting upon the explanation given by Olshausen, Alford, Stier, Seiss, etc., that the foolish virgins are even persons of some piety, who, neglecting to look for the Bridegroom, are left to endure the incoming tribulation, it is amply sufficient to say that the persons left are, at least, professing members of the Church, and. that, as the announcement of the marriage (Revelation 19) precedes the overthrow of the Antichristian powers, those left behind must necessarily endure the trials incident to the arrogance, etc., of those powers. Those going in to the marriage-living saints taken away, translated, for this purpose-precede the time of sore tribulation.393 [Note: 93 393. For a class of advanced students, it will be well to say in this connection, that many deductions respecting the Bride and the time of marriage are set aside by our remarks under Prop. 169, obviating also objections alleged against the view which distinguishes too largely between “the first-fruits” and “the harvest,” etc. This “bride” here assumed is not the Church, the saints only being guests-guests who occupy different seats of honor, etc., in view of preparedness. The marriage is only consummated after Antichrist is overthrown; the preliminaries antecedent are of such a nature as to constitute, in view of the preparation and the gathering of guests, the time of marriage, etc. See Prop. 169.] Passages which imply it relate to the promised participation of the saints in acts of judgment upon the living nations, to the married wife as distinguished from the barren woman, to the coming with the saints for purposes of salvation, etc. But others of a still stronger tenor are embraced in the promises that when the last great tribulation is to burst upon the Gentile nations, then certain believing ones shall escape. Thus e.g. Luk_21:36, “Watch ye therefore and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass and to stand before the Son of Man;” the escaping and being favored with nearness to Christ are united. In Rev_3:10, of a class it is said: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation (or trial) which shall come upon the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”394 [Note: 94 394. Dr. Craven (Lange’s Com. loci) points out that “It is also to be observed that the promise is not of preservation in trial (or testing), as was the promise to Peter, Luk_22:32; but of preservation from (ek) the hour or period of trial” (comp. 2Pe_2:9).] The 144,000 described above are taken from this “the hour of trial,” comp. Rev_14:7. It is a joyful fact that when the most fearful time of trial, the flood of great waters, comes, then God interposes in behalf of His own people and saves them out of it (to which even such passages as Psa_32:6-7; Pro_3:25-26; Psa_37:38-40, etc., may refer), while another class are left to endure its terrific force and come up out of it as blood-stained martyrs, Rev_14:9-13; Rev_20:4-5, etc. It is significant also that in Revelation 7 we have first a distinct, separate number of chosen ones forming the same number, 144,000 (called Jews, because engrafted by faith and thus incorporated with the commonwealth), and then afterward a great multitude who come “out of the great tribulation,” thus again pointing out a distinction existing between certain of God’s people. Such are not given without adequate causes, and it is well to heed them.395 [Note: 95 395. The doctrine of a translation of believing ones previous to the great tribulation is also taught by” The Cath. Apostolic Church.” This is regarded by some (Lange’s Com., 1Th_4:13-18, doc. 7) as distinctively belonging to them, having been plainly taught by Irving (as in The Apoc., vol. 2, p. 1024), but the history of Millenarianism shows that it was held and taught by others before and after the rise of that body-it being contained in the doctrine of the Pre-Millennial resurrection and removal of the saints, in their participating in judging the nations, etc. It is only since Mede’s, Bengel’s, and Irving’s time that the doctrine has been specially examined in all its details and bearings, having received the approval, because Scriptural, of the most able European and American writers, holding various denominational relationships. We have shown how e.g. it was evidently held by the Thessalonians, causing their consternation (Obs. 1). Bengel (Gnomon, I Corinthians 15) remarks that “we shall not all sleep,” 1Co_15:51, “And we shall be changed,” 1Co_15:52, “And this mortal shall put on immortality,” 1Co_15:53, “And this mortal shall have put on immortality,” 1Co_15:54, all refer to the translation, and that the two antitheses require it; so that those whom corruption has seized through death, and likewise those who are still mortal (i.e. subject to death) are included as escaping the power of death. Some writers (as Brookes in Maranatha, p. 510) make 2Th_2:2-3 illustrative of the coming and gathering of the saints antecedent to the ushering in of “the day of the Lord.” It certainly is in perfect harmony, and enforces this view. Some are misled by the expression “day of the Lord,” as if it was equivalent to “the Coming of the Lord,” and hence conclude that the last Antichrist will first be revealed, and that only a visible Coming is denoted, but a little reflection and comparison will show that they are not synonymous, seeing that the former is the result of the latter. Rev. Brown, the evangelist, makes those accounted worthy to escape to be in “rest” when Jesus comes in open Parousia, by reference to 2Th_1:7, “rest with us when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed,” etc. There may be a reference to this very deliverance in 1Th_1:10, “delivereth us from the wrath which cometh” (Variorum), or “our deliverer from the coming vengeance” (Conybeare and Howson). “Greybeard,” in his Lay Sermons, properly distinguishes those stages into “the Lord’s Coming to meet His saints in the air, and His subsequent appearing with them in glory.” Dr. Seiss has added a good note on the subject in his Appendix to the edition of The Last Times, 1878, commencing p. 341 (and see his “Apoc.,” p. 229, etc.). Various articles on the stages and translation are to be found in the Old and New Series of the Proph. Times, and the different Pre-Millennial periodicals. Dr. Brookes has some excellent remarks on the same in his Maranatha, and numerous recent works refer to both, and distinguish.]
Obs. 5. This distinction in point of favor is marked by still another set of passages which describe the hiding of the saints when this time of trouble, this storm of persecution and fury bursts upon the Church and world. Keeping in view that these outpourings of judgments at the time of the end are always represented as special manifestations of God’s wrath, we can appreciate the principle given in the language of Zep_2:2-3, in which it is promised to the meek that when “the day of the Lord’s anger” comes, by the seeking of righteousness and meekness, “it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger. That this will be realized is apparent from various predictions, such as Psa_31:19-20, “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence from the pride of man; Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues” (or, Sep., “Thou wilt screen them in a tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues” (comp. also Psa_27:5; Mal_3:16-18). How this removal and hiding, which the Spirit states as a mark of “great goodness,” is to be accomplished may be seen under the Props. following; for at this period it will be especially true (2Pe_2:9) that “the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation.” Isaiah (ch. 26:20-21) prophesies that at the very time of a resurrection of saints, and when “the Lord cometh” to “punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,” and to cause the earth to uncover her “slain,” then God’s people are to be protected “until the indignation be overpast.” David (Psalms 45) portrays the exultant language that such translated or removed saints can well employ in view of their entire safety when the vast flood of evil shall shake the kingdoms of the earth. Indeed, there are peculiar predictions which alone stand out with clearness in the light of such a translation of the saints, as e.g. in Psa_111:1, where it is said (so Clarke, Com. loci) that God shall be praised both “in the secret assembly of the upright” (or, as others, Lange, etc., “select assembly,” i.e. special), and also in the congregation, i.e. the general or public, which is thus verified. In Psalms 94, at the time when God shall show Himself for “vengeance” against the wicked, of some it is said, Psa_94:12-13, that they are so guided and instructed “that Thou mayest give Him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked”-i.e. they shall not experience the days of adversity which the same Psalm. informs us culminates into a “gathering themselves together against the soul of the righteous and to condemn the innocent blood” (comp. Revelation 14, 16, and 19, etc.). From the removal of these righteous to the final overthrow of the wicked, the interval with the efforts of unbelief is expressively called the digging of a pit for the wicked, i.e. preparing the way for the fearful manifestation of vengeance upon them. All such predictions, supported by the analogy taken from Enoch, Noah, Lot, etc., however inconclusive they might be when taken isolated, obtain significancy as they stand related to other Scripture.
Compare Olshausen, Com., vol. 2, p. 253, on the escape of the righteous. The Apoc. Expounded (vol. 1, p. 207, given by Seiss in The Apoc., p. 230) makes Daniel “a type of those kept out of the hour of temptation. When all nations, kindreds, and people are required to worship the image of the plain of Dura, he is not there.” See an impressive article in Proph. Times, vol. 6, p. 79, etc., “On the Responsibility of Christian Teachers” (urging fidelity to revelation on these and kindred points, lest others are misled by us into that fearful tribulation and accuse us of having deceived them by erroneous predictions of peace, etc.). That the saints would be protected in the day of tribulation is an old doctrine, as the reader can verify, e.g. by reference to 2Es_2:27-28, and in Rabbinical interpretations (e.g. see “Jewish Expos. of Malachi” in Princeton Review, Ap. 1855, p. 324; remarks on ch. 3:17). Lincoln (Lects. Rev., vol. 2, p. 55) says that “escape” imports salvation by passing through the trial, and instances 1Co_10:13, where the ability to bear trial is “escaping trial.” But this idea is set aside by the express declarations respecting a removal previous to the great tribulation in the order of events laid down. Even in Malachi 3 and 4 a certain order is preserved: (1) the making up of His jewels or possession previous to the day that burns as an oven; (2) the sparing of certain ones declared; the fearful day of vengeance in which the spared ones participate in a state of exultation. An additional strong argument might be based on the meaning of the word Parousia, denoting not merely a coming or approach, but an actual personal presence (as given e.g. often in Lange’s Com., Alford’s Com., New Revision of New Testament, Diaglott, etc.), so that He is present (in the first stage) and the world refuses to recognize His presence, although certain events (the resurrection and translation) are indicative of it. (Comp. e.g. Russell’s remarks in Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return, p. 51.) We may add: There may be an indirect reference to this very translation in passages, which are now usually applied only to watching, as e.g. when Jesus says that we shall watch so that we may know His coming. Now as the day and the hour is unknown, this is interpreted as meaning that we should be in a posture of looking and preparedness so that we are not taken unawares. While this is true, may not a deeper significancy attach to it, that we should be in this posture, so that we may become personally, by a happy change, aware of His presence?
Obs. 6. Intimations also are given that such a translation or removal of the class of righteous, while unwitnessed, will be known to the nations. This can well be imagined, for the sudden disappearance of men and women, one here and another there, will excite general inquiry and be the subject of varied comment. It will inevitably lead to what the Spirit describes in Psa_83:3, for let these resurrected and translated ones be taken by the Lord and conveyed to a place of safety (comp. Prop. 166); let it be partially comprehended for what purpose even this removal is effected, then will be fulfilled what is written, that the enemies of God not only confederate together, but that “they take crafty counsel against Thy people, and consult against Thy hidden ones,” and this consultation is “with one consent or heart.” The same “hidden ones” are, probably, presented to us in Isa_16:3-5 (comp. Prop. 166), in view of its connection with the establishment of the Davidic throne and Kingdom, unless it be applied to a portion of the Church during the tribulation who shall fly or be brought to the wilderness for safety (and if the latter, may not this be a hint to the Church when under the last extended persecution, where safety only will be found, viz., in the wilderness near Mt. Sinai, where, as Prop. 166, the Lord Christ and His saints will be assembled? We cannot, as yet, fully determine; time must show its meaning).396 [Note: 96 396. Some writers make the wilderness the United States, others Great Britain, others even (as Claas Epp) Russia, etc. Some make it simply equivalent to concealment, or protection, or world-renunciation, or a place of refuge, or expatriation, etc.] The fact that the wicked shall know something concerning those hid ones, and shall take what they deem prudent measures (viz., to form a general confederation, etc.), is hinted at in passages like Psa_17:7-9; Psa_64:2, etc., and still more plainly revealed in Psa_143:7-9. The saints are “hid in the time of trouble,” and “in the secret (place) of Thy Presence” (verifying the Spirit of Psalms 91), until the period arrives for their open manifestation in supernatural power. It is likely, however, from the consultation of the wicked against them, that while the removal is allowed it will be attributed to natural causes, or to a concerted movement, and that all reference to its supernatural occurrence will be stoutly denied. In all probability, “the sign of the Son of Man” (Mat_24:30) will be something connected with this translation (for events belonging to one period of time are grouped together without giving in every particular the exact order, as e.g. Isa_25:6-9, etc.). The sign is one thing and the open visible Coming is another, and yet being a sign directly pertaining to the Son of Man, it relates to Him as in something connected with the Theocratic (see Prop. 81) ordering. Now, let this removal of the saints take place as described by Paul, John, etc., in the night, accompanied by a shout and trump (i.e. events may be denoted-see Obs. below); let the Son of Man be “in the air” to receive His risen and translated ones, and as the night advances around the earth, so let Him proceed around this globe in the process of gathering-such will be the accompaniments and the appearance in the sky, that, however explained by the world as electrical, meteorical, etc., it will constitute a sign, and a most impressive one, of the Son of Man. Invisible Himself, sheltered behind the curtains of the bright enveloping clouds, yet His Presence in the air may be exhibited by tokens never before witnessed.
See Prop. 174, where this sign is noticed more at length. It may be added here that if the sign does not refer to a peculiar and striking manifestation in the sky itself, then it may relate to the resurrection, translation, and withdrawal of the saints themselves, such being an indication or sign of “the Son of Man,” i.e. of His presence. Or it may (as we can only at best conjecture) denote that the assembling at Mt. Sinai (Prop. 166) is such a sign-indicative of a previous resurrection and translation by “the Son of Man.”
Obs. 7. The effect that this translation will have upon the Church is remarkably corroborative of our position. If we turn to Revelation 14 it is stated that immediately after the removal of “the first-fruits” there will be a most powerful renewed “preaching of the Word of God, deriving its force from a proclamation of the now certain coming judgments of God and tribulation under the Antichrist. What causes such a change in the style of the preaching, which will result in the conversion, as parallel passages show, of very many, preparing them to pass through the great tribulation, and to suffer death rather than to worship the Beast and his image? Nothing less than this astonishing removal of certain chosen ones, accounted worthy, owing to their distinctive faith in God’s promises, to escape. Let this event occur just as it is described; let here one and there one of the believing and watching be taken, and surely those who believe in God’s Word and are left behind will be most wonderfully affected by the event. By one sudden and startling event, coming home to the heart and directly appealing to the warmest affections, the prevailing spiritualizing systems and theories of progressive advancement and perfection will be overthrown, and the Millenarian doctrine, once derided and sneered at as “carnal,” etc., will be most eagerly embraced and proclaimed. (The writer has often, often felt that it is specially for this period that he is laboring, when his work will be appreciated, etc.) The Church, then starting up with Abrahamic faith will recognize its chronological position, will see what is before it, and, energetically infused by fear and hope, prepare itself for the fearful ordeal through which it must pass. And we are assured that the Church in this contest, overpowered as she will be, will sustain the persecution with triumphant faith, feeling convinced from the events occurring and the time elapsed, that the Son of Man is even already present, waiting for the moment of direct interference.
Dr. Tyng, in his work He will Come, correctly represents the stages and translation. The latter he forcibly represents as causing for a little while a consternation in, and confounding of, the world, but he overlooks the practical effect that it will have in causing others to receive and proclaim the truth, and even die for it. This doctrine also teaches us what estimate to put on the emigration theories (Proph. Times, N. S., 1875, p. 145), seeing that we are specially charged to await this Coming and translation wherever we may be, and not to listen to any appeals to go forth (as e.g. to Palestine) and await His Coming. It also throws light on that special “scoffing,” etc., so characteristic of the time of the end.
Obs. 8. It has been aptly remarked that the removal of righteous persons has been followed (as e.g. Enoch, Noah, Lot, at Jerusalem, etc.) by the outpourings of God’s judgments, and the principle is taught e.g. in the sealing of the 144,000 (Revelation 7). A comparison of Scripture teaches that when this translation is experienced, then will rapidly arise that culminated head of Antichrist which will overwhelm the Church with terrific persecution. Before this event some restraining power prevents such a dreadful confederation. Attention is called to this in order to correct two prevailing mistakes in the interpretation of 2Th_2:7. One theory makes that which hinders the revelation of the Wicked One, the Man of Sin, to denote the Roman power (Pagan), i.e. the civil power; but this is erroneous, because this Antichrist will arise out of and really be the last head of this same Roman power (Prop. 160), fallen back to its former unchristian (e.g. given to idol worship), paganized condition. Another theory is, that the Hinderer mentioned is the Holy Spirit, and that this Spirit will be withdrawn, resulting in widespread wickedness, etc.; but this again is opposed to fact, viz., that after “the first-fruits” are taken away the Spirit remains, as is evidenced by the proclamation of the message, by the sustaining of the martyrs, and the multitude coming through the tribulation. The obscurity of the prediction and its conciseness is based upon something that was at the time well known, for in the preceding verse the Apostle says positively, “And now ye know what withholdeth” (same word precisely, excepting being in the neuter form, and thus referring to something) “that he might be revealed in his time.” That is, the Thessalonian brethren knew what this restraining influence was which then existed and would continue to exist down to a certain time, when this Antichrist, the fruit of long-continued defection, would arise during the period allotted to him. Rather than accept the modern views given by prophetical writers on this point, we would fall back to Theodoret’s opinion (Bloomfield, G. Test. loci), that that which hindered, restrained, prevented the culmination of this Antichrist is “the decree of God’s Providence,” and this would, at least, be consistent with the grammatical construction, which, as critics inform us, may refer either to a thing or person in 2Th_2:7, but only to a thing in 2Th_2:6. The solution probably has not yet been found, and in place of a better (which close study and comparison may yet present) we suggest the following: Regarding the fact that the Thessalonians knew what hindered, we turn to the First Epistle, and we find in the first chapter (1Pe_1:4) a declaration which covers the ground, viz., in the doctrine of election, that too of which they had knowledge, “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” Let the reader consider our Propositions. concerning the election, that God in this dispensation is calling out a definite number (incorporated as the seed of Abraham), who are to be associated in the Kingdom as rulers, etc., and then he will see that until this gathering out process has progressed up to a certain point (embracing these “first-fruits”) this Divine purpose of obtaining these chosen ones allows “the times of the Gentiles,” but restrains that fearful predicted outbreak until a determined number of God’s people are secured. When this is done, however, then, even while God’s Spirit is still willing to strive with and aid the faith of men (as seen in the martyrs), human nature will be allowed to riot in its unbelief, and to work out its vain theory of the destiny of the race. Then, during a brief period, human nature will be permitted to exhibit its highest departure from the truth, its most bitter scorn and detestation of believers, its most unrelenting hostility and cruelty to the followers of Christ (comp. Props. 160, 161, 162, 163, 164).
This point is the more worthy of notice, seeing that able and intelligent writers fall into error in this matter. Thus e.g. “Greybeard,” in Lay Sermons, No. 108, totally misapprehends, when during the last tribulation, he has: “The Holy Ghost will have left the earth; the only restraining power to evil will have been taken away, 2Th_2:7.” So Brookes (Maranatha, p. 511) makes the same deduction, and bases on it the opinion that the translation of the saints will produce no profound and lasting impression. Thus also other writers, whom we notice elsewhere, and several of the “Believers” assert in view of it that there is no “Church” during this interval (viz., between the first and second stages of the Advent), and that this is indicated by no mention of the word “church” in that period. But all this is vitiated e.g. by the order laid down in Revelation 14, (1) the first-fruits; (2) the renewed proclamation of judgment truth; (3) the fall of Babylon; (4) the Antichristian persecution; (5; the martyrs clinging to the truth; (6) the harvest of believers after the tribulation; (7) the vintage of wrath on the persecutors. Now without the sustaining power of the Spirit, the Gospel, and the means of grace during this interval, the number of faithful ones that come out of the tribulation could not be produced.
Obs. 9. While embracing the doctrine of a Pre-Millennial translation, and of more than one translation, even (as e.g. in that pertaining to “the first-fruits,” and that relating to the harvest), yet, with our present light and understanding of the Scriptures, we cannot accept of so many as given e.g. by Baxter (Louis Napoleon III., ch. 4) and others, simply on the ground that a more careful comparison will synchronize and thus identify the sameness of some of them. Whatever may be the truth in this matter, it can only be presented in a discussion of the order of events as embraced in the entire Apocalypse (a labor which is foreign to our present work, and performed by other writers), and therefore we have only availed ourselves of the references to such a translation, without in every instance determining the relative order, confining ourselves, as sufficient for our purpose, to a twofold translation, one to precede and the other to follow (as the resurrections) the great tribulation-one pertaining to “the first-fruits” and the other to “the harvest.”
Obs. 10. Let us briefly consider the objections that can be alleged, not against a translation itself (for that is too plainly taught), but a Pre-Millennial one as presented. Some writers have incautiously made out that these “first-fruits,” by being thus favored, etc., are not only a chosen body (which is true, and within another), but infer from it that it only composes “the married wife,” i.e. only embraces the rulers with Christ, etc., thus excluding the harvest or those coming out of the tribulation. This has caused serious objections, and justly too, to be urged against the view as thus presented, for it is a fact, whatever distinctions may exist within the orderings and stations of the Kingship and priesthood, that the very last saints of this dispensation, even those who pass through the tribulation and fall under Antichrist’s power, are distinctively promised (Rev_20:4; Rev_20:6) to also reign with Jesus Christ; so that the “first-fruits” and the “harvest” combined form that triumphant body of rulers who reign. Any interpretation, however plausible, which would debar the martyred saints, etc., under the last persecution from a direct co-heirship with the other saints in the Kingdom, is most certainly defective. The Scripture too usually presented as favoring it, viz., Psalms 45, does not apply to such a distinction between saints gathered during this and former dispensations (i.e. in the various women mentioned as related to the King), but rather between such saints thus gathered and the Jewish and Gentile nations, etc., as they shall exist (as e.g. the Jewish nation being likened to “a barren woman,” also again united to God, and other nations may well be thus represented as virgins, etc., acknowledging His reign, etc.) in the Millennial age. While distinctions are to be found in the body of saints, and while it is true that the first saints gathered down to the re-establishment of the Kingdom in its glory enjoy a distinction beyond all others that follow, it seems unscriptural to discriminate so far as to debar those to whom is specially promised a participation in reigning gloriously with Christ. A degree of caution is here required in order to avoid prejudice. Some good thing, that we may well leave undefined, will be given to these “first-fruits,” but the unbelieving, unguarded Church will so atone by its faithful witnessing, even unto death, for its past delinquency and un-watchfulness that it too “inherits the Kingdom” with the others. Another objection is brought from II Thessalonians 2, viz., that the coming of Jesus and the destruction of Antichrist are united together, and hence forbids any such a previous translation. The objector, however, forgets two things: (1) that the Apostle only argues logically that “the day of Christ” cannot come without the visible appearing and destruction of Antichrist (just as our argument demands), without specifying all the particulars antecedent, either to this visible Advent of Christ, or this Antichrist, and (2) that the saints participate both in the Coming of Jesus and destruction of the Wicked One, neither of which are mentioned. The Apostle does not contradict himself, as is apparent, if due notice is taken that the Thessalonians believed “the day of Christ” to be already present, and his reasoning proceeds to show, not that saints are not to be raised and translated before that day (which is implied), but that before the day itself is ushered in as predicted, a visible Coming and the destruction of Antichrist must precede. Again, it is objected that the gathering of the elect by the messengers described Mat_24:31, is a gathering of all saints after the tribulation. But this, while after the tribulation, does not affirm that all the saints that ever lived are thus included, but simply refers to the elect then living at the period designated, and may denote, as some believe, believers in general scattered over the earth; or rather, as others hold, the members of the still elect Jewish nation, which, as many prophecies predict, shall at this very time be again gathered to Palestine. Besides this, all the passages relating to the gatherings of this intently interesting period must be collated and compared, when several, without contradicting each other, will appear pertaining to “the first-fruits” and to “the harvest,” to the Church and to the Jewish nation. Again, it is alleged that the multitude of Revelation 7 all came out of the great tribulation, and that this evidences that the entire Church of this dispensation living at the time must enter and pass through it. Aside from other reasons in reply, it is sufficient to direct attention to the 144,000 mentioned in the same chapter, a body separate from all others, who were sealed in order to their complete safety before the incoming storm. Some object on the ground that “the shout and trump” accompanying the resurrection and translation show it to be a visible occurrence, seen by the world. But such forget that while there will be a sufficiency of manifestation to excite attention and startle the world, yet the shout, etc., may be like Daniel’s “man clothed in linen” (Dan_10:5-7), whose voice was “like the voice of a multitude,” and yet the men with him, strangely affected even to quaking, “saw not the vision;” or like the voice from heaven (Joh_12:28-29), which distinctly spoke, but the people that “stood by and heard it, said, that it thundered;” or like the voice speaking to Saul, which his fearful companions heard not. The voice, the shout, the trump (indicative of events ushering in) is for a chosen class of persons, and if it is God’s good pleasure, the same may only be heard by them, even if others stood by, just as Stephen in the crowd only saw the glorious vision, or Elisha’s eyes were only opened to behold the horses and chariots of fire. Other objections have been so fully met in previous remarks, that it is unnecessary to reproduce them, unless we except one, owing to its practical importance. It is said that such an order of events, privately accomplished, is opposed to the publicity, not only of the Second Advent, but of intervening events, viz., that before such a Coming, resurrection, and translation transpires the partial restoration of the Jews, the culminated Antichrist, the gathering of the nations, etc., must be first witnessed. But as Cunninghame, Cox, and many others have shown, this is not to distinguish His visible Coming with the saints, at which time all these things are manifested, from that of His Coming for them, preparatory to the former. Several stages of the same Advent, leaving a sufficient interval for the development of those things between them, is, as the ablest prophetical writers have asserted and proven, the only possible way in which to reconcile the condition attached to the Second Advent (as e.g. coming in a time of peace and coming in a time of war, etc.), and places it at the same time in the position given to it by the Spirit, viz., as something that may occur at any moment, and for which we are constantly to watch without looking first for the fulfillment of intervening things.
Fausset (Chris. Herald, Aug. 14th, 1879) makes the time of the translation, chronologically considered, under Rev_16:15. But this cannot be so, because then the saints would-as the preceding vials testify-have experienced the tribulation under Antichrist, from which, as we have shown, a large party is to escape. The explanation of Rev_16:15, in order to harmonize it with the order of Revelation 14, is as follows, being fully sustained by a comparison of Scripture: Having just referred to the gathering of the hosts of Antichrist, the Spirit in Rev_14:16 turns to another gathering which is to meet and confound the one first mentioned, viz., the gathering of the saints to Mt. Sinai, where the preliminaries of the Theocratic Kingdom are inaugurated (Prop. 166). This gathering is, as abundant Scripture testifies, under the thief-like Coming of Christ, and hence as standing related to the other gathering (that of enemies) it is also announced as a warning. It is not chronologically located in the order of events, but is placed there for the reason assigned, and properly too, because both gatherings are in opposition to each other and will come into terrible conflict. (Comp., for details, Prop. 163.)
Obs. 11. The question may be asked, Why such a distinction? The reply is, because such is God’s pleasure in the matter. It is not for us to assert with any degree of positiveness who shall thus be favored with a translation, and escape the great tribulation. We can only point out the general affirmation (as e.g. “them that honor me, I will honor,” etc.) upon the subject, and leave each one draw his own conclusions. There is a difference between mere salvation and the special honor, station, dignity, etc., that God in addition may be pleased to bestow upon certain ones. There were other pious ones when Enoch and Elijah were translated, and yet they only were favored; and we doubt not that many who ultimately will be saved with great glory (because of their faithful witnessing during the last severe trial) will be left at this translation. While we cannot confine, as some do, this preference to mere belief in and watching for the Advent (for in connection with this stands the purity and proper development of Christian character, which, alas, some who thus believe and watch do not manifest to the extent required, or even to the degree that some honest and sincere disbelievers in our doctrine exhibit), yet such faith and watching is eminently set forth as a characteristic of those translated ones. Because they thus believe, showing due respect unto God’s Word, and permit such faith to have its practical effect in heart and life, we are assured that they shall thus be favored, as e.g. the general announcement in Mal_2:17, which the New Testament more fully explains in some of its particular aspects, as in Luk_21:36; Mat_24:36-51, etc. At the same time we deeply feel that without a special preparedness, devoted piety (as exemplified in the translated Enoch and Elijah), which evinces itself in opposing the torrent of worldliness and wickedness encroaching upon the Church, Millenarianism, however upheld and ably defended, is unable of itself to secure such a distinguishing benefit and honor. A personal, individual acceptation of the truth combined with a happy experience of its sanctifying influence, together with testifying in its behalf before others, is imperatively needed. It is not simply those who “watch” that shall “escape,” but those, Luk_21:36, who “watch and pray always,” avoiding the corrupting influences around them. The number of translated ones may not be very large (for the number of translated ones given as (so Baumgarten, etc.) types in comparison with the number of those not translated, and with that of the resurrected saints is small), so that Dr. Seiss, with whom many concur, is undoubtedly correct in saying: “I have no idea that a very large portion of mankind, or even of the professing Church, will be thus taken. The first translation, if I may so speak, will embrace only the select few who watch and pray always,” etc. The fact that Enoch was the seventh from Adam may, for aught we know, be suggestive (as Bengel, owing to seven being a sacred number, also comp. Prop. 143) of the occurrence of this translation when the seventh milliad arrives, and Enoch’s specific prediction (Jude) of the Lord’s Coming by those accounted worthy of translation; while Elijah’s pertains simply to exalted, eminent piety, without any special reference to such testimony. Yet, let it be said, whatever the doctrinal position of the persons translated, and whatever may be the personal attitude respecting the nearness of the Advent, etc., that one distinguishing characteristic will be exhibited by all, viz., that they “love the appearing” of Christ (2Ti_4:8), that they earnestly desire it, and regard it as the highest possible blessing, “the blessed hope” (Tit_2:13). There may be also a deeper meaning than is generally assigned to the phrase “them that look for Him” in Heb_9:28 -a meaning derived from an existing fact at the time of the Advent. Still another reason applies why this resurrection and translation of saints should take place at this particular crisis; this will be noticed in the following Propositions, viz., that as Christ comes to make the preliminary arrangements for the setting up of the Theocratic Davidic Kingdom, it is eminently suitable, that all the saints down to that period should be gathered in order to receive their instructions, to have their positions, etc., assigned, so that they can act with Him as executors in the Divine administrations that follow. This (Prop. 166) measured by the creatures capacity requires time, and such time will be given to this particular purpose in the place predicted. Hence this distinction grows out of the Divine purpose, which such saints are designed to aid in executing and establishing.
All who are watchful servants, and whom the truth leads to purity of heart and life, out of all denominations, shall be thus translated, but they who despise prophecy (Jer_23:33-36) shall bear their burden. We have no sympathy with that intolerable bigotry characteristic of Christadelphianism, which maintains that none can be saved (although having antagonistic parties among themselves) but themselves, thus evincing the lack of the greatest of all Christian graces; or with Seventh-Day Adventism, which declares that unless we leave our respective denominations (called by way of emphasis “Babylon,” etc.) and connect ourselves with their sect, adopting their views of the seventh day, etc., we cannot be saved; or with other sects (as the Believers, the followers of Barbour, etc.) who, with far greater charity, still deem it necessary to increase and multiply sectarianism and divisions in order to hold forth with prominence certain distinctive features which entitle them to realize with exclusiveness this translation. While it is sadly true that the existing churches lack much and come far short of their profession (which we give in detail e.g. Props. 174 and 177), yet it is far better to let our light shine wherever we happen to belong, and where it is needed, than to withdraw and increase the evils of separation and exclusiveness. The truth, the Church of our Lord, has suffered immensely from such mistaken zeal and bigotry, and, as we have ourselves noticed, in the indiscriminate condemnation engendered by it, persons are upbraided and reprobated, by those under its influence, who possess to a far greater degree the mind of Christ and the graces of the Spirit than their opposers (as e.g. evidenced in controversy, language, spirit). We apprehend, and venture the assertion, that many will be saved eventually who will not be crowned-saved as by fire-occupying a subordinate position (comp. Prop. 135). Among those who will suffer loss and even miss a translation, there may be believers in the Second Advent and advocates of its nearness, but overlooking that with a watching posture there must be connected an appropriating faith and practical obedience resulting in a proper development of Christian character; they vitiate their position by degenerating into some sectarian peculiarities which are urged, and pressed, and promulgated with a fiery spirit of partisanship (unchurching and anathematizing all others); or by merely being excited through a carnal interest taken in the forecasting of future events prophetically expressed (making them to seem “wise,” “learned,” and “profound”); or by being influenced by a morbid curiosity, a love for the marvellous and sensational, a relish for mere speculation relating to the future without a practical reception of sanctifying truth, causing the theoretic and historical to overshadow and crush out the practical. So long as a man loves the Lord Jesus, loves His appearing, we dare not, in view of what Paul says of love in I Corinthians 13, condemn him, for it is specifically said: “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maranatha,” 1Co_16:22.
Obs. 12. The reader may, for himself, estimate the greatness and value of such a translation, embracing (1) exemption from death, (2) deliverance from a terrible incoming tribulation, (3) a special exaltation to the Presence of Christ, (4) the bestowal of glorification, joint rulership with the mighty King, etc. Richard Baxter (Works, vol. 16, p. 555) may express these blessings in his ardent prayer and longings that Christ may speedily come in order that death might not be experienced, etc., saying: “The thoughts of the Coming of the Lord are most sweet and joyful to me, so that if I were but sure I should live to see it, and that the trumpet should sound and the dead should rise, and the Lord appear, before the period of my age, it would be the joy fullest tidings to me in the world,” etc. A multitude of writers, italicizing the promises of God in Christ Jesus, delineate these blessings, and hold them up as worthy of consideration and contemplation. Happy, blessed beyond description, the man or the woman thus honored!
If it be asked why do we not have a concise statement of the facts of those stages, translation, and events following? the answer is found in God’s way of presenting the facts of the First Advent, so as not to interfere with man’s agency, so as to urge us to a comparison and study of His Word, etc. God is exercising our faith and hope, and even honor-for long ago (Pro_25:2) it was said: “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” We fully endorse this declaration of Dr. Wordsworth (Ch. Herald, March 27th, 1879) when, in urging attention to “The Coming Persecution,” he incidentally presents the idea (which will be largely realized in this translation, the signs and events following): “It is probable that some of the most illustrious evidence of the truth and inspiration of prophecy, and of its practical value for the guidance of the faithful, is reserved for the last days-especially for the coming conflict between truth and error, between the Church and the world, between Christ and Antichrist, and the great and glorious consummation which will follow that conflict.”
Obs. 13. The reader, too, will for himself imagine the influence that such a translation must have, whenever it occurs, upon families, communities, churches, etc. The sudden disappearance of husband or wife, parent or child, sister or brother, pastor or member, etc., will be startling in the extreme. Such a separation “in that night,” when in the bed, or the social gathering, or on the journey, will result in an outburst of grief, in a wonderful heart searching, and in a renewed, most diligent study of God’s Word. But only (excepting the first, e.g. grief) in those who fear God and desire to be obedient unto Him. We thus return to this thought, only to direct attention to the fact that for a number of years various prophetical writers, and quite a number of periodicals, have warned the Church and the world that such was the Divine procedure, and have given proper prominence to this order of events. This answers a twofold purpose, viz., it vindicates God’s mode of working, which is (in case of great events involving tremendous issues) to make His procedure previously known (Amo_3:7, etc.), and when it thus comes to pass it not only establishes His truth, but serves to guide those who are willing to receive His Word into a proper apprehension of the same. If such an event is to occur it is most reasonable to anticipate that believers in the Word, just previous to its occurrence, will proclaim it, so that when it has taken place others may recognize it at once as a part of God’s own divine and gracious ordering. This, then, will alleviate the grief of believers when a beloved one is thus suddenly taken away, because they will rejoice in their having been thus favored, and will strive to prepare themselves and others for the coming struggle, that they too may be accounted worthy of a glorious reunion with resurrected and translated ones.
The thief-like Coming and presence of Jesus will at once be made evident by this gathering of “the first-fruits.” Hence we cannot possibly receive Russell’s view (Our Lord’s Return, p. 62, etc.), which endorses Barbour’s (Three Worlds) position: (1) that Jesus has already come, is now present and is (mentally) inspecting the guests of the marriage; (2) that we are already in the time of the harvest, which is now progressing, the separation between (mental) wheat and tares going on, which will finally culminate in a bodily separation, the wise going into the marriage and the door is shut. The theory evidences a confusion of ideas, and does not properly discriminate between “the first-fruits” and the harvest. It is based upon an erroneous application of the Antichrist and Kingdom; upon an untenable interpretation of the events taking place between “the first-fruits” and the harvest; and upon the deductions of an inconclusive, but confidently urged, chronology. We show, on the other hand, that “the first-fruits” necessarily precedes the harvest, that certain events which have not yet taken place intervene, that the extensive proclamation, martyr faith, etc., evidences that the withdrawal is recognized by the Church, etc. So also we cannot receive, in view of the order laid down in the 14th chapter of Revelation, the statement contained in the Proph. Times, March, 1878, that after the translation there will be no more tribulation of the Church (because all the pious will be taken) but only of the wicked, which is opposed to the proclamation and martyrdom after the 144,000 are taken. In the same connection (p. 72) another mistake is made when the translation is placed after the ending of the Jewish tribulation. It precedes its close, and (Zechariah 14) after the Jews have drunk the last bitter dregs of their cup does Jesus come with His saints, previously gathered to take vengeance on the Gentiles.
Obs. 14. It is reasonable to expect that this doctrine of a translation will be ridiculed both before and after the occurrence of it. Indeed, the parallel existing in the days of Noah, just before the deluge, and that just before the Advent would fail in an important particular if ridicule and scorn were not added to the objections urged against belief in a speedy Advent and its inevitable results. Among these results that of the special honoring of some living saints by a translation without seeing death is already made the subject of derision and sport. The abuse of the doctrine by some evidently sincere but misguided persons (who confidently, against most express Scripture, fix the day and hour of its occurrence, and who, against the testimony of the Spirit, that it is not to be anticipated by a gathering of saints and most foolish provision of ascension robes, meet at the designated time to experience it) greatly tends to such levity; just as if the vagaries and foolishness of men in perverting a doctrine necessarily led to its entire rejection-a principle so palpably erroneous that if applied to truth in general would leave but little for us to accept. Scoffers are to arise in the last days, who will express their contempt of God’s promises, and pronounce those, who Noah-like trust in them, to be, if not “mad” or possessed of a “devil,” at least “exceedingly soft and foolish.” This naturally is to be expected of the world, but unfortunately some of the scoffers are professed believers in that Word of God, which expressly teaches a still future translation to come suddenly, as a snare, upon the Church and the world, which gives us typical, real illustrations of such translations in two noted cases, and which urges us constantly to look and watch for that which is to effect it. It is saddening that men cannot at least treat such subjects with soberness, and discuss them without sneers. This is before the translation; the same will be true of multitudes immediately after it. Act_13:41 will be repeated; and those who are arrested by its occurrence and take it to heart will be unsparingly ridiculed. Human nature will be true to itself, and the doctrine will be particularly detestable to it, since it evinces a species of favoritism-a contrast-condemnatory to its own Naturalistic and Humanitarian position. The Spirit predicts-and His Word is truth-that ridicule, sneers, etc., shall give finally place to so positive a dislike and hatred to all pertaining to it that those who are left and are believing shall experience, not merely a wordy reviling persecution, but the stroke of the descending, beheading sword and axe.
Obs. 15. To the critical student it is proper in this place to make some remarks on the phrase “Time of the End” and “Last Days.” These terms have been in the past sadly appropriated, and conveniently dated from some period antecedent to the writer and thus represented as present; under its shelter (Dan_12:8-10), with the plea that “the wise shall understand,” men have confidently given us predictions relating to the future, which, to say the least, are simply conjectures and inferences suggested by minds strongly impressed by the alleged fact that they were already in “the time of the end.” Many writers could be quoted illustrative of this, and several bodies of believers seem, if we are to judge by the usage of this phrase, to make it essential to their system. Books, tracts, sermons, essays are written to show, without proof excepting an array of signs and the declarations of others, that we are now, and have been for some years, in “the Time of the End.” Over against all such deductions, the simple fact, as a more careful examination of the Scriptures indicate, is, that “the Time of the End” is still future. It is to be applied to this interval between the two stages of the Advent, a period which may embrace, for aught we know (considering the events that are to take place in it, and that the last week of Daniel does not include the whole time of interval, but only the time when the Covenant is made with the restored Jewish nation, the breaking of the same, and Antichrist’s persecution of the Jews), from 35 to 75 years, more or less.
Let the reasons for such a reference be briefly assigned. This interval forms “the end” spoken of by Daniel, i.e. the time when the series of events predicted by himself should terminate; it is the culmination of prophecy, relating to Antichristian powers, the Jewish nation, and the Messianic triumph; it is the time when the end has come and God’s judgments are to be poured out upon the nations, resulting in a great deliverance, and thus vindicating the Divine Purpose. When the first stage of the Advent occurs it is evidence that the end of the dispensation has arrived, and from the resurrection and translation of the believers down to the open Advent, we have literally “the time of the end.” The overlapping of the two dispensations by this secret Parousia, instead of proving adverse to our view is corroborative of it, since such in the case of the Jewish and Christian is called “the ends of the world” (1Co_10:11) by Paul. The end itself is not an abrupt, sudden end, but embraces time or years in its termination. A series of gigantic events are included in the winding up of this dispensation of so remarkable a nature that no one with the least faith in the Scriptures can doubt respecting the closing period of the age. But to particularize still more, every one can see for himself that this “time of the end (Dan_11:35) follows (comp. Prop. 160) a long continued and indefinite period of trial to the Church, such as the Church has experienced in the past. Then (Dan_12:6-10) the end is associated with the restoration of the Jews to their own land, which is still future; with (Dan_12:13, comp. Prop. 126) the resurrection of Daniel at the first stage of the Advent; with “the end of these wonders” (Dan_12:6), i.e. with their termination, when they are about to be completed; with (Dan_12:7) the time when “these things (the wonders predicted) shall be finished,” i.e. shall approach their termination. Thus a comparison shows that the end commences with the resurrection of the saints, and the time of this end embraces within it God’s controversy with the nations and the deliverance of the Jewish nation. For it seems that for purposes of salvation and vengeance, to manifest in an extraordinary degree the supernatural power of God in behalf of His people and in crushing His enemies, this interval between the two stages is (Dan_8:19) not merely “the latter end of the indignation,” but “the appointed time of the end”-a time specifically measured off by these stages, and the events connected therewith, composing the end or completion of the combined series of predictions-the culmination. This “time of the end” includes “the times” or “days” of Daniel 12, which, as a dispassionate examination proves (comp. Prop. 173), are contained in this interval, and have special reference to the climax of Jewish tribulation and Antichristian opposition. The “end” itself, or “the end of the days,” is the full completion, witnessed in the overthrow of Antichrist and the establishment of the Theocratic Kingdom at the open Parousia. In addition, at “the time of the end” these prophecies will be “unsealed” (Dan_12:9), i.e. they will be completely opened or understood in their unity and culmination. This unsealing is still future, for the simple reason that whatever advancement and knowledge may have been obtained by study, and whatever unity of view may have been secured in grand outlines, no two interpreters of Daniel can be found who perfectly agree with each other, in details at least. But we do know that between these two stages there is a complete unsealing, because the secret Advent with the resurrection and translation stamps at once the chronological status, the method and application of interpretation, the proper reception and place for the Apocalyptic visions, etc. The messages (Revelation 14) following the withdrawal of “the first-fruits” is sufficiently indicative that no lack of knowledge respecting the present and future is then prevailing, but that a correct apprehension of the predicted things is universal among believers.
St. John (1Jn_2:18) uses the phrase “the last time” declaratively respecting this entire Christian dispensation, because Antichristian spirit and principles characterize it during the whole period, while Jude (Jud_1:18), connecting it with the Advent, seems to limit (comp. 2Pe_3:3) it more to the concluding period of the same. It has been observed (e.g. Faber, Diss. on Proph., p. 87) that the expressions “latter days” or “times,” and “last days,” do not precisely denote the same period of time. While the former may include the latter to some extent, yet the one is significant of an indefinite termination of this dispensation, i.e. in contrast with the past history of the world or past duration; the other is expressive of “the last days” or “the end,” or “time of the end.” The chief characteristic of “the latter days” is that of superstition and apostatizing, and the main feature of “the last days” is that of blasphemous infidelity and direct opposition to God. The one is the forerunner of the other; the one culminates in the other; the one, Antichristian, paves the way for the other, the fully developed Antichrist, who denies both Father and Son. “The latter days” usher in “the last days.” But this view can only be sustained by noticing that this distinction only holds good where they are used in prophetical sense, i.e. in a prediction relating to the future. The student will observe that the phrases “latter days” and “last days” in the Old Testament are the comparative and superlative of the one expression in the original, “the end of days” (comp. Faber’s Diss. on Proph., ch. 3). This refers to this very time of the end and its grand resultant, as seen e.g. in Isa_2:2; Mic_4:1 (with which comp. Act_2:16-17), seeing that the Millennial Kingdom is only introduced in connection with this closing period. The same is noticeable in Hos_3:5, where “the latter days” or “the end of days” is united with the future restoration of the Jews and the Messianic reign. In these “latter days” (Eze_38:16) Antichrist-still future-is to enter Palestine and meet his doom, which only takes place in this interval. The declaration (Dan_2:28) that God maketh known “what shall be in the latter days” or “at the end of days,” does not simply mean futurity in general, but that God really and truly represents to the King not merely what is “hereafter” (as afterward stated), but especially things which pertain to this culmination of events, this concluding period containing so many pregnant issues concerning Gentile domination, Jewish supremacy, and the Messianic reign. Indeed, a slight acquaintance with the predictions shows plainly that the greatest stress and detail is expended on this very period, to which the eye of faith and hope turns. “The latter times” of 1Ti_4:1 admits of a wider scope, and indicates, as the context and warning shows, that the spirit to be developed in them is one gradually formed and extending itself, becoming more and more intensive, through a series of times. The phrase “these last times,” in 1Pe_1:20, if not used declaratively, then refers (as is also true of “the last days” in Heb_1:1-2) to the fact that Jesus, the Messiah, was manifested during the closing period of the Mosaic economy, which removal was signally verified by the events befalling the nation and capital. However any of these phrases may be employed in a general sense, it is also true, as a careful comparison of the same evidences, that the Spirit employs them to express the closing period of this dispensation, ushering in the interval between the two stages, and then specifically the interval itself, with its result.
The reader will see that this consideration alone utterly vitiates an immense amount of prophetical interpretation and application, and the self-confident exaltation, as specially called witnesses, of various classes. Some systems are so wedded to the phrase as fundamental to their conclusions, that it is impossible to yield it up without at the same time giving up their respective theories of the order of events. The phrase is applied to any period that happens to fit into some favorite chronological period or its close; and its beginning, duration, and termination varies with the view entertained concerning dates. Various commentaries, Lange, Barnes, Alford, Olshausen, etc., give interesting comments concerning these phrases, but the chronological application can only be found by a careful comparison of the prophecies, and that we are forced to locate, not in the past or the present, but in the future-in the interval between the two stages. And, as already intimated, we dare not, owing to the silence of the Scriptures on the subject, express its exact duration. We cannot limit it to seven years (i.e. the interval) as some do, because those seven years are applicable to a special time, relating to the Jews and Antichrist, and do not cover the entire interval, as seen e.g. in Mic_7:15, etc., and in the events pertaining to the period which cannot, without undue violence (as e.g. the Jews dwelling in unwalled villages safely and prosperously when Antichrist comes upon them, etc.), be crowded into so small a space of time. In reference to the mighty increase of knowledge predicted of this period, it is sufficient to say that the gigantic events then taking place, owing to the first stage of the Advent, the resurrection and translation of the saints will give the believer such a clear and decisive understanding of the prophecies, its chronology and the events to be anticipated, that then students of prophecy will see eye to eye, and encourage each other out of the fully comprehended Word of God. (On the phrases, comp. e.g. Dr. Braune, Lange’s Com. I John, p. 72, sqq., and commentators generally on the same as used by Daniel, Isaiah, Micah, Paul, Luke, Peter, and John. The order of events during this “time of the end,” as well as “the end “or “the end of the days,” Will be given under such Props. as 160-163, 166, etc.)