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Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Matt. iii. 2.
This passage is sometimes, though not so frequently as some others, alleged as proof that a portion of mankind will not be saved. It is assumed that the kingdom of heaven means the state of endless glory, in reservation for the righteous; it is further assumed that some shall remain 'finally impenitent;' and then it is gravely contended, that, since some never will repent, they can never be admitted into that kingdomn: in other words, they can never be saved. As no one pretends that this text affords direct proof of endless misery, I might pass by it, in silence; but I am induced to notice it, because it gives me an opportunity to insert a valuable note, to which I may have occasion to refer more than once, in the progress of my work. The note follows:
HAMMOND. "The phrase basileia ton ouranon, or tou theou, the kingdom of heaven and of God, signifies in the New Testament the kingdom of the Messias, or that state or condition which is a most lively image of that which we believe to be in heaven, and therefore called by that
For as God's regal power, exercised in heaven,
consists in assisting, defending, and rewarding all his faithful subjects, and in warning, punishing, and destroying his obdurate enemies, so this kingdom of the Messias is an exact image or resemblance of it; and being, as it is elsewhere affirmed, not of this world, a secular king. dom, but consisting especially in subduing the world to his dominion. That is done first by the descent of the spirit, and preaching the gospel, by his word powerfully working in some, and bringing them unto the faith, and then by his iron rod executing vengeance on others, viz. the contumacious and obdurate, (to this purpose that
parable delivered by Christ, Luke xix. 12, on occasion of their thinking that the kingdom of God should presently appear, (ver. 11,) is very considerable, - see the place,) and particularly those of the nation of the Jews after the crucifixion of Christ. And accordingly this kingdom of God will generally signify these two together; not only the first alone, but, in conjunction with it, that other more tragical part of it also. That it is used so here may be discerned,
First, by that which is said in Malachi, by way of prophecy of John's preaching, (iv. 5,) that he should come before the great and terrible day of the Lord, (see note on chap. xvii. 10,) i. e. before the fatal destruction of this people; and also in Isaiah, that, when he cried in the wilderness, this was part of his crying, prepare ye the way of the Lord : noting him an anteambulo or forerunner of Christ's coming, &c.
Secondly, by that which follows here (ver. 10) as the explication of this text of the Baptist's, (and now also the are is laid to the root of the trees ; every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire ;) and again, (ver. 7,) by the orge mellousa, the wrath ready to come upon them, which is proportionable or parallel to the approaching kingdom of heaven, as the exhortation (ver. 8) of bringing forth meet fruits of repentance, is to metanoeite, repent ; and so directly in that prophecy of Malachi's concerning the coming and preaching of John Baptist, (iv. 5, 6,) the sum of his preaching is expressed by the effect of it: he shall turn the heart of the fathers to (or with) the children, and the
heart of the children to (or with) their fathers ; i. e. shall convert all sorts of Jews, young and old, fathers and children, — preach conversion and repentance to them, lest I (i. e. God) come and smite the earth (or land) with a curse ; whereas God's coming is interpreted by his smiting Judea, (curses and inflictions on that land, so is this denunciation of those judgments part of that Baptist's sermon, and the repentance or conversion by him preached, the only means to avert them.
• And so likewise in Isaiah xl. the revealing the glory of the Lord, &c. (ver. 5) may be the preaching of the gospel ; and then the visibleness of God's judgments on all the Jews in Judea, and vs. 6, 7, 8, very fitly refer to the sudden destruction of that people, as the withering of grass, or fading of flowers, upon God's blowing upon them, whereby his displeasure is expressed. To which yet his preservation of the remnant, (as here his gathering the wheat into his garner, ver. 12,) his protecting of the few believers, (so that not a hair of their heads shall fall, Luke xxi. 18,) is immediately annexed, vs. 9, 10, 11. And accordingly the kingdom of God here is not to be so restrained to the punitive part, but that it also contain under it that other piece of regality, which consists in protecting of subjects, and rewarding them which do well also, which should be most visible at the time of his punishment on the obstinate, his burning the chaff with unquenchable fire. To this purpose the words of St. Luke (xxi. 18, 31) are most remarkable, where, setting down distinctly the signs and forerunners of the destruction of the temple and that people, and among those prognostics the great persecutions which the disciples should find from the Jews, he bids them cheerfully look up, (ver. 28,) for their redemption, deliverance from these hazards and pressures, draweth near ; and, with a short parable interposed to express it, he adds, (ver. 31,) know that the kingdom of God is at hand, - this kingdom surely here, which now approached, but should then be more near, wherein the judgment of God should be most visible in judging betwixt the wheat and the straw, burning up the refuse, destroying the impenitent, unbelieving Jews, but protecting and setting safe on the shore all the disciples
and believers; and that by the very destruction of these their brethren, who were their chiefest persecutors, (ver. 16.) This sense will be the more unquestioned, if it be observed that, when Christ himself begins to preach, he used the same words, (Matt. iv. 17;) by which it is clear that Christ's preaching the gospel was not the only thing meant by this kingdom, (as it is generally supposed,) because that was then actually present, when Christ saith only, it is nigh approaching.
. And as by Christ, so, when the apostles are sent out by him, the same style is still prescribed them, (Matt. X. 7:) As you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. And it is to the same sense affirmed by Christ that he came to send a sword, i. e. a slaughter on the land of Judea, (Matt. x. 34:) so, when this commission of the apostles is set down by St. Luke, (x. 11,) to those that receive them not, they are appointed to use a direful ceremony, shaking off the dust from their feet against them, and telling them the importance of it, that the kingdom of God is nigh upon them, (ver. 11;) and upon the back of that, (ver. 12,) Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom in that day, (i. e. not in the day of judgment to come, for that belongs to each particular person; not whole cities together, but) in that day of the kingdom of God, than for that refractory city. God's dealing with Sodom, in the day of their destruction with fire and brimstone, shall be acknowledged to have been more supportable than his dealing with such contuma. cious, impenitent cities of Judea.
So Matt. xvi. 28: The Son of man coming in his kingdom belongs not to the transfiguration, as it is by many mistaken, but to a coming in the glory of his Father to reward and punish, (ver. 27,) and is called the kingdom of God coming with power, (Mark ix. 1;) and that belongs clearly to the scope of the place, viz. to arm his followers, that they should not be terrified with the
lice of the Jews, (ver. 25,) or tempted to deny Christ, (Luke ix. 26.) So Luke ix. 11, when it is said they thought the kingdom of God should presently appear, Christ's parable, concluding with the bringing forth and slaying his enemies before him, applies it directly to this
purpose, (ver. 27,) and to what he adds (ver. 43) at his entrance into Jerusalem. So Luke xvii. 20, when he answers that the kingdom of God cometh not with observation, i. e. in a pompous, remarkable manner, so as kings were wont to come with their court and train attending, which all men come out to look after, and cry, lo here, i. e. it is come, &c. it is clear, by the consequents, that it belongs to this matter; first, the preaching of the gospel among them, then already begun, (ver. 21,) and then the destroying of unbelievers, (vs. 22, 24, &c.)
• The way by which this phrase comes thus to signify is this, because there be several offices of a king, the exercise of the power of the sword, as well as of making laws; of punishing and rewarding, as well as of reigning: he is ekdikos eis orgen, (Rom. xiii. 4,) an avenger to inflict punishment; and so he is expressed at his ekdikesis, vengeance, (Luke xviii. 7, speaking of this matter.) In this respect it is, that the governors of the Jews were called judges; inflicting of punishments or judgments, which is one part, giving demonstration to the whole regal office; and so (Luke x.) these three phrases, the kingdom of God, (ver. 11,) and that day, i. e. the time of his exercising that regal power, (ver. 12,) (or, as St. Mark reads it, hemera kriseos, (vi. 11,) the day of executing judgment,) and in the same matter krisis, (ver. 14,) judgment simply, are all phrases of the same significancy to denote the destruction here threatened, with which there was also mercy mingled, and preservation to
(See Luke xvii. 34; xxi. 28.) The same thing is expressed by other phrases, the coming of Christ, the end, the end of all things, the conclusion of this age, which in their due places shall be observed.' Annot. in loc.
To this very full note I only add, that, among others, the Compilers of the Dutch Annotations, Poole's Continuators, Lightfoot, Doddridge, Whitby, Knatchbull, Wynne, and Heylin, concur in opinion, that the kingdom of heaven, in this passage, denotes a state of things on the earth, under the gospel dispensation, and that it has no direct