Page images

ing of Christ and the day of Chrift may be understood, either figuratively of his coming in judgment upon the Jews, or litterally of his coming in glory to judge the world. Sometimes indeed they are used in the former fenfe, but they are more generally employed in the latter, by the writers of the New Teftament: and the latter is the proper fignification in this place, as the context will evince beyond contradiction. St. Paul himself had planted the church in Theffalonica; and it confifted principally of converts from among the gentile idolaters, becaufe it is faid (1 Thef. I. 9.) that they turned to God from idols, to ferve the living and true God. What occafion was there therefore, to admonish them particularly of the deftruction of Jerufalem? Or (2) why should they be under fuch agitations and terrors upon that account? What connection had Macedonia with Judea, or Theffalonica with Jerufalem? What thare were the Chriftian converts to have in the calamities of the rebellious and unbelieving Jews; and why fhould they not rather have been comforted than troubled at the punishment of their inveterate enemies? Befides (3) how could the apoftle deny that the destruction of the Jews was at hand, when it was at hand, as he faith himself, (1 Thef. II. 16.) and the wrath is come upon them to the uttermoft? He knew, and they knew, for our Saviour had declared, that the deftruction of Jerufalem would come to pafs in that generation and what a ridiculous comfort muft it be to tell them, that it would not happen immediately, but would be accomplished within lefs than twenty years? The phrases therefore of the coming of Chrift and the day of Chrift cannot in this place relate to the deftruction of Jerufalem, but muft neceffarily be taken in the more general acceptation of his coming to judge the world. So the phrafe is conftantly used in the former Epiftle. In one place the apoftle faith (II. 19.) What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? are not even ye in the prefence of our

(2) At quis huic terrori locus, fi de Judæorum excidio agebatur? Quid Macedoniæ cum Judæa, Theffal. cum Hierof.? quid Commune Chriftianis cum periculo rebellium Judæorum ? c. Simplicius in Poli Synopf.

(3) Præterea, quo jure potest apof tolus inficiari, Judæorum excidium imminere, cum reipfa jam adeffet; uti liquet ex prioris epiftolæ Cap. 2. ver. 16. Bocharti Examen libelli de Antichrifto. Tom. 2. Col. 1049.

[ocr errors]

Lord Jefus Chrift at his coming? In another place he wisheth (III. 13.) that the Lord may eftablish their hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jefus Chrift with all his faints: And in a third place he prayeth, (V. 23.) that their whole fpirit, and foul, and body be preferved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jefus Chrift. Thefe texts evidently refer to the general judgment: and if the phrase be conftantly fo employed in the former Epiftle, why thould it not be taken after the fame manner in this Epiftle? In the former Epiftle the apoftle had exhorted the Theffalonians to moderate forrow for the dead by the confideration of the refurrection and the general judgment. (IV. 13, &c.) I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are afleep, that ye forrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jefus died, and rofe again, even fo them also which fleep in Jefus, will God bring with him." For this we fay unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, fhall not prevent them which are afleep. For the Lord himself fhall defcend from heaven with a fhout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Chrift fhall rife firft. Then we which are alive, and remain, fhall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and fo fhall we ever be with the Lord. But of the times and the feafons of these things, as he proceeds, (V. 1, 2.) brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord fo cometh as a thief in the night. Some perfons having mistaken the apostle's meaning, and having inferred from fome of thefe expreffions, that the end of the world was now approaching, and the day of Chrift was now at hand, the apostle fets himself in this place to rectify that mistaken notion: and it is with reference to this coming of Chrift, to this day of the Lord, to this our gathering together unto him in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, that he befeeches the Theffalonians not to be fhaken from their ftedfaftnefs, nor to be troubled and terrified, as if it was now at hand. Nothing then can be more evident and undeniable, than that the coming of Chrift here intended is his fecond coming in glory to G 3


[ocr errors]

judge the world: and of this his fecond coming the apostle had spoken before, in this fame Epiftle, and in the chapter before this. (ver. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.) It is a righteous thing with God to recompenfe tribulation to them that trouble you: And to you who are troubled, reft with us, when the Lord Jefus fhall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jefus Chrift: Who shall be punished with everlasting deftruction from the prefence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he fhall come to be glorified in his faints, and to be admired in all them that believe in that day.

It was a point of great importance for the Theffalonians not to be mistaken in this particular; because if they were taught to believe that the coming of Chrift was at hand, and he should not come according to their expectation, they might be ftaggered in their faith, and finding part of their creed to be falfe, might be hafty enough to conclude that the whole was fo. Where by the way we may obferve Mr. Gibbon's want of judgment in affigning the notion of Chrift's coming speedily as one of the great caufes of the growth and increase of the Chriftian church, when it appears from this paffage that it had a contrary effect, and tended to shake and unfettle their minds, and to disturb and trouble inftead of inviting and engaging them. The apoftle therefore cautions them in the ftrongeft manner against this delufion; and affures them that other memorable events will take place before the coming of our Lord. (ver. 3 and 4.) Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of fin be revealed, the fon of perdition; Who oppofeth and exalteth himfelf above all that is called God, or that is worthipped; fo that he as God fitteth in the temple of God, fhowing himfelf that he is God. The day of Chrift fhall not come, εάν μη ελθη αποφασια πρωτον, except there come the apoftafi firft. The apoftafy here deferibed is plainly not of a civil, but of a religious nature; not a revolt from the government, but a defection from the true religion and worship, a departing from the faith, (1 Tim. IV. 1.) a departing from the living God, (Heb. III. 12.) as the


word is ufed by the apoftle in other places. In the original it is the apoftafy with an article to give it an ephafis. The article being added, as Erafmus (4) remarks, fignifies that famous and before predicted apoftafy. So likewife it is ὁ ἄνθρωπος της αμαρτιας the man of fin with the like article and the like emphafis: and St. (5) Ambrofe, that he might exprefs the force of the article, hath rendered it that man, as have likewife our English tranflators. If then the notion of the man of fin be derived from any ancient prophet, it must be derived from Daniel, who hath defcribed the like arrogant and tyrannical power: (VII. 25.) He fhall Speak great words against the moft High, and fhall wear out the faints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and again (XI. 36.) The king fhall do according to his will, and he fhall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every God, and shall Speak marvellous things against the God of Gods. Any man may be fatisfied, that St. Paul alluded to this defcription by Daniel, because he hath not only borrowed the ideas, but hath even adopted fome of the phrafes and expreffions. The man of fin may fignify either a single man, or a fucceffion of men. A fucceffion of men being meant in Daniel, it is probable, that the fame was intended here alfo. It is the more probable, becaufe a fingle man appears hardly fufficient for the work here affigned: and it is agreeable to the phrafeology of fcripture, and efpecially to that of the prophets, to fpeak of a body or a number of men under the character of one. Thus a king (Dan. VII. VIII. Rev. XVII.) is often used for the fucceffion of kings, and the high priest (Heb. IX. 7, 25.) for the feries and order of high priefts. A fingle beaft (Dan. VII. VIII. Rev. XIII.) often reprefents a whole empire or kingdom in all its changes and revolutions from the beginning to the end. The woman clothed with the fun (Rev. XII. 1.) is defigned as an emblem of the true church; as the woman arrayed in purple and fcarlet (Rev. XVII. 4.) is the portrait of a corrupt communion.

(5) D. Ambrofius, ut explicaret vim articuli, legit homo ille, &c. Erafm. ibid.

(4) articulus additus fignificat infignem illam et ante prædictam defectionem. Erasm. in locum.

No commentator ever conceived the whore of Babylon to be meant of a fingle woman: and why then fhould the man of fin be taken for a fingle man? The man of fin feemeth to be expreffed from Daniel (VII. 24.) according to the Greek tranflation, ὃς ὑπεροισει κακοις παντας TES EμTρorder, he shall exceed in evil all who went before him and he may fulfil the character either by promot ing wickedness in general, or by advancing idolatry in particular, as the word in frequently fignifies in fcripture. The fon of perdition is alfo the denomination of the traitor Judas, (John XVII. 12.) which implies that the man of fin thould be, like Judas, a falfe apoftle, like him betray Chrift, and like him be devoted to destruction.. Who oppofeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped: this is manifeftly copied from Daniel, He fhall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every God, and fpeak marvelous things against the God of Gods. The features, you fee, exactly refemble, each other. He oppofeth and exalteth himself above all, π Tavra above every one, that is called God, or that is worShipped, nobaoua, alluding to the title of the Roman emperors, bars, auguft or venerable. He fhall oppose, for the prophets fpeak of things future as prefent; he fhall oppofe, and exalt himfelf not only above inferior: magiftrates, who are fometimes called Gods in holy writ, but even above the greatest emperors, and fhall arrogate to himself divine honors. So that he as God fitteth in the temple of God, Showing himself that he is God: By the temple of God the apoftle could not well mean the temple at Jerufalem, becaufe that he knew very well would be totally deftroyed within a few years. It is an obfervation of the learned Bochart, that (6) after the death of Chrift the temple at Jerufalem is never called by the apostles the temple of God; and if at any time they make mention of the house or temple of God, they mean the church in general, or every particular believer. It is certain,

(6) Verùm a Chrifti obitu templum Hierofolymitanum nunquam ab apoftolis templum Dei vocatur; et fi quando de Dei æde vel templo fermonem habeant, tum vel ecclefiam in

genere, vel fingularem quemque fidelem, iis vocibus intellecta volunt. Bocharti Examen Libelli de Antichrifto, Tom, z. Col. 1047.


« PreviousContinue »