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The matter concerning those who had departed this life, in the faith of Christ, immediately follows, from the 13th verse to the close of the chapter, and most unquestionably relates to the general resurrection of the just. But I would not have you to be ignorant brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that ye sorrow not, as others, who have no hope ; for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again--even so them also who sleep in Jesus, will God-or rather will he * bring with him, i. e. when he comes to judge all mankind : For this we say to you, by the word of the Lord, that we the living who remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent those who are asleep : for the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout--with the voice of the Arch-Angel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we, the living who' remain—or according to the common translation, who remain alive, shall be caught in the air, and so 'shall we ever be with the Lord.
From the expressions in the 15th and 17th verses—We who remain alive ; it has been inferred that St. Paul expected to live to see the final judgment of the world, of which he has here given so sublime a description-but, not to insist upon the Apostle's assertion, already noticed, that the time of his departure, or death, was at hand—if a little candor had been exercised, by those who have drawn this inferrence, from the Apostle's language; it would not have been a violent outrage upon good sense, to have supposed that the Apostle here meant-not himself—but those who should be still living, whenever that awful event should take place or when, as the Apostle expresses it—the Lord should descend from heaven with a shout-with the voice of the Arch-Angel, and with the trump of God. This appears to be the more probable, as Dr. Benson has very justly remarked, upon the passage under consideration, that " It was usual among the Jews, to speak " in the same manner of the persons of their nation, though they liyed in very
The word God is not in the original. + The learned and ingenious Author of Letters on infidelity, (the late Bishop Horne), upon this language being objected to, has replied to it in the following masterly manner, “ How common," says he, “ is it for us, " when speaking of a Society---an Army.--a Nation, to which we belong
to say, we went, or came, or did such a thing, or shall do so and so ; " though we ourselves, neither had nor shall have any perfonal concero in
It is very remarkable that the Apostle uses a similar laxguage when describing the same awful event in 1 Cor. xv. 51. Behold we shall not all skep-but we shall all be changed, in å moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last třump : for the trümpet skall sound, and the dead shall be raised, incorfüptible, and we shall be changed. But, it is well worthy of notice, that though the Apostle enlarges with greater particularity and fulnēss, upon this subject, in this chapter, than in any other part of the sacred Writings ; yet he is so far from giving any hint of its near approach, that he, on the confrary, expressly tells the Corinthians that Christ must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. It may therefore be fairly concluded, that St. Paul, in neither of the two cases, when he used the pronoun we meant that they who were then living, should see the day of judgment in their own time--but only intended to describe the persons, whoever they might be, who should happen to be alive, whenever that awful event should take place.
* From the manner in which this matter concerning those who were asleep in Christ, is concluded, in the chapter under consideration; it should appear that this subje&, as well as the foriner, was entirely dismissed when he says, ver. 18, Wherefore comfort one another with these words--or, with these considerations. But, it has so happened, that because the following chapter is introduced, by the expression the times and the seasons--the Apostle has, pretty generally, been supposed to proceed to answer an enquiry of the Thessalonians concerning the time when the general judgment, menor the matteř; though the event happened before we were born, or is to hap
peri after our decease. Thus in the Old Testament, Psalm lxvi.6. They went through the medtet--there did we rejoice. Hos. xi. 4. Jacob found God ite Bethel, there he spake with us. By the terms we who are alive, the Apos
ile means doubtless, those of us. Christians who shall then be alive. lo * another place, i Cor. iv 4. he says, We know that he who raised up the " Lord Jésus, shall raise up is also. He could not believe contradictory * propositions, that he should die, and that he should not die." Page 283, &c.
See also a great variety of examples of this method of speaking, collected by Di. Bensolithe most remarkable of which is the following: «'When the * Istaclites should be settled in the land of Canaan, in future generations, ** Mosës dught thotti to say.--The-Egyptiaris evit intreated us and aflicted us, fi and Vaid woont is hard bondage, and then we critd unto the Lord God of our
Fatket, the Lord'heard ook voice, and brought us forth dut of Egypt," See Beaucony on Thess. iv. 13
tioned at the close of the preceding chapter, was to take place. And, if this be so, it will, indeed, be a very strong argument in favor of the charge of the Historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, that it is one principal design of this part of the Work to confute--to wit--that the Apostle, when he made use of the expressions we and us, conceived that the day of judgment was ałțually very near at hand, for he most certainly, does make use of a language which conveys an idea, which no criticism can do
away, that the event to which he refers, whatever it was, was at no great distance. The Historian just mentioned, has expressly asserted, that “this expectation was countenanced by the “ First Epistle of St. Paul to the Thessalonians." And, Mr. Locke, as has already been observed, says--- That the “ Apostle looked on the coming of Christ," by which coming, he meant, his coming to judge all mankind at the last day,
as not far off, appears by what he says, i Thess. iv, 15. " and v. 6.” Dr. Macknight, likewise, though one of the most strenuous advocates for the Application of the whole of the vth chapter, to the day of judgment, has remarked, that “ the Apostle's description is the more affe&ing, that the 66 verbs are all in the present time-s0 cometh--sudden de"struction cometh : representing the certainty and instanta.
neousness of its coming.” And, to mention no more, Dr. Doddridge, in a note upon i Thess. v. 2. quotes Mr. Blackwall, as justly observing the remarkable emphasis of
" A Thief comes upon people when they are s bound in sleep, and they awake in amazement and con66 fusion, being found unarmed, and in an helpless posture. " Pangs come upon a woman when, perhaps, she is eating, « drinking, or laughing, and thinks of nothing less than
that hour. And here, it is said- not that the day of the 6 Lord will come—but that it is actually coming, which in
the awfulness of the representation.” It has been already remarked, that the coming, and the day of the Lord, are expressions which were in frequent use, in antient prophecy, to denote the near approach of some great and remarkable temporal calamity. As therefore this Epistle was confessedly written before the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened a short time afterwards--as our Lord had
particularly predicted the accomplishment of this awful event, and had pointed out the signs of its approach, for the express purpose that they might watch for it, and be fully apprízed of it—the presumption is, even previous to a critical enquiry, that the Apostle had his eye upon that event.
The language which our Lord made use of, in that Predică tion, is particularly deserving of notice, not only on its own account, but more especially, on account of its apparent connection with the chapter under consideration ; for that connection has not, as will presently, more fully be seen, escaped the notice of any of the Commentators upon the subject. In the xxivth of Matthew, he not only expressly prepredicted that the destruction of Jerusalem should be, in that generation—but that it should come upon the Jewish nation in a sudden and unexpected manner, when they were engaged in all the occupations of human life, and busied in transactions which plainly indicated, that they expected no such awful calamity to come upon them. Verse 27. As the lightning cometh out of the East and shineth even unto the West ; so shall also the true nature of the coming of the Son of Man, the Messiah, be. And this is more particularly and fully explained in the 37th and following verses. As the days of Noah were, so shall also the true nature of the coming of the Son of Man be ; for as in the days which were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the Ark, and knew not until the Flood came and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. As they were thus apprized of the suddenness of that awful calamity-so they were likewise told, that though it was to be in that generationyet the precise time of its approach was known 'to none. Of that day and hour, or season, knoweth no man-no, not the Angels of Heaven, but my Father only, and for that reason, especially, they were directed to watch for it. Verse 422 Watch therefore ; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come--and again—Be ye also ready; for. 'in such an hour
ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.
Now it is deserving of particular notice, that the Apostle Paul, in the vth chapter of the Epistle to the Thessalonians, dwells, in a very particular and impressive manner, upon the Thessalonians being fully apprised of the near approach of the day of the Lord. He tells them that he had no need to write to
them about it--that they knew perfe&ly that the day of the Lord would so comes as A THIEF IN THE NIGHT--that they were not in darkness that that day should overtake them AS A THIEF-that they were all the children of light and of the day, and that finally, they were not of the night, nor of darknessy. and that therefore they were not to sleepi as others, in careless security, as not apprehending, nor expecting the near approach of any calamity--but to watch and be sober. So again when the Apostle says-They i. e. those who were in this state of careless security, should say peace and safety, and that then sudden destruction would come upon them as upon a woman with child, and that they should not escape it is hardly possible to make use of a language which was more ap. propriate to the near approach of some great national calamity.
When therefore the Apostle says, in the beginning of the chapter-Now concerning the times and the seasons--is it not, in the bighest degree probable, independent of any critical examination of the meaning of the phrase in Acts i. 7. to which this language of the Apostle is generally referred that he was about to describe not the end of the world or the general judgment, mentioned in the close of the preceding chapter-but the destruction of Jerusalem !. If from the con necţion of the first verse, with the subsequent part of the chapter, this shall be considered, as probable; it will be strongly confirmed, by a critical examination of Acts i. 7. where the same phrase is made use of, and, as was just hinted, referred to by the generality of Commentators upon the chapter under consideration.
It will not, it may be presumed, be deemed unfair to state the opinion of Commentators upon the meaning of this verse, when they appear to have had no other object in view than to ascertain ifs genuine signification. This will be the more necessary, as some of them have, when coma menting upon 1 Thess, V. 1. given a very different interpre. tation of it.
The learned Grotius, whose critical acumen has been universally allowed, in explaining what the Apostles meant by restoring the kingdom to Israel, says--Respiciunt Apostoli locum Danielis vii. 27. Restituis, id est, restituere paras in veteram dignitatem.
And Mr. Le Clerc is not less accurate than concise, in his remark on this verse. “ It appears by it,''