Page images
PDF
EPUB

foundation was to be laid in his own humiliation and sufferings. How averse the disciples were to receive these mortifying truths, we may discover from the conduct of Peter on that occasion: and Luke informs us, that “they understood none of these

things ; and this saying was hidden from them; “ neither knew they the things which were spoken.

Even after our Lord's resurrection, the disciples still clung to the expectation of a temporal kingdom, and their minds were full of it. From this source proceeded the observation of the two disciples who were accosted by the risen Saviour on their way to Emmaus: “ But we trusted that it had been he “ which should have redeemed Israel ;" * and also the question put to our Lord, just before his ascension, by the whole disciples in concert : Lord, “ wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to - Israel?” +

When the apostles therefore asked our Lord the questions which are recorded in Matthew xxiv. 3, they certainly had in their minds the above notions of a temporal kingdom, and they alluded to the coming of our Lord with the clouds of heaven (to establish the rule of the saints, and restore the kingdom to Israel), which was foretold in Daniel ; I and not to the end of the world, in the common acceptation of the term, but to the end of the age or dispensation, during which the four Gentile monarchies were to prevail in the world; at the close of which period, they knew, from the writings of Daniel and the other prophets, that the kingdom of the Messiah was to be established in glory, and the * Luke xxiv. 21.

* Dan. vii, 13, 14.

+ Acts i. 6.

whole nation of Israel redeemed and gathered into the land of their fathers.

The word rendered “ world,” in Matthew xxiv. 3, is aw, which commonly in the version of the Seventy answers to the Hebrew bbw, denoting time hidden from man.* Now it is well known that the Jews divided time into two portions ; the one they called 739 Obw, this or the present age, which comprehended the whole space of time during which the four Gentile monarchies were to continue : the other portion they called 827 DSW, the age to come, which they understood was to begin when the Messiah should reign, as is described in Daniel vii. 13, 14. The close of the 17177 DSwy, or present age, was therefore to take place when the fourth or Roman monarchy was finally destroyed.+

and shall lead captive and subdue Israel under them ,בעולם הזה *

* See Parkhurst's Greek Lexicon, on the word Alwv.

+ Mede, in his Comment. Apocalypt. gives the following quotation from Rabbi Saadias, on Dan. vii. 18: " Because Israel have rebelled

against God, their kingdom shall be taken from them, and given to “ these four monarchies, who shall possess the kingdom in this age, "], “ until the age to come, 821 351 , until the Messiab reign.”

The word world (says the author of the Mlustrations of Prophecy, in a note) is given up by the majority of English commentators as an improper rendering; and in the Latin versions of Jerome, Erasmus, Beza, and Montanus, oiwvos is translated, not mundi, but seculi. “ Alw," says Mr. Waple, (on the Revelation, p. 248,) “ signifies an

age of the world, or some eminent period of it ;” and in correspondence with this Dr. Hammond observes (on Luke i. 70), that in the New Testament “it most commonly is used in a general sense, “not for the age of man, nor again for an hundred years, but for an

age of the world, or some eminent part in the division of that.”“ Sometimes,” says Leigh, in his Critica Sacra, “it is put for that “ which continues a long time, and of which the end is not so clear;" and this appears to be the exact meaning which the disciples here annexed to the word. They inquired what would be the sigos of the

Having by these observations endeavoured to clear the way for the proper understanding of the inquiries of the disciples, I now proceed to consider what their questions were.

Matthew xxiv. 3, συντελεια του αιωνος, at the expiration of which another αιων, or eminent period, was to commence; and accordingly, in the writings of the fathers, (see Suicerus) the word aw frequently stood for this last period, that is to say, for a thousand years.-In an ancient work, the book of Tobit (xiv. 5.), diw appears manifestly to signify the first of these great periods, namely, that which is to continue till the commencement of the millenium: for it is there said of the Jews, that when the times of the age are fulfilled (πληρωθωσι καιροι του alwvos are the words of the Septuagint,) they shall return from all places of their captivity. In Isaiah, on the contrary, (chap. Ixv. 18.) the expression, the age to come, signifies the second of these long periods, namely, the millenium; for, when speaking of the future restoration of the Jews to their own land, he says (according to the amended versions of Bishop Lowth and Mr. Dodson), but ye shall rejoice and exult in the age to come, To verse 6. of chap. ix. of Isaiah, reference also deserves to be made: for in that verse, according to the best copies of the Septuagint, and agreeably to the existing Hebrew text, Christ called, πατες του μελλοντος αιωνος, the father of the future age. In like manner, in the Vulgate, it is " pater futuri seculi.See Mr. Dodson's valuable translation of Isaiah, and his elaborate note on this verse.

In the Targum on Kings, the period of the Messiah is denominated the age

to come ; and, says Bishop Kidder, “ among the other Jewish “ writers nothing is more common than to call the times of the “ Messiah, the Olam Hava, i. e. o arw jedaw, or the age to come.” Demonstr. of Messiah, vol. iii. p. 381.

I close the note with a quotation from Dr Thomas Burnet.

expression, awy medawn, is either taken, largely, for the times of “ the Messiah in general, or, more particularly, for the times of the “Messiah's reign. In this last confined and more proper sense, it is “ distinct both from the present age, and from eternity, or that time “when Christ is to deliver up all dominion into the bands of the “ Father, i Cor. xv. 24–28. And in this proper sense, viz. taken “ før some age between this present and eternity, it is often used in

scripture. Christ, it is said, will reign sy tw alwi med dorto. Eph. i. “ 22, 23.”-On the State of departed Souls, p. 282.--Illustrations of Prophecy, p. 527, Note.

[ocr errors]

" The

“ The disciples came unto him privately, saying, “ Tell us when shall these things be? and what “ shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end “ of the age ?” Luke and Mark inform us of another question added to the first. Luke xxi. 7. “ When " shall these things be ? and what sign will there be “ when these things shall come to pass ?” We may therefore, by comparing the different evangelists, conclude that the questions put to our Lord were three in number:

Ist, When shall these things be? 2d, What sign will there be, when these things

shall come to pass ? 3d, What shall be the sign of thy coming, and

of the end of the age. The discourse of our Lord will be found to contain answers to all these questions, though not in the exact order in which they were put. But as the minds of the apostles were still deeply imbued with the erroneous opinion, that his glorious reign was not far distant, the first part of the discourse seems to be intended to correct this notion, and to show that a long period of darkness, persecution, and calamity, was to intervene before the second coming of Christ.* This part of the prophecy may be considered as introductory to the rest, and extends in Matthew xxiv. from verse 4 to 14. It concludes by announcing that the Gospel shall be preached in the whole habitable world oixovusion for a witness to all nations, and then the end shall come: that is, the end of the present dispensation, when the

* I am indebted to Mr. Bicheno for this idea : see his Signs of the Times, p, 256: edit. of 1808.

Son of Man comes with the clouds of heaven to establish the reign of God. This final promulgation of the Gospel, which immediately precedes the second advent, must, it is evident, be more universal than those which took place, either in the apostolic age, or at the reformation ; for at both these eras, many nations of the world remained ignorant of Christ.

The next part of the discourse contains an answer to the second question : “ What shall be the sign “ when these things shall come to pass ?” viz. the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. In Matt. xxiv. 15, that sign is declared to be when the disciples should see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel, stand in the holy place. Luke (chap. xxi. 20) expounds this expression as follows: “ When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with “ armies, then know that the desolation thereof is

“ nigh."

This sign was well understood by the Christians in Jerusalem, and we are informed by history, that as soon as the Roman armies invested the city, they all fled from it, in obedience to the warning of our Lord (given in the next verses of Matthew); and they were thus saved from the destruction which overwhelmed their unbelieving countrymen. Our Lord next describes the greatness of the distress which should then come upon the Jews, and warns his disciples, in Matthew xxiv. 23–26, not to be deceived by any of the impostors who should appear at that time, pretending to be the Messiah ; and he signifies, that when his real coming shall take place, there will be no need that one man should carry the

« PreviousContinue »