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“These passages show that the revelation of Christ in judgment was, very near, on the eve of opening when the revelator wrote, which, as we have said, was immediately preceding the event, about A. D. 69; and the destruction of Jerusalem took place about two years after, A. D. 70, so fulfilling all the predictions of Christ and his apostles.”
BIBLICAL LITERATURE ; EXPLANATIONS OF SCRIPTURE ; DOCTRINAL AND MORAL DISCUSSIONS ; AND THE PROMOTION
Rev. G.A. Skinner, and Rev. E.H. CHAPIN, Editors.
“APPEARANCE,” “COMING,” “REVELATION,”&c.–SCRIPTURE USAGE.
FOR the right understanding of many important portions of sacred Scripture, it is necessary that we should come rightly to apprehend the usage of. certain words and phrases in them, which mostly constitute the key to their meaning.
Among these words and phrases may be counted “Coming,” of God or Christ; “appearance;” “Revelation” of Jesus Christ, &c. Without some acquaintance with the manner in which these terms are used in the Scriptures, it is quite impossible to get at the idea represented in many passages of the Old and New Testaments.
The careful student of the Bible, however, will readily discover that the terms “Coming,” “Appearance,” &c., were in common use among the Jews to represent any seeming or real manifestation of God’s power or providence; and especially any punishment or judgment which he inflicted upon a people or nation. Hence it has been said, “God’s coming signifies some new manifestation of his presence; either by a resplendent and awful symbol, as to Israel of old, or by the operations of his power in mercy or judgment, in which sense he may be said to visit men from age to age.”
This will appear from the following: “Let the heavens rejoice before the Lord, and the earth be glad; for he comes to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.” Psalm xcvi, 10-13; xcviii, 9. See also Psalm ci, 2. Again: “Behold ! the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence.” Isaiah xix, 1.
So also in Psalm xviii, 9, it is said God “bowed the heavens, and came down; ” and in Exodus xix and xrxiv, it is written that God “descended” to Mount Sinai.
NOW it must be obvious that God cannot be said strictly to “come,” or “descend,” or “ride” to Egypt or Sinai; he cannot be said to change place as a man, because he is omnipresent, fills all space, and lives everywhere. “Do not I fill heaven and earth ? saith the Lord.” Jeremiah xxiii, 24. Hence his “coming,” “descending,” &c., in these passages signify only the exercise of his power as a ruler of the earth, or the manifestation of that power in some especial manner. “The Lord appeared to Abraham,” Gen. xii, 71, Acts vii, 3; to Isaac, xxvi, 2; to Jacob, xlviii, 3; but we are not to understand by this any thing more than the communication to these patriarchs of his will and purposes, in a direct and, perhaps, unusual manner. So 1 Sam. iii, 21, “The Lord appeared again in Shiloh; for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” These events, after the style of the age, the writers call an “appearance,” or “revelation” of God, or God’s “coming” to the persons concerned.
Josephus, who was a Jew, and wrote about the time of the New Testament authors, has furnished. us with some excellent examples of the Jewish usage of the phrases “appearace,” “presence,” and “coming of God.” And what is of great moment to the right understanding of the phraseology, he employs, in several instances, the same original Greek word which oc6urs in those passages of the New Testament that speak of the “appearance” and “coming of the Son of man,” “of the Lord,” &c.
He makes the servant of Abraham to call his accidental meeting with Rebecca (Genesis xxiv, 16, 46), a “divine appearance,” (theias epiphaneias); that is, he regarded it as an interposition, or a special providence of God. The opening of the waters of the Red sea is called an ”appearing” (epiphaneian tou THEOU). Here the appearing of God was the miracle, or manifestation of his power in behalf of Israel; and this not directly even, but only indirectly, through Moses!
A fortunate shower of rain, regarded as an interposition of heaven, is called the “appearance” (epiphaneian), and the “presence” (parousian) of God. [Whiston’s Jossphucl, Ant. B. is 16, 8. B. ii, 16, 2, 3. B. xviii, 8, 6. This paragraph is indebted for its examples to a very valuable article in the Expositor for Janauary, 1839, pp. 19,80. The article is by H. Ballou] These examples show very clearly the great latitude with which these expressions were used among the Jews at the time the New Testament was composed. The careful thinker will at once see that, to a great extent, they must modify and govern our interpretation of the same or similar phrases in the New Testament ; since the writers of the New Testament were Jews, and would of course understand and use language in the same sense in which the Jews understood. and used it. The legitimacy and logical strictness of this inference, no well-disciplined mind will think of questioning.
Let us now look at these expressions as significant of that display of divine power. which comes in the form of punishment or judgment, and which is, we believe, the sense they bear, in part, in most of the New Testament passages where they occur. Illustrations of this usage will be found in the prophets. The passage already quoted from Isaiah xix, is an example: “Behold the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into into Egypt,’-and then follows a lengthened description of the desolating judgments he was about to bring upon Egypt, showing that the “coming” was a coming to judgment or punishment. “Behold your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense.” Isa. xxxv, 4. “Behold the Lord wilt come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, lo render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.” Isa. lxvi, 16. The coming of the Lord here is clearly significant of the calamitous judgments which he would bring upon the people for their sins. See also Psalm 1, 3. Mal. iv. 6. [We have very similar expressions in common use, to set forth any great trial or calamity. We say of a painful sickness, or a heavy misfortune, – “It is a severe visitation,” – that is, of God. And in cases of sudden death, where the cause is unknown, the jury of inquest still observe the form of verdict, – “Died by visitation (or visit) of God”]
So in the New Testament, the terrible judgments and entire destruction, the wrath to the uttermost, which fell upon the Jews at the close of the Law dispensation, are described, after the same style, under the figure of Christ’s “coming” to take vengeance on the enemies and false professors of the gospel. “The day, the time, and the manner of the execution of this vengeance,” says Dr. Lightfoot, “are called “The day of the Lord,’ ‘The day of Christ,’ ‘His coming in the clouds, in his glory, in his kingdom.'” “Any signal interposition in behalf of his church,–or in the destruction of his enemies, may be metaphorically called a coming of Christ.” “The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus is emphatically called the corning of Christ. The spirit of prophecy speaks particularly of this, because the city and temple were then destroyed, and the civil and ecclesiastical state of the Jews subverted.” [Newcome, Obs. pp. 280, Note, (6) 281, Note.]
The reader will notice the perfect correspondence between this “coming” or “appearance” of Christ at the overthrow of Jerusalem, in behalf of his followers, and in destruction of their persecuting enemies, and the “appearance of God” at the Red Sea, as worded by Josephus, in behalf of the Israelites, and in the destruction of their persecuting enemies, the Egyptians. The events in these great points, and in the phraseology of description, are marvellously alike.
The following examples, alluding to this event, will illustrate this usage in the New Testament. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory,” &c. Mat. xxv, 31. “And they shall see the Son man coming in the clouds of heaven,” &c. Mat. xxiv, 30, 31. “Likewise as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all: even thus shall it be in the day when the Son man is revealed.” Luke xvii, 28, &a. So Paul says, “The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night; for when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, and they shall not escape.” 1 Thes. v, 1-4. “The Lord Jesus shall 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 Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his. power, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints,” &c. 2 Thes. i, 7-10. “And now, little children, abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming, (1 John ii, 28,) that is, “that when that great fatal day of visitation comes, the coming of Christ so long expected, wherein the obdurate unbelievers shall be destroyed, and the believers delivered and preserved,” &c. Hammond’s Par. in loco. See also 1 Peter v, 4.
In these passages we see clearly that the “coming,” “revelation, ”appearing,” &c., are significant of punishment or judgment upon the earth, being the particular judgment which resulted in the destruction of the Jewish people.
The time of this “coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” the time when Christ was to be “revealed from heaven,” to “take vengeance on them that obeyed not his gospel,” and to ‘r reward every man according to his works,” giving “life eternal” to the faithful, and “everlasting punishment” or “destruction” to his enemies, is clearly, and beyond doubt, fixed by the Saviour himself. Speaking of John, he says, “I will that he tarry till I come.” John xxi, 21-23 [“What is oft meant in the Gospels by the coming of Christ, viz., that famous execution upon the Jews, hath been oft mentioned. This John did survive, continuing not only to Titus’s time, but through Domitian’s and Nerva’s to Trojan’s reign, above an hundred years after Christ’s birth, and so thirty years after this coming of Christ was past!” Hammond’s Annot. on the passage.] Of course he must have come while John was yet living. To his disciples he said, “When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” Mat. x, 23, [“Be assured from me that by the time you have gone through all the cities of the Jews, vs. 7, this fatal day shall come upon your persecutors.” – Hammond’s Par. in loco.] “Verily I say this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled!” Mat, xxiv, 33, 34: “There be some standing here which shall not taste death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom!” Mat. xvi, 27, 28.
But, this “coming” or revelation” of the Son of man was not only to be in judgment upon the enemies, but also upon the false professors and apostates of the gospel. This Christ set forth clearly in the parables of the “Marriage Feast,” the ”Unfaithful Servant,” &c. It would be said by some of these, My Lord delayeth his coming,” “and they would eat and drink with the drunken;” but the Lord would come unexpectedly, and cut them off, and “appoint them their portion with the hypocrites, (scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, Mat. xxiii,) where should be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Mat. xxiv,46-51. On these declarations of Christ are based certain of the apostolical exhortations to fidelity and holiness of life. Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace (favor) that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance, – but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” 1 Peter i, 13-16. “And this I pray, that ye may be sincere, and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness,” Phil. i, 6-1 1. “And I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. ” 1 Thes. v, 23. “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and (in) his kingdom, preach the word; be instant in season, out of season,” &c. 2 Tim. iv, 1-8. See also 1 Cor. i, 4-8; Phil. ii, 14-16. 1 Thes, iii, 13, 13. 1 Tim, vi, 13-16. 1 Pet. iv, 16-19.
This “coming” or “appearance” of Christ in judgment is on the enemies and false professors of his religion, at the close of the Law dispensation, occupies a large space in the New Testament; and it is a profitable study to follow its traces from the Gospels to the Apocalypse, and note how it had woven itself into the thoughts, and counsels, and exhortations of, the Master and his disciples. We have already seen something of this, but a more careful survey of the ground, and a classification of some of the passages referring to it, according to time and circumstances, will not be without their use in illustrating the phraseology in review.
While yet with them the Saviour comforted his disciples, in prospect of the persecutions which they mould have to suffer, with the assurance that when he should “come” or “reveal” himself, their enemies would be scattered, and they delivered from their persecutions. Hence he says, “he that endureth to the end shall be saved,” –that is, he that is faithful to the end of these persecutions, or till the Son of man come, shall be delivered. Mat. x, 17-13. This will be clearly seen in the following. After describing the signs which, would precede his “coming” to the destruction of Jerusalem, he adds, “then shall men’s hearts fail them for fear, and for looking after these things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” Luke xxi, 27,28. This redemption was from the persecutions of the Jews, who were to be destroyed when “the Lord Jesus should be revealed from heaven;” for then Jerusalem was to “be trodden down of the Gentiles,” and “the power of the holy people scattered,” and they “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” Luke xxi, 2-4; 2 Thes. i, 7-9. See also Mat. x, 23, quoted in a previous paragraph.
Now if we take a step forward to the apostolic times and writings, we shall find similar allusions to this “coming” or “revelation” of Christ, made under similar circumstances of persecution; but now also, after years of waiting, accompanied with earnest assurances of its approach, and consebuent exhortations to patience.
We discover from many passages of the apostolical epistles, that the early Christians, growing faint and weary with the severity and length of their persecutions, began to waver in their faith, to lose confidence in the promises of the Lord, and that he would come to their deliverance, and even to doubt whether it would be so. And their enemies even taunted them with the seeming non-fulfilment of the prediction, saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” I Peter iii, 4. Out of this state of things come such exhortations of the apostles as these: “Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. . . . Be ye patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” James v, 7, 8. This was written after twenty-seven years waiting, and about ten years before the coming of Christ, in A. D. 60 or 61. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing had happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, that when “When his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter iv, 12, 13. This was written four years later, A. D. 64. “Cast, not away your confidence, . . . . for ye have need of patience, . . . . for yet a little while, and he that shall come shall come, and will not tarry.” Heb. x, 35, 37. This was written from A. D. 62 to 64, about six or seven years only before the coming of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Jewish persecutors of the Christians. [See also 1 Cor. i, 7, 8. Phil. iv, 6. 1 Peter iv, 17. 1 Thes. i, 10. Heb. x, 26. 1 Peter i, 6-7, and Hammond’s Note on 2 Thes. i, 6-10, in explanation of the “salvation revealed in the last time,” “being deliverance from the persecution of the Jews.”]
Now if we take one more step forward to the Apocalypse, we shall find the expressions respecting the “coming” or “appearance” of Christ the Lord, increasing in force and earnestness as the time drew nearer. And if we remember that the Apocalypse was written only two years before the destruction of Jerusalem, we shall at once see the reason and propriety of this additional earnestness of the passages alluding to this event. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must SHORTLY come to pass.” Rev. i, 1. “The time is at hand,” i, 3. “Behold, I come QUICKLY,!” iii, 11; xxii, 7.. “Behold, I stand at the door!” iii, 20. “Seal not the sayings of this book,” &c. xxii, 10, diligently compared with Daniel xii, 4. “Behold, I come QUICKLY, and my reward is with me, to give every man as his work shall be.” xxii, 14, diligently compared with Mat. xvi, 27,28. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still, ” (xxii, 11,) that is, the event is so very clone at hand, that there is now no time for preparation or change, and he that is wicked, or an enemy of Christ, must remain so, and be overwhelmed in the common destruction. These passages show that the revelation of Christ in judgment was, very near, on the eve of opening when the revelator wrote, which, as we have said, was immediately preceding the event, about A. D. 69; and the destruction of Jerusalem took place about two years after, A. D. 70, so fulfilling all the predictions of Christ and his apostles.
Thus have we finished what the limits of this article will permit us to say, in illustration of the Scripture usage and import of the phrases “Coming of God,” or Christ, “Appearing” or “Appearance,” “Revealed,” “Revelation, &c. It seems very clear, that they were employed by the Jews and the Scripture writers to designate any special exhibition of the divine will or purpose, any special or unusual manifestation of the power of God, or Christ, either in mercy or judgment. Hence these terms are emphatically applied to that greatest of all exhibitions of divine power, which resulted in the destruction of the Law dispensation, of the temple and holy city, and in the setting up of the gospel dispensation, the new Jerusalem, to which all the nations of the earth shall at last be gathered, rejoicing in the salvation of God.
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