Milton Spencer Terry
“It may be a million years” until Christ’s final coming
The Consummation of the pre-Messianic Age (1898) “Some writers find such a crisis or end in the crucifixion of Jesus, and the moment when he said, “It is finished.” (tetelestai). Others say it was at the resurrection; some few designate the ascension; but many have taught that the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the coming of Christ in his kingdom, the end of the old and the beginning o the new age. To all of these theories there are two insuperable objections:”
“All sorts of efforts have been made to evade the simple meaning of these words, but they all spring from the dogmatic prepossession that the coming of the Son of man in his glory must needs be an event far future from the time when the words were spoken.” (Apocalyptics pp.213-252)
“the attempts to show a dividing line between what refers to the fall of Jerusalem and what refers to a yet future coming of Christ, the remarkable differences of opinion as to the point of transition from one subject to the other are of a nature to make one suspicious of the hypothesis.” (pp.213-252)
(On Matthew 24:1)
“… all these sayings of Jesus are capable of a self-consistent and satisfactory explanation of a prophecy of what was in the near future when he uttered them. The overthrow of the Jewish temple and the subsequent going forth of the new kingdom of Christ in the world are the main subject. We adopt this hypothesis as the only tenable explanation of the language which all tree synoptists ascribe to Jesus on this occasion of his concluding his teaching in the temple” (Biblical Apocalyptics, p. 218)
(On Matthew 24:14)
“it seems like the persistent blindness of a dogmatic bias to insist that ‘preaching of the gospel in all the world for a testimony to the nations’ must needs included all the missionary operations of the Church during the Christian centuries. . . . This ‘world’ did not signify to Galilean fishermen or to learned Jewish rabbis what it does to a modern reader, familiar every day with telegraphic communications from remote continents and islands. Nor does Paul’s comprehensive phrase, ‘all creation under heaven,’ require us to interpret it with any more rigid literalism than we do in the statement at the close of John’s gospel, that ‘the world itself would not contain the books that should be written.’ Such expressions are usually understood to contain an element of hyperbole and are common in all the languages of men.” (Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House,  1988), 233.)
(On Matthew 24:30-31)
“Some expositors fall into the error of identifying the coming of the Son of man with the destruction of Jerusalem. These events are rather to be spoken of as coincident, in that the Messianic reign is conceived as following immediately after the tribulation of those days. The overthrow of Jerusalem was only one act of judgment of the King of glory, and should be so distinguished.” (Biblical Apocalyptics, p. 242)
(On Matthew 24:30)
“The language of Matt. xxiv, 30, concerning ‘the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and much glory,” is taken from Daniel’s night vision (Daniel vii, 13) in which he saw the Son of man coming to the Ancient of Days and receiving from him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom. That vision was a part of the compost of world-empire, and signified that “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him’ (Dan vii,27). The kingdom received from the Ancient of Days is no other than the kingdom symbolized by the stone cut out of the mountain, in chap 22,34,35, which ‘became a great mountain and filled all the land.’ This is the kingdom of the Messiah, which the Chialists believe to be be yet future, but which is more generally believe to be the Gospel dispensation, a kingdom not of this world, and not inaugurated with phenomenal splendor visible to mortal eyes. Like the stone cut out of the mountain, and the mustard seed, it is small and comparatively unimportant at its beginning, but it grows so as to fill the earth. This kingdom, according to Jesus’ own testimony (Luke xvii,20), ‘comes not with observation;’ that is, says Meyer, ‘the coming of the Messiah’s kingdom is not so conditioned that this coming could be observed as a visible development, or that it could be said, in consequence of such observation, that here or there is the kingdom.’ It may safely be affirmed, therefore, that this language concerning the Son of man in the clouds means no more on the lips of Jesus than in the writings of Daniel. It denotes in both places a sublime and glorious reality, the grandest event in human history, but not a visible display in the heavens of such a nature as to be a matter of scenic observation. The Son of man came in heavenly power to supplant Judaism by a better covenant, and to make the kingdoms of the world his own, and that parousia dates from the fall of Judaism and its temple. The mourning of ‘all the tribes of the land’ (not all nations of the globe) was coincident with the desolation of Zion, and our Lord appropriately foretold it in language taken from Zech. xii, 11,12” (Biblical Hermeneutics,p. 446-447)
“‘the sign of the Son of man’ may mean the ruin of the Jewish temple, considered as a sign or token that the old aeon thereby is ended, and the new Messianic aeon is begun. ‘The sign of the prophet Jonah’ (Matt. xii, 39; xvi, 4) was no miraculous phenomenon in the heavens. The analogy between Christ and Jonah for three days and three nights (Matt. xii,40) may be compared with John ii, 19-21 as suggesting that ‘the temple of his body,’ which was raised up in three days, was a prophetic sign that upon the ruin of Judaism and its temple there would rise that nobler ‘spiritual house’ (I Peter ii,5) ‘which is his body, the fulness of him who filleth all in all’ (Eph. i,23)” (Biblical Hermeneutics, p.452).
(On Matthew 24:29-31)
The language is appropriated in the main from the books of Isaiah and Daniel, but also from other prophets. The following passages are particularly in point:
For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. (Isa. 13:10)
And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree. (Isa. 34:4)
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Dan. 7:13,14)
In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. (Zech. 12:11-14)
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem. (Isa. 27:13)
If thy dispersion be from extremity of the heaven to extremity of the heaven, Thence shall the Lord thy God gather thee. (Sept. of Deut. 30:4)
For from the four winds of the heaven will I gather you, Saith the Lord (Sept. of Zech. 2:6)
From these quotation it is apparent that there is scarcely an expression employed in Matthew and Luke which has not been taken from the Old Testament Scriptures.
Such apocalyptic forms of speech are not to be assumed to convey in the New Testament a meaning different from that which they bear in the Hebrew Scriptures. They are part and parcel of the genius of prophetic language. The language of Isaiah 13:10, is used in a prophecy of the overthrow of Babylon. That of Isaiah 34:4, refers to the desolation of Edom. The ideal of “the Son of man coming in the clouds” is taken from a prophecy of the Messianic kingdom, which kingdom, as depicted in Daniel 7:13,14, is no other than the one symbolized in the same book by a stone cut out of the mountain (Dan. 2:34,35). It is the same kingdom of heaven which Jesus liken to a grain of mustard seed and to the working of leaven in the meal (Matt. 13:31-33). The other citations we have given above show with equal clearness how both Jesus and his disciples were wont to express themselves in language which must have been very familiar to those who from childhood heard the law and the prophets “read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (Acts 13:27; 15:21). A strictly literal interpretation of such pictorial modes of thought leads only to absurdity. Their import must be studied in the light of the numerous parallels in the Old Testament writers, which have been extensively presented in the foregoing part of this volume. But with what show of reason, or on what principle of “interpreting Scripture by Scripture,” can it be maintained that the language of Isaiah, Joel, and Daniel, allowed by all the best exegetes to be metaphorical when employed in the Hebrew Scriptures, must be literally understood when appropriated by Jesus or his apostles?
We sometimes, indeed, are meet with a disputant who attempts to evade the force of the above question by the plea that if we interpret one part of Jesus’s discourse literally we are bound in consistency to treat the entire prophecy in the same way. So, on the other hand, it is urged that if Matt. 24:29-31, for example, be explained metaphorically, we must carry that same principle through all the rest of the chapter; and if the words “sun, moon, and heavens” in verse 29 are to be taken figuratively, so should the words “Judea,” and “mountains,” and “housetop,” and “field” in other parts of the chapter be explained metaphorically! It is difficult to understand how such a superficial plea can be seriously put forward by one who has made a careful study of the Hebrew prophets. Every one of the Old Testament examples which have been cited above stands connected, like these apocalyptic saying of Jesus, with other statements which all readers and expositors have understood literally. The most proasic writer may at times express himself through a whole series of sentences in figurative term, and incorporate the extended metaphor in the midst of the plain narrative of facts. …
Our fourth and concluding proposition is that this apocalyptic passage is a sublime symbolic picture of the crisis of ages in the transition from the Old Testament dispensation to the Christian era. The word picture must be taken as a whole, and allowed to convey its grand total impression. The attempt, in a single passage like Mark 13:24,25, to take each metaphor separately and give it a distinct application, ruins the whole picture. … The picture of a collapsing universe symbolizes the one simple but sublime thought of supernatural interposition in the affairs of the world, involving remarkable revolution and change. The element of time does not appear in the picture. So the Son of man coming on the clouds means here just what it means in Daniel’s vision. It is an apocalyptic concept of the Messiah, as King of heaven and earth, executing divine judgment and entering with his people upon the possession and dominion of the kingdoms of the world. Here again the element of time does not enter, except it be the associated thought of Daniel’s prophecy that “his dominion is an everlasting dominion” (Dan. 7:14). It is the same coming of the Son of man in his kingdom which is referred to in Matt. 16:27,28, the inception of which was to occur before some of those who heard these words should taste of death. The mourning of all the tribes of the land is the universal wail and lamentation of Judaism over its national overthrow. In the fall of their city and Temple the priests, scribes, and elders saw “the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power” (Matt. 26:64), and thus it was made manifest to all who read the prophecy aright that “Jesus the Galilean” has conquered. The gathering of Christ’s elect from the four winds is the true fulfillment of numerous prophecies which promise the chosen people that they shall be gathered out of all lands and established forever in the mountain of God (comp. Amos 9:14,15; Jer. 23:5-8; 32:37-40; Ezek. 37:21-28). The time and manner of this universal ingathering of the elect ones cannot be determined from the language of any of these prophecies. As well might one presume to determine from Jesus’s words in John 12:32, where, when, and in what manner, when the Christ is “lifted up out of the earth,” he will draw all men unto himself. The point made emphatic, in the eschatological discourse of Jesus, is that all things contemplated in the apocalyptic symbolism employed to depict his coming and reign would follow “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Matt. 24:29); or, as Mark has it, “in those days, after that tribulation.” That is, the coming of the kingdom of the Son of man is coincident with the overthrow of Judaism and its temple, and follows immediately in those very days.
Whatever in this picture necessarily pertains to the continuous administration of the kingdom on the earth must of course be permanent, and continue as long as the nature and purpose of each work requires. When, therefore, it is affirmed that “this generation shall not pass away until all these things be accomplished,” no one supposes that the kingdom and the power and the glory of the Son of man are to terminate with that generation. The kingdom itself is to endure for ages of ages. It is to increase like the stone cut from the mountain, which itself “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” It is to grow and operate like the mustard seed and the leaven until it accomplish its heavenly purpose among men. The entire New Testament teaching concerning the kingdom of Christ comtemplates a long period, and the abolishing of all opposing authority and power; “for he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (I Cor. 15:25). The overthrow of Jerusalem was one of the first triumphs of the Messiah’s reign, and a sign that he was truly “seated at the right hand of power.” …
But what ought to settle the question of time beyond all controversy is the most emphatic declaration: “This generation shall not pass away until all these things be accomplished.” These words are clearly intended to answer the disciples’ question, “when shall these things be?” Their meaning is substantially the same as that of Mark 9:1, and the parallels in Matthew and Luke. The words immediately preceding them show the absurdity of applying them to another generation than that of the apostles: “When YOU SEE THESE THINGS coming to pass, YOU KNOW that he is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say UNTO YOU, this generation shall not pass away,” etc.
But not a few expositors presume to nullify the import of these words by affirming that they are glaringly inconsistent with what follows in Mark and Matthew: “But of that day or hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” It is difficult to understand how any interpreter, uninfluenced by a dogmatic prepossession, can insist on making one of these statements contradict or exclude the other. But it is not difficult to see that, when one has it already settled in his mind that the kingdom of Christ is not yet come, that the “Parousia” is an even event yet future, and that “the end of the age” is not the close of the pre-Messianic age, but “the end of the world,” such a weight of dogma effectually obliges him to nullify the simply meaning of words as emphatic as Jesus ever spoke. If the language of Mark 13:30, and its parallels in Matthew and Luke are to be so arbitrarily set aside on such ground we see not but it is just as proper a procedure to reject the statement of Jesus’s ignorance of the day and the hour, which indeed does not appear in Luke at all. Why not reject Mark 13:32, which has no parallel in Luke, rather than verse 30, which appears in all the synoptic gospels? Such an arbitrary procedure is a two-edged sword which may smite in one direction as well as another. (Biblical Apocalyptics, pp. 238-245)
(On Matthew 24:34)
“But we can find no word or sentence which appears designated to impress anyone with the idea that the destruction in question and the parousia would be far separate as to time. The one, it is said, will immediately follow the other, and all will take place before that generation shall pass away” (Biblical Apocalyptics, p. 439)
“On what valid hermeneutical principle, then, can it be fairly claimed that this discourse of Jesus comprehends all futurity? Why should we look for the revelations of far distant ages and millenniums of human history in a prophecy expressly limited to the generation in which it was uttered? (Biblical Apocalyptics, p. 443)
“We are driven, then, by every sound principle of hermeneutics, to conclude that Matt. xxiv, 29-31, must be included within the time-limits of the discourse of which it forms an essential part, and cannot be legitimately applied to events far separate from the final catastrophe of the Jewish State.” (Biblical Apocalyptics, p. 449)
(On Matthew 24:36 | Transition Text Theory)
“When, however, the one school of interpreters attempt to point out the dividing line, there are as many differences of opinion as there are interpreters. In Matt. 24 and 25, for example, the transition from the one subject to the other is placed by Bengel and others at 24:29; by E.J. Meyer at verse 35; by Doddridge at verse 36; by Kuinoel at verse 33; by Eichorn at 25:14, and by Wetstein at 25:31.” (Biblical Apocalyptics, p. 217)
(On Matthew 26:64)
“Matthew reads (xxvi, 64), ‘From this time … ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ We maintain that this language cannot be naturally interpreted as a reference to an event belonging to a far distant period of time. It is something that is to take place from this time onward, and something which the high priest and his associates are to see. We quote with great satisfaction the comment of Gould in the International Critical Commentary on Mark (p. 252): ‘This settles two things: first, that the coming is not a single event, any more than the sitting on the right hand of power; and second, that it was a thing which was to begin with the very time of our Lord’s departure from the world. Moreover, the two things, the sitting on the right hand of power, and the coming are connected in such a way as to mean that he is to assume power in heaven and exercise it here in the world. The period beginning with the departure of Jesus from the world was to be marked by this assumption of heavenly power by the Christ, and by repeated interferences in crises of the world’s history, of which the destruction of Jerusalem was the first’ ” (Milton Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics, pp. 222-223).
(On Acts 1:11)
“Acts i, 11, is often cited to show that Christ’s coming must needs be spectacular, in like manner as ye beheld him going into the heaven.” But (1) in the only other three places where bv rp61rov, what manner, occurs, it points to a general concept rather than the particular form of its actuality. Thus, in Acts vii, 28, it is not sonic particular manner in which Moses killed the Egyptian that is notable, but rather the certain fact of it. In 2 Tim. iii, 8, it is likewise the fact of strenuous opposition rather than the special manner in which Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses. And in Matt. xxiii, 37, and Luke xiii, 34, it is the general thought of protection rather than the visible manner of a mother bird that is intended. Again (2), if Jesus did not come in that generation, and immediately after the great tribulation that attended the fall of Jerusalem, his words in Matt. xvi, 27, 28, xxiv, 29, and parallel passages are in the highest degree misleading. (3) To make the one statement of the angel in Acts i, 11, override all the sayings of Jesus on the same subject and control their meaning is a very one-sided method of biblical interpretation. But all the angel’s words necessarily mean is that as Jesus has ascended into heaven so he will come from heaven And this main thought agrees with the language of Jesus and the prophets.” (Biblical Apocalyptics, note 34)
“Whatever the real nature of the parousia, as contemplated in this prophetic discourse, our Lord unmistakably associates it with the destruction of the temple and city, which he represents as the signal termination of the pre-Messianic age. The coming on clouds, the darkening of the heavens, the collapse of elements, are, as we have shown above, familiar forms of apocalyptic language, appropriated from the Hebrew prophets.
“To make the one statement of the angel in Acts 1:11, override all the sayings of Jesus on the same subject and control their meaning is a very one-sided method of biblical interpretation. But all the angel’s words necessarily mean is that as Jesus has ascended into heaven so he will come from heaven. And this main thought agrees with the language of Jesus and the prophets.” (Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ; Baker Book House; pp. 246-247)
(On II Peter 3‘s New Heavens and Earth)
“That these texts may intimate or simply foreshadow some such ultimate reconstruction of the physical creation, need not be denied, for we know not the possibilities of the future, nor the purposes of God respecting all things which he has created. but the contexts of these several passages do not authorize such a doctrine. Isaiah 51:16, refers to the resuscitation of Zion and Jerusalem, and is clearly metaphorical. The same is true of Isa. 65:17, and 66:22, for the context in all these places confines the reference to Jerusalem and the people of God, and sets forth the same great prophetic conception of the Messianic future as the closing chapters of Ezekiel. The language of 2 Pet. iii, 10, 12, is taken mainly from Isa. 34:4, and is limited to the parousia, like the language of Matt. 24:29. Then the Lord made ‘not only the land but also the heaven’ to tremble (Heb 12:26), and removed the things that were shaken in order to establish a kingdom which cannot be moved (Heb. 12:27,28).” (Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 489).
(On Revelation 6:1)
“The true interpretation of these first four seals is that which recognizes them as a symbolic representation of the ‘wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes’ which Jesus declared would be ‘the beginning of sorrows’ in the desolation of Jerusalem (Matt. 24:6-7; Luke 21:10-11, 20). The attempt to identify each separate figure with one specific event misses both the spirit and method of apoca-lyptic symbolism. The aim is to give a fourfold and most im-pressive picture of that terrible war on Jerusalem which was des-tined to avenge the righteous blood of prophets and apostles (Matt. 23:35-37), and to involve a ‘great tribulation,’ the like of which had never been before (Matt. 24:21). Like the four succes-sive but closely connected swarms of locusts in Joel 1:4; like the four riders on different colored horses in Zechariah 1:8, 18, and the four chariots drawn by as many different colored horses in Zechariah 6:1-8, these four sore judgments of Jehovah move forth at the command of the four living creatures by the Throne to execute the will of Him who declared the ‘scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites’ of His time to be ‘serpents and offspring of vipers,’ and assured them that ‘all these things should come upon this generation’ (Matt. 23:33, 36). The writings of Josephus abundantly show how fearfully all these things were fulfilled in the bloody war of Rome against Jerusalem.” (pp. 329f.)
(On Revelation 7:3)
“The purpose of the sealing was to preserve the true Israel of God as a holy seed. It was not designed to save them from tribulation, but to preserve them in the midst of the great tribulation about to come and to glorify them thereby. Though the old Israel be cast off, a new and holy Israel is to be chosen and sealed with the Spirit of the living God.’” (p. 336.)
“”an apocalyptic picture of that ‘holy seed’ of which Isaiah speaks in Isaiah 6:13 — that surviving remnant which was destined to remain like the stump of a fallen oak after cities had been laid waste and the whole land had become a des-olation – that ‘remnant of Jacob,’ which was to be preserved from the ‘consumption determined in the midst of all the land’ (Isa. 10:21-23). It is the same ‘remnant according to the election of grace’ of which Paul speaks in Romans 9:27-28; 11:5. God will not destroy Jerusalem and make the once holy places desolate until He first chooses and seals a select number as the beginning of a new Israel. The first Christian Church was formed out of chosen servants of God from ‘the twelve tribes of the dispersion’ (James 1:1), and the end of the Jewish age was not to come until by the ministry of Jewish Christian apostles and prophets the gospel of the kingdom had been preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations (Matt. 24:14).” (pp. 341f.)
(On Babylon, the Great)
“The great red Dragon (12:3) is not to be regarded as different from the angel of the abyss (9:11). The hundred and forty-four thousand on Mount Zion (14:1) are the same as the sealed Israelites of 7:4-8. The seven last plagues (chaps. 15 and 16) correspond noticeably to the seven trumpets of doom. ‘Babylon the Great’ is the same as the great city where the Lord was crucified (11:8), and the new Jerusalem, filled with the glory of God and the Lamb, is but another symbol of the temple of God in the heaven (11: 19).”
(On the man of sin)
“Grotius, Wetstein, Whitby, and others, hold that this prophecy of the man of sin was fulfilled before the destruction of Jerusalem, which event they also regard as coincident with the parousia.” (Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 460)
(On The Date of Revelation)
“the trend of modem criticism is unmistakably toward the adoption of the early date of the Apocalypse.” (p. 241n.)
“It is therefore not to be supposed that the language, or style of thought, or type of doctrine must needs resemble those of other production of the same author .. the difference of language is further accounted for by the supposition that the apocalypse was written by the apostle at an early period of his ministry, and the gospel and epistles some thirty or forty years later.” (Biblical Apocalyptics, p. 255)
“A fair weighing of the arguments thus far adduced shows that they all excepting the statement of Irenaeus, favor the early rather than later date. The facts appealed to indicate the times before rather than after the destruction of Jerusalem.” (ibid.,258)
“Now, there is no contention that Galatians and Hebrews were written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and, to say the least, the most natural explanation of the allusions referred to is to suppose that the Apocalypse was already written, and that Paul and many others of his day were familiar with its contents. Writers who cite passages from the apostolic fathers to prove the priority of the gospel of John are the last persons in the world who should presume to dispute the obvious priority of the Apocalypse of John to Galatians and Hebrews. For in no case are the alleged quotations of Gospel more notable or striking than these allusions to the Apocalypse in the New Testament epistles.” (ibid.,260)
“Of all the arguments adduced by Sir Isaac Newton, none appears more cogent to Michaelis than that which is drawn from the Hebrew style of the Revelation, from which Sir Isaac had drawn the conclusion that John must have written the book shortly after his departure from Palestine, and before the destruction of Jerusalem.” (ibid. p 154)
“The verb was seen is ambiguous and may be either it, referring to the Apocalypse, or he, referring to John himself.” (Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 238)
(On Hermeneutical Principles)
“In the systematic presentation, therefore, of any scriptural doctrine, we are always to make a discriminating use of sound hermeneutical principles. We must not study them in the light of modern systems of divinity, but should aim rather to place ourselves in the position of the sacred writers, and study to obtain the impression their words naturally have made upon the minds of the first readers.”
(On The Second Coming)
“Is there no other way to understand the words of Paul? Does not the doctrine of our Lord, as we have traced it the Gospel Apocalypse, warrant us in believing that all these sublime events ocurred at that momentous crisis of the ages when Judaism and her temple fell a hopeless ruin ? Why should it be thought a thing incredible that God should then have raised many of them that slept in death? Why assume that the rapture of living saints must needs be visible to all mortal eyes ? The parousia, according to the Scriptures, was to take place at the end of an age, and not to involve the cessation of the human race on earth. Our Lord most plainly declared that then some should be taken and some should be left (Matt. xxiv, 40, 41), and as we have already shown (see above, p. 448), there is no sufficient reason for assuming that such a rapture of living saints must have been visible to those who were left.’ The ascension of our Lord into heaven was witnessed by no great multitude. (Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 458)
“Chiliastic writers, in claiming that the word parousia, coming, or presence, always means a personal presence, appear to assume that there can be no personal coming or presence of the Lord unless it be literally visible to human eyes. This would exclude the personal presence of God and of angels from the divine government of the world. Will it be pretended that there was no personal coming or presence of Jehovah at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? Comp. Gen. xviii, 21 ; xi x, 24, 25. But the Scriptures give no intimation of any visible appearance of the holy One to the inhabitants of the doomed cities. And so again and again has God come in terrible judgment upon wicked men and nations without any visible display of his person–a sight which no man may behold and live (Exod. xxxiii, 20). (Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 458b)
(On the Nature of the Resurrection)
“So the metaphor of resurrection is to be spiritually taken, and cannot be cited to prove that this prophet or the Israelites of his time believed in the doctrine of a resurrection of the body” (BIBLICAL DOGMANTICS)
“These dead ones who shall live are the deceased ones of Jehovah’s people and nation; they are conceived as one body, the collective Israel, of which the prophet considers himself a part and calls it “my body.” (BIBLICAL DOGMANTICS)
“Psalm 17:15. As an example of vagueness and uncertainty in a text often cited in proof of bodily resurrection we may note the different interpretations of Psalm 17:15. The common version is most familiar: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” On this Adam Clarke thus comments: “I do not think that he refers to the resurrection of the body, but to the resurrection of the soul in this life; to the regaining of the image which Adam lost.” The Anglo-American revisers carry the idea of beholding God, given in the first member of the parallelism, into the second member thus: “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with beholding thy form.” But the Polychrome Bible renders it, “I shall be refreshed at thine awaking, with a vision of thee.” This follows the Septuagint and the Vulgate, which read, “I shall be satisfied when thy glory appears.” Thus the awaking is understood of the awaking of Jehovah, not of the psalmist. The writer of the psalm is one in great trouble because of “deadly enemies that compass him about” (ver. 9), and he calls on Jehovah to arise and deliver him from Their power (ver. 13), confident that when God’s glorious form appears, he himself will behold it and be satisfied. All these are possible explanations of the text, and show that the thought intended is too uncertain for the passage to be of any value as a proof-text of the doctrine of resurrection.” (BIBLICAL DOGMANTICS)
(On the shaking of Heaven and Earth and Psalm 18)
“The simplest reader of this psalm observes that, in answer to the prayer of the one in distress, Jehovah reveals himself in marvelous power and glory. He disturbs for his sake all the elements of the earth and the heavens. He descends from the lofty sky as if bending down the visible clouds and making a pathway of massive darkness under his feet. He seems to ride upon a chariot, borne along by cherubims, and moving swiftly as the winds… In the psalmist’s thought winds, fire, hail, smoke, clouds, waters, lightenings, and earthquake are conceived as immediately subservient to Jehovah, who interposes for the rescue of his devout servant.” (Biblical Apocalyptics, p. 25)
Terry gave a footnote on this by Perowne which said:
“David’s deliverance was, of course, not really accompanied by such convulsions of nature, by earthquake, and fire, and tempest; but his deliverance, or rather his manifold deliverance, gathered into one, as he thinks of them, appear to him as marvelous a proof of the divine power, as verily effected by the immediate presence and finger of God, as if he had come down in visible form to accomplish them. – The Book of Psalms, new translation, vol. i. p. 186, 1876 (Biblical Apocalyptics, p. 25)
(On the Consummation of the pre-Messianic Age and the Parousia of Christ)
It remains to notice a few things peculiar to Matthew’s report of this discourse of Jesus. According to his gospel the form of the disciples’ question was, “When shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming (parousia) and of the consummation of the age (sunteleia tou aionos)?” They seem to have already inferred or assumed that his coming and the consummation of the age would be connected in some way with the desolation of the temple. The closing words of chap. xxiii were of a nature to imply all this  If it were not to be, and Jesus knew it, it is inconceivable that he should have confirmed them in such a belief as the language of Matt. xxiv was certainly adapted to do. What significance, then, are we to attach to the words coming, and consummation of the age?
The words parousia, commonly translated coming, is so constantly associate, in current dogmatics, with the ultimate goal of human history, that ordinary readers lose sight of its simple meaning in New Testament usage. The word means presence as opposed to absence. For example, we read in Phil. ii,12, “Sop then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence (en te parousia mou) only, but now much more in my absence (en te apousia mou), work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” But as the personal presence of any one implies a previous coming, so this word is not improperly rendered coming in many passages, and the verb erchomai, to come, is often employed to denote the appearance and kingdom of Christ.  Bt to assume that this coming or presence of Christ must needs be spectacular in any physical sense, a literal display of his person in the atmosphere of this earth, is to involve the doctrine in great confusion. Why must the coming of the Son of man on the clouds to execute judgment on that generation be understood or explained in any other way than we explain Jehovah’s “riding upon a swift cloud,” and coming to execute judgment on Egypt, as prophesied in Isa. xix,1? Whatever the real nature of the parousia, as contemplated in this prophetic discourse, our Lord unmistakably associates it with [p. 245] the destruction of the temple and city, which he represents as the signal termination of the pre-Messianic age. The coming on clouds, the darkening of the heavens, the collapse of the elements, are, as we have shown above, familiar forms of apocalyptic language, appropriated from the Hebrew prophets.  That other expression in Matthew, “the consummation of the age,” is a phrase that has been much abused and widely misunderstood. The common translation, “end of the world,” has been a delusion to many readers of the English Bible. It has helped to perpetuate the unscriptural nation that the coming and kingdom of Christ are not facts of the past, present, and future, but of the future only. The fundamental and distinguishing doctrine of all branches of the “Adventists,” so-called, is that the coming of the Son of man to set up his kingdom is this world is solely an event of the future. Christ has as yet no kingdom among men! Even the parables of our Lord, illustrative of the spiritual character of the kingdom, are forced to harmonize with the concept of a spectacular advent and a political organization.  Those who maintain the doctrine, and, indeed, not a few who oppose it, fall into error and inconsistency by failing to apprehend the true meaning of the phrase “the end of the age.”
For, first of all, they do not determine clearly what age (aion) is contemplated in such a text as Matt. xxiv,3. They quite generally assume that the period of the Gospel dispensation is meant. But nothing is more familiar in the Jewish terminology of our Lord’s time than the current phrases this age and the age to come. The period which preceded the coming of the Messiah [p. 246]was spoken of as this age; that which followed his coming was the age to come. It is not important to consider what various and often contradictory notions the rabbins associated with the age to come. Their notions were as various as those concerning the character of the Messiah himself. But by this age they meant and could mean nothing else than the current period in which they were living, the then present age. The question of the disciples, as recorded, could therefore only refer to the pre-Messianic age, and its consummation was, as we have seen, associated in their thought with the overthrow of the temple. But even were it admitted that their nation of the “consummation of the age” was erroneous, the teaching of Jesus was emphatic beyond all rational question that that generation should not pass away before all those things of which they inquired should be fulfilled.
The age to come, the Messianic time, would accordingly be the period that would follow immediately after the termination of the pre-Messianic age. that time had not yet come when Jesus spoke. According to the whole trend of New Testament teaching that age and the Messianic kingdom were near or at hand. Christ’s ministry fell in the last days of an aion. The gospel of his kingdom must be firmly established in the world before the end of that age. The gospel of his kingdom must be firmly established in the world before the end of that age. So we read, in Heb. ix, 26: “Now, once, at the end of the ages (epi sunteleia ton aionon) hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Also in Heb. i, 1, it is written: “God…hath at the last of these days spoken unto us in his Son.” Similarly Peter (1 Pet. i, 20) speaks of Christ as “foreknown before the foundation of the world, but manifested at the end of the times for your sake.” Paul, too, speaks of himself as living near the consummation of an age: “These things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages are come” (1 Cor. x,11) The ministry both of Jesus and his disciples must, therefore, be recognized as occurring in the latter days of an aion, or near the end of the pre-Messianic age. The New Testament writers, as well as Jesus, are clear on this point. They never represent themselves as already entered upon the first days, or the beginning of the age, but rather in the last days. If, now, we ask with the disciples, WHEN shall these things be? or at what point are we to recognize the end of the pre-Messianic age? we are to find the answer in the eschatological discourse of [p. 248] Jesus, and at some point before that generation passed away. “The ends of the ages” may have a definite point of contact and transition from one age to another. The coming age may, like the morning twilight, cast its beams into the foregoing night, and so the preceding age may partake in its last days of many things which belong to the age to come.  But such facts do not affect the question of the signal crisis which may conspicuously mark the end of one age and the opening of another. Was there such a crisis between the Jewish and Christian dispensations, that we can point to it and say, “That was preeminently and conspicuously an event which marked an epoch in the history of both Judaism and Christianity?”
Some writers find such a crisis or end in the crucifixion of Jesus, and the moment when he said, “It is finished.” (tetelestai). Others say it was at the resurrection; some few designate the ascension; but many have taught that the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the coming of Christ in his kingdom, the end of the old and the beginning o the new age. To all of these theories there are two insuperable objections: (1) They are irreconcilable with the statement of Jesus that the Gospel must first be preached “in all the habitable earth” (oikonmene), and (2), long after the day o f Pentecost, the apostles speak of their work as taking place in the last days, or near the end of the age.
Is it not strange that any careful student of our Lord’s teaching should fail to understand his answer to this very question? The disciples asked, definitely, WHEN shall it be? And Jesus proceeded to foretell a variety of things which they would live to see – all preliminary to the end. He foretold the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem, and an intelligible sign by which they might know the imminence of the final catastrophe of Judaism. And having told them of all these things, and of his own coming in the clouds and its glorious significance, he added: “When ye see these things coming to pass, know that it is nigh, at the door. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away until all these things be accomplished.” The ruin of the temple was, accordingly, the crisis which marked the end of the pre-Messianic age. [p. 249] Matthew’s gospel appends to the eschatological discourse three parables of admonition, which occupy the whole of the twenty-fifth chapter. The parable of the ten virgins and the picture of the judgment are peculiar to this gospel, but the parable of the talents appears to be in substance identical with that of the pounds (mnas, minas) in Luke xix, 11-27. The three parables as they stand in Matthew, whether originally uttered in this connection or not, are every way appropriate to the context. They are admonitions to watch and be ready for the coming of the Lord, and are not essentially different from the counsels already noticed in the fourth section of the preceding discourse (for example, Matt. xxiv, 32-51). The lesson of the parable of the virgins is, “Watch, therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour.” The great lesson of the parable of the talents is that the Lord’s servants have also something more to do than merely to watch. They must be diligently employed in the service and interests of their owner during his temporary absence from them, whether the time be long or short. There is, then, no difficulty as to the import of these parables, and no question as to their relevancy to the subject of which Jesus spoke on the Mount of Olives. Greater difficulty is supposed to attach to the sublime picture of Judgment recorded in Matt. xxv.31-46, and most expositors have thought that the picture must needs refer to a general and formal judgment of all nations of men at the conclusion of human history. But the language of Matthew is explicit in referring it to the time “when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him,” and when “he shall sit on the throne of his glory.” There would be obvious inconsistency in making this coming of the Son of man different from that of matt. xxiv, 30, and xvi, 27,28. How, then, it is asked, can this sublime ideal be brought within the time-limits of the prophecy of matt. xxiv?
The difficulties which are here suggested arise either from the assumptions of a literalizing exegesis or from a failure to keep in mind that the coming and kingdom of Christ are in their nature a process, which has definite historical beginning, but stretches on indefinitely into future ages of ages. Consequently, while most of the things enumerated in the foregoing discourse had fulfillment in the fall of Judaism and the beginning of Christianity, other things, from their very nature, are such as must needs be of repeated or continual occurrence. Such especially is the execution of judgment, a function of every reigning king. The scriptural doctrine of Messiah’s reign is not that God, the father Almighty, vacates his throne at the accession of Christ. Neither the concept of Psalm ii, [p. 250] 7-9, nor Psalm cx, nor Dan. vii, 13,14, implies that the eternal God is any less the ruler and sovereign of the world after he sets his anointed Son at his right hand, and “gives him dominion and glory and a kingdom.” From thence onward he judges the world by Jesus Christ, and the sublime picture of Matt. xxv, 31-46, is a parable of this great fact. Hence the force and propriety of the words: When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory.” But how long he shall continue to sit thus on his glorious throne of judgment – how long “he must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet” – is not a matter of specific revelation. The ideal of judgment presented in Matt. xxv, 31-46, is therefore no single event, like the destruction of Jerusalem. It is not to be explained literally as a formal assize not to open until the end of human history on earth. It is, rather, a most impressive parabolic picture of the age-long administration of Jesus Christ, form the hour of the signal overthrow of Jerusalem until “he shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father” (1 Cor. xv, 24). the anointed King of glory is judge of the living as well as of the dead, and it is a grave error to represent “the day of the Lord” or “the day of judgment” as something deferred to the end of time. We have shown over and over again in the preceding portions of this volume that “the great and terrible day of the Lord ” is a prophetic phrase of remarkable fullness of meaning. The Old Testament doctrine is that “the kingdom is Jehovah’s, and he is ruler among the nations” (Psalm xxii, 28). “Say ye among the nations, Jehovah reigneth; he shall judge the peoples with equity. he cometh, he cometh to judge the earth; he shall judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his truth” (Psalm xcvi, 10-13. The day of judgment for any wicked nation, city, or individual is the time when the penal visitation comes; and the judgment of God’s saints is manifest in every signal event which magnifies goodness and condemns iniquity. [p. 251]
But this divine administration of the world, which in the Hebrew Scriptures is the work of Jehovah, is portrayed in Dan. vii, 13,14, and represented in the New Testament as committed unto Christ. The Father has given him “authority to execute judgment because he is Son of man” (John v, 27). And the Son of man came, in accord with the apocalyptic pic5ture of Dan. vii, 13, and Matt. xxiv, 30, and executed judgment upon Jerusalem, guilty of “all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, form the blood of Able the righteous unto the blood of Zachariah” (Matt. xxiii, 35,36). That was the first conspicuous exhibition of his judicial power, and it marked the crisis and end of the pre-Messianic age. Christ is, therefore, now King and Judge; but all things are not yet subjected unto him, and he must reign until he shall have put all things in subjection under his feet. And this no other than the decree,
Jehovah has said to me, My Son art thou; I have this day begotten thee. Ask from me, and I will give nations for thine inheritance, And for thy possession the ends of the earth
Psalm ii, 7,8.
We conclude, then, that the additions peculiar to Matthew’s version of our Lord’s discourse on the Mount of Olives contain nothing inappropriate to the occasion, and nothing inconsistent with the definite time-limit of the prophecy and the analogy of New Treatment eschatology. [p. 252]
 “the disciples assume as a matter of course,” says Meyer, “that immediately after the destruction in question the Lord will appear, in accordance with what is said in xxiii, 39, for the purpose of setting up his kingdom, and that with this the current (the pre-Messianic) era of the world’s history will come to an end.” – Critical and Exegetical Handbook on Matthew, in loco.
 Comp. Matt xvi, 27,28; xxiv, 30; xxv, 31; John xiv, 3; Rev. 1, 7; xxii, 7.
 Acts i, 11, is often cited to show that Christ’s coming must needs be spectacular, “in like manner as ye beheld him going into the heaven.” But (1) in the only other three places where on tropon, what manner, occurs, it points to a general concept rather than the particular form of its actuality. Thus, in Acts vii, 28, it is not some particular manner in which Moses killed the Egyptian that is notable, but rather the certain fact of it. In 2 Tim. iii, 8, it is likewise the fact of strenuous position in Matt. xxiii, 37, and Luke xiii, 34, it is the general thought of protection rather than the visible manner of a mother bird that is intended. Again (2), if Jesus did not come in that generation, and immediately after the great tribulation that attended the fall of Jerusalem, his words in Matt. xvi, 27,28, xxiv, 29, and parallel passages are in the highest degree misleading. (3) To make the one statement of the angel in Acts i, 11, override all the saying of Jesus on the same subject and control their meaning is a very one-sided method of biblical interpretation. but all the angel’s words necessarily mean is that as Jesus has ascended into heaven so he will come from heaven. And this main thought agrees with the language of Jesus and the prophets.  See, for example, the excursus of Dr. E.R. Craven on the Basileia in the American edition of Lange’s Commentary on the Revelation of John, pp. 93-100.
 See Schurer, History of Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, English translation, vol. ii, p. 177; Schoettgen, Horae Hebraicae, i,, 1153-1158.
 And so we should note that many things which Jesus spoke by way of counsel and admonition are as applicable to one period as another. The exhortation to watch, which having a special historical motive and force with the disciples, has its abiding lesson as one of the things ever incumbent upon the servants of the heavenly King. So many particular exhortation and counsels of Old Testament prophets have permanent value. It is in this way that the scriptures of both Testaments are profitable for instruction in righteousness.  We need not assume to say how far and in what manner Christ executes his judgments or gathers his elect by the ministry of angels. He who “makes the clouds his chariot, who walks upon the wings of the wind, making his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire” (Psalm civ, 3,4; comp. Heb 1, 7), is present in all the great crises of this world’s history, and he makes his angels ministering spirits to serve such as are to inherit salvation (Heb. 1,14). Our Lord represented Lazarus as carried away (apevexthenai) by the angels into Abraham’s bosom (Luke xvi, 22). But there is no warrant in Scripture for the nation that when the angels are sent forth on missions of mercy or of judgment their operations must needs be visible to mortal eyes. When the impious Herod Agrippa allowed himself to be honored as a god, “immediately an angel of God smote him, and, becoming eaten of worms, he breathed out his spirit” (Acts xii, 22,23). Human eyes saw nothing but the curse of a foul disease, or a terrible plague; but Scripture sees back of it the potent ministry of a destroying angel (comp. Exod. xii, 23; 2 Sam. xxiv, 16). So the visible effects of divine judgment were terribly manifest in the unparalleled miseries of Jerusalem. The righteous blood of unnumbered martyrs was visited upon that generation (Matt. xxiii, 35,36); and where the Jewish historian saw and made record of appalling tribulation and woe the word of prophecy discerned a “revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven, with the angels of his power [personal or natural] in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the Gospel” (2 Thess. 1, 7,8). In like manner the King of glory is continually judging and reigning among the nations, and he will not cease from his age-long work until ” he shall have abolished all rule and authority and power” (1 Cor. . xv, 24). (Compiled by Kurt Simmons)
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
“By the end of the nineteenth century, the preterist view of Matthew 24 was a common feature of most commentators. The reason for the near agreement was because they followed a grammatical-historical methodology, the same methodology outlined by the standard hermeneutical manual of the twentieth century, Milton Terry’s Biblical Hermeneutics.” (The Gospel Preached to All the World)
C. Jonathan Seraiah
“It is true that the “eschatology” of the New Testament is predominantly preterist. For those unfamiliar with the preterist perspective, it is the ancient view that many of the eschatological passages of the New Testament were fulfilled (completely) in the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. This view may sound novel, but in reality there have been orthodox adherents to it throughout church history (e.g., Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, John Lightfoot, John Owen, Milton Terry, Jay Adams). This interpretation does not deny the Final Coming of Christ; it merely finds that not all “coming” passages refer to that event. The preterist interpretation is actually the most faithful to the biblical text because it recognizes that Old Testament prophetic terminology was used by the New Testament authors. This recognition is helpful in distinguishing the prophecies of Christ’s coming that were near, in the first century (Matt. 10:23; 16:28; 24:30; 26:64; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 1:7; James 5:7-9; 1 Pet. 4:7; Rev. 1:3, 7; etc.) and thus fulfilled in a.d. 70, from those that were far (John 5:28-29; Acts 1:11; 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:23-24; 1 Thess. 4:16; 1 Jn. 3:2; etc.) and thus not yet fulfilled even in our day. It also helps to distinguish between a spiritual “coming” (invisible for temporal judgment, as in a.d. 70) and a physical coming (visible for eternal judgment).” (End of All Things)
What do YOU think ?
Submit Your Comments For Posting Here
- 07 Apr 2004
Very helpful! Thank you.
- 04 Jan 2005
I have been reading Milton Terry for the first time. I think he was one of the greatest Christian minds since the Apostle Paul. Do you notice how much he uses the divine name “Jehovah”? What I think is most unfortunate about the “preterist” writers today, like Stevens, is that they use Terry’s great scholarship, yet consider non trinitarians heretics. MILTON TERRY WAS NOT A TRINITARIAN. There are good reasons for his position on Jesus Christ. When will the preterists go beyond fulfilled prophecy and acknowledge the God dishonoring teaching of the Trinity as another lie spawned by Christendom. Jesus said, “He is my God and your God”.
- 10 Jan 2005
Milton Terry was the best of the best. His analysis of Daniel and his comment, in locus, that it will never be “solved” are right on. The best we can ever do is give the book its due and study it to our own satisfaction. I think that advice is true for many areas of life — if not all. Being free to think as we choose, without the constraints of “leaders” or “scholars” who only wish to control the thoughts of others, is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. Milton Terry was that kind of man. Steve Smith
Date: 14 Sep 2005
In book one, verses l75-l80, of THE SIBYLLINE ORACLES (l899) by Milton S. Terry a riddle occurs which purports to be about the Heavenly Father of Jesus. Apparently no one has solved the riddle. The solution I would like to offer to the enigmatic nine lettered name is: THEOCHRISTU, that is, the Greek letters: Theta (9) + Eta (8) + Omicron (70) + Chi (600) + Rho (l00) + Iota (l0) + Sigma (200) + Tau (300) + Upsilon (400) = l697. [Walter C. Cambra]