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FULL UNEDITED VERSION OF SPURGEON’S REVIEW
“The second coming of Christ according to this volume had its fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem and the establishment of the gospel dispensation. That the parables and predictions of our Lord had a more direct and exclusive reference to that period than is generally supposed, we readily admit; but we were not prepared for the assignment of all references to a second coming in the New Testament, and even in the Apocalypse itself, to so early a fulfillment. All that could be said has been said in support of this theory, and much more than ought to have been said. In this the reasoning fails. In order to concentrate the whole prophecies of the Book of Revelation upon the period of the destruction of Jerusalem it was needful to assume this book to have been written prior to that event, although the earliest ecclesiastical historians agree that John was banished to the isle of Patmos, where the book was written, by Domitian, who reigned after Titus, by whom Jerusalem was destroyed. Apart from this consideration, the compression of all the Apocalyptic visions and prophecies into so narrow a space requires more ingenuity and strength than that of men and angels combined. Too much stress is laid upon such phrases as ‘The time is at hand,’ ‘Behold I come quickly,’ whereas many prophecies of Scripture are delivered as present or past, as ‘unto us a child IS born,’ &c., and ‘Surely he HATH borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.’ Amidst the many comings of Christ spoken of in the New Testament that which is spoken of as a second, must, we think, be personal, and thus similar to the first; and such too must be the meaning of ‘his appearing.’ Though the author’s theory is carried too far, it has so much of truth in it, and throws so much new light upon obscure portions of the Scriptures, and is accompanied with so much critical research and close reasoning, that it can be injurious to none and may be profitable to all.”
The Sword and the Trowel
For a closer look at Spurgeon’s preteristic statements, please see :
Commentary Excerpts: Charles H. Spurgeon
“This anonymous and portly octavo volume of 561 pages contains an elaborate discussion of the various passages in the New Testament which refer to and describe the second advent of Jesus Christ, and an assertion of the author’s opinion in regard to their meaning. His doctrine, in so far as we have been able to gather it from a somewhat hasty perusal, is certainly simple, straightforward, and trenchant, clearing an easy way through the difficulties which are usually understood to beset the subject, and cutting the knots which are hard to untie. Christ, he says, predicted His coming again, and that to judgment, with angelic attendance, with the sounding of the trumpet, with the resurrection of the dead, etc., before the expiry of the period embraced by the lifetime of His contemporaries. What the Master predicted, His disciples and the primitive Church universally expected ; and the expectation was confirmed and guided by the inspired declarations of the apostles, as of Paul in writing to the Thessalonians, and especially of John in the Book of the Revelation. And the prediction was fully and literally fulfilled. The destruction of Jerusalem, the overthrow of the Jewish economy, and the scattering of the Jewish people, was the end and the judgment of the world and the reappearing of Jesus Christ in His glory and in His kingdom. What, then, of the supernatural wonders by which it was prophesied His advent to judgment should be accompanied? Regarding this point we read as follows (p. 168): ‘It may be said that we have no evidence of such facts having occurred (i.e. when Jerusalem was overthrown) as are here described,—the Lord descending with a shout, the sounding of the trumpet, the raising of the sleeping dead, the rapture of the living saints. True: but is it certain that these are facts cognisable by the senses? is their place in the region of the material and the visible? . .
There is no difference of opinion concerning the destruction of the temple, the overthrow of the city, the unparalleled slaughter of the people, the extinction of the nationality, the end of the legal dispensation. But the Parousia is inseparably linked with the destruction of Jerusalem; and in like manner the resurrection of the dead, and the judgment of the “wicked generation,” with the Parousia. They are different parts of one great catastrophe—different scenes in one great drama. We accept the facts verified by the historian on the word of man: is it for Christians to hesitate to accept the facts which are vouched by the word of the Lord?’ In like manner, p. 547: ‘The demand for human testimony to events in the region of the unseen is not altogether reasonable. If we receive them at all, it must’ be as the word of Him who declared that all these things would assuredly take place before that generation passed away.’ It will probably appear to the writer a want of faith on our part, but we confess that we are unable to receive his doctrine, just as we are unable to receive the Romanist interpretation of the words, ‘This is my body.’ We cannot believe that the sounding of the trumpet is a sounding that is inaudible, and that an appearing of which it is said, ‘Every eye shall see Him,’ belongs to ‘the region of the unseen.’ The writer is evidently an earnest and well-informed man, and the book is clearly and interestingly written.” (The United Presbyterian Magazine, p. 424)
It is with great pleasure that we introduce this work to the notice of our readers. It is an attempt to subject the Eschatology of the New Testament—i.e., its teaching as to the final issues of Revelation—to a critical examination. This we consider to be one of the two questions which, at the present day, urgently demand a most careful investigation on the part of theologians—the other being its doctrine of the final condition of the wicked—for the popular ideas which are prevalent on the first of these subjects metamorphose a large portion of its teaching into an inexplicable riddle, involving a system of non-natural interpretation which, if applied to any other book, would deprive it of all certain meaning. Nor do we know a single theological work which treats this question in a manner which, in our judgment, ought to be satisfactory to an earnest and impartial inquirer. The result of this is that it has become one which occasions deep anxiety to thoughtful minds, and a vantage-ground from which unbelief directs its attacks on Christianity. The work before us is one of unquestionable ability, and we have perused it with deep interest. With many of its principles, and with no inconsiderable number of its criticisms, we agree; from others, we emphatically dissent. Many of its positions are simply startling. Still, with all its defects, we think it a valuable addition to the literature of the subject. Our notice of it must be very incomplete, for it discusses with more or less fullness nearly every passage in the New Testament which bears on its Eschatology.
The chief positions of the work admit of being briefly set before the reader. The author argues with great force that our Lord declared that his coming in his kingdom would take place during the lifetime of the generation which heard his words; and that this Parousia of his was coincident with the destruction of Jerusalem, in A.D. 70,—an event which brought the Old-Testament Dispensation to a termination. Further, that according to the testimony of every writing in the New Testament, the entire Apostolic Church considered this Parousia as imminent, that they looked on it as the realisation of all their hopes, and that their great fear was lest they should be excluded by death from a participation in its blessings. Also, according to the author’s views, the Parousia of the New Testament is a single, definite event, viz., the presence of our Lord in his human personality; and that to speak of it as a spiritual presence, or a coming in the events of history, is to assign to it a meaning wholly different from the one intended by the sacred writers. No less opposed is he to the idea, so widely adopted by commentators, that it admits of being viewed as realised from time to time in a lower or partial seuse in certain great catastrophes of history, but that it will receive its complete realisation in a personal coming of Christ at the end of the present Dispensation. The author has nowhere laid down his own theory of Inspiration, but one of a very decided character (which we think erroneous) colours the reasonings of the entire work. In conformity with it, and we may say in consequence of it, he maintains that it is impossible that the Apostolic Church could have been mistaken in its anticipations of the speedy coming of our Lord and of its realisation within a short interval of all blessings which are spoken of in connection with it, and he lays down in very strong language that the contrary opinion is subversive of the claims of the Apostles to be received as authoritative teachers of the truths of Christianity. This brings us to the startling positions of the book. Assuming the truth of the above points, the author proceeds to lay down that the Second Coming of Christ in his human personality is not a future, but a past event, and that it was coincident with the destruction of Jerusalem; that at that period of time, all the dead saints were raised, and all the living ones changed, and caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and that the judgment on the wicked actually took place. Further, as all the events which then occurred constitute the great victory of Christ over his enemies, he has already, in conformity with the assertion of St. Paul, resigned his Messianic kingdom (which he seems to consider to form a part of the Jewish Dispensation) to the Father; and God has “become all in all,”—of which, if we understand him rightly, the present state of the Church is the realisation. The author is fully aware that to these positions an objection may be adduced, which most people will pronounce conclusive,—viz., that these most stupendous events have not left a single trace in the history of the past. To this he has a ready answer,— that the Parousia, the Resurrection, the Judgment, Ac, are events which have taken place in the invisible world. If he is asked on what grounds we can believe that such events as these can have taken place, without one single thing which has occurred on the visible sphere proving that they have, his answer is, that our Lord and his Apostles have distinctly affirmed that they would happen in connection with his Parousia, that this Parousia was to occur during the life-time of the existing generation, and that the exact fulfilment of our Lord’s predictions respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, and the divine judgments which were to be poured out on the apostate Jewish nation—events which have indubitably taken place on the visible sphere of things—are a sufficient guarantee of the fulfilment of the remainder; and consequently, that these events, respecting which history is silent, have taken place in the “Unseen World.” Such is the author’s theory.
We anticipate that our readers will wonder how we can speak in strong commendation of the work which contains such incredible positions. Nevertheless, our commendation is given in all sincerity; we think many of its conclusions unanswerable, and that the whole work, even where we dissent from its conclusions, is argued with great logical power.
We shall now, as far as our space will permit, notice a few of its most important positions. We consider that the author has the Synoptic Gospels, our Lord declared that a Parousia,—or manifestation of his presence,—would take place during the lifetime of the existing generation; and we concur with him in the opinion afforded the strongest proof that, according to the affirmations of that the habitual rendering of such expressions as in our Version, by the “end of the world,” instead of, what they manifestly mean the “end of the age,” or dispensation, has involved the whole subject in hopeless confusion. We are anxious to pee whether those who are engaged in the Revision of the New Testament will have the courage to make this necessary correction, for its absence will greatly shake our faith in the value of the Revisers’ labours. We think also that he has successfully made out that expressions such as “the last times,” “the end,” and other kindred ones, which so frequently occur in the New Testament were, for the most part, intended to refer not to the end of the world, but to the last period of the Jewish Dispensation. It will be impossible for ns to put the reader in possession of the mass of evidence by which these positions are supported. We must content ourselves with giving a few brief illustrations of the author’s line of reasoning. Both John the Baptist and our Lord commenced their respective ministries by the proclamation that ” the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.” Such a declaration must have been intended to convey a definite meaning to those to whom it was addressed. As all these persons were eagerly expecting the speedy manifestation of the Kingdom of the Messiah, to them these words could have conveyed only one meaning,—that this Messianic kingdom was going to be immediately set up. This idea runs throughout the whole of the Synoptic Gospels, the contents of which may l>e briefly described as an explanation of its nature, an enunciation of its laws, and a correction of the popular errors which were entertained respecting it, united to an account of those actions of our Lord which, in tke opinion of the writers, established his claim to lie its King. This character he directly claimed at the termination of his ministry, and his doing so was the ground on which he was condemned by the authorities of the Jewish nation, whom, while in the act of condemning him, he assured that, “from that time” (not “hereafter,” as in our Version), ” they should see him sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven,” these words could have been only understood by those that heard him as affirming a Parousia of some kind, which his adversaries would live to behold. So completely does the idea of this kingdom underlie the New Testament that Christianity may be correctly described as the proclamation of a kingdom, rather than the institution of a religion, or, to adopt the words of St. Mark, it is ” the Gospel of the Kingdom.” Taking therefore, the Gospels as a whole, we fully concur with the author that the only natural meaning which the hearers of our Lord could attach to his teaching, was that the Kingdom of Heaven was going to be set up as a visible institution within a short interval of time.
Our space will only allow us to adduce one or two striking proofs of this position. All three Synoptics concur in affirming that six days before Christ’s Transfiguration, our Lord made the following solemn affirmation :—” Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom,” or, as St. Mark has it, ” till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.” This, and other kindred declarations which are scattered throughout the Gospels, such as, ” Verily, I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel until the Son of Man be come,” the author truly argues, could only have conveyed to those to whom they were addressed the idea that the Son of man would come in his kingdom during the life-time of some of those who were then present; and we think that the last of them is a deliberate affirmation, that he would thus come before the greater part of those who heard him would have passed away from this earthly scene. Several attempts have been made to get rid of the natural meaning of such language by referring it to the Transfiguration, which occurred six days afterwards. We have carefully weighed the reasons by which such an interpretation has been attempted to be supported, and we confess that we think them wholly unsatisfactory. Is it credible, we ask, that our Lord introduced such an announcement as that some of the persons then present would be alive to witness an event which was to occur only six days after, by a solemn, ” Verily, I say unto you?” But further, in no natural sense of the words did ” the Son of man come in his kingdom,” or did “the kingdom of God come with power” at the Transfiguration; in fact, our Lord afterwards repeatedly spoke of the coming of the kingdom of God as an event yet future. The Transfiguration was in reality a very transient event, and our Lord deliberately rejected Peter’s proposal to make it a permanent one. We by no means wish to deny that it was intended to be a foreshadowing of Christ’s future glories; but, to our mind, it is clear that in no event which occurred prior to his Resurrection can it be truly said that the Kingdom of God came with power.
This leads us to notice an omission of the author, which we consider to have greatly vitiated his reasonings, and to be one of the causes which have led him to assume some of his most untenable positions. As we have already intimated, the idea of the Kingdom of God forms the centre’ of the entire teaching of the New Testament. With it that of the Parousia is so closely correlated, that the meaning which attaches to the latter depends on that which is assigned to the former. It follows, therefore, that it is a necessary condition of a successful investigation of the doctrine of the Parousia, that it should be preceded by a rigid analysis of the meaning which the expression “the Kingdom of Heaven ” bears in the sacred writings. Yet this the author has entirely omitted to do, except in a brief appendix (of only nine pages), in the middle of his work, which is chiefly occupied in considering it in connection with the theocracy of the Old Testament. We are, therefore, left to gather the meaning which he assigns to this expression from his reasonings on particular portions of his subject. From these we are led to draw the conclusion that he almost invariably connects its manifestation with the local presence of our Lord’s human personality, which, in his view, constitutes the only Parousia, or presence of Christ after his earthly ministry, which is known to the writers of the New Testament. Consequently, according to his view, ” the kingdom of Heaven ” denotes a state of things in the unseen world which has not yet been manifested on this visible sphere. From this view we strongly dissent. On the contrary, we maintain that the true conception of it is the visible Church, from its foundation on the day of Pentecost until that period arrives which is spoken of by St. Paul, when it shall have realised its ideal in the complete subjugation of all things to Jesus Christ, after the accomplishment of which the Son is to resign the Messianic kingdom to the Father. This great society has passed through several stages of development, and some are yet to come, one of the most important of the past being that great event, the complete destruction of the old Theocracy, which effected the final separation of Judaism from Christianity. These great crises in its historical development, we maintain, in opposition to the writer, are frequently designated in the New Testament as comings, or manifestations of this kingdom,—that above referred to being pre-eminently so. But the conception of the kingdom of Heaven is inseparably united with that of the person of its King; and consequently, the mode of his “coming in his kingdom ” can only be determined by the nature of its manifestation. We fully believe that the Son of man came in his kingdom at the destruction of Jerusalem, but not in his human personality; and that that event realised his assertion that his enemies should see him “sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” It is evident that a Parousia or manifested presence of Christ is spoken of in the New Testament Scriptures which does involve the local presence of his human personality. As this is a point of great importance in relation to the subject before us, we will refer to three unquestionable instances where such a Parousia is spoken of. According to St. Matthew’s Gospel, our Lord made the following promise to his disciples, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” The fulfilment of this promise certainly involved a Parousia of Christ. Similar, also, is another, recorded by the same evangelist,—” Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world;” or, as the author justly corrects the rendering, “age.” But even he must allow that the realisation of these promises of his presence do not involve local manifestations of the presence of Christ in his human personality. So, also, in the well known promise recorded in St. John’s Gospel: —”If a man love me, he will keep my sayings, and my Father will love him; and we will come to him, and make our abode with him.” Here, again, it is simply impossible that a local Parousia can be the one intended. We consider, therefore, that the author’s neglect to ascertain the meaning of this expression by instituting a careful inquiry into the meaning which “the kingdom of God” bears in the New Testament is one of the fundamental errors of his work. His treatment of the discourse on the Mount of Olives is a masterly one, but we must defer its consideration, and that of several important points to which we are desirous of calling the attention of our readers, to a second notice. (The Spectator – Book Review of The Parousia, Volume 52, 1879)
Under the title of The Parousia, an anonymous writer has given the results of much patient exegetical inquiry. The object is to decide what the prophetical sections of the New Testament really mean, what events they actually have in view, what relation the Lord’s Parousia had to the Apostolic Church, and what it now has to the Church generally. With this view he subjects the whole range of the New Testament eschatology to critical examination. The conclusion he reaches is, that” by the express testimony of our Lord, the uniform and concurrent teaching of his apostles, and the universal expectation of the Church of the apostolic age, the Parousia and its accompanying events were represented as nigh at hand; and not only so, but as about to happen within the limits of a given period, that is to say, in the time of the apostles and their contemporaries; so that many, or most, of them, might expect to witness the great consummation.” But if the apostles did cherish such expectations, were they not mistaken? The author holds it inadmissible to suppose that they so misunderstood their Master, or that He permitted them to remain under an erroneous impression which might be most injurious to
others, as well as themselves, on a subject which was often on Christ’s lips, and often must have formed a topic of ” conversation and conference among themselves.” He deems the idea entertained by men like Hengstenberg and Frederick Robertson, that they were mistaken indeed, but that their mistake was allowed with the wise design of stimulating their efforts, strengthening their hope, and confirming their courage, scarce less satisfactory. Hence he solves the difficulty by affirming that the Lord’s coming announced in these prophecies was identical with the destruction of Jerusalem and the close of the Mosaic dispensation. But if these events are identified, the further question rises,—What is to be made of the coincident predictions of a resurrection of the dead and a coming judgment? Do these still wait their fulfilment? The reply is, that all these events have been accomplished, but that the scene of their accomplishment was the spiritual and invisible world.
One knows not how to pronounce on a theory which transfers the fulfilment of definite prophecies of great events in this world’s history to the region of the unseen, where “we have no witnesses to depose to the facts,” and makes the destruction of Jerusalem “the centre of a group of related and coincident events, not only in the material, but in the spiritual world, not only on earth, but in heaven and in hell.” This at least seems hard to reconcile with the author’s own principles of literal interpretation. The promise expressed in Acts i. 11 was that “this same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” These men of Galilee are certainly reported to have seen Jesus in his ascension. What then of the literal fulfilment which our author is bound to affirm for this promise of a return in the same visible manner, if our Lord’s second coming has already taken place, and that in the region of the invisible? The radical defect is in the conception of prophecy, which only a deeper study of its Old Testament form will correct. There is no idea here of the perspective of prophecy, no hold of the principle that its fulfilment is not merely punctual but self-repeating, no grasp of its ideal character. It is always perilous to propose dilemmas such as this: “Either the whole group of predictions, comprehending the destruction of Jerusalem, the coming of the Lord, the resurrection of the dead, and the rewarding of the faithful, did take place before the passing away of that generation, as predicted by Christ, taught by the apostles, and expected by the whole Church; or else the hope of the Church was a delusion, the teaching of the apostles an error, the predictions of Jesus a dream.” With all these serious abatements, however, the book repays study. It breathes a most reverential spirit. It is the work of a man of deep convictions. Its polemic against the theory of double senses is not uncalled for, although it is valid only against a gross and incorrect use of primary and secondary references. And its exposition of the place assigned in Scripture to the destruction of Jerusalem is in harmony in the main with a true estimate of the importance of that catastrophe as the close of one order of things and the inauguration of a new.” (“The British and foreign evangelical review”, Volume 28, Page 804)
Israel P. Warren
“Several works by other authors have appeared in these five years, some bearing directly on the Parousia, and others on related subjects with more or less reference to this. It has been very gratifying to find to what extent Christian scholars have been turning their inquiries in this direction, and how generally they incline to views on the’ subject not widely different from those here presented. I need refer especially to but one, an anonymous English book bearing a title remarkably similar to this, which it is due to myself to say, I had never seen nor heard of till my own was printed and in the bindery.” (Preface to 2nd Edition: The Parousia: a critical study of the scripture doctrines of Christ’s second coming)
“The anonymous author of The Parousia (see note, p. 206), a book of more than ordinary ability, explains the woman to signify the Church of Jerusalem in apostolic days; the “man child” to be the faithful disciples of Christ in Judsea (or those in the city of Jerusalem itself); the flight into the wilderness, the flight of the Christians to Persea beyond the Jordan during the period of the great Jewish war; and the “man child” caught up to God and His throne to mean probably “the martyred sons of the Church referred to in ver. 11,” if the event signified by the latter symbol be not identical with that referred to under the former.
Archdeacon Farrar, in his interesting work entitled the Early Days of Christianity (1882), takes substantially the same view. He explains the 1260 days to be the period of the great Jewish war from about A.d. 67 to A.d. 70, when the temple perished amid blood and flame. But Dr. Farrar afterwards explains the forty-two months of Eev. xiii. 5 (which surely must be identified with the 1260 days of Eev. xii. 6, and the ” time and times and a half a time” of Eev. xii. 14) as the three years and a half which intervened between the beginning of the Neronic persecution in Nov. A.D. 64 and the death of Nero himself in June 68.
In reply to these interpretations, it must be noted that the object aimed at by the war of the Eomans with the Jews was not the extinction of the Christian Church—that terrible war was not a war of religion, certainly not a war against Christianity. The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple was an advantage rather than a disadvantage to the cause of Christianity. That event could not with any propriety be described in a Christian allegory under the symbol of the Dragon seeking to devour the child of the woman, or the Church. Moreover, an expositor ought definitely to make his choice between the two conflicting interpretations of the “man child” in the vision. That symbol must be explained to mean either Christ Himself or Christ’s people. An interpreter is not at liberty to explain it at one time to denote the former, and at another time to signify the latter. If the symbol be interpreted to mean the Christian Church, or any company of believers in Christ, it is incongruous to explain the being caught up to God and His throne to mean the ascent to heaven in the fires of martyrdom. But if, as already shown, Christ Himself be the “man child,” the 1260 days, 42 months, or three times and a half, must be supposed to commence shortly after His ascension into heaven. The destruction of Jerusalem, as the author of The Parousia has pointed out, was a judicial punishment, and being such we maintain it cannot be viewed as the central point of the vision of the Apocalypse.” (Biblical essays; or: the books of Job and Jonah, Ezekiel’s prophecy of God and Magog, Page 231)
“A second edition of The Parousia (Fisher Unwin, 1887) gives the name of the hitherto anonymous author, J. Stuart Russell, M.A. The theory of this able and scholarly volume is, that the destruction of Jerusalem satisfied the predictions of our Lord and His Apostles regarding His second coming. “It was an event which has no parallel in history. It was the outward and visible sign of a great epoch in the Divine government of the world. It was the close of one dispensation and the commencement of another.” The obvious objections to this idea are frankly considered by the author; and though few will agree with his main thesis, all will be instructed by his discussion of the leading predictions in the New Testament. The volume is indispensable for a student of prophecy or of expository literature.” (The Expositor – Page 160)
The author of this valuable book is pastor of a Congregational church, in London. He published the first edition of his work anonymously, but has now yielded to the advice of his friends, and added his name to the title-page of the new edition. It was my privilege to know the author, and to read his first edition in the light of personal acquaintance. It was then my opinion that he had made the first thorough study of New Testament prophecy with the use of correct principles of exegesis. I have used the book constantly since that time, and have just completed the reading of the new edition, and my first impressions have been confirmed. No student of New Testament prophecy can afford to do without the wealth of knowledge that this book will give him. It is easily worth all others that have been written on the subject. I give this opinion notwithstanding the fact that I cannot accept the theory of the Parousia that dominates this book. I shall not take any further space in setting forth its merits, but devote my attention to a criticism of the theory.
The new theory of the Parousia is that the second advent of our Lord, and all the events connected with it in New Testament prophecy, took place at the destruction of Jerusalem. This theory puts many of the passages of the New Testament in a new light: it brings into consideration the historical circumstances of the prophecies, and their relation to the closing scenes of the great catastrophe of the Jewish nation, and it makes evident that a much larger portion of prophecy refers to these events than interpreters have usually supposed. But after all this has been conceded, the author maintains his theory by doing violence to not a few passages, and by wresting the structure of New Testament prophecy from its Old Testament foundations.
1. This then is the first criticism that we make upon the theory—that it is at war with the Messianic prophecy of the Old Testament. It is significant here that the author limits himself to the prophecy of Malachi, and seeks a basis here because that passage suits his purpose in representing John the Baptist as the herald of the advent to judgment; he refers this judgment to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation. If he had studied this judgment scene of Malachi in connection with the entire sweep of Old Testament prophecy he might have come to a different conclusion. We cannot accept this isolated prophecy as the summation of Old Testament prophecy, or a suitable introduction to New Testament prophecy, all the more that it does not contain any reference to the events of the first advent of Christ. Malachi connects the herald with the advent of judgment, he does not see the historical Christ intervening. If this most important history escaped his attention, surely the destruction of Jerusalem would hardly arrest it. Malachi agrees with all the prophets in disregarding intervals of time, and in looking at the great end of all prophecy in its connection with the herald that he predicts.
2. The second fault of the theory is its neglect of the Jewish Apocalypses and the Jewish Messianic ideas of New Testament times. These cast an immense amount of side light upon New Testament prophecy. These would have shown him that it was not in accordance with even Jewish ideas to limit prophecy so strictly to Jewish affairs. Mr. Russell’s interpretation of New Testament prophecy is narrower than the elaboration of prophecy that we find in these Apocalypses.
3. There is an extreme literalness in Mr. Russell’s interpretation of the word “near” as used by Jesus, which fails to recognize that the term had acquired a technical sense in the Old Testament prophets, implying that the events predicted were impending, certain to come, and yet uncertain as to time. Mr. Russell’s interpretation of eggus applied to the equivalent mp would make a large number of the Old Testament prophets false prophets. It would also force us, in a correct interpretation of the New Testament, to the opinion that Jesus and His apostles were mistaken. Mr. Russell offers a very perilous dilemma when he asks us either to accept his theory, and believe that the second advent took place at the destruction of Jerusalem, or else that Jesus and His apostles were mistaken.
4. Mr. Russell in his interpretation of New Testament prophecy fails to make such distinctions as are required by a careful exegesis. He praises Dr. Edward Robinson for founding so much on the eschatological discourse of Jesus referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, and blames him for not referring everything to that event. He also praises Moses Stuart for his literalism, and blames him for not carrying it out to the end. In other words, Mr. Russell refuses to recognize the distinction between the judgment of Jerusalem and the judgment of the nations that these scholars, who were distinguished for their adherence to strict grammatical and historical exegesis, were obliged to make. In shutting his eyes to the prediction of the judgment of the nations, Mr. Russell is guilty of great error. We agree with him that “this generation” refers to the generation contemporary with Jesus, and that means the completion of the age; but these admissions do not help his theory, for he cannot prove that Jesus predicts the judgment of the nations in His own generation, and it still remains to be decided whether the age was completed at the judgment of the Jews or at the judgment of the nations. We must protest, moreover, against the limited application of the term jrj to the land of Israel, and of “the nations” to the inhabitants of the land. We admit that yrj is often used in the restricted sense, but claim that the context of the passages under consideration is against the restricted sense. We admit that “nations” is used in poetical passages of the Old Testament for the tribes of Israel, and that it is also loosely used elsewhere for the mixed population of the land, but the context decides in every such instance, and the term is to be taken in its wider and more usual meaning, unless the context forces us to a narrower meaning. We claim that in all these passages of New Testament prophecy the contexts force us to a wider meaning. The apostles were commissioned to all the nations of the world, and not merely to the tribes of Israel and the mixed population of Palestine. They preached the gospel to the nations to prepare them for the judgment of the nations.
Mr. Russell also fails to notice the difference between the advent to judgment and the setting up of the kingdom. The latter is predicted in the lifetime of hearers of Jesus, but not the former. These are two different events. The parables of the kingdom teach us that the kingdom will be established, and that it will grow to maturity before the advent to judgment. These are specimens of the neglect of the author to make these distinctions, which were sufficiently evident upon the face of the passages to those who interpret them without the prejudice of a theory, and who do not expect to open all the doors of the mysteries of prophecy with a single key.
5. Another fault in the book is the neglect to estimate the different points of view of the authors of the New Testament. The principles of biblical theology have been
ignored. The differences of the New Testament authors often greatly help to an understanding of their predictions. The author has observed the peculiarity of the Gospel of John in this respect. He notes that not one allusion to the Parousia in the Synoptical Gospels is formed in the Gospel of John. He might also have noticed that the view of the Parousia in this Gospel differs in many important respects. He fails to make the discrimination, and seeks to constrain the predictions of judgment in this Gospel to correspond with the advent scenes of the Synoptists. He does not apprehend the profound spiritual conception of the advent, that is such a notable feature of this Gospel.
6. We have no space to enumerate all our objections to the new theory. We shall simply mention one more. The reader will be impressed with the singularity that the author represents so much of the fulfilment as taking place in the other world, invisible to the inhabitants of earth. He also presumes that many of the most startling events were fulfilled to the eyes of men, without leaving any historical traces of the facts.
If anything is clearly predicted as to Christ’s second advent, it is its visibility, not to a few, but to all, and that it is to be upon the clouds of heaven in the same manner in which He ascended. Mr. Russell’s dealing with Acts i. 11 in a single page, and with Rev. i. 7 on half a page, is hardly creditable to him. It is asking a great deal for us to believe that all that is said about the resurrection of the dead took place at the destruction of Jerusalem in the invisible world, that Christ was actually visible on the clouds at that time, and that Peter and James were the two witnesses of Rev. xi., and that they rose from the dead and ascended into heaven in the sight of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This latter transcends the fable of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary, as the former requests us to believe that the most stupendous events of all prophecy have actually been fulfilled without leaving the slightest trace in human history, and this merely on the ground that they were predicted by Jesus and His apostles; and our author claims that they must have been fulfilled together with the other events, or Jesus was mistaken. It can hardly be that the Christian Church has believed for so many centuries in the coming of Christ to judge the world, and in the resurrection of the dead at that time, when these two greatest of all events have been fulfilled already.
Notwithstanding these grand defects in the book, that are caused by the persistent adherence to the new theory, and the disposition to ride it as a hobby through the entire New Testament, the exegesis, as a whole, especially in the Gospels and the Apocalypse, is exceedingly creditable. The new theory is, after all, no worse than many others that have been proposed. And it is to my mind no more objectionable than the Premillenarian theory, which infatuates so many excellent men, and which works mischief in the whole system of Christian doctrine, to which the new theory is the antipodes. We apprehend that the Christian Church will reject both alike, and adhere to its faith in the Second Advent as it is set forth in the sacred Scriptures and in the symbols of the Church.”
REJOINDER BY THE AUTHOR,
REV. J. S. RUSSELL, M.A.
I avail myself of the courteous permission of the Editor of The Congregational Review, to offer a few remarks on the foregoing critique of my friend Dr. Briggs. I sincerely thank him for putting his objections in a tangible form, and I set too high a value on his judgment to disregard arguments strongly felt and strongly expressed, and which deserve, as they have received, my serious consideration.
1. I must disclaim having any “theory” to support. My sole concern has been to discover “What saith the Scriptures?” I have never consciously strained a passage, or evaded a difficulty. What is called “the new theory” is simply the scheme of Divine truth which evolves itself from the Word of God faithfully and honestly interpreted.
I cannot admit that the prophecy of Malachi is an inadequate basis for the consideration of New Testament prophecy. It seems to me the natural and necessary starting-point. In fact the first words of New Testament prophecy send us back to the last words of the Old. The message of John the Baptist is the resumption of the message of Malachi. The cry of “the coming wrath” is the echo of the warnings of Malachi. In making the prophecy of Malachi the starting-point of my investigation, I simply take up the chain of prophecy at its last link in the Old Testament, as I was hound to do; nor can I admit that Malachi’s prophecy is an “isolated ” one, or inconsistent with ” the entire sweep of Old Testament prophecy.” Compare it, for example, with the terrible commination of Moses in Deut. xxviii. The excursus on “the kingdom of heaven” (“The Parousia,” Appendix to Part II.) is a sufficient answer to the charge of neglecting the scope of Old Testament prophecy.
2. Dr. Briggs finds fault with my neglect of the Jewish Apocalypses. I rather take credit for this. I do not deny that some of them are very curious, but they are pure fables and fictions such as St. Paul dissuades Timothy from giving heed to. I prefer not to call such witnesses. Dr. Briggs disapproves of taking the word eggus as always meaning “near.” This is a point of the greatest importance, and I appeal to the grammatical conscience of all scholars for their verdict. The word occurs thirty times in the New Testament, and in every instance, as I believe, refers to that which is near either in respect of time or place. But eyyvs is not the only word which is used to express the nearness of the Parousia. It is affirmed in manifold forms and phrases. Our Lord says, ” Know that it is near (eggus), even at the doors.” There are many interpreters who have adopted the dangerous theory that prophets have no sense of the element of time; that they see all objects, in the same plane, in a species of Chinese perspective. It is true that the prophet often speaks of the future as if it were present; but when we have frequent, distinct, and reiterated affirmations of an event as ” near,” at the doors, to take place in the lifetime of persons present, to be expected, waited for, watched for, I ask how it is possible to disregard such express and constant notes of time. If the New Testament does not teach the occurrence of “the Parousia” as an event certain to take place within the limits of the generation then existing, we seem to be absolutely shut up to the dilemma which Dr. Briggs deprecates.
4. In the fourth objection Dr. Briggs seems to deny the continuity and unity of our Lord’s prophecy on the Mount of Olives, for which I contend. He supposes our Lord to begin with the destruction of Jerusalem, and end with the destruction of the world. Yet he concedes that ysvea refers to “the generation contemporary with Jesus ; ” that means “the completion of the age ; ” that is often restricted to the land of Israel, and that “all the nations ” is occasionally used to denote “all the tribes of Israel.” These are very important concessions, aid they are undeniably true. If Dr. Briggs will study the use of the words edvv and <yrj in Luke xxii. 20-36, and mark how the terms are bounded by the express limits of time in ver. 32, I think he will feel constrained to admit that our Lord’s eschatological discourse is one continuous and connected prophecy of events which were to be fulfilled before the passing away of the generation then existing.
5. In his fifth objection Dr. Briggs alleges that the view of the Parousia in the Gospel of John differs from that of the Synoptists. He seems to imply (if I rightly apprehend him) that the advent of Christ according to John is a spiritual and subjective coming; and that this is “a notable feature of the Fourth Gospel.” I cannot admit this. The Parousia of the Synoptists is the Parousia of St. John. But when our Lord says, “If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John xiv. 23), He is not speaking of the Parousia at all. But when He says, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, / will come again, and receive you unto Myself,” &c, He is speaking of the Parousia. It would be a strange confusion of thought to represent the Divine indwelling in the heart of the believer, and the advent of Christ in glory at the close of the son, as one and the same thing.
6. The last objection urged by Dr. Briggs is one the force of which I have never concealed from myself. The absence of “historical verification ” must appear to many a serious, if not an insurmountable, difficulty. I know that I am “asking a great deal” when I ask men to believe in fulfilments of prophecy which took place in the region of the unseen. But, after all, it is not I who make this demand. I venture to affirm that it is made by the highest of all authority. I have endeavoured to show that everything predicted which was capable of historical verification, has been amply, punctually verified; but my contention is that a certain portion of the same prediction, resting on the same authority, is, in the nature of things, not capable of historical verification. I think it not unreasonable to argue that the actual accomplishment of nine-tenths of the prophecy, is a guarantee for the accomplishment of the tenth which does not fall within the sphere of human observation. I can conceive this, and I can believe it on the ground which to Dr. Briggs seems so preposterous—viz., “merely on the ground that these things were predicted by Jesus and His apostles.” The illustrious Herder says: “It is obviously reasonable that the ascertained truth of one prophecy delivered by our Saviour should be strongly conclusive of the truth of another.” There are cases in which a generous confidence is more reasonable and more Christian than a suspicious incredulity; cases in which the language of our Lord to the doubting disciple is appropriate—” Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.” This, in my judgment, is pre-eminently a case in point; and, after every cavil and question which unbelief can suggest, I venture humbly but confidently to repeat the saying which satisfied the scruples of hesitating disciples of old — Ipse Dixit.” (The congregational review, Volume 2, Part 1, Page 143)
“It is late to notice even the new edition of this valuable book, the first edition of which was published anonymously in 1878, and we speak of it only to answer an inquiry, made of late with increasing frequency, concerning the book and the method of obtaining it. Unfortunately for the popularity of the book, the publishers have no American agency, and copies must be ordered from them direct. It is well worth the effort and delay, and is cheap at the price. The book is an attempt to set forth the New Testament doctrine of the coming of the Lord, in the interests of truth, and not in support of a theory. Although many books devoted to premillennial doctrines have been published showing an acquaintance with this work, there has been not even an attempt to answer it. While some of its views seem to us beside the mark, the general truth that Christ taught that his parousia was near, and that the apostles so understood it, and, morever, that the ensuing events amply justified that prediction and expectation, seems to us established beyond any but captious doubt or unreasoning prejudice. A more general and candid study of the New Testament in the light of this and similar treatises would do much to reclaim its apocalyptic and prophetic portions from the too nearly exclusive possession of erratic and often fanatical interpreters, and restore the original meaning of the inspired authors.” (Bibliotheca sacra – Volume 50 – Page 559)
“In a work entitled Parousia, J. Stuart Russell endeavours to prove that all the prophecies in the New Testament about the Second Coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the judgment of all men, and the dissolution of nature, were fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
On p. 82, in a note on Matt. xxiv. 29-31, he says, ” We may go further than this, and affirm that it is not only appropriate as applied to the destruction of Jerusalem, but that this is its true and exclusive application. We find no vestige of an intimation that our Lord had any ulterior and occult signification in view.” His argument is that Christ foretold that He would come during the lifetime of some of His hearers; that no other event in that generation, except the fall of Jerusalem, can be identified with His coming; and that therefore unless He referred to this event His solemn words have fallen to the ground.
So on p. 548, in a summary of the work: “As the result of the investigation we are landed in this dilemma: either the whole group of predictions, comprehending the destruction of Jerusalem, the coming of the Lord, the resurrection of the dead, and the rewarding of the faithful, did take place before the passing away of that generation, as predicted by Christ, taught by the apostles, and expected by the whole Church; or, else, the hope of the Church was a delusion, the teaching of the apostles an error, the predictions of Jesus a dream.” This argument, he repeats again and again throughout the whole work.
The destruction of Jerusalem was undoubtedly “a day of Jehovah” in the sense in which, as we saw in Lect. III., that phrase is used in Joel ii. 1 and elsewhere frequently in the Old Testament. For this great catastrophe was a conspicuous punishment, after much longsuffering, of the nation which had consummated previous disobedience by the murder of Christ. But nowhere else is the abundant and definite teaching of the New Testament about the Second Coming of Christ placed in relation to the destruction of Jerusalem except in Matt. xxiv. and its parallels in Mark and Luke. And even here the two events are easily distinguished. In Matt. xxiv. 3 the disciples ask Christ about the time of the destruction of the temple and about the sign of His coming and of the completion of the age. But this question does not imply that the fall of Jerusalem was identical with the coming of Christ. The two events are clearly distinguished in v. 29, where Christ says that “immediately after the affliction of those days” shall be the darkening of the sun and moon, His own appearance coming on the clouds, and the gathering together by the angels of His chosen ones from one end of heaven to the other. For this immediate sequence by no means implies identity. And nothing happened at the capture of Jerusalem which can, by the wildest stretch of imagination, be described by language used in vv. 29-31.
The only passage in which there seems to be any actual blending of the fall of Jerusalem with the coming of Christ is Matt. xxiv. 27, where Christ supports an exhortation about the earlier event by a reference to the latter. But this reference is found only in the First Gospel, where the early return of Christ is much more conspicuous than elsewhere in the New Testament.
The vision of judgment in Matt. xxv. 31-46 contains no reference whatever to the destruction of Jerusalem, and has nothing in common with it. But it is forced into the iron shoe which Mr. Russell has invented. He understands (on p. 105) “all the nations” to mean “all the nations of Palestine, or all the tribes of the land.” And, stranger still, he gives the same meaning to the same phrase in Matt. xxviii. 19, “make disciples of all the nations.” He supposes (see p. 112) that the terrible words “depart ye cursed into everlasting fire” were heard only in the unseen world unheeded by the nations of the earth and unrecorded by human historians. And, while we wonder at this strange exegesis, our author falls upon us, as with a sledgehammer, and says, on p. 113: “We are placed, therefore, in this dilemma—either the words of Jesus have failed, and the hopes of His disciples have been falsified; or else these words and hopes have been fulfilled, and the prophecy in all its parts has been fully accomplished. One thing is certain, the veracity of our Lord is committed to the assertion that the whole and every part of the events contained in this prophecy were to take place before the close of the existing generation.”
In reference to John v. 28, 29, vi. 39, 40, 44, xi. 24, xii. 48, Mr. Russell says, on p. 126: “Since our Lord Himself distinctly and frequently places that event within the limits of the existing generation, we conclude that the Parousia, the resurrection, the judgment, and the last day, all belong to the period of the destruction of Jerusalem.”
The same treatment is extended to 1 Thess. i. 10, ii. 19, iii. 13, iv. 15-18, v. 2-11, 2 Thess. i. 6-10, ii. 1, 8. He supposes that Paul comforts the mourners at Thessalonica by reminding them that a catastrophe is at hand which will submerge the Jewish state, and that then, in some invisible manner, the dead in Christ will rise and His living servants be caught up to meet Him in the air. Since this resurrection is in 1 Thess. iv. 14 compared to that of Christ, we ask whether after the fall of Jerusalem the graves of the dead Christians were found empty as was His grave on the third day; and how it was that the rapture to heaven of all the followers of Christ in Macedonia, Greece, Rome, and elsewhere, including the Apostle John, made no break in the continuous history of the Church on earth.
The same method is applied to 1 Cor. xv. The description of the bodies of the risen ones given in vv. 35-49 is scarcely referred to. But Mr. Russell supposes (v. 51) that the ” last trumpet” sounded 1800 years ago. Unfortunately, so far as we know, no one heard it. All hesitation is banished (on p. 211) by the familiar argument: “Right or wrong, the apostle is committed to this representation of the coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the transmutation of the living saints, within the natural lifetime of the Corinthians and himself. We are placed therefore in this dilemma —1. Either the apostle was guided by the Spirit of God, and the events which he predicted came to pass; or 2. The apostle was mistaken in this belief, and these things never took place.”
The teaching in Rev. xx. 1-10 about the Millennium is a serious difficulty to our author. For he is compelled to say on p. 523: “The result of the whole is, that we must consider the passage which treats of the thousand years, from v. 5 to v. 10, as an intercalation or parenthesis. The Seer, having begun to relate the judgment of the dragon, passes in v. 7 out of the apocalyptic limits to conclude what he had to say respecting the final punishment of ‘the old serpent,’ and the fate that awaited him at the close of a lengthened period called ‘a thousand years.’ This we believe to be the sole instance in the whole book of an excursion into distant futurity; and we are disposed to regard the whole parenthesis as relating to matters still future and unfulfilled.” This confirms my statement on p. 69 that Rev. xx. 1-6 contains teaching not found elsewhere in the Bible.
After dropping out of the consecutive order vv. 5-10, Mr. Russell joins on, at the close of v. 4, the tremendous vision of judgment in vv. 11-15. But, strange to say, he supposes that this judgment has already taken place, i.e. that earth and heaven have already fled from the face of Him who sits on the throne. On p. 525 he writes: “If the judgment scene described in this passage be identical with that in Matt. xxv., it follows that it is not ‘the end of the world’ in the sense of its being the dissolution of the material fabric of the globe and the close of human history, but that which is so frequently predicted as accompanying the end of the age, or termination of the Jewish dispensation.”
In other words, our author asks us to believe that the great event for which the early Christians were waiting, and for which we still wait as the goal of our highest hopes, took place in A.D. 70 in some sort of invisible connection with the fall of the Jewish state. He does this because only thus can he interpret a few passages in the Synoptist Gospels, and especially in the First Gospel, which seem to assert or imply that Christ would return to judge the world during the lifetime of some of His hearers. Like Mr. Guinness, but with much greater violence, he sacrifices the abundant and plain teaching of the New Testament to a small portion of it.” (The Last Things, Note B, on p. 255)
There is one saying of Jesus on this subject to which we cannot be wrong in attributing cardinal importance. It is that in which He says that He is Himself ignorant of the day and the hour.* So utterly unlike is this to anything which a dogmatic Christianity would have been likely to attribute to Him, if He had not said it, that it may not only be reckoned among the most certain of His utterances, but allowed a regulative authority in the interpretation of others.
The chief difficulty is, that in other passages He does seem to fix the day and the hour. In His address to the Twelve, as He sends them forth on their mission, He says, that they will not have gone over the cities of Israel before the Son of man be come; on another occasion He says, ” There be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom ;” and —most important of all—in the great eschatological discourse of the twenty-fourth of St. Matthew, after describing what appears to be the end of the world, He adds, “Verily, I say unto you, This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.” [Matt. x. 23; xvi. 28; xxiv. 34.] Such passages appear to stand in direct contradiction to the one already quoted as cardinal and regulative; but, unless we are to suppose either that Jesus contradicted Himself or that He has been misreported by the Evangelists, a meaning must be found which does not involve the fixing of the day and the hour.
Haupt contends that the “coming” of which Jesus speaks is not always to be understood as the final one. Any conspicuous event in the history of Christianity may be spoken of under this designanation; which might, for example, be applied to His own resurrection, or to Pentecost, or to the destruction of Jerusalem. The destruction of Jerusalem, especially, bulked largely in Christ’s view of the future; there is no reason to doubt that He foretold it; and there were very good reasons why He should even predict its date. To one or other, therefore, of these events His references to the immediate future must belong. [Russell, in The Parousia, argues ably that all the prophecies of Jesus were fulfilled in a single generation.] (The Christology of Jesus: being his teaching concerning himself according to the synoptic gospels, 229)
“There are others who interpret the passage in 2 Peter as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state and church. Among these are the eminent names of John Lightfoot, John Owen, and Hammond. The Rev. Dr. Israel P. Warren revived this theory in his “Parousia” (Portland, Me., 1879, 2d ed., 1884), a scholarly and able discussion of the doctrine of the second coming, a book which suggested the article, ” Will the World Ever End?” by the Rev. Charles E. Smith, in The Baptist Renew, April, 1879.
The Rev. J. Stuart Russell, M.A., of London, advocates the same opinion in a strong and thoroughly wrought-out argument in his book, “The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New-Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming,” new edition, London, 1887; and recently the Rev. Dr. William S. Urmy has published, through the Methodist Book Concern, an able defense of the same position in his book “Christ Came Again,” New York, 1900.
But I can not think that these divines have made good their interpretation. If the apostle had said that this age, aion, was to pass away in fire, we might think that he was speaking figuratively of the passing of the Old Dispensation. But he compares the future destruction by fire to the past destruction by water. One was historical and literal; so will the other be. Then notice his words: “The heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire.” There is no indication of any figurative reference, or of any limitation of the words ” heavens and earth ” to the Jewish Church. Certainly if he intended to describe the destruction of Jerusalem, he used language in a very misleading way. ” The earth and the works therein “—not Jerusalem simply —”shall be burned up.” I must therefore hold with Huther, Frommuller, Weiss (“Bibl. Theol. of New Testament,” ii., 245-247), Briggs (Presi. Bee., viii., 750-758), De Wette, Wiesinger, Alford, Beet (“Last Things,” 11-102), Lumby, Stevens (“Theol. of the New Testament,” 323), and other scholars who can not be accused of dogmatic bias, that the natural sense of the words of 2 Peter is the true sense, and that they do teach that all earthly things shall come to an end in fire. The only way to get rid of the teaching of the book is to deny its inspiration or its right to a place in the canon.
There is to be a new heavens and a new earth. This world is to be fitted up as the abode of God’s saints, not permanently or as their only home, but for a time at least, and as one of the many mansions of our Father’s house. This earth, the scene of our Lord’s redemption, is not to pass away entirely, but is to be renovated for yet more glorious uses.” (The Homiletic review, Volume 42, p. 445)
“It is possible, with Russell, to identify the Parousia with the destruction of Jerusalem, and so to regard it as past. But this is open to the objection that the present condition of the Church does not correspond to that glorious state to which the NT writers look forward.” (Dictionary of the Bible, “Parousia”, p. 680)
A Writer in The Homiletic Review several years ago (December, 1901), in an article entitled “The End of the World,” cited the teaching of Lightfoot, Owen, Hammond, Warren, Russell, and others on that subject, and also on the parousia of Christ, acknowledging the excellence of their scholarship, but doubting that they “had made good their interpretation.”
A few years ago, having occasion to make a special study of the parousia, and not finding myself in accord with traditional teachings with regard to it, I turned to my Greek New Testament, with the result that, though at the time unacquainted with the views of the men just mentioned, I came to hold substantially the same ideas relative to the parousia that these men held. Naturally enough, it was pleasing to find that such eminent scholars held such views, and no one need wonder if I think that these men “have made good their interpretation.” (“The Parousia of Christ”)
“The chief interest of the synoptic writers is eschatological. That to which they looked forward is the return of the absent Christ for the purpose of judgment and salvation. Writing, as they do, subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem, their faith in the speedy return of their Lord is quickened by that terrible event. From this point of view, the difficulties which lie in the thirteenth chapter of Mark, which has been used by both Matthew and Luke, to a considerable extent vanish. That chapter, as has already been pointed out, seems to be a combination of a group of prophecies concerning the fall of Jerusalem, and another group of prophecies concerning the coming of the Christ. Despite the objections of Wendt, both may safely be considered as coming from Jesus himself. That he expected the fall of Jerusalem is beyond question,’ and it has already appeared that he regarded his return as in some way susceptible to interpretation by apocalyptic figures. The critical difficulty has always lain in discovering the motive for the origin of the Jerusalem doom and for the combination of these two sets of material in Mark, chap. 13. Is it only an apostolic mistake? If so, it is difficult to account for. Beyond this passage there is no evidence that the early church [Yet see Russell, The Parousia; Warren, The Parousia. See also Schwartz, The Prophecies of Jesus Christ, etc.; Beet, The Last Things; Weiffenbach, Die Wiederkunftsgedanke Jesu; Briggs, The Messiah of the Gospels, pp, 132-65; Haupt, Die eschatologischen Aussagen Jesu, passim, A good summary with literature is the article by Brown, “Parousia,” Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible] saw in the destruction of Jerusalem evidence of the messianic parousia.” (The Messianic hope in the New Testament, p. 230)
“Russell, J.S. Parousia: critical inquiry into the New Testament doctrine of our Lord’s second coming. 1878”
Catalogue of the General Theological Library, Boston, Massachusetts: a dictionary catalogue of religion, theology, sociology and allied literature (General Theological Library, The Fort Hill press, 1913 (
“J.S. Russell, The Parousia: a critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of our Lord’s Second Coming, London, 1887″ (“Second Advent”, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge: Embracing Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology and Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Biography from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, Volume 10. 325)
“We must say “a coming,” rather than “the coming.” My J. Stuart Russell in his book The Parousia essayed to proved that when our Lord spoke of His Parousia He definitely said that it would be in the fall of Jerusalem , and that all the references to the Parousia in the Epistles and Apocalypse are references to the fall of Jerusalem. But, whatever may be said of the Apocalypse, few would agree that all the Epistles, e.g. i John and 2 Peter, were written before Jerusalem fell ; and this uncritical treatment of the documents is partly the cause of Mr. Russell s far too fixed dogma about the mysterious hope. What we really find in the New Testament after the Resurrection is at first a simple expectation of the speedy coming of the Lord. Then a modification or interpretation of this hope. This proceeds in one direction, as is generally recognized, along the line laid down by S. Paul. In place of the immediate, visible coming there is a spiritual indwelling of the believer in Christ, more often indeed spoken of as a union of the whole family of believers in Christ This presently developes into a large doctrine of the Church, its wide reach and purpose ; this we have in the Epistle to the Ephesians, and it is being accepted more and more generally among critics as S. Paul s own growth in faith. It is perhaps a weakness in Schweitzer s book on S. Paul that he pays little attention to the later Epistles. In another direction we find the thought of Christ’s own coming by the Spirit to be with the faithful.” (The epistle of priesthood: studies in the Epistle to the Hebrews – Page 216)
“Dr. Russell, a Congregational minister of the mid- to late- 19th century in England, paintakingly studies the numerous immanency passages of the New Testament and concludes that the prophesied events most Christians relegate to the end of the material world were actually fulfilled by 70 A.D. References to Josephus abound in this illuminating and unusual prophetic study. Back in print.” – GCB (Biblical Counsel: Resources for Renewal : An Annotated Topical Bibliography of Works Containing Biblical Counsel for Persons Seeking Lasting Solutions, 48)
Ovid Need Jr.
First, “The Parousia, A careful look at the New Testament doctrine of our Lord’s Second Coming,” by James Stuart Russell (1816-1895). It contains 561 pages, soft-bound. I miss an index not being in it, but it does have a comprehensive Table of Contents. He “served as pastor of the Congregational Church in Bayswater, England during the years 1862-1888. He earned his M.A. degree from King’s College, University of Aberdeen. Then after this book was published, they honoured him with a D.D. degree. Two editions were published, the first in 1878 and the second in 1887, both in London. This is the most popular introduction to and defense of the preterist view of Bible Prophecy in print today. It is a 1996 reprint by Kingdom Publications, 122 Seaward Ave, Bradford, PA 16701. $17.00 post paid from Kingdom Publishers” toll-free, (888) 257-7023, and they accept MasterCard and VISA.
Mr. Russell convincingly presents the Preterist view from the many New Testaments – from Malachi and Matthew through the Revelation – passages we hear used in “Prophetic” teaching today. (It appears to me that most prophetic teachers fail to realize that prophecy is from the time the passages are written, not from the time they are read.) Though Russell goes further in some areas than I would (spiritualizing some things I would not), I must admit that he deals with the many New Testament “Prophetic” passages in the most consistent manner I have encountered: His arguments concerning the “Prophetic” passages are hard, if not impossible, to refute by those of us who accept Scripture as the final authority – that is, who use Scripture rather than history to interpret Scripture. An usual point I found about Mr. Russell, not often found in Bible teachers, is that when he encounters a passage he cannot answer, he tells us he has no answer. Many teachers seem to think that when they admit they do not have all the answers, they have lost their ability to teach.
I am thankful to the man who brought this book to my attention, and I can readily recommend it to any interested in serious study of Scripture. “Parousia” is an excellent book for those disillusioned by “date setting.”
I suppose that Mr. Russell wrote “Parousia“ to counter the then rising tide of dispensational millennialism that started gaining worldwide momentum after about 1850.” (Review of Russell)
“Russell’s book has forced me to take the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem far more seriously than before, to open my eyes to the radical significance of this event in redemptive history. It vindicates the apostolic hope and prediction of our Lord’s close-at-hand coming in judgment. My view on these matters remains in transition, as I have spelled out in The Last Days According to Jesus. But for me one thing is certain: I can never read the New Testament again the same way I read it before reading The Parousia. I hope better scholars than I will continue to analyze and evaluate the content of J. Stuart Russell’s important work.” (“Foreword,” Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books)
“I believe that Russell’s work is one of the most important treatments on Biblical eschatology that is available to the church today. The issues raised in this volume with respect to the time-frame references of the New Testament to the Parousia are vitally important not only for eschatology but for the future debate over the credibility of Sacred Scripture.”
MUCH MORE TO COME…
“How many times have you struggled with the interpretation of certain Biblical texts related to the time of Jesus’ return because they did not fit with a preconceived system of eschatology? Russell’s Parousia takes the Bible seriously when it tells us of the nearness of Christ’s return. Those who claim to interpret the Bible literally, trip over the obvious meaning of these time texts by making Scripture mean the opposite of what it unequivocally declares. Reading Russell is a breath of fresh air in a room filled with smoke and mirror hermeneutics.” (cited from book cover)
“Although I do not agree with all the conclusions of J. Stuart Russell’s The Parousia, I highly recommend this well-organized, carefully argued, and compellingly written defense of Preterism to serious and mature students of the Bible. It is one of the most persuasive and challenging books I have read on the subject of eschatology and has had a great impact on my own thinking. Russell’s biblico-theological study of New Testament eschatology sets a standard of excellence.” (cited from book cover)
The most radical solution to our problem, while still maintaining the essentially donimical origin of the whole discourse, is that which sees the whole as referring to the events of AD70, and nothing more. This line of interpretation was fully developed as early as 1878 by J.S. Russell. His view is essentially that the whole of Matthew 24 and 25 describes one and the same period, that of the fall of Jerusalem, the ‘end of the world’, RV; ‘close of the age’, RSV, which he interprets as meaning the close of the Jewish age. This is the Parousia, and there is no New Testament warrant to look for any other… This radical approach has commended itself to others, who do not necessarily share Russell’s belief that the second coming of Christ took place in AD 70, but who agree with him in taking the whole of this chapter as referring exclusively to the fall of Jerusalem. Such writers are E.P. Gould and A. Feuillet.” (Jesus and the Old Testament: His Application of Old Testament Passages to Himself and His Mission, 229)
“Even though preterism grew and thrived in the soil of German rationalism and liberalism, it was a British individual who came to develop the most extreme form of preterism possible – a Congregationalist pastor from Bayswater Engalnd named J. Stuart Russell (1816-1895). Russell was not a higher criticism scholar like virtually all the preterists who came before him. “Clearly Russell assumed that the text of Scripture is inspired,” writes R.C. Sproul. Russell released the first edition of his book in 1878, which he authored anonymously. One year before his retirement (1887), he released the second edition under his name. Thus, J. Stuart Russell appears to be the father of full preterism, which sees the second coming as a fully past even that took place in conjunction with the Roman destruction of the Jewish Temple in A.D.70.” (The End Times Controversy, p. 443)
“Bibliography – Russell, J. Stuart, Parousia. Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 1999″ (The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy)
“In a strange kind of catch-all position, some have even argued that the parousia took place in AD 70; J.S. Russell, 1999, followed by Feuillet 1964. France (1982:230 n. 12) critiques Feuillet. Gaston (1970: 483-487) suggests that Matthew read Mark in this sense, and that the parousia occurred in AD 70. For a history of interpretation of Mark 13, see Beasley-Murray 1986” (The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel, p. 90)
“There are also close parallels between Wright’s work and that of several nonacademics. See, e.g., J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia: A Study of the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming (2nd ed.; London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887); and Max R. King, The Spirit of Prophecy (Warren, OH: Warren Printing, 1971).” (Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters, 119 n.27)
“The NIV Study Bible contains this commentary on Matthew 24: “It appears that the description of the end of the age is discussed in vv. 4-14, the destruction of Jerusalem in vv. 15-22 (see Lk 21:20) and Christ’s coming in vv. 23-31.” The problem is that some of these verses appear to describe two different events. The possibility of a double reference is rejected, I think too quickly, by the preterist J. Stuart Russell: “There is not a scintilla of evidence that the apostles and primitive Christians had any suspicion of a twofold reference in the predictions of Jesus concerning the end.” (The Last Things: Resurrection, Judgment, Glory, InterVarsity Press, Dec 2, 2005, 336 pages)
“While my position on eschatology is very similar to full preterism, there are important differences. My theoretical orientation is most similar to that of the nineteenth-century theologian James Stuart Russell. Russell saw AD 70 as the time of the one and only Second Advent as well as the beginning of the millennium.” (The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, Appendix A)
“In the late 1880s, the well-known anti-millennial critic J. Stuart Russell, who rejected the literal return of Christ, acknowledged in the Preface to his book Parousia that the medieval and modern Church have lost sight of the critical importance of the vital doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ that had motivated the early Church to turn their world upside down.”
One of the most interesting books in defense of the doctrine of preterism is The Parousia by J. Stuart Russell, first published anonymously in 1878. This book has been republished from 1983 through 1999. Russell’s book strongly supports the full preterist theory that all prophecy was fulfilled by A.D. 70. He suggests that the Second Coming and the rest of Revelation’s prophecies were either fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem or they were fulfilled “spiritually.” Russell honestly admitted that his “explanation of the predictions of the New Testament, instead of relieving the difficulty, embarrasses and perplexes us more than ever.” Russell even acknowledged the objections of many orthodox Christians when they consider the preterist view that all of these powerful prophecies were fulfilled spiritually, without any observed historical events.” (Triumphant Return: The Coming Kingdom of God, taken from un-numbered Google Books edition)
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Date: 04 Dec 2007
Jesus was anointed as the spiritual Ruler of the world in autumn of AD 26 (his baptism) when he was about 30. And so Domitian, Satan’s usurping spiritual ruler of the world, subsequently was anointed as the false king of the world when HE was about 30 — born in October AD 51 and became emperor at the death of Titus in September AD 81. (Nero didn’t meet the “about 30” age requirement; he was born in AD 37 and became emperor in AD 54.)
Date: 01 Mar 2010
If preterism were true, then the millenial kingdom would have begun after A.D. 70. Also, Jesus would have already fought in the war of Armaggedon, which has never been documented. So far, the rapture has not happened. Also, the false prophet and antichrist have not been thrown into the lake of fire. Also, Jesus would be ruling for a thousand years. After A.D. 70 it would have been almost 2k yrs., which would make all of us living in the new heaven and the new earth.
Date: 22 Dec 2012
Russell pierces the fables and myths of millennialism and Zionism that served only to confuse my understanding of scripture. What a glorious truth to discover that I am in anticipation of no blessing or promise but have received them all, here and now. Praise God!
Date: 02 Jul 2012
The teachings of anti-Christian cult the Watchtower Tract and Bible Society (WTTBS)embrace the PAROUSIA teaching principle of Stuart Russell. The WTTBS, teach the invisible return of Jesus Christ to judge the world and set up his kingdom in 1914.
The Preterists are essentially one with these heretics in denying the literal return of the Lord Christ in power and glory — they both say it already happened, albeit figuratively! Heretics!