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OUTLINES OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE

by the Rev. H. C. G. Moule, M.A., Principal of Ridley Hall, and formerly Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Author of "Veni Creator: Thoughts on the Holy Spirit of Promise," etc.
Revised edition [[third edition, Feb., 1890]]
London: Hodder and Stoughton
27, Paternoster Row.
MDCCCXC

<99> CHAPTER VI.

The Doctrine of God (continued)

The Doctrine of Christ (continued)

III. The Work of Christ (continued)

The Resurrection, Ascension, Session, and Return.

We do not state here the proof of the fact of our Lordís Resurrection. That all-important question falls under Christian Evidence. We assume here the convergence of manifold demonstrations on the belief that the buried Lord reappeared, in bodily identity, "on the third day;" blessed His followers; taught them; and before their eyes arose upwards out of sight. Our concern is with the Scripture doctrine of these facts.

Christ rose as the supreme attestation of His own truth, and victory, and of the certainty of His eternal triumph. See e.g. Joh. ii. 19; Acts ii. 24, 35, v. 31, xiii. 30-9, xvii. 31; Rom. i. 4, iv. 24, 25, vi. 9, viii. 34, xiv. 9; 1 Cor. xv. 3-22; Eph. i. 20, 21; Col. i. 18; 1 Thess. iv. 14; Heb. xiii. 20, 21; 1 Pet. i. 3, 21; Rev. i. 17,18.

He rose, identical, yet with differences. His body risen was the same as His body buried. But we need not insist on an identity of particles, which certainly is not necessary to our own continuous bodily identity. That identity appears to rest on <99/100> personal spiritual identity. The sameness of a hand at two times of life lies, not in its consisting of the same matter, but in its holding the same relation to the same spirit. What the Gospels make clear on the one hand is the reality and permanence of Jesus Christís resurrection body, under tests of sense, to which the all-truthful Lord Himself appeals. On the other hand it is plain that the bodyís mode of being and action was new. It appears that it was capable of transitions, inconceivable to us, through material mass. It was in some new way under the control of His spirit. He could [1] manipulate it, so to speak, as He pleased. Some interpreters have seen in this the meaning of the words, "the last Adam (became) a quickening (Ďalive-makingí) spirit" (1 Cor. xv. 45). They explain this to mean that He rose in a condition in which His spirit was now no longer only "living soul." It no longer animated only, but as it were perpetually caused, its holy bodily vehicle.

This at least reminds us of what is implied by the context of 1 Cor. xv. 45; namely, that our Lord "became" the Second Adam, at Resurrection. Historically, He was constituted then, and not before, the Source of the regenerating and sanctifying Spirit (see Joh. vii. 39) which effectually makes Him the Life-Head of the New Race. [2] True, there are other points of view. From the beginning the Son of God has been always the true secret of the spiritual life of all the saints (above, p. 41, and below, p. 191, etc.). But this fact was vitally related <100/101> always to His Incarnation and Work, which were always present to the Divine Mind. And when historical realization was added to the eternal purpose the spiritual results were so developed in human experience as to make, as it were, a new beginning. In any case, it is important in Christian doctrine to remember that not Incarnation alone, but Incarnation as conditioned by the Death and Resurrection of the Incarnate, fully constitutes Him the Second Man; the Origin and Cause, for the New Race, of life and peace.

Organically connected with the Resurrection is the Ascension. The two are indeed one in essence. Scripture does not reveal any decisive change at Ascension in our Lordís resurrection state. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. xv. 50); and Luke xxiv. 39 suggests that the Resurrection Body was already without blood. On the other hand Ascension did not annul its literal corporeity. [3] At the conversion of St. Paul, Jesus was seen, not in "vision," but so that Paul was a witness of His bodily Resurrection (1 Cor. ix. 1, xv. 8). We are soon lost in the effort to follow the Ascension in detail. But to this we are not called. Our part is to grasp the certainty of revealed facts, and to appropriate them in their form of manifestations of the work of the Redeemer.

The Ascension was His actual entrance on His work as Head of His Church. He became this at Resurrection; but He was now fully inducted into His action as such. Then He sent forth from the <101/102> Father the Spirit, as being also His Spirit, by virtue of ineffable connexion with His Person and Work (below, p. 125). Then He entered historically on His work as enthroned Mediator and Intercessor. See especially the Epistles to the Ephesians and Hebrews, and the Revelation; but also a large range of detached Scriptures, e.g. Joh. vii. 39; Acts ii. 33-6; Rom. viii. 34.

As incarnate, sacrificed, and risen, He is now Mediator. This word bears a general and a particular sense. The general appears, e.g. 1 Tim. ii. 5, where "Christ Jesus, Man," is presented as "the one Mediator (mesitês) between God and man"; the one way of true approach to God, with special reference (ver. 6) to His Atonement. The more particular sense appears, e.g. Heb. ix. 15, "the Mediator of the new covenant" (and cp. Heb. vii. 22, "the Surety of a better covenant"; see also viii. 6). Here the Mediator is not only the glorious Person one both with God and man, and dying for man, but specially that Person as undertaking relations to a covenant, to secure and convey its benefits. That Covenant (above, pp. 40, 41) is between God and His true Israel, the true Church. Its two main blessings are full acceptance of the sinner, and a new heart, inscribed with the law of God. This Covenant lies, directly, between God and (not man, or men, anyhow, but) Christ for Man; or, otherwise, Man in Christ. The Epistle to the Hebrews, the great treasury of covenant doctrine, leads us, along with the rest of the New Testament, to the conclusion that the covenant blessings were so won by the perfect work of the Lord Christ as to be lodged in Him for His Church, and to become actually theirs on their becoming His. He, for them, both "re- <102/103> deemed transgressions" (ix. 15), and "received of the Father" the promised Spirit (Acts ii. 33), the Bond between Christ and His people (see Rom. viii. 9, 11 ; 1 Cor. vi. 17), and, as such, the Maker of their new nature. Thus the glorified Lord holds as Surety and conveys as Mediator the fulness of blessing for man.

The ascended Lord is the Intercessor (see Rom. viii. 34; Heb. vii. 25. Cp. Isai. liii. 12). Scripture represents Him as interceding, not as a suppliant, but with the majesty of the accepted and glorified Son once slain. He does not stand before the throne, but is seated on it (see especially Rom. viii. 34; Heb. i. 3, iv. 14-16, viii. 1, x. 11-13.) "With authority He asks, enthroned in glory now." It is vain, of course, to ask how in detail He thus acts for us. The essence of the matter is His union with His people, and His perpetual presence, in that union, with the Father, is the once slain Lamb. As to the scope of the Intercession, Scripture appears to limit it to the Church. We must not for a moment limit within the Church our Lordís compassion. But the special work of the Intercession appears thus limited.

A truth closely kindred to this last is that of the High Priesthood of Christ. For this the Epistle to the Hebrews is by far the chief authority. Guided by it, we see in Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, and sanctified and glorified, the fulfilment of the types embodied in the royal and unsuccessive Priesthood of Melchisedec and in the atoning work of the Aaronic High Priest on the Atonement Day (Lev. xvi.). [4] <103/104>

According to the Epistle, He is now as the High Priest was on the Atonement Day, when, having slain the victim out of doors, he had entered the Holiest Place, bearing and offering the blood as evidence of sacrifice. But one significant difference appears. The "great High Priest," in the true Sanctuary, mounts the throne. (Heb. viii. 1, x. 11, 12; cp. Zech. vi. 13.) The true Aaron merges into the true Melchisedec. When "the throne of grace" (iv. 16) is approached, upon it the eternal Priest is found seated, like the Shechinah above the ark, to dispense the blessings of His once offered and for ever perfect sacrifice. The Epistle insists (i. 3, ix. 25, 26, x. 10, 12, 13, 14) on the fact that not only the sacrifice, but also the offering, or presentation, of it is over for ever; while the royal, high-priestly intercession and benediction, based upon it, are present and continuous. [5]

Does Scripture represent the Lord as ministering at an altar in heaven? The Holiest of the Tabernacle contained no altar. Only the blood of victims slain outside entered it, as evidence of finished sacrifice. In the Epistle to the Hebrews no mention occurs of an altar in the Presence of God. In xiii. 13 the context fixes the reference to His "suffering without the gate" on earth. In the Revelation, indeed, we twice find an altar in the mystical scenery. But in vi. 9 the word is part of <104/105> the imagery of martyr-sacrifice; the souls of martyrs, as if poured out, blood-like, on an altar, are seen at its foot. And in viii. 3, 5, the altar is the golden altar; not of blood but of incense, and the ministrant is "an angel."

Nor is the presentation of His sacred Blood in the Presence regarded in Scripture as continuous, or as literal. In the type, the carrying of the blood into the Holiest was an act single and decisive, the accomplished security for continuous blessing. The passages which speak of the Antitype accordingly connect the presentation of the Blood of Christ with His decisive entering in "at Ascension" (Heb. ix. 12). His "entering in" as the Crucified One Risen is the presentation.

A cognate question is, does "the Victim-state" continue in heaven? Such a thought is quite absent from the Epistle to the Hebrews. In the Revelation, indeed, the Lord appears as "a Lamb as it had been slain." But the whole context, and book, explain this to mean that as the once Crucified He now, not continues a Victim, but wields royal mediatorial power in heaven and earth. See ch. v. throughout, vi. 16, vii. 9, 17, xiv. 1, 4, 10, xvii. 14, xxi. 22, 23, xxii. 3.

In brief, the Lord is a High Priest for ever; a High Priest upon His throne; eternally characterized as atoning Sacrificer and Sacrificed, once for ever; now and always doing the high-priestly work no longer of offering but of intercession related to it. [6]

Meanwhile He is King, in a respect separable in thought from Priesthood. The Risen One has all authority given Him in heaven and in earth" <105/106> (Matt. xxviii. 18). This royalty is not for a moment a supersession of the Eternal Fatherís action. But in it the Incarnate Son, One with the Father, is the divine Agent of the Fatherís will for the great special purpose of carrying into its eternal issues the plan of Redemption, to the glory of the Father in the Son. It has respect to Godís final triumph over sin and death, and to the glorification in it of His Church. When sin and death shall be "put under the feet" of the Son, this royalty will have done its glorious work. In respect of it "the Son Himself shall be subject unto Him that put all things under Him" (1 Cor. xv. 20-8). Whatever that supreme crisis means, it will be no eclipse of the glory of the Son. The eternal kingdom is "the kingdom of Christ and of God" (Eph. v. 5) ; the throne is "of God and of the Lamb" (Rev. xxii. 3).

Scripture reveals very fully a present personal action of the glorified Christ in the ingathering of His Church, and the sanctification of its members. But this subject will be best treated below, under the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (p. 132).

Of the Return of the glorified Redeemer we speak on purpose in outline only, and without conclusions in detail. Unfulfilled prophecy is a vast field of study. And there is this difference between it and the study of "the way of salvation," that an interpretation of general history enters necessarily into it. The questions of Reconciliation, Regeneration, Sanctification, and the like, lie in the field of eternal principle and truth. Those of the time and mode of the Lordís Return, of the events conditional to it, and of the sequel to it, lie in part in a different field. Answers to them have to be <106/107> sought (in many important details) not in Scripture simply, but in Scripture interpreted by history.

Scripture solemnly enjoins a reverent and earnest study of the things "not seen as yet," truly and miraculously foreshown in prophecy. Yet this is a region of enquiry quite sui generis and calling for constant recollection of the cautions just given. What we are content to do here is to collect specimens of Scripture testimony on some main points separately, rather to aid the readerís inferences than to give our own; and then to summarize the history of opinion.

(a) Scripture evidence for a Second Coming of the Lord, not mystical but literal:óSee, among the wealth of testimonies, Acts i. 11; 1 Cor. xv. 23, 47, 52; Phil. iii. 20, 21; 1 Thess. i. 10, iv. 14-16; 2 Thess. i. 7, 8; 2 Tim. ii. 18 (with e.g. 1 Cor. xv.); 1 Pet. v. 4; 1 Joh. ii. 28; iii. 2 (with 1 Pet. i. 8).

Evidence from the Revelation is not here adduced, because the symbolism of the Book makes it difficult to bring it in without careful discussion. But the evidence above will of course make for a literal interpretation in many places (both in Gospels and Revelation) where there might otherwise be doubt. This principle is kept in view in the following groups of references.

(b) Scripture evidence for its connexion with the glorification of the Church:óMatt. xxv. 10, 19, 21, 23, 46; Joh. v. 28, 29 (with vi. 39, etc.), xiv. 3; Acts iii. 21; Rom. viii. 18-23, xiii. 11; 1 Cor. xv. 23, 35-7; Phil. iii. 21; Col. iii. 4; 1 Thess. iii. 13, iv. 16, 17, v. 9, 10; 2 Thess. i. 7, 10; 2 Tim. iv. 8 ; Jas v. 8; 1 Pet. i. 7, iv. 13, v. 4; 2 Pet. iii. 12, 13; 1 Joh. iii. 2; Jude 24; Rev. iii. 11.

(c) Scripture evidence for its connexion with <107/108> judgment on the wicked:óMatt. xiii. 41, 42, 49, 50, xxv. 11-13, 30, 46; Luke xiii. 27; Joh. v. 28, 29; Acts xxiv. 15 (with Joh. v. 29); Rom. ii. 16; 1 Thess. v. 2, 3; 2 Thess. i. 7-9; 2 Pet. iii. 7: Jude 14, 15; Rev. i. 7, vi. 16, 17, xx. 15, xxii. 12.

(d) Scripture evidence, apparent, for its connexion with the close of the present order of nature:óRom. viii. 21; 1 Cor. xv. 50 (with 23), 53; 2 Cor. iv. 18 (with 14); Phil. iii. 21; Col. iii. 2, 4; Heb. xii. 25-8; 1 Pet. i. 4; 2 Pet. iii. 10-13; Rev. xx. 11, xxi. 1.

(e) Scripture evidence, apparent, for its connexion with the beginning of a period of felicity on earth:óA large tract of Old Testament prophecy comes under this head; e.g. Psal. lxvii.; Isai. xxv., xxxiii., xxxv., lx., lxv.; Jer. xxxiii. In interpretation of such prophecies, meanwhile, the student, devoutly believing the reality of Old Testament predictions, will remember that these prophecies, by their failure to indicate a decline or end to the promised bliss, may seem to point to the eternal Age under terrestrial imagery rather than to a terminable period, however long, under terrestrial conditions. In the New Testament, see, under this head, Rev. xx. 2-7.

(f) Scripture evidence, apparent, for its connexion with the close of such a period:óRev. xx. 7-11.

(g) Scripture evidence, apparent, for its connexion with the (1) temporal, (2) spiritual restoration of the Israelite race:óUnder (1), the Old Testament prophecies, of which examples were given under (e), are of course in point. And see Luke xxi. 24; Acts i. 6. Under (b), see Rom. xi. at large, and cp. Rev. vii. 4-8, xxi. 12.

(h) Scripture evidence, apparent, in qualification of this expectation:óAs regards the expectation of <108/109> a spiritual restoration of Israel, on a great and phenomenal scale, Rom. xi. appears to be decisive, by the nature of the passage, in which the symbolic element is practically absent. It is difficult, however, even there to say that the crisis in view is revealed as concurrent with the literal Return of Jesus Christ. Ver. 26 is not decisive; its possible reference is to the first Advent in its developed results.

As regards the expectation of a temporal restoration, while nothing in the nature of the Gospel creates a difficulty against it, and the present aspect of events is even suggestive of it, it is remarkable that the New Testament is extremely reserved on the subject, and that on the other hand it applies to spiritual events some predictions which in the Old Testament read like a temporal restoration of Israel. See e.g. Joh. vi. 45 ,.and Rev. xxi. [7]

 

SUPPLEMENTARY

History of Opinion on the Subject of the Lordís Return.

(1) From the New Testament it is plain that the expectation of a literal Return (parousia, epiphaneia) was universal. And there was a persuasion, at least in some Churches, <109/110> that it would be soon (2 Thess. ii. 1). Did the Apostles share this persuasion? Many passages (e.g. 1 Thess. iv. 17) look that way. But the language always falls short of a distinct statement, and along with it appears the same personís distinct anticipation of death in the Lord (Phil. i. 23; 2 Tim. iv. 8; and see 1 Cor. vi. 14; 2 Cor. iv. 14; Phil. iii. 11). The Lord Himself had implied that His absence would be prolonged (Matt. xxv. 19), and that death would be the practically universal experience of Christians (John vi. 39, 40, 44, 54).

(2) In cent. ii. we find the expectation that the Coming would be attended by the general Resurrection (Justin, Dialogue, 45). Justin (Dial., 81, 82) looks forward to a Millennium of splendour for the saints, living and raised, in and around the (rebuilt) earthly Jerusalem, to be followed by the glorious Coming, general Resurrection, and Judgment. He says, however, that this was not the universal tenet of orthodox Christians. Irenæus (especially v. 33, etc.) holds like expectations, but seems to place the Coming before the Millennium, general Resurrection, and Judgment. He notices a difference of opinion on the subject among orthodox Christians.

(3) In cent. iii., Origen, and the Alexandrians generally, took an opposite line of interpretation, wholly idealizing and spiritualizing. Dionysius of Alexandria (255), finding "Chiliasm," the belief of a terrestrial Millennium, widely spread in his district, brought about a general reversal of opinion, after a conference (Euseb., Eccl. Hist., vii. 24).

(4) In cent. iv., St. Augustine advocated a view of prophecy in which the "binding of Satan" dated from the beginning of the Gospel, and his "loosing" was to be looked for at the close of the sixth millennium of the world. This view found wide acceptance.

(5) Throughout the Middle Ages the belief on the whole was that the Millennium was in progress, and was not far from its close. The Reformers in general held this view, <110/111> and regarded their own epoch as the beginning of that "little season " which should precede the end.

(6) In cent. xvii., the expectation of a future Millennium of bliss and spiritual triumph on earth, preceded by the Lordís Return, was revived, mainly by the learned Joseph Mede (1586-1638). Particularly within the last half-century this expectation has attracted the deepest attention of Christian students.

A summary of the main views on this subject is subjoined, inevitably brief and imperfect.

It must be premised that the interpretation of the Revelation enters of course very largely into the formation of views. And among those who cordially agree in accepting that book as divine and infallible, there are two main divisions of interpretations. For some, the book is a prophetic history, which has been working out ever since the Ascension, so that much of its fulfilment is already to be recognized in history. For others, its predictions (e.g. chapters xvii., xviii.) concern very mainly a series of events still wholly in the future.

Under the first type of interpretation differences again occur. For some, as we have seen, the Millennium (ch.xx.) is already past; a thousand years of comparative freedom from unbelief and fundamental heresy in Christendom. The present time falls accordingly within the "little season" (Rev. xx. 3) of temptation and tribulation which is to precede the final Coming and the eternal order of things.

For others, the Millennium is yet to be, and perhaps ere long. It is to be a period of great blessedness on earth, under divine power and rule, in a new manner. Interpreters differ in detail as to the character of the period. But on the whole it is to be a blessed age, only with such a survival of elements of evil as that they shall revive in great force at its close. Then the "little season" will come in, before the End.

Under this interpretation again there are two important <111/112> divisions. For some, this great period is brought in and maintained by the exercise indeed of divine power, whether or not in modes openly miraculous, but not by a visible Personal Return of the Lord. For others, His visible pre-millennial Return is the central point of hope. It is the return predicted 1 Thess. iv., and will bring with it the resurrection of the buried saints, and the transfiguration of the living, to meet the Lord in the air, and to reign with Him either upon, or however over, the beatified earth.

With the interpreters of this latter school, in particular, but not with them only, the Millennium is to be a time of well-nigh universal triumph for the cause of God on earth, in the sense of general conversion. Whether by means of the great tribulations, or by the immediate power of the manifested Lord, no longer individuals here and there, but the nations, are to come to Him. Israel, converted as a nation, will occupy a pre-eminent place in the life of the blessed earth, the Lord Himself perhaps reigning in Jerusalem below; while new modes and degrees of intercourse may bind, as it were, heaven and earth together. In the belief of many, the risen saints of the Old Testament will then inherit their portion of the earthly Canaan.

Whether human birth and death will still take place is a point of difference. The glorious scene will, however, wane at last. The enemy will be released for his last "short time," and the last conflict of good and evil will be fought on earth. It will close with the final manifestation of the Judge, the collapse and transfiguration of the present order of things, and the coming in of the eternal state, with its endless issues of glory and perdition. Then shall be seen "new heavens and a new earth," and therein "righteousness shall dwell."[8] <112/113>

We have said enough to indicate the range and complexity of this sacred subject. We can only add here a very few of the reasons of most weight on the side of the chief theories.

(a) In favour of a future Millennium of more or less material, with spiritual, blessedness areóthe large mention in Old Testament prophecy of a time when "nature" shall be renewed on the earth, and the state of Eden restored; the indications in the New Testament (see above, p. 108) of a restoration of Israel, and of a triumph of the Gospel vastly more extensive than any now seen, or (humanly speaking) on its way to be seen, on earth; promises of a reward "on earth" for the righteous (e.g. Matt. v. 5) and the great prediction in Rev. xx. 7, etc.

(b) In favour of the belief of a premillennial Advent of our Lord areó-the language of the prophets concerning e.g. a divine reign in glory "in Mount Zion," language large in quantity and most impressive in manner; passages in the New Testament (e.g. 1 Cor. xv. 23, 24) which may be interpreted of a great double crisis, a twofoldness, in the one great fact of the Second Coming (such a passage is 1 Cor. xv. 23, 24) the predictions of the Revelation, especially xx. 4, 6 and, above all, the many passages which exhort the believer to be on the watch for the sudden Coming of his Lord.

(c) In favour of the post-millennial view are the passages which connect the Resurrection with both the Coming and the final Judgment; the language of 2 Pet. iii.; the solemnity with which, in the matter of the Coming, the "second time" is named, without any explicit similar mention of a third; and the complicated difficulties to thought when the idea of a terrestrial reign of the glorified Lord is considered carefully. These difficulties are not necessarily impossibilities, nor do they affect all pre-millennial views; but they are, of course, cautions.

(d) In favour of an interpretation of the Millennium <113/114> in a sense more mystical than literal is the fact of the isolated character and, when studied closely, very peculiar wording of the great passage in Rev. xx., and the manifest rightness of explaining, on the whole, in Scripture, the obscurer passages by the clearer, the more isolated by the more extended.

Observe, too, the fact, mentioned above (p. 109), that some of the amplest prophecies of coming blessedness on earth in the Old Testament are applied in the New Testament not to a future millennial age, but to the present age, that of the Gospel.

Amidst the divergency of interpretations it is an important and happy reflection, that all those we have sketched leave possible a profound agreement on those central truths which concern the Person of Christ, His sacrificial and sanctifying work, and the "blessed hope" of His personal glorious Coming and Triumph. They no doubt affect the views of their holders as to the purpose and efficacy of the present agencies and resources of the Church, and the scope of its work, as revealed in the Scriptures. On the whole, however, we leave this subject as we entered upon it, with a reverent avowal of the conditions of mystery and, in some respects, inevitable suspense which attend its study. [9] On no topic of revelation should believing students be more watchful against premature conclusions and unloving mutual criticisms than on that of the details of the prediction of our Blessed Lordís most certain, literal, glorious and desirable Return. Meanwhile, let the topic invite an ever deeper, more hallowed, and more submissive study, and kindle a more ardent longing, and animate to a holier walk.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus. <114/115>

 

The Judgment.

Scripture abounds in predictions of a future Judgment, closely connected with "the Last Day." As a central passage see Joh. v. 29 (where read, "resurrection of judgment"); and see Matt. x. 15, xii. 36, 41, xxv. 34-6; Joh. v. 22, 24, 27; Acts x. 42, xvii. 31, xxiv. 25; Rom. ii. 5-16, xiv. 10; 1 Cor. iv. 4, 5, xi. 32; 2 Cor. v. 10; 1 Tim. v. 24; 2 Tim. iv. 1; Heb. vi. 2, ix. 27, x. 27; 2 Pet. iii. 7; 1 Joh. iv. 17; Jude 6; Rev. xx. 11-15.

The Judge is "God Himself" (Psal. l. 6; Rom. ii. 16; Heb. xii. 23), All-knowing and All-just. But especially the Son, the Christ, appears as the Judge. This is explained Joh. v. 22 (and cp. Acts x. 42, xvii. 31) to be a matter of eternal inner fitness; "because He is the Son of man." His gracious and mysterious one-ness with Man, while He is also the Eternal Son, designates Him as the fit Judge of the tribes of which He is, as it were, the Patriarch. In His human experience of temptation, "yet without sin," the heart of man is afforded a divine guarantee, if the word may be reverently used, of perfect mercy and perfect justice in the scrutiny of its sins.

The subjects of the Judgment are the race, in all its individuals. Such is the plain hearing of e.g. Matt. xxv, 32; Joh. v. 28; Rev. xx. 12; and cp. Gen. xviii. 25; Eccl. xii. 14. The question at once arises what the incidence of judgment will be in view of the incalculable varieties of capacity, character, and circumstances. The reply must be that we know too little to reply; too little of the mystery of hereditary sinfulness and of the responsibility involved in the lowest phase of conscience, and generally of the nature and secret history of the <115/116> soul. It is well to remember that the judgment is not in our hands, that "God is both legislature and executive." In each one of the innumerable cases the "Judge of all the earth will" infallibly "do justly" (Gen. xviii. 25). Nothing will be decided roughly and in the mass. No one will be condemned for ignorance of what it was impossible for him to know. The sentence will always have respect to sin. And the sin, though real and condemning, of the man never reached by the divine message of salvation will not be as the sin of the man who has heard it (Matt. x. 15; Luke xii. 47, 48). On the other hand, the awfulness of the least disobedience to conscience, even where there has been no explicit revelation, will then appear (Rom. ii. 12).

But the whole problem of the sentence on those who have never received revelation is of the deepest mystery. He who entirely submits to the teaching of Scripture will leave it in solemn silence to the Judge, remembering on the one side His absolute mercy and justice, on the other side the insistence of Holy Scripture upon the urgent necessity that the Gospel should be carried to men everywhere in this world with a view to their salvation. And meanwhile his own heartís experience tells him of manís profound need to know that Gospel, in its fulness, in order to do the will of God. Whatever speculation may do, the Holy Scriptures do not encourage vague hopes of human salvation apart from that Gospel. See Rom. x. 14, 15; and cp. Acts xi. 14.

It is clearly revealed that the accepted, the saved, the true Church, will then be somehow judged. See Rom. xiv. 10; 2 Cor. v. 10; and cp. 1 Cor. iii. 15. And on the other hand it is revealed, in verbal contradiction to this prospect, that the believer in the <116/117> Son of God "cometh not into judgment" (John v. 24; cp. Rom. viii. 33). If a reconciliation may be reverently sought, the saved shall be then seen, without a doubt or fear, to be indeed amply and eternally accepted, but for them too the book of conscience shall be solemnly and entirely opened, and results from the discipline of time shall be carried on into eternity, making differences related to the quality of their service of love on earth (Matt. xxv. 19-23).

Again we gather that the "saints," the "members" of Christ the Judge, shall mysteriously share in His action as Judge. See 1 Cor. vi. 2; and cp. Dan. vii. 22; Matt. xix. 28; Rev. xx. 4. Speculation in detail is vain. We may humbly think that this participation will be a solemn approval of the verdict of the Son of Man, in absolute harmony with His whole mind in giving it, and as by those whose union with Him will then be supremely seen. It is indicated that "angels" as well as men will be subjects of the judgment. See Jude 6; perhaps Matt. xxv. 41; and cp. Matt. viii. 29 (a passage of mournful significance); 1 Cor. vi. 3. This prospect seems to indicate close relations between these "angels" and mankind.

The whole revelation of the Judgment points to it as to an event, not merely, as has been sometimes suggested, an eternal fact figured under the imagery of crisis and time. Doubtless a figurative and pictorial element is present in the Scripture presentation, in which we read, for instance, of opened "books" on which the sentence is based. But this is wholly different from a solution of the prospect into a vision, so to speak, of things which are not themselves an event. This great adjudication by the Son of Man is firmly linked in <117/118> prospect to the Resurrection of the Dead, [10] an event (whatever be its details) definite, and wholly future.

In brief, the Judgment is presented to us in Scripture as the close of the dealings of God with man in probation and redemption. As that process had historical points of beginning and development, so it is to have an historical point of conclusion. We say "point," of course, not in a needlessly narrow sense. It is no part of the Creed to believe that the "Last Day" shall contain just twenty-four hours, or twelve. It may be a decisive period rather than a common day; it may on the other hand indicate a crisis of inconceivable rapidity, to which a common day should be as a thousand years; so little can we know of the judgment process. But we mean that it is presented in Scripture as an event. Every event of time has relations to Godís eternity other than those it bears to us who "become." But this does not make it less truly an event of time. And this is as true of the coming Judgment as of the First Advent.

"We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge: We, therefore pray Thee, help Thy servants whom thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood." <118>

___________________

[1] We say "could" with reference, of course, not to His omnipotence in itself, as to which He always "all things can," but to the order of His work, regulating the exercise of power.

[2] See C.H. Waller, Doctrine of Christ as the Last Adam.

[3] The glorification of the Body does not appear to have lifted it above the laws of place. As true human Body, it is not ubiquitous; it is "in heaven, and not here" (last Rubric of the Communion).

[4] Observe that this special and pre-eminent occasion of Aaronic High-Priestly work is almost alone in view in the Epistle. The type is not the Priests, but the High Priest, and the High Priest not anyhow, but as on the Atonement Day.

[5] From Heb. viii. 3 it has been argued that our Lord must be now "offering somewhat," or He would not now be a Priest. But a Priest is a Priest (as to the altar-part of his function) not as always offering but as always being an Offerer. Our Lord is for ever characterized as an Offerer by His unique and ever-efficacious sacrifice once offered. He is "a Priest for ever," not as offering for ever but as ever carrying out, on the ground of His finished offering, His regal, sacerdotal intercession and benediction.

[6] Cp. Archd. Perowne, Our High Priest in Heaven.

[7] Many of the Old Testament prophecies, taken literally, foretell a great restitution of the Temple and sacrificial Ritual, under the favor of God. See Jer. xxxiii. 18-21; Ezek. xl.-xlviii. But this is difficult to reconcile with statements of primary spiritual principle in the New Testament. See Joh. iv. 21-4; Acts vii. 48, 49, and the whole argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews, especially vii.-x., xiii. Is it not probable that this range of Old Testament prediction has its fulfilment in realities of the spiritual order, which is the highest? And if so, the question arises whether the same principle does not rule other Old Testament predictions of the future of Israel.

[8] With Mede and his followers the entire "burning up" of the earth (2 Pet. iii.) was to precede the Millennium.

[9] For able presentations of the Pre-millennial view, see the Rev. H. G. Guinness, Approaching End of the Age, and Light for the Last Days. For the contrasted view, see the Rev. David Brown, D.D., The Second Advent, and Bp Waldegrave, New Testament Millennarianism.

[10] Some theologians have explained even the promise of "the resurrection of the body" as not foretelling a vast future event, but presenting in a single idea numberless events of all time; the liberation at death, of a spiritual body supposed to be latent in the natural. But if such be the meaning of the New Testament it is consistently concealed by its words. See e.g. 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52; 1 Thess. iv. 14Ėv. 2; and cp. 2 Tim. ii. 18. To support such an interpretation it is surely necessary to go yet further, and to say that the Return of the Lord is not an event, but an ideal presentation of innumerable events. To the submissive student of Scripture, one passage is sufficient correction to this; Acts i. 11.

<99> CHAPTER VI.

The Doctrine of God (continued)

The Doctrine of Christ (continued)

III. The Work of Christ (continued)

The Resurrection, Ascension, Session, and Return.

We do not state here the proof of the fact of our Lordís Resurrection. That all-important question falls under Christian Evidence. We assume here the convergence of manifold demonstrations on the belief that the buried Lord reappeared, in bodily identity, "on the third day;" blessed His followers; taught them; and before their eyes arose upwards out of sight. Our concern is with the Scripture doctrine of these facts.

Christ rose as the supreme attestation of His own truth, and victory, and of the certainty of His eternal triumph. See e.g. Joh. ii. 19; Acts ii. 24, 35, v. 31, xiii. 30-9, xvii. 31; Rom. i. 4, iv. 24, 25, vi. 9, viii. 34, xiv. 9; 1 Cor. xv. 3-22; Eph. i. 20, 21; Col. i. 18; 1 Thess. iv. 14; Heb. xiii. 20, 21; 1 Pet. i. 3, 21; Rev. i. 17,18.

He rose, identical, yet with differences. His body risen was the same as His body buried. But we need not insist on an identity of particles, which certainly is not necessary to our own continuous bodily identity. That identity appears to rest on <99/100> personal spiritual identity. The sameness of a hand at two times of life lies, not in its consisting of the same matter, but in its holding the same relation to the same spirit. What the Gospels make clear on the one hand is the reality and permanence of Jesus Christís resurrection body, under tests of sense, to which the all-truthful Lord Himself appeals. On the other hand it is plain that the bodyís mode of being and action was new. It appears that it was capable of transitions, inconceivable to us, through material mass. It was in some new way under the control of His spirit. He could [1] manipulate it, so to speak, as He pleased. Some interpreters have seen in this the meaning of the words, "the last Adam (became) a quickening (Ďalive-makingí) spirit" (1 Cor. xv. 45). They explain this to mean that He rose in a condition in which His spirit was now no longer only "living soul." It no longer animated only, but as it were perpetually caused, its holy bodily vehicle.

This at least reminds us of what is implied by the context of 1 Cor. xv. 45; namely, that our Lord "became" the Second Adam, at Resurrection. Historically, He was constituted then, and not before, the Source of the regenerating and sanctifying Spirit (see Joh. vii. 39) which effectually makes Him the Life-Head of the New Race. [2] True, there are other points of view. From the beginning the Son of God has been always the true secret of the spiritual life of all the saints (above, p. 41, and below, p. 191, etc.). But this fact was vitally related <100/101> always to His Incarnation and Work, which were always present to the Divine Mind. And when historical realization was added to the eternal purpose the spiritual results were so developed in human experience as to make, as it were, a new beginning. In any case, it is important in Christian doctrine to remember that not Incarnation alone, but Incarnation as conditioned by the Death and Resurrection of the Incarnate, fully constitutes Him the Second Man; the Origin and Cause, for the New Race, of life and peace.

Organically connected with the Resurrection is the Ascension. The two are indeed one in essence. Scripture does not reveal any decisive change at Ascension in our Lordís resurrection state. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. xv. 50); and Luke xxiv. 39 suggests that the Resurrection Body was already without blood. On the other hand Ascension did not annul its literal corporeity. [3] At the conversion of St. Paul, Jesus was seen, not in "vision," but so that Paul was a witness of His bodily Resurrection (1 Cor. ix. 1, xv. 8). We are soon lost in the effort to follow the Ascension in detail. But to this we are not called. Our part is to grasp the certainty of revealed facts, and to appropriate them in their form of manifestations of the work of the Redeemer.

The Ascension was His actual entrance on His work as Head of His Church. He became this at Resurrection; but He was now fully inducted into His action as such. Then He sent forth from the <101/102> Father the Spirit, as being also His Spirit, by virtue of ineffable connexion with His Person and Work (below, p. 125). Then He entered historically on His work as enthroned Mediator and Intercessor. See especially the Epistles to the Ephesians and Hebrews, and the Revelation; but also a large range of detached Scriptures, e.g. Joh. vii. 39; Acts ii. 33-6; Rom. viii. 34.

As incarnate, sacrificed, and risen, He is now Mediator. This word bears a general and a particular sense. The general appears, e.g. 1 Tim. ii. 5, where "Christ Jesus, Man," is presented as "the one Mediator (mesitês) between God and man"; the one way of true approach to God, with special reference (ver. 6) to His Atonement. The more particular sense appears, e.g. Heb. ix. 15, "the Mediator of the new covenant" (and cp. Heb. vii. 22, "the Surety of a better covenant"; see also viii. 6). Here the Mediator is not only the glorious Person one both with God and man, and dying for man, but specially that Person as undertaking relations to a covenant, to secure and convey its benefits. That Covenant (above, pp. 40, 41) is between God and His true Israel, the true Church. Its two main blessings are full acceptance of the sinner, and a new heart, inscribed with the law of God. This Covenant lies, directly, between God and (not man, or men, anyhow, but) Christ for Man; or, otherwise, Man in Christ. The Epistle to the Hebrews, the great treasury of covenant doctrine, leads us, along with the rest of the New Testament, to the conclusion that the covenant blessings were so won by the perfect work of the Lord Christ as to be lodged in Him for His Church, and to become actually theirs on their becoming His. He, for them, both "re- <102/103> deemed transgressions" (ix. 15), and "received of the Father" the promised Spirit (Acts ii. 33), the Bond between Christ and His people (see Rom. viii. 9, 11 ; 1 Cor. vi. 17), and, as such, the Maker of their new nature. Thus the glorified Lord holds as Surety and conveys as Mediator the fulness of blessing for man.

The ascended Lord is the Intercessor (see Rom. viii. 34; Heb. vii. 25. Cp. Isai. liii. 12). Scripture represents Him as interceding, not as a suppliant, but with the majesty of the accepted and glorified Son once slain. He does not stand before the throne, but is seated on it (see especially Rom. viii. 34; Heb. i. 3, iv. 14-16, viii. 1, x. 11-13.) "With authority He asks, enthroned in glory now." It is vain, of course, to ask how in detail He thus acts for us. The essence of the matter is His union with His people, and His perpetual presence, in that union, with the Father, is the once slain Lamb. As to the scope of the Intercession, Scripture appears to limit it to the Church. We must not for a moment limit within the Church our Lordís compassion. But the special work of the Intercession appears thus limited.

A truth closely kindred to this last is that of the High Priesthood of Christ. For this the Epistle to the Hebrews is by far the chief authority. Guided by it, we see in Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, and sanctified and glorified, the fulfilment of the types embodied in the royal and unsuccessive Priesthood of Melchisedec and in the atoning work of the Aaronic High Priest on the Atonement Day (Lev. xvi.). [4] <103/104>

According to the Epistle, He is now as the High Priest was on the Atonement Day, when, having slain the victim out of doors, he had entered the Holiest Place, bearing and offering the blood as evidence of sacrifice. But one significant difference appears. The "great High Priest," in the true Sanctuary, mounts the throne. (Heb. viii. 1, x. 11, 12; cp. Zech. vi. 13.) The true Aaron merges into the true Melchisedec. When "the throne of grace" (iv. 16) is approached, upon it the eternal Priest is found seated, like the Shechinah above the ark, to dispense the blessings of His once offered and for ever perfect sacrifice. The Epistle insists (i. 3, ix. 25, 26, x. 10, 12, 13, 14) on the fact that not only the sacrifice, but also the offering, or presentation, of it is over for ever; while the royal, high-priestly intercession and benediction, based upon it, are present and continuous. [5]

Does Scripture represent the Lord as ministering at an altar in heaven? The Holiest of the Tabernacle contained no altar. Only the blood of victims slain outside entered it, as evidence of finished sacrifice. In the Epistle to the Hebrews no mention occurs of an altar in the Presence of God. In xiii. 13 the context fixes the reference to His "suffering without the gate" on earth. In the Revelation, indeed, we twice find an altar in the mystical scenery. But in vi. 9 the word is part of <104/105> the imagery of martyr-sacrifice; the souls of martyrs, as if poured out, blood-like, on an altar, are seen at its foot. And in viii. 3, 5, the altar is the golden altar; not of blood but of incense, and the ministrant is "an angel."

Nor is the presentation of His sacred Blood in the Presence regarded in Scripture as continuous, or as literal. In the type, the carrying of the blood into the Holiest was an act single and decisive, the accomplished security for continuous blessing. The passages which speak of the Antitype accordingly connect the presentation of the Blood of Christ with His decisive entering in "at Ascension" (Heb. ix. 12). His "entering in" as the Crucified One Risen is the presentation.

A cognate question is, does "the Victim-state" continue in heaven? Such a thought is quite absent from the Epistle to the Hebrews. In the Revelation, indeed, the Lord appears as "a Lamb as it had been slain." But the whole context, and book, explain this to mean that as the once Crucified He now, not continues a Victim, but wields royal mediatorial power in heaven and earth. See ch. v. throughout, vi. 16, vii. 9, 17, xiv. 1, 4, 10, xvii. 14, xxi. 22, 23, xxii. 3.

In brief, the Lord is a High Priest for ever; a High Priest upon His throne; eternally characterized as atoning Sacrificer and Sacrificed, once for ever; now and always doing the high-priestly work no longer of offering but of intercession related to it. [6]

Meanwhile He is King, in a respect separable in thought from Priesthood. The Risen One has all authority given Him in heaven and in earth" <105/106> (Matt. xxviii. 18). This royalty is not for a moment a supersession of the Eternal Fatherís action. But in it the Incarnate Son, One with the Father, is the divine Agent of the Fatherís will for the great special purpose of carrying into its eternal issues the plan of Redemption, to the glory of the Father in the Son. It has respect to Godís final triumph over sin and death, and to the glorification in it of His Church. When sin and death shall be "put under the feet" of the Son, this royalty will have done its glorious work. In respect of it "the Son Himself shall be subject unto Him that put all things under Him" (1 Cor. xv. 20-8). Whatever that supreme crisis means, it will be no eclipse of the glory of the Son. The eternal kingdom is "the kingdom of Christ and of God" (Eph. v. 5) ; the throne is "of God and of the Lamb" (Rev. xxii. 3).

Scripture reveals very fully a present personal action of the glorified Christ in the ingathering of His Church, and the sanctification of its members. But this subject will be best treated below, under the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (p. 132).

Of the Return of the glorified Redeemer we speak on purpose in outline only, and without conclusions in detail. Unfulfilled prophecy is a vast field of study. And there is this difference between it and the study of "the way of salvation," that an interpretation of general history enters necessarily into it. The questions of Reconciliation, Regeneration, Sanctification, and the like, lie in the field of eternal principle and truth. Those of the time and mode of the Lordís Return, of the events conditional to it, and of the sequel to it, lie in part in a different field. Answers to them have to be <106/107> sought (in many important details) not in Scripture simply, but in Scripture interpreted by history.

Scripture solemnly enjoins a reverent and earnest study of the things "not seen as yet," truly and miraculously foreshown in prophecy. Yet this is a region of enquiry quite sui generis and calling for constant recollection of the cautions just given. What we are content to do here is to collect specimens of Scripture testimony on some main points separately, rather to aid the readerís inferences than to give our own; and then to summarize the history of opinion.

(a) Scripture evidence for a Second Coming of the Lord, not mystical but literal:óSee, among the wealth of testimonies, Acts i. 11; 1 Cor. xv. 23, 47, 52; Phil. iii. 20, 21; 1 Thess. i. 10, iv. 14-16; 2 Thess. i. 7, 8; 2 Tim. ii. 18 (with e.g. 1 Cor. xv.); 1 Pet. v. 4; 1 Joh. ii. 28; iii. 2 (with 1 Pet. i. 8).

Evidence from the Revelation is not here adduced, because the symbolism of the Book makes it difficult to bring it in without careful discussion. But the evidence above will of course make for a literal interpretation in many places (both in Gospels and Revelation) where there might otherwise be doubt. This principle is kept in view in the following groups of references.

(b) Scripture evidence for its connexion with the glorification of the Church:óMatt. xxv. 10, 19, 21, 23, 46; Joh. v. 28, 29 (with vi. 39, etc.), xiv. 3; Acts iii. 21; Rom. viii. 18-23, xiii. 11; 1 Cor. xv. 23, 35-7; Phil. iii. 21; Col. iii. 4; 1 Thess. iii. 13, iv. 16, 17, v. 9, 10; 2 Thess. i. 7, 10; 2 Tim. iv. 8 ; Jas v. 8; 1 Pet. i. 7, iv. 13, v. 4; 2 Pet. iii. 12, 13; 1 Joh. iii. 2; Jude 24; Rev. iii. 11.

(c) Scripture evidence for its connexion with <107/108> judgment on the wicked:óMatt. xiii. 41, 42, 49, 50, xxv. 11-13, 30, 46; Luke xiii. 27; Joh. v. 28, 29; Acts xxiv. 15 (with Joh. v. 29); Rom. ii. 16; 1 Thess. v. 2, 3; 2 Thess. i. 7-9; 2 Pet. iii. 7: Jude 14, 15; Rev. i. 7, vi. 16, 17, xx. 15, xxii. 12.

(d) Scripture evidence, apparent, for its connexion with the close of the present order of nature:óRom. viii. 21; 1 Cor. xv. 50 (with 23), 53; 2 Cor. iv. 18 (with 14); Phil. iii. 21; Col. iii. 2, 4; Heb. xii. 25-8; 1 Pet. i. 4; 2 Pet. iii. 10-13; Rev. xx. 11, xxi. 1.

(e) Scripture evidence, apparent, for its connexion with the beginning of a period of felicity on earth:óA large tract of Old Testament prophecy comes under this head; e.g. Psal. lxvii.; Isai. xxv., xxxiii., xxxv., lx., lxv.; Jer. xxxiii. In interpretation of such prophecies, meanwhile, the student, devoutly believing the reality of Old Testament predictions, will remember that these prophecies, by their failure to indicate a decline or end to the promised bliss, may seem to point to the eternal Age under terrestrial imagery rather than to a terminable period, however long, under terrestrial conditions. In the New Testament, see, under this head, Rev. xx. 2-7.

(f) Scripture evidence, apparent, for its connexion with the close of such a period:óRev. xx. 7-11.

(g) Scripture evidence, apparent, for its connexion with the (1) temporal, (2) spiritual restoration of the Israelite race:óUnder (1), the Old Testament prophecies, of which examples were given under (e), are of course in point. And see Luke xxi. 24; Acts i. 6. Under (b), see Rom. xi. at large, and cp. Rev. vii. 4-8, xxi. 12.

(h) Scripture evidence, apparent, in qualification of this expectation:óAs regards the expectation of <108/109> a spiritual restoration of Israel, on a great and phenomenal scale, Rom. xi. appears to be decisive, by the nature of the passage, in which the symbolic element is practically absent. It is difficult, however, even there to say that the crisis in view is revealed as concurrent with the literal Return of Jesus Christ. Ver. 26 is not decisive; its possible reference is to the first Advent in its developed results.

As regards the expectation of a temporal restoration, while nothing in the nature of the Gospel creates a difficulty against it, and the present aspect of events is even suggestive of it, it is remarkable that the New Testament is extremely reserved on the subject, and that on the other hand it applies to spiritual events some predictions which in the Old Testament read like a temporal restoration of Israel. See e.g. Joh. vi. 45 ,.and Rev. xxi. [7]

 

SUPPLEMENTARY

History of Opinion on the Subject of the Lordís Return.

(1) From the New Testament it is plain that the expectation of a literal Return (parousia, epiphaneia) was universal. And there was a persuasion, at least in some Churches, <109/110> that it would be soon (2 Thess. ii. 1). Did the Apostles share this persuasion? Many passages (e.g. 1 Thess. iv. 17) look that way. But the language always falls short of a distinct statement, and along with it appears the same personís distinct anticipation of death in the Lord (Phil. i. 23; 2 Tim. iv. 8; and see 1 Cor. vi. 14; 2 Cor. iv. 14; Phil. iii. 11). The Lord Himself had implied that His absence would be prolonged (Matt. xxv. 19), and that death would be the practically universal experience of Christians (John vi. 39, 40, 44, 54).

(2) In cent. ii. we find the expectation that the Coming would be attended by the general Resurrection (Justin, Dialogue, 45). Justin (Dial., 81, 82) looks forward to a Millennium of splendour for the saints, living and raised, in and around the (rebuilt) earthly Jerusalem, to be followed by the glorious Coming, general Resurrection, and Judgment. He says, however, that this was not the universal tenet of orthodox Christians. Irenæus (especially v. 33, etc.) holds like expectations, but seems to place the Coming before the Millennium, general Resurrection, and Judgment. He notices a difference of opinion on the subject among orthodox Christians.

(3) In cent. iii., Origen, and the Alexandrians generally, took an opposite line of interpretation, wholly idealizing and spiritualizing. Dionysius of Alexandria (255), finding "Chiliasm," the belief of a terrestrial Millennium, widely spread in his district, brought about a general reversal of opinion, after a conference (Euseb., Eccl. Hist., vii. 24).

(4) In cent. iv., St. Augustine advocated a view of prophecy in which the "binding of Satan" dated from the beginning of the Gospel, and his "loosing" was to be looked for at the close of the sixth millennium of the world. This view found wide acceptance.

(5) Throughout the Middle Ages the belief on the whole was that the Millennium was in progress, and was not far from its close. The Reformers in general held this view, <110/111> and regarded their own epoch as the beginning of that "little season " which should precede the end.

(6) In cent. xvii., the expectation of a future Millennium of bliss and spiritual triumph on earth, preceded by the Lordís Return, was revived, mainly by the learned Joseph Mede (1586-1638). Particularly within the last half-century this expectation has attracted the deepest attention of Christian students.

A summary of the main views on this subject is subjoined, inevitably brief and imperfect.

It must be premised that the interpretation of the Revelation enters of course very largely into the formation of views. And among those who cordially agree in accepting that book as divine and infallible, there are two main divisions of interpretations. For some, the book is a prophetic history, which has been working out ever since the Ascension, so that much of its fulfilment is already to be recognized in history. For others, its predictions (e.g. chapters xvii., xviii.) concern very mainly a series of events still wholly in the future.

Under the first type of interpretation differences again occur. For some, as we have seen, the Millennium (ch.xx.) is already past; a thousand years of comparative freedom from unbelief and fundamental heresy in Christendom. The present time falls accordingly within the "little season" (Rev. xx. 3) of temptation and tribulation which is to precede the final Coming and the eternal order of things.

For others, the Millennium is yet to be, and perhaps ere long. It is to be a period of great blessedness on earth, under divine power and rule, in a new manner. Interpreters differ in detail as to the character of the period. But on the whole it is to be a blessed age, only with such a survival of elements of evil as that they shall revive in great force at its close. Then the "little season" will come in, before the End.

Under this interpretation again there are two important <111/112> divisions. For some, this great period is brought in and maintained by the exercise indeed of divine power, whether or not in modes openly miraculous, but not by a visible Personal Return of the Lord. For others, His visible pre-millennial Return is the central point of hope. It is the return predicted 1 Thess. iv., and will bring with it the resurrection of the buried saints, and the transfiguration of the living, to meet the Lord in the air, and to reign with Him either upon, or however over, the beatified earth.

With the interpreters of this latter school, in particular, but not with them only, the Millennium is to be a time of well-nigh universal triumph for the cause of God on earth, in the sense of general conversion. Whether by means of the great tribulations, or by the immediate power of the manifested Lord, no longer individuals here and there, but the nations, are to come to Him. Israel, converted as a nation, will occupy a pre-eminent place in the life of the blessed earth, the Lord Himself perhaps reigning in Jerusalem below; while new modes and degrees of intercourse may bind, as it were, heaven and earth together. In the belief of many, the risen saints of the Old Testament will then inherit their portion of the earthly Canaan.

Whether human birth and death will still take place is a point of difference. The glorious scene will, however, wane at last. The enemy will be released for his last "short time," and the last conflict of good and evil will be fought on earth. It will close with the final manifestation of the Judge, the collapse and transfiguration of the present order of things, and the coming in of the eternal state, with its endless issues of glory and perdition. Then shall be seen "new heavens and a new earth," and therein "righteousness shall dwell."[8] <112/113>

We have said enough to indicate the range and complexity of this sacred subject. We can only add here a very few of the reasons of most weight on the side of the chief theories.

(a) In favour of a future Millennium of more or less material, with spiritual, blessedness areóthe large mention in Old Testament prophecy of a time when "nature" shall be renewed on the earth, and the state of Eden restored; the indications in the New Testament (see above, p. 108) of a restoration of Israel, and of a triumph of the Gospel vastly more extensive than any now seen, or (humanly speaking) on its way to be seen, on earth; promises of a reward "on earth" for the righteous (e.g. Matt. v. 5) and the great prediction in Rev. xx. 7, etc.

(b) In favour of the belief of a premillennial Advent of our Lord areó-the language of the prophets concerning e.g. a divine reign in glory "in Mount Zion," language large in quantity and most impressive in manner; passages in the New Testament (e.g. 1 Cor. xv. 23, 24) which may be interpreted of a great double crisis, a twofoldness, in the one great fact of the Second Coming (such a passage is 1 Cor. xv. 23, 24) the predictions of the Revelation, especially xx. 4, 6 and, above all, the many passages which exhort the believer to be on the watch for the sudden Coming of his Lord.

(c) In favour of the post-millennial view are the passages which connect the Resurrection with both the Coming and the final Judgment; the language of 2 Pet. iii.; the solemnity with which, in the matter of the Coming, the "second time" is named, without any explicit similar mention of a third; and the complicated difficulties to thought when the idea of a terrestrial reign of the glorified Lord is considered carefully. These difficulties are not necessarily impossibilities, nor do they affect all pre-millennial views; but they are, of course, cautions.

(d) In favour of an interpretation of the Millennium <113/114> in a sense more mystical than literal is the fact of the isolated character and, when studied closely, very peculiar wording of the great passage in Rev. xx., and the manifest rightness of explaining, on the whole, in Scripture, the obscurer passages by the clearer, the more isolated by the more extended.

Observe, too, the fact, mentioned above (p. 109), that some of the amplest prophecies of coming blessedness on earth in the Old Testament are applied in the New Testament not to a future millennial age, but to the present age, that of the Gospel.

Amidst the divergency of interpretations it is an important and happy reflection, that all those we have sketched leave possible a profound agreement on those central truths which concern the Person of Christ, His sacrificial and sanctifying work, and the "blessed hope" of His personal glorious Coming and Triumph. They no doubt affect the views of their holders as to the purpose and efficacy of the present agencies and resources of the Church, and the scope of its work, as revealed in the Scriptures. On the whole, however, we leave this subject as we entered upon it, with a reverent avowal of the conditions of mystery and, in some respects, inevitable suspense which attend its study. [9] On no topic of revelation should believing students be more watchful against premature conclusions and unloving mutual criticisms than on that of the details of the prediction of our Blessed Lordís most certain, literal, glorious and desirable Return. Meanwhile, let the topic invite an ever deeper, more hallowed, and more submissive study, and kindle a more ardent longing, and animate to a holier walk.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus. <114/115>

 

The Judgment.

Scripture abounds in predictions of a future Judgment, closely connected with "the Last Day." As a central passage see Joh. v. 29 (where read, "resurrection of judgment"); and see Matt. x. 15, xii. 36, 41, xxv. 34-6; Joh. v. 22, 24, 27; Acts x. 42, xvii. 31, xxiv. 25; Rom. ii. 5-16, xiv. 10; 1 Cor. iv. 4, 5, xi. 32; 2 Cor. v. 10; 1 Tim. v. 24; 2 Tim. iv. 1; Heb. vi. 2, ix. 27, x. 27; 2 Pet. iii. 7; 1 Joh. iv. 17; Jude 6; Rev. xx. 11-15.

The Judge is "God Himself" (Psal. l. 6; Rom. ii. 16; Heb. xii. 23), All-knowing and All-just. But especially the Son, the Christ, appears as the Judge. This is explained Joh. v. 22 (and cp. Acts x. 42, xvii. 31) to be a matter of eternal inner fitness; "because He is the Son of man." His gracious and mysterious one-ness with Man, while He is also the Eternal Son, designates Him as the fit Judge of the tribes of which He is, as it were, the Patriarch. In His human experience of temptation, "yet without sin," the heart of man is afforded a divine guarantee, if the word may be reverently used, of perfect mercy and perfect justice in the scrutiny of its sins.

The subjects of the Judgment are the race, in all its individuals. Such is the plain hearing of e.g. Matt. xxv, 32; Joh. v. 28; Rev. xx. 12; and cp. Gen. xviii. 25; Eccl. xii. 14. The question at once arises what the incidence of judgment will be in view of the incalculable varieties of capacity, character, and circumstances. The reply must be that we know too little to reply; too little of the mystery of hereditary sinfulness and of the responsibility involved in the lowest phase of conscience, and generally of the nature and secret history of the <115/116> soul. It is well to remember that the judgment is not in our hands, that "God is both legislature and executive." In each one of the innumerable cases the "Judge of all the earth will" infallibly "do justly" (Gen. xviii. 25). Nothing will be decided roughly and in the mass. No one will be condemned for ignorance of what it was impossible for him to know. The sentence will always have respect to sin. And the sin, though real and condemning, of the man never reached by the divine message of salvation will not be as the sin of the man who has heard it (Matt. x. 15; Luke xii. 47, 48). On the other hand, the awfulness of the least disobedience to conscience, even where there has been no explicit revelation, will then appear (Rom. ii. 12).

But the whole problem of the sentence on those who have never received revelation is of the deepest mystery. He who entirely submits to the teaching of Scripture will leave it in solemn silence to the Judge, remembering on the one side His absolute mercy and justice, on the other side the insistence of Holy Scripture upon the urgent necessity that the Gospel should be carried to men everywhere in this world with a view to their salvation. And meanwhile his own heartís experience tells him of manís profound need to know that Gospel, in its fulness, in order to do the will of God. Whatever speculation may do, the Holy Scriptures do not encourage vague hopes of human salvation apart from that Gospel. See Rom. x. 14, 15; and cp. Acts xi. 14.

It is clearly revealed that the accepted, the saved, the true Church, will then be somehow judged. See Rom. xiv. 10; 2 Cor. v. 10; and cp. 1 Cor. iii. 15. And on the other hand it is revealed, in verbal contradiction to this prospect, that the believer in the <116/117> Son of God "cometh not into judgment" (John v. 24; cp. Rom. viii. 33). If a reconciliation may be reverently sought, the saved shall be then seen, without a doubt or fear, to be indeed amply and eternally accepted, but for them too the book of conscience shall be solemnly and entirely opened, and results from the discipline of time shall be carried on into eternity, making differences related to the quality of their service of love on earth (Matt. xxv. 19-23).

Again we gather that the "saints," the "members" of Christ the Judge, shall mysteriously share in His action as Judge. See 1 Cor. vi. 2; and cp. Dan. vii. 22; Matt. xix. 28; Rev. xx. 4. Speculation in detail is vain. We may humbly think that this participation will be a solemn approval of the verdict of the Son of Man, in absolute harmony with His whole mind in giving it, and as by those whose union with Him will then be supremely seen. It is indicated that "angels" as well as men will be subjects of the judgment. See Jude 6; perhaps Matt. xxv. 41; and cp. Matt. viii. 29 (a passage of mournful significance); 1 Cor. vi. 3. This prospect seems to indicate close relations between these "angels" and mankind.

The whole revelation of the Judgment points to it as to an event, not merely, as has been sometimes suggested, an eternal fact figured under the imagery of crisis and time. Doubtless a figurative and pictorial element is present in the Scripture presentation, in which we read, for instance, of opened "books" on which the sentence is based. But this is wholly different from a solution of the prospect into a vision, so to speak, of things which are not themselves an event. This great adjudication by the Son of Man is firmly linked in <117/118> prospect to the Resurrection of the Dead, [10] an event (whatever be its details) definite, and wholly future.

In brief, the Judgment is presented to us in Scripture as the close of the dealings of God with man in probation and redemption. As that process had historical points of beginning and development, so it is to have an historical point of conclusion. We say "point," of course, not in a needlessly narrow sense. It is no part of the Creed to believe that the "Last Day" shall contain just twenty-four hours, or twelve. It may be a decisive period rather than a common day; it may on the other hand indicate a crisis of inconceivable rapidity, to which a common day should be as a thousand years; so little can we know of the judgment process. But we mean that it is presented in Scripture as an event. Every event of time has relations to Godís eternity other than those it bears to us who "become." But this does not make it less truly an event of time. And this is as true of the coming Judgment as of the First Advent.

"We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge: We, therefore pray Thee, help Thy servants whom thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood." <118>

___________________

[1] We say "could" with reference, of course, not to His omnipotence in itself, as to which He always "all things can," but to the order of His work, regulating the exercise of power.

[2] See C.H. Waller, Doctrine of Christ as the Last Adam.

[3] The glorification of the Body does not appear to have lifted it above the laws of place. As true human Body, it is not ubiquitous; it is "in heaven, and not here" (last Rubric of the Communion).

[4] Observe that this special and pre-eminent occasion of Aaronic High-Priestly work is almost alone in view in the Epistle. The type is not the Priests, but the High Priest, and the High Priest not anyhow, but as on the Atonement Day.

[5] From Heb. viii. 3 it has been argued that our Lord must be now "offering somewhat," or He would not now be a Priest. But a Priest is a Priest (as to the altar-part of his function) not as always offering but as always being an Offerer. Our Lord is for ever characterized as an Offerer by His unique and ever-efficacious sacrifice once offered. He is "a Priest for ever," not as offering for ever but as ever carrying out, on the ground of His finished offering, His regal, sacerdotal intercession and benediction.

[6] Cp. Archd. Perowne, Our High Priest in Heaven.

[7] Many of the Old Testament prophecies, taken literally, foretell a great restitution of the Temple and sacrificial Ritual, under the favor of God. See Jer. xxxiii. 18-21; Ezek. xl.-xlviii. But this is difficult to reconcile with statements of primary spiritual principle in the New Testament. See Joh. iv. 21-4; Acts vii. 48, 49, and the whole argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews, especially vii.-x., xiii. Is it not probable that this range of Old Testament prediction has its fulfilment in realities of the spiritual order, which is the highest? And if so, the question arises whether the same principle does not rule other Old Testament predictions of the future of Israel.

[8] With Mede and his followers the entire "burning up" of the earth (2 Pet. iii.) was to precede the Millennium.

[9] For able presentations of the Pre-millennial view, see the Rev. H. G. Guinness, Approaching End of the Age, and Light for the Last Days. For the contrasted view, see the Rev. David Brown, D.D., The Second Advent, and Bp Waldegrave, New Testament Millennarianism.

[10] Some theologians have explained even the promise of "the resurrection of the body" as not foretelling a vast future event, but presenting in a single idea numberless events of all time; the liberation at death, of a spiritual body supposed to be latent in the natural. But if such be the meaning of the New Testament it is consistently concealed by its words. See e.g. 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52; 1 Thess. iv. 14Ėv. 2; and cp. 2 Tim. ii. 18. To support such an interpretation it is surely necessary to go yet further, and to say that the Return of the Lord is not an event, but an ideal presentation of innumerable events. To the submissive student of Scripture, one passage is sufficient correction to this; Acts i. 11.

 
 

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