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these false prophets, but the very places to which they would lead their deluded followers; and these were, the desert, and the secret chamber." And accor dingly, if you look into the history of Josephus, you will find both these places distinctly specified as the theatres on which these impostors exhibited their delusions. For the historian relates a variety of instances in which these false Christs and false prophets betrayed their followers into the desert, where they were constantly destroyed; and he also mentions one of these pretenders, who declared to the inhabitants of Jerusa lem, that God commanded them to go up into a par ticular part of the temple (into the secret chamber, as our Lord expresses it) and there they should receive the signs of deliverance. A multitude of men, women, and children went up accordingly; but, instead of deliverance, the place was set on fire by the Romans, and six thousand perished miserably in the flames, or by endeavouring to escape them.*
But the appearance of the true Christ was not to be in that way; it was to be as visible and as rapid as a flash of lightning: "for as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." It shall not be in a remote desert or in a secret chamber of the temple, but shall be rendered conspicuous by the sudden and entire overthrow of Jerusalem, and its inhabitants.
"For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together."
By the carcase is meant the Jewish nation, which was morally and judicially dead; and the instruments of divine vengeance, that is the Roman armies, whose standards were eagles, would be collected together against the wicked people, as eagles are gathered together to devour their prey.
In the three following verses, the language of our divine Master becomes highly figurative and sublime. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall
*Jos. Antiq. 1. xx. c. 7. s. 6. and c. 7. s. 10. De Bell. Jud. 1. ii. c. 13. s. 4: and 1. vii. c. 11. s. 1. Ed. Huds.
the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather his elect from the four winds from the one end of heaven to the other."
Few people, I believe, read these verses, without supposing that they refer entirely to the day of judgment, many of these expressions being actually applied to that great event in the very next chapter, and in other parts of scripture; and indeed several eminent men and learned commentators are of that opinion, and imagine that our Lord here makes a transition from the destruction of Jerusalem to the end of the world, conceiving that such very bold figures of speech could not with propriety be applied to the subversion and extinction of any city or state, however great and powerful. But the fact is, that these very same metaphors do frequently in scripture denote the destruction of nations, cities, and kingdoms. Thus Isaiah,* speaking of the destruction of Babylon, says, "Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate, and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven, and the constellations thereof, shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth and the moon shall not cause her light to shine." And in almost the same terms he describes the punishment of the Idumæans,† and of Senacherib and his people. Ezekiel speaks in the same manner of Egypt; and Daniel, of the slaughter of the Jews; and, what is still more to the point, the prophet Joel describes this very destruction of Jerusalem in terms very similar to those of Christ. "I will shew wonders in the heavens; and
† Ch. li. 6.
* Ch. xiii. 9.
+ Ch. xxxiv. 34.
in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord shall come."*
It is evident then that the phrases here made use of, of the sun being darkened, and the moon not giving her light, and the stars falling from heaven, and the powers of heaven being shaken," are figures meant to express the fall of cities, kingdoms, and nations; and the origin of this sort of language is well illustrated by a late very learned prelate,† who tells us, that in ancient hieroglific writing, the sun, moon, and stars, were used to represent states and empires, kings, queens, and nobility; their eclipse or extinction denoted temporary disasters, or entire overthrow, &c. So the prophets in like manner call kings and empires by the names of the heavenly luminaries. Stars falling from the firmament are employed to denote the destruction of the nobility, and other great men; insomuch, that in reality the prophetic style seems to be a speaking hieroglific."
In the same manner, in the next verse, those awful words, “then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory," seem applicable solely to the last advent of Christ to judge the world; and yet it is certain, that in their primary signification they refer to the manifestation of Christ's power and glory, in coming to execute judgment on the guilty Jews, by the total overthrow of their temple, their city, and their government; for so our Lord himself explains what is meant by the coming of the Son of man, in the 27th, 28th, and 37th verses of this chapter. And when the prophet Daniel is predicting this very appearance of Christ to punish the Jews, he describes him as coming in the clouds of heaven, and there was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom."]],
Ch. ii. 30, 31.
† Bishop Warburton.
Daniel vii. 14.
The same remark will hold with regard to the 31st verse" he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the earth even to the other." These words also, though they seem as if they could belong to no other subject than the last day, yet most assuredly relate principally to the great object of this prophecy, the destruction of Jerusalem; after which dreadful event we are here told, that Christ will send forth his angels; that is, his messengers or min isters (for so that word strictly signifies)* to preach his gospel to all the world, which preaching is called by the prophets," lifting up the voice like a trumpet ; and they shall gather together his elect (that is, shall collect disciples and converts to the faith) from the four winds, from the four quarters of the earth;" or, as St. Luke expresses it, "from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south."‡
Our Lord then goes on to point out the time when all these things shall take place, and thus answers the other question put to him by the disciples, "Tell us, when shall these things be?" "Now learn, says he, a parable of the fig-tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
The only observation necessary to be made here is, that the time when all these predictions were to be fulfilled is here limited to a certain period. They were to be accomplished before the generation of men then. existing should pass away. And accordingly all these events did actually take place within forty years after our Saviour delivered this prophecy; and this by the way is an unanswerable proof, that every thing our Lord had been saying in the preceding part of the chap
* Vide Haggai i. 13. Malachi ii. 7.-iii. 1. Matthew xi. 10. Mark i. 2. Luke vii. 27. † Isaiah lviii. 1. Luke xiii. 29.
ter related principally, not to the day of Judgment, or to any other very remote event, but to the destruction of Jerusalem, which did in reality happen before that generation had passed away.
"But of that day and hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only;" that is, although the time when Jerusalem is to be destroyed, is, as I have told you, fixed generally to this generation, yet the precise day and hour of that event is not known either to men or angels, but to God only. This he speaks in his human nature, and in his prophetic capacity. This point was not made known to him by the spirit, nor was he commissioned to reveal it.
It is supposed by several learned commentators, that the words that day and that hour, refer to the day of judgment, which is immediately alluded to in the preceding verse, heaven and earth shall pass away. This conjecture is an ingenious one, and may be true; but if it be, this verse should be inclosed in a parenthesis, because what follows most certainly relates to the destruction of Jerusalem, (to which St. Luke in the seventeenth chapter expressly confines it*) and cannot, without great violence to the words, be applied to the final advent of Christ. "As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." That is, when the day of desolation shall come upon the city and temple of Jerusalem, the inhabitants will be as thoughtless and unconcerned, and as unprepared for it, as the antediluvians were for the flood in the days of Noah. But as some (more particularly the Christians) will be more watchful, and in a better state of mind than others, the * Luke xvii. 26, 27, 35, 36.