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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
tion 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 Idumaeans of, and of Sennacherib 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 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 hieroglyphic 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, * Ch. ii. 30, 31. + Bishop Warburton.
heavens; * Ch. xiii. 9. + Ch. xxiv. 6. ; Ch. li. 6. § Ch. xxxii. 7, 8.
| Ch. viii. 1 o.
much, that in reality the prophetic style seems to be a speaking hieroglyphic *.” In the same manner, in the next verse, these 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 +.” The * Div. Leg. 8vo. ed. vol. iv. p. 175. ‘f Dan. 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 ministers, (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 of ; 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 i.”
* Vid. Haggai, i. 13. Mal. ii. 7.iii. 1. Matt Xi. 10. Mark, i. 2. Luke, viii. 27. + Isaiah, lviii. 1. # Luke, xiii. 29.