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of eighteen hundred years, should yet remain future, how shall we interpret his declaration, that its approach was so near? Either he did not understand the time when this event should be accomplished, or that time has already gone by. 3. In view of this event, then speedily to be accomplished, he exhorts his brethren to exercise themselves in all holy conversation and godliness.' Those who understand his language figuratively, suppose him to speak of a revolution then near at hand, when the Jewish state and economy were dissolved, and the gospel dispensation established. Although Jesus commenced the establishment of this dispensation, yet he tells us it should not be fully established, until he should come with power, and execute judgment on the Jewish nation, destroying their city and temple, and scattering the people abroad in the earth. This period is called the time of tribulation, the days of vengeance, when men's hearts should fail through fear. It was a time of extreme peril, and Jesus pointed out to his disciples the danger, and instructed them in what manner they might avoid it. If we suppose Peter to speak of this event, we perceive a manifest propriety in his introducing it, when exhorting his brethren to be patient under persecution, and be watchful, lest they should be involved in the approaching destruction. But supposing him to speak of the destruction of the material universe, some thousands of years afterwards, we see no fitness in the motive by which he endeavors to excite his brethren to be patient and godly. Of what consequence was it to them, so far as their patience or godliness might be affected, whether the material universe should exist without end, or whether it should be destroyed in future ages, long after their death? We cannot discover how the introduction of this subject into the exhortation of the apostle, should be of the least service to his brethren. Since then, his exhortation appears destitute of a sufficient motive or inducement, if we understand him to speak of a literal destruction of heaven and earth; and since, if we understand him to describe the abolition of the Jewish state, the attending calamities, and the introduction of the gospel dispensation, by language highly figurative, the motive which he urges, appears to possess much force and propriety ;-we apprehend we are justified in interpreting his language figuratively rather than literally. And if this be its true interpretation, of course it affords no proof that the visible heavens and earth shall be destroyed by fire.
4. Peter exhorts his brethren to be patient and godly in view of the day of God,' then rapidly approaching. Very similar to this is the exhortation of Jesus to his disciples, when describing the destruction of Jerusalem, and the change of dispensation: When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh;
...when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.'1 This similarity affords presumptive evidence that both Jesus and his apostle speak of the same event. Beyond a doubt, Jesus speaks of an event to be accomplished during the life-time of some who heard. his words; why then should we apply the language of his apostle, to an event not yet accomplished, if it ever shall be? 5. Another point of similarity between the language of the apostle and that of Jesus, is worthy of notice. In the antecedent context, Peter says, 'There shall come in the last days 2 scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water, and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.' It is doubtless the opinion of many, that because the apostle here mentions a literal deluge, therefore he must intend a literal destruction by fire, in the succeeding verses. But this, we apprehend, does not necessarily follow. We find Jesus alluding to the same deluge, by way of comparison, or illustration, when he is confessedly speaking of his coming to destroy Jerusalem: 'But of that day and hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But 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.'4 If he might thus illustrate the suddenness and unexpected
1 Luke xxi. 28, 31. See Univ. Expositor, Vol. i. Art. xi. Adam Clarke admits these last days to refer to the conclusion of the Jewish polity.' 32 Pet. iii. 3-6. • Matt. xxiv. 36-39.
ness of his coming, by a reference to the deluge, might not his apostle, with equal propriety, speak of the same deluge, in connexion with the same coming? For it will be observed, that he represents certain scoffers inquiring, Where is the promise of his coming?' insinuating that the promise should not be fulfilled. In answer to this inquiry, he speaks of the deluge; and apparently with precisely the same design with which Jesus had before mentioned it; namely, to show that as the deluge came when men did not expect it, and when no indications of it had appeared, except that the wickedness of men seemed to provoke the judgments of heaven, so the coming of Christ, attended with the commotions and revolutions before predicted, and which the apostle represents by the usual figure of commotions and changes in the heavens, should surely occur, although many might not expect it. The similarity in the two cases is so manifest, that in our judgment it justifies the conclusion that Peter speaks of the same commotions, and the same revolutions of which his Lord had before spoken in the same manner; to wit, those which should attend his coming to destroy the Jewish state and polity. 6. We shall notice only one more fact of this kind: Peter says, "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night." Jesus uses similar language, when speaking of his coming, already mentioned Watch, therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.' As we find such a striking similarity in expression, we feel confident that Jesus and his apostle speak of the same event, and that in describing it, Peter intended to use language similar to that which his master had before employed for the same purpose.
IV. The passages already noticed, are among the most important of those which have been considered to imply the destruction of the material universe; it is doubted whether any can be produced, in which stronger language of the kind is used. We have attempted to show their true application. In addition, it may not be improper to mention a few circum
stances, which have an equal bearing, on these, and all other passages of a similar character, which occur in the Scriptures.
1. We have seen that the prophets frequently use language, which literally imports the destruction of the visible heaven and earth, when they intend only to describe temporal judgments, or important revolutions on the earth. In the words of Adam Clarke: In the prophetic language, great commotions upon earth are often represented under the notion of commotions and changes in the heavens. The fall of Babylon is represented by the stars and constellations of heaven withdrawing their light, and the sun and moon being darkened. See Isaiah xiii. 9, 10. The destruction of Egypt, by the heaven being covered, the sun enveloped with a cloud, and the moon withholding her light. See Ezekiel, xxxii. 7, 8. The destruction of the Jews, by Antiochus Epiphanes, is represented by casting down some of the host of heaven, and the stars, to the ground. See Daniel, viii. 10. And this very destruction of Jerusalem is represented by the prophet Joel, (chap. ii. 30, 31,) by showing wonders in heaven and earth; darkening the sun, and turning the moon into blood. This general mode of describing these judginents, leaves no room to doubt the propriety of its application in the present case.'1 Such language alone, then, does not afford satisfactory proof, that the material universe shall be destroyed. If such destruction is susceptible of proof, that proof must be obtained from language or circumstances of a different kind. 2. Not only do the prophets use language in this highly figurative sense, but as we have already seen, Jesus Christ uses it in the same sense. To place the subject in as clear a light as possible, we again quote the passage, in connexion with the parallel texts-'Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall 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.' 'But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not
1 Comment. Matt. xxiv. 29. To the same effect, Whitby, Bishop Pearce, &c.
Matt. xxiv. 29,
give her light. And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.' And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable: Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled.' It cannot be disputed that all the events, described by this figurative language, were to be accomplished on the earth. And if Jesus uses such language in this sense, why may not his apostles? Do they speak of heaven and earth being removed, and the stars cast down from their places? So does he. Do they speak of the punishment of the wicked, in connexion with these events? So does he. But he evidently describes nothing more than commotions and revolutions and judgments on the earth. And, for aught we can see to the contrary, they use this language to describe the same or similar events, to be accomplished in this present world, and while men live in the flesh. 3. We never find such language as we have been examining, in any passage descriptive of a resurrection to immortal life. But in what place could this subject be more properly introduced, if the sacred writers intended to teach that the material universe shall be destroyed? Preachers in the present age generally speak of these two subjects in connexion with each other; and very properly too, perhaps, if such destruction of the universe be revealed. But how chances it that the sacred writers, when speaking of the resurrection, never happened to tell us that the heaven and earth shall be destroyed at the same time? Their silence on this subject, will justify a doubt
See page 36, note 3.
' Mark xiii. 24-26.
Luke xxi. 25-32.