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Christ, and the signs of that coming, are the principal subject; but the more immediate destruction of the city and temple, and dispersion of the Jewish nation by the Romans, comes also occasionally in view, and will require carefully to be distinguished from the main subject.
It will be useful here, before we proceed, to review a former prophecy of our Lord, delivered some time previously to the Pharisees, and which I have reserved to this place, as likely to afford an illustration of the one before us.
In that prophecy, if I may so speak, the destruction of Jerusalem is not mixed up with the prediction of Christ's coming and kingdom, and yet we see the same general outline traced, as in the prophecy before
That prophecy, therefore, we will first consider :
“ And when he was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation, neither shall they say lo here, or lo there, for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you,"— or, “ in the midst of you."
I confess, after all that has been written in explanation of this passage, some difficulty remains. I cannot think, with Dr. Macknight, Christ meant to correct the mistaken notions of the Pharisees respecting the nature of the Messiah's kingdom, - that it was. “ not to consist of an outward form of government, to be erected in that particular country :” because we do not know, that, in their conception of the grand outline of the predicted kingdom, they were mistaken; and, notwithstanding what Dr. Campbell has said in his note, I cannot conceive, that, speaking of his kingdom, as the development of a holy and vital principle in the hearts of men, he would say to the Pharisees, when he is addressing them as distinct from his disciples, “ the kingdom of God is within you." The translation of “
* Luke, xvii. 20.
among you,” Dr. Campbell has very properly discountenanced.
I incline to a much more simple interpretation of the passage. The Pharisees mean to ask concerning the glorious kingdom of Messiah, and our Lord, in his answer, meets their question. This glorious kingdom “cometh not with observation;" does not so arise that men can observe and notice its approach, and mark or watch its progress.
“ It is within you,” or “ in the midst of you,” manifested to the very soul of man: not observed coming by the common exercise of human vision, that sees first at a distance, and then traces the nearer approach of the object, so that the finger can point out " lo here” or “ lo there :" but, like the electric darting of the lightning, it is every where in a moment. The wicked it takes unawares, as a thief in the night; it comes upon them as pangs upon a woman with child, and they cannot escape. With respect to the just,“ in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” they are changed. “For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” • The dead in Christ first rise, then we that are alive and remain shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
This I conceive to be the meaning of our Lord's words, “ the kingdom of God cometh not with observation;" it cometh not so that you can observe its approach ; " it is in the midst of you," in a moment, bursting upon you from on high.
What our Divine Instructor immediately says to his
disciples, seems to me to convey the same notions of the day of his coming :
22. “ And he said unto his disciples, The days will come when
ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and ye shall not see it.” Plainly intimating, that the time of his appearing was a season, for which his church would long have to wait, and often would their anxious desires to see its commencement be disappointed. During this “ long tarrying,” also, greatly would they be harassed by impostors and deceivers, who would raise erroneous expectations of the coming of the Redeemer's kingdom. Our Lord cautions his disciples respecting this :
23. “ And they shall say to you, See here, or see there: go not after them, nor follow them: for as the lightning that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under the heaven, so shall also the Son of Man be in his day."
The flash of lightning, filling in an instant the whole horizon with light, bursting, in the same moment, into the midst of ten thousand assemblies, is the emblem here given us of the manifestation of the Son of Man to his church. His appearance will be sudden: it will be present to all; “ all flesh will see together the glory of Jehovah.” Whenever, therefore, we find men pointing to this event, or that event, as a fulfilment of the prophecy of “the coming of Christ,” we need not examine their reasonings or go after them.“ The coming of Christ” will be an event manifested before the eyes of all : it will not be an object of inquiry or of communication one to another:- a sufficient argument that when one advances an opinion, that the coming of Christ means the destruction of Jerusalem ; and another, that it means the successful propagation of Christianity, we ought not, for one moment, to listen to them, or suffer qur attention to be diverted from the grander expectation which the words of prophecy have created in the waiting people of God.
« The Son of Man" will be that " in his day” which will admit of no doubt or disputation.
Our Lord, however, forewarns his disciples, that these things are not yet: a different scene must be first unfolded before their eyes : -
25. “ But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation."
He next proceeds to describe the unexpected manner in which the day of his coming will burst upon a careless world :
26. “ And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, also, as it was in the days of Lot, they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded : but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all: even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”
The destruction of apostate, guilty nations with fire from heaven, we shall remember, is constantly declared in the ancient prophecies, * to be a concomitant of the Redeemer's appearing in the last day : his people,
Psalms xi. 6; xxi. 9; Isaiah, xxx. 27, 28; xxxiii. 10, &c.; xxxiv. 8, 9, 10; Ixvi. 15, 16; Ezekiel, xxxix. 6; Dan. vii. 9, 10, 11.
therefore, that shall be in the midst of the cities and countries devoted to destruction, in order that they may not be partakers of their plagues, will be delivered, as Lot was out of Sodom.
The suddenness of their deliverance is again expressed, probably in proverbial expressions :
31. “In that day,"— in the day when the Son of Man is revealed, as is expressed in the foregoing verse,—“ in that day, he that shall be upon the house-top, and his stuff in the house, let him not come to take it away; and he that is in the field,
let him likewise not return back. 32. Remember Lot's wife.”
This is a picture of the sudden surprisal of a city ready to be taken by storm, to part of whose inhabitants a moment of deliverance is afforded: but so sudden is the rescue, that not a thought can be bestowed on any earthly possession; that moment must they leave or perish. The hankering of Lot's wife after something she had left in Sodom, that caused her to cast a lingering look on the city she had left, is urged as an example. This must refer to the suddenness of the deliverance of God's people from the midst of ungodly nations in the great day: for it is expressly said to be “ the day in which the Son of Man is revealed.” What might be literally true of certain scenes in the besieging of Jerusalem by the Romans, and in the besieging of many other towns by their enemies, in which some have a moment, and but a moment, afforded for their escape, is kere used metaphorically of the escape of some righteous persons, who shall be in the midst of the mystic city, then to be destroyed by fire from heaven. It follows :
33. “ Whosoever shall seek his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it."