MATTHEW XXIV. 21-39.

It would afford us much pleasure to give a satisfactory explanation of every passage of Scripture on which we are so frequently called to express our views, by our numerous correspondents, if we had the ability, and could command the necessary time and space which would be required; but in all these respects we are deficient. On this Scripture referred to, we do not feel prepared to speak with as much confidence as we could wish, but we nevertheless offer a few suggestions, which may perhaps draw out the clearer views of some brother to whose mind the subject has been more fully opened, and thereby our readers generally may be edified. The connection shows that our Lord had been instructing his disciples in regard to the time when the building, the temple at Jerusalem, should be thrown down, and what should be the sign of his coming, and of the end of the world. In regard to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the tribulations which should come upon the Jews when the cloud of impending retribution should burst in wrath upon them. Subsequent history as fully identified the time literally when this fearful prediction was accomplished; and in our text we are told, “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,” &c.

We do not feel at liberty to understand these predictions as relating literally to the natural heavens, or the natural sun and moon and stars; for whatever natural phenomena may have been witnessed, the subject must certainly have related to the heavens, sun, moon and stars figuratively, as used in Rev. xii. 1, 4; and the shaking of the powers of the heavens, that which is signified in Heb. xii. 26, 27, wherein is set forth the total abolishment of the rites and ordinances of the Jewish heavens. Mark the language of the inspired writer to the Hebrews: “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: whose voice then shook the earth; but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as the things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” And then the admonition which follows this last quotation: “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear,” shows clearly that this shaking of the powers of the heavens, darkening of the sun and moon of that heaven which was shaken, and the falling, or casting down to the earth those stars which were drawn by the tail of the dragon, (Rev. xii. 4,) were preparatory to the more full revelation of the church in her gospel organization and perpetuity, in distinction from that which was to pass away. If we are correct thus far in regard to the import of the twenty-ninth verse of our text, it must follow that in the revelation of Christ in fulfilling the judgments which should fall upon Jerusalem, should be recognized the sign or evidence of the Son of man in heaven. Truly this was a sign, for before Christ suffered on the cross he had repeatedly given it as such; that is, as a sign on which his disciples might rely, after his death and resurrection and ascension, that he was accepted in his mediatorial work, and that he fully represented the saints for whom he had officiated in his priesthood: these things which he had declared should be, were necessary to show that he was in heaven. Not only that he had entered into heaven itself for us, but that he had ascended his mediatorial throne, and possessed all power in heaven and in earth, and was and is mighty and able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him, seeing that he ever lives to make intercession for them.

Whatever allusion this declaration may have to his coming at the last day, to raise the dead and judge the world, we will not presume to say, but to our mind, there is a sense in which his words were fulfilled before the generation then on the earth had passed away. As before that generation had literally passed away these predictions concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, were literally fulfilled, and in their fulfillment a sign, unmistakable and clear, was given of his mediatorial glory, his spiritual kingdom brought to light in her gospel organization, the throne of his glory, peculiarly as that of the Son of man, was manifested; so also we may infer, that although death may bear down to the grave all the posterity of Adam, yet the race of mankind, divided into two generations, the one called a generation of vipers, and the other a chosen generation, as such they shall not pass away until the second coming of Christ at the last day.

Middletown, N. Y.
June 2, 1856

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 337 - 339