MATTHEW 24:27, CONSIDERED.

BROTHER BEEBE: - I see in the SIGNS for Sept. 1, 1848, a request for my views on Matt. 24:27, from a humble brother who signs himself, An Inquirer. As the grace of humility is so very rare, and so many of us who would be humble, find ourselves when tried, the reverse; it seems reasonable that when a humble brother is met with, we should pay all due attention to his inquiries. I will therefore seek to comply with his request.

The reading of the text is this, “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.” As the coming of the Son of man is here mentioned, it may not be improper to give somewhat fully my views of the coming of Christ as declared in the Scriptures. The Scriptures as I understand them speak of two distinct comings of Christ, in reference to the saints as being in the world. The first was his coming in the flesh or being born in Bethlehem. Embraced in this personal coming, according to the general tenor of promise, and prophecy going before, is the whole of his coming in his kingdom in the world, both in the gathering together of his elect, and in the destruction of his enemies. Thus old Jacob’s prophecy, Gen.49:10, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be,” evidently embraces Christ’s coming in the flesh, and his going forth in his gospel, gathering his sheep into his fold. In Psalms 50:1-3, it is said, “The Lord hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.” And that, “Our God shall come and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with my sacrifice.” &c. Thus this corresponds with Jacob’s prophecy above, in the coming of our God or Shiloh, and in the gathering of the people unto him; also with Matt.24:30 & 31, the sending of his angels with the great sound of a trumpet and gathering together his elect, &c. Those who have made a covenant with him by sacrifice are evidently the elect; that is, in and through Christ their Head and Representative. In this connection it is said a fire devoureth before him, and remember, “A fire goeth before him and burneth up his enemies round about.” Psal.97:3, this also in connection with the Lord’s reigning. Thus his reigning or having all power given to him in heaven and in earth, or calling to the heavens from above, and his burning up his enemies round about and the gathering together unto him his people or saints, are all connected with his coming in the flesh, for to this end was he born. John 18:37. See also Phil.2:6-11. In Isa.9:6 & 7 it is said of the child born, {and by comparing verse 1 & 2 with Matt.4:14-16 it is evident that it is spoken of Christ, as coming in the flesh,} that “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever.” But it is not necessary to multiply quotations to prove a point of which the scriptures are so full. Hence the comings of our Lord in reference to the spread of his gospel, to the destruction of the Jews, and other enemies; or to his dwelling with his saints are but points of his first personal coming; they are not distinct manifestations of himself in person, but only distinct manifestations of his power and of his grace and faithfulness to his people, &c.

That there is to be a second personal coming and appearing of Christ Jesus, is evident from the declaration of the two men in white apparel, unto the disciples, as they were gazing after Jesus as he went into heaven; namely, “This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11. This is affirmed of Jesus, and therefore of his manhood, and hence can mean nothing less than that he shall again come visibly in that same body in which the disciples had seen him go up into heaven. Hence it is that I understand the Apostle in saying, “And unto them that look for him shall he appear a second time without sin unto salvation,” {Heb.9:23,} to have reference to the coming of Jesus in like manner as the disciples saw him go into heaven. A second time, clearly refers to a former time in which he appeared and marks a distinct appearing from that first time; and if it is a second appearing it must be a personal manifestation. This appearing or coming is to be “without sin unto salvation.” In everything connected with Christ’s first appearing, sin is in one way or other brought to remembrance; but this salvation without sin must be that ultimate completion of salvation, that entire deliverance from sin and death, which the saints by faith are looking for. Hence also I think I Thes.4:16 & 17, has reference to this same second appearing, or coming in like manner. It reads thus, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Some of our brethren differ from me in their views of Heb.9:28, as also in reference to the 27th verse, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, &c.” If I understand them, their view is that the 27th verse has reference to a will or testament; that the appointment once to die has reference to the laws and customs of men which require that the testator should be first dead, before his heirs can claim the execution of his will; and the after judgment to be the decision of the judge of probates as to the validity of the will. Whilst I would not treat with disrespect those brethren or their opinions, I must say that from the first of my hearing or seeing this idea advanced my mind revolted as it as tending to belittle this portion of Scripture; and still whilst I am conscious of the superiority of those brethren in gifts and judgment, I cannot view the idea otherwise than as degrading, that the eternal God should have appointed his Son unto death, or offered him, merely in conformity to the laws and customs of men concerning testaments, that the testator must first die, before his will is of force, and such must be the conclusion, from such exposition; for notice the comparison. “As it is appointed unto men once to die … so Christ once offered, &c.” But the mischief of such an exposition does not stop here; it sets aside the whole doctrine of the cross of Christ, as Old School Baptists have ever held it; as those brethren themselves hold it. For if we admit that the laws and customs of men concerning wills, amount to anything like an appointment unto men once to die, what is the sum of it? It is this, that the testator must die to establish his will. He dies according to the general sentence of God by which death passed upon all men; there is nothing in his death expiatory, no bearing the sins of his heirs, no redemption in it. Now if the comparison in the text holds good, according to this exposition, Christ’s bearing the sins of many amounts to nothing; he only dies to give force or validity to the new testament, and the inheritance comes to the heirs without their being redeemed, or their sins being expiated. Is not this the legitimate conclusion to be drawn from the passage according to the above exposition? But let us examine the text with its connection, to see whether such exposition can be correct. I cannot see anything in the declaration, “As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” applicable to the circumstances of wills. There is the appointment by the word of God or by the laws of men that men shall make their wills, or that having made them they shall then die. There is an appointment of God that men shall die because they have sinned, but this has no relation to their wills. The Apostle says nothing about an appointment in the case of a testament; he says, “Where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator,” but this is very different from the idea of an appointment in the case. The necessity arises from the nature of things, because whilst the man still lives, his property is his own, and he may alienate it, or decide to make a different disposition of it. Hence some men have lived to make several wills, and others have died without making any, and some without having any property to be inherited after their debts are paid. Again, how is it that the judgment is after the death of the testator? In modern times, wills may be contested, and in that case there is a judgment as to their validity. But in general the judgment goes before, the man’s will is the judgment that must stand in reference to the distribution of his property, and this has after his death to be executed; hence he appoints – not judges – but executors to his will.

Also, the connection does not favor the idea, any more than the words of the text, that the Apostle in speaking in reference to a will. God has been pleased to show to the heirs of promise, the security to them of the gracious provisions he has made for them in Christ, both by the idea of a covenant, and of a testament; and both ideas are carried out in the scriptures distinctly. The Apostle having in the eight chapter brought to view the superiority of the new covenant over the old, goes on in this ninth chapter to show that the specifications of the first covenant were but the shadows of the good things, the substance of the new, as in the case of the offerings of the priesthood, and of the tabernacle; and in bringing to view the death and blood of Christ as the substance shadowed forth by the offerings and priesthood of the old covenant, confirms the idea of the old covenant, confirms the idea of the necessity of his death, verses 15 – 20, by reference to a testament, and the necessity of the death of the testator, thus showing that the death of Christ was involved in both figures. He then again resumes the consideration of the specifications of the covenant in reference to the shedding of blood for remission, and offerings, &c., showing that he had fully dropped the idea of a testament; for a testament has to do with an inheritance, not with sacrifices and offerings for sin. In verses 25 and 26 he lays down the position, that Christ’s offering of himself had not to be repeated like the offerings of the first covenant, “But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” He then proceeds, verses 27 & 28, to confirm this position by the fact that the penalty of the law does not require that the sinner should repeatedly die, and therefore Christ as the substitute of his people could not be required repeatedly to offer himself or die; his language is, And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered, &c., thus showing that Christ’s once being offered met the appointment of God or the demand of the law that men should once die. But what, say some, has this sentence, “But after this the judgment” to do in this case? A great deal. What is the judgment, but the giving of judgment? And what is that, but the passing of sentence either of justification or of condemnation? Does not the whole scriptural testimony fix the time of judgment after death? Was it not after Christ’s death that he was raised for the justification of his people? And in reference to himself, though he was first manifested in the flesh, yet it was in the Spirit that he was justified; not by his death, but by the resurrection from the dead was he “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness.” I Tim.3:16, Rom.1:4. So in reference to the elect, it is after they have been slain by the law, that judgment passes upon them. Herein is the clear difference between the sentence or penalty of the law and the judgment, and shows that the sentence of the law is not the judgment; the convicted elect sinner is under the teachings of the Spirit convinced that the sentence of death by the law stands justly against him as a transgressor, and is expecting every moment the judgment in accordance thereunto to be given, and to be banished to eternal darkness; but behold it does not take place, and to his astonishment, instead of condemnation, it is justification, through the obedience of Christ. So of the world, or those who die in unbelief, Christ’s words are, “The hour is coming in which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice; and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28 & 29. Damnation as used in the scriptures is synonymous with condemnation, and condemnation is the giving of judgment. If they are raised to this out of their graves it must be after death. If indeed there is no after judgment, in reference to the finally impenitent, no sentence passed upon them other than what is contained in the scriptures, or than the written penalty of the law; there would at least be a very strong argument in favor of their becoming extinct at death. For the penalty of the law is, the sinner shall die; and if there is no after sentence corresponding to the spirituality of the soul, the conclusion would be that death would be the end. Following the Apostle’s argument through, that “as it is appointed unto men once to die,” so Christ was once offered, corresponding with that sentence, and as, “after this the judgment;” so “unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation;” in open confirmation of their faith, and of the judgment passed upon them through him in his resurrection; we see a full harmony in this passage with the connection, and a dignity in it corresponding to the exalted nature of Christ’s death as generally revealed in the scriptures.

But to the immediate subject given for consideration. I think I have on a former occasion in writing my views of this 24th chapter of Matthew noticed that the disciples in verse 3, asked their Lord two distinct questions. 1st. “When shall these things be?” that is, the destruction &c., of the temple of which he had just spoken; and 2nd. “What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?” Some may perhaps suppose, and I know not but that I may have formerly supposed, that the disciples asked concerning two distinct periods in this second question; namely, that of his coming, and that of the end of the world. But not so, for then they would have enquired for the signs; that is, the sign of each, instead of connecting both as they did with one sign. The coming therefore embraced in this enquiry, is that which is immediately connected with the end of the world, and which of course is that second personal coming of Christ which, as has been showed, the scriptures authorize us to look for. The enquiry is, after the sign of this event, or these events connected. Christ in the course of the chapter gives such answers to the two enquiries and such instructions relative thereto as he saw proper. Preceding this 27th verse he forewarns of the coming of false christs, &c., in verse 26, he speaks of their calling upon the people to go into the desert or the secret chambers in order to their manifesting themselves to them as the Christ. He tells his disciples not to believe them; and in the 27th verse he gives them this one leading principle by which all such secret working imposters may be detected; namely, that the true Christ, the Son of man, comes in no such obscure way, “For as the lightning cometh out of the east” {and from its nature} “shineth even unto the west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be.” His coming personally, or coming in his gospel and the display of his power, is open and public like the light, not obscure like the darkness. As he says, Isaiah 48:16, “I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I;” and as he told the high priest, John 18:20; “I spake openly to the world &c.” So his religion leads to an open public profession of it; in vain is it sought to be enjoyed in secret. His doctrine is to be proclaimed from the house-tops, not talked of in the chimney-corner, but kept back in public. These are my present views of this text; and it was spoken I think to guard his disciples in all after ages against any of these secret-chamber systems, plans or professions of religion; Christ’s religion being like his coming, and like a lighted candle designed to give light.

My respects to Enquirer, though I think I may doubt his humility from his being ashamed of his name.

S. TROTT.
Centreville, Fairfax County, Va., Oct.10, 1848.