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THE END OF THE WORLD.

EXPOSITION OF MATTHEW 24:29-51.

BROTHER JEWETT: - Having been from home three weeks, and having seen your request in the April Number of the ADVOCATE for my views of Matt.24:29-51, I will now, as opportunity may offer in my journeyings, endeavor to write them out for you, though I may not finish the communication before getting home.

This subject has considerably occupied my mind for some time past, in consequence of certain opinions advanced among Old School Baptists on the one hand and Mr. Miller on the other. Between these two, the two distinct comings of Christ revealed in the Scriptures, are as completely mixed up and confused, as ever any subject was. The prophecy or prophecies contained in this 24th of Matthew, have in part been differently understood by me at different periods; though at no period have I been able to receive the idea, that the whole received an entire accomplishment in the destruction of Jerusalem and events connected therewith, for reasons which I shall have occasion hereafter to notice. But recently my mind has been led to what is to me a clearer view of the subject, than I have formerly had; whether by the Spirit of God, I will not presume to affirm.

That the prophecy contained in that portion of the Chapter from the 4th to the 22nd verse, inclusive, received a full and distinct accomplishment in the destruction of Jerusalem and events preceding it, history fully evidences. Whether the then, which commences vs.23, refers to the period embraced in the preceding description, and the events mentioned in that and the following verses on to the 28th are a further description of what relates to the Jews, is not certain. These verses have generally been applied to the Jews, though I doubt the correctness of such application; but as these verses are not included in the part of the chapter, which is requested to be expounded, I pass them without further remarks, and will come to the portion desired to be considered.

Preparatory to an explanation of the chapter from verse 29 onwards, I will remark, that I understand the disciples to have proposed two distinct questions to the Master in verse 3; the first relating to the destruction of the Temple, the second having a reference to the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. In reference to the first query, Christ in answering the disciples, points out events relating to themselves and to the Gospel as preceding that event; gives them correspondent warnings and describes the great leading events, relative to the gospel and gospel Church, which were to intervene between the destruction of Jerusalem and his second, personal coming.

Verse 29, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened,” &c. Some expositors, setting aside the order which Christ here gives to these events, as being after the tribulation of those days, represent the darkening of the sun, the moon not giving her light, and the falling of the stars from heaven, as being accomplished in the destruction of the temple and the consequent overturning of the legal ceremonies, priesthood, and worship. But I cannot admit, that any light remained in any part of the Mosaic economy, after Christ had fully come out of it in his resurrection, ascension, &c., as he was the whole light and substance of the economy, whilst he remained buried in it. Even Dr. Gill makes the sun being darkened represent the Shekinah or divine presence being withdrawn from the most holy place, when the temple was destroyed. He should have recollected, before making this blunder, that the Shekinah, or God’s presence communing with the high priest was from off the mercy seat which covered the ark and from between the cherubim, and that consequently, as the ark of testimony was involved in the destruction of the first temple, and the gold of the mercy seat and cherubim was carried away by Nebuchadnezzar, the second temple was entirely deficient of all these, only as Christ, the grand antitype and substance of them, came to this temple agreeably to Hag.2:6-9. The truth is, that as Christ describes that tribulation to be greater than any which had been before or should come after, verse 21, so the tribulation of those days can be nothing less, than the entire destruction which came upon the Jews, their city and temple. Hence it being after the tribulation of those days that the sun should be darkened; this must be an after event; and therefore as above remarked, must be an event preceding the second coming of Christ. But the word immediately, requires some attention – “immediately after the tribulation,” &c. If by this expression we are to understand the event to be one directly connected with the destruction of Jerusalem, and in quick succession according to our notions of time; then as we find nothing recorded in history answering to the declarations in this verse, either literally or figuratively, as having thus taken place, we are placed in the deplorable predicament of believing that our blessed Lord delivered a prophecy, which failed to be accomplished, or at any rate, one, the truth of which is left very doubtful. But if we understand the word immediately to point out the next leading event in the history of the church after the destruction of Jerusalem, as it may with propriety be understood, then we shall escape such unpleasant predicament. So I understand it to be used, and by the expressive and figurative language of this verse, according to the order of prophetic style, I understand the whole rise and power of the man of sin, on to the witnesses being killed, as being prophetically described. By the sun darkened I understand the gospel as being obscured in the rise and reign of antichrist, and as being entirely hid from public view during the time the two witnesses shall lie dead. By the moon not giving her light, I understand the church as departing from the purity and simplicity of gospel doctrine and order, and ultimately at the time of the witnesses being killed, as deprived of bearing any public testimony to the truth of the gospel. And by the stars in like manner, in falling from heaven, I understand the ministers of the gospel, falling from gospel doctrine, into a mixed system, and ultimately those who remained steadfast being killed as witnesses. And the term immediately is properly used in reference to this event; for very soon after the apostolic age the ministry began to fall off from the apostles doctrine to a mixed system of Judaism, philosophy and gospel; and ceremonies began to be multiplied in the churches, by which their true light was obscured and the sun, the gospel began to be darkened, and these departures went on waxing worse, until the Beast was fully formed and arose in his power, and from him the two horned Beast and now the Image &c. Verses 30 & 31, as I understand them, point out the change which will take place in reference to the gospel and gospel church after the witnesses shall have been killed, the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, that is his being in the gospel church sustaining and delivering it from all the rage of the Beast, will then be openly manifested; as will also his coming with special power in the clouds of heaven, or gospel ministry; this will cause the tribes of the earth to mourn, when they see the whole mass of antichristian superstition falling before the power of Jesus and his gospel. But the destruction of Jerusalem caused rejoicing rather than mourning among the tribes of the earth. To Titus was decreed a splendid triumph for his conquest of Jerusalem. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a {or the} trumpet, {not a sound of the great trumpet, as though it were the first blowing of it,} but with a more powerful blast of it. Yea, Zechariah says, “The Lord God shall blow the trumpet,” as I think, in reference to the same period. Zech.9:14. By the trumpet here I understand the gospel trumpet, and by the angels, gospel preachers, for the whole passage is in the figurative language of prophecy. Although there may be a reference to the more extended spread of the gospel and with more powerful effect among the Gentiles, and certainly the gathering in the fulness of the Gentiles is implied; yet I am led to the conclusion, that by the elect here are intended the same elect, mentioned in verse 22, and that the whole of these three verses has special reference to the bringing in of the Jews; and indeed the whole of Israel, as the last grand event in prophecy, preceding the second coming of Christ, and the end of the world.

The Master having thus pointed out the events relative to the gospel, which were to precede the periods embraced in each of the two questions of the disciples, without giving any direct answer to them, now turns more directly to their enquiries, and in reference to the first, “When shall these things be” – that is; When shall the temple be destroyed; shows them {verses 32-35,} with what certainty they might know its near approach, and that it should take place before that generation was past. And then in verse 36, and on he gives an answer as to the period referred to, in the other enquiry; namely, that, “of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven &c.;” that is, he hereby informs them, that the period of the end of the world God has never made a subject of revelation. He has revealed by his servants the prophets the distinct periods of other events, but never this; and further, according to Mark, he informs them, that the Son as sent of his Father is not authorized to reveal it. Thus we see that Mr. Miller and his disciples have altogether gone beyond revelation in their calculations. That I am correct in making this distinct application of the declarations in verses 34 & 36, appears from the demonstrative adjective pronouns here used. Grotius, a learned Greek scholar, says that according to the idiom of the Greek, the two distinct pronouns used in verses 34 & 36, the one translated these and the other that, point out a plain distinction in the subjects to which they each relate; distinguishing the one as near, the other as more distant. The same distinction is often made in our own language by using of the words this and that. If our Lord had intended by the day and hour, vs.36, the same period as that intended in vs.34, the use of the demonstrative pronoun ekeinos, or that was improper; the proper mode of expression would have been but of the day and hour &c. As there is therefore clearly a distinction pointed out by the mode of expression used in reference to the subjects of these two verses, I think we are warranted in concluding the distinction to be that of the distinct enquiries. The comparison of this latter period; namely, the end of the world, with the days of Noah, corresponds with what we might infer will be the case, from the description given of the Laodicean church state, the seventh and last state of the church militant, {Rev.3:14-17,} and other declarations of Scripture, which, I think, relate to the same. But the comparison here made with the days of Noah, certainly does not correspond with the description given in Luke of the period connected with the destruction of Jerusalem, nor with the account given in history of those times. See Luke 21:25,26. So also the declarations contained in verses 40 & 41, do not hold good in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem; for according to the uniform testimony of history all the Jews without exception found in Judea, that did not perish in the war, were taken captive and sold for slaves. But that the distinction pointed out in these verses will be manifested at the second coming of Christ, we may conclude from the description given by Paul of that event {I Thes.4:16 & 17;} namely, that “we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” Hence one will be changed and taken up and another left. And I think the admonitions given in the remainder of this chapter, refer to the event of Christ second coming, or the end of the world. But here I will remark as to that subject. As some speak of the comings of Christ, we might infer, that they think him like some of the importing merchants and factors in our cities; these having business to transact both in Europe and in this country, have frequently to pass from the one country to the other, to attend to it. But those who so represent our Lord, forget his Godhead and omnipresence. His first coming or his coming in his kingdom instead of being confined to one instantaneous appearing is like the coming of the day, progressive, now manifested in this degree of longitude then in that, so of our Lord, who will continue to come in the one coming in his kingdom, until the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, is ground to chaff, and the gospel church or his kingdom, represented by the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, fills the whole earth. So in reference to his second coming, it has been in effect progressive to every succeeding generation of men, and will be until the dead in Christ are raised and the world burned. That is, when we or others are called from time by death, time things have no more to do with us, and therefore it is the same with us, as though time was ended as to any changes we may know, but the one in the resurrection of our bodies. Hence the admonitions contained in these latter verses of this chapter; also the declaration contained in Rev.22:7, “Behold I come quickly,” &c., and other like ones, are as appropriate to us as they will be to any future generation of men on the earth. O that the Lord would give us grace to obey these admonitions of our Lord, and to watch for his coming; that is, to us.

Brother Jewett, having been permitted to return home in safety from my tour, I have thus finished the communication begun abroad; in it I have given what is my understanding of the portion of our Lord’s prophecy designated, which you will of course publish, if you publish it, as mine. If you have anything more correct, or better on the subject, I hope, you will publish that also.

Yours with christian affection,
S. TROTT.
May 26, 1843.