Some things pertaining to the kingdom, intentionally revealed somewhat obscurely.
PROPOSITION 13. Some things pertaining to the kingdom, intentionally revealed somewhat obscurely.
Admitting the Scriptures to be the Word of God, and that, as many writers have noticed, some indistinctness, a degree of obscurity, relating to time, explanations, etc., is manifested in the things of the kingdom, these facts are indicative of design in the same.
Obs. 1. In answer to the question, frequently asked, why the revelations respecting the Messiah’s Kingdom were at first so obscure, were so gradually unfolded, and that some things, to be fully understood, require additional light, it has been said, that God makes long and secret preparations for important events; that He adapts His revelations to the necessities and circumstances of particular times, etc. Reflection will teach us an additional reason, viz.: that the depravity of man, exhibited in the pursuit of selfishness, would, hitherto, have rejected a plainer revelation, or else would have made it the basis of a continuous cruel persecution. If everything relating to the Kingdom would have been clearly revealed, in a systematic order, we are confident that such would have been the hatred of earthly kingdoms toward it, that no believer in it would have been safe, and, in consequence, the work of gathering out the elect would have been seriously impeded. The existence of Gentile domination, especially the hostile and jealous Roman power, prevented (as we shall show in the proper place) a plainer statement of various particulars, lest it should unnecessarily excite unremitting persecution. This Kingdom will be better understood as the Primitive view is revived; its nature and the things pertaining to it will be better comprehended as the Scriptures are compared; and the result will be, as prophecy teaches us (e.g. Rev. 19, etc.), that the kings and mighty of the earth will be arrayed against its re-establishment. God, foreseeing this antagonism as directed by “the god of this world,” does not unnecessarily excite it by a premature disclosure of all things, but gives us the truth in detached portions, some of it veiled under prophecy, others under symbolical language, etc., so that His preparations, patiently conducted, may go on to a successful completion, and the Kingdom be suddenly—unexpectedly to many—manifested. The history of the world in its rejection of the truth, is evidence to justify such a conclusion.
Obs. 2. Again, another reason for the same may be found in human freedom. Omnipotence inspired by mercy has given continued moral freedom, and it will do nothing, even by way of revelation, to exert an undue force upon the will. Preiswerk (quoted by Auberlen Danl. and Rev., p. 84) says: “The Lord has always represented the events He announced by the prophets in such a manner, that they were sufficiently clear for him who approached with reverence and careful thought, and yet sufficiently dark and veiled not to limit the freedom of human action. For if the unchangeable decrees of the Eternal were presented to our eyes in unveiled features, what would become of the responsibility of man, of the free movements of human life, what of courage, and hope, and joy?” Hence it is, e.g. that prophecies which particularly describe the time of the re-establishment of the Kingdom are given somewhat obscurely, as in Daniel and the Apocalypse. This, and other reasons, will become more apparent, when considering certain things pertaining to the Kingdom, especially the postponement, the ordering of the future Kingdom, the restoration of the Jews, the Antichrist, etc.
Obs. 3. The blending of the two Advents, the rejection of Jesus by the Jews, the call of the Gentiles, etc., these indicate the feature alluded to so far as the past is concerned. As to the future, among a variety, time may be selected, the time of the Kingdom’s manifestation, as an illustration. The exact period when it will be set up, is not known to us, although approximately revealed. It is only fully known to God, and an indefiniteness is purposely thrown around it to keep us in the posture of constant expectation and watching. Chronology has purposely its chasms, the general signs of the Advent of the King are those nearly always prevalent, although at the time of fulfilment more intensive, and prophecy, in its guarded language and in its accomplishment, is so conducted that almost at any time may be witnessed the ushering in of the glorious Kingdom.
Obs. 4. The restoration of the Jews being intimately connected with the Kingdom, an essential accessory to its re-establishment, a degree of obscurity is thrown around the subject (as e.g. to the exact manner of occurrence, the time, etc.), in order that it may prove “a snare” and “a net” for the nations, who, at the consummation, shall be arrayed against it and the saints and God, saying, “Come and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance” (Ps. 83:4).
Obs. 5. Care, however, must be taken to avoid the extreme of concluding some things to be obscure which the Spirit intended to be plainly understood. This is illustrated by the predictions referring to the humiliation, sufferings, and death of Jesus, which, although plainly given, were not comprehended by even the disciples until fulfilled. When the grammatical sense is observed to teach a thing clearly and unequivocally, that meaning must be retained, as the history of the past proclaims. Brookes (El. of Proph. Inter., p. 113) presents some admirable cautions on this point, which are the more needed, since multitudes make that obscure, mystical, or spiritual, that is to be comprehended in its literal import, as the analogy of Scripture and Faith proves.[*]
Note. The student will add the reason assigned under the previous Proposition, viz.: that a revelation, as a matter of self-confirmation, must contain some mystery. We must quote the admirable language of Row (Bampton Lectures, 1877, “Christian Evidences,” Lec. 1, p. 5): “Can we wonder that the Christian revelation should contain truths, of which the fulness, like the great works of creation and providence, can only be fully recognized after the lapse of time, and as the result of careful investigation? That great reasoner, Bh. Butler, clearly perceived that it is only in conformity with the analogy of nature, that a book which has been so long in the possession of mankind as the Bible, if it contains a Revelation from God, should contain truths as yet undiscovered; and that events, as they come to pass, should open and ascertain the meaning of Scripture; and that such discoveries should be made ‘in the same way as all other knowledge is ascertained, by particular persons attending to, comparing, and pursuing intimations, scattered up and down in it, which are overlooked and disregarded by the generality of the world.’ ”