The Prophets describe this restored Kingdom, its extension, glory, etc., without distinguishing between the First and Second Advents.
PROPOSITION 34. The Prophets describe this restored Kingdom, its extension, glory, etc., without distinguishing between the First and Second Advents.
This peculiar feature has often been noticed by writers; and attention is called to it in this connection, because it is of great moment to understand this distinctive, significant method of prophecy.
Obs. 1. Learned men, feeling the force of this uniformity, have supposed, correctly, that some good reason produced it, and to assign one, tell us how prophetic vision glances from the lower to the higher hills, passing over the intermediate valleys, etc., thus presenting a beautiful and glowing picture of ecstatic vision. While there is truth in this description, it utterly fails to assign any reason for it, only presenting the manner in which it is done. The leading motive for such a non-discrimination of First and Second Advent will be found in the offer of this same Kingdom to the Jewish nation at the First Advent (comp. Props. 55–57, etc.), and, upon its rejection by the nation, in its postponement to the Sec. Advent. The proof for this will be abundantly forthcoming; at the present it is desirable that this characteristic of the prophets be constantly kept in mind, because it evinces a predetermined offer of the Kingdom, in view of the election of the nation, at the First Advent; and the issue also being foreknown (amazing knowledge! a postponing to the Sec. Advent), it conditioned the necessity of only speaking of the Advent, without directly specifying a First or a Second. This intermingling and blending of Advents, or rather, this non-discrimination of Advents, is purposely done, (1) to allow full latitude to the freedom of the nation; (2) to evince the foreknowledge, truthfulness, and faithfulness of God; (3) to test the faith of His people; (4) to throw the responsibility of Christ’s rejection upon the nation; (5) to prepare the way for the engrafting of the Gentiles; (6) to avoid the despondency, etc., that must arise, if the long intervening period of time were presented.[*]
Note. It was extremely difficult for a Jew to reconcile the glorious predictions relating to the Messianic Kingdom with those pertaining to a suffering Messiah. This was so greatly felt that we read of the idea of two Messiahs being broached—a suffering one, followed by a triumphant one; others united both in the same person, but without attempting a reconciliation. The question might well be asked of unbelief, whether it is credible that the Prophets, so devoted to their alleged “Jewish prejudices” and “Jewish forms,” could by their own wisdom have concocted such a humiliated, suffering Redeemer of the nation to bring it to glory by restoring its Theocratic relationship, when it seemed, to all human appearances, antagonistic and fatal to all such expectations?
Obs. 2. This peculiarity of the prophecies impresses the injunction given by numerous writers, viz.: to be careful in discriminating the Scriptures that belong to different dispensations, e.g. that which pertains to the First Advent and the time following, and that which relates to the Sec. Advent and the age following it.
Obs. 3. Living at this period, so long after the First Advent, we are the better prepared, owing to fulfilments, to discriminate between the Scriptures, and make a correct application of them. God’s sincerity in tendering the Kingdom to the Jewish nation is evidenced by the very manner in which the nation’s rejection of the Messiah at the First Advent is delineated; it is rather implied than directly taught, and in such a way, that while now we see the guilt of the nation unmistakably presented, yet before the fulfilment it was—to avoid interfering with freedom of choice—more or less a mystery. To us, it is a mystery fully revealed.[*]
Note. It will be observed that, owing to the terrible period of punishment for the rejection of “the Christ,” etc., no distinction of First and Second Advent is made, and a little reflection will show the great wisdom and mercy of God in not making it. Had it been made, its revelation would have had crushing force, and would have interfered with moral freedom. We regard this very feature, so delicately handled, as a decisive proof of divine inspiration.
Obs. 4. The manner in which the prophecies were fulfilled at the First Advent teaches us how we may expect the prophecies pertaining to the Second to be realized, viz.: in the strict grammatical sense contained in them.
Obs. 5. Another reason why the Prophets simply announce the Advent without discriminating is, that both Advents are really necessary for perfected Redemption—the one, we can now see, is preparatory for the other. Hence Bh. Horsley (Works, vol. 1, p. 83) and others have pointed out the fact that we can not properly interpret the ancient prophecies without referring to the two Advents; they stand related to each other, and in several places are spoken of without any intimation of the long centuries that shall intervene between them. Fairbairn (On Proph., p. 183) justly observes: “It is only by the facts and revelations of the New Test., that ancient prophecy has been found conclusively to require for its complete verification two disparate manifestations of the Godhead; the one in humiliation, the other in glory.” But we must never forget that the Prophets unite the two as essential to the Salvation of man, and the experience of that Salvation, in the Kingdom of God restored in splendor. The two Advents are the two main instrumentalities for accomplishing Redemption; each one has its appropriate sphere of action, and “the glory” of the Second is the reward subsequent to obedience and suffering at the First.
Obs. 6. The Kingdom being rejected by the Jews at the First Advent, an intercalary period intervenes, and “the times of the Gentiles” are continued on to the Sec. Advent. This is the reason why in some of the prophecies, when direct reference is made to the First Advent, the intervening period to the Second is passed by, and attention is directed to the Second with its results, as e.g. Ps. 69, Isa. 53 connected with ch. 54, etc. The Divine Plan thus unites the two as incorporated with it, and teaches how, in the light of God’s Word, this intercalary period ought to be regarded, so far as God’s Purpose is concerned—i.e. while exceeding precious to us who believe and who are adopted as the seed of Abraham, yet it is still a time of “waiting,” and that it is, by no means, to be exalted into that disproportioned and exaggerated position that it holds in so many systems of Theology.
Obs. 7. The Kingdom is nowhere (although it is currently believed) directly asserted to be a resultant of the First Advent, but in the declarations of Christ and the apostles it is distinctly linked with the Sec. Advent, as e.g. Matt. 25:34, 2 Tim. 4:1, etc.
Obs. 8. This characteristic of not distinguishing between the two Advents, excepting as the events connected with one or the other now (in view of fulfilment) enables us to discriminate between them, has been often ridiculed by Unbelief as an evidence of weakness. We, on the other hand, find in it a profound meaning and an indication of the highest wisdom and the greatest strength. Indeed, when properly comprehended in its true relationship to the Jewish nation and the Theocracy, it forms a strong proof of inspiration, being a phase beyond human conception and continuance. Foreknowing the facts, it carefully avoids contradiction in the least particular; aware of the result, it gives due latitude to moral freedom; and conscious of a postponement resulting from the conduct of the Jewish nation, it still proclaims that God’s Plan shall be ultimately accomplished. Divine Wisdom alone could devise such a wonderful way of predicting the future.
Obs. 9. Unbelief has not yet been able to explain the anomaly presented in these two Advents. The last (Second), which is spoken of in the most eulogistic terms, it may ascribe to human desire and consequent Oriental imagination, but it is completely at fault with the First Advent. For it cannot show how it is possible for Jews, with Jewish expectations and hopes (based on covenant promise), to describe a Messiah coming in humiliation, rejection, suffering, and death.