The Prophets describe but one Kingdom.
PROPOSITION 35. The Prophets describe but one Kingdom.
The language and whole tenor of the Word is so explicit that both Jews and Gentiles thus understand it. Whatever views may be entertained respecting the interpretation of the prophecies themselves, there is no writer, within our knowledge, who has ventured to suggest that two Kingdoms are denoted.
Obs. 1. There is one Kingdom under the Messiah, David’s Son and Lord, in some way linked with the election of the Jewish nationality, which is the great burden of prophecy.
Obs. 2. This Kingdom, too, according to the grammatical sense, is one here on the earth, not somewhere else, as e.g. in the third heaven or the Universe. Take the most vivid descriptions, such as are contained in Isa. 60, or Dan. 7, etc., and they refer this Kingdom exclusively to this earth, which, of course, follows naturally from the relation that this Kingdom sustains to the Jewish nation and Davidic throne. Any other portraiture of it would be incongruous, and hostile to covenant and fact.
Obs. 3. If it is one Kingdom, and thus related, it must, of necessity, embrace the following features: (1) Notwithstanding the removal of the Kingdom and the severe tribulation of the nation, the preservation of the race must be announced, for otherwise the election would fail and the Kingdom, as predicted, could not be restored. This is done in the most positive manner, as e.g. Jer. 31:35–37, and 33:19–26, Isa. 54:9–10, etc. (comp. Prop. 122). (2) The restoration of the Jews, notwithstanding their sinfulness and punishment, ought to be distinctively presented, because David’s Kingdom is based on it. This also is predicted, as e.g. Ezek. 36:22, 24, and ch. 37, Jer., chs. 31, 32, and 33, etc. (comp. Props. 111, 112, 113, and 114). (3) And as David’s throne was in Jerusalem, and was adopted as God’s throne, when His Son shall reign, the city ought to be specially honored in such a revelation of the Kingdom, seeing that it stands intimately related to it. The Prophets thus distinguish it in the future, as e.g. Jer. 3:17, Isa. 24:23, Joel 3:17, etc. (comp. Prop. 168, etc.). Indeed, all the particulars needed for a full identification of the identical Kingdom, once established but now overthrown, are thus given in the most simple language. Why, following the Origenistic method, change this language, and make David’s throne and kingdom, Jewish restoration, Jerusalem, etc., mean something else than the words plainly convey, without a direct revelation from God that such a change is intended?
Obs. 4. The Prophets describing one Kingdom, here on the earth, at some time in the future under the Messiah, and associated with the Jewish nation and the Davidic throne, it is a gross violation of all propriety to take these prophetic descriptions and arbitrarily apply them, as many do, by dividing them—one part to the earth, another to the third heaven; one portion to the present time, and another to the distant future. This separation and disintegration of things that belong together, and relate to the same period of time and to the same locality, being even exhibited in the same sentence, as e.g. Isa. 25:8, where the abolishing of death is put in the future, and the rest is applied, without warrant, to the church as now constituted.[*]
Note. The only ingenious defence that we have found for this impropriety is in Dr. Alexander’s Com. on Isaiah (p. 38, Pref. to vol. 2), which hides this defect, of dividing and locating in diverse places and times the Millennial descriptions, under a generalizing rule, by which such prophecies are to be applied to the condition of the church, and which condition is “considered not in its elements, but as a whole; not in the way of chronological succession, but at one view; not so much in itself as in contrast with the temporary system that preceded it.” In some respects true, it is unsound to apply this indiscriminately and obtain a correct interpretation; for (1) particulars and elements are also predicted, and are to be considered in order to form a proper estimate of the whole—they cannot be safely omitted. (2) The predictions, with few exceptions, do refer to a chronological period and succession, and it is only in so far as we can locate these that the prophecies themselves can be properly appreciated. Thus e.g. to discriminate what belongs to the period preceding the First Advent, what to that Advent, what to the Sec. Advent, what to intervening time, etc., these are all important chronological data, and without some (at least approximative) knowledge of the position in time occupied by the prophecy in fulfilment, we are at once involved in confusion. There is no prophecy given, but it stands chronologically related. So that while in Prophecy there is only a general, indefinite appeal to chronology (excepting Daniel and the Apoc.), as e.g. “in that day,” “in that time,” etc., yet this phraseology has a decided reference to time, a set time, to which we must give heed if desirous to understand. (3) The last clause of Alexander’s canon overlooks some permanent things in the preceding system, held in abeyance until the time of restoration; and if true, lessens the force of the predictions themselves by directing attention to “the contrast” and not to the reality of the things portrayed. Some writers (as e.g. Alexander On Isaiah) have denounced as an “erroneous hypothesis” the rule laid down by Vitringa, “that every prophecy must be specific, and must have its fulfilment in a certain period of history.” Now without adopting some of Vitringa’s interpretations based on this rule, and without asserting that all prophecies are delivered in chronological order (which cannot be sustained), we still hold that such a canon has the strongest possible reasons for its support. The denial of the rule materially aids the spiritualizing of prophecy. But if we allow that the prophecies are to be generalized, and that they have no particular reference to certain eras in the history of the church and the world (as e.g. those pertaining to the First or Sec. Advent, etc.), then we are at once sent adrift in an ocean of vague, unsatisfactory interpretation. From the decided and specific fulfilment of prophecy in the past, it is proper to hold that the remainder will also thus be verified, and this in itself, aside from other and weighty reasons (such as making the Divine Plan indefinite, weakening the proof of God’s foreknowledge, frittering away the precise language of the prophets, etc.), is amply sufficient to cause us to reject so arbitrary a conclusion as the above.
Obs. 5. In the doctrine of the Kingdom we make much of the proper comparison and union of Prophecy, and especially lay stress on the sameness of language, ideas, etc., existing between Isaiah and the Apocalypse (as e.g. comp. Isa. 60 with Rev., chs. 21 and 22.). Our opponents, feeling the force of this, endeavor to rid themselves of the identity of these predictions based upon their similarity—which strongly prove the one Kingdom to which we hold—by asserting that they are prophecies referring to dissimilar things and times. Let it be candidly said, that any system of interpretation which will drive good men to ignore one of the plainest and most valuable guides in the interpretation of prophecy, is most certainly defective.[*]
Note. Some commentators (e.g. Alexander On Isa., vol. 1, Pref., p. 56), object to the efforts of others in attempting to illustrate and interpret some of the predictions of the Prophets by the aid of the Apocalypse, and ground their objection on the alleged fact of the latter being “an independent prophecy.” But how it becomes “independent” they fail to tell us. The truth is, that it is not such, for it is given by the same Spirit of Truth that gave the rest, and it has reference to the same Redemption, same ultimate end and glory, described in numerous other prophecies. It is a continuation and amplification of some of the predictions of Isaiah and others, and hence it is eminently proper for an expositor to avail himself of later Revelations, if, on any points, they may throw light on preceding ones. Prophecy is designed to reveal the Divine Purpose, to indicate and vindicate its unity of design, and therefore, instead of being “independent,” one of another, all the predictions of God’s Word relating to the Redemptive process, and the history of His people, are mutually dependent upon each other. If an Interpreter neglects this connection, confining himself to one prophet or book without considering what others have to say, he at once makes himself unreliable and an unsafe guide. The excellence of Dr. Alexander consists in his having often violated his own theory.
Obs. 6. Even in David’s and Solomon’s time this Kingdom was, in view of the foreseen rebellion of the nation, predicted as a future restored one under one of David’s descendants; and this was based on the peculiar covenanted relationship of the nation and then existing Davidic dynasty, as e.g. Ps. 89:20–52, Ps. 132:11–18, etc. This, as previously intimated, was done intentionally, and, among other reasons, to show us convincingly that God foreknew the defection of the nation, and in His Plan provided for it. If these predictions had all been given after the overthrow of the Kingdom, we would not have as strong a proof of their inspiration as we now possess. Thus, e.g. would it be in accordance with human nature for David, when receiving a Theocratic favored Kingdom, to predict, during his lifetime, such an one as was destined to an overthrow, to a lengthy forsaking of God, etc.? No! men are disposed to laud and magnify their possessions, and predict perpetuity in their behalf. The predictions are in opposition to the prejudices and desires of human nature.