The apostles, after Christ's ascension, did not preach, either to Jews or Gentiles, that the Kingdom was established.
PROPOSITION 70. The apostles, after Christ’s ascension, did not preach, either to Jews or Gentiles, that the Kingdom was established.
They could not consistently preach that it was established, because (1) the covenant forbids it, the express terms of it not being verified; (2) the rejection of the kingdom by the Jews and its consequent postponement during “the times of the Gentiles,” forbids it; (3) the seed of Abraham to whom the Kingdom is to be given not being yet gathered out, forbids it; and (4) the non-arrival of the Sec. Advent forbids it.[*]
Note. It is painful to notice how our recent apologetical writers (as e.g. Row, Ch. Evidences, Bampton Lectures, 1877), while not denying a future fulfilment of prophecy, make the Messianic prophecies to be mainly realized at the First Advent and in the Ch. Church. This is a grave mistake, utterly opposed to the covenants, prophecies, and teachings of the apostles, all of which point us to the Sec. Advent for the astounding and most joyful Messianic manifestations. Such an error, if entertained, vitiates any system of belief, and weakens the defence of Christianity itself, because it perverts and misapplies Scripture and the Gospel History. Many Pre-Millenarians (as e.g. Dr. Nast in Art. “Christ’s Mill. Reign,” West. Ch. Advocate, July 23d, 1879) hold that a “Kingdom of grace” was established in the Church (which they also designate “new dispensation,” etc.), or in the heart of believers (a spiritual Kingdom), but hold that this is to give place to “the Kingdom of Christ” in its full covenanted and proper prophetic sense, viz.: “an undisputed Theocracy on the earth.” While we feel compelled, logically and Scripturally (as we shall show in detail), to reject this view as untenable and misleading, yet it is—in view of the unity of Scripture being more largely preserved by it—immensely preferable to the prevailing theories on the subject. Those holding to this opinion are self-contradictory, which is evidenced by the following illustration. In their comments on Matt. 3:2 they already find this Kingdom of grace, but coming to Acts 1:6 it is postponed to the day of Pentecost, and when we come to that period, we find the Kingdom inferred—the Church established being simply preparatory. Because Jesus is the Messiah, it does not follow that He now fills the covenanted and predicted position assigned to Him; men hastily conclude that He does (a multitude of writers assert it, and make it fundamental in their system), but we show from the Scriptures, step by step, that we have to wait for the Sec. Advent before the Messianic manifestation in connection with the Kingdom can be realized.
Obs. 1. Our entire argument thus far (with additional reasons that will be advanced) does not allow us to entertain any other opinion than the one stated in the Proposition. After the declarations of Jesus that “the house” (Davidic) would remain desolate until His return, that He would leave, remain away for an indefinite time, that the Kingdom was connected with His coming again, etc., it is reasonable to look for a corresponding style of preaching in His chosen witnesses. This we find in such profusion that it is a favorite charge with infidels (as Strauss, Bauer, Renan, etc.) that the apostles still adhered to “the Jewish ideas of the Kingdom”; the apologists (as Neander, etc.) admit that “Jewish forms” were retained, but contend that these were to be (alas! how true) gradually obliterated in “the developing consciousness of the church.”[*]
Note. Many writers of the Tübingen school and others, regarding Christianity as the resultant of a Petrine and Pauline development, attempt to distinguish between these periods. The Petrine being essentially Jewish is the prevailing type of Christianity during the first period, but was finally displaced and absorbed by the Pauline, which is regarded as more anti-Jewish. In this way they endeavor to account (overlooking the Alexandrian and Gnostic influence) for the overthrow of the Jewish notions of the Kingdom, although all admit that even the Pauline and Johannine are not entirely freed from “a Jewish cast.” Unfortunately not only Rationalistic but prominent defenders of Christianity (as Neander, Nevin, etc.), have seized upon this Petrine and Pauline theory, and incorporated it into their own line of apologetics, under its shelter apologizing for the modern view of the Kingdom being so different from that of the early Church. (Comp. Props. 72, 74, 75, 76.) This is done at the expense of concessions, which, to say the least, vitiate or lessen apostolic authority. Every theory of this kind forgets that to Peter was first specially committed the keys of this Kingdom both to Jew and Gentile (comp. Prop. 64), and that from this circumstance alone he was in no way inferior to Paul or John. Is it possible to believe that one to whom such keys were entrusted, should be ignorant of the Kingdom to an extent that requires another’s services to set it right? No! the whole theory—hypothetical—introduces an uncalled-for, and unproven, antagonism between the teaching of the apostles (comp. Prop. 187–8), which only exists in a philosophical conceit. Differences in characteristic writing, in witnessing statements, manner of presenting truth, exist between Peter, John, and Paul, but none in doctrine, or in the truth itself, or in the teachings concerning the Kingdom. On the subject of the Kingdom they were a unit, and none of the differences alluded to (as e.g. in Paul’s laying so much stress on justification by faith, rendered necessary by his special mission to Gentiles to secure their engrafting, or, in his portrayal of the overthrow of the Mosaic ritual, made incumbent by the same, etc.), are of a nature to form an antagonism between them. This is seen from our line of argument, enabling us to quote as freely from Paul as we do from Peter. This divine unity of doctrine is essential to their character as witnesses; for just so soon as we admit that in any important doctrine (as that of the Kingdom) any one of the apostles was in error (however apologetically and philosophically presented so as not to shock our sense of propriety), then his testimony is lowered to a more human standard. Even if men endeavor to screen such an one, chargeable with misconception, from ignorance and of bearing false witness, by saying that under “the Jewish form” or “Jewish husk” there was still “a germ” (invisibly small) of truth, which must pass through a process of development before it can be appreciated, yet all this, done with the most excellent and pious motives, is only opening the floodgates of infidelity, for it is an undermining of unity and apostolic character. Well may the Tübingen, Parker, and other schools, triumphantly ask, after such vain concessions, if the apostles were mistaken in their notions of the Kingdom, how can we trust them as infallible guides in other matters? The sad truth is, that this specious, fallacious theorizing is a fearful blow dealt to apostolic knowledge and authority. Instead of having a sure foundation in the Word, it is placed in “church-consciousness,” in development, growth, church authority, etc. And moreover, when it comes to finding those microscopical germs, scarcely two are agreed as to their appearance, shape, or to their resultant growth. The enemies of the Bible are not slow in seizing this vantage ground offered to them, and are finding these germs and developments—using the theory most effectually—in Comparative Theology, and making Christianity only a stage of development toward a higher plane, etc. Volume after volume of recent American books with this plausible philosophical hypothesis running through them, are bearing the fruit of its adoption. They echo the sentiments of the German “Friends of Light,” that the Scriptures were good enough in the early history of the church, but were never intended for the present highly intelligent and cultivated times! It may be said, that this is pushing the theory to an extreme; but we can scarcely deny that it is a legitimate one, when employed, as it is, to disparage apostolic teaching as contained in a “husk.”
Obs. 2. The weakness and Jewish cast assigned to the early church teaching respecting the Kingdom, is the place of persistent attack from unbelievers. It is remarkable, and indicative of the truthfulness of our position, that for some time the chief assaults have been turned in this direction. For, if it can be shown—taking advantage of the admissions and concessions of believers, which allow a change of view in the church doctrine of the Kingdom—that the faith of the apostles was discarded by the church as “too Jewish,” then it follows of necessity that the very foundations of Christianity are unreliable and the superstructure erected upon them is unsafe. This insidious (and unjust to the Record) charge is skilfully directed and paraded by thousands of pens. If any of the apostles were wrong, may not all others be equally in error? Invalidate the testimony of one on a leading doctrine so that it becomes antagonistic—directly hostile—to another; declare that the doctrinal position of one or more was tolerably well calculated for that age but not for successive eras, and you have no infallible directory. Believers stand amazed, amid the enlightenment of the age, to find the multitude of unbelievers so vast. Alas! we say it sorrowfully, these are the legitimate fruits of following a spiritualistic system of interpretation which dares not accept of the language and faith of the apostles, and of the early church as recorded concerning the Kingdom; which vainly wishes that the Millennarian, the Jewish view of the Kingdom, had never existed. We repeat: the church by forsaking the old landmarks of this doctrine will reap in bitterness the sad results of its own sowing. In forsaking the primitive, covenanted doctrine of the Kingdom, so fundamental; in declaring that the first Christians were in error on this most important and essential matter; in heaping upon apostolic fathers and martyrs the epithets of “carnal,” “sensual,” “material,” “gross,” “Jewish,” and “fanatical” interpretation, she has been paving the way and forging the weapons for the present unrelenting attack upon the citadel of Christianity itself. And just so long as she continues to entertain her view (now so prevalent) of the preaching of the disciples, she is incapable of fairly meeting and setting aside the arguments of unbelievers.[*]
Note. The gross attack of Bolingbroke, owing to alleged discrepancies in preaching, etc., in endeavoring to make out that the New Test. contains two distinct Gospels, one given by Christ and another by Paul, has been refined; the theory of doctrinal development from the germ supplying the abundant material. Dr. Priestley (Letters 1 and 2 to Mr. Burn, quoted by Fuller in Calv. and Soc. Sys. Comp., Let. 12), not knowing what to do with some Scripture, remarks: “some texts of the Old Test. had been improperly quoted by writers in the New,” being “misled by Jewish prejudices.” This is repeated by multitudes, and, what is remarkable, more or less endorsed, in some form or other, by theologians and apologists. Thus to give a single illustration (in a different spirit) from an eminent author, able and interesting: Oosterzee (Theol. of N. Test., p. 378), says that the Apocalypse sustains a “purely Israelitish character” (see e.g. p. 53 where the Jewish views are stated), and that it indicates “that even the most highly developed of the Apostles at the end of his course, had by no means torn himself from the Theocratic national ground in which he had ever been rooted.” We thank such men for their frank and noble concessions of truth, however adverse it may be to their own theories, especially when it is done not in the spirit of unbelief but for the sake of the truth. Multitudes proceeding on the theory that the Messianic Kingdom was established in the Ch. Church, take it for granted that the apostles changed their views. Thus e.g. Walker, in the Philos. of the Plan of Salvation, constantly presents it, and locates (p. 245) the period of enlightenment as follows: “On the day of Pentecost, the promised Spirit descended. The apostles at once perceived the spiritual nature of Christ’s Kingdom.” But the proof is lacking, and over against Walker we place the above declaration of Oosterzee’s that John had not changed in his last writing. Covenant, prophecy, unity, all forbid such a change, especially in communications divinely received.
Obs. 3. Our argument—fortified (1) by Scripture, (2) by charges of infidelity, (3) by frank concessions of apologists—accepts of these “Jewish conceptions” of the apostles as legitimately correct and imperatively demanded by the covenants and the Divine Purpose. One writer attempts to get rid of these “Jewish forms” by dividing the church into Petrine, Pauline, and Johannine (some make the Pauline last) stages or eras, lauding and magnifying the one to the prejudice of the other, and making the former to be absorbed by the latter; another writer (as e.g. M. Pecaut) says that Paul continually betrays his “Jewish conceptions”; Semler, and others, inform us that John’s writings, especially the Apocalypse, are in harmony with a “Jewish spirit”; another writer (as e.g. Westm. Review, Oct. 1861, Art. 5) tells us that all of them give us “an expansion of the great Hebrew Theocratic conception.” These expressions are given to us apologetically, or sneeringly (with intended sarcasm), but in themselves they contain so much truth that the apology or sarcasm becomes uncalled for and harmless; for we are fully prepared and warranted to accept of these “Hebrew Theocratic conceptions.” Scholten (Oosterzee’s Theol. N. Test., p. 395) may see only “forms derived from an earlier mechanical view of the world, which show that John had not yet entirely risen from his former Judaism”; Renan (Life of St. Paul, p. 250) may tell us, that “the great chimera of the coming Kingdom of God was thus the creative and mother idea of the new religion,” and in another place (p. 162), “the dream which had been the soul of the movement of ideas brought about by Jesus, continued to be the fundamental dogma of Christianity; everybody believed in the speedy coming of the Kingdom of God, in the unexpected manifestation of a great glory, in the midst of which the Son of God would appear,” etc., and that Paul “expresses Messianic hopes clothed in the garb of Jewish materialism”; Neander, Pressense, and a host of others, may reluctantly admit the “Jewish forms,” “Jewish conceptions,” “Jewish materialism,” “Jewish husks,” etc. (telling us that growth was to cast these aside), but we gladly accept of the very things which are thus wrongfully supposed to be prejudicial to the truth itself.[*]
Note. Some writers, overlooking their own concessions in other places, endeavor, with their Pauline theory, to clear Paul as much as possible from Jewish views. Under the shelter of Paul’s consistent objections to some Jewish views (viz.: those relating to the ceremonial and sacrificial law abrogated in Jesus, which we also hold), they endeavor to make out that he rejected everything essentially Jewish. Our argument, as we proceed, will show the unfounded nature of this theory. It is a matter of surprise that Reuss (His. Ch. Theol., p. 303), after his admissions concerning apostolic adhesion to Jewish conceptions (thus introducing antagonism between apostles), in his eagerness to rid Paul of Judaistic views, roundly asserts: “whom (Christ) he (Paul) did not regard as the mighty monarch of a Kingdom to come.” Where is the proof of such a sweeping assertion? The exact contrary is evidenced from even a partial comparison of Paul’s teachings. This will appear in the course of our argument under various propositions, where we will show that Paul lays much stress on the Sec. Advent and the future Kingdom then introduced, employing largely the very Jewish phraseology and ideas which were universally applied by the Jews to the Messianic or Davidic restored, Kingdom. There is no contradiction between Paul and the other apostles, as is seen in his equally pressing the importance of the Second Advent, the futurity of the Kingdom, the location of the restitution, inheriting, the day of Jesus Christ, etc. But as all these points will come before us in regular order, we need not anticipate them.
Obs. 4. We take the position that if the witnesses of the truth thus occupied—as enemies and friends, assailants and defenders declare—“a Jewish standpoint,” it was necessary for them to do so in behalf of the truth itself. A little reflection here, in view of the special character and mission of the apostles, will lead any unbiased mind, which acknowledges the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, to feel that any theory which places the apostles in an attitude, doctrinally, antagonistic to the future posture of the church, is, and must be, radically defective. A mind and heart imbued with deep reverence for the Word, ought to be prepared to investigate the doctrinal views of the persons divinely commissioned to proclaim, authoritatively, the truth, and to do this with the utmost impartiality. Such, too, ought not to allow, without the most decisive proof, that the apostles were mistaken in their “Jewish” position.[*]
Note. In this matter we only follow the excellent suggestion of Dr. Hodge, one of our opponents, when he says (Sys. Theol., vol. 3, p. 793, comp. p. 797), “what the apostles believed, we are bound to believe; for St. John said: ‘He that knoweth God, heareth us.’ ” This is true, but, alas, how little regarded even by those who are friends and admirers of the apostles! The quotations, apologies, etc., given already evidence this; many more will be adduced as we advance.
Obs. 5. Additionally it may be said: (1) If the apostles preached that the covenanted, predicted Kingdom was established, why do they not directly declare this as a fact, and thus remove error and prevent the incoming Chiliasm? Is there a single passage which directly teaches that the Christian church is the Kingdom? No such declaration or passage is to be found in all the apostolical writings. (2) Hence it is a fact which cannot be gainsaid that those who bold to a present establishment of the Kingdom exclusively rely upon inferential proof. This feature alone—a doctrine derived from pure inference—should place the reader on his guard so that he may well consider whether such inferential testimony can possibly outweigh the previously given covenants and teachings of Jesus. An inference may be right or wrong, and this must be carefully tested. It has no decisive weight against direct testimony, but must give way to the latter. Let us add: it is inconsistent with the leading doctrine of an oath-bound covenant, of the early preaching of the disciples, and of all prophecy, to leave it (the doctrine of the Kingdom) deducible from mere inference resulting from human opinion on the subject. Inferences too so completely of human origin, that the most learned and pious differ among themselves as to the meaning to be attached to it, and the time of its establishment. It is, therefore, a just conclusion, that, in a matter of so high moment, if God really (as claimed) established the Kingdom covenanted to David and predicted by the prophets in the church or in the hearts of believers, etc., then those former preachers of the Kingdom ought (since we are told that they were mistaken, etc.) as honest men—to say nothing of their apostleship—both to have confessed their previous error (for if in error, as claimed, simple justice required this), and to have plainly and unequivocally declared the presence of the Kingdom in human hearts, or in the church, or in the world. But they did neither of these things: the first they could not do, because they had not been ignorant, false preachers of the Kingdom; the second it was impossible for them to do, since it would have convicted them of having previously preached an erroneous Kingdom, of abandoning the solemnly given covenants, and of holding forth a Kingdom which has none of the divinely covenanted and predicted characteristics. (Passages from which the opposite is inferred, will be examined in detail hereafter.) Inferences, therefore, which are in antagonism to the previously ascertained tenor of the Word, to the anticipations of the pious Jews, to the former preaching of John, Jesus, and the disciples, are justly open to grave suspicion, and one to be discarded as too unreliable for doctrinal teaching.
Obs. 6. Take the first sermons of Peter, and nothing is said of the establishment of the Kingdom, although multitudes inform us that it was only then manifested. Turning to Acts 2:14–36 and 3:12–26, we ascertain the following: that in the former, speaking to Jews instead of making out that the covenant was to be spiritualized and applied to Christ, Peter boldly asserts that Jesus was to sit on David’s throne, that He was raised up and exalted for this purpose, that He was seated at God’s right hand until the period arrives (comp. e.g. Rev. 19 and 20) for making His enemies His footstool, and that, therefore, He is both Lord and Christ. (Let not the reader forget here, the meaning of Christ to the Jewish mind—see Prop. 205.) Let the student place himself in the posture of the Jewish hearers at that preaching, with their Jewish expectations of the Kingdom and “the Christ,” and he will see at once that this sermon was most admirably adapted to confirm the Jews in their faith of the Kingdom. Peter’s argument takes the Jewish view of the Kingdom to be the correct one, and as one well known (Props. 19–44), and hence, without entering into particulars, endeavors to show that Jesus is that Messiah under whom the covenanted sitting upon David’s throne will yet eventually be realized—His resurrection and present exaltation giving us the needed assurance. The Kingdom is not disputed, but He who is to be the Messiah, the King, is the subject controverted and thus brought forward. This is confirmed by the second discourse, in which it is distinctly announced that this Jesus, thus declared to be the Messiah, shall remain in heaven until the period of restitution spoken of by the prophets, and always linked with the Messianic Kingdom, shall arrive; for this Jesus shall come again to be the Restorer as the prophets announce. Now let the reader consider how the hearers of Peter regarded the times of restitution (comp. Prop. 144), comprehending under it the Messianic reign, the restoration of the Davidic throne and Kingdom, etc., and it is utterly impossible to conceive of any other impression made upon their minds than that the Kingdom was still future, and would be established when Jesus would come again. The proof is found in the historical fact, that the first Christians thus understood Peter. The times of restitution and the times of the Kingdom are strictly equivalent phrases to the Jewish mode of thinking and belief; hence the language of Peter, as consistency demanded, is in strict accord with our Proposition. Many of our opponents are forced to give us Acts chs. 2 and 3, as fully sustaining continued “Jewish expectations.”[*]
Note. Thus e.g. Pressense (Early Years of Chris., p. 46), says that the apostles after the day of Pentecost “still enveloped that truth (i.e. the truth of Christ), in Jewish forms,” and (p. 48) adds: “they (the first Christians) believed in an immediate return of Jesus Christ ‘to restore all things.’ They supposed that the end of the world was at hand and that the last days foretold by Joel had begun to dawn. Acts 2:17 and 3:19, 20. Thus they awaited those days of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, which was to inaugurate the Sec. Coming of Christ.” Schmid (Bib. Theol., N. Test., p. 337), frankly admits that Acts 3:18–25 viewed with Peter’s utterances in his epistles, refers to the Old Test. prophecy of the restitution of all things, which “is to be completed at His second appearance.” (Comp. Prop. 144.) A large amount of similar testimony could readily be produced from the writings of our opposers—some of which we present under other Propositions,—and this is the more valuable since it is reluctantly forced from them, being, as they well see and acknowledge, at variance with their preconceived notion of the Kingdom. We admire the integrity of such men, who in honesty, however adverse the confession may be to their own views of the Kingdom, frankly admit “the Jewish standpoint” of the first preachers of the Kingdom; while we censure the weakness—if not worse—of that class who either dare not confess it, or pretend, against overwhelming evidence, that it does not exist, being afraid that an honest acknowledgment would recoil upon their own system of faith. The truth of God never suffers by exposure and freedom; it is confinement and restrainment that, if it does not seriously injure, at least eclipses it. Fairbairn (On Proph., p. 506), however much he endeavors to give a modern hue to these sermons (and thus makes out that Peter at one time, at least, had preached a false Kingdom, viz.: before the day of Pentecost), makes important concessions (1) that the times of restitution occur at the Sec. Advent; (2) that the sending of Jesus again, is that Advent; (3) that even “the seasons of refreshing” if “the sense absolutely require it,” “might be identified with the times of the restitution of all things” (although he thinks it not necessary); (4) that (p. 168) it were against all probability to suppose that the apostle meant to speak of the prophecy (of Joel) as having found a complete fulfilment in the events of that particular day, or as being in any measure exhausted by these.”
Obs. 7. Paul’s teaching fully corresponds with that of Peter. Thus e.g. in the 1st and 2d chs. of 2 Thess. he unites the Kingdom with the Advent of the Lord Jesus, and, instead of a present covenanted Kingdom existing, predicts that before the still future “day of Christ” is manifested there will be a falling away, and the Son of perdition, the Antichrist, will be revealed. That is, before the predictions relating to the promised glory of the Messiah’s Kingdom can be realized, certain events must first transpire, and that trouble, trial, and persecution, more or less, await those who are called and are under the influence of the truth. (Comp. e.g. the Jewish conceptions of Rom. 8:19–23; 11:1–32; 13:11, 12, etc.; 1 Cor. 1:7, 8; 4:5, 8; 6:2, 3, 9, 14, etc.; 2 Cor. 1:14; 3:16, etc.; Gal. 1:4; 3:16–18, etc.; Eph. 1:10–21; 2:12–19; 4:30, etc.; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:10, 11, 16, etc.; and so through all his writings,—constantly speaking of Jesus as the Messiah, and locating the fulfilment of the promises held by the Jews to the future coming of this Jesus, by employing the language and ides of the Jews applied to the Messiah.)
Obs. 8. James in his Epistle, instead of a kingdom now established, calls believers “heirs of a kingdom,” and exhorts to a patient waiting for “the Coming of the Lord” when the promises will be realized, thus strictly verifying Christ’s statements. In Acts 15:13–17, in the council of the apostles, James corroborates the non-establishment of the Kingdom by showing that “after this” (i.e. after the gathering out of the Gentiles) “I (Jesus) will return and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down,” etc. The postponement is most plainly taught.[*]
Note. The apostles all agreed to this postponement as presented by James. Let the careful consider: that, in the very nature of the case, this must be so, or else the apostles come in direct conflict with the statements of Jesus (comp. e.g. Props. 58, 66, etc.). In this matter there must be, in order to preserve their character of apostleship, a full and cordial agreement.
Obs. 9. John in his Epistles, instead of proclaiming a present existing kingdom, tells us of antichrist, encourages to faithfulness and looking for the coming of Jesus. In the Apoc., given to show the future revelation of Jesus, he shows the trials and tribulations of the church during a period of time still future to him, and positively asserts that only at a certain time (Rev. 11:15 and 20:4) the dominion or Kingdom of Christ would be manifested. Jude, in his short Epistle, refers us to the coming King when mercy and glory are to be revealed to His saints. Thus all the leading first preachers present the same postponement of the Kingdom; and it is a perversion of their language to make them testify to anything contrary to this and their former preaching. Indeed, it is more than this; it is to make them contradictory, unreliable, and hostile to the Covenants and Prophecy.
Obs. 10. The simple fact, running through the Epistles, is that the Kingdom is spoken of as still future and constantly associated with the speedy Advent of Jesus. The expectancy of that Advent and related kingdom forbids the entertainment of the substituted notion of a kingdom now so widely prevalent. This linking of the Kingdom with the Second Advent is nowhere spoken of (as now reiterated by eminent writers) as the development of a new stage in the Kingdom. The passages already adduced abundantly confirm our position, for, instead of teaching what the Alexandrian, monkish, popish, and modern schools so loudly affirm (viz.: that the covenanted Kingdom had already arrived and was in full realization and progress), they point us to the Sec. Coming of Jesus for the glorious establishment of the Kingdom. We give but a single illustration of the apostolic mode of presenting this subject: Take 1 Pet. 1:10–13, and we have (1) the inheritance and savaltion (Jewish phrases) “ready to be revealed in the last time”; (2) to be realized “at the appearing of Jesus Christ,” “at the revelation of Jesus Christ”; (3) and this is the same inheritance and salvation which the prophets predicted, linking it with the Messianic Kingdom on earth. Why should we then, contrary to the entire tenor of the Word, attempt to locate the fulfilment of this salvation, etc., at a period of time different from that specified by the apostle and his co-laborers; or, why should we disconnect that which the Spirit (“knowing the deep things of God”) has expressly joined together? Let any one carefully consider the phraseology of the New Test. In reference to the coming again of Jesus, and observe how there is united with it all the Jewish hopes of kingdom, restitution, redemption, dominion, reigning, crowning, destruction of enemies, deliverance of His people, etc., and he will clearly see that the distinctive Messianic hopes, the hopes that centre in the official Christ, are postponed to the expected, precious Sec. Advent of the Messiah.
Note 1. To a person who has never collated the passages relating to the subject, it will be surprising, if he undertakes it, to find both how numerous they are, and how unanimous the voice of the apostles in making the same representations. (Lists are given in Bick ersteth’s Guide, Brooks’ El. of Proph. Interp., Seiss’ Last Times, Shimeall’s I will come again, etc.). What Van Oosterzee so aptly applies to Peter, will be found, to a very great extent, true of all the apostles: “as well the discourses as the First Epis. of Peter teach us to recognize this apostle especially as the Apostle of Hope, in this sense, that the return of the Lord equally dominates his whole presentation of Christian truth, his whole conception of the Christian life.”
Note 2. Overlooking this feature, many writers find obscurity and difficulties, when none exist. Thus e.g. Reuss, neglecting this key given so plainly in Hebrews (as in 2:5; 4:9; 9:28; 10:36, 37, etc.), says: “How involved, obscure, and ambiguous is the Scriptural demonstration of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 4:3 etc.), the design of which is to establish the certainty of God’s promises.” Of course, when men spiritualize God’s promises and survey them only from a modern mystical standpoint there must necessarily be ambiguity, but let any one place himself on covenanted ground and then he will see the clearness of the argument, (1) to show that Jesus is the Messiah, (2) that the promises will be fulfilled in and by Him, (3) that even as Priest He makes provision for their fulfilment, (4) that His very death ensures the fulfilment of the covenant, (5) and that such a realization of covenant promises will be experienced at His Sec. Coming unto Salvation. Thus this epistle falls in fully, clearly, and powerfully with the other portions of Scripture.
Obs. 11. If we critically consider the confession of Peter, it leads us to the same conclusion. Peter confessed that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and received for this the special approval of Jesus and acknowledgment that “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 16:16, 17). Now this approbation, calling Peter “Blessed,” and the declaration that the Father revealed it, clearly indicate that Peter knew the significancy and proper meaning of the title “the Christ.” This is self-evident from the narrative. What view of “the Christ” did Peter entertain excepting solely that of the Jewish expectations, and that Jesus, and none other, was indeed the promised Christ. When Peter, therefore, made this confession he believed as fundamental to it, that “the Christ” was the kingly title of Jesus, that which indicated Him as “the anointed” One, coming as the King to restore the Theocratic-Davidic Kingdom. This is not mere conjecturing Peter’s view of the Christship, for we have overwhelming proof that such in reality—and consistently too with Covenant and Prophecy—was his opinion. The proof is found in Acts 1:6 (comp. also Prop. 205, etc.). The reader will also reflect that if the modern doctrinal view of “the Christ” was in Peter’s mind, is it not reasonable to suppose that Peter or Jesus would have, on this occasion, disabused the other disciples of their Jewish conceptions of the Messiahship; and can we consistently account for Peter’s rebuking Jesus when He shortly after spoke of His death and resurrection, Matt. 16:22. But when we see that Peter’s conceptions of “the Christ”—as shown to exist—were approved by Jesus Himself, who shall dare to decry them as “ignorant” and “antiquated.” To do the latter is both presumptuous and dangerous. No! Peter knew what was comprehended under the phrase “the Christ,” and however ignorant in reference to the manner and time in which “the Christ” would be openly manifested as such in His glorious work, he certainly was not mistaken in the meaning that he attached to it. Notice then what follows: without the slightest change or hint of a different meaning Peter continues to preach to the Jews “the Christ,” which was understood by all to denote the One anointed to be the King on David’s restored throne. If this was not its meaning, how could inspired men leave the Jews and others under the impression, without correction, that such continued its meaning, only pointing to the still future Advent for the manifestation of this Jesus as “the Christ” in the fullest sense entertained.
Note 1. It is saddening to see into what palpable contradictions most excellent men are involved, who deny Peter’s conception of “the Christ,” and persistently reject “Jewish conceptions” of the Messiah. We give an illustration (the reader can readily find a multitude): Barnes, Com., Matt. 16:16, 17, endeavors to give an unwarranted turn to this confession, an Anti-Judaic one, as if Peter did not entertain the Jewish views, and as if the words meant: “You, Jews, were expecting to know the Messiah by His external splendor, His pomp and power as a man,” etc. He thus ascribes to Peter a highly wrought spiritual conception of “the Christ,” according with modern ideas. Now notice, in the same chapter, on verse 22, he interprets Peter’s conduct as resulting from this: “He expected, moreover, that He would be the triumphant Messiah,” etc., and, on Acts 1:6, the apostles, including Peter (for he makes no exception), are charged with holding the exact Jewish expectations of a “temporal dominion of the Messiah,” etc. In the one place he has the proper idea of Christ, and in the other places he is represented as holding erroneous views. Our argument shows that Peter, however ignorant of the means and time of accomplishment, consistently held to one continuous proper meaning of “Christ,” corresponding with his preaching as a disciple and an apostle.
Note 2. Admirable writers make the grave mistake of changing the definite title of “the Christ” (comp. Prop. 205). Apologists fall into the same serious error, as e.g. Leathes (The Religion of the Christ, Lec. 6, on “the Christ of Acts”) correctly points out the teaching of Jesus concerning His death, that such a death appeared destructive to the Jewish faith of the Christ, and that the Christship was fully asserted notwithstanding the death, but unfortunately (overlooking the distinctive title in its covenanted relationship, and the postponement of the Kingdom) deduces from this, grounded on His resurrection and ascension, that “the Christship,” as covenanted and predicted, was most amply realized in the establishment of the Church, although unable to designate a single Messianic feature thus fulfilled. The facts of the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, Apoc., and early Church, all show that this is an erroneous conclusion, calculated to lead into a perversion of much that is precious. Leathes applies the same reasoning to the Epistles, and comes out with the astounding assertion, that by His ascension, the establishment of the Church, and the conferring of spiritual life and gifts, “He thus Himself shows the fulfilment of psalm and prophecy more than if He had restored again the Kingdom to Israel, and had gathered in subjection to the throne of David all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.” How sad it is, to see excellent men, who desire to honor Jesus, make that which is preparatory to be the full realization of covenant and prophecy. The simple truth, that the apostles showed that this Jesus, once dead, but risen and exalted, was the Messiah promised, and that at His Sec. Advent—not before—this covenanted and predicted Christship would be manifested in power and glory, is completely overshadowed by a preconceived theory to which all Scripture must bend. Do we need to be surprised at the lack of faith in the Church, when good men, in vast numbers, lend themselves to such a work.
Obs. 12. The testimony in behalf of our position is cumulative. Some may be added here, leaving the additional for other Propositions (as e.g. 93–104, etc.). Much of the language of Scripture pertaining to this dispensation is utterly irreconcilable with the idea of a Messianic Kingdom, not merely in its covenanted and prophetic outlines but in its several details. Thus e.g. if the covenanted Kingdom really existed as many tell us, how can the church be exhibited, over against the prophetic delineations, in a position equivalent to widowhood, or, at least, separation from a beloved one, which mars happiness, Luke 5:33–35. This certainly finds no correspondence with the Messianic Kingdom as given in the Old Test. Again: the Kingdom is to be revealed in “the day of the Lord Jesus Christ,” but after the ascension of Jesus, the apostles did not see this day (so Jesus previously informed them, Luke 17:22), for they regarded it as still future (locating it with the Sec. Advent, as in 1 Cor. 7:8; 1 Thess. 5:2, 23; Phil. 1:6, 10, comp. with 2:16 and 3:20, 21, etc.). Now all this employing Jewish phraseology without any indication of change of meaning, can only be reconciled with the postponement of the Kingdom to the Sec. Advent. The careful student of Scripture must have been arrested by this additional peculiarity, corroborative of our argument, that in many places (as e.g. 1 Cor. 1:7, 8, etc.) the apostles rapidly pass from the present to the Advent, the intervening period being not worthy to be compared, owing to the absence of the King and Kingdom, to what transpires at the Messiah’s return; or, in other words, the distinguishing characteristics of a purely Messianic nature are attributed to the Sec. Coming, and the period intervening being merely preparatory, is passed by. If the predicted Messianic times, the Millennial glory, are to precede (as many declare) the Sec. Advent, could such a style of writing be adopted without dishonoring the predictions of God and the things of the Messiah? Our argument finds this distinguishing feature in harmony with all the utterances of the Spirit, and regards it as a necessary sequence of the postponement.[*]
Note. Surely the student requires no apology at the length, and the details, of our argument. The fundamental nature of the subjects considered, and their influence in forming a correct view, are a sufficient justification. The illustrations of diverging opinions, may be regarded as numerous, but the student will find them valuable, because they serve to show—frequently in the very words of their supporters—the line of reasoning by which they are sustained, and then the defectiveness of the same is either pointed out in the text or note. We give considerable space to this early history, and we feel excused in so doing, when our opponents concede that its close study is most weighty. Thus e.g. Pressense (The Early Years of Christianity, in Pref.) well remarks: “Of all the topics of the day, none is of graver importance than the early history of Christianity, and the foundation of the Church. Everything points inquiry in this direction,” etc.
Obs. 13. That our Proposition is true appears from the immediate result of their preaching. The early church, the Apostolic Fathers, all that were nearest to the apostles and the Elders, knew of no established Kingdom but looked for one to come at the Advent of Jesus. This is evidenced by the intensely Chiliastic position of the Primitive Church. How can the reader account for this, unless our view of the Kingdom is the correct one. When the apostles, and their co-laborers, “preached the things concerning the Kingdom of God,” “preached the Kingdom of God,” how does it happen that the only doctrine of the Kingdom, East and West, in the churches under their supervision (comp. Props. 73–77), is the one that we advocate? Is this merely accidental? Can a single writer be quoted who lived in the First, and Second, and part of the Third, centuries, and who proclaimed the modern view of the Kingdom, now so generally entertained? Let men in answer to this, take refuge in the development theory, in accommodation, in transition, in substituted revelation, etc., but all such subterfuges prove unsatisfactory, at the same time invalidating the credibility of inspired teachers under whose personal supervision and instruction such a doctrine was allowed to prevail.[*]
Note. Men who lack the scholarly attainments of Neander, Bush, etc. (and hence cannot make the concessions and admissions of such men) endeavor to bring discredit upon our doctrine by linking it with heresy (as coming from Cerinthus, or Jewish converts), but aside then from the impossibility of tracing the Church excepting through “heretics,” these professed critics conveniently overlook the historical fact (so Neander, etc.), that Millenarians were among the stoutest opposers of Cerinthus and the gross Judaizing (in reference to the law) tendency; they forget that not only Christian Churches composed of Jews but also those among the Gentiles, equally held to our doctrine; and that the writers on all sides claimed that they received the doctrine both from the Scriptures and the recent traditionary testimony of the apostles and elders. (Comp. the succeeding Props.)
Recent works frankly acknowledge our statements, and endeavor, in view of their uncontroverted existence, to show that the Scriptures themselves are unreliable, and that apostolic authority is not so great as has been deemed. Thus e.g. Desprez (John, or the Apoc. of the New Test.) when speaking of “the Gospel of the Kingdom” (in the chapter on this subject) holds that the view we have thus far presented was taught by Jesus and the disciples, that it was perpetuated in the church, etc., giving the proof of the facts as stated. Thus far Desprez is certainly correct, but alas! he only leaves a part of the Divine Record to testify;—for seeing that these expectations were not realized, he hastily jumps to the conclusion that they are unavailing and utterly unreliable, forgetting that Jesus, the apostles, and the Apostolic Fathers, all unite in asserting the postponement of this Kingdom to the Sec. Advent (and for good, substantial reasons). This procedure destroys the reliability, the integrity of Scripture. This stumbling-block of a “speedy Advent,” its “nearness,” etc., forces Desprez to look at the subject with human eyes and weakness, overlooking that when the Spirit speaks, in the measuring of time according to His own vastness of conception, that a period necessarily long to man, when contrasted with the briefness of his own life and generations, is but brief—“a moment”—with the Infinite.
Obs. 14. Others, seeing how this Kingdom is united with the Sec. Coming of Jesus, and unable to find consistently the establishment of the Kingdom under the preaching of the disciples, and yet, with their theory of a Kingdom, compelled to have some kind of a Kingdom in actual existence during this dispensation—resort to the most arbitrary spiritualistic interpretation to locate the Sec. Advent in the past so that a resultant Kingdom may logically be connected with it. This will be fully answered as we proceed in the argument.[*]
Note. An illustration or two must suffice: The Antinomian Perfectionists in their Articles of Faith (quoted Oberlin Review, May, 1847, make in Art. 28 Christ’s Sec. Coming to occur at the destruction of Jerusalem, and in Art. 2, they say: “We believe that, at the period of the Sec. Coming of Christ, Christianity or the Kingdom of heaven, properly began.” The Swedenborgians claim that the Sec. Advent took place in Swedenborg’s time, and hence engraft upon it their distinctive “New Jerusalem” theory, which includes the grand characteristics of the blessed Messianic Kingdom. Other writers locate this Sec. Advent at His resurrection or on the day of Pentecost, forgetting that after these days the apostles continued to speak of it as future. The most repulsive view is that of making the coming of Titus and the Romans to represent the blessed Advent of Jesus—although some eminent writers have endorsed it—since in the prophecy of Jesus relating to this event, He discriminates between the destruction of Jerusalem and His own Advent. None of the Primitive Church, after Jerusalem was destroyed, for a moment made such an unwarranted application; their knowledge of covenant and prophecy prevented such a prostitution of “the blessed hope.” As we shall have occasion to refer to this Sec. Advent at length, it is sufficient now to remark: that as such theories also set aside the oath-bound covenants and the prophecies based on them (in their plain grammatical sense), giving them a spiritualistic or mystical dress foreign to their real import, they become, by this very process of transmutation and substitution, unworthy of our credence. Such a state of things as followed the destruction of Jerusalem, or the establishment of the Christian Church, and has existed down to the present day, is not, cannot be the covenanted, predicted Kingdom of the Old Test., because there is no real correspondence between the former and the latter. Men may pretend to such an agreement, but it is forced and unnatural; it is done at the expense of the grammatical word and by forcing upon it a sense that the laws of language do not admit.