The language of the Apostles confirmed the Jews in their Messianic hopes of the Kingdom.
PROPOSITION 71. The language of the Apostles confirmed the Jews in their Messianic hopes of the Kingdom.
This is seen (1) from their employing the Jewish phraseology used to designate the Messianic times; (2) from their applying these to the future advent of Jesus, and urging their hearers to expect that such a Coming will fulfil the prophets; (3) from the fact that the Christianized Jews, in their respective congregations, held both to this Sec. Advent (having received Jesus as the Messiah), and to the restoration of the Davidic throne and Kingdom at the second appearing of Jesus.
Obs. 1. This is admitted by the ablest writers, not only infidels but by such men as Neander. It is corroborated by the church history of the earliest period, informing us, without any dissent, that, so far as known, all the Jewish believers held precisely the views that we are defending. Before we can permit our doctrine to fall even under unjust suspicion, it would be well if our opponents would candidly consider this historical fact, and ask themselves a few questions suggested by it. How does it come that under the direct, personal preaching of the apostles such views of the Kingdom were entertained, unless it resulted from the manner of teaching? How does it come that such opinions were so generally received under apostolic nurture, that the modern views and ideas are not found even stated? If these people were in error on so important a point, was it not the duty of the apostles and the Elders to enlighten them—to leave, at least, a protest against it on record? Is it reasonable, that churches under the direct pastoral care of inspired men should be so wholly given up to alleged grave error? These, and similar questions, ought to be considerately answered before these early Christians are branded as “gross” and “carnal” errorists. If the idea of the Kingdom now generally entertained, is the correct one, it certainly is exceedingly strange, utterly inexplicable, that it was not then introduced, and that it required uninspired men to produce it. If the early church was in error on so leading and fundamental a doctrine, then the teachers of the same are justly chargeable with both introducing and continuing this error, for instead of contradicting the Jewish views of the people, the apostles use the very words and phrases most eminently calculated to confirm the Jewish belief. This is seen in employing, as e.g. “the times of restitution,” “the world to come,” “redemption,” “salvation,” “the age to come,” “the day of the Lord,” “the day of Christ,” etc., and without any indicated change of meaning apply them to the Sec. Advent of Jesus, who is the Messiah. This application naturally and logically led the Jewish believers to fix their fond expectations of the Kingdom upon the Sec. Coming, and not on the First. In this, as we have shown in preceding Propositions, they only legitimately followed the divine teaching of Jesus Himself, who declared that His Kingdom was postponed (e.g. Prop. 66, 58, etc.) to the time of His Coming again. Our opponents have either failed in accounting for this feature, or in attempting it have only succeeded in lowering the standing of the apostles as teachers. Our position enforces no necessity for abject apologizing, because of such a belief in the early church, induced by the instruction received. We cordially accept of it as highly indicative of the truth—nay, as its essential sequence, the truth itself. It is the identical faith, enforced by covenant and prophecy, by the preaching of John, Jesus, disciples, and apostles, which, above all others, we should find in the Primitive Church.
Note 1. The most ultra of the unbelievers pronounce the whole matter an imposture. Many proofs of this might be given, but a single example will suffice. In the Religio-Philosophical Journal of Chicago, Jan. 17th, 1874, is a work advertised (also published in this Journal’s house), in which the author Jones (a “Religio-Philosophicalist”) assumes that he has carefully examined and compared together the New Test. and Josephus, and presents us with the following sage conclusion: “that Christ and His Apostles were gross impostors; that Josephus and St. Paul were no one else but Christ Himself, after He had risen from the dead, still had never been dead,” etc. Such nauseating matter is styled “criticism”; when it is simply the ravings of the lowest form of the fanaticism of error,—the outpourings of a depraved heart,—and worthy only of contempt from the better class of unbelievers.
Note 2. Many writers have noticed this peculiar usage of Jewish phraseology and that the phrases “end of the age,” “last days,” “last times,” etc., were regarded by the Jews as the period just previous to and immediate to the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom. The apostles continue their use, referring them to the still future, including this dispensation, so that in their estimation these times could not possibly include an existing covenanted Kingdom, as e.g. in Heb. 1:2 etc. Comp. Olshausen’s Com., vol. 2, p. 229, who quotes Acts 2:17; 1 Pet. 1:20 and 1:5; John 6:39, 40; 1 John 2:18; Rom. 2:5; Rev. 6:17, and 9:18, saying this corresponds with the Old Test. expressions; Gen. 49:1; Isa. 2:2; Mic. 4:1; Dan. 12:13, and 8:17, and 9:27, which again answers to “the end,” Matt. 24:6, 14. (Comp. Props. 86, 87, 89, 137, 138, 140, etc.) Redemption was always united in the Jewish mind with the coming and Kingdom of the Messiah, and so it continued, and as Calvin (Inst., ch. 25, sec. 2), observes, the Sec. Advent itself, in view of the results, is called “our Redemption.” The unbelieving Jews themselves continued to employ this phraseology. Thus e.g. R. Akiba (Milman’s His. Jews, vol. 3, p. 100), when supporting the pretensions of the false Messiah, Barchocab, said of him: “Behold the Star that is to come out of Jacob; the days of Redemption are at hand.” So also (p. 214, vol. 3), the Karaite belief, in Art. 10, speaks of “a coming Redemption through the Messiah, the Son of David.” A multitude of illustrations might be given, but these are sufficient to indicate how deeply these words and phrases were engrafted into the Jewish mind.
Obs. 2. After such appeals as Paul makes (Acts 26:6, 7, 8) to the Jewish hope (Prop. 182); after linking the Jewish “Rest” with the Coming Messiah (Prop. 143); after uniting the Jewish view of Judgeship and Judgment with the Second Advent of Jesus (Props. 132, 133, and 134); after making the Millennial glory dependent upon the future Advent (Props. 120 and 121); after joining the restoration of the Jewish nation with Christ’s return (Props. 111, 112, 113, 114); after endorsing and enforcing the Jewish first resurrection as preceding the glorious Messianic times (Props. 125–129); after all these, and similar points of union, it is difficult to see how men and women with Jewish views, holding tenaciously to covenant and prophecy, could possibly understand the apostles in any other sense than a Jewish or Chiliastic one. Let the reader consider that this agreement is found not merely in one or two things but runs through a great variety, even embracing all the distinguishing peculiarities of a restored Davidic throne and Kingdom under the Messiah.[*]
Note. Fairbairn, and others, assume that right after the resurrection (which they cannot reconcile with their own interpretation of Matt. 11:12), Jesus ruled as the predicted King in the covenanted Kingdom. We, on the other hand, hold that (discriminating the Divine Sovereignty, see Props. 79 and 80), the resurrection of Christ is preparative, qualifying the Son of Man for that predicted rule; and to prove that His Theocratic reign, as covenanted, does not immediately follow the resurrection and ascension (however exalted David’s Son may be), but is connected with a return (as the apostles testify), it is only necessary to turn to Paul’s statement, Acts 17:31, “God hath appointed a day” (Prop. 133) “in which He will judge” (taking the Scriptural idea of Judge,—see Prop. 133), “the world in righteousness, by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men in that He hath raised Him from the dead.” The resurrection gives the pledge that that period will most assuredly arrive, while our opponents themselves admit that the time of this manifestation is future. The careful student will notice that the credit of being “the Christ,” is dependent upon His having risen from the dead; and hence after the confession of Peter He charged His disciples to tell no man that He was the Christ (joining Mark 9:9, which gave an illustration of the Christship) “till the Son of Man were risen from the dead.” But the meaning of “Messiah” or “Christ” is utterly hostile to a purely spiritual reign in heaven, as we have already shown; it being the express title of the Theocratic King reigning over the restored Davidic throne and Kingdom. Thus the Jews and early Christians understood it, and such continues its meaning. His exaltation only increases the assurance that He “the Christ” will ultimately be manifested as such in power and great glory. If all this were to be changed, as Fairbairn, etc. suppose, then when the subject was up before the Jews (as e.g. Acts 17:3) Paul and the other apostles ought to have corrected the Jewish conceptions of the Christship of Jesus. We (1 Thess. 1:10) “wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
Obs. 3. The language of the apostles is in such harmony with the views of the Jews respecting the Messianic Kingdom, that our opponents, instead of giving any explicit passages, are driven to infer an existing Kingdom; and this very illogical inference, as we have repeatedly shown, involves them in numerous inconsistencies and contraditions. Aside from the singularity of a Kingdom, specially covenanted and predicted, being set up (as alleged by our opposers) and this so loosely left to inference (so that they disagree both concerning its meaning and the time of establishment), it is incredible for this to have transpired without being directly asserted and the fact becoming well known to the hearers of the apostles. A Kingdom set up, and yet the church, for several centuries remain unconscious of the matter! Men may charge us with credulity, but such a view far exceeds our power of belief, seeing that covenant and prophecy describe its establishment as a thing so open, so notable, so visible to all, that no one can possibly mistake its existence. How can Fairbairn and others, who so modernize Peter’s two sermons, account for the belief of the very churches to which Peter preached; a faith which constantly looked for a kingdom still future and one that should bear the significant and unmistakable marks of covenant and prophetic promise.[*]
Note. Those inferences, therefore, however plausible they may be, had either no existence or no force among the earliest converts, being regarded as illegitimate, opposed to the Old Test. delineation of the Kingdom. Men, in apparent triumph, may now tell us that this arises from their Jewish prejudices;—let it be so then, if such are grounded in covenant and prophecy, preserve the unity of the Scripture, and preserve for us the true doctrine of the Kingdom. Having previously referred to inferences, it may be added:—we are not opposed to inferential or deductive interpretation (if properly and lawfully conducted), seeing that notable examples (as e.g. 1 Cor. 15:27; Matt. 22:31, 32, etc.) are given in Scriptures, and all works on Bib. Interp. endorse them, but attention is directed to this matter for several reasons. It is simply incredible that the establishment of a Kingdom, covenanted, etc., can be left to inference. Again: multitudes speak of the modern view as so self-evident, that the impression is made as if it were the subject of direct affirmation. The passages assumed to infer it will come up in regular review hereafter. Again: some writers (as e.g. Jones, Sober Views of the Mill., p. 26) turn around and, to cover up their own defects in this direction, charge our system of faith with being built on inferences and deductions, and then, to make it odious, declare that nothing can be an object of faith that is not plainly revealed in the Word of God, for otherwise we are “building on the sand and not on the rock of truth.” Without entertaining such a wholesale prejudice against inferences (for they are valuable in their place), it may be consistently said: that when we produce the plain grammatical sense—one that all admit exists in the Word,—we are not justly chargeable with inference; when the literal import of covenant, prophecy, preaching, etc. is sustained against another inferred and engrafted sense (given by men uninspired), ought not the former have precedence over the latter? The reader will be abundantly able to judge from what follows, which party—for all the Scripture relating to the subject used by writers on both sides of the question will be brought forward—is the most liable to the charge of founding the doctrine on inference.
Obs. 4. The apostles, in their writings, constantly speak of the Kingdom as something that was well understood and fully comprehended as to meaning. Nowhere do we find the modern explanation and definition given to it; and, according to our argument, being covenanted and fully described by the prophets, it needed no such additions, being already clearly apprehended. If the Kingdom had been some entire new thing (as some assert), or if it was to be in a form different from that described in the literal language of the Old Test., then, if the apostles became conscious of such a change on the day of Pentecost and afterward, one of two things ought to have been done by them. They, if honest and capable instructors, ought to have told, especially to the Jews, that the covenant with David as they (the hearers) understood it could not be realized, or, that the language was to be understood differently in a spiritual or mystical sense, or, that another and materially different Kingdom (a spiritual one, or, the church as one) was now established thus fulfilling covenant promise—using just such language as modern (if correct) writers employ on the subject. How could they leave their thousands of hearers without giving them (if in error on so great a point) some definite explanation of this kingdom if it varied so greatly, as learned men make it, from “Jewish conceptions.” The truth is that it required no such explanations, for the apostles were addressing persons to whom the Old Test. was familiar, to whom the covenants and Kingdom were well known; and hence they labored to show that this Jesus was the Messiah, that at His Sec. Coming the predicted restitution and Kingdom would appear, and that to secure entrance into that Kingdom repentance and faith in that Coming Christ were indispensable.[*]
Note. The critical student will here find one of the chief causes of the early rapid growth of Christianity. Consider the excessive prejudices of the Jewish mind in favor of covenant and prophecy as they pertained to their favorite Messianic expectations, and then how can we reconcile such a sudden revulsion of view and feeling in the many Jewish believers, unless there be, as we have shown, certain points—fundamental—of contact and union? Imagine the modern theories of the Kingdom then preached, and what would have been the result? Certainly a controversy as to the meaning of the Messianic Kingdom, etc. Bauer, and others, think that the immediate conversion of three, and more, thousands is so enormous that it must be mythical, but the Messianic idea and fulfilment applied to Jesus at His Second Coming explains the leverage possessed by the apostles,—the truth being enforced through the power and evidences of the Spirit.