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WHEN SHALL THESE THINGS BE ?
The apostles addressed our Lord, while seated on the Mount of Olives, in these words : “ELTE ñuev ποτε ταυτα εσται και και τι το σημειον της σης παρουσιας Kal TNS OUVTeleLas toll ac@vos ;” “Tell us when shall these things be ; and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world ?”.
The word mapovola, translated “coming,” means personal presence or arrival.
It is elsewhere rendered “the coming of Titus,” and “ the coming of Stephanus,” and in reference to Paul, “my coming.” So it is written of Paul, “His letters say they are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence (Ttapovola) is weak. It is therefore the “sign of thy personal arrival : " OUVTENELA Toll alôvos, rendered the end of the world, is literally the ending of the age or dispensation.
What is here worthy of note is the fact that Jesus answers, not repels, the question of the disciples. He pronounces an elaborate discourse in answer to their inquiries, replete with instructions, warnings, cautions, encouragements, and signs. He does not constitute his hearers, or his people, prophets. But he enumerates such signs and presignificant tokens of the time of his personal appearing, as would place them far in advance of a thoughtless world and a sleeping Church.
But it may be objected that we cannot understand or accurately interpret what He says. The Great Teacher must have either refused to specify any such signs and tokens as they asked; or if he answered their inquiry, it must have been in words intelligible according to established usage. Words are the audible vehicles of ideas; to use speech incapable of being understood is to deceive. Language is the coinage of thought, and if not convertible into what it represents it is mockery to throw it into currency. The Saviour's words, bearing each the impress of His like-, ness and superscription, are not base coins. They are heavy with truth and thought and love. “All Scripture” — not all minus the prophecy on the Mount, or minus Isaiah and the prophets, or minus the Book of Revelation—but “all Scripture,” from Genesis to the Apocalypse, is inspired of God, and is profitable, and therefore intelligible.
It is a fair question whether any event in history is the sure solution of a special prediction in prophecy, or whether anything that has occurred in the lapse of eighteen centuries fulfils the prophecies made by Jesus, or recorded by St John, and on this good men may and do differ. The only proof of fulfilment we can
adduce is a careful comparison between the prophecy in Scripture, and the event in history. Dean Goode, Dr Keith, and others, as already stated, have applied this collation and comparison to certain Old Testament prophecies, and triumphantly proved their fulfilment in historic facts. All we attempt to do is to carry New Testament prophecy farther down the stream of time, and to submit the result of our investigations to the judgment of the Church and the world. The Saviour enjoins us to do so. Whether we succeed or fail His words are truth. What He enumerates as signs of more or less near events are signs. What we adduce as their fulfilment and illustration deserves our earnest study, and indeed demands it.
There is a height above the world, which if a saint attain he finds himself on a scaffold; and there is a success in the collation, identification, and interpretation of events foretold in prophecy, which if we attain we find ourselves derided and denounced. They however sneer who least understand, and they scoff most who hate the most. Grand truths are not taught unless at great sacrifice, and great success is sure to be encompassed with envy, and sometimes with hate, and in the nineteenth century as in preceding centuries the natural heart is “enmity to God.”
"AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT.”
This prediction is popularly quoted as a conclusive proof that we can gather no proximate idea of the time of the appearing of the Son of man. It is plain from the contrasting observations of the apostle in his Epistle to the Thessalonians, chap. v. 244, that in this aspect He will come to the world of scoffers -of sensual, ungodly, and unbelieving sinners, but not to His loving, hoping, and believing people. After the apostle had announced “that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night; for when they shall say peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape,” he adds, “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief.”
Thus we are distinctly led to expect that the people of God will increasingly look for His appearing. “To them that look for Him He will appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” The living Church is found watching the sky—studying the signs divinely predicted, and therefore though “none of the wicked shall understand,” “ the wise shall understand.” These “see the day approaching.” They “ love His appearing,” they “look for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ.”
To those blinded with the glories of this world -absorbed in its gains and interests and controversies—caring little about eternal and nearing issues, and caring much about things they can weigh and measure and taste and count—toiling for fortunes, and family distinctions, and mundane fame, and looking not for Him who will come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory—nor for a crown of righteousness, nor for a kingdom that cannot be moved, nor for fine gold tried in the furnace and unsearchable riches—to such His arrival on earth will come like the scorching lightning. “His eyes are as a flame of fire,” and “out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword that with it He should smite the nations; and He shall rule them with a rod of iron, and He treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.” They that quote the text, “He shall come as a thief in the night,” as their expectation, condemn themselves, and number their interests with those of the lost, and place themselves, ignorantly it may be, with them “ that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of His Son.”
But is it not said by our Lord, “ of that day and hour knoweth no man?” This is strictly true. But we must read this text in the light of another, Matt. xxiv. 33, “So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these