Writings Vol. Two
HOPE OF THE MORNING STAR
3. THE RESURRECTION OF THE SAINTS AND THE GREAT TRIBULATION.
IT is evident from what we have been considering that the
writers from whom we have been quoting are involved in the same great error.
Overlooking the meaning of the time-gap in which we are, and ignoring or
belittling the mysteries which give Christianity its distinctive character, we
can be said to be in the "last days" of Jewish prophets, and "partakers of the
promise given through Abraham to the sons of Israel." There is but one passage
that I know which may seem to assert the first, and that is the quotation of
Joel by Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts ii. i7). But that is quoted to the
Jews over whom through Christ's intercession the mercy of God was yet giving
time for repentance (Luke xiii. 8), so that if even yet they repented
nationally, the times of refreshing would come from the presence of the Lord,
and He would send Jesus Christ again to them (Acts 3: 19-21). This was soon
ended by the rejection of the message. That "in the end of these days" (of the
prophets, Heb. i. 2, Gk.) "God hath spoken to us by His Son" says nothing of
our place in them, and no more than Heb. ix. 26, which asserts what in reality
is very different. The sanctuary could not have been opened for us if the ages
of probation had not been actually ended for us; nor could the history of
Israel have disclosed its types, if for us the "ends of the ages" had not
"arrived." Yet the "end of the age" has in the prophetic sense not yet arrived
(Matt. xiii, 39; xxviii. 2o): so that we cannot be in it; and the age to come
has still a probationary character for men at large. For us the cross of Christ
has already manifested the character both of the flesh and the world, and we
need nothing else to manifest it. But how important for us to realize the gap
in prophetic time in which we stand.
We are now to go in company with some other writers who have given us their refutation-to themselves such-of the views for which we are contending here. If they come to us in fragmentary, and perhaps disorderly fashion, the responsibility is not our own. It is due very much to the lack of seriousness with which the subject seems to be taken up. As Mr. Cameron affirms, "None of the learned students of prophecy in Germany seem to think the modern vagary of a secret rapture of the Church before the end time is reached is worthy of serious consideration." We can but lament the influence which the attitude of these learned Germans seems to have exerted over others in this matter, even when they can afford some brief moments to it. Their language is too often tinged with a scorn which might be spared without injury to their arguments, and which can only impress favourably those for whom the larger part of the argument is the man who uses it. Their method seems to be to gather up a sheaf of statements in denial of what they are dealing with, point them with scripture references, and launch them at the unwelcome doctrine; leaving the point and propriety of the application often to be determined or taken for granted as suits best the temper of the reader. We shall have occasion to point this out as we proceed; but it certainly makes harder the examination of arguments which have often to be first discovered, and perhaps unsuccessfully.
A tract is lying before me of twenty-one small pages, fourteen being taken up with an enumeration of the texts which have the words to show what the Scriptures say as to the question, "Can the Parousia (Coming in Person) of the Lord be separated from His Epiphaneia (Shining upon); or from His Apokalupsis (Revelation)?" The writer (Mr. Robert Brown) cautions us at the outset, "that positive and absolute statements of the Divine Word must of necessity be received before, and must therefore override, all inferences from other passages which seem to contradict them; as such inferences are, of course, merely human."
He concludes with some inferences of his own, which are, of course, as open to question as those of any other, and which we shall take up as such, but in the order which may be most convenient for us, and putting along with them the statements of other writers, as far as they may serve to give completeness to the subject before us.
But in the first place the question in the title of his tract is misleading, and as a consequence the classification of some of his texts likewise. For no one, as far as I am aware, would contend that the coming of the Lord could be separated from His manifestation or revelation. What is contended for is that the coming of the Lord into the air, as announced in 2 Thess. iv., takes place previous to, and in fact some time previous to, His coming on to the earth with the saints He has gathered to Himself before. Both would be His coming; and therefore the merely quoting texts with the word "coming" in them would settle nothing. But the passage itself declares that those who sleep in Jesus God will bring with Him; when He appears, therefore, they shall appear with Him. That the Thessalonians needed to know, that the dead had not lost their place with Him in that day. How then would this be accomplished? The dead would first be raised and the living then changed and caught up with them. And so they should be ever with the Lord.
It was in fact a new revelation, and so the apostle announces it as what he said "by the word of the Lord." The twenty-fifth of Matthew had shown that the living saints would go forth and meet Him, but had said nothing about the dead at that time. The apostle adds as to the dead. Dr. West indeed declares with his usual strong assertion, that "the word of the Lord" here is nothing but the Lord's "Olivet discourse" (Matt. xxiv.; xxv.). "It corrected the Thessalonian error as to the 'any-moment' view. Paul appeals to it to decide the question. He calls it the 'word of the Lord.' He had it on his table when he wrote both letters to the Thessalonians(!) He uses its very language. The seventieth week covers his own words in 2 Thess. ii. r-8. " * But that settles nothing as to what is here. Where is the declaration in the Lord's prophecy as to the resurrection of the sleeping saints? One can only suppose that the gathering together of the elect from the four winds is taken to mean this; but the proof of it must be found, if found at all, elsewhere. Moreover the apostle does not speak as if he were citing. In i Cor. vii. 10, where he does cite, he says, "not I speak, but the Lord." Here it is the phrase used for a special revelation (See i Kings xiii. 2, 32; 2 Chron. xxx. i2; LXX.): "I say to you," but "by the word" or "a word of the Lord," (for there is no article)- that is, by a revelation.
Our assurance of this will be still more confirmed if we consider that Paul it is to whom especially belongs the revelation of the "mysteries" (Eph. 111. 3- 9), among which is that of the Church as the body and bride of Christ (Eph. V. 32). Could there be a thing which required less (as we would suppose) a special revelation to make it known to him, than the institution of the Supper of the Lord? It is narrated by three of the evangelists, and as the common feast of Christians was known to every one; and yet, as showing forth in the participation of it the unity of the Body of Christ (i Cor. x. i's), and thus coming into the special sphere of his commission, it has to be the subject of a special revelation to him (i Cor. xi. 23). It is therefore in perfect accordance with this that the taking home of the Bride (Eph. v.27) should be in like manner the subject of a special communication. Thus everything unites to refute Dr. West's assertion.
He has more, however, upon the subject of the resurrection of the saints which we must look at as nearly concerning us here. "Its time-point," he says, "is given with the utmost precision in the Scriptures. It is the time-point of the Second Advent for the salvation of the righteous and the destruction of the wicked, even as at the one time-point Noah and his family entered the ark, and the ungodly perished in the flood; and Israel was redeemed when Egypt was whelmed in the sea; and the Church fled to Pella when Jerusalem was destroyed. It is a time-point for both judgment and salvation. Asaph calls it the "shining of the Lord (Ps. 1. x-6). Isaiah calls it His 'appearing' (lxvi. 5) in order to raise the holy dead, deliver Israel, destroy the Antichrist, and bring to victory the Kingdom. Five times in the Old Testament this illustrious Parousia of Christ is described, (i) as the coming of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven (Dan. vii. 13); (2) of the Conqueror from Bozrah descending over Edom (Isa. lxiii. i-6); of the coming of the Lord to Olivet (Zech.xiv.5); and to Zion (Isa. lix. 20); and in clouds both for Judgment and Salvation (Ps. i. i-6; xcvii. 2-8; xcviii. 1-9; cx. i-v; lxxii. 2, 4, i8, i9; cxiii. 2_17)."*
That is not the whole, but we pause here for the present. It is a good specimen of the style of argument on the part of one of the liveliest opponents to what he calls the "Any Moment Theory." One naturally supposes that all these references are to establish the time-point of the resurrection of the saints. That is what he is speaking of; but by a turn which, if we are not to call "dexterous," we must ascribe to his perplexingly involved style, a number of texts which merely speak of judgment and salvation at the appearing of Christ, come to look as if they were proof-texts of what he is seeking to establish -even the Church's flight to Pella when Jerusalem was destroyed! Let us examine, however, as far as necessary, what he has set before us.
And first as to Noah and the flood, we may frankly admit the application to the coming of the Lord which He Himself makes (Matt. xxiv. 37-4i). "The one shall be taken and the other left." But we must handle such things more carefully than Dr. West: "taken" how and for what? Those whom resurrection takes out from among the dead are saints and taken for glory. At the rapture of the living saints, it is the same. In Noah's time, "the flood came and took them all away;" those taken are the judged and not the saved.
When the Son of man comes in the clouds of heaven, there will be a real correspondence with this. When the purification of the earth is in question, as it will be then, "the Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend." But that is neither dead nor living saints. The application here, therefore, fails entirely.
But Dr. West has forgotten Enoch; though, as a living saint removed to heaven before the judgment of the earth, he occupies a sufficiently striking position to attract attention. One who actually prophesied, Jude tells us, of the coming of the Lord, and seems to fill the gap that would otherwise be left in what is really a very striking picture of the times that are at hand. But the application fails Dr. West. If Enoch had been taken away at the time when those shut up in the ark were nearing deliverance, how readily would he have seen and seized so fair an argument.
But Israel was redeemed when Egypt was whelmed in the sea! True; but I see nothing that points in that either to the Coming, the Resurrection, or the Rapture: everything seems to be lacking here that would give even the semblance of proof of what it is cited for. That Israel will be actually delivered from her enemies again when the Lord appears is true, and her former history may typify her latter: but that shows nothing as to the Church or the risen saints.
As to the Church's flight to Pella, we need not waste time in imagining arguments from it, for those who have not ventured upon the task of pointing them out to us. And what does God shining forth out of Zion (Ps. 1.) prove as to the time-point of the resurrection of the saints? Is it possible that ver. 5 can be the proof? It is clearly Israel that is gathered, for the psalmist says so; and nothing about resurrection at all.
In Isa. Ixvi. 5, the Lord appears to deliver Israel; but there is not even a hint of resurrection or rapture in it. In Dan. vii., the "saints of the high places," as "saints of the Most High" should rather be, if applied to heavenly saints, as I shall not at all deny when judgment is said to be given to them (vers. 18, 22), infers, of course, that they must be risen to reign as such. But nothing is said as to the time of their resurrection further than this. In Isa. Ixiii., there is nothing at all of resurrection or of rapture. In Zech. xi. 5, as Dr. West would even himself contend, the "saints," or "holy ones" coming with the Lord are probably only the angels, and thus every trace of resurrection or rapture is removed; and there is none in any of the texts that follow.
There is perhaps no need of question that upon none of these texts cited would Dr. West ground a very serious argument for the precision with which the time of the resurrection is fixed in the Old Testament. His real texts have been given before, and we must now go back to see what they have to say as to the matter in hand. He says: -
"Decisive and clear are the words of the angel, ' At that time,' when Israel is delivered, - 'many shall awake (literally, be separated) out from among the sleepers in the earth-dust; these (who awake at that time) shall be unto everlasting life, but those (who do not awake at that time) shall be unto shame and everlasting contempt' (Dan. xii. 2). ... It is the resurrection of the holy, and of Israel's holy dead that here is predicted, as in Isa. xxvi. 19, and the non-resurrection of the wicked 'at that time'(Is. xxvi. 14)."
The translation here given of Daniel is an old Jewish one, not by any means commonly accepted, and yet certainly possible. The application to literal resurrection is in both cases questioned by many, though in Daniel less than in Isaiah; but it would be an unnecessary labour for our present purpose to examine this. The connection in Isa. xxvi. (which is not history nor historical prophecy, but a song to be sung at a future day,) is not of a nature to give any but the most general idea of the time of the resurrection, and certainly not of the relation of this to the "time of Jacob's trouble." In Daniel, at first sight, it seems otherwise, and that, if it be a literal resurrection that is here, this must be after the tribulation. Yet Auberlen remarks as to this: "To show the causal connection between the behaviour of the individuals during the time of probation and their eternal state - this is the sole purpose for which the resurrection is introduced; as to the chronological relation between the time of distress and the resurrection, not the slightest intimation is given. It is worthy of remark in relation to this point, that the phrase 'at that time,' occurs twice in xii. i, while no time is fixed in verses 2 and 3."* This, of itself, seems a sufficient answer; but we shall see, as we go on that we might admit all that is claimed with regard to the order of time without in the least involving what Dr. West supposes.
* Daniel and the Revelation: translated by A Saphir, p. 174.
But let us go on to the New Testament: as to this the same writer says: - "Ten times this time-point is fixed at the close of the Great Tribulation, and is described (i) as the Lord's coming with His saints, the Holy Angels, for His saints, the holy living and the holy dead - a ' gathering of His elect' universally, involving first of all, the resurrection of the holy who sleep in the dust of the earth, then the rapture of these and the holy living ones, and their meeting of the Lord in the air (Matt. xxiv. 29-31, 40, 41; xxv. i); these scenes followed by the deliverance of converted Israel, - 'these My brethren,' (Matt. xxv. 40); the judgment of the nations (31-46), and the welcome to the Kingdom; (2) as a time-point for "our gathering together at Christ' (2 Thess. ii. i), 'in the air' (i Thess. iv. 17); (3) as the thief-time (Matt. xxiv. 43); (4) as the coming to judge the World Power (Rev. vi. 12-17); (s) as His coming under the seventh Trumpet, to vindicate the holy dead by their resurrection (Rev. xi. 15-18); (6) as His coming to reap the holy living (Rev. xiv. 14-16); (7) and at the thief-time (Rev. xvi. 15); (8) and after the sixth vial (Rev. xvi. 12); (9) and to destroy Babylon (Rev.xvi. 19); (10) and the Antichrist (Rev. xix. 11-21; (n) and to enthrone and reward His saints (Rev. xx. 1-6) .... From Moses to Malachi, and from Matthew to the Apocalypse by John, the resurrection of the sleeping saints is placed at no other epoch than at the close of the 'Tribulation Great,' and of the 'Warfare Great.'"
Again we have a number of passages grouped together, with merely a few words of application to mark his point; otherwise supposed to speak plainly for the view for which he contends : for he uses no argument, takes no pains to remove misconceptions, or meet objections; those who examine them must do the whole work both for him and for themselves. We shall attempt it nevertheless, with the more courage, that it is, at least, an enumeration of all the points that he can make, with great apparent precision. Let xis attempt the examination.
(i) The first passages are evidently interpreted for us, and the interpretation becomes part of the proof. The "gathering of His Elect" is made to involve the resurrection of the dead and the rapture of the living. Yet we may question whether it does either, or rather applies to the gathering of the elect nation, Israel, from their long dispersion. In all the first part of the Lord's prophecy here to xxiv. 42, Israel is manifestly in the foreground, as all other details show: in the very next verse to the one in question, the parable of the fig-tree for instance. As for the "deliverance of converted Israel" following these scenes, he can only appeal to the words, "these My brethren," which certainly does not show where the deliverance comes in. There need not be the slightest question that the appearing of the Lord itself marks the deliverance of the Jews at Jerusalem (as Zech.xiv.3-5); which makes it natural to speak of the gathering of those scattered afar off. The place of Christians with reference to the coming is shown in the parables (comp. Matt. xiii. 34, 35); but if the appeal to xxv. i is meant to make the "then" with which it commences prove that the rapture of the saints takes place at the time of the appearing, it will not bear the weight of such an argument. The parables are connected by their ends and not by their beginnings. For after this first going forth of the virgins, there is the tarrying of the Bridegroom, the falling asleep, the midnight cry, the rousing and going forth again - all following the "then." Will it be contended that this all takes place at the time of the appearing, instead of giving us a history of centuries? Let Dr. West defend this, if he can. But indeed he has merely indicated a text and left it. The rest here is not in dispute.
(2) The next two references, from the two epistles to the Thessalonians, need nothing to be said, as we have no controversy with the Scriptures, and the argument is not produced. The first epistle we have looked at already.
(3) The third head takes us back to Matt, xxiv.43, and has nothing to do with either the resurrection or the rapture.
(4) The fourth brings us to Revelation; passing over the decisive passages in the third, four and fifth chapters, as if they had no existence, and bringing us to the "Coming to judge the World-power " (chap, vi. 12-17), to a passage which does not speak of it, but of the alarm in men's minds as thinking of the Lamb's day of wrath as having come.
(5) The fifth again gives us Dr. West's interpretation "to vindicate the holy dead by the resurrection." The last words are his own, and a comparison with chap. vi. 10 may well raise question of them. Yet did this refer in fact to the resurrection of the martyrs (chap. xx. 4), there would not be the least perplexity growing out of this.
(6) As to chap. xiv. 14-16 again, it is the interpretation that is taken for the proof, as so often. There are harvests of various character and various times; and there is nothing to show that this is in the tare-field of Christendom. We shall have to look at the parable another time.
(7) The coming as a thief is to the world (i Thess. v. 2-4), and has in it no hint of the resurrection or the rapture; and (8) the eighth head is as little to the purpose here. Similarly the 9th and the 10th.
One text only remains, and we shall consider it with Mr. Brown, Dr. West giving us no matter of contention really as to it. Our account with him is closed; although there may be something to add a little later: but as things stand we may certainly say that the strength of his argument is in no wise proportionate to the vigor of his language or the number of his texts.
Mr. Brown also contends that his texts prove that the saints are not to be raised before the great tribulation : -
"For they show that the saints are to be raised at Christ's Parousia; and that this Parousia will not take place until Antichrist has come to the end of his career; for they tell us that he is to be destroyed 'with the Epiphaneia' of this 'Parousia' (2 Thess. ii. 8), and that the saints only then 'rest,' when Christ Himself is thus revealed, i. e. at His Apokalupsis (2 Thess. i. 7); when only they assume His likeness and are manifested with Him in glory (Col. iii. 4; i John Hi. 1-3; i Thess. iv. 17)."
We have the same peculiar manner of reference to texts that are not examined, as we have had before, the same putting in of words which are not in the texts, the same avoidance of opposing arguments and objections. One would think that our brethren had made a point of not reading the writings of those they are replying to. Think of people having need to refer us i Thess. iv., which we have been constantly quoting in behalf of the views in question, to show us that the saints are to be raised at Christ's Parousia! and then our needing to be shown that the manifestation of this Parousia destroys the wicked one. Why,we have been saying so all along; though perhaps without using the Greek word. What Mr. Brown needed to show us is that it is at the manifestation of the Parousia that the saints are raised.
Then he says that they "only then" rest when Christ is revealed; but it is Mr Brown who has put in the "only." The apostle tells the Thessalonians that they will have rest recompensed to them when their persecutors are troubled, putting these things together for the sake of the contrast; and it will be just as true when the Lord Jesus being revealed brings out the contrast, though the entrance into rest might be some time before. The next chapter shows that they were in danger of being led into the belief that their sufferings were a proof that the day of the Lord had come. Why, says the apostle, in the day of the Lord the opposite will be true: your enemies will be suffering, and you will be at rest.
But, says Mr. Brown,"only" at Christ's revelation will they assume His likeness and be manifested with Him in glory! The passage in the first epistle of John does not say when we shall assume His likeness, but that when He appears we shall be in it: for to "see Him as He is" necessitates that. There is again no "only," which is a misleading addition to the text. The resurrection chapter (i Cor. xv.) shows that the dead in Christ are "raised in glory," and i Thess. iv. that the meeting with the Lord is "in the air." When we see Him, then, we shall be already in His likeness, and when He is manifested, we shall be manifested with Him. How can the last be made to eke out the proof that we must wait for that manifestation to be changed into His likeness? "Moreover," continues Mr. Brown,"it is expressly stated elsewhere (Matt. xxiv. 29-31) that the Parousia is not to take place till after, although it be 'immediately after,1 that 'tribulation,' while it is likewise stated that the martyrs under Antichrist (i.e. in the great tribulation) are to be partakers of the ' first resurrection' (Rev. vii. 13-17; xx. 4-6); and that this resurrection is to take place at Christ's Parousia (i Cor. xv. 23)! Now, as there are only two resurrections, (i Cor. xv. 23, 24; John v. 25, 29; Acts xxiv. 15; Rev. xx. 4, 5), it is manifest that the saints are not to be raised before the ' great tribulation' - a truth which is further confirmed by Dan. vii. 21, 22, 25, which tell us that Antichrist made war with the saints and prevailed against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the Kingdom."
We have looked at Matt. xxiv. sufficiently already, and have seen the mistake committed in supposing that the mere occurence of the word "Parousia" proves anything in the matter. The question as to the martyrs in the tribulation having part in the first resurrection is one of more concern, and the consideration of it may give additional help as to some points which have been already before us.
In the revival of premillennial doctrine from its long slumber of centuries, the vision of the first resurrection given to John caused it to be thought that the saints that were to reign with Christ a thousand years were only the martyrs. It was not perceived, as it naturally had not been by the advocates of a "spiritual" resurrection, their predecessors, that there were here, in fact, two companies: first, thrones, upon which persons were sitting, to whom judgment was given; and then a company of martyrs, who alone were seen actually rising from the dead and joining the number of those already reigning.
Moreover these of the second company were not and could not be, all the martyrs that ever were, but specifically those that were slain for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God, and such as had not worshipped the beast, nor his image, and had not received his mark upon their foreheads nor on their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The context shows, moreover, that, since all together make up the first resurrection, all the dead saints that ever were beside must be included in the first company of those already reigning when this company of martyrs are added to them.
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