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16. “ For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first."
Observe, nothing is said of the wicked dead. If some of them also, at this epocha, arise from the dust of the earth,-as appears from Daniel, chap. xii. 2,--the Holy Spirit, in this place, confines his revelation to the dead in Christ, the emphatic
“ children of the resurrection," according to our Lord's expression.
17. “ Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”—Or, “ Then, together with them, we shall be snatched away' in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord.”
We remark here, that the dead are described as rising from the earth, and joining their living brethren, ere they are caught up to meet their triumphant Saviour. Their bodies, we know, were sleeping in the dust of the earth. This were enough to account for the phraseology here employed. The relation of height is not expressed in the original; but it certainly is the usual style of Scripture, to speak of the separate spirits of the just as tenanting also that abode of the dead, which is described generally as beneath, or under the earth, with respect to its surface. Thither, in his lamentation over him, Jacob thought he should go down to his son Joseph. The spirit of Samuel, that, by divine permission, appears to Saul, uses this remarkable language, “ Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up?” Who can inform us that it was in accom
beginning of sorrows,” in Jerusalem's destruction, to the greater troubles of the last days. In St. Luke, the transition is not so sudden : there, the intermediate space and the history of Israel during the long interval, is plainly marked. After having, with the other two evangelists, reported our Lord's words, “ But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days,” his report continues :
“ For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people, and they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles,be fulfilled.”
In connexion with the fulfilling of this period of the treading down of the holy city by the Gentiles, our Lord says, according to St. Luke:
“ And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth, distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring, men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming upon the earth, for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."
Such is St. Luke's report of our Lord's discourse, who, by the current opinion of antiquity, is stated to have written from the mouth of St. Peter, one of the four disciples who had put the question privately to Jesus : “ When shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world ?” St. Luke's report has clearly, and in order, stated the answer to
Chap. xxi. 28.
these questions, both with respect to the desolation of Jerusalem, and its long continuance in a state of desolation, and also with respect to the second coming of Christ, after the period of that desolation should be completed. When, therefore, we read in the report which St. Mark makes of the same discourse :
“ For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved; but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days."
Or to the same effect in St. Matthew's copy :
21. “ For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be; and except those days be shortened, there should no flesh be saved;
but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.”.
When we read these most awful declarations, it is surely absurd to apply them to “the beginning of sorrows" - the desolation of Jerusalem by the Roman armies when St. Luke's report has plainly marked more signal afflictions in connexion with the fulfilling of the times of the Gentiles in treading down the holy city, immediately previous to the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven.' None can doubt that the troubles of the last days are comparatively greater than the affliction, dreadful as it was, of the siege of Jerusalem. The words of Mark and Matthew express and mark a time of trouble, such as not only never was before, but never should be again; and to this agree the words of all the prophets respecting the last perilous times. Those of Daniel are express to the point:-" And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great Prince which standeth for the children of thy The apostle continués, ver. 18, “ Wherefore comfort one another with these words." This revelation was to be the source of their comfort respecting their departed brethren, whose untimely end, perhaps, they were bewailing. This was to be the topic of consolation in their exhortations to one another, in every afflictive circumstance of their pilgrimage.
“ But of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.” *
The last words of their Master had forbade them to expect that a revelation would then, or perhaps ever, be made of the exact time when this great event should come to pass.
It would certainly take the world unawares, as Christ had himself said:
“ For yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night: for when they shall say,"-or, “ shall be saying, "_“ Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”
However, as we have seen in former prophecies, the people of God would not be altogether unapprized of the coming of their Master: if they know not the day nor the hour, yet they will have some intimation of its near approach:
“But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are the children of the light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober : for they that sleep, sleep in the night, and they that be drunken, are drunken in the night. But let
Chap. v. 1,
us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and, for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him."
2 Thess. i. and ii. with 1 Tim. iv. and 2 Tim. iii.
In the first chapter of the second epistle to the same church, * adverting to the persecutions and tribulations that they had endured, the apostle observes, "a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer.” Your suffering in his cause is an evidence that God will give you the kingdom, — he would not let you suffer for him, had he not a rich recompense in store,
“ Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
" When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance.” What light does this throw on former prophecies !
“ He shall rain upon the wicked lightning, fire, and sulphur.”+-" Thou puttest them in a furnace of
• Ver. 4, &c.
+ Psalın xi. 6.