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namely, Whether such advent ought to be understood LITERALLY or FIGURATIVELY.
1. That, in the conventional language of symbols as taught mechanically in the ancient schools of the Hebrew Prophets, the bare phraseology itself, of A coming of the Lord with the clouds in the great day of his controversy, is perpetually used, after a figurative manner, to describe nothing more than God's temporal judgment of a wicked nation or community through the agency of mere second causes, is most certain and most indisputable '.
Hence it is evident, that, from the bare use of the phraseology itself by Daniel and John and others of the prophets in this particular instance; the instance, I mean, of the overthrow of the Roman beast and the false prophet immediately before the commencement of the Millennium: it is (I say) evident, that, from this bare use of the phraseology itself, no legitimate argument, in favour of a literal advent at the close of the latter 1260 years and immediately before the commencement of the 1000 years, can be deduced.
For the question is not, whether those prophets actually do employ such phraseology in this particular instance: but the question is, in what sense they so employ it.
The naked fact of the actual employment of the phraseology nobody controverts. But this naked.
'See above book i. chap. 1. § I. 13. book ii. chap. 1. § II. 2.
fact, which of course all commentators admit, does nothing, of itself, toward settling the true import of the phraseology as employed in this particular instance.
So far, therefore, as the bare phraseology is concerned, the question is left entirely open. Hence, blamelessly in respect to the bare phraseology, many persons have supposed, that the advent or epiphany of Christ, now under consideration, is purely a figurative advent: and hence, on the other hand, still blamelessly in respect to the bare phraseology, many persons, among whom must doubtless be reckoned the great father of apocalyptic exposition himself, have supposed, that this advent is strictly a literal advent.
2. The general belief of the Church, in all ages, has been that, as the Lord came once, in great humility, to redeem mankind from the penalties of the violated Law; so he will come a second time, in surpassing glory, to judge both the quick and the dead, and to assign to all an unalterable portion either of happiness or of misery.
Hence, in strict accordance with the express testimony of Scripture, her general belief has ever been, that no more than Two literal or proper advents of Christ, as contradistinguished from merely figurative or tropical advents, are to be admitted by the faithful: the former, an advent of humiliation which is past; the latter, an advent of glory which is future 1.
As it is appointed unto men once to die; but, after this, the
Under these circumstances, if we acknowledge Christ to have once come literally in humiliation, if we expect him again to come literally in great glory immediately before the commencement of the Millennium, and if we also expect him yet again to come literally in great glory at the final consummation of all things: the inevitable result of such an expectation will be the doctrine, not of TWO literal advents only, but of THREE literal advents.
From the excellent Mede down even to the present day, this inconvenience was naturally felt by the advocates for a literal advent of our Lord immediately before the commencement of the Millennium: and, accordingly, they have avoided it bý the peculiarity of the arrangement which they have been induced to adopt.
Their system, and the principle upon which it is founded, may be briefly stated in manner following.
All the texts, which announce a yet future com, ing of Christ in glory, relate to one and the same
judgment: so Christ was ONCE offered to bear the sins of many; and, unto them that look for him, shall he appear, the SECOND time, without sin unto salvation. Heb. ix. 27, 28.
Duos adventus ejus omnes annunciaverunt prophetæ : unum quidem, in quo homo in plaga factus est, sciens ferre imbecillitatem :-secundum autem, in quo super nubes veniet, superducens diem quæ est sicut clibanus ardens. Iren. adv. hær. lib. iv. c. 56.
Αἱ προφητεῖαι δύο λέγουσιν εἶναι τὰς Χριστοῦ ἐπιδημίας· τὴν μὲν πρότερον, ἀνθρωποπαθεστέραν—τὴν δ' ἑτέραν, ἔνδοξον. Οrig. cont. Cels. lib. i. p. 43.
event: namely, that literal second advent of the Lord, which Scripture teaches us to expect, and which the Church has thence always expected. Now many of these texts chronologically determine this second advent to an epoch which immediately precedes the commencement of the Millennium. Therefore, since all the texts speak alike of one and the same advent: an epoch, which immediately precedes the commencement of the Millennium, is the true chronological epoch of the literal second advent of Christ.
This point being thus determined as a principle, a general comparison of Scripture with Scripture is thought to bring out the following system.
After the expiration of the latter 1260 years and immediately before the commencement of the Millennium, Christ, in flaming fire, will be personally and literally revealed from heaven with his holy angels. This fire, being no other than the mundane conflagration foretold by St. Peter as an attendant upon the second advent in the great day of the Lord, cannot but destroy all the wicked, who shall then be living upon earth: both those, who shall actually be engaged in the predicted antichristian confederacy of the Roman beast; and those also, wherever they shall be found, who by evil deeds are enemies of the Lord and of his Anointed'. Meanwhile, the dead in Christ having been first raised, those pious individuals also, who shall be
12 Peter iii. 7-13.
alive at this his second literal coming, shall be cor→ poreally changed: and then, agreeably to the declaration of St. Paul, the raised holy dead and the changed holy quick shall be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and shall thus escape the tremendous conflagration which will effectually destroy the whole body of the wicked1. But this deluge of fire will not only destroy the wicked inhabitants of our earth: it will likewise, through the operation of burning and melting with a fervent heat (as St. Peter speaks), purify and renovate our earth itself; so as, by producing out of the chaotic wreck a new material heaven or atmos→ phere and a new material earth or sublunary world, to make it a suitable habitation for the glorified people of God. Accordingly, when such a process shall have been accomplished, the pious dead (limited, however, by St. John, to the martyrs only) who have partaken of the first resurrection at the commencement of the thousand years, and the pious quick who have been changed at this second literal advent of the Lord with the clouds of heaven, will personally reign, with Christ himself also personally, upon the renovated paradisiacal earth, during the period of an entire millenary. When that period shall have expired, the second resurrection, or the general resurrection both of the wicked and of those holy persons who (by reason of their not
1 1 Corinth. xv. 22-24, 51-54. 1 Thess. iv. 13-18.
* 2 Peter iii. 12, 13. Rev. xx. 11. xxi. 1.