Luke xviii. 1-8: 'And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: and there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; get because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them ? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth' [in the land] ?
The intensely practical and present-day character, if we may so call it, of our Lord's discourses, is a feature of His teaching which, though often overlooked, requires to be steadily kept in view. He spoke to His own people, and to His own times. He was God's messenger to Israel; and, while it is most true that His words are for all men and for all time, yet their primary and direct bearing was upon His own generation. For want of attention to this fact, many expositors have wholly missed the point of the parable before us. It becomes in their hands a vague and indefinite prediction of a vindication of the righteous, in some period more or less remote, but having no special relation to the people and time of our Lord Himself. Assuredly, whatever the parable may be to us or to future ages, it had a close and bearing upon the disciples to whom it was originally spoken. The Lord was about to leave His disciples 'as sheep in the midst of wolves; ' they were to be persecuted and afflicted, hated of all men for their Master's sake; and it might well be that their courage would fail them, and their hearts would faint. In this parable the Saviour encourages them 'to pray always, and not to faint,' by the example of what persevering prayer can do even with man. If the importunity of a poor widow could constrain an unprincipled judge to do her right, how much more would God, the righteous Judge, be moved by the prayers of His own children to redress their wrongs. Without allegorising all the details of the parable, after the manner of some expositors, it is enough to mark its great moral. It is this. The persecuted children of God would he surely and speedily avenged. God will vindicate them, and that speedily. But when ? The point of time is not left indefinite. It is 'when the Son of man cometh.' The Parousia was to be the hour of redress and deliverance to the suffering people of God.
The reflection of our Lord in the close of the eighth verse deserves particular attention. 'Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth ?' We must here revert to the facts already stated with respect to the ministry of John the Baptist. We have seen how dark and ominous was the outlook of the prophet who preached repentance to Israel. He was the precursor of 'the great and terrible day of the Lord ;' he was the second Elijah sent to proclaim the coming of Him who would 'smite the land with a curse.' The reflection of our Lord suggests that He foresaw that the repentance which could alone avert the doom of the nation was not to be looked for. There would be no faith in God, in His promises, or in His threatenings. The day of His therefore, would be the 'day of vengeance (Luke xxi. 22).
Doddridge has well apprehended the scope of this parable, and paraphrases the opening verse as follows: 'Thus our Lord discoursed with His disciples of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; and for their encouragement under those hardships which they might in the meantime expect, from their unbelieving countrymen or others, He spake a parable, to them, which was intended to inculcate upon them this great truth, that how distressed soever their circumstances might be, they ought always to pray with faith and perseverance, and not to faint under their trials.' (15)
The following is his paraphrase of ver. 8: ' Yes I say unto you, He will certainly vindicate them; and when He once undertakes it, He will do it speedily too; and this generation of men shall see and feel it to their terror. Nevertheless, when the Son of man, having been put ill possession of His glorious kingdom, comes to appear for this important purpose, will He find faith in the land ?' (16)
THE REWARD OF THE DISCIPLES IN THE COMING AEON,
i.e. AT THE PAROUSIA
Matt. xix. 27-30.
'Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall site in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.'
Mark x. 18-31.
'Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
'And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, of father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.'
Luke xvii. 28-30.
'Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.
'And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.'
To what period are we to assign the event or state here called by our Lord the 'regeneration'? It is evidently contemporaneous with 'the Son of man sitting on the throne of his glory;' nor can there be any question that the two phrases, 'The Son of man coming in his kingdom,' and, 'The Son of man sitting on the throne of his glory,' both refer to the same thing, and to the same time. That is to say, it is to the Parousia that both these expressions point.
We have another note of time, and another point of coincidence between the 'regeneration ' and the Parousia, in the reference made by our Lord to the 'coming age or aeon' as the period when His faithful disciples were to receive their recompense (Mark x.30; Luke xviii. 30). But the 'coming age' was, as we have already seen, to succeed the existing age or aeon, that is to say, the period of the Jewish dispensation, the end of which our Lord declared to be at hand. We conclude, therefore, that the 'regeneration,' the 'coming age,' and the 'Parousia,' are virtually synonymous, or, at all events, contemporaneous. The coming of the Son of man in His kingdom, or in His glory, is distinctly affirmed to be a coming to judgment -- 'to reward every man according to his works (Matt. xvi. 27); and His sitting on the throne of His glory, in the regeneration, is as evidently a sitting in judgment. In this judgment the apostles were to have the honour of being assessors with the Lord, according to His declaration (Luke xxii. 29, 30)- 'I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' But this glorious coming to judgment is expressly affirmed by our Lord to fall within the limits of the generation then living: 'There be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom' (Matt. xvi. 28). It was therefore no long-deferred and distant hope which Jesus held out to His disciples. It was not a prospect that is still seen afar off in the dim perspective of an indefinite futurity. St. Peter and his fellow-disciples were fully aware that 'the kingdom of heaven' was at hand. They had learned it from their first teacher in the wilderness; they had been reassured of it by their Lord and Master; they had gone through Galilee proclaiming the truth to their countrymen. When the Lord, therefore, promised, that in the coming aeon His apostles should sit upon thrones, is it conceivable that He could mean that ages upon ages, centuries upon centuries, and even millennium upon millennium must slowly roll away before they should reap their promised honours? Are the inheritance of 'everlasting life' and the 'sitting upon twelve thrones' still among 'the things hoped for but not seen ' by the disciples? Surely such a hypothesis refutes itself. The promise would have sounded like mockery to the disciples had they been told that the performance would be so long delayed. On the other hand, if we conceive of the 'regeneration' as contemporaneous with the Parousia, and the Parousia, with the close of the Jewish age and the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, we have a definite point of time, not far distant, but almost within the sight of living men, when the predicted judgment of the enemies of Christ, and the glorious recompense of His friends, would come to pass.
1. Reden Jesu, in loc.
2. Jewish War, bk v. c. x sec. 5. Traill's translation.
3. Ibid. G. Xiii. sec. 6.
4. Ibid. bk. vii. c. viii. sec. I.
5. sec. Reden Jesu; Matt. xii, 43-45.
6. Greek Test. in loc.
7. Life of Christ, sec. 245.
8. Synonyms of the New Test. vol. i. a. 70; Bib. Cab. No. iii.
9. There is a real difficulty in this passage which ought not to be overlooked. It seems unaccountable that our Lord, on an occasion like this, when He was sending forth the twelve on a short mission, apparently within a limited district, and from which they were to return to Him in a short time, should speak of of His coming as overtaking them before the completion of their task. It seems scarcely appropriate to the particular period, and to belong more properly to a subsequent charge, viz., that recorded in the discourse spoken on the Mount of Olives (Matt. xxiv.; Mark xiii.; Luke xxi ). Indeed, a comparison of these passages will go far to satisfy any candid mind that the whole paragraph Matt. x. 16-23) is transposed from its original connection, and inserted in our Lord's first charge to His disciples We find the very words relating to the persecution of the apostles, their being delivered up to the councils, their being scourged in the synagogues, brought before governors and kings, etc., which are recorded in the tenth chapter of St. Matthew, assigned by St. Mark and St. Luke to a subsequent period, viz., the discourse on the Mount of Olives. There is no evidence that the disciples met with such treatment on their first evangelistic tour There is therefore as strong evidence as the nature of the case will admit, that ver. 23 and its context belong to the discourse on the Mount of Olives. This would remove the difficulty which the passage presents in the connection in which we here find it, and give a coherence and consistency to the language, which, as it stands, it is not easy to discover. It is an admitted fact that even the Synoptical Gospels do not relate all events in precisely the same order; there most therefore be greater chronological accuracy in one than in another. Stier says: 'Matthew is careless of chronology in details' (Reden Jesu, vol. iii. p. US). Neander, speaking on this very charge, says: 'Matthew evidently connects many things with the instructions given to the apostles in view of their first journey, which chronologically belong later; ' (Life of Christ, _ 174, note b); and again, speaking of the charge given to the seventy, as recorded by St. Luke: 'he says, 'The entire and characteristic coherency of everything spoken by Christ, according to Luke, with the circumstances (so superior to the collocation of Matthew),' etc. (Life of Christ, _ 204, note 1). Dr. Blaikie observes: 'It is generally understood that Matthew arranged his narrative more by subjects and places than by chronology' (Bible History, p. 372).
There seems, therefore, abundant warrant for assigning the important prediction contained in Matt. x .23 to the discourse delivered on the Mount of Olives.
10. See note In Harmony of the Four Gospels.
11. The training of the Twelve, p. 117
12. Large, Comm. on St. Matt. in loc.
13. Alford, Greek Test. in loc.
14. See Lange in loc.
15. Family Expos. on Luke xviii. 1-8
16. Doddridge teas the following note on 'Will he find faith in the land ?' 'It is evident the word often signifies not the earth in general, but some particular land or country; as in Acts vii. 3, 4,11, and in numberless other places. And the context here limits it to the less extensive signification. The believing Hebrews were evidently in great danger of being wearied out with their persecutions and distresses. Comp. Heb. iii. 12-14; x. 23-39; xii. 1-4; James i. 1-4; ii. 6.'
The interpretation given by the judicious Campbell adds confirmation, if it were needed, needed, to this view of the passage. 'There is a close connection in all that our Lord says on any topic of conversation, which rarely escapes an attentive reader. If in this, as is very probable, He refers to the destruction impending over the Jewish nation, as the judgment of Heaven for their rebellious against God, in rejecting and murdering the Messiah. and in persecuting His adherents, (the Greek) must be understood to mean "this belief," or the belief of the particular truth He had been inculcating, namely, that God will in due time avenge His elect, and signally punish their oppressors; and (the Greek) must mean "the land," to wit, of Judea. The words may be translated either way -- earth or land; but the latter evidently gives them a more definite meaning, and unites them more closely with those which preceded, (Campbell on the Gospels, vol. ii. p. 384). The teaching of this instructive parable is by no means exhausted; and we shall find it throw an unexpected light on a very obscure passage, at a future stage of this investigation. Meantime we may refer to 2 Thess. i 4-10, as furnishing a striking commentary on the whole parable, and showing the connection between the Parousia and the avenging of the elect.