1. Christol.. vol. iv. p.. 232. -
2. thj melloushj orghj
3. Greek Test. in loc. -
PROPHETIC INTIMATIONS OF THE APPROACHING CONSUMMATION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
I. - The Parable of the Pounds.
Luke xix. 11-27: 'And as they heard these this, He added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, Saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: for I feared thee, because thou art all austere man : thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. And he saith Unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was all austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow : wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury ? And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and stay them before me.'
It cannot fail to strike every attentive reader of the Gospel history, how much the teaching of our Lord, as He approached the close of His ministry, dwelt upon the theme of coming judgment. When He spoke this parable, He was on His way to Jerusalem to keep His last Passover before He suffered; and it is remarkable how His discourses from this time seem almost wholly engrossed, not by His own approaching death, but the impending catastrophe of the nation. Not Only this parable of the pounds, but His lamentation over Jerusalem (Luke xix. 41) ; His cursing of the fig-tree (Matt. xxi. Mark xi.) ; the parable of the wicked husbandmen (Matt. xxi. Mark xii.; Luke xx.); the parable of the marriage of the king's son (Matt. xxii.); the woes pronounced ) upon that generation' (Matt. xxiii. 29-36) ; the second lamentation over Jerusalem (Matt. xxiii. 37, 38) ; and the prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives, with the parables and parabolic illustrations appended thereto by St. Matthew, all are occupied with this absorbing theme.
The consideration of these prophetic intimations will show that the catastrophe anticipated by our Lord was not a remote event, hundreds and thousands of years distant, but one whose shadow already fell upon that age and that nation ; and that the Scriptures give us no warrant whatever to suppose that anything else, or anything more than this, is included in our Saviour's words.
The parable of the pounds was spoken by our Lord to correct a mistaken expectation on the part of His disciples, that 'the kingdom of God' was about to commence at once. It is not surprising that they should have fallen into this mistake. John the Baptist had announced, 'The kingdom of God is at hand.' Jesus Himself had proclaimed the same fact, and commissioned them to publish it throughout the cities and villages of Galilee. As patriotic Israelites they writhed under the yoke of Rome, and yearned for the ancient liberties of the nation. As pious sons of Abraham they desired to see all nations blessed in him. And there were other less noble sentiments that had a place in their minds. Was not their own Master the Son of David - the coming King? What might not they expect who were His followers and friends? This made them contest with. each other the place of honour in the kingdom. This made the sons of Zebedee eager to secure His promise of the most honourable seats, on His right hand and on His left, where he assumed the sovereignty. And now they were approaching Jerusalem. The great national festival of the Passover was at baud; all Israel was flocking, to the Holy City, and there was not a man there but would be eager to see Jesus of Nazareth. What more probable than that the popular enthusiasm would place their Master on the throne of His father David ? As they wished, so they believed ; and 'they thought that the kingdom of God would immediately appear.'
But the Lord checked their enthusiastic hopes, and intimated, in a parable, that a certain interval must elapse before the fulfillment of their expectations. Taking a well-known incident from recent Jewish history as the groundwork of the parable- viz., the journey of Archelaus to Rome, in order to seek from the emperor the succession to the dominions of his father, Herod the Great, he employed it as an apt illustration of His own departure from earth, and His subsequent return in glory. Meanwhile, during the period of His absence, He gave His servants a charge to keep-' Occupy till I come.' It was for them to be diligent and faithful, until their Lord's return, when the loyal servants should be applauded and rewarded, and His enemies utterly destroyed.
Nothing can be better than Neander's explanation of this parable, though, indeed, it may be said to explain itself. Nevertheless, it may be well to subjoin his observations. "In this parable, in view of the circumstances under which it was uttered, and of the approaching catastrophe, special intimations are given of Christ's departure from the earth, of His ascension, and return to judge the rebellious theocratic nation, and consummate His dominion. It describes a great man, who travels to the distant court of the mighty emperor, to receive from him authority over his countrymen, and to return with royal power. So Christ was not immediately recognised in His kingly office, but first had to depart from the earth. and leave His agents to advance His kingdom, to ascend into heaven and be appointed theocratic Ring, and return a 'gain to exercise His contested power." (1)
Such is the teaching of the parable of the pounds. But though the kingdom of God was not to appear at the precise. time which the disciples anticipated, it does not follow that it was postponed since he, and that the expected consummation would not take place for hundreds and thousands of years. This would be to falsify the most express declarations of Christ and of His forerunner. How could they have said that the kingdom was at hand, if it was not to appear for acres?
How could an event be said to be near, if it was actually further off than the whole period of the Jewish economy from Moses to Christ? The kingdom might still be at hand, though not so near as the disciples supposed. It was expedient that their Lord should 'go away,' but only for 'a little while,' when He would come again to them, and come 'in His kingdom.' This was the hope in which they lived, the faith which they preached; and we cannot think that their faith and hope were a delusion.
II.-Lamentation of Jesus over Jerusalem.
Luke xix. 41-44: ' And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace I but now they are bid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.'
Here we are upon ground which is not debatable. This prophecy is clear and perspicuous as history. No advocate of the double-sense theory of interpretation has proposed to find here anything but Jerusalem and its approaching desolation.
It is not the conflagration of the earth, nor the dissolution of creation: it is the siege and demolition of the Holy City, and the slaughter of her citizens, as historically fulfilled in less than forty years-only this, and nothing more. But wily so? Why should not a double sense be possible here, as well as in the prediction delivered upon the Mount of Olives? The reply will doubtless be, Because here all is homogeneous and consecutive ; the Saviour is looking on Jerusalem, and speaking of Jerusalem, and predicting an event which was speedily to come to pass. But this is equally the case with the prophecy in Matt. xxiv., where the expositors find, sometimes Jerusalem, and sometimes the world; sometimes the termination of the Jewish polity, and sometimes the conclusion of human history; sometimes the year A.D. 70, and sometimes a period as yet unknown. We shall yet see that the prophecy oil the Mount of Olives is no less consecutive, no less homogenous, no less one and indivisible, than this clear and plain prediction of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem. If the double-sense theory were good for anything, it would be found equally applicable to the prediction before us. Here, however, its own advocates discard it; for common sense refuses to see in this affecting lamentation anything else than Jerusalem, and Jerusalem alone.
III. - Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen.
MATT. XXI. 33-46.
There was a certain house- holder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandman, and went into a far country: and when the time of the fruit drew near, be sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandman took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, be sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
But last of all be sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance, And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men and will let Out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never rend in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders, rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stones shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.'
MARK XII. 1-12.
'A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.
'And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruits of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.
'And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another, and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.
'Having yet therefore one son, his well-beloved, be sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandman said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.
'And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do ?
He will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard un to others.
'And have ye not read this Scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes ?
'And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people : for they knew that he bad spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.'
LUKE XX. 9-19.
A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandman, and went into a far country for a long time.
'And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard : but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty.
'And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty.
'And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out.
Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. 'But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.
' So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?
He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.
'And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?
'Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
'And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on. him; and they feared the people; for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.'
This parable, recorded in almost identical terms by the Synoptists, scarcely requires an interpreter. Its local, personal, and national reference is too manifest to be questioned. The vineyard is the land of Israel; the lord of the vineyard is the Father ; His messengers are His servants the prophets ; His only and beloved Son is the Lord Jesus Himself ; the husbandmen are the rebellious and wicked Jews ; the punishment is the coming catastrophe at the Parousia, when, as Neander well expresses it, "the theocratic relation is broken, and the kingdom is transferred to other nations that shall bring forth fruits corresponding to it." (2)
The bearing of this parable on the people of our Saviour's time is so direct and explicit, that it might be supposed that no Critic would have to seek for a hidden meaning, or an ulterior reference. The chief priests and Pharisees felt that it was 'spoken against them ;' and they winced under the lash. As it stands, all is perfectly clear and intelligible; but the exegesis of a theologian can render it turbid and obscure indeed. For example, Lange thus comments upon ver. 41
The Parousia of Christ is consummated in His last coming, but is not one with it. It begins in principle with the resurrection. (John xvi. 16) ; continues as a power through the New Testament period (John xiv. 3-19) ; and is consummated in the stricter sense in the final advent (I Cor. xv. 23; Matt. xxv. 31 ; 2 Thess. ii., etc.).' (3)
Here we have not a coming, nor the coming of Christ, but no less than three separate and distinct comings, or a coming of three different kinds- a continuous coming which has been going on for nearly two thousand years already, and may go on for two thousand more, for aught we know. But of all this not a hint is given in the text, nor anywhere else. It is a merely human gloss, without a particle of authority from Scripture, and invented in virtue of the double- and triplesense theory of interpretation.
Far more sober is the explanation of Alford. ' We may observe that our Lord makes " when the Lord cometh " coincide with the destruction of Jerusalem, which is incontestably the overthrow of the wicked husbandmen. This passage therefore forms an important key to our Lord's prophecies, and a decisive justification for those who, like myself, firmly hold that the coming of the Lord is, in many places, to be identified, primarily, with that overthrow." (4)
It is to be regretted that this otherwise sound and sensible note is marred by the phrases 'in many places ' and , 'primarily,' but it is, nevertheless, all important admission. Undoubtedly we do find here 'an important key to our Lord's prophecies; ' but the master key is that which we have already found in Matt xvi. 27, 28, and which serves to open, not only this, but many other dark sayings in the prophetic oracles.
iv.-Parable of the Marriage of the King's Son.
Matt. xxii. 1-14 -. 'And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: and he saith unto him, Friend. how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment ? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him band and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called but few are chosen.'
This parable bears a strong resemblance to that of 'The Great Supper,' contained in Luke xiv. It is possible that the two parables may be only different versions of the same original. The question, however, does not affect the present discussion, and it cannot be proved that they were not spoken on different occasions. The moral of both is the same; but the character of the parable recorded by St. Matthew is more distinctively eschatological than that of St. Luke. It points clearly to the approaching consummation of the ' kingdom of heaven.' The vengeance taken by the king oil the murderers of his servants, and on their city fixes the application to Jerusalem and the Jews. The Roman armies were but the executioners of divine justice ; and Jerusalem perished for her guilt and rebellion against her King.
Alford, in his notes on this parable, while recognising a partial and primary reference to Israel and Jerusalem, finds also that it extends far beyond its apparent scope, and is divided into two acts, the first of which is past, and closes with. ver. 10; while a new act opens with ver. 11, which is still in the future. This implies that the judgment of Israel and of Jerusalem does not supply a full and exhaustive fulfillment of our Lord's words. On the one hand we have the teaching of Christ Himself- simple, clear, and unambiguous; on the other hand, the conjectural speculation of the critic, without a scintilla of evidence or authority from the Word of God. To expound the parable according to its plain historic significance will be derided by some as shallow, superficial, unspiritual to find in it ulterior and hidden meanings, dark and profound riddles, mystical depths, which none but theologians can explore,- this is critical acumen, keen insight, high spirituality! In our opinion, all this foisting of human hypotheses and double senses into the predictions of our Lord is utterly incompatible with sober criticism, or with true reverence for the Word of God ; it is not criticism, but mysticism ; and obscures the truth instead of elucidating it. At the risk, then, of being considered superficial and shallow, we shall hold fast to the plain teaching of the words of Scripture, turning a deaf ear to all fanciful and conjectural speculations of merely human origin, no matter how learned or dignified the quarter from which they come.
v.- The Woes denounced on the Scribes and Pharisees.
MATT xxiii. 29-36.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites I because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of h ell ? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily, I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.'
LUKE xi. 47-51.
'Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.
'Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers : for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres.
'Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute :
'That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.'