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DO ANY OF THE EPISTLES TEACH THE IDEA OF THE BODILY RESURRECTION OF MANKIND, AND THEIR SUBSEQUENT VISIBLE ASCENSION?
In my opinion, some of them do. Paul, as I understand him, is very explicit on this point; especially in the following passage:
"If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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: 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."t
If I rightly understand this passage, Paul considers the alleged bodily resurrection of Jesus as the model of the resurrection of the rest of the dead of whom he speaks. It seems to me that Mr. Balfour is right, in his interpretation of this, and similar portions of the epistles. I do not, however, entertain the least faith in the doctrine of the resurrection of man's corporeal, fleshly body. I think that, on this point, some of the Apos tles were widely mistaken.
*When our present English version of the Bible was made, the word "prevent" signified merely to go before.
ti Thess. iv. 14-17. See also the language in 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52.
From the following remarks of Mr. Miller, it will be seen that he believes, as does Mr. Balfour and others, in a resurrection of the body. Mr. B., however, differs from the former in one respect: he thinks the term "resurrection" is sometimes to be interpreted figuratively,-particularly in John, v. 29.
"The word resurrection signifies to revive, or resusci tate, or bring to life again, one now dead, who was once alive. It nowhere in the word of God conveys an idea of a new creation, and the word is nowhere used in the Bible expressing any thing less or more than a union of soul and body, and deliverance from natural death. The word resurrection is nowhere used in a figurative sense."*
DID THE APOSTLES EXPECT THAT A GENERAL RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD WOULD TAKE PLACE DURING THAT AGE OR GENERATION IN WHICH THEY LIVED?,
I think we have strong reasons for supposing that they did. The language ascribed to some of them appears to me to warrant this conclusion.
From some portions of his Epistles, I am led to believe that Paul cherished the anticipation that his natural life would be prolonged until the period of the resurrection; and that he and the rest of mankind then living, would, in company with those raised from the dead, literally ascend into the air. If he did not entertain such expectation, what does he mean in the two following
* Miller's Lectures on the Second Coming, &c. p. 29.
passages? "Behold I shew you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and THE DEAD shall be raised incorruptible, and WE shall be changed." "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: THEN we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds," &c.t
Dr. Thomas Belsham, a learned English divine, who wrote somewhat extensively on the Epistles of the New Testament, remarks as follows, in his critical comments on the first of the two foregoing passages:
"It is observable that the apostle here speaks in the first person; and it seems doubtful, whether he might not himself hope to see this wonderful event, [the resurrection] and to participate in this glorious immunity,”‡ [the "mystery" of being "changed" without dying.]
In what is called the twenty-first chapter of John's Gospel, (but which was regarded by Grotius and Le Clerc as proceeding entirely from some other pen than his, and the last two verses of which were thought by Dr. Hammond to have been added by another hand)
#1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. +1 Thess. iv. 16, 17.
Belsham on the Epistles, English edition, vol. ii. p. 371.
§ See "A Paraphrase and Annotations upon all the Books of the New Testament, Briefly Explaining all the Difficult Places thereof." By H. HAMMOND, D. D. Ed. Hammond's works published in London, in 1671, vol. iii. p. 329.
the idea seems to be inculcated that Jesus, in an interview with some of his disciples, after his resurrection, gave them to understand that John would not die until he should come again upon the earth; from which they inferred that he should not die at all. [Perhaps John was one of those whom Paul thought would be translated: "we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up."] Judge for yourselves, however, concerning the import of the passage which reads thus:
"Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved, following, which also leaned on his breast at supper......Peter, seeing him, saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus said unto him, If I will that he TARRY TILL I COME, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple [John] should not die : Yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"*
THE BOOK CALLED "THE REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE."
The authorship of this very singular production is, as indicated by the title prefixed to it in our version, generally ascribed to the Apostle John.
As to the time when it was written, various opinions are entertained by the most learned. Mill, Basnage and Le Clerc, as quoted by Lardner,† assigned A. D.
* John, xxi. 21-23. Works, vol. iii. p. 450.
96 as the date of its origin. The former once supposed it was written in Patmos, during John's exile there; but afterwards changed his opinion, and thought it was written in Ephesus, after the Apostle's release. Lardner thought it might have been composed at Patmos, either A. D. 95, 96 or 97.
Several other writers, however, (among whom may be mentioned Dr. A. Clarke, Dr. Lightfoot, and Dr. Hammond, English commentators; Wetstein, the learned Swiss; and Rosenmuller, a distinguished German critic) were of opinion that the Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place A. D. 70.
Of no part whatever of this strange book, shall I attempt any exposition. That sort of labor I leave to be accomplished by ranting, half-crazy revivalists, and profoundly nonsensical "spiritualizers," who resort to this arsenal of terrific imagery, for weapons wherewith to alarm the timid and weak-minded, and to strike them under "conviction," as the canting sectarians say. The book is a perfect riddle, to me. Nearly all the attempted explanations of its contents that I have met with, are exceedingly whimsical. Indeed, no critic of any con. siderable attainments, is now inclined to offer, with much confidence, even an opinion concerning many of its prominent and emphatic passages. I have almost thought, while reading some parts of it, that the author, whoever he was, must have been insane.
Some learned critics have given up all hope of ever