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" in those days after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light; and the stars of heaven shall fall,” &c. We know that this did not literally take place when Jerusalem was destroyed,* and we think there is good reason for believing that it never will be literally accomplished. For should the stars fall from heaven, where would they fall to? To the earth, as it is written in the Revelation ? But such a supposition is absurd, since they are immeasurably larger than our little planet. Besides, it is written in the verse immediately following the one just quoted, “And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” And this, we know, was not literally fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed.
Other objections of a similar nature might be urged against the interpretation which confines the fulfilment of this prophecy to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. And if it be said, (as we know is argued by those who maintain this view,) that the first part of the chapter is to be interpreted literally, and the latter part to be understood as figurative, or the language of eastern hyperbole, we reply that this were to treat the Word of God with most unwarrantable license to destroy its beauty, order, and uniformity, and make it altogether like a mere human production. If we see that some portions of the Word will not admit of a strictly literal interpretation, can we be certain that other portions will admit of no other than a literal one? And if it be admitted that some parts of the prophecy we are considering must have a figurative or spiritual meaning, why may not the other parts have a spiritual meaning also? Why should they not, if there be, as we believe, consistency, uniformity, and order in God's Word, and some fixed principle of interpretation equally applicable to every part of it?
* According to the historian Josephus, there were some remarkable meteoric appearances about this time ; to which, indeed, some commenta. tors have supposed this prediction to refer. But from a description of that phenomenon given by Josephus, we cannot help regarding it as trifling with divine prophecy, to apply such an important prediction to such an unim. portant event.
Furthermore I remark that if this prophecy concerning the Lord's second coming found a complete fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem, then it is to be regarded now as merely a portion of profane history. And thus the language that fell from the Lord's own lips is to be rejected as wanting the proper characteristics of Scripture, or of a divine composition; for Paul tells us that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of Ged, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. iii. 16.) And if the prophecy referred merely to the destruction of Jerusalem, it is plainly not profitable to us for either of these ; at least, no more so than any piece of profane history not given by inspiration of God.
Now according to this Apostolic test, we observe that the end of all Scripture, or of every divinely inspired writing, is purely spiritual. It is, that we may become perfect as to our spirits, thoroughly furnished unto all good works, by means of the doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, which Scripture contains. In other words, it is the regeneration of man, or the restoration of the world to that state of primitive innocence, simplicity, order and love, which make heaven and its delights with man. Such is the end of all Scripture, or the whole of God's Word. Each and all its parts must therefore have the same end ;-an end to be accomplished, not in the material world without us, but in the spiritual world within us in the soul. And since the end of every divine prediction is eternal, and therefore spiritual, it follows that no prophecy can have its complete fulfilment in the outward events of this natural world. In its literal and lowest sense it may be partially fulfilled ; but only in its highest and ulterior, which is its spiritual sense, may we ever expect its complete fulfilment.
Such is the conclusion to which we are brought by the clear and logical deductions of reason; and such, upon an impartial and thorough examination, shall we find to be the truth in respect to the prophetic parts of
the Word. The literal, historical events which accompanied our Lord's first advent, were most undoubtedly referred to, and included in the prophecies of the Old Testament. But those outward events were only a partial fulfilment of the prophecies--a kind of scenical or symbolic representation, according to fixed laws of order, of something above and beyond and eternal in its nature. And it is only in a spiritual sense, i. e. by the second advent of Messiah, the nature of which we are about to explain, that these prophecies are to find their complete fulfilment.
So with the prophecy under consideration, which foretells the Lord's second coming. Undoubtedly the destruction of Jerusalem and the overthrow of Judaism were referred to, and included in the prophecy. Yet it is so obvious that all of it cannot he adapted to the circumstances of that event, that we are constrained to believe something more and beyond this is referred to; and to look for its complete fulfilment somewhere else than among merely natural and outward events. This is my meaning-and I wish to be clearly understoodthat this prediction did meet with a partial fulfilment in the circumstances attending the destruction of Jerusalem, sufficiently complete however to prove it divinely inspired, yet sufficiently incomplete to prove that an order of truth higher than that pertaining to mere outward events, must be referred to, in its ulterior or highest sense—in that sense in which its accomplishment shall be full and perfect. In other words, the language of the Lord on this occasion was prophetic of the destruction of Jerusalem and its attendant circumstances; and it was at the same time also prophetic of something far beyond and higher; something of which that event itself was but a prophecy, or an outward, symbolic representation.
The idea which we wish to convey, may perhaps be more readily comprehended by means of a simple illustration drawn from nature. Take a single little bud which appears upon a fruit-tree in spring time, holding a flower in embryo. Now herein is contained a prophecy. The flower-bud foretells the flower. But has all
the prophetic announcement of that flower-bud been fulfilled when the flower appears? By no means; for the flower itself is but a mute prophecy of the future fruit, which is the end. And this end was as much included in the prophecy of the flower-bud, as was the unfolding of the flower; and without which end, it could not be said that all, or by any means the most important part of that which the bud foretold, had been fulfilled.
Innumerable illustrations of this kind might be drawn from the volume of nature. And if we would not destroy all analogy between the works and the Word of God-set them at complete variance with each other, and so make Jehovah contradict himself, we must suppose the same principle to hold true in relation to the prophetic parts of the Word, as we know to be true in relation to the prophetic parts of nature. And as no prophecy in nature can be said to be fulfilled, until the end pointed at by the first sign has been accomplished; so neither can any prophecy in the Divine Word be properly said to be fulfilled, until its end, or the thing primarily referred to, has been accomplished. But this end, as we have remarked, is purely spiritual. Consequently, no divine prophecy can have a complete fulfilment in any natural event.
Moreover, it appears evident from the context that spiritual things were uppermost in the mind of the Divine Prophet, and hence that a spiritual fulfilment of this prophecy must have been intended. In the chapter in Matthew immediately preceding the one which contains the prophecy, we find the Lord weeping over Jerusalem, and pronouncing repeated woes upon the pharisaical Jews, who did “all their works to be seen of men;"—who were outwardly fair, but inwardly vile. Now we cannot suppose that it was on account of anything external in the condition of Jerusalem or the Jews, that made the Lord weep and mourn as here represented. His woes and lamentations must have been uttered on account of the spiritual condition of the Church-on account of the perversions and falsifications of the Scriptures, which they professed to follow,
and the deep, moral corruption which prevailed among that formal and hypocritical people.
Then in the following chapter the Lord discourses to his disciples concerning the kingdom of heaven, telling them unto what it is like, &c. And this chapter, be it observed, commences in the original Greek with the particle róte, (tote,) which would seem to warrant the inference that it is a continuation of the same subject, viz. the second coming of the Lord, which is treated of in chapter xxiv. Our English version has it, “ Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins," &c. Now," the kingdom of heaven” here spoken of, is evidently a spiritual kingdom; or the reign of divine truth, order, peace and love, to be established in human minds ;—the progressive advancement of the same thing, as will be shown in the sequel of this lecture, which, in its commencement, is described by the sign of the Son of Man" appearing in the clouds of heaven. And it is difficult to believe that the Divine Teacher would pass by such a rapid and violent transition from things outward and temporal, to those inward and spiritual, as is involved in the theory that nothing but the destruction of Jerusalem is referred to in the divine prediction which we are considering.
Thus have we briefly examined the most common and prevalent modes of interpreting the prophecy which foretels a second appearing of our divine Lord and Saviour. And I think that every candid mind must admit that none of them will stand the test of a severe criticism. The Sacred Scriptures, fairly and consistently interpreted, do not support either of the views which have been noticed.
Let us now consider the doctrine revealed to the New Church upon this subject, and see whether this be any better supported and confirmed by the Word of God.
According to the revelations made to the New Church, the whole of this prophecy, as well as every other part of the Word, contains a spiritual sense; and this spiritual sense is the genuine and true sense of the Scriptures, is what the Lord really teaches through his Word. Accordingly we are informed in these revelations, that the Lord, in the prophecy under review, foretells the