An Examination of the statements made in the "Thoughts on the Apocalypse," by B. W. Newton; and an enquiry how far they accord with Scripture.

J. N. Darby.

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[Page numbers referred to are not the second edition (1904).]

Preface

A book which professes to examine another is sufficiently definite in its object not to need much preface. I shall add, therefore, but few words. My judgment distinctly is, that the whole system maintained in the "Thoughts" is untenable and worthless as a system. I do not expect to persuade everybody of this, nor that everybody will be sufficiently willing to be persuaded to read the examination. But such is the testimony I fed bound to give about it.

The reader will be surprised to learn that since the year 1833 or 1834 I have been inclined to believe in the renewed existence of Babylon. Nay, I believe, though this is of very little importance, that I was the first person who thought so. The result, however, of the examination to which I have been led by my present occupation, has left me much more doubtful of it than before. But however this may be, I judge the use made of it here to be wholly without foundation, and most mischievous - the more mischievous because of the plausibility of some points at first sight. The reader, with the Spirit's help, will judge when he has read. That which I think evil in the book, and of which I am the more convinced by all the discussion there has been, is the setting aside the proper standing, position, and blessing of the church of God. Of this, after the fullest examination, I have not the least doubt. It is possible the author of the "Thoughts" may be quite unconscious of it; but the saints of God are to be thought of in such a case; and therefore the teaching fully judged.

As to the mass of statements, and that of the most extraordinary kind, with which the "Thoughts" abound, without any scripture to warrant them, the "Examination" itself must satisfy the reader.

I will add here in a few words, because it will assist in judging the whole system, that, on a comparison with Matthew 13, the author's system subverts itself. There the wheat is taken up in the end of the then existing age - "this age." According to Mr. Newton's system, the moment Christ rises up from the Father's throne the new age begins and this dispensation ends It is therefore clear that the wheat is caught up before Christ rises from the throne at all to receive them. But this no one can believe. The whole system therefore is a fallacy. It is in vain to say that it closes in heaven and not on earth. First, it is giving up the whole principle of its closure by the act of Christ's rising up from the throne. Secondly, the whole principle of government in heaven and earth is changed at once on the author's system. Till Christ rises up, God is acting for Him; when He is risen up, He acts in His own immediate government. So that in heaven and earth at once, in an instant, the age and the nature of the government is changed. But, further, the distinction is wholly inapplicable here; because the first result is on earth, or in hades (the wheat being in one or other, though it be taken up to heaven). So that the distinction of its ending in heaven, not on earth, is a mere attempt to get out of the palpable confusion. The first act that takes place on Christ's rising is on earth: - the wheat is changed and caught up. The system is confusion - that is the truth. But a very important point is brought into relief by the discussion of this subject: - the rapture of the church is in this age. The new age will not begin till after this is done. This Matthew 13 positively teaches.

2 Preface to the Second Edition

In reprinting this "Examination," I have been comforted at the thought of the earnest opposition made to the views contained in the "Thoughts on the Apocalypse." After more than twenty years, when of course one can judge more coolly than in the warmth of controversy, my judgment of the evil of Mr. N.'s book is far more deep than it was then. And I am surprised that what I believe now to be the truth was so fully matured in my mind then. In some points my mind has naturally made progress. I accepted then, with all students of prophecy, the beast being Antichrist, which now I rather take the second beast to be. But the former being the Roman empire in general is justly insisted on. I have drawn attention to this question in the notes when needed. Further, it is to me more than doubtful that there are two half-weeks referred to in the Apocalypse. But this does not affect the general argument. The question is nothing less than, What is the Christian's place? Is it a heavenly one? And is there, as a distinctive thing, a church of God? In these days especially no question can be more important for Christians. I believe Mr. N.'s views to be antagonistic to all that is vital in this respect.

3 Introduction

I do not as yet make any general remarks as to the system contained in the book here examined. It is a very elaborate one, and extends to many points. It is not stated connectedly in the book itself, though every occasion is seized to make good all that appears to sustain it, and undermine all that may have been advanced by any one elsewhere that might overthrow it. But I have felt that the best thing to do was, not to give my judgment on the system, but first to examine the statements here made, which are used to support it, and to enquire how far they are borne out by Scripture consistently with it, or with each other. Various circumstances, and above all my own occupations, induce me to do it in parts, of which this first will be proportionably by far the longest, on account of the many important general topics which the introductory chapters suggested. It will be really an "Examination of the Thoughts," etc., etc. It will be seen that, even when there are contradictions which I have shewn to exist, I have done no more than state them; I have not reasoned as a controversialist thereupon; I leave that to the reader. He will judge the contradiction itself, and its bearing on a system maintained with so much condemnation of everything else. I do not expect that partisans of that system will be content with my statements, or convinced by them: but I do believe that many unprejudiced brethren will be enabled to judge a great many of the assertions made, which they have not the leisure to examine (perhaps not the habit of examining), as they are examined here. In the long run, under the Lord's mercy, the sentiments of such persons have their weight, and it is such that it is really of value to convince, and to whom investigation is due. Their minds, at any rate, arrested by what maybe said, will be free to examine the whole for themselves.

4 Examination

"The Revelation treats mainly of the present dispensation."

The subjects involved in this book are quite as serious as those of which it directly treats: the true meaning of the heavenly calling; the earthly, or unearthly character of the church s position and associations; the true character and form of evil, against which we have to be on our guard; but above all, what the portion and calling of the church is. These are questions that give importance to its statements, and demand that their accuracy should be examined, and their proofs enquired into.

The title of this chapter is of importance. No explanation is given in the chapter itself of what is meant by the present dispensation; but from the previous chapter it seems very evident that it means the church, or, as there expressed, the church dispensation, or Christianity. (See page 8.) The statement in page 13, is merely the writer's view of what characterises the dispensation, the justice of which is exactly the point in question.* This statement will come before us in its place. For the present I enquire merely what "the present dispensation" means: and, I repeat, it seems clear from the preceding chapter that it is "the church dispensation." The other expressions employed are, "the dispensation to which the New Testament belongs" - a very ambiguous expression, but one which is meant, I apprehend, to convey a good deal more to the reader than he is aware of at the time he adopts it, and to involve him in most important conclusions before he is aware of what they are. The third expression is "the present period." These, taken together, clearly designate the present church dispensation, of which we form part as Christians. I am thus particular, because, with the very great pretensions to accuracy which this book sets up, it behoves us to know of what we are treating, especially as at bottom much turns on the question contained in this chapter, which the writer has thus very naturally put as a sort of frontispiece to the whole book.

{*By means of the vague expression "the present dispensation," and calling it "the church dispensation," in the previous chapter, and giving it the limits and character which are found in page 13, the church, and the kingdom, and the period of government itself, closed by Christ's coming to earth, are identified without any argument, and the reader is involved in the conclusion before it is stated. Hence the need of unravelling these points. This is really the whole point in question: whether the scripture does identify these things. But here they are identified by expressions adapted to the popular state of thought, and the mind shut up in the conclusion, before it is aware of what it is. I believe this identification of the church and the kingdom to be of the very worst moral effect to the saint.}

5 It may be remarked that the writer defines very distinctly his idea of the limits and character of the two dispensations which he has in his mind;* "that in which Christ is seated at the right hand of God, secretly exercising the power of God's throne"; and, "that in which He will come forth in the exercise of the power of His own peculiar kingdom." The first of these two is to him identical with "the church dispensation."

{*We have here, again, an absolute abstract statement which may be true, or may be false; but which, if once admitted, decides by the statement itself the whole question, without anyone's being aware of it. It supposes that the whole period in question is divided into two parts - the time during which Christ is seated at the right hand of God; and the time during which He will come forth in the exercise of the power of His own peculiar kingdom. Now, suppose there was an interval between these two. Supposing I were to speak of the time Napoleon was on the throne, and the time he was a prisoner at St. Helena, as all his history from the time he became emperor. All the time at Elba and all the hundred days would be left out. Now the statement made by the writer here supposes the whole period to be exclusively taken up by His being on the Father's throne or in the exercise of the power of His own peculiar kingdom. I repeat, it supposes it assumes that. Now that is exactly the point in question which has to be proved. If Christ rises up from His Father's throne and comes and receives the church to Himself, before He enters on the exercise of the power of His own peculiar kingdom - then this statement is false as pretending to embrace the whole matter in this division of the period into these two parts. This is a very common sophism - to involve the conclusion of the matter in question in the statement, before any proof is given.}

I must beg the reader's pardon, if I often take notice of statements which appear to me inaccurate, even when they are not very important, because in the questions to which these statements have given rise accuracy of statement and the maintenance of the integrity of scripture are much relied on - we shall see, as we proceed, whether on good ground.

We are told that when the Lord Jesus returned to the Father, "Jehovah said unto him, Sit thou at my right hand, until I shall have set thy foes a footstool for thy feet." Here we have the ordinary translation changed, without, as it seems to me, any reason;* but from the way the verse is introduced here, and the importance attached to it, with some object or other, though neither the reasons for the change, nor the interpretation in view, which give it importance, are stated.

{*I have spoken thus moderately in the text, because it seems to me, that changing the translation without notice and without reasons given, and then building a great deal upon it, is itself a very objectionable proceeding. But I add here, that it seems to me that the translation given is a wrong one. I am not a good Hebraist - far from it; but, as far as I have been able to examine the books and statements of those who are, I judge the Hebrew will not bear this. The English reader should be aware that there is no such tense in Hebrew as "shall have" It is an interpretation which must rest on the word translated "until;" having the force, as it has sometimes, of "while." But this supposes the verb used to have the force of some continuous action, until the termination of which the "while" lasts. Thus, "sit until I shall have prepared" means "while I am preparing." Hence the author has given the sense of "forming" and "preparing" to what is done with the footstool. But, I think I may say that the word translated "make" has no such meaning, and has not a continuous force. It signifies the act of setting something actually, or morally, in a certain position; and if so, the Hebrew would not even bear the sense attributed. Moreover, I think that when it is so used, it is habitually (I am disposed to believe, from all the passages I have been able to find and examine for myself, always) the perfect, and not the (present or) future that is used; sometimes, perhaps, the participle. I do not allude to negative phrases. Moreover, no translation, English or other, with which I am acquainted, so translates, or supposes such a translation of it - neither Horsley, nor the Lyra Davidis, nor the new interlinear translation, nor the German, nor French, nor Gesenius; but on the contrary exclude it. In conclusion, I do not think the Hebrew could be justly translated so; at all events, I have no doubt it is a wrong translation. And, as every translation, critical or other, with which most of us are familiar, translates it as the English, it is surely an unwarrantable thing to impose a new one, and build up a system on it, without any reason given; and silently convert "make" into "preparing" or "forming," a sense which the Hebrew word, I think I may safely venture to say, will not possibly bear. The reader conversant with such things will find Gesenius (under the Hebrew word gad, 2) using the passage in the sense of present spiritual subjection, as those ignorant of the millennium do, a long column of reasoning connected with the assertion of its being the "term assigned to a period," and not the "period during which." The truth is, it rests in the nature of the act. "Have," "shall have," or "do" are immaterial if the act be one act which closes the period. "You shall stay in prison till you 'have,' or 'shall have,' paid, or 'till' you pay," is all the same thing in English. On the other hand, "you shall stay in the house 'till your wounds are healed,' or 'shall be healed,' or 'whilst they are healing,'" would be substantially the same thing; because the "till" here is the close of a continuous act, with whose close the period closes. Now I appeal to any one cognisant of Hebrew if sheeth has this force.

At any rate, giving a changed translation, contrary to everyone commonly known, and building a vast system upon it, without the least proof that it is correct, is itself sufficient to render the whole suspected.}

6 Still it is pretty clear that one object is to make it appear that Jehovah is acting meanwhile for Christ, and it is expressly stated that the fact is so ("it speaks of the power of the throne as acting in His behalf"). And when this is coupled with the fact, admitted on all hands, that Revelation up to chapter 19, does represent God acting for Christ before His appearing; and that Psalm 110 is stated to be characteristic of this dispensation, and the Revelation is declared to treat mainly of this dispensation - I say, putting all these statements together, it is clear that the changed version is given with a view of presenting God in it as so acting for Christ during this dispensation, and characteristically of it. But then, so important an interpretation of the psalm ought to have been plainly stated and proved. That is, that what verse I of that psalm means is, that God was acting for Christ, in setting His foes to be His footstool during this dispensation, and that such acting was characteristic of this dispensation. This is what the statements amount to: for it is stated that this verse speaks of the power of the throne acting on Christ's behalf, and that it is characteristic of this dispensation. Now the only acting in the verse is setting foes for a footstool. Hence, the setting of foes for Christ's footstool by God the Father is what characterises all this dispensation; Psalm 110 is the acting of God all through to this effect, not His sovereign word and power putting them at a given time under Christ's feet for Him to subdue; and the Revelation treats mainly of this dispensation, because it speaks of God's so acting.

7 But I apprehend, if it had been fairly and plainly stated that this verse describes God's actually putting down the foes of Christ all through this dispensation, the church dispensation, such an interpretation would at once have been rejected by every intelligent Christian, who knows well that the foes of Christ only rise up more and more to a head of rebellion until God gives them up, when patience can no longer have any hope, to be trampled upon by Christ.

And this becomes the more important because, according to the author, instead of seeing Christ the royal man, exalted and hid there until a certain period, it is Christ Himself, as God, that thus exercises power - "the power of the throne of God which He exercises."

8 And it is stated (page 15) that the book of Revelation "especially refers to the period during which Christ is hidden with God": and these things are spoken of as His present relation to, and as we have seen, exercise of power upon the nations, hidden in the throne. And yet we are told with strange inconsistency that, while (page 37) "our dispensation is still, as it then was, under the throne as it was then seen by John," yet (page 37) "the sixth chapter and all that follows [that is, all that is stated of God's actings in it] are altogether future, even at this present hour."

So that while we are introduced to the Revelation as treating mainly of the present dispensation, of a period during which Christ is sitting in God's throne according to Psalm 110, His present relation to the nations, not one word of the actings which are spoken of have taken place during the eighteen hundred years of the present dispensation. The Revelation treats of no part of the present dispensation which is yet fulfilled, though the things spoken of be distinctively characteristic of it; and that which thus distinctively characterises it is altogether future.

But after all, the truth is, the psalm does not speak of God's actings during this period, but of Christ's position, until God does set His foes to be His footstool; and this, though in very strange language - language which just betrays the intellectual road travelled - is admitted by Mr. N. himself.

Pages 12, 13: "The footstool has not yet been formed" - consequently not set under Christ's feet, which is the only acting of the throne spoken of in the psalm; and the Revelation "treats of events which precede the mission of Christ, and the setting of the footstool." "It leads on" to that: that "forms the conclusion, not the subject, of the book." How then, since this is the only act of God spoken of in Psalm 110, can Psalm 110 be so distinctly characteristic of the dispensation of which the Revelation mainly treats? There is no characteristic of the present period so especially distinctive as this acting of Jehovah's throne spoken of in Psalm 110, and yet the Revelation, which treats of the present dispensation, of the present period, treats of events which precede this acting, which is not the subject of the book! For this setting of the footstool is the only acting of the throne spoken of in Psalm 110. The simple fact is, it was settled that the Revelation should apply to the present dispensation. It was settled that any statements declaring its applying to the government of the earth merely should not affect its application to "the church dispensation"; and therefore Psalm 110 is treated as God's actings on the throne while Christ was sitting there, and thus the Revelation and the psalm are brought in together, and the contradictions which affect the whole substance of the statements are left to be found out by those that have the patience to investigate the soundness of what is stated.

9 There is another and yet more important object in this translation which is not avowed neither. Christ's sitting till God shall have made His foes His footstool involves the church's remaining here till Antichrist be set to be the footstool of Christ's feet. If Christ's foes are to be made the footstool of Christ before He leaves the throne, and that He leaves God's throne before He receives up the church, it is clear that the church is not received up till His foes are made His footstool, and this by God's actings - of course, effectual actings. This goes too far, indeed, for it would suppose Antichrist, for example, made by the actings of God's power the footstool of Christ before His rising up from the throne to receive the church.

This may go to prove the unsoundness of the whole system. But I only ask, Is it legitimate, in reasoning on Scripture, to give a translation which silently involves the whole principle which is attempted to be taught, without giving the least proof that the new translation is correct? I do not agree with the sense given to "setting." The contradictions in which it involves the writer have been shewn; but I take it on his own ground now.

The verse states no actings of God's power for Christ at all, much less Christ's own actings as God. He is called to sit on Jehovah's right hand till Jehovah set His enemies for His footstool. It is not secret providential actings which form the subject of the psalm, but ruling in the midst of His enemies, when Jehovah has placed them under His feet. It is receiving the rejected One there, and not acting while He is there, but telling Him to sit there till a given epoch when His enemies shall be put under Him, and He will act upon them. And this is so much the case, that, when the apostle comments on it, he states, not that God is acting, much less that Christ is acting as God, but that He is expecting till something be done (to wit, His enemies be made His footstool).

10 And indeed setting as a footstool supposes the placing them simply in a certain position under Him, and that He should exercise power over them - not the prolonged actings of power in His behalf, for Him during a whole dispensation. During that time we have seen He was to sit till this particular act was done. And see the extraordinary statements into which the system of the writer throws him on this point.

"The footstool has not yet been formed."* . . . "But everything is tending thereunto. The preparation of the footstool is the end to which all the superintending power of the throne of God is directed." It is true, it may be said, that God hath made all things for Himself - the wicked for the day of evil. But is all the superintending power of God's throne directed to the preparing of the wicked to be the footstool of Christ, to forming and preparing these enemies for His power to trample on? Is this the meaning of setting them for a footstool? That it is a regular preparation of this kind, which is meant in these statements, is clear; for it is said "as soon as it is prepared, Christ will quit the throne of the majesty in the heavens, and will return in glory." So that it is not the fact of placing them under His feet, to be judged as an act of authority, but of positive previous preparation of them for this position, in order that He may rise up, and come and take it. This verse is always interpreted in Scripture, not as the divine power in Jesus, but as His exaltation by God.

{*There is not a word about forming or preparing in Hebrew nor in Greek.}

"Therefore," says Peter, commenting on this verse, "let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." And Christ puts it Himself as the puzzling question to the Jews who rejected Him, that David's Son was David's Lord, whom Jehovah called to sit on His throne. So, in Hebrews 1:13, it is said, "unto which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?" And, as He is here addressed as one whom another was setting in a glorious place, so, in Hebrews 10:13, He is presented as expecting till another does a certain act. He is made Lord and Christ, and He is expecting till the next thing is done (to wit, His enemies made His footstool). We may know, and we do, blessed be God, what qualifies that blessed One for such a place, where none but He could sit. Still it is not this that is spoken of in the passage: and it is as important to see the title to exaltation which He has acquired down here, as the nature which could alone capacitate Him for acquiring the title, or holding the place itself.

11 It presents Messiah exalted to the right hand of the majesty in the heavens, when He had accomplished redemption and the purging of sins, until Jehovah should give His enemies into His hand to be trampled upon. It is an interval during which Messiah is quiescent and expecting, not an acting of power.

And indeed God's actings in the Revelation are either the patience of chastisement, if so be the wicked should not have to be given up, or an execution of judgment which left no foe to be trampled upon, as Babylon. It has no connection with the Psalm, save the fact that it is only at the end that Christ tramples on His earthly enemies. But there are other most serious objections to the statements of this chapter.

This verse is quoted so often, "because so distinctively characteristic of the dispensation to which the New Testament belongs." I have two remarks to make on this. First, what is the meaning of the "New Testament belongs"? If merely that it has been given to this dispensation, to the church, that is clear. They had it not before. But, if it be meant to involve (silently, yet again), that all in the New Testament applies to this dispensation, then it is positively false. Witness the title of the chapter we are writing on. "The Revelation treats mainly of the present dispensation." The New Testament does not then (save as given to the saints, and all things are theirs) belong entirely to this dispensation. "Mainly," no doubt, it does." The writer may - put his limits, others theirs; but he cannot assert it qualifiedly in the title to the chapter, and unqualifiedly in the body of it, and expect the assertion to be received of any reasonable man. I should put another most decided limitation to it. Christ died for the nation, as well as to gather the church. This, being God's counsel, followed up by Christ's act, I apprehend is (might not I say, must be?) the subject of the Spirit's testimony. This testimony does not belong properly to the church dispensation, even when synchronic in its presentation. Besides, there is the testimony which preceded in the midst of the nation, which is given historically. These limitations cannot be denied, for I naturally leave out the disputed ground of certain prophetic parts as being in question But it is not legitimate to state ambiguously that the New Testament belongs to this dispensation, in order to prove that these disputed parts do, where it is necessarily admitted that very important parts do not. And while no one denies that the great body of it applies to us (belongs, if you please, to us), we cannot forget that two very important subjects indeed are treated, and others mentioned, which do not belong to our dispensation - to wit, the testimony to the Jews, and the millennium which comes after it, besides the judgment of the dead, and the post-millennial state. It should be remembered that we may be given to know many things which do not belong to the dispensation to which we belong. This is silently confounded here. Compare Abraham and Lot, and Ephesians 1:9.

12 But my second remark is yet more important. This verse of Psalm 110 characterises distinctively the dispensation. There is no characteristic of the present period so essentially distinctive as this." Is then the throne, acting on the wicked to prepare them for Christ's judgment, the essentially distinctive characteristic of the "church dispensation"? It is this statement that is at the root of the questions raised on this subject. All that is most blessed to the church - her relationship to the Father, the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven so that she should be the tabernacle of God through the Spirit, her union with Christ actually exalted as her Head - none of these things enter even into the field of view when what characterises the dispensation is spoken of by the writer. What essentially characterises it has nothing to do with the church with the Holy Ghost, with the Father, with union or joy of communion, no, not even with Christ, save so far as governing the earth on the throne as God, or Jehovah's acting for Him on it. Would this be believed, if another had stated of the writer or his book, that not one spiritual thought or privilege, not the presence of the Comforter, nor anything that regards the church, is distinctively characteristic of the present church dispensation? But I may be told that this is said "in contrast with the period when Christ will assume the exercise of the authority of His own kingdom." It is stated absolutely that no characteristic is so essentially distinctive. But, admitting what is replied, it is this that is so strong, that nothing but a difference of governmental order is essentially distinctive of the present period.

13 We have seen that it is not Jehovah's throne acting for Christ, but Christ sitting on it till He does. Were it otherwise, surely a difference in the manner of governing the world is not what distinguishes to a saint this dispensation. This is so clearly the writer's mind, that it is only as a consequence which we might naturally expect that, during this period, Christ's relation to the church, as a kingdom He immediately governs, is brought in; and after all, only in relation to the churches, not to the church. A very serious consequence is connected with this, that Christianity, or the church dispensation, is treated as an age, and the new age as beginning when it ends. "As soon as this verse ceases to apply, i.e., whenever the Lord Jesus quits His present place on the throne of God, our dispensation ends, and the new age begins." (Page 11.)

Moreover, this is only assuming again quietly the whole point in question. First, a new translation is given without proof; then, an interpretation quite contrary to the plain statement of the verse; and then, every spiritual privilege being entirely and totally forgotten, our dispensation is declared to end when that ends, of which the verse does not speak at all, namely, Jehovah acting for Christ on His throne.

The other part of the statement is an assertion, without any attempt at proof; namely, when Christ quits God's throne, the new age begins. An assertion moreover which is clearly not true, because the new age cannot begin while Antichrist is here in power - in a word, until he is judged. Now, however short the interval may be, this shews that it is not Christ's quitting God's throne which begins the new age. The end of the age is not an instant; it applies moreover to the world here below. And, further, the saints of Christendom are gathered up in the harvest, at the end of the age, by the Son of man's sending forth His angels. So thus our dispensation is ended before ever the new age begins, or that He has quitted the throne; or He has quitted it, and the harvest goes on, which harvest is the end of that age, which consequently has not closed by His quitting it. The length of the interval is not here the question; but the fact of His quitting the throne toes not close the age, called our dispensation, and begin the new age (unless the saints are up* before He quits it), because the harvest which gathers them is the end of the (former) age. But, besides, the truth is that Christianity is not properly an age at all. "This age" belongs to this world, not to the church. The Lord and the disciples were in the age - "this age" - when on earth, before even Christ was on the throne at all. And there is a clear earthly period running on, which it is admitted is not yet accomplished, and in which a gap takes place, to let in the event spoken of in this psalm - that is, the seventy weeks of Daniel. It is admitted that, at any rate, half a week is yet unfulfilled, which must close before the new age comes in.

{*This is clearly not the case, because He comes to receive them. The putting of the two statements of scripture together, indeed (namely, that Christ comes to receive His saints; and, that the harvest in which the wheat is gathered in is at the end of the age), demonstrates that Christ's leaving the Father's throne and receiving the saints precedes the close of the age. It is not finished when He comes to receive the church. The only other way of taking this is, to say that the harvest applies to earthly saints, and not to the church. But that would only make the case stronger still, namely, that even the earthly judgments are before the end of the age, and would put the receiving of the saints as quite a separate thing, clean out of the question of the age. In any case the system of the author is demonstrated to be altogether untrue.}

14 The present age subsisted, in a word, before the state of things spoken of in this psalm, and, moreover, must subsist after the rapture of the church: because, first, the harvest in which they are taken up belongs to the old age; and secondly, the new age cannot begin until after the destruction of Antichrist, since, to give no other reason, Daniel's weeks (which clearly do not belong to the new age) are not closed till he be destroyed. So that neither Christianity, nor the church dispensation, nor Psalm 110, gives any date for the beginning or ending of the age at all. The age, or this age, very clearly relates, in the passages which thus speak of it, to an earthly state of things closed, and another begun. Christianity may find its epoch in the prolonging of the age; but it is not by it that it is begun, nor ended, as a precise date of time: so that "our dispensation ends and the new age begins" is in the face of it a confusion of terms and things too; for it assumes that our dispensation is the old age, which it clearly is not. Nor can this be escaped from by alleging that spiritually the disciples, who spoke of the age, belonged to this dispensation; because the psalm we are treating of specifies the actual sitting of Christ at God's right hand.

15 It may be asked, How do you take then Psalm 110? Does not, even in the old translation, the psalm suppose that Christ rests on the throne, and consequently the church down here till the enemies are prepared for the trampling of Christ? I answer, No. The question supposes that God is acting through the course of the period: but the psalm has no such sense. Were it indeed so, God would have subdued all Christ's foes before Christ Himself took the kingdom. He would have none left to subdue or trample upon. But Jehovah does nothing in the psalm at all. He places the enemies of Christ under His feet - gives them up to Him to trample on. Thereon Christ begins to act in power; but what the process is, or how soon He gets to earth to begin a new age in the judgments (or rather after the judgments at Jerusalem), this psalm says nothing of.

Indeed the psalm seems to go to prove that the new age does not begin till after Christ has quitted the Father's throne. The Lord is to send the rod of His power out of Zion. He is to rule among His enemies, so that all things that offend are not cleared out of His kingdom. But that is the end of the former age. He has not the rod of His power in Zion while Antichrist is there, and therefore it is not yet the new age. The truth is, all this is transitional, whether in the heavens or in the earth, just as was Christ's life on earth. It was not the law, yet the law subsisted, and He was under it. It was not the gospel, as we have it; for His death could not be preached. It was a transitional period from John Baptist till the final rejection of Christ by the Jews. So will this be. We can speak of Christ's leaving the throne, then first gathering together the tares; then, the wheat; and after all this, on the writer's own statement, Antichrist is not yet destroyed: so that the end of the age is not yet fully come. In a word, the precise order, and the principle on which it is founded in this chapter, are entirely wrong.

I have said, Christ's leaving the throne, then first gathering the tares, etc.; because, if this be not so, the gathering up of the saints is altogether before the end of the age, according to the writer himself, and, moreover, before Christ's coming to receive them at all. I take it now on his own interpretation of His sitting on Jehovah's throne, and quitting it to begin the new age Still there is a transitional period. On any ground, his statements cannot hang together, because he has got off Scripture, and formed a system; and Scripture (and blessed be God for it!) will not suffer itself to be so moulded. It is drawn from a system deeper than our thoughts, and we must believe and understand what is given to us "in part," and not frame a whole after our wisdom. It will always be false, and put to the rout by Scripture - by some single text that will not bend (I repeat, blessed be God!) to it.

16 The last paragraph of this chapter first states, as already noticed, without any proof at all, that there are just exactly the two things: Christ secretly exercising the power of God's throne; or coming forth in the exercise of the power of His own peculiar kingdom, without any transitional state or other condition of things, the one beginning in the instant the other ends. Whereas it is certain that the immensely important fact of the rapture of the church takes place between the two, whatever the interval, and that Christ cannot receive the power of His own peculiar kingdom below, till this has taken place. Nor can this rapture take place till after He has left the throne, from whence it is evident the harvest cannot either (at any rate an important part of it). Then he applies the Revelation exclusively to the first (omitting the chapters at the end which the book conducts to, but which are not its subject), and affirms the characteristics of the Revelation to be the characteristics of our dispensation. This is natural, and necessary to the writer's point of view. But is it the fact? These are the characteristics: "Christ hidden with God, Israel blinded, the Gentiles supreme and glorious, the Church suffering."

The first expression is simply a mistake. Our life is hidden with Christ in God. This is clearly another thing than the mere fact of Christ's absence, and His being hidden with God. It expresses a condition, not an outward fact. And where do we find Christ in the Revelation? As the Son of man walking in the midst of the golden candlesticks. I do not believe this is at all contradictory to His being hidden in God. It is another point of view altogether. And this is what is often overlooked in this book, that one statement (complete to man's mind, and by which he would shut out consequently everything else) opens in God's mind to let in a multitude of things. Christ, according to Scripture, is absent, and hid in God. Yet He is present, and manifests Himself to His people. Both these are true at the same time. As an outward worldly fact, Christ is absent; spiritually, He is present. The littleness of man's mind, occupied about material things, and judging from them, negatives readily one thing from the existence of another, as if all were material; while divine power makes true together what to us is impossible. How can a spiritual body eat, and have flesh and bones? or how can flesh and bones go through a shut door? How then can we close the door on the wildest imaginations and all kinds of notions? Not by drawing conclusions by man's reasoning. We have no door to close or open, but to believe all God has said, and nothing else.

17 But in the prophetic part of the book is Christ thus hid in God? Is it in this way He is presented? He is seen as a Lamb slain in the throne. He comes forth and receives the book - is celebrated as worthy to take it; He opens the seals. In a word, whatever the effect may be, He is presented as acting; not, perhaps, as visible on earth, but as a Person worshipped and acting in heaven, and yet previously to His mission and kingdom; for He is opening the seals, which reveal what precedes it, before He comes forth. It is then a misquotation to say hid with God, which entirely alters the sense; and He is not presented as hid in God, but as coming forth from the throne, the object of special attention, to receive the book from God's hand.*

{*I say nothing about Israel blinded, because I see nothing particularly about it in the Revelation, save the sealing the one hundred and forty-four thousand. That blindness in part happens to Israel till the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, the apostle teaches us; Rom. 11. What is done with the believing remnant after that, or how they are made a great nation, the Revelation does not teach us. According to the author, after the withdrawal of Christians, a work goes on, amongst that part of Israel to which the Revelation alludes, independent of Christianity, which does not bring them into the church, but secures the deliverance of those who receive the testimony when Jesus appears. And this is all that is material to observe; because it proves that, supposing the blindness to remain on the mass till Christ executes judgment (which, I suppose, nobody denies), this does not hinder an effectual work, not wrought by the church amongst that people (beloved of God, though enemies in respect of the gospel) of which the Revelation treats, as indeed of no other work amongst them.}

Next we have, "The Gentiles supreme and glorious." Are wars, famines, death, crying out to the rocks to cover them, "the Gentiles supreme and glorious?" They may have been so; but it is not what is characteristic of the book. Nor is there anything in the book which shews it to be characteristic of the period of which it treats. "Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth" is not a presentation of Gentiles supreme and glorious, that I can see - a time, too, when men are seeking death and cannot find it. The Revelation treats of certain judicial actings of God. The Gentiles, till then supreme and glorious, may be their object. But it can hardly be said that the execution of judgments on any one is characteristic of their supremacy and glory. We are told that they are characteristic of the period. But how are they so? It may be proved, perhaps from elsewhere, that they are so in spite of these chastening judgments; but the period of which the Revelation treats cannot be characterised by things contrary to what is found in the Revelation. The statement is made to prove that our dispensation and the period of which the Revelation treats are the same, not perhaps in limits of time, but in nature. But the proofs of this, as to the period of which the Revelation treats, must be drawn from the Revelation itself. But the fact is, that the Revelation speaks of quite other things, namely, the judgment of God on the Gentiles. This may suppose them supreme and glorious, when the judgment overtakes them, and that the abuse of their supremacy may have been the occasion of these chastisements and their final judgment: but then these chastisements and this judgment can hardly be called the period of their supremacy and glory.

18 It may be alleged that the time of the beast's reign is clearly a time of supremacy and glory, for power is given him over all nations, etc. But then this cannot be said to be characteristic of our dispensation; because, according to the writer, Christianity and Christians, unless a few inattentive ones, are beyond the limits of his power, and a new testimony is set up, namely, the two witnesses. So that this can hardly, I suppose, be called our dispensation; unless the government of the world be so exclusively the subject of it, that our dispensation the church dispensation, has nothing to do with Christianity at all, but that it is just as much ours when a new testimony is raised up on its withdrawal.

And here I would add a remark as to this final power of Antichrist. It is by no means properly a continuation of the Gentile imperial power. That this imperial power is extraordinarily in his hands, I admit; but it is not a continuance of it. It is a resurrection of it. And the difference is very great indeed - nothing less than this, that the throne of the Gentiles was set up by God (however abused); whereas it is Satan gives this last power, his throne, and great authority. That the kings of the earth give him their authority is quite true, but it is the dragon that has given him his throne. The statement of the chapter thus seems altogether unsustainable and objectionable - the most objectionable thing of all, to my mind, being, that everything spiritual is totally excluded from what is said to be essentially distinctive as a characteristic of the present period. Nothing properly belonging to the church enters into this at all. It is entirely dropped from the statement of the writer. The government of the world is all that is in his mind.

19 But I feel that a godly mind may say, though sensible of this, and rejecting the statement of the writer as spiritually evil, Well, but what is this Psalm 110? how do you explain it?

First, I recall the remark that the new translation is unproved, and, as it seems to me, unwarranted. If it were so, it would alter the whole meaning of the passage in the most important way; because God would have subjugated all Christ's foes, in order that they should be His footstool. If God were making them such by the actings of the power of His throne, they would be subdued by the actings of power, before Christ began to act at all. The whole judicial reign of Christ, and the millennial scheme would be false. But making His enemies His footstool is merely by the authority of His power giving them up to be trampled upon by Him. Next, it is connected with the rejection of Messiah on earth, whereon Jehovah calls Him up to sit at the right hand of power, until His enemies should be given up to Him. The chief enemies actually in view in the psalm are His enemies, amongst whom He will rule down here - "rule thou in the midst of thine enemies" - earthly enemies, when the rod of His power will be sent out of Zion. This is all that is actually spoken of in this psalm.

But, as in the analogous Psalm 8, where though the subjection of earthly creatures is mentioned, yet from a general (there 8 universal) term, the apostle applies it to everything but God the Father; so here, I apprehend, anything that takes the place of adversary or enemy will be given into His hand. Thus, in a passage which I do not doubt to be an allusion to this, the apostle makes it universal: "He [Christ] must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet": and thus the apostle makes It universal, although the psalm speaks specifically only of His rod of power sent out of Zion. The time at which God puts His enemies thus generally under the hand of Christ, or what passes until He actually takes the rod of His power in Zion, the psalm is totally silent upon. It is not (save the broad general fact, that He is to be at the right hand of power, expecting till that time, and seated as having nothing more to do for His friends*) occupied with what passes until the rod of power is in Zion. We know that all that regards the church will have happened before that moment so that we are sure the silence of the psalm must leave space for it. How much, the psalm will say nothing about; but the statement that there is none is clearly false; for the church is caught up, the marriage of the Lamb takes place, before Antichrist is destroyed; and Antichrist must be destroyed before the rod of His power goes out of Zion. The heavenly part of Christ's actings is omitted in the psalm. These must be sought elsewhere. But there are such actings: and thus the interpretation which confines to the instant of His rising up from the throne the closing of the age, and His assuming His power in the new age, is altogether untenable. It is clear, for example, that the whole of the harvest is before the new age, yet it is the Son of man that sends forth His angels.

20 If it be alleged that all this happens before He leaves His throne, then the whole reasoning and system of the author fails; because the church would be taken away before He left the throne and before Christ came to receive it. Yet it is to meet Him in the air; and, if this be not inconsistent with His sitting on His throne at that time, it is quite clear that the reasoning from the psalm comes to nothing; because its force lies in this, that He is on that throne till His enemies are put under Him, and consequently the church is here, and our dispensation continues: whereas in the other case, the church would be gone before what the writer calls the end of our dispensation on His rising up. If He has risen up before He receives the church, there is some interval passed over in the psalm: so that the argument as to the instantaneous closing is false in that case also. In either case the using it as a proof of exact synchronism is good for nothing.

No: the psalm speaks at length of the Jewish part of the subject, to wit, the rod of power in Zion - the Messiah part. * See the comparison, Hebrews 10:11, 12. It states in general terms Messiah's place till Jehovah does a certain act of authority, but leaves all open as to interval of time, and manner of accomplishment, by which Christ enters upon the earthly part of this power spoken of in the psalm. We know that, whatever be the manner of it, an immensely important fact takes place at least three years and a half before the establishment of Christ's power in Zion, namely, the destruction of Satan's heavenly power, or his casting out of heaven. I know that the writer seeks elsewhere to distinguish between his power in the air and his being in the presence of God: the former continuing after his casting out from the latter. But this is mere gratuitous statement: for in the passage which is interpreted in the latter way, he is cast down to the earth, and his place found no more in heaven.

21 If this be so, it is clear the Revelation treats of this peculiar time, a time yet future, when God is occupied with bringing in the First-begotten into the world (the habitable world), but before He is so brought in, up to chapter 19 where He is introduced."* If it be future, as the author states, and an acting of God which He has not yet begun at all, it cannot be our dispensation; because, otherwise, our dispensation would exist without what characterises it. It is not the world to come till after chapter 19, nor Psalm 110 after verse 2 of that psalm. It embraces a peculiar period, then, occupied with transitional events, from the time God is introducing the First-begotten till the time of His giving up the kingdom, including (but only in description, not historically) the time of the reign of the Son. It is the history of judgment, not of grace, though saints may be preserved in it and their security and joy celebrated. The church properly belongs to the time of patient grace, the acceptable time, the day of salvation.

{*Hence, perhaps, the resurrection is not spoken of in it, save as a recognised fact to enumerate those who have part in it, when the thrones are set, and judgment given to those on them. But, as the act of life-giving power, it is never historically mentioned.

"CHRIST IN HIS RELATION TO THE CHURCHES"

We are here arrived at a most important subject, where, if ever, we may find something of the spiritual and heavenly character of the church of God during this dispensation. But I would draw at once attention to the title - Christ's relation to the churches. Is that all? Has He no relation to the church? Is there nothing during thus dispensation of what is special in Christ's relationship to the church? This book "especially refers to the period during which Christ is hidden with God" - "the church being a body chosen out of the nations and separated to God." The church, then, is spoken of as regards this period. "We might expect in a book treating of this period [though all the actings of God spoken of in it are, according to the author, future] that His excellent relation to such a body would be distinctly marked." Now let the reader examine this chapter, and say what this excellent relation is? or see whether he finds nothing about it at all. The very title betrays the fact, and what is in the writer's mind. It is, "Christ in His relation to the churches," not to the church.

22 "Accordingly" (page 15), "the very first chapter reveals Christ in His relation to the churches." His excellent relation to the church during the period He is hidden with God is His walking in judgment in the midst of the churches. There it is His excellent relation is "distinctly marked." Nor can there be any doubt of its being the full object of the writer's contemplation; for it is said, "It is a kingdom set to confess Him thus - to own union with Him in glory, and seek likeness to Him in suffering obedience here." And all His excellent relation to such a body (a kingdom) is that He is walking in the midst of the candlesticks of gold. In respect to "union with Him in glory," this is all which "His excellent relation to such a body" amounts to - that by which it is "distinctly marked."

Let us come to some particulars, and we shall see the entire confusion of the statements in detail. The Revelation treats, we are told, of the period during which Christ is hidden with God. Hence His relation to the church would be marked. Its chief subject is the relation of the throne of God to the nations, but it has another object in relation to the churches; it reveals the present relation of Christ to them, but the Gentiles supreme and glorious, and the church suffering. This characterises our dispensation, and the period of which the Revelation treats.

But is it merely another object during this period? Why is it concealed that the period is distinguished, as well as the object? And therefore if this account of the churches reveals the present relation of Christ to them - the prophetic part, which treats of the Gentiles, is after the close of the present relation of Christ to the churches. The apostle is directed to write "the things which he had seen," "the things which are," and "the things which are after these." Now "the things which are" are the seven churches; and then the apostle is caught up to see the things which are "after these." So that "the things that are" are closed before the prophetic part begins; or else the things which come after certain others, whose history has been ended, are at the same time with them. Yet this is what the chapter leaves us to suppose.

23 Next, it is stated that "He hath made it a kingdom, even a priestly kingdom." It is never said, He has made "it" a kingdom. He has made us a kingdom, supposing the new reading right. And this makes all the difference; because it is then, not a sphere of government, but a term of personal dignity, just as priest is. And though this is sought to be eked out by the terms "a kingdom of priests, and a kingdom of kings," yet it is clearly a sphere of government; for it is added "His, and His only, to govern." And if so, there is no warrant to say "of kings"; because kingdom means a thing governed, not governing, according to the author himself. This is merely saving appearances, in order to avoid the idea of taking away the glory of the saints. In chapter 5 the term kings is applied to Israel. If the church be a kingdom in the midst of kingdoms, and that this is its present relation, surely we do not reign now, even if we be reigned over by Christ. And it is a mere delusion to confound Christ's reigning over us now (and therefore our being a kingdom), and our reigning with Him hereafter, as being expressed by the same word kingdom. It is when Christ's present relation to the churches will have quite closed, that we shall be kings in that sense, as reigning with Him.

Next, to make the church merely a kingdom lowers it altogether from the proper scriptural idea of His excellent relation to such a body. And what is meant here by such a body? "It is a kingdom in the midst of kingdoms." It is not, though the word body is used, His - Christ's - body. It is a kingdom which He governs which He orders by His own peculiar laws. It is true the author speaks of giving it life, but this only increases the confusion, and reduces life-giving union to the idea of a governed body. Accordingly (as we have seen) it is accomplished in relation to the churches among which He walks, which churches, we may further remark, exist no longer. "We cannot hear" the Lord's addresses "as churches, for churches have ceased to be." (Page 31.) All idea of the unity of the body of Christ as the state and portion of the church, as sitting in heavenly places in Him, is altogether lost. His excellent relation to such a body is to a kingdom governed upon earth, and that is all. Indeed more than all: for that which is addressed in the Revelation directly exists no more. It is in vain to say, that this is the way it is treated in the Revelation; because what is sought to be proved is, that the Revelation treats of our dispensation - the church dispensation. If it does not, and that the Revelation does not speak of our dispensation, of the church in its proper relation to Christ, but merely of churches as once existing, but which exist no longer, and of certain prophetic subjects which come after churches have ceased to exist, then the whole system falls which makes it treat of the church dispensation, and places us in its prophetic statements. If it do treat of it, then, I repeat, the writer lowers the distinct marking of Christ's excellent relation to such a body, to churches, and to the government of a kingdom in the midst of kingdoms, setting aside the proper relation of the church to Christ.