Matthew 28

Matthew 28; Isaiah 42-63
Chapter 28.
We have in this chapter the account of the service which the angel renders to the Messiah, as also some remarkable circumstances to point out. The evangelist in no way occupies himself with the greater part of the details of the forty days that ran out after the resurrection. Each Gospel is the deposit of what refers to a special aim of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of Christ is diverse.
The only thing recounted by the Lord here is His interview in Galilee with His disciples, an interview which sets them in the position of testimony which He left them as Messiah, now the depository of all power in heaven and on earth. The invention of the unbelief of the Jews to keep their minds still in blindness is related to us. This is all that remained to tell of the Jews as a nation, so that if we take away the last feature, we have only this: the angel says to the disciples to go into Galilee, that they may there see the Lord. Jesus says the same thing to the women, in order that they might tell it to the disciples, now "His brethren." There had He been continually with them during His life; there the light was to have appeared for the time of distress; there the Messiah found a refuge at the time of the pride of Jerusalem (compare John 4 and all the history of the Gospels); the disciples were themselves of that country. All the associations of Jewish ideas, as regards the relations of the disciples with Christ in the midst of the Jewish people, were there. He had acted on Jerusalem, but this was now closed. He had been rejected. The law will go out from thence, when He shall have returned in power. " There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer "; but for the time He had done with Jerusalem as regards His Messianic testimony. Further, it must be remarked that the ascension of Jesus is not related here, but solely His relations with His disciples, relations continued after His resurrection and upon this principle, that all power is given unto Him in heaven and on earth.
The Lord has already renounced Jerusalem, saying that it should see Him no more till it repented. Jerusalem, or at least its chiefs, had cried, His blood be on us, and on our children. He takes no more cognizance of it here for the moment; in principle, His disciples were the remnant of the people. As acting from on high, He sends the gospel to Jerusalem; but it is the subject of Luke's Gospel, and of the book of the Acts, which is the continuation of it (see Luke 24:46-5346And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48And ye are witnesses of these things. 49And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. 50And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. 52And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. (Luke 24:46‑53)); it is there the grace of heaven, which kept to the promise of the Holy Spirit. Compare Acts 1:1-91The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. (Acts 1:1‑9).
Here it is the power of Messiah already rejected at Jerusalem. The apostles were to go and instruct all nations, baptizing the disciples in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that He had commanded, and He would be with the apostles even unto the end of the age. Let us examine a little their mission according to these words, comparing it with those which were given them in the other Gospels.
Here are the terms of these diverse missions. In Mark, who bears testimony to the ministry, to the service of Christ in the gospel, it is said to them, " Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Here is the most simple, the most general mission, and it is added, " He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." It was quite simply the preaching of the gospel for the salvation of souls, and the judgment of those who would not believe.
Here is the mission in Luke, the gospel which gives us grace, which introduces the new man and Christ in this character, " Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." Here it is intelligence and power, this last being the consequence of the exaltation of Jesus on high, and the disciples being bound to tarry at Jerusalem until they were endowed with it. As witnesses of Jesus, the disciples could not depart from the place of His rejection until they were linked with Jesus at the right hand of God, and thus, by the power of the Holy Ghost, bore testimony from Him, as being there above. A thing wholly new! it was the Son of man proceeding from Adam in a certain sense, but a new man and near to God: also, a new testimony is borne and recommences with Jerusalem-a testimony which thence shall reach men in all nations, according to the power of the Holy Ghost. It is a heavenly testimony. This, as we have said, is resumed in the Acts, God having been forced to recommence it with Paul at Antioch, because of the incredulity of Jerusalem once more reiterated.
In John 20:2121Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (John 20:21), we find their mission. Jesus says to them, " Peace be unto you! As my Father has sent me, even so send I you; and when he had said this, he breathed on them and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." Here the thing is closer. Jesus is not yet ascended on high, but He has, according to the power of the resurrection, the life of God in Him; put to death as to the flesh, quickened according to the power of God in Spirit, He communicates to them life according to the power of the Spirit. Vitally they are one spirit with Him; for it was as man that He possessed it, although He was the power of God. Thus God breathed into the nostrils of Adam, and he became a living man. Now the last Adam is a quickening Spirit, but as He, according to the power of this life, has been sent of the Father, administrator, as man, of the pardon that man quickened by Him needed to possess to be in relation with God (compare Luke 5:20, 2420And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. (Luke 5:20)
24But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. (Luke 5:24)
), so now He sent His disciples, made partakers by Him, and with Him of this life, to discharge from Him this office, to bear this pardon to men, and to render them partakers of it; a pardon which, by His death and resurrection, was now completely effected before God, and administered on earth according to the power of the Spirit of life, whether in receiving into the church those who should be saved, and who, being thus received, possessed this pardon; or whether, in the second place, in administering discipline. This administration of pardon received and possessed, following the exercise of this discipline, by him who is the object of it, is in the hands of every man in whom Christ has breathed His Spirit according to the degree of the power of this Spirit in him. And the pardon here spoken of is not a pardon looked at as granted in heaven, but a pardon administered on earth and ratified in heaven.
The apostles did that according to the perfection of the gift of God which was granted them; but we have in the word the revelation of this so important administration, according as it has been communicated to all the saints by the order of God. First, individual charity covers thus a multitude of sins; that is, in pardoning the wrongs in my brother, his sins no more exist, with regard to the government of God, as scandals and offenses in the church: before His eyes love has completely displaced them. Such is the individual privilege; but this is not yet the official administration of the thing; on the contrary, it anticipates the exercise of it.
In the examples of Ananias and Sapphira, and even of Simon the magician, sins were retained. They were remitted-I say not in the same manner, but de facto-to three thousand persons on the day of Pentecost. In 2 Cor. 2:1010To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; (2 Corinthians 2:10) we have the sins remitted by the apostle and by the church, officially, in the exercise of discipline. That is, we have, as to this pardon, the apostolic mission, distinct from the church-a mission specially confided to the apostles, as delegated of Christ with His authority; and the administration of this pardon, communicated to a church without intermediary, the church counseled and directed in this administration, but accomplishing the act herself.
I should not have enlarged so much on this subject, if this passage did not present a difficulty which often pre-occupies the mind, and of which adversaries lay hold while the faithful do not very well know how to answer. It is then not only the pardon of sin granted by God Himself, according to a truth revealed by the Holy Spirit; it is an administration of this pardon confided to man, a pardon thus revealed on earth, confirmed perhaps, and sometimes demonstrated, by miracles, or accompanied by a deliverance or a chastening sent from God. It was an administration confided to the apostles, who were sent to gather the church introduced into her privileges by this pardon; and afterward exercised by the church herself to maintain her members in the holy enjoyment of these privileges, and at the same time to sustain the glory of God. In the fact of chastening, where the question is neither of pardon in the sense of which we speak, nor of the official act of pardon, but simply of the efficacy of prayer; compare James 5:14, 1514Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. (James 5:14‑15).
I do not in any wise touch the question, What has been the effect of the actual state of the church on this administration? Apostolic delegates of this kind, there are absolutely no more. As to all the rest, it is a question of intelligence and spiritual power; but it is important to understand enough of these things to be ready to answer the pretension to forgive sins, of men who would allege, perhaps without scruple, the verses of James, of which we speak, which do in no wise belong to them.
Doubtless, God, by His grace, will keep the simple from such pretensions, and that from other motives; but it is well to have an answer. The Lord has meant to say something, and if we know what He meant to say, men cannot lead us astray and shut our mouths to make us fall into their snares. There is pardon administered here below, whether by apostles, or by the whole body; and a priest or a minister has nothing at all to do therein. If he is wise enough to give spiritual counsels, it is well; but it is not he who acts. The Holy Spirit is needed for this act. " Receive ye the Holy Spirit; to whomsoever," etc. The judgment of a body which flows not from that is perhaps a very suitable act for a human society, but which is not pronounced on the part of God; and if one speaks of acting by the Holy Spirit, this will be demonstrated in other things also.
I return now to the mission given in Matthew, having only considered the others in order the better to seize the difference. It is not here then the Son of God, sent from the Father, who sends, according to the power of life which is in Him, disciples to whom He can communicate the energy of this life, that they may accomplish their mission according to His heart of love filled by the Father. Neither is it Jesus, minister of the gospel, servant of all, sending those who are to replace Him, that every creature may hear the good news, which can now be addressed to them in His name who has fulfilled all things-such is the Jesus of Mark.
Neither is it the Son of man, raised to the right hand of the Father, who is about to give the Holy Spirit of power, in order that His sent ones may answer, in their work, to the exalted position that man occupies in His person (compare Psa. 68; Eph. 4), and who has already* opened their understanding that they may understand the scriptures, or the revelation of the thoughts of God, in the economies and dispensations on which this work and this presence of the Holy Spirit will cast their light. That is the exalted Christ of Luke, giver of the Holy Spirit.
(* It appears to me that an example of this is found in the choice of Matthias, before the gift of the Holy Spirit-a choice based on the explanation of Psalm 109; an explanation of which, it would seem to me, the disciples would have been incapable before that time, but the act itself had nothing in it of the power of the Holy Spirit. They draw lots, as Jews, after having understood this Psalm. Though we have received the Holy Ghost, it is of importance for us to distinguish between the understanding (though it were a gift) and power. It is evident, from the end of Luke and the commencement of the Acts, that a person may have the one and not have the other.)
But here, in Matthew, we have a rejected crucified Messiah, who, for the moment, abandons Jerusalem to its folly and its sin, and who, now risen, sends to the nations the message that His death, His resurrection, and the gift of the Father to Him risen, have enabled Him to put into the mouth of His disciples a message (no longer suitable to the Jews, who have already rejected the subject of it, their Messiah). It is no longer simply the only true God in His unity, surrounded by a people which should have kept this good and precious deposit. Now, other things in God had been put in the light for men, things which opened the door to the Gentiles, or rather which could be sent to them. Christ could not be there without the Son being named, and if the Son, then the Father and the Holy Spirit (the Holy Spirit, who acted with efficacy in the communication of the knowledge of the Father and of the Son); and, on the other hand, both the Father and the Holy Spirit had been necessarily manifested in Christ and His acts, while He lived and acted on earth; for in being Messiah, He was also Son, and it was because He called Himself such that the Jews rejected Him.
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, all this could be sent in grace to the Gentiles. The disciples were to make them know the Messiah and the God of the Jews in this manner, or to make them enter into relation with God under this name, as by circumcision the Jews were put in relation with the Eternal or Jehovah; and this because all power was now given to Jesus in heaven and upon earth. Here is then (the rights of the Messiah being rejected by the Jews) not the establishment of the throne of David, whose influence should spread over all the earth, but He who, depository of all governing power in heaven and on earth, sent His disciples to put the Gentiles (nations) in relation with God, according to the revelation of that which was no longer hidden behind the veil from the eyes of the blind Jews, the Trinity of persons which faith recognized by means of Jesus: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.*
(* There was, in this, a revelation evidently much clearer, and relations different from those which the Jews enjoyed, as the people of Jehovah. These terms were not entirely unknown to the Jews; but they were always employed by the prophets in the prospect of the times when there would be this clearer revelation to call the Gentiles, and when blessing would be manifested for the Jews in a new measure. " Kiss the Son " is a summons to the kings of the earth in Psa. 2, and the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit, whether upon the Jews and their posterity or upon all flesh, is sufficiently known. See, amongst others, in Joel; in Isa. 44:33For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: (Isaiah 44:3); see also chap. 48: 16. Before the accomplishment of these things, or at least before they are fully accomplished to the letter, the revelation has been made of what is their foundation in God, and this name of Father, of Son, and of Holy Spirit has been proclaimed amongst the Gentiles. I do not think that it is here the unity of the Son with the Father, and of the church with Jesus by the Holy Spirit (that is taught elsewhere); but the revelation of the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the submission of the Gentiles by faith, in anticipation of that day when the Son will be manifested in power, and the Holy Spirit fully shed abroad. But this is very precious for us, because it shows us these things in God, and makes us see that there are not only certain acts of manifestation which will take place hereafter, but the truth of God, of which one can speak before these manifestations take place. For the knowledge which the Jews and the earth will have of the Son, for example in His reign according to Psa. 2 is very inferior, it seems to me, to the knowledge which we have of Him, as being in the Father and the Father in Him, one with the Father, hidden in God. It is the same person, undoubtedly, but we have a much deeper knowledge of what He is. Further, we learn, in thus comparing Psa. 2, that the preaching of the name of the Son does not necessarily suppose the blessings of the church: now it does, because God gathers the church in Him; but the call made to the kings to submit to the royalty of Christ in the last times is made in the name of the Son, " Kiss the Son, lest he be angry." We have acknowledged Him before through grace, and we know Him as one with the Father. In this Psalm it is spoken of Him as presented to the world in time, " To-day I have begotten thee.")
But this mission depends on the power of Jesus as being given, and is to subject the nations that they may be His disciples, according to the claims that this power conferred on Him. It was a mission belonging yet to the age, which, though the Messiah had been rejected, was not yet terminated; it looked consequently at the submission of the Gentiles to the Messiah, in a new way, it is true, and left Jerusalem aside, because it had rejected the Messiah; but it supposes a going forward in the ways of God towards the end of this age, before which the gospel is to be preached in the whole habitable world. Those who carried this message might have higher privileges, which would be made evident when the Lord would be removed, and their first testimony rejected; those same messengers, individually, might be charged, from the commencement, with the message of the grace which was in Jesus, according to the other forms of mission that we have seen in the three other Gospels: they might preach the gospel to every creature, beginning at Jerusalem as representatives of Him who was exalted at the right hand of God, or remit the sins, on the part of Him who said, " Peace be unto you "; but it is none the less true that the specialty of the mission found in this Gospel is a mission to the nations from Jesus, speaking as the rejected Messiah, who has now all power, leaving aside Jerusalem, and mentioning the continuation of this age; promising to be with the witnesses to the end of this age, and saying nothing, either of the church, or of heaven, or of the Holy Spirit given, or of the deliverance from this present evil age, or of the privilege of not being of this world as the Son of God was not of it; but speaking of subjecting the Gentiles to the ordinances of Christ, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to bring the age to its close, according to the promise of Him who should be with them till then.*
(* One may examine Psa. 95 (and also Psa. 91 to 100), which treats of these times, as well as Dan. 11:3333And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. (Daniel 11:33) and 12:3, 9; Isa. 65:1313Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty: behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed: (Isaiah 65:13), etc., where, however, the testimony is rather practical than in word. Here is the connection of this subject in Isaiah, which may interest those who search the word; and it is only for such that I give it. God desires to comfort His people (Isa. 40); and in the midst of present deliverances (pledges of better ones to come), the servant, Christ, is introduced, chap. 42. Israel should have been so, but was blind; nevertheless he should be delivered, being forgiven. Cyrus and Babylon pass then before our eyes, to the end of chapter 48, the pledge of better deliverances, as we have said. God announces, notwithstanding, that He distinguishes the wicked: there is no peace for them.
Chapter 49, the Gentiles are summoned by Israel as called of God to be a servant, in whom God should be glorified. Thereupon the Messiah says, "I have then labored in vain"; nevertheless His judgment and work were with God. The Spirit answers that it was a small thing to raise up Israel, that He should be a light to the Gentiles. From that time it is Christ, the true vine, who holds the promises as a faithful servant. Chapter 50 explains the dismissal of Israel for the rejection of Christ, Jehovah God who had made Himself a servant; and thereupon is brought out the distinction of the remnant who fear Jehovah and obey the voice of His servant, not here the church in the joy of the Son, though that has been true of a certain number from among the remnant. In these passages the church finds itself only as hidden in the person of Christ Himself; which will be seen in comparing Isa. 50:8, 98He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. 9Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up. (Isaiah 50:8‑9), and Rom. 8:33, 3433Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (Romans 8:33‑34), where the apostle applies to the church the substance of those verses which speak of Christ in Isa. 1 will observe, by the way, that the Lausanne translation, in general very faithful to the letter, has spoiled these verses in the form it has given to them. Here, I believe, is the true contrast. God justifies; who shall condemn? Christ is dead, etc.: who shall separate us from the love of Christ? The Old Testament does not take up the union of Christ and the church: here it is the remnant that obey the voice of the servant of God, of Christ, come as Messiah here below. Nevertheless the obedient walk in darkness. Consolation is given them, a consolation properly Jewish, by calls (chap. 51: 1-4, 7), in which there is progress in their position (v. 9). They themselves call, by the Spirit of prophecy, the arm of Jehovah to awake. He answers at last (v. 17), summons Jerusalem to awake in her turn, and (chap. 52) to clothe herself with glory and honor. This passage, ending at verse 12, is all beautiful. Chapters 52: 13, and 53 give the expiatory character of the work of the " servant," recognized by the Jews in the latter days. Then come the details of blessings (chaps. 54, 55, 56, 57), and of the ways of God, and of what hinders, namely, the deep iniquity of the people in the latter days.
From chapter 58, testimony is strongly borne to this iniquity, which finally forces Jehovah to arise (chap. 59: 15, 16, etc.), and the Deliverer comes to Sion according to Rom. 11:2626And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (Romans 11:26). Then in chapter 60, Jerusalem is glorified, and the same subject (introducing, in order to identify His person in the two advents, what Christ was at His first, chapter 61:1, and the first half of verse 2), and the judgment of the Gentiles, are treated to the end of chapter 63: 6. Then, upon the touching call of the prophet, there is a detailed explanation of all their ways, how grace had seized the occasion, given by the folly of Israel, to be found of those who sought it not, whilst He had ever stretched out His hands towards rebellious Israel (quoted by the apostle, Romans so: 20, 21), which explains these same points. And here, finally, we find a special remnant (all those who are spared; see Isa. 66:19, 2019And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. 20And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. (Isaiah 66:19‑20)), treated as the " servants " to whom the blessing of all the nation would be a particular subject of joy. Such is what has led us to this summary of the latter part of this prophetic book: the special remnant owned of God, but having all its affections in the well-being of Jerusalem and of Israel. One may, for the last testimony to the Gentiles, compare Psa. 97 and Rev. 14:6, 76And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, 7Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. (Revelation 14:6‑7).
The key of this summary of Isa. 40-48 is Israel the servant:—nevertheless, no peace for the wicked. Christ, the true servant, is rejected. The remnant, true servants, are owned in that; they obey the voice of the " servant," but in prospect of Jewish interests. Translate chapter 49: 3, " Thou art my servant, O Israel, he in whom I will be glorified.")
That this might have an application to the unreported labors of the apostles, I doubt not; but the Bible furnishes us with no tokens on that head, at least if it be not, in the most indeterminate manner, in the last verse of the Gospel of Mark. That which the detailed history of the Acts presents us with is the fulfillment of the mission given in Luke, the rejection of the messengers at Jerusalem, where they nevertheless remained; then the labors of Peter in the midst of the Jews, and a new apostle raised up of God, to carry the word to the Gentiles by a new revelation of Jesus, so new indeed that he says, if he had known Jesus as the others had known Him, he knew Him no more after that manner. The salvation preached remained ever the same, without doubt, but with new light which God accorded.
What is the conclusion which one should draw from all this? It is, that there will be an accomplishment of this mission before the end of the age, and that the message of the gospel, here entrusted to the remnant, to the disciples, will be carried from Christ, of whom it remains always true (whatever be the state of things) that all power is given unto Him in heaven and on earth. From Christ, I say, acting in this character, the message of this same gospel will be carried to all the nations, and Christ will be with the messengers even to the end of the age.
The testimony to Jerusalem will be different, it seems to me; we have already said some words on it in chapter 24. I do not speak of the conversion of such or such a Jew to make part of the church, which is another thing far more precious; it is the duty of each day to teach them, according to what is given us, as it is also to preach the gospel to every creature. But as there will be a testimony at the beginning of the sorrows (as there was one in the Jewish nation at the beginning of the gospel), a testimony which will be particularly addressed to the Jewish people; so there will be a special testimony borne to the Gentiles at the end, according to the principles of the mission here entrusted to the disciples. For the promise of the presence and succor of the Lord is not only bound up with the idea of the age, but it extends to its end, and we must always remember that here, as in chapters 13 and 24, " the age " in no way applies to Christianity as an epoch. Though Christianity might happen, and did happen, before the end of the age, the age already existed at that moment, and was in a great measure run out; it was a period of the world's history in the Jewish point of view, which the presence of the Messiah was to terminate.
Perhaps, employed in all the force of the term according to the circumstances in which the Lord spoke, this expression supposes Jerusalem existing but rejected, and, though rejected, the object of the thoughts of God, but of His thoughts in judgment, God going to put an end to all that, and after great tribulations, to restore the city in blessing by the coming of the Messiah in glory. The gospel, sent to the Gentiles, might run independently of all that, for Jesus entrusts it to the disciples outside Jerusalem, and as having abandoned it. Nevertheless, till it was judged and restored by the coming of the Messiah, and after the repentance of its inhabitants, the age could not end; so that when we have well considered the passages, we have here a gospel or mission of the disciples, independent of Jerusalem, from Messiah rejected here below, but having received all power in heaven and on earth; a gospel addressed to the Gentiles, Jerusalem being abandoned, to make of these nations disciples of Christ in the name, not of Jehovah, but of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; a mission, nevertheless, which (though independent of Jerusalem and coming from Christ, who had quitted it until it repent) is identified with the course of an age here below, which supposes, before its end, Jerusalem the object of God's thoughts and judgments (that is, Jerusalem under the Jewish point of view), and the center of all His thoughts, in judgment or in blessing, whilst this same gospel is propagated among the nations. For before the end of the age (supposed here by the Lord to be still in existence) Jerusalem will be all that anew (as it was so at the time the Lord was speaking), and yet more. It is a gospel, then, which may subsist among the nations at the same time that Jerusalem is the object of God's thoughts, and anew the center of all His ways.
One may suppose that the preaching of this gospel begins before that is manifested. Nevertheless these were the circumstances in which the Lord already was speaking. Jerusalem standing, abandoned,* the object of the thoughts and judgments of God, and afterward of His blessing; and Christ awaiting the time of this end of the age, sending the gospel to the nations by His disciples, independently of Jerusalem, but by the side of its existence in this state, and transporting Himself, as to the term of the testimony, to the epoch which should terminate this state of things in Jerusalem, by the manifestation of the judgment of God and the blessing which should thence ensue and flow out. We have already seen (chap. 25) the Gentiles judged on earth, according to the manner in which they shall have treated the messengers which Christ calls His brethren, as Jesus here calls His disciples, and we have seen the preliminary and final circumstances in Palestine and at Jerusalem (chap. 24), accompanied by a declaration (by the side of all that) that this gospel of the kingdom should be preached in all the world, as a testimony to all the Gentiles, and that then the end will come-the end of the age which is in question here. I invite my brethren to think of this testimony, which is to be borne in the latter days; it would be to explain prophecy rather than the gospel to pursue this subject farther here. I desired to point it out, as this Gospel does so.
(* Perhaps there may be trouble to reconcile these two ideas, " abandoned," and yet " the object of the thoughts and judgments of God "; but it is precisely the position of Jerusalem in the latter days, when His work recommences with the earth. It will be desolate and abandoned until it says, " Blessed is he that cometh in the name of Jehovah! " But God acts with it in testimony, in chastisement, in indignation. Such was already the case in the time of the apostles. In chapter 23 of this Gospel, it was abandoned. Nevertheless the testimony and indignation are there. See upon that, in Zechariah, specially the end of chapter tr and the beginning of chapter 12, and all his prophecy; the end of Dan. 9; 11 and 12 also, and Isa. 65; 66 see also Jeremiah 3o: 4, 8, etc. In these chapters, and in so many others, Jerusalem is not owned, but it is the object of God's thoughts and ways; according to the expressions as to Ephraim Jer. 31:2020Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:20), and as to Jerusalem itself, Isa. 49:1414But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. (Isaiah 49:14), etc. The fact is that Jerusalem is chosen as the Jewish people. Psa. 132:13, 1413For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. 14This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. (Psalm 132:13‑14).
We have a principle which is bound up with this, and which is very precious in its analogy for us. God, at the time of the Babylonish captivity, had written, Lo-Ammi, not my people. Notwithstanding that, in Hag. 2:55According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. (Haggai 2:5) we find that the Spirit remained with them, as when they came out of Egypt. What encouragement for us, whatever may be the state of the church! If they had said, No, we are not in this state of Lo-Ammi, it would have been unbelief; if they had been discouraged, as if the Spirit was not with them, as at the departure from Egypt, it would have been practical unbelief also under another form. In the two cases, faith in the goodness and in the chastisement of God would have been lost.)
Here is the result of my researches at this time upon this Gospel; a result very imperfect, I feel, and researches which have made me feel how far we are still ignorant of all the ways of God; but which may aid my brethren to make others, perhaps, more happy and better followed up; and, if they are led to make them and are as happy as I in thus sounding the ways of God, I shall not have lost my trouble in communicating to them these, such as they are.
In the main, I do not doubt that the great principles, the thread of the ways of God (in this part of His ways) are found in these pages, and that, as a whole, it was given by Him. It is very possible that in some details my own mind has wrought, and that thus I may have overstepped the measure of what was given me; in this case there will certainly be error, or at least obscurity, even when all I have said is understood. On the other hand, those who have not yet taken the trouble to sound the scriptures ought not to be astonished if they find some things still difficult and obscure for them in these pages. They ought not to be discouraged, like a child who should plunge into the middle of a book which he ought to begin, and which he might judge too difficult; but they should set about the work, beginning with the beginning. They will find, let them be assured, many proofs of their ignorance, and very humiliating proofs; but they will also find the Lord with them, and a joy and a satisfaction of which they have not even the idea, not in the things only, but in the fact of being taught of Him; a joy and satisfaction which sanctify and attach to Him who deigns thus to be busied about our instruction, to endure with patience our ignorance, and to instruct us Himself in the truth. And how sweet is this converse with Him, in which He gently leads us on in the knowledge of His ways and unveils for us in His word all the goodness and wisdom of His counsels! Is it not evident that such converse, pursued in such a spirit, must sanctify the soul?
Let us remember that all this belongs to children, to those who, by the power of the good news of the pure grace of God, are grounded in the work which this grace has accomplished, and rejoice in the confidence which His love inspires; the communications of His ways being for them daily proofs of this love, which nourish and maintain this confidence, and make them to know better Him, who is its object and source. May His Spirit and His grace direct all those who read these pages in the enjoyment of the everlasting salvation which He has accomplished for us!