THE PAROUSIA IN THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
THE 'GOING AWAY' AND THE 'COMING AGAIN.'
ACTS i. 11.
-' This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in
like manner as ye have seen him go unto heaven.'
last conversation of Jesus with His disciples before His crucifixion was
concerning His coming to them again, and the last word left with them at His
ascension was the promise of His coming again.
expression 'in like manner' must not be pressed too far. There are obvious
points of difference between the manner of the Ascension and the Parousia. He
departed alone, and without visible splendour; He was to return in glory with
His angels. The words, however, imply that His coming was to be visible and
personal, which would exclude the interpretation which regards it as
providential, or spiritual. The visibility of the Parousia is supported by
the uniform teaching of the apostles and the belief of the early Christians:
'Every eye shall see him' (Rev. i. 7).
is no indication of time in this parting promise, but it is only
reasonable to suppose that the disciples would regard it as addressed to
them, and that they would cherish the hope of soon seeing Him again,
according to His own saying, 'A little while, and ye shall see me.' This belief
sent them back to Jerusalem with great joy. Is it credible that they could have
felt this elation if they had conceived that His coming would not take place for
eighteen centuries ? Or can we suppose that their joy rested upon a delusion ?
There is no conclusion possible but that which holds the belief of the disciples
to have been well founded, and the Parousia nigh at hand.
THE LAST DAYS COME.
ACTS ii. 16-20--
' This is that which is spoken by the prophet Joel: It shall come to pass in
the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see
visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; moreover on my servants and on
my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall
prophesy: and I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs on the earth
beneath ; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into
darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the
these words of St. Peter, the first apostolic utterance spoken in the power of
the divine afflatus of Pentecost, we have an authoritative interpretation of the
prophecy which he quotes from Joel. He expressly identifies the time and the
event predicted by the prophet with the time and the event then actually present
on the day of Pentecost. The ' last days ' of Joel are these days
of St. Peter. The ancient prediction was in part fulfilled ; it was receiving
its accomplishment before their eyes in the copious effusion of the Holy Spirit.
outpouring of the Spirit was introductory to other events, which would in like
manner come to pass. The day of judgment for the Theocratic nation was at hand,
and ere long the presages of 'that great and notable day of the Lord' would be
is impossible not to recognise the correspondence between the phenomena
preceding the day of the Lord as foretold by Joel, and the phenomena described
by our Lord as preceding His coming, and the judgment of Israel (Matt. xxiv.
29). The words of Joel can refer only to the last days of the Jewish age
or aeon, the ounteleia ton aiwnoj, which was also the theme of our Lord's
prophecy on the Mount of Olives. In like manner the words of Malachi as
evidently refer to the same event and the same point of time,-- 'the day of his
coming,' ' the day that shall burn as a furnace,' ' the great and dreadful day
of the Lord' (Mal. iii. 2; iv. 1-5).
have here a consensus of testimonies than which nothing can be conceived more
authoritative and decisive,-- Joel, Malachi, St. Peter, and the great Prophet of
the new covenant Himself. They all speak of the same event and of the same
period, the great day of the Lord, the Parousia, and they speak of them as
near. Why encumber and embarrass a prediction so plain with supposititions
double references and ulterior fulfilments? Nothing else will fit this prophecy
save that event to which alone it refers, and with which it corresponds as the
impression with the seal and the lock with the key. The catastrophe of Israel
and Jerusalem was at hand, long foreseen, often predicted, and now imminent. The
self-same generation that had seen, rejected, and crucified the King would
witness the fulfilment of His warnings when Jerusalem perished in 'blood and
fire, and vapour of smoke.'
THE COMING DOOM OF THAT GENERATION.
ACTS ii. 40.-'And
with many other words did he testify and exhort them, saying, Save yourselves
from this untoward generation.'
verse fixes the reference of the apostle's address. It was the existing
generation whose coming doom he foresaw, and it was from participation in its
fate that he urged his hearers to escape. It was but the echo of the Baptist's
from the coming wrath.' Here, again, there can be no question about the meaning
of 'genea',-it is that 'wicked generation' which was filling up the measure of
its predecessor; the perverse and incorrigible nation over which judgment was
leaving this address of St. Peter we may point out another example of a
universal proposition which must be taken in a restricted sense. ' I will pour
out of my Spirit upon all flesh.' The effusion of the Holy Spirit on the
day of Pentecost was not literally universal, but it was indiscriminate and
general in comparison of former times. The necessarily qualified use of so large
a phrase shows how a similar limitation may be justifiable in such expressions
as 'all the nations,' ' every creature,' and ' the whole world.'
THE PAROUSIA AND THE RESTITUTION OF
ACTS iii. 19-21-
'Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,
that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that
he may Send Jesus Christ, who was before appointed unto you ; whom the heavens
must receive until the times of. the restoration of all things, of which God
hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.'
is scarcely possible to doubt that in this address the apostle speaks of that
which be conceived his bearers might and would experience, if they obeyed his
exhortation to repent and believe. Indeed, any other supposition would be
preposterous. Neither the apostle nor his auditory could possibly be thinking of
' times of refreshing' and 'times of restoration' in remote ages of the world;
blessings which were at a distance of centuries and millenniums would hardly be
powerful motives to immediate repentance. We must therefore conceive of the
times of refreshing and of restoration as, in the view of the apostle, near, and
within the reach of that generation.
if so, what are we to understand by 'the times of refreshing and of
restoration'? Are they the same, or are they different, things ? Doubtless,
virtually the Same ; and the one phrase will help us to understand the other.
The restitution, or rather restoration [apokatustasij] of all things, is said to
be the theme of all prophecy ; then it can only refer to what Scripture
designates 'the kingdom of God,' the end and purpose of all the dealings of God
with Israel. It was a phrase well understood by the Jews of that period, who
looked forward to the days of the Messiah, the kingdom of God, as the fulfilment
of all their hopes and aspirations. It was the coming age or aeon, aiwn o mellwn,
when all wrongs were to be redressed, and truth and righteousness were to reign.
The whole nation was pervaded with the belief that this happy era was about to
dawn. What was our Lord's doctrine on this subject? He Said to His disciples,
'Elias indeed cometh first, and restoreth all things' (Mark ix. 12). That
is to say, the second Elijah, John the Baptist, had already commenced the
restoration which He Himself was to complete ; had laid the foundations of the
kingdom which He was to consummate and crown. For the mission of John was, in
one aspect, restorative, that is in intention, though not in effect. He
came to recall the nation to its allegiance, to renew its covenant relation with
God: he went before the Lord, 'in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the
hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the
just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord' (Luke i. 17). What is all
this but the description of 'the times of refreshing from the presence of the
Lord,' and 'the times of restoration of all things,' which were held forth as
the gifts of God to Israel ?
have we any clear indication of the period at which these proffered blessings
might be expected ? Were they in the far distant future, or were they nigh at
baud ? The note of time is distinctly marked in verse 20. The coming of Christ
is specified as the period when these glorious prospects are to be realized.
Nothing can be more clear than the connection and coincidence of these events,
the coming of Christ, the times of refreshing, and the times of restoration of
all things. This is in harmony with the uniform representation given in the
eschatology of the New Testament: the Parousia, the end of the age, the
consummation of the kingdom of God, the destruction of Jerusalem, the judgment
of Israel, all synchronise. To find the date of one is to fix the date of all.
We have already seen how definitely the time was fixed for the fulfilment of
some of these events. The Son of man was to come in His kingdom before the death
of some of the disciples. The catastrophe of Jerusalem was to take place before
the living generation bad passed away. The great and notable day of the Lord is
represented by St. Peter in the preceding chapter as overtaking that 'untoward
generation.' And now, in the passage before us, he as clearly intimates that the
arrival of the times of refreshing, and of the restoration of all things, was
contemporaneous with the 'sending of Jesus Christ' from heaven.
it may be said, How can so terrible a catastrophe as the destruction of
Jerusalem be associated with times of refreshing or of restoration ? There were
two Bides to the medal: there was the reverse as well as the obverse. Unbelief
and impenitence would change 'the times of refreshing' into 'the days of
vengeance.' If they ' despised the riches of the goodness and forbearance and
long- suffering of God, 'then, instead of restoration, there would be
destruction; and instead of the day of salvation there would be 'the day of
wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God' (Rom. ii. 4, 5).
know the fatal choice that Israel made; how 'the wrath came upon them to the
uttermost;' and we know how it all came to pass at the appointed and predicted
period, at the 'close of the age,' within the limits of that generation.
are thus enabled to define the period to which the apostle makes allusion in
this passage, and conclude that it coincides with the Parousia.
are conducted to the same conclusion by another path. In Matt. xix. 20 our Lord
declares to His disciples, 'Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed
me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his
glory,' etc. We have already commented upon this passage, but it may be proper
again to notice that the 'regeneration' [paliggenesia] of St. Matthew is the
precise equivalent of the 'restoration' [apokatastasij] of the Acts. What is
meant by the regeneration is clear beyond the shadow of a doubt, for it is the
time 'when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of his glory.' But this is
the period when He comes to judge the guilty nation (Matt. xxv. 31). There is no
possibility of mistaking the time ; no difficulty in identifying the event: it
is the end of the age, and the judgment of Israel.
thus arrive at the same conclusion by another and independent route, thus
immeasurably strengthening the force of the demonstration.
CHRIST SOON TO JUDGE THE WORLD.
ACTS xvii. 31.--
' Because he hath appointed day in the which he will judge the world in
righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained.'
have already seen that the Lord Jesus Christ is declared to be constituted the
Judge of men (John v. 22, 27). As clearly it is declared that the time of
judgment is the Parousia. With equal distinctness we are taught that the
Parousia was to fall within the term of the generation then living. The judgment
was therefore viewed by St. Paul as being near. We have in the passage now
before us an incidental but unnoticed confirmation of this fact. The words 'he
will judge' do not express a simple future, but a speedy future, mellei krinein,
He is about to judge, or will soon judge. This shade of meaning is not
preserved in our English version, but it is not unimportant.
then, we are again met by the oft-recurring association of the Parousia and the
judgment, both of which were evidently regarded by the apostle as nigh at
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