Walter Scott Millennium: Matthew, Chapter 24 (1848)

The Protestant Unionist
W A L T E R   S C O T T   A N D   T H O M A S   J E F F E R S O N   M E L I S H,   E D I T O R S.


Matthew, Chapter xxiv.

      The twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew forms the battle-ground where Universalists and others Protestants meet to fight for and against the Second Advent of Christ. The Universalists limit the chapter to the overthrow of Jerusalem by Titus, and identify that event with the second coming of Christ, because it is said that "this generation shall not pass away until all these things be fulfilled." This conclusion is disproved, however, by showing that the term generation signifies race, and what is really meant is this--that the Jewish race should survive the terrible calamities denounced against them in the chapter by the Savior. Moreover, the calamities spoken of in the chapter did not fall upon the generation contemporaneous with the Redeemer,--the people of his day; but on men who lived forty years after he had ascended into heaven. When the city was destroyed, perhaps there was not a man in it who remembered Jesus of Nazareth.

      Perhaps it will facilitate our understanding of this difficult chapter to observe, first, that the Scriptures record two apostacies--the Jewish and the Gentile, the latter recorded in the Revelation by John, the former in this chapter by the Lord Jesus. The twenty-fourth chapter, then, records the history of the Jews during their apostacy or fallen state.

      There was a great propriety in John recording the Gentile apostacy, because he was a Christian prophet. And there was an equal propriety in the Lord's recording the apostacy of the Jews, because he was a Jewish prophet. Jesus was a minister of the circumcision; John a minister of the Spirit. Jesus was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; John was sent to all the world. John then wrote the Revelation; while Christ spoke the 24th chapter of Matthew--a great prophecy, extending even from his first to his second coming--from the beginning to the consummation of the present dispensation.

      Of what, then, does this history consist? I answer, it contains two tribulations and a mourning.

      The two Tribulations: The first was to occur in their own land, the last out of it. The first was to be short and unprecedentedly fierce; the last long. The former in their own land was to be inflicted because of their rejection of the true Messiah; the latter in foreign lands on account of following false Messiahs. The first was to extend to the overthrow of Jerusalem; the last to the utter subversion of the empire--Rome. The prophecy of the first and fiercest but shortest tribulation is recorded in the first part of the chapter down to the 23d verse; the last tribulation is discoursed of from the 23d to the 29th verse. Thus we have two periods of the wrath of God upon that people--one at home and one in their dispersion; one before the overthrow of Jerusalem, and the other before the extirpation of the empire; one on account of rejecting the true Messiah and another for following false Messiahs.

      After the first tribulation, that is, after the overthrow of the city and temple, the apostles, it would seem, were not allowed to give heed to the pretensions of any one claiming to be the true Messiah. The reason of it was perhaps this, that in the order of prophecy and history the Messiah was to make his first advent before the destruction of the city and temple. See Daniel ix, 26. So that the overthrow of the city and temple was proof positive that the great Messiah had already come. "Then, [that is, after the destruction of the city and temple--after the first tribulation] if any man shall say, Lo! here is Christ, or lo! there, mind it not." For a history of their suffering during the first tribulation, see Josephus. This brings us to the 23d verse.

      Here, verse 23, the period of false Messiahs commences, and extends to verse 29. The calamities which the Jews have suffered on account of following after pretenders to the Messiahship, exceed all human belief. Between the fall of Jerusalem and the middle of the last century no less than twenty-four of those impostors had appeared. They brought incredible suffering upon the dispersion. Wherever the carcass was found, there were the eagles gathered together. Wherever this dead nation now plucked up by the root, were found running after these pretenders, there the Roman magistracy were gathered together against them. Wherefore the Savior says, "Go not after them, lo! I have told you." See Fessunden's Encycl. for an account of these false Messiahs; also, the History of the Jews.

      The 29th verse introduces us to a new history--the overthrow and final extirpation of the Roman Empire. Under the sublime imagery of changes in the sun and in the moon and in the stars--the eclipsing of these luminaries and the shaking of the heavenly powers. D'Aubigne says this extirpation of the last roots and filaments of that empire occurred at the beginning of the present century, when Napoleon was substituted for the ancient Cæsar; when the Empire of the French took the place of the Roman Empire, and the Code Napoleon the place of the Justinian code. A modern was substituted for an ancient order of things; an infidel for a papal. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days," &c., that is, immediately after the 2d tribulation, or after the appearing of the last false Messiah, the empire shall be eclipsed and destroyed. It is taken for granted in this connection that the Jews have returned to their own land' for they were evidently to return thither after the extirpation of the empire. They are, we believe, returning home in small numbers now.

      Here it is the Savior gives an answer to the question, "What shall be the sign of thy coming?" and without telling them what that sign should be, only tells them at what period of the Jewish history it would appear. When Jerusalem should have been long overthrown, when both the first and second tribulations should have passed; when the Roman Empire should have been totally subverted, and the Jews should have returned in some manner to Canaan and Jerusalem, then the sign of the Son of man in heaven should appear. It is to the Jews and not the Gentiles, therefore, that this sign is to be given. The prophecy is a Jewish prophecy, and its contents relate to them chiefly. After their last and longest tribulation is passed and they are returned to the land of their fathers, there shall be given them a sign that the Son of man is in heaven, and on beholding it they shall mourn for their apostacy and for the cruelty of their fathers. Finally, they shall see while thus mourning the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with majesty and great power. See Zach. 12th chap. for this mourning.

      In conclusion, may we not ask, "Watchman, what of the night?" Where are we on the ground that lies between the first and second advents? Has not history evidently almost exhausted the period of Christ's absence? How many links in the chain, that unites the two advents, require to be taken up? Does not the fig-tree put forth her leaves? Is not the summer nigh? Is not Christ at the door? Is not this the reasoning of the prophecy? When I shall have seconded to heaven; when the gospel has been preached to all nations; when the Jews have rejected it and refused to reform; when the Roman legions have stood in the Holy Land; when they shall have trodden down the city and temple; when the first tribulation of this people is past and they are scattered among all nations; when the second tribulation is over and the pretenders who occasioned it appear no more; when the Roman Empire itself is subverted, and the Jews shall have returned again to their land; when they behold the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and you see them mourning on account of it, then know that the advent is nigh, even at the door.


["Millennium: Matthew, Chapter 24." The Protestant Unionist, 1 (September 16, 1848): 154.]


      Walter Scott's "Millennium: Matthew, Chapter 24" was first published in The Protestant Unionist, Vol. 1, No. 2, September 16, 1848. The electronic version of the essay has been produced from microfilm of the newspaper.

      The reference to "Fessunden's Encyl." in the seventh paragraph is to Fessenden & Co.'s Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, or Dictionary of the Bible, Theology, Religious Biography . . . to Which Is Added A Missionary Gazetteer by B. B. Edwards . . . Designed as a Complete Book of Reference on All Religious Subjects and Companion to the Bible, edited by J. Newton Brown. (Brattleboro', VT, Brattleboro' Typographic Company, 1838, 1840).

      Inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and typography have been retained; however, corrections have been offered for misspellings and other accidental corruptions. Emendations are as follows:

            Printed Text [ Electronic Text
 p. 154:    Here, verse 2¾ [ Here, verse 23,

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik

Created 16 January 2003.

Walter Scott Millennium: Matthew, Chapter 24 (1848)

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