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§ 214. The personal Return of Christ to the Earth, and the Day of Judgment. (Luke, xvii., 22-37.)

Having thus pointed out that the kingdom of God was manifested in his own appearance, Christ turned directly to the disciples, and told them (v. 22) that the time would come when they should look back longingly upon the days of their personal intercourse with him, and wish, though in vain, to have him even for one day in their midst. But (v. 23, 24) as this longing might lay them open to deception (as, in fact, at a later period, their anxious yearnings did lead them to expect his personal return too soon), he warned them against this danger. “Do not suffer yourselves to be deceived by false reports of my return; when it comes, it will be as the lightning that flashes suddenly from one end of the sky to another, dazzling all men’s eyes; none need point it out to others; none can fail to see it, or deny its approach.”579579   Christ here declares that his actual coming would not follow the analogy of earthly manifestations; and this ought to have been enough to hinder believing dogmatists from seeking to define its character too accurately, and from adhering too closely to the letter of some of the expressions of the Apostles, who could themselves as yet have had no adequate intuition of its precise nature.

To obviate all carnal expectations, he then told them (v. 25) that “He must first suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation;318and that, when the glorified Son of Man should appear to judge a corrupt world (v. 26-32), in that day of trial and sifting that was to precede the consummation of the kingdom, he would take men unawares, and surprise sinners in their lusts. He presented the whole in one view before them, without distinguishing the separate moments.580580   See below, where we speak of Christ’s last discourses. His object was to guard them against both premature expectations and arbitrary calculations upon the character of the final decision; to impress them with the importance of being always prepared, both in heart and in life, by that self-denial and renunciation of the world (v. 33) which he always made the necessary condition of entering into his kingdom. He then pointed out (v. 34-36) the fanning process by which the distinctive characters of men in the same relations of life would be revealed; “one shall be taken (saved and received into the kingdom) and another left” (to the judgment of God; not removed from it). As this last expression (though intelligible enough from the connexion) was somewhat obscure, the disciples asked him, “Left? where, Lord?” He replied, “Wheresoever the carcase is, thither will the eagles be gathered together581581   Luke, xvii., 37, gives the natural connexion of these words; in Matt., xxiv., 28, they are placed with many other similar passages referring to this last crisis. (condemnation will fall upon those that have deserved it).

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