Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bible Prophecy, Circa 1600

“The Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”

Excerpted and adapted from
Matthew Poole’s Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:1,2*

VERSE 1: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him,” 

The Apostle Paul now comes to refute the opinion that some had received as if the day of Christ was near at hand. Having said, 1 Thess. 4:17, “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air,” etc., then some might think His coming would be in the Apostle’s time….

And because this mistake might be of dangerous consequence, therefore Paul is very vehement and particular in refuting it. For hereupon they might be brought to question the truth of the whole Gospel when this should not come to pass. They might be unprepared for the sufferings that were to come upon the church; their patience might fail in expecting this day, and their minds be doubting about the coming of Christ at all.

This opinion would also much narrow their thoughts about Christ’s kingdom, and the enlarging of the Gospel among other Gentiles. And the profane might abuse it to sensuality, as 1 Cor. 15:32, “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.”

The coming of Christ was what they desired and rejoiced in, as that which would truly bring rest to them, and tribulation to their adversaries. And by this Paul doth therefore beseech or adjure them. And therefore we must understand this of Christ’s last coming, as the word παρουσία (parousia) in the text, is still applied to this coming (1Th 2:19; 1Th 3:13), and not of His coming to destroy the Jewish church and state, for that coming was at hand.

The phrase “by our gathering together unto Him”—at His last coming, when the whole body of Christ shall be gathered to Him, to meet Him in the air: 1 Thess. 4:17, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” And then the sense is As ye hope ever to see such a blessed meeting, and to be of that number, so take heed of this opinion…. And so the Apostle Paul adjures them not to be soon shaken in mind, but to stand fast in the truth about the doctrine of Christ’s coming, which they had been taught. And therefore it was the greater evil to be soon shaken; as the apostle upbraids the Galatians (1:6)….

VERSE 2: “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” 

“Shaken in mind” σαλεύω (from saleuō) is an allusion to the waves of the sea that are tossed with the winds, as false doctrines tend to unsettle the mind (Eph. 4:14, Heb 13:9). To be established in the truth is often commanded (1 Cor. 16:13, Phil. 4:1, Col. 1:23, etc.). And by mind here is either meant
  • The faculty itself. The Apostle Paul beseeches them to keep company with their understanding, not to be removed from their mind. False doctrine is said to betwitch men (Gal. 3:1) and to make men foolish (see verse 3). As madness is called dementia, as that which does unmind men, and corrupt the mind, and pervert the judgment (2 Tim. 3:8,9), as Jannes and Jambres deceived the people by their enchantments, as the Apostle there mentions.
  • The judgment of the mind. Paul beseeches them to hold fast the right judgment they had entertained about Christ’s coming, and not to hesitate and waver about it, so the word mind is taken in 1 Cor. 2:16.
“Or be troubled” θροέω (throeō), alludes to soldiers affrighted with a sudden alarm. We find the word [and similar allusion] in Matthew 24:6: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled—see also Mark 13:7. And the opinion of Christ’s coming to be at hand might occasion this trouble in them, either lest they might be surprised by it, and unprepared for it, or by judging themselves mistaken in their former apprehensions about it. And those false teachers that broach this opinion, did also perhaps so represent this coming in such terror as to cause this trouble, as false teachers in general are said to cause trouble, Gal. 1:7: “there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is in itself rather the saints’ hope and joy, than ground of trouble, as 1 Thess 1:10 (“And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come”) and 4:18 (“Wherefore comfort one another with these words”), etc. And so it may be some did pretend this opinion was of the Spirit, or some letter from the Apostle Paul—either his former Epistle (1 Thessalonians) to them, or some letter that was forged, or some word he had spoken or preached….

“Neither by spirit”—some extraordinary revelation of the Spirit, which the false teachers pretended to (1 Cor. 14:6, Gal. 3:2,5). Some would pretend the Spirit that called Jesus accursed (1 Cor. 12:3) and therefore the Apostle bids them to “Try the spirits” (1 John 4:1)…. The man of sin pretends to this Spirit though it is in truth the spirit of antichrist (1 John 4:3)….  It was foretold that in the last times there would arise “seducing spirits” (1 Tim. 4:1), just as there was in the times of the Old Testament false prophets that pretended to the Spirit (1 Kings 22:24, Micah 2:11). And the very heathen would pretend to divine oracles, inspirations, and revelations, especially their kings and lawgivers….; and still there are enthusiasts who make these pretences.

“Nor by word”— διά (dia) λόγος (logos) whereby some understand calculation by astrological rules, that the day of Christ was at hand. Others… from some natural causes reasoned that the dissolution of the world was night at hand. Some may have put words in the Apostle’s own mouth, which was pretended he had spoken or preached somewhere, though not written. Just as the church of Rome pretends to traditions, besides the written Word, upon which they ground many of their superstitions and idolatries, not warranted by Scripture. And as the Jews had a second Mishnah, and their Cabbala, collected in part from the sayings of Moses, or some other of their prophets, which they did not write. [These early examples are strikingly similar the postmodern prophecy paradigm teachings currently in vogue, ed.]

“Nor by letter”—some letter that was sent to them by some other hand, or else by some forged letter as if it were from the Apostle himself, or his former Epistle misunderstood.  [In other words, Letter may refer to the early extrabiblical pseudoepigraphical and apocryphal writings that had already begun to circulate at the time of the apostles, ed.]

“As that the day of Christ is at hand”—Objection: But is it not said that the day of the Lord, or the coming of the Lord, is at hand (1 Cor. 10:11; Phil. 4:5; James 5:7,8; 1 Peter 4:2)? Answer: The word used in those places differs from this in the text; for it signifies either that which is actually present, or very near it as Rom. 8:38; Gal. 1:4…. And in that sense Christ said, “Behold, I come quickly,” Rev. 22:7. But the error the apostle warns them of is, as if the coming of Christ would be in the age in which they lived. The apostles all said that the coming of the Lord was at hand, but their right meaning was perverted to a false sense, as seducers usually do.

To Be Continued….

*From A Commentary on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole, Volume III: Matthew-Revelation (Hendrickson Publishers), p. 758-759. These excerpts have been amended, abridged, and reformatted for blog usage, along with some updated punctuation, spelling and word usage. 

Note to reader: This excerpt from Matthew Poole’s Commentary, circa 1600, is an example of what evangelical prophecy leaders and organizations used to teach 20-40 years ago. Not so long ago, before the postmodern prophecy paradigm era, this sort of article was commonplace. Writings such as this served as an encouragement to the reader to 1) expect the Lord's imminent return and 2) be ready to meet the Lord "here, there or in the air." Believers exhorted one another that He could return at any time because all events on earth were coinciding to fulfill Bible prophecy, and that before the end the Gospel of salvation should be shared far and wide, especially to family and friends. As yet another sign of the times we note that publishing such an article today, especially with this eschatology, is likely to be met with scoffings (2 Pet. 3:2), even open disbelief (2 Pet. 3:4). For some of you, this may be the first time you have ever encountered this (now) old-fashioned Bible prophecy teaching. Read and consider: what if it is true?