For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even to the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Here are two opposite yet ever-present dangers. One is of fancying that our Saviour and our salvation are to be found in some extraordinary out-of-the-way fashion of religious manifestation: "Behold he is in the desert." The other danger is that we shall fancy that our Saviour and our salvation are to be found in particular states of our own interior feeling: "Behold he is in the secret chambers." The first was superstition; this is fanaticism.
I. BOTH CHRIST AND HIS APOSTLES SPEAK REPEATEDLY OF A SECOND COMING OF THE SON OF MAN IN SUCH A SENSE AS FORBIDS US TO CONFOUND THE SECOND WITH THE FIRST. The two are put entirely apart in time, though they are internally and morally connected with each other; the one pro. paring the way for the other, and each being in fact fragmentary and unintelligible without the other.
II. THAT COMING IS PERSONAL AND LITERAL. We may call signal social revolutions, reforms in government, the emancipation of slaves, or great accessions of knowledge or charity, new comings of Christ. The figure is intelligible; but they are not comings of Him. They may be comings of the impersonal power and principles of His religion — partial blessings reminding us of the one great blessing that includes them all; but He is to come. "Ye shall see the Son of Man(not His ideas, but Him) coming in power and great glory." Nor will it do to tamper with Holy Scripture by such a theory of interpretation as that His coming means our going. The death or departure of the individual is one thing; the Bible often mentions that, meaning just what it says. The Lord's coming is another.
III. THIS GREAT COMING IS TO BE CONNECTED WITH A SEPARATION OF THE GOOD FROM THE BAD, THE BELIEVERS FROM THE DENIERS, THE SPIRITUALLY ALIVE FROM THE SPIRITUALLY DEAD.
IV. THERE IS, HOWEVER, SOME REFERENCE TO A KIND OF COMING OF CHRIST WHICH WAS TO TAKE PLACE IN THE LIFETIME OF THE GENERATION THAT WAS ON THE STAGE WHILE THE SAVIOUR WAS SPEAKING.
V. INSPIRED WRITERS, APOSTLES, SIGNIFY THEIR EXPECTATION THAT CHRIST'S SECOND ADVENT WOULD TAKE PLACE DURING THEIR OWN NATURAL LIFE. Were they mistaken, and mistaken teachers of others? A vast amount of ingenious effort has been made to break the force of this objection with out sacrificing the infallibility of the record. For the most part it has failed by taking the purely external or philological method, and without sounding spiritually the depths of the Evangelic purpose. Let us honestly take the language of honest men in its ordinary acceptation. What, then, shall we say? All difficulties are cleared by the following proposition, which is reasonable and reverential: The purpose of revelation, in this matter, was to create in Christians, not a belief that Christ would come at any particular hour in history, but a belief that He is always at hand, and that all Christians should at all times and in all places be ready, as men that stand with their lamps trimmed and burning, to meet Him personally. The date of the event was no part of the Divine communication. In proportion as we rise, in thought, toward the immensity of the life of God, and have "the mind of the Spirit," the whole period of history shrinks, great distances dwindle, epochs are pressed together, and "a thousand years are as one day." Besides, the highest authority in modern physical science, in astronomy, and geology, and chemistry, harmonizes singularly enough, as to the issue, with the Apostolic language. It concludes that the machinery of the material universe is wasting, its movements are slackening, its balance is slowly loosening, and that a general catastrophe is inevitable. The sneer of the scientific sceptic of the last century is silenced by the science of to-day. We may say that in the Bible predictions generally, borrowing a phrase from the fine arts, what we may call historical perspective is lost sight of. We are not told at what intervals from each other, or always in just what order, these majestic events, by which eternity seems to open down into time, shall follow on. Chronology is not the object. The facts are what we are to know, and receive, and feed upon in our hearts by faith. The moment we begin to try our petty arithmetic on them we miss the mark, and lose our way. We all know that, even with ourselves, the moments of tremendous peril, when awful events are casting their colossal shadows about us, are just the time when the ordinary measure of succession drops out of sight. We look across the great tract and see other great conjunctions, as if they were nigh at hand. Christ Jesus is not enclosed in time, but time is all in Him.
Parallel VersesKJV: For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.