The Times to which Peter Referred
By John Thomas
Seeing then, that part of the mission of the apostleship of the circumcision was to convince the Mosaic order of men, (kosmos as applied to thinkers) of coming judgment, because their administration of the Mosaic order of things (kosmos as applied to things ordained) had been condemned, we find Peter and the rest quoting the words of Joel concerning what was to come to pass in the last days. Having referred to the Pentecostian rain of the spirit; the prophet says by the same spirit,
I will give wonders in the heaven above, and signs upon the earth beneath, blood and fire, and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that the great and terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall be that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Acts 2:19-21
The heaven was the aggregate of Judah's high or official places ; the wonders, the casting down of the host and of the stars to the ground, the taking away of the daily and so forth, by the little horn of the goat; the signs upon the land, those already enumerated by Jesus in Matt. 24; blood, slaughter by the sword; fire, the burning of the towns, villages, homesteads, mansions of Judah, with its metropolis and temple; and vapour of smoke, the symbol of utter and complete destruction; the sun turned into darkness was the putting out of the supreme power of the state in the abolition of its principalities and powers; and the turning of the moon into blood, expressed by the words of Amos, saying,
The songs of the Temple shall be howlings in that day, saith Yahweh Elohim; there shall be many dead bodies in every place, and I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentations, and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head, and I will make it as the mourning for an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day Ch. 8:3, 9-10.
All these things were to come upon Judah before that the great and terrible day of the Lord come. The Jews had slain, or rather the chief priests and Pharisees had moved the little horn of the goat's procurator, Pontius Pilate, to crucify in their presence AN ONLY SON ; and the people by drawing back after they had acknowledged him, and by turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, had crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame; so that when wrath came upon them at length, the Son of Man, or Yahveh Elohim made their howling and lamentation as the mourning for him they had crucified and put to shame. He made their sun to go down at noon, and darkened their land in the clear day; that is, the Mosaic order was dissolved by judgment in the midst of meridian brightness of holy spirit, shining in all the land from the seven branched lampstand, pillar and support of the truth, which had been planted therein to enlighten the house. This was an evil and perverse generation, therefore with many other words than those reported did Peter testify and exhort, saying, save yourselves from this untoward generation. Acts 2:40.
After this, Peter renewed the subject of what John the baptiser termed the wrath to come, in his address in the temple court of the Israelites. He told the assembled Jews, that Moses had predicted the appearance of a prophet like himself, and that Jesus was he; and that he had also said, that every soul who shall not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. He taught them that Jesus had ascended to the right hand of God, as David had predicted Messiah, his son and Lord, would do, and that he must remain there until the time appointed of the Father for the restitution of all things pertaining to the kingdom and throne of David, spoken of in the writings of all the prophets from the time of Moses. That in that era of Israel's regeneration the nation would be blessed in Abraham and his seed; but also that no son of Abraham according to the flesh, should partake in that blessedness, if he did not acknowledge Jesus, and receive the gospel he had preached, and had commanded his apostles still to announce to the people.
In his first address on Pentecost, he had announced the dissolution of all things on the authority of Joel; but in this second, he proclaimed the restitution of all things. The former of necessity was to precede the latter first dissolution, and then restitution, but between the two, a long interval, by Peter undefined. He taught them, however, plainly enough, that restitution and the appearing of Jesus Christ from heaven were to be contemporary events, and that consequently, the one would not take place without the other.
Now, in his two epistles, he stirs up the pure minds of the faithful among the circumcision by way of remembrance, that they might be mindful of what the apostles had spoken, as well as of the words of the prophets. He tells them in the first epistle, Ch. 4:7, that THE END OF ALL THINGS IS AT HAND; or, more literally, the end of all things has approached; perfect indicative. Now these words will not admit of any other construction than that the end referred to was contemporary with Peter. He had lived to see the beginning of the end; but the Lord had shown him that he was not to see its consummation, for in the second epistle he says,
I know that shortly there is the putting away of my tabernacle, as also our Lord Jesus Christ hath shown me Ch. 1:14.
The supposition is altogether inadmissible that Peter meant the end of the times of the Gentiles; or the end of the world a thousand years after those times had terminated or the end of the great globe itself dissolved into the baseless fabric of a vision with not a wreck behind. This was a dissolving view that never waned into nothingness before the apostle's mind. The end has approached is a phrase which, when uttered by Peter, cannot by any sound scriptural reasoning be made to refer to two or three thousand years after. No other construction can be put upon it, than that the end of all Mosaic institutions had approached. This was the fact, and not to be ignored in the interpretation of the literature of the times. Peter wrote of things pertaining to the circumcision of the dissolution of the Jewish heavens in church and in state; and of the restitution in the creation of the new heavens and new earth, wherein righteousness should dwell, as predicted by Isaiah 65:17; 51:3-16; 54:11-13, 16.
Now while Peter testified that the end had approached, James taught that that end was the period of the son of man's presence or parousia. He wrote to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, and his letter goes to show, that Jesus had been generally acknowledged, but that there was at the time of his writing, a very general apostasy in faith and practice. Still some continued faithful, and to these who were persecuted by the others, he said:
Be patient, brethren, even to the Lord's parousia, establish your hearts, for the Lord's parousia hath approached: behold, the Judge hath stood (perfect indicative) before the doors Ch. 5:7-9.
From this, we learn, that the Lord Jesus had recently visited Palestine; that is to say, that he had made examination into the spiritual condition of Israel dwelling in that country, as the Elohim did into that of the builders of Babel before they confounded the speech of all the earth Gen. 11:7-8.
The Judge hath stood before the doors.
He stood and measured the earth, and found that Israel in the Holy Land had filled up the measure of their fathers that their rebellion was perfected in the abounding iniquity and the refrigeration of love among the Christians, who were carousing with the drunken, marrying, and giving in marriage, oppressing one another, devoted to money-making, seeking the friendship of the world, scoffing and denying the parousia of the son of man; in short, that it was the days of Noah and the works of Sodom, reproduced in the forty-second generation of Abraham's posterity, and that nothing remained but that the judgment of Hinnom's vale should be brought upon them with the suddenness of the flood, and the completeness of that of the cities of the plain. This being the conclusion of the matter resulting from the survey of the Judge, James testified in accordance with Peter, his colleague in the apostleship of the circumcision, that the Lord's parousia had approached, and that, consequently, the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, would soon appear with its eagles from the east, indicative of the proximity of the Son of Man.
The apostle John also in his first epistle Ch. 2:18, says little children, it is the last hour. This saying of John corrects the chronology assigned to his epistle in the English version. The date given there is after A.D. 90 . But this is incorrect. This year was no part of the last hour. This hour ran out A.D. 72, when Judah's sun was darkened, and the Mosaic moon ensanguined by the vengeance of the Lord. Hence John's epistle was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and not eighteen years after as generally supposed. He also wrote to Christians of the circumcision, as indicated in 2 John 7.
Jude likewise refers to the same as Peter, James and John. In all his epistles he is treating of the kosmos, or order of men, who were living ungodly among Christians of the circumcision, whom he styles
Certain men crept in unawares, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Despot Power (the eternal spirit) and our Lord Jesus anointed.
These men paid no regard to the words before spoken of the apostles concerning his coming; but rather ridiculed the idea. Jude therefore points the faithful to them as a fulfilment of their prediction, that there would be such in the last time.
Beloved, says he, remember ye the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, how that they told you there would be mockers in the last time, who would walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, destitute of spirit, verses 17-19.
Hence, Jude was living in the last time, which cannot possibly refer to our future; but can only have been the last chronos, or period, of the Mosaic Aion the ending of the course.
Now, the last hour of John, the last time of Jude, and the ending of the Aion of Jesus, are the last of the days referred to in 2 Peter 3:3. In the English version, these words are rendered in the last days. This is incorrect, and should be as we have translated them. The last of the days is a different idea from the last days. The latter phrase is used by Paul in Heb. 1:2, and answers to what he terms in Heb. 9:26 the ending of the Aions. He says in the former text,
In these last days God had spoken to us in a son;
And of this son he says in the latter, that
He appeared once in the ending of the Aions for a putting away of sin through the sacrificing of himself.
The teaching and sacrifice of Jesus were in the last days; but not in the last of the last days. The first days were from the sending of Moses to his death; and the last days from the sending of Jesus to the abolition of the Mosaic order of things; both first days and last being of forty years' continuance. Jesus began to teach in the first of the last days; and the mockers of his teaching, who had forsaken the right way, appeared in the last of the last days, as Peter saith.
Paul speaks of the last days without specifying the beginning or ending of them in 2 Tim. 3:1, saying,
This know thou that in last days perilous times shall impend.
Then follows a description of men professing Christianity, whose wickedness would be the cause of the impending of the vengeance. These are they of whom he warned Timothy in his former epistle, saying,
The spirit speaketh expressly that in latter times some of the faith will apostatise, giving heed to seducing spirits, and to teachings of Demons speaking lies in hypocrisy, their own conscience having been cauterised; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats 1 Tim. 4:1-3.
THE LATTER DAYS
One cause of error in the interpretation of the apostles has been the confounding of the latter days with the last days. These are two distinct or separate, and very remote, periods of time. A course of centuries intervenes which keeps them as distinct as the north and south poles of earth. Nearly eighteen hundred years elapsed since the termination of the last days; and we await only the further lapse of about five or six years till we arrive at the beginning of the latter days. The phrase in the original (O.T.) is beacharith hayyahmim, in the end of the days. That is, there are certain days appointed, such as, a time, times, and a half time, 42 months or 1260 days, and 1335 days Dan. 12:7, 12; 7:25; Rev. 11:2. These days are concurrent with the times of the Gentiles, during which the twelve tribes of Israel, and those adopted into Israel's commonwealth through Jesus, are prevailed against by the little horn power of the East and West. Until these days are expended, there is no redemption for Israel and the saints. But when those days are expired, an end will have been attained, which is styled the end of the days, but in the English version the latter days. The last days were the days of vengeance upon the Jewish people and rulers of the forty-second generation; but the latter days are the days of the restitution of all things pertaining to Israel and the saints, as all the prophets from Moses have foreshown.
We shall conclude our remarks upon this point by enumerating some of the events which are to come to pass in the latter days, or in the end of the days.
1. Israel shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion; he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink of the blood of the slain.
His king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.
He shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.
There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the princes of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth, And Edom shall be a possession, . . . and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come He that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city. Numbers 23:24; 24:7-8; 24:17-19.
All this is to happen in the end of the days verse 14.
2. Son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, thus saith Adonai Yahweh: In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it? And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company and a mighty army; and thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be IN THE LATTER DAYS, and I will bring thee against my land, that the nations may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes (Ezek. 38:14-16).
3. There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be IN THE LATTER DAYS.
The great Metallic Image is then described; and when brought out entire and erect before the king's mind, its fall was predicted by a stone smiting it upon the feet; and the destruction of its fragments, by their being afterwards broken to pieces together; and the stone, or destroying power having entirely abolished them, becomes a great Mountain, and fills the whole earth. This comes to pass in the latter days, and is interpreted to signify that in those days,
The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and a dominion that shall not be left to another people. It shall grind to powder and bring to an end all these kingdoms (represented by the Ten Toes), and itself shall stand for the ages.
Hence, this is emphatically the kingdom of the end of the days the kingdom of which the Gospel treats, and of which Messiah is the king, and his saints the princes Dan. 2:28-45; 12:1-2.
4. After the children of Israel shall have abided many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an erection, and so forth, they shall return to seek eth-Yahveh their Elohim and eth-David their king, and revere Jehovah and his goodness in the end of the days.
Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and shall come up out of the earth; for great is the day of Jezreel.
And I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the land, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will betroth thee, O Israel, unto me for Olahm Hosea 3:4-5; 1:11; 2:18-19.
5. And it shall come to pass in the latter day, that the mountain of the house of Jehovah shall be established as the head of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of Elohim of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths;' for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and he shall chastise many peoples, and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Isaiah 2:2-4.
6. Behold a whirlwind of Jehovah is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind; it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of Jehovah shall not return until he have executed, and until he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall understand it perfectly. Jer. 23:19-20.
7. I will bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith Jehovah. Jeremiah 48:47.
8. It shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring again the captivity of Elam (or Persia) saith Jehovah Jeremiah 49:39.
Such are the events of the end of the days specified in Daniel and other prophets
The time of Jacob's trouble out of which he is to be saved.
It is a great day, so that none is like it Jer. 30:7: the great and terrible day of Jehovah upon the Gentiles, as the last days were upon the Jews. These last days were what Peter styles the day of God, which his brethren in Christ were looking for, and earnestly desiring the presence of 2 Peter 3:12; a day of days that needed to be shortened, or no flesh of Israel in the land would have escaped Mark 13:20. But the latter days are the year of the redeemed of Jehovah the day of Jehovah's vengeance, the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion Isaiah 34:8; 63:4. It is the time when Michael, the great commander, shall stand up, who standeth for the posterity of Daniel's people, in which there will be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation to that same time; and at that time Daniel's people will be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake Dan. 12:1-2. In the last days there was no deliverance for Judah; but in the latter days, the power of their enemies shall be broken, and they shall be delivered; in the last days, the heavens and the earth which are now that is, are contemporaneously existing with you of the circumcision, to whom I, Peter, am now writing; were dissolved, and all their elements scattered or destroyed; but, in the latter days, new heavens and a new earth shall be established in which righteousness shall dwell. This will be the restitution of all things in the regeneration; in other words, the restoration of the kingdom again to Israel, in which the thrones of the house of David will be re-established, and occupied by Jesus and his brethren, as kings of Israel and the nations, then all blessed in Abraham and his seed.
The heavens and the earth of the last days do not now exist. They were in being when Peter wrote; but having decayed and waxed old, they vanished away with the days to which they belonged. This is a very important consideration in the premises; for Peter was writing about their destruction, not about the destruction of a system that might be in existence some eighteen hundred years after his time. But it is thought that Peter must have referred to the great globe itself as the earth ; and to the sun, moon, stars, and constellations around it, as the heavens which are now, because he refers to the earth which perished by the flood. But this supposition is based upon a careless reading of what Peter wrote. He does not say that the earth perished; neither could he; for he was living upon the same earth the antediluvians occupied as well as we. The earth, though overflowed, did not perish; nor were the heavenly bodies in the least affected. What he said was, that the kosmos, or world, then existing, being overflowed by water, perished. Now this kosmos that perished was the order of things that constituted the civil, ecclesiastical, and social organization of mankind before the flood. It was this order in its heavens and earth that perished, and nothing else. It is clear from Gen. 6:11-13, that the earth signifies all flesh. He there says
The earth was corrupt before the Elohim, and the earth was filled with violence. And Elohim viewed the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted HIS WAY upon the earth. And Elohim said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence through them (the mighty ones of renown,' in verse 4); and behold, I will destroy them from the earth.
The mighty ones of renown were the giants of the heavens; the world-rulers before the flood. These and the earth, or all flesh, they ruled the world of the ungodly were overflowed by water, and perished from the earth, leaving an example unto those that after should live ungodly 2 Peter 2:5-6.
The heavens and the earth which are now, that is, the Mosaic, which had not been dissolved when Peter wrote, consisted of certain elements. These elements were not the physical elements of which the ancients imagined all nature was composed, namely, fire, air, earth, and water; which modern science has proved to be no elements at all. The word used by Peter was the diminutive of a row, order, from to go, proceed in order, and signifies elements, elementary parts, e.g. of discourse, i.e. an elementary sound, letter of the alphabet; elementary instruction, the first principles, or lowest rudiments of any knowledge, science.
Now, from these quotations showing the New Testament meaning of the word elements, it must be evident to all that they are the elements of which the Mosaic order of things was composed, styled by Paul in Heb. 8:26, the heavens; the principalities and authorities which Jesus spoiled, when, in being crucified, he nailed the handwriting which constituted them to his cross, took it thereby out of the way; and, rising from the dead, exposed them with boldness of speech, triumphing over them Col. 2:14-15. Jesus, Paul says, was made higher than the heavens than these heavens over which he triumphed. The temple, and its ordinances of service, and its priesthood, and all other things constituted by the law, or handwriting of Moses, were elements which, collectively, made up the Mosaic order, or kosmos.
The heavens, the example and shadow of heavenly things, these pattern-heavens shall pass away, says Peter, with a great noise, and the elements, being burned, shall be abolished.
The great noise was the tumult of battle without, and of strife within the city, during the siege. There was blood and fire enough to satisfy the most insatiable craving for the horrible. The temple and city were reduced to smoking ruins; and the blood of the priests and people poured out like water by mutual massacre, and the Roman sword. But the destroying fire was not confined to Jerusalem and the temple; the land in general, and the works in it, were burned up. Its crops, and towns, cities, villages, synagogues, homesteads, and other improvements, all partook in the fiery destruction brought upon them by the hosts of the Little Horn. This was the judgment and fiery indignation that devoured the adversaries of the truth in the last days; the furnace of fire into which apostates and hypocrites were cast; and where there was wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 24:51; 13:42; Isaiah 31:9).
Such was the day of the Lord which came upon Judah's commonwealth as a thief in the night. The vengeance was terrible and complete. Everything Mosaic that existed contemporary with the apostles, vanished away, as they and the prophets had foretold. The Jews either rejected or perverted the Gospel of the Kingdom in the glorious and fearful name, JEHOVAH Elohim; therefore, they were broken off by terrible judgment and subjected to the Mosaic curses of Mount Ebal for a long and bitter day of eighteen hundred years. Their power was broken by the Little Horn of the Goat; so that they could no longer persecute, and be contrary to all. They have had practical experience of the import and truth of Paul's words, that
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God; who is a consuming fire. (Heb. 10:31; 12:29)
He has consumed their land with intense desolation: scattered them abroad to the utmost heaven; and, as Moses predicted, made them an astonishment, a proverb and a byword, among all nations. Moses, in whom they boast, has nothing for them but curses, until they confess the iniquity that has entailed upon them the punishment they endure; and Jesus, the prophet after his type, will not take up their names into his lips, so long as they hasten after another Messiah (Psalm 16:4) so that, abandoned for a time by Moses and Jesus, they have no refuge, nor covering from sin! How completely have the eagles devoured the carcase! Not a piece of tendon, skin, or garbage has escaped their voracity; but, as Ezekiel represents, they are the bones of a disintegrated skeleton, bleaching in the valley, and very dry. When the prophet saw them in vision, Lords Jehovah (Adonai Yahweh) said to him, Can these dry bones live? But, Ezekiel, dismayed at the charnal-house appearance, could only exclaim, Adonai Yahweh, thou knowest! Their power is gone, and nothing is retained and set free. They have no heavens, and are utterly destroyed from the land. These things to us are all accomplished facts; but to Peter and his brethren in Judea, they were the promise of the Lord, who was slack in its performance in the opinion of some. But Peter repudiated the idea. He said that the alleged delay was not slackness, but longsuffering; and mark, not longsuffering to a generation unborn, but to us-ward says Peter; to those of Judah who had confessed Jesus, but were being victimised by false teachers and seducing spirits: he was unwilling that any of them should perish in the Crisis of Gehenna ; but that all should come to a change of mind and disposition. To those who were steadfast, he said,
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless... Seeing, therefore, YE know these things before, beware, lest YE also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and in the Day of the Aion. Amen.