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Postmillennialism: The Suddenness of the Gospel's Lightning

Matthew Henry on Matthew 24:27,28

“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. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together” (Matthew 24:27,28).

The great Puritan expositor Matthew Henry gives us a view of the Mount Olivet Discourse that explains two difficult verses. Writing many years before the rise of the scorched earth theology of dispensationalism, Henry gives a sensible interpretation arguing that here Jesus speaks of “the sudden spreading of the gospel in the world, about the time of these great events” – that is, about the time of the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

I like historicist Henry’s commentary on Matthew 24 because here he is a partial preterist. He recognizes the eschatological aspect of the remainder of the sermon, which extends into the parables of the kingdom in chapter 25, and gives two possible applications for Mt. 24:27,28 – preterist and historicist.

This section of the Mount Olivet Discourse is difficult from a preterist perspective because of the symbolism of “eagles.” Henry mentions that the preterist view is to interpret the eagles and the dead carcass as symbolizing the Roman ensigns and the sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Because of the context of these verses, I always found this interpretation to be problematic. Henry gives the correct interpretation that the “carcass” is the ascended body of Jesus and the “eagles” are the elect who are gathered to Him quickly.

As I describe in When Will These Things Be, I consider these verses to be part of the transitional text in the Mount Olivet Discourse in which Jesus shifts from speaking about the destruction of the Temple to the going forth of the Gospel in the whole world, which is the “sign of His coming.”

Here is Henry’s commentary:

“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. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together” (Matthew 24:27,28).

The Gospel spread far and wide, and that quickly and irresistibly, like the lightning, which comes, suppose, out of the east (Christ is said to ascend from the east, Rev. 7:2; Isa. 41:2), and lighten the whole world to the west. The propagating of Christianity to so many distant countries, of diverse languages, by such unlikely instruments, destitute of all secular advantages, and in the face of so much opposition, and this in so short a time, was one of the greatest miracles that was ever wrought for the confirmation of it.

Here was Christ upon his white horse, denoting speed as well as strength, and going on conquering and to conquer, Rev. 6:2. Gospel light rose with the sun, and went with the same, so that the beams of it reached to the ends of the earth, Romans 10:18; Ps. 19:3,4. Though it was fought against, it could never be cooped up in a desert, or in a secret place, as the seducers were; but by this, according to Gamaliel’s rule, proved itself to be “of God,” that it “could not be overthrown,” Acts 5:38,39. Christ speaks of “shining into the west,” because it spread most effectually into those countries which lay west from Jerusalem.

As George Herbert observes in his Church-militant:

How soon did the gospel lightning reach this island of Great Britain!

Tertullian, who wrote in the second century, takes notice of it:

Britannorum in accessa Romanis loca, Christo tamen subdita

“The fastnesses of Britain, though inaccessible to the Romans, were occupied by Jesus Christ.”

This was the Lord’s doing. Another thing remarkable concerning the gospel, was, its strange success in those places to which is was spread; it gathered in multitudes, not by external compulsion, but as it were by such a natural instinct and inclination, as brings the birds of prey to their prey; for wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together (v. 28), where Christ is preached, souls will be gathered in to him.

“The lifting up of Christ from the earth,” that is, the preaching of Christ crucified, which, one would think, should drive all men from him, will draw all men to him (John 11:32), according to Jacob’s prophecy, that “to him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10; Isa. 60:8). The eagles will be where the carcass is, for it is food for them, it is a feast for them; “where the slain are, there is she,” (Job 39:30).

Eagles are said to have a strange sagacity and quickness of scent to find out the prey, and they fly swiftly to it (Job 9:26). So those whose spirits God shall stir up, will be effectually drawn to Jesus Christ, to feed upon him; whither should the eagle go but to the prey? Where should the soul go but to Jesus Christ, who “has the words of eternal life?” (John 6:68).

The eagles will distinguish what is proper for them from that which is not; so those who have spiritual senses exercised, will know the voice of the good Shepherd from that of a thief and a robber. Saints will be where the true Christ is, not the false Christs. This is applicable to the desires that are wrought in every gracious soul after Christ, and communion with him. Where he is in his ordinances, there will his servants choose to be. A living principle of grace is a kind of natural instinct in all the saints, drawing them to Christ to live upon him.

The Witness of Mark and Luke

One of the reasons I don’t hold to the Marcan priority hypothesis (the idea that the Gospel of Mark was written first and Matthew and Luke drew material from Mark) is that the only complete version of the Mount Olivet Discourse is found in Matthew 24. The parallel passages in Mark and Luke add to our understanding of the Olivet Discourse. However, without the witness of Matthew, the Mount Olivet Discourse cannot be properly interpreted.

Luke’s parallel passage seems to pose a problem for the view that I have taken above.

… to be continued

Your comments are welcome!

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The Beast of Revelation IdentifiedThe Beast of Revelation: Identified (DVD)

Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?

Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!

Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.

Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)

Running Time: 145 minutes

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - How Should We Then Live? (DVD)

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After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.

Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - A Christian Manifesto (DVD)

That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!

Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.

Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.

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The Abortion Matrix: Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death (DVD)

Download the free Study Guide!

Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?

This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.

Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.

The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?

As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).

Speakers include: George Grant, Peter Hammond, RC Sproul Jr., Paul Jehle, Lou Engle, Rusty Thomas, Flip Benham, Janet Porter and many more.

Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!

Running Time: 195 minutes

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Abortion Clinic 911 Calls (DVD)

Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!

These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.

Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.

Watch these pro-life videos on-line.

“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California

“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter

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The Abortion Matrix DVD: Update

The Abortion Matrix:
Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death

is a 195-minute presentation that traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God has produced. You can order this series on DVD, read the complete script and view clips on-line...
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