The third particular, or the time of the Apostasy That the Last Times in Scripture signify either a continuation of time, or an end of time. That the Last Times, simply and in general, are the times of Christianity; the Last Times in special and comparatively, or the latter times of the Last Times, are the times of the Apostasy under Antichrist. That the times are set out to us to be as marks to inform us when the things to fall out in them should come to pass; and not the things intended for signs to know the times by. This observation illustrated from Daniel 8.
Of the two first particulars of the four, whereby the Great Apostasy of Christian believers is here deciphered, I have spoken sufficiently viz. first, for the quality and kind thereof, it should be a new doctrine of demons; secondly, that for the persons revolting, they should not be all, but some. Now I am to speak of the third, the time when,* in the latter times.
For the easier understanding whereof, we must know that speeches of last times in Scripture mean sometimes a continuation or length of time; sometimes an end of time.
A continuation of time I mean, as when we say that winter is the last time or season of the year, or old age the latter time of life; neither of them being the very end, but a space of time next the end; which, therefore, in respect of
some whole system of time, whereof it is the last part, is truly termed the last time thereof. Mans life is a system of divers ages, the last space whereof is the last time of life. The year is a system of four seasons, and, therefore, the last season thereof, winter, may be called the last time of the year. But by an end of time, I mean the very expiring of time, as the last day of December is the end or last time of the year; the moment when a man dies is the last time, that is the end of his life.
Now, in the New Testament, when by mention of last time is meant an end, (or terminus temporis,) I observe it to be expressed in the singular number; as* the last day, being four times mentioned in the sixth of John, and once in the eleventh, is in every one of them meant of the day of the resurrection at the end of the world. I will raise him up, saith our Savior, in the last day. (John 6 39, 40, 44, 54.) And Martha of her brother Lazarus, I know (saith she) he shall rise again in the resurrection, at the last day. (John 11: 24.) So, I Peter 1: 5, § the last time is used in the self-same sense, being spoken of the incorruptible inheritance reserved in heaven, and to be revealed (saith the Apostle) || in the last time. In all which is meant, the end of the world. But, in I John , we have Ά the last hour, little children, it is the last hour; where, no doubt, he meaneth an end of some
time, but not the end of the world, which was then far off; but an end of their time to whom he then wrote his epistle; that is, an end of the Jewish state and religion, which was then at the very door; which exposition I will make more plain hereafter.
when a continuation or longer space of time is signified, then I find the
plural number to be used; as I Peter 1: 20, of the incarnation of Christ it is
said, that he was fore-ordained before
the foundation of the world, but he was made manifest * in the last times,
which times have continued these sixteen hundred years at the least. So Hebrews
1: 2, God (saith
Whatsoever the validity of this observation be, for the rest I make no question but it will be granted, that the latter times in my text means some continued space of time, and not (terminus temporis or) the very end of time: which therefore presupposed, I approach one step nearer, laying this for a second ground of our discovery,
that these () latter times, whereof St. Paul speaks and means, were times not then present, but afterwards to come: for the words of the text are not a narration of things present, but a prediction (as I have already admonished) of what should betide the Christian faith in after times. Yet notwithstanding were the times wherein St. Paul lived, and all the times of Christianity, the last times, and so styled in Scripture even by our Apostle himself, as by some of the forecited examples evidently appeareth. Wherefore it must needs follow, that the times here meant and mentioned in my text are not the last times in general and simply, but the last times in special and comparatively; that is, the latter times of the last times: that as the last times in general were the times wherein Christ the Sun of Righteousness was to be revealed, and his kingdom founded in the world; so the latter times of these last times should be the times wherein the apostasy of the Christian faith should prevail, and that wicked one usurp the throne of Christ.
Before, therefore, that we can know what are the last times comparatively, (that is, the latter times, or the last of the last,) we must first understand what are the last times simply and in general; why so called, whence reckoned, and how limited: for then will these latter times in my text, which are the last part of them, be easily found, and in a manner demonstrated.
the last times, therefore, in general, most use to describe them only thus, to
be the times of the
his passion, to continue unto the end of the world; which in respect that it succeeds the legal worship, and no other shall succeed it, is, therefore, the last time. In like manner, the latter times * allotted to the Man of Sin are (as I take it) usually no otherwise described than to be the times wherein the apostasy should appear; which since they should immediately precede the second coming of Christ, are therefore, to be esteemed the last times of all. But these descriptions are obscurum per magis obscurum, they declare an obscure thing by that which is or was more obscure than it; and, therefore, come short of making good the intent of the Holy Ghost in his so often mention of the last times, especially in the New Testament. For the last times or fulness of time were both a ground of the Jews expectation of Christ when he came, and are without doubt so often propounded and alleged by the apostles for a confirmation of the truth of his coming. But if the last times could not be known but by his coming, how should his coming be known by them? So also the Holy Ghost in my text mentions these latter times for an argument or sign of the apostasy to fall out therein, or for a note and mark of time wherein we should look for it, and, therefore, as forewarned, beware of being carried away in that defection. But if these times cannot be known nor described any other way than by defection to fall out in them, we should never be a whit the nearer, and
this mark of time which the Holy Ghost gives us would stand us in no stead at all.
Let us, therefore, now take this as a truth to be supposed, that the times are set out unto us to be as marks to inform us when that should come to pass which was to fall out in them, and not the things which were to befall, intended for signs to know the times by. And, therefore, we are not to doubt but that the Holy Ghost hath somewhere else, by some other mark and ground of computation, made known unto us when to reckon both the last times, wherein was foretold that Christ should be anointed; and these latter times of them, when the Christian apostasy should be revealed: that so we might have a sure belief in the one, and a certain and sufficient mark when to beware of the other.
profanation of the legal sanctuary and trampling down the holy people by
Antiochus Epiphanes was marked out in Daniels prophecy by the like
circumstance and determination of time, as is this Apostasy here in our
Apostles prediction. (Daniel 8: 23.) In
the latter time, or latter end of the
of time, being such as might otherwise well enough be
known, was therefore intended for a character to observe the event by. For when
was this latter end of the Greeks kingdom to be taken notice of, but then when
they should see that kingdom begin to be given unto another people; when the fourth kingdom, the Roman state,
should once begin to encroach upon the third? especially
when they should see the head province thereof,