What, then, are we to make of those other and apparently contrary words which I have quoted, but meanwhile have left unexplained? They constitute, without doubt, one of the most perplexing problems which the interpreter of the New Testament has to face, and any suggestion for meeting the difficulty must be made with becoming caution. I can but briefly indicate the direction in which the probable solution may be found. Our Lord, as we have already seen, spoke of His coming again, not only at the end of the world, but in the course of it: in the power of His Spirit, at the fall of Jerusalem, in the coming of His kingdom among men. But the minds of the disciples were full of the thought of His final coming, which would establish for ever the glory of His Messianic kingdom; and it would seem that this fact has determined both the form and the setting of some of Christ’s sayings which they have preserved for us. Words which He meant to refer to Israel’s coming judgment-day they, in the ardour of their expectation, referred to the last great day. In the first Gospel, especially, we may trace some such influence at work. When, e.g., Matthew represents our Lord as saying, “There be some of them that stand here which shall in no wise taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom,” it is evident, both from the words themselves and from the context, that he understood them to refer to the final return. Luke, however, speaks only of seeing “the kingdom of God,” and Mark of seeing “the kingdom of God come in power.” And if these words were our only version of the prophecy they would present no difficulty; we should feel that they had received adequate fulfilment in the events of the great day of Pentecost. We conclude, therefore, that of the three reports before us the second and third, which are practically the same, reproduce more correctly the words actually spoken by Christ; and that the account given in the first Gospel was coloured by the eager hope of the early followers of Christ for their Master’s speedy return.
To sum up in a sentence the results of this brief inquiry: Christ’s teaching concerning His return leaves us both in a state of certainty and uncertainty. “We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge”—that is our certainty; “Of that day and hour knoweth no one”—that is our uncertainty. And each of these carries with it its own lesson.
“Of that day and hour knoweth no one;” and we must be content not to know. There are things that are “revealed”; and they belong to us and to our children. And there are “secret things,” which belong neither to us, nor to our children, but to God. Just as a visitor to Holyrood Palace finds some rooms open and free, through which he may wander at will, while from others he is strictly excluded, so in God’s world there are locked doors through which it is not lawful for