The most important of them are a recognition of the three distinct classes into which mankind are divided, a knowledge of the three prophetic periods, and an acquaintance with the simple principle upon which God computes the chronology of Jewish history.
A clear apprehension of these points will, we believe, remove all difficulty and uncertainty in regard to general and systematic interpretation.
And yet the Apostle compares those who are incessantly occupied with them to one who wastes labour and time by repeatedly laying down and taking up again the foundation of a building, when he ought to be raising the superstructure.
He, therefore, solemnly urges the Hebrews to pass on from first principles to perfection, and presses his exhortation with the words—“For it is impossible in the case of those who were once enlightened, and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the World to Come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)Now, without entering into the full meaning of these words of terror, we must admit that the context leaves us in no doubt as to the manner of persons who are in danger of the lapse contemplated and the appalling judgment which must inevitably follow it.
And undoubtedly his general idea is correct; for a far higher and absolutely unimpeachable authority has said of the Old Testament Apocalypse;—“The words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end.
Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly.
”But the cause which most powerfully moves men to neglect God’s revelations of the future is the repugnance of the human mind to anything which is contrary, either to its experience, or to the aspirations of its fallen nature.
Surely the very sign which He has promised will render obedience impossible.
But in due time all became clear to them; and their hearts must, indeed, have overflowed with gratitude when they perceived that the Lord’s gracious arrangements had given, not merely the signal, but also the opportunity, for their flight, and had at the same time removed out of the way their bigoted countrymen who would have hindered it.
But, since God has thought fit to set them before us, are we not deliberately charging Him with folly while we neglect them?
And is not the significance of our conduct much the same if we persist in perverting them from their proper meaning and use—as, for instance, those do who can find little in the Apocalypse save events that had become history before it was written, and doctrines that are fully taught in other parts of Scripture; although the Lord Himself declares that the object of the Book is “to show unto His servants the things that must shortly come to pass”?