Alford's interpretation of Matthew 25 and Revelation 19-20

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Gattuso

Puritan Board Freshman
I entered in the board mainly to ask that... I always lurked here, but now want to make a question. I posted on reddit/reformed, but deleted, because I don't know if this view is orthodox or not, and on Reddit there are more people inexperienced in faith.

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/alford/matthew/25.htm

I think that Alford's exegesis is very good, but there is a big problem.

There are various passages that say that Christians will be judges of the world (Luke 22:30, for example). But there is passages that say that Christians will go to judgment, and passages that say that Christians will not be go to judgment. And there are passages that say that persons will be judged by their works, and passages that say that salvation isn't by works.

What Alford says: in Matthew 25 we have three parts. The parable of ten virgins, the parable of the talents, and the sheeps and the goats.

Calvin (and I think most Reformed theologians) say that the three are about the same event. The first two in parabolical form, and the third in more realistic form (although with parabolic language, too).

But Alford says that events 1 and 2 (I will call by number in order to easy the writing) are one event, and event three is another event, so Matthew 25 is about two events separated in time. The arguments that the first is about "The Kingdom of God", and the second is about the coming of the "Son of Man". The first will judge the church members and their readiness to faith. The second, the rest of the humanity.

This makes sense because in Revelation 19 we have the marriage of the church and in Revelation 20 a judgment, with angels. And in the judgment in Matthew, our Lord says about "least of these", as if "these" wasn't part of the sheep nor the goats. He quotes too some Paul's Epistles.

But, althought I think that this makes much sense, there is a big elephant in the room, of course. How can some people (the sheep) be saved with their works? In defense of Alford, I saw his commentaries in Romans, Ephesians, and I did not see him saying that was possible salvation without faith.

I tried to explain, but of course will be beter if you read. Is the commentaries on Matthew 25, and Revelation 19 and 20, mainly


ps: spite of this, his commentaries on Matthew 24 are wonderful. He says how Christ was saying a dual prophecy, starting spotlighting the destruction of the temple, but more and more spotlighting the end of times.
 

Gattuso

Puritan Board Freshman
It's dispensationalism, as far as I can tell.
I thought that. Yesterday I searched on the board and saw some topics about two judgment, and people said about dispensionalism there.

After that I searched something about, and I don't think that can be said that is exactly dispensionalism. Dispensionalism is an American moviment, iniciated in Brittain, but Alford was from the established Anglican Church, I don't think that he was associated with new religions movements...
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
We are saved by grace, but we will be judged by works. People will have different fates in both heaven and hell. Some will be punished worse in hell (beaten with more stripes) and some saints will excel others in heaven and given more to rule and be given more crowns. We will judge the world and rule angels. The choicest of saints will rule more.
 

Gattuso

Puritan Board Freshman
We are saved by grace, but we will be judged by works. People will have different fates in both heaven and hell. Some will be punished worse in hell (beaten with more stripes) and some saints will excel others in heaven and given more to rule and be given more crowns. We will judge the world and rule angels. The choicest of saints will rule more.
Yes, I think that is the traditional interpretation.

But see, it's appear that both Matthew and Revelation say about two distinct events.

See what he says about 37-40 in Matthew 25

37-40.] The answer of these δίκαιοι appears to me to shew plainly (as Olshausen and Stier interpret it) that they are not to be understood as being the covenanted servants of Christ. Such an answer it would be impossible for them to make, who had done all distinctly with reference to Christ, and for his sake, and with his declaration of ch. 10:40-42 before them. Such a supposition would remove all reality, as indeed it has generally done, from our Lord’s description. See the remarkable difference in the answer of the faithful servants, vv. 20, 22. The saints are already in his glory—judging the world with Him (1Corinthians 6:2)—accounted as parts of, representatives of, Himself (ver. 40)—in this judgment they are not the judged (John 5:24: 1Corinthians 11:31). But these who are the judged, know not that all their deeds of love have been done to and for Christ—they are overwhelmed with the sight of the grace which has been working in and for them, and the glory which is now their blessed portion. And notice, that it is not the works, as such, but the love which prompted them—that love which was their faith,—which felt its way, though in darkness, to Him who is Love,—which is commended.

τῶν ἀδελφ.] Not necessarily the saints with Him in glory—though primarily those—but also any of the great family of man. Many of those here judged may never have had opportunity of doing these things to the saints of Christ properly so called.

In this is fulfilled the covenant of God to Abraham, ἐνευλογηθήσονται ἐν τῷ σπέρματί σου πάντα τὰ ἔθνη τῆς γῆς. Genesis 22:18.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I'm not familiar with his views in particular, but it appears that Alford is generally considered to be a "historic" premillennialist. I think most of them today would see one or at most two judgments. (I'm fairly certain that some who are not even premil teach that the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Great White Throne Judgment are separate.) But I do know that there was more of a diversity of views among premils (and perhaps postmils as well) of the 19th Century.

The Scofield Bible asserts that there are at least seven separate judgments:

The Judgments, Summary: Among the many judgments mentioned in Scripture, seven are invested with especial significance. These are:

(1) The judgment of the Believer's sins in the cross of Christ (See Scofield "John 12:31") .

(2) the believer's self-judgment (See Scofield "1 Corinthians 11:31") .

(3) the judgment of the believers' works (See Scofield "2 Corinthians 5:10")

(4) the judgment of the nations at the return of Christ (See Scofield "Matthew 25:32")

(5) the judgment of Israel at the return of Christ (See Scofield "Ezekiel 20:37")

(6) the judgment of angels after the one thousand years (See Scofield "Jude 1:6") , and

(7) the judgment of the wicked dead with which the history of the present earth ends.
 

Gattuso

Puritan Board Freshman
I understood, Pilgrim, thanks.

Two questions: the belief that the jews eventually will convert, is a form of dispensionalism?

And:

The belief in two judgements, one of the Christians and one of the nations, with the consequence of salvation of some non Christian, is heretical in reformed confessionalism, or is an permissible opinion, although not majority?
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I understood, Pilgrim, thanks.

Two questions: the belief that the jews eventually will convert, is a form of dispensionalism?

No. It is historic Reformed and orthodox teaching. See the mention of "the Jews called" in Westminster Larger Catechism Q 191. In the context there, I don't see how that can be taken to refer to simply "the elect." There are differences of opinion, of course, on whether "all Israel" means every last Jew or just most of them or whatever.

And:

The belief in two judgements, one of the Christians and one of the nations, with the consequence of salvation of some non Christian, is heretical in reformed confessionalism, or is an permissible opinion, although not majority?

I'm not quite sure of what you're specifically asking here. I was referring to the Great White Throne Judgment at which the reprobate will be judged and the Judgment Seat of Christ or bema judgment (Rom. 14:10, 1 Cor 5:10) at which the works of Christians will be judged, rewards will be dispensed, etc. and the idea that these are two separate judgments. I want to say Jonathan Edwards held to it but I can't remember where I saw that. I think I read years ago that John Piper believes that too, but it has been a long time. (Piper is not confessionally reformed, but he is not dispensational either.)

I know that many Reformed people think that this is a hallmark of dispensationalism. And true, I don't know that there any dispensationalists who don't believe that these are two separate events. But I don't know that it is a dispensational distinctive in the sense that nobody but Dispensationalists believe it and that it is a distinctive in the sense that nobody believed it before dispensationalism came on the scene in systematized form in the 1830s or 1909.
 
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Gattuso

Puritan Board Freshman
No. It is a form of historic Reformed and orthodox teaching. See the mention of "the Jews called" in Westminster Larger Catechism Q 191. That can in no way be taken to mean simply "the elect."



I'm not sure. I want to say Jonathan Edwards held to it but I can't remember where I saw that.


1- thanks. Must read all the Westminster material soon, my fault.

2- interesting .if you or other remember about, please post
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
1- thanks. Must read all the Westminster material soon, my fault.

2- interesting .if you or other remember about, please post

Please see my edited response to point 2 which I posted after you posted this response. I read your post again and wasn't sure what you were asking.
 

Gattuso

Puritan Board Freshman
Please see my edited response to point 2 which I posted after you posted this response. I read your post again and wasn't sure what you were asking.

According to Alford, the Great Throne Judgment would not be for reprobate only. He identifies the sheep and the goats as the non Christian, the sheep being those that wasn't aware of their faith in Christ. I imagine that this vision is incompatible with confessionalism, but just to know.

37-40.] The answer of these δίκαιοι appears to me to shew plainly (as Olshausen and Stier interpret it) that they are not to be understood as being the covenanted servants of Christ. Such an answer it would be impossible for them to make, who had done all distinctly with reference to Christ, and for his sake, and with his declaration of ch. 10:40-42 before them. Such a supposition would remove all reality, as indeed it has generally done, from our Lord’sdescription. See the remarkable difference in the answer of the faithful servants, vv. 20, 22. The saints are already in his glory—judging the world with Him (1Corinthians 6:2)—accounted as parts of, representatives of, Himself (ver. 40)—in this judgment they are not the judged (John 5:24: 1Corinthians 11:31). But these who are the judged, know not that all their deeds of lovehave been done to and for Christ—they are overwhelmed with the sight of the grace which has been working in and for them, and the glory which is now their blessed portion. And notice, thatit is not the works, as such, but the love which prompted them—that love which was their faith,—which felt its way, though in darkness, to Him who is Love,—which is commended.

τῶν ἀδελφ.] Not necessarily the saints with Him in glory—though primarily those—but also any of the great family of man. Many of those here judged may never have had opportunity of doing these things to the saints of Christ properly so called.

In this is fulfilled the covenant of God to Abraham, ἐνευλογηθήσονται ἐν τῷ σπέρματί σου πάντα τὰ ἔθνη τῆς γῆς. Genesis 22:18.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello Gattuso,

With respect to the Jews (of which people I come), in the WLC Q. 191 on the 2nd petition (Thy kingdom come) of the Lord's Prayer it is said, "...the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in...", and the proof text is Rom 10:1, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." But it is not elaborated on. While there may or may not be a great inpouring near the end of time, the Jews have been called all through the NT age, and many have come to their Messiah already. It is one of my labors to call them in our present time.

Alford varies from other commentators on Matt 25:10-12, "We are not told that they could not buy—that the shops were shut—but simply that it was too late—for that time. For it is not the final coming of the Lord to judgment, when the day of grace will be past, that is spoken of..." Yet the Lord said to the foolish ones, "I know you not" (v 12), and the door of the kingdom of heaven shut to them, so I do not hold with Alford.

When it comes to eschatology I avoid the earlier writers and commentators, for this field alone of all doctrines is still pretty much in flux. The development of Amillennialism—holding that the entire NT age is a present spiritual or symbolic millennium—is, in my view, the best refinement of all the views. See Dennis E. Johnson, William Hendriksen, G.K. Beale for the best expositors.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
According to Alford, the Great Throne Judgment would not be for reprobate only. He identifies the sheep and the goats as the non Christian, the sheep being those that wasn't aware of their faith in Christ. I imagine that this vision is incompatible with confessionalism, but just to know.
This is quite clearly off the rails, so to speak. He's obviously being driven here by whatever linear hermeneutic he's following. The response of the "sheep" is just in keeping with the statement Christ makes to them, and in contrast with the response of the "goats."

The whole point of the sheep-reply is how little regard they ever had to merit in what they did--quite contrary to the attitude of the goats, whose whole petition is bound up in the merits of what they did, and that their actions could not possibly have demerit.

Compare to the person of Abimelech, Gen.21:22-34. Now, I think Abimelech is a God-fearer per ch.20, someone who could well have benefitted from Abraham's proclamation over those decades in the land. But he comes to Abraham (the prophet, the mediator) because "God is with you," and he wants to be close to God for himself and his children and people, and sees that it must be by virtue of the mediator.

He calls to mind his righteous treatment of Abraham (when the Lord's prophet! treated him so basely and lied). Abraham answers instantly and graciously: "I will swear. But... you have offended me." Abimelech goes from joy to dismay in a single verse. He is guilty, and there's no merit to which he can appeal as a basis for this covenant he desires. Abraham, the innocent party, loads him with gifts (compare to 20:14); and then provides seven animals for the covenant-cutting.​

Abimelech's union with the mediator-of-grace isn't predicated on what he's done well--and recall: he has actually done some kindness to this mediator. He learns that Abraham's favor is not based on how well they've gotten along up till now.​

Just so speak up the sheep of Mt.25, who already know not to plead their merits. Thus, as the King-Mediator commends them, they seem rather surprised he should do so.
 

Gattuso

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello Gattuso,

With respect to the Jews (of which people I come), in the WLC Q. 191 on the 2nd petition (Thy kingdom come) of the Lord's Prayer it is said, "...the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in...", and the proof text is Rom 10:1, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." But it is not elaborated on. While there may or may not be a great inpouring near the end of time, the Jews have been called all through the NT age, and many have come to their Messiah already. It is one of my labors to call them in our present time.

Alford varies from other commentators on Matt 25:10-12, "We are not told that they could not buy—that the shops were shut—but simply that it was too late—for that time. For it is not the final coming of the Lord to judgment, when the day of grace will be past, that is spoken of..." Yet the Lord said to the foolish ones, "I know you not" (v 12), and the door of the kingdom of heaven shut to them, so I do not hold with Alford.

When it comes to eschatology I avoid the earlier writers and commentators, for this field alone of all doctrines is still pretty much in flux. The development of Amillennialism—holding that the entire NT age is a present spiritual or symbolic millennium—is, in my view, the best refinement of all the views. See Dennis E. Johnson, William Hendriksen, G.K. Beale for the best expositors.

1) Yes, I think you are right. Good to know that you are in that ministry. In fact, whatever is predicated or not that all Jews will convert, we have a duty to preach for them and for the gentiles

2) I agree with you in this part about Matt 25:10-12.

3) Thanks for the tips! I will read.
I think that maybe Alford do not deny the symbolic millennium. I'm guessing here, but maybe he believes that we live in a symbolic millennium that is a foreshadow of the real millennium. He has this kind of exegesis about the destruction of Jerusalem, that, he believes, is a foreshadow of the destruction of a final destruction.

This is quite clearly off the rails, so to speak. He's obviously being driven here by whatever linear hermeneutic he's following. The response of the "sheep" is just in keeping with the statement Christ makes to them, and in contrast with the response of the "goats."

The whole point of the sheep-reply is how little regard they ever had to merit in what they did--quite contrary to the attitude of the goats, whose whole petition is bound up in the merits of what they did, and that their actions could not possibly have demerit.

Compare to the person of Abimelech, Gen.21:22-34. Now, I think Abimelech is a God-fearer per ch.20, someone who could well have benefitted from Abraham's proclamation over those decades in the land. But he comes to Abraham (the prophet, the mediator) because "God is with you," and he wants to be close to God for himself and his children and people, and sees that it must be by virtue of the mediator.

He calls to mind his righteous treatment of Abraham (when the Lord's prophet! treated him so basely and lied). Abraham answers instantly and graciously: "I will swear. But... you have offended me." Abimelech goes from joy to dismay in a single verse. He is guilty, and there's no merit to which he can appeal as a basis for this covenant he desires. Abraham, the innocent party, loads him with gifts (compare to 20:14); and then provides seven animals for the covenant-cutting.​

Abimelech's union with the mediator-of-grace isn't predicated on what he's done well--and recall: he has actually done some kindness to this mediator. He learns that Abraham's favor is not based on how well they've gotten along up till now.​

Just so speak up the sheep of Mt.25, who already know not to plead their merits. Thus, as the King-Mediator commends them, they seem rather surprised he should do so.

Yes, I think that probably is off the rails. I am taking care, because although I find his argument compelling, I don't want to go outside the borders, so to speak.

I agree with you that is a possible interpretation, and a traditional one. But he has other passages to support his argument. First, although not totally incompatible, I see a great difference between the first two parables and the judgment. In the first two were people aware of the Church. I can't imagine how a pre Columbian native would fit in the parables of the virgins, for example, or of the talents.

Revelation 19 tells about an event similar to the first parable, and Revelation 20, a similar to the third parable, so I think is possible that they really are different events. Christians will not be judged, but judge, and is compatible with the people appointed by the Lord in the judgment of the sheep and goat ("the least of these" etc). I read too, I don't know if by him, that was an Old Testament belief that the gentiles would be judge separately from Israel.

Yes, I know the bog problem. How someone without faith can be saved, that one would be saved by works. But Alford says

"But these who are the judged, know not that all their deeds of love have been done to and for Christ—they are overwhelmed with the sight of the grace which has been working in and for them, and the glory which is now their blessed portion. And notice, that it is not the works, as such, but the love which prompted them—that love which was their faith,—which felt its way, though in darkness, to Him who is Love,—which is commended."

Yes, I know that this talk about "implicit faith" is something like Vatican 2 or CS Lewis. So I recognize the problem, although I think that the Lord is sovereign in the way He saves.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I'm very sorry you find this fellow compelling.

There's only one way of salvation, ever, in the whole history of the world.

WCF 10 "Of Effectual Calling"
I. ...
II. ...
III. ...
IV. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word,15 and may have some common operations of the Spirit,16 yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved:17 much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess.18 And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.19

Ch. 7 "Of God's Covenant with Man"
..........
III. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that [first/works] covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second,5 commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved,6 and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.7
..........
V. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the Gospel:9

http://files.puritanboard.com/confessions/wcf-american.htm

Alford is smuggling in works (love) as a substitute for faith. It matters nothing if he protests this evaluation. He is at least making Christian love a sentiment or a motive, rather than a product of saving faith. He seems to propose a kind of magnetism between man's love and God-Is-Love. He is extraordinarily wrong here, abjectly so.

Either faith in the Mediator to come (sinners after the fall, but before the Christ came); or else faith in the Mediator who has come, Christ the Savior.

There is NO OTHER NAME under heaven, given among men, WHEREBY we MUST be saved. Act.4:12

How will they hear without a preacher? ...As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of him who brings good news." Rom.10:14-15

When the primeval, true religion of our first parents, and of Noah and his family--being hope in the Seed of the Woman--had come once more to be almost utterly forgotten in the world: God called Abraham out of his idolatry, to true faith by grace, and made him to be the father of the faithful ever after.

God has been ever since bringing in the Gentiles to join with his church, once he confined it to Abraham. All the nations have forgotten God, Ps.9:17. It required someone like a servant girl, the stolen daughter of Abraham witnessing to Naaman, to send the Gentile to Israel to find the true faith. (2Ki.5)

Perhaps an Israelite traveler to a distant place would bring his faith to the ears and heart of a "pre-Columbian" native. But without such a wonderful Providence (or an even more miraculous revelation) those beyond the message of hope were "hopeless." "Without God in the world," says Paul, Eph.2:12.

That is tragic, and grievous, but it is also the Justice of God. Their fathers preferred the lie to the truth, and condemned many of their children to generations of darkness. "Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of them that hate me." Ex.20:5

No one desires to "limit" God's sovereignty in salvation. Even more lack we the desire to invent contingencies by which God "could conceivably accomplish" his salvation outside of his stated means, in situations that Scripture actually teaches are blameworthy (not exculpatory) ignorance.

We have no reason to think he does, good reason to think he does not; and the expedient appropriation of the text of Mt.25 to supply a prooftext is rationalism.
 

Gattuso

Puritan Board Freshman
I think that you are right, is a very dangerous opinion, because the odds are that is wrong, and the damage of being wrong and asserted is enormous.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
We are saved by grace, but we will be judged by works. People will have different fates in both heaven and hell. Some will be punished worse in hell (beaten with more stripes) and some saints will excel others in heaven and given more to rule and be given more crowns. We will judge the world and rule angels. The choicest of saints will rule more.
The judgment of the believer is for the deeds/works done by us after salvation, to see if they be of a kind to merit gold/silver, or else hay/stubble. Its a judgment of eternal rewards, but not for loss of eternal life.
The GWT will be of all of the sinners who died apart from Christ, and they shall be condemned and shown to merit that through how their lives were led and done.
 
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