Postmillennialist: John A. Broadus (Part 1)

You might be asking yourself who the heck John Broadus is. Don't worry, I was in a similar position. It wasn't until some significant research was done into the history of Postmillennialism in the Baptist denomination that I came upon this fine lookin' chap. At one time he was the president of Southern Baptist Seminary and apparently a world class preacher. Apparently even Charles Spurgeon had some resounding compliments on him as a preacher. But what drew my attention to Broadus was his analysis of Matthew 24 and its profound impact on August Strong.

While more time could be spent on the history of this faithful man, it will have to suffice to inspect his evaluations of specific passages in the gospel of Matthew and glean from it valuable resources.

Matthew 16:27-28

This set of verses has been the topic of discussion in my current evaluation of teaching by Don Preston. As many would know I have little area of disagreement with Mr Preston and that might scare some people. Hopefully some insight from John Broadus will put away the fear that certain concepts are merely novel and unorthodox. All quotes come from his commentary on the gospel of Matthew.

Shall come, not the mere future tense, but a strong expression like ‘is going to come,’ ‘is about to come,’ and in the Greek made emphatic by its position at the head of the sentence; he is coming and there is no mistake about it. This is believed to be the first distinct intimation of his second coming. In the glory of his Father, In the same glory amid which his Father dwells (Comp. Mt 26:64). This glory he had with his Father before the world was (John 17:5); he had voluntarily left it to come on his present lowly mission (Php 2:6 ff.), but he would return to share it again, and in that glory he would hereafter come with his angels (Mt 13:41 24:31 25:31). Luke (Lu 9:26) has an expression which implies that their encompassing glory will enhance his glory...

His coming is not only certain, but near. Verily I say unto you, as in Mt 5:18, introducing a very important utterance. His coming will occur before some of those present will die. There be, old English where we now say ‘there are.’ Some (of those) standing here, who were not only the Twelve, but a crowd (Mr 8:34). It is implied that not many of them would live to witness what is meant; and this shows that it was not any event very near at hand. Shall not, the strong double negative, as in Mt 16:22 . Taste of death, The image is that of a bitter cup (Mt 20:33 26:29), which all men must sooner or Later taste of, and is very common in Jewish writings...

How could Jesus say that he would come as Messianic King in the lifetime of some then present? Certain rationalizing expositors at once say that Jesus expected his final coming to judgment to take place within that period. The language would readily bear that sense, especially in such close connection with v. 27; can it fairly have any other sense? Since the Fathers of the third century a good many have referred it simply to the Transfiguration, in which Jesus appeared as the glorious king. But (a) this is a very unnatural and enfeebled sense of ‘coming in his kingdom;’ (b) it occurred within a week, during the lifetime not simply of ‘some,’ but of probably all those present; and these objections are fatal to that view. Many others content themselves with understanding a general reference to the establishment of the spiritual reign of Messiah; some say on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), though that occurred within less than a year and so conflicts with ‘some;’ others say throughout the following generation or the century. The most reasonable explanation, especially when we comp. ch. 24, is to understand a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, forty years afterwards. This providentially lifted the Messianic reign to a new stage. It put an end to the sacrifices and the whole temple ritual, and thus taught the Jewish Christians that these need be no longer observed, and to a great extent stopped the mouths of the Judaizers who gave Paul so much trouble.

I hope after the quoting it becomes quite obvious that Broadus would agree almost in entirety with the opinions of Mr Preston on the subject of Matthew 16. This of course doesn't make them correct but it stands to show that consistent preterism (which led to postmillennialism) has been around the Southern Baptist Convention for a long time. Perhaps it is time for it to return in prominence?

Matthew 24: Introduction

Before even addressing the text itself, Broadus spoke briefly on the now apparent continuity found in the gospel of Matthew concerning Christ's return in judgment,

He then leaves the temple, and seems never to have entered it again. In this final departure it was very natural that his thoughts should dwell on the impending destruction of the temple and the city. Moreover, as there is no sufficient reason for departing from Matthew’s order (comp. on Mt 23:1,13), we see that he had just before predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and his own future coming (23:38 f.). Six months earlier (Mt 16:27 f.) he had declared that he would come again in the glory of his Father, as the sovereign Judge of mankind; and that some then present would live to see him "coming in his kingdom." We there found it necessary to understand that the particular coming to which this last phrase especially refers took place at the destruction of Jerusalem, which made Christianity completely and manifestly distinct from Judaism, and established the Messianic kingdom in its permanent present state. The prediction then briefly made by our Lord is now more fully unfolded.

It should be seen now how helpful the series by Mr Preston can be in understanding the proper mindset in approaching the Olivet Discourse. This is a great time to remind those new to preterism that the approach pertains to the whole Bible and must be seen in both a general and specific sense.

Even within Broadus there seems to be a conflict over the length of time spent talking about Jerusalem and the final Second Coming. I myself am not convinced that Jesus ever moves to a state of addressing the true final conclusion of history and final judgment. But Broadus has some helpful words before diving into the specifics of the text,

This discourse certainly foretells in the outset the destruction of Jerusalem (e.g. v. 15-21, v. 34); and in the conclusion certainly foretells the final coming of our Lord, with the general judgment of mankind and the resulting permanent state of the good and the bad (Mt 25:31-46), in a way substantially equivalent to the predictive descriptions afterwards given by the apostles. To refer that closing passage to the destruction of Jerusalem is absurd and impossible. So then the discourse begins with the destruction of the temple and city, and ends with the final coming to judgment: how does it make the transition from the former to the latter topic? Every attempt to assign a definite point of division between the two topics has proved a failure. Place it after v. 28, saying that up to that point only the former topic is meant, and after that point only the latter, and at once we see that v. 34 must refer to the destruction of Jerusalem. Place it after v. 34 or 36 or 42, and we cannot resist the persuasion that v. 30 f. (and v. 36) must refer to the final coming for judgment (comp. Mt 12:41-43 2 Th 1:7-10). But if the destruction of Jerusalem was itself in one sense a coming of the Lord, why may we not suppose that the transition from this to the final coming is gradual? Then much in Mt 24:3-36 may be taken as referring both to the former and the latter topic, while some of the expressions may refer exclusively to the one or the other. In Mt 24:37 to 25:13 the earlier topic is sinking out of sight; in Mt 25:31-46 it has completely disappeared, and nothing is in view but the final coming to judgment.

 This brings a fine conclusion to the introduction to the specific of the Olivet Discourse. I would love to see writing from Broadus on 2 Thessalonians but do not believe any such documents exists. Instead we will have to settle for his evaluation of the Olivet Discourse alone. We will get to that next time.

Joshua Torrey is the sole proprietor of Torrey Gazette (don't tell Alaina) and the fullness of its editorial process. That means everything wrong with TG can legitimately be blamed on him.