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(Extracted from the Prayer-Book of the Reformed Jews.)
66 O! SOUND the Great Cornet to announce our Freedom; raise thy Banner (Ensign or Shechinah) to collect our Captives; and gather us speedily together from the four corners of the Earth, unto our own Land. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who gatherest together the outcasts of thy people Israel."
GOD'S GLORY MADE VISIBLE: OR THE SIGN
OF THE SON OF MAN IN HEAVEN.
“ Tell us, when shall these things be ? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world ?” (Matt. xxiv. 3.)
“ And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people ; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. . . And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (Isaiah xi. 10, 12.)
“ Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world ?” (Matthew xxiv. 3.)
At this very important period of time, when the Master's footsteps are heard, as it were at the very door; and the solemn cry, “Behold the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him,” (Matt. xxv. 6), is heard through the length and breadth of the land; it is all-important that every student of prophecy “that trembleth at his word,” the Word of the Lord, should know and understand the order of events that are to take place before the coming of the Son of man himself.
That the sign, and the thing signified by the sign, cannot be the same, must appear evident at a moment's consideration.
Many have supposed that the train of events, and awful visitations predicted in the 24th chapter of Matthew, constitute the “Sign of the coming of the Son of man.” But this cannot be so; because after the Saviour informed his disciples that all these things should take place and come to pass, down to the twenty-ninth verse,
“ Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, (after the Sign, mark!) and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
Now, after having fully established the point, that the Sign cannot be the thing signified, and that the sign of the coming of the Son of man is not the coming of the Son of man himself; I shall endeavour to show what I conceive this Sign to be, and what is meant in Scripture when the word Sign is used.
In the first place, I shall remark, that what is called a “ Standard and Ensign” in the Old Testament, is the same as that which is called Sign in the New Testament. The Hebrew word da or standard, is rendered in the Septuagint by the Greek word
which is the word in the New Testament translated in our version “Sign,” or the “Sign of the coming of the Son of man.
We have now identified the words Standard and Ensign, in the Old, with the Sign in the New Testament, as one and the same thing; and I think, if we further compare the many passages where standard is mentioned in the prophets, with each other, and with the word Sign, mentioned in the 24th of Matthew, above alluded to, we shall come to the conclusion, that it is the Glorious Cloud, the Shechinah, or God's Glory made visible by the Pillar of a Cloud by day, and the Pillar of Fire by night.
It is very important that we should have a knowledge and understanding of the nature and time of this Sign, and glorious precursor of “the coming of the Son of man;" and therefore Isaiah says,
“All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye.” (Isa. xviii. 3.) The eleventh chapter of Isaiah, vers. 10–12, is so clear and complete in identifying this Glory-Cloud, which is the habitation of Jesus Christ, “the angel ”* of the Covenant, with the Sign or Ensign, or Shechinah, that I think all must admit it to be conclusive. Isaiah says: “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek : and his rest shall be glorious (or, as the margin reads, shall be glory). And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people (the ten tribes) which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign (the Shechinah) for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth."
* See Acts vii. 38.
These verses teach us five things :
1. That this branch is most certainly Jesus Christ, who is a "rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.” (See verse 1-4.)
2. That this very Jesus Christ is to be the “Ensign (Shechinah) to stand for the people.” (See Isaiah xviii. 3.)
3. That this Ensign in its rest is to be Glory,or the Glorious Cloud.
4. That the Lord is to set his hand the second time to recover the remnant of his people, when he lifteth up this ensign on the mountains.