John Locke on Prophecy

John Locke is well-known for his influence on the formation of the United States Constitution. He is less well-known for his commentaries on the books of Galatians, Ephesians, and other theological texts. He wrote the Constitution for Carolina, in which atheists were not allowed to hold any political office.

In his notes on Ephesians, he comments on this verse:

Ephesians 1:10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.

Locke takes the position (along with others, though it is a minority view) that “heaven” signifies the Jews, and “earth” signifies the Gentiles. He says:

“That St. Paul should use ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ for Jews and Gentiles will not be thought so very strange if we consider that Daniel himself expresses the nation of the Jews by the name of ‘heaven’ (Dan. viii. 10). Nor does he want an example of it in our Saviour Himself, who (Luke xxi. 26) by “powers of heaven” plainly signifies the great men of the Jewish nation.”

Luke’s passage (ch. 21) deserves greater inspection:

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. 24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

29 Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Assuredly, I say to you, this eneration will by no means pass away till all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

Locke concluded that this prophecy was about the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. Like Locke, Christians today should be drafting blueprints for nations, rather than waiting for an escape from their call to “exercise dominion” and “make disciples of all nations.”

Locke offers another interpretation (of which he is not as certain), with an exhortation to us (of which he is whole-heartedly assured):

Nor is this the only place in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians which will bear this interpreta­tion of “heaven” and “earth.” He who shall read the first fifteen verses of chap. iii. and carefully weigh the expressions, and observe the drift of the apostle in them, will not find that he does manifest violence to St. Paul’s sense if he understand by “The family in heaven and earth” (ver. 15) the united body of Christians, made up of Jews and Gentiles, living still promiscuously among those two sorts of people who continued in their unbelief. However, this interpretation I am not positive in, but offer it as matter of inquiry to those who think an impartial search into the true meaning of the Sacred Scriptures the best employment of all the time they have.”

Too many Christians are functional Old Covenant Christians. They live in the Old Order, and are waiting for something New, rather than living in the New, experiencing the reign of the prophesied Messiah Who ascended to the Throne of David (Acts 2:29-33), and the power of the paraklete-Spirit. Even Christians who lived simultaneously in the “last days” of the Old Covenant and awaited the full parousia of Christ had no excuse for waiting around; we certainly do not.

Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 7-8)

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